With nearly 500,000 apps on the App Store, it’s getting more and more difficult to find just the good stuff. Plus, we think Apple’s not that consistent when it comes to featuring great games. Not every gem has to be hidden! With that in mind, we’re marking the halfway point in the year with our 20 favorite iPhone games of 2011… so far.
#20: The Heist
One of the best puzzle collections on the iPhone, The Heist combines elegant graphics, sharp puzzles, and a few fun surprises, like virtual phone calls from Russian spies. This game briefly topped the charts back in May, but we want to make sure nobody misses this superb safe-cracking mission.
Our Bottom Line: The Heist will own you from start to finish.
#19: Mos Speedrun
Mos Speedrun is all about getting through tricky platforming levels as fast as possible. In addition, you can collect a hidden skull icon and collect all the coins on each level. This multitude of goals will keep you busy for a long time, since Mos Speedrun is just as challenging as it is addictive.
Our Bottom Line: Mos Speedrun is a well-made platformer that encourages you to play the game in a way you probably wouldn’t otherwise.
#18: Disc Drivin’
Ever been to a sporting event where they play an animation of three discs jockeying for first place on the Jumbotron? Disc Drivin’ is just like that, except you’re taking turns to flick your disc to the finish line before your online opponents do. Disc Drivin’s lasting value can be summed up in three words: asynchronous online multiplayer.
Our Bottom Line: Disc Drivin’ is an addictive, turn-based multiplayer racer that will keep you flicking day in and day out.
#17: Legendary Wars
If Lord of the Rings and Plants vs. Zombies had a baby, it’d look a lot like Legendary Wars. This strategy game lets you control waves of wizards, elves, and unicorns as you try to beat back the forces of darkness. Tons of levels, fantastic visual design, and clever strategic gameplay make Legendary Wars one of the best in its genre.
Our Bottom Line: Legendary Wars has enough content and variety to keep you playing for a long time to come.
#16: Hard Lines
Snake, one of the first games you could play on a phone, has never been this cool. In Hard Lines, you can choose from one of a half-dozen different gameplay modes, most of which involve surviving as long as possible while snakes of all sizes and colors fill the screen. We especially love the witty remarks these lines spout before they explode.
Our Bottom Line: You will believe…that lines have feelings, too.
#15: Feed Me Oil
If you’ve ever played the physics puzzler Enigmo, you’ll know what to expect from Feed Me Oil. Your goal is to transport goopy liquid from one part of the screen to another. Besides the clever puzzles, Feed Me Oil has a bizarre art style, with massive creatures reminiscent of World of Goo.
Our Bottom Line: Feed Me Oil provides a unique experience that’ll leave you smiling long after you put the game down.
#14: Angry Birds Rio
It’s rare for a movie-based game to be any good, but Angry Birds Rio bucks that trend by adding new gameplay elements to one of the most successful video game franchises of all time. Angry Birds Rio is still a best-seller long after the movie’s left theaters, which should tell you something about how much fun this game is.
Our Bottom Line: Angry Birds Rio doesn’t change the formula, but it doesn’t need to. Angry Birds Rio is a blast.
#13: DJ Rivals
This massively-multiplayer freemium game from Booyah not only lets you compete against other players in a rhythm-based battle, but it also lets you claim supremacy at your local businesses and landmarks. At one point, we even took over the White House. The stellar graphics, licensed music, and zero money down make this game a very highly-recommended download.
Our Bottom Line: DJ Rivals is one of a kind: A well-produced, massively-multiplayer, location-based rhythm game.
#12: Death Rally
Remedy Entertainment knew what they were doing when they revived this 90s PC game for the iPhone. They not only improved the graphics substantially, but they also fine-tuned the game’s destructive car combat for mobile gamers. If you love the screech of tires and bursts of machine gun fire, this is your game.
Our Bottom Line: What Death Rally lacks in content and features, it makes up for with customization and intensely fun gameplay.
#11: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Shadow Vanguard
When terrorists seem to have the upper hand, that’s when our government sends in an elite squad to quickly and quietly handle the situation. In this game, you’ll use flashbangs, surveillance equipment, and of course, your rifle, to settle delicate hostage situations. This iPhone game is even more fun to play ever since the real-life Seal Team 6 took out Osama bin Laden in May.
Our Bottom Line: The tactical team-based combat in Shadow Vanguard adds a fresh layer to Gameloft’s terrific FPS formula.
#10: NBA Jam by EA Sports
The arcade classic, which we played to death in the local pizza parlor, returns with the exact same excitement and action. This sports game isn’t a simulation, unless you think basketball players routinely perform 50-foot dunks and then set the ball on fire. Loads of extras and fun, fast gameplay define this stellar title.
Our Bottom Line: NBA Jam is an arcade classic that’s fully updated for the iPhone– except for the lack of multiplayer.
#9: Starfront: Collision
We never thought we’d see Starcraft on the iPhone and iPad, but… well, we still may never see it, but Starfront is close enough. Gameloft’s real-time strategy game borrows everything down to the three races and their specific units, but it’s still an incredible accomplishment, especially when you throw in online multiplayer.
Our Bottom Line: Starfront: Collision is deep enough to appeal to hardcore RTS fans, but also approachable to newcomers.
#8: Coin Drop
Coin Drop is what we consider to be the spiritual successor to Peggle. Instead of shooting balls, you’re dropping coins into a fun, busy environment, racking up points to unlock new levels and figures. The crazy graphics and addictive, “one more try” factor make this game nearly impossible to put down.
Our Bottom Line: Coin Drop is a gorgeous game that’s a perfect fit on the iPhone.
#7: Tiny Tower
The brothers from NimbleBit did it again, in their follow-up to the freemium hit Pocket Frogs. This time, you’re collecting little people instead of amphibians, and you have to keep them happy and productive in order to build a bigger tower. The detailed pixel art is what seals the deal on this astonishing game.
Our Bottom Line: Tiny Tower represents the next great chapter in freemium games. Call it Farmville 2.0.
#6: Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing
Finally, Sega took a break from ruining classic Genesis games with shoddy iOS ports, and released a proper iPhone game that actually takes advantage of the hardware. Not only is this a fantastic kart racer, but it’s got online multiplayer, and a cast of characters that will appeal to anyone who ever owned a Dreamcast.
Our Bottom Line: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing boosts ahead of other iOS kart racers by miles.
#5: Order & Chaos Online
2011 is the year the iPhone finally got its World of Warcraft. Gameloft went all out for this MMORPG, crafting a gorgeous virtual world with lots to do and see. Not only that, but Gameloft is continuing to maintain this world, in order to keep people paying a subscription fee.
Our Bottom Line: Order & Chaos Online sets a new bar for Gameloft. It is hands down the best MMO on the platform and will be hard to top, short of Blizzard entering the fray.
#4: Tiny Wings
Tiny Wings was a surprise hit, joining the other best-selling bird games when it launched in February. We’re still playing it months later, because of those perfect, maddening, timing-based swoops and slides. You’ll be seeing waves everywhere around you if you take a chance and help this little bird soar as far as possible.
Our Bottom Line: Tiny Wings is brilliant in its simplicity, originality, and ability to keep you coming back again and again.
#3: Kami Retro
There have been a lot of retro, pixel-style games on the App Store recently, but Kami Retro is near the top of our list. This game not only lets you arrange an environment to get your character to the exit, but you also have to time your jumps four different times to get the best score.
Our Bottom Line: This masterful, retro-themed gem belongs in every iOS gamer’s collection.
#2: Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
Sword and Sworcery is a fantastic and original adventure, drawing on epic themes and using a stylish pixel-art canvas. You’ll have to solve some light puzzles by tapping, fight a handful of creepy bosses, and chat with the game’s weird citizens. Most of the time, though, you’ll just be wandering in bliss, trying to take it all in.
Our Bottom Line: Sword and Sworcery has some of the most amazing visuals and music of any iPad game, but the gameplay leaves something to be desired.
#1: Dead Space
Our number one game of 2011 (so far) is action-packed, suspenseful, and scary as hell. The Dead Space series on consoles has been freaking people since 2008, but its iOS debut is just as good, especially if you play it in the dark with headphones on. We hope that EA continues to make wonderfully polished shooters like this on the iPhone again and again.
Our Bottom Line: Dead Space for iOS is just about everything we’d hoped it would be: action-packed, scary, challenging, and a total blast.