From the earliest days of iOS gaming, one series was consistently used by Apple to demo the device’s incredible processor, touchscreen, and accelerometer controls: Need for Speed. In a 2009 press event declaring that year’s iPod Touch to be the “funnest iPod ever”, Steve Jobs himself brought Electronic Arts onstage to demo Need for Speed Undercover, and over the years, the series has hit the nitro and careened ahead wildly.
Need for Speed Undercover
As one of the first big-name 3D racing games on the platform, Need for Speed Undercover was groundbreaking for mobile games. While Gameloft had their Asphalt series, those early games weren’t as visually impressive as EA’s flagship title. Though later games in the series would eventually outpace Undercover’s graphics, in 2009 NFSU was the gold standard for mobile gaming. Later NFS games added local and online multiplayer modes, but dropped the cheesy live-action cutscenes.
Key Quote: “Need For Speed Undercover is a lightning-fast arcade racer that is in close touch with its console heritage. The gameplay’s been adjusted for the casual nature of the iPhone platform, though.”
Need for Speed Shift
It was hardly half a year before EA came out with another major NFS game at the end of 2009. Need for Speed Shift emphasized real-life simulated driving, instead of just an all-out, nitro-fueled rush to the finish line. It also included a camera view from behind the wheel, which helped with the immersion. The gorgeous cars, pounding music, and unique driving mechanics made Shift feel like it wasn’t just a mobile game, but a fully-featured portable console game.
Key Quote: “Need for Speed Shift doesn’t feel like an iPhone game. It feels like a slick, fully-realized AAA game you’d find on a console, albeit a bit shorter. You know the difference: A good iPhone game sometimes feels like a nice little diversion, while a console game feels more like an engrossing experience, something you look forward to coming back to.“
Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
When you’re racing down the street against a dozen other cars, you might expect the police to get involved. NFS Hot Pursuit let you play as the law, smashing your police vehicles into speeding roadsters in order to pull them off the road. Preventing accidents by causing them is all part of the job. NFS Hot Pursuit once again pushed iOS devices to their limits with outstanding graphics, but we felt that the local-only multiplayer was a missed opportunity to cause some gigantic pileups online.
Key Quote: “What sets it apart from other racing games is that much of the time the focus isn’t on being the first to the finish line. Instead, you’re chasing criminals, and the goal is to whittle away at their health meters by smashing into their vehicles or forcing them to hit oncoming traffic. You even get police tools to assist you, like road blocks, spike strips, and electromagnetic pulses. You win by making these low-lives crash and burn in glorious slow motion. Yes, victory is sweet.”
Need for Speed Shift 2
The original NFS Shift on iOS was, and still is, one of our favorite racing games. We’re clearly not the only ones who feel that way, because EA made a direct sequel to Shift in 2011. While the single-player campaign was still impressively deep, the multiplayer was limited to local wi-fi only. It’s still a decent purchase if you want more Shift, but by this point, the series was starting to wear a little thin.
Key Quote: “So yes, Shift 2 Unleashed is a very good single-player racing game. But it’s not all that different from the original, and in order for it to compete with the top-of-the-line racers on iOS, it needs a much beefier multiplayer mode.”
Need for Speed Most Wanted
The most recent NFS game reintroduced police chases, but this time, you had to outrun the cops and still win each race. The visuals, once again, were cutting-edge for mobile gaming, and EA settled on a now-familiar series of tilts, swipes, and taps for onscreen controls. Even the licensed music from Green Day and The Who helped fit the mood. After a few less-than-perfect entries, Need for Speed Most Wanted was another definite Must Have.
Key Quote: “This isn’t a game for racing sim purists. But with dozens of cars to unlock and plenty of tracks to race on, Need for Speed Most Wanted will satisfy anyone who loves cars and the sound of a roaring engine.”
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look back at Popcap’s history on iOS.
This article is part of a series about the best games on iOS, 2008-2013. You can read the rest here.