We’re counting down our 50 favorite iPhone and iPad games of the year, all the way down to our number one Game of the Year. In today’s featured games, you can fight terrorists, explore the ocean, become a DJ hero, and much more. The games only get better from here, so check back tomorrow and Friday for the rest of the list.
#30: Anomaly Warzone Earth HD
Billed as a “tower defense game turned on its head,” Anomaly Warzone Earth HD has you play as an army advancing through levels filled with enemy defense towers. You’ll choose your route through the levels, and once you start moving, you can’t stop. The game features a ton of different unit types and enemy towers, as well as power-ups and other variables. It all adds up to a strategy game that’s bigger and deeper than just about anything else on iOS.
Our Bottom Line: A great twist on the now-tired tower defense genre, and one of the best games of the year.
Few iOS games transport you to another time and place like Dream:scape. You play as a recently deceased man named Wilson, who finds himself transported to the rural land of his childhood. As you explore the gorgeous, lonely environment, you piece together the story of your life, learning hidden secrets along the way. The result is a dreamy, beautiful adventure game that becomes increasingly compelling and sinister as you progress. This is a game that’s not to be missed.
Our Bottom Line: Dream:scape is an immersive and intriguing mystery/ adventure game that will keep you playing to the end.
#28: Death Rally
Racing games often feel chaotic, but Death Rally adds firepower to the equation. Strapped to your car is a standard machine gun that shoots whenever an opponent is in front of you, plus a limited-use weapon like a missile launcher. Better yet, after each race you can upgrade your car’s speed, handling, and armor. It’s so fun and addictive that you won’t want to stop playing until you’ve maxed out every car in your garage.
Our Bottom Line: What Death Rally lacks in content and features, it makes up for with customization and intensely fun gameplay.
In Gears, the little marble you have to roll from one side of the world to another isn’t actually the main character. Instead, the scene is stolen by… the scenery. Each level in Gears is elegantly designed, filled with rollercoaster-like ramps and tricky traps. The controls work especially well for a marble-rolling game, too– you can choose to swipe to roll, or very carefully tilt your device. If you’re dexterous, Gears is the game for you.
Our Bottom Line: Gears is a beautiful, challenging, and epic ball-rolling game. This iPhone genre will never be the same.
#26: Monsters Ate My Condo
Adult Swim’s fast-paced matching game is one of the funniest– and best– of the year. You have to feed floors of a shaky condominium to monsters on either side. If you feed them a color they like, you’ll score points, but if you feed them a bad color, they’ll get angry and start to wreck the place. The music, character design, and speedy gameplay all help make this one fantastic, mind-bending game.
Our Bottom Line: Monsters Ate My Condo is a satisfying slice of lunacy.
#25: DJ Rivals
Booyah, makers of the GPS social game MyTown, scored a big hit this year with DJ Rivals. A combination of MyTown and rhythm games like Guitar Hero, in DJ Rivals you have to challenge other players to become the “House DJ” at real-world locations. By beating them in a timing-based music minigame, you can earn more cash and unlock new musical attacks.
Our Bottom Line: DJ Rivals is one of a kind: A well-produced, massively-multiplayer, location-based rhythm game.
In Aquaria, an iPad port of the indie PC game, you’ll explore an underwater world through the eyes of a mermaid named Naija. As you swim through caverns and coral reefs, singing songs to combat enemies and solve puzzles, you’ll be able to access new areas. Gorgeous environments and a relaxing atmosphere mean Aquaria is the perfect game to unwind with.
Our Bottom Line: Aquaria is a great 2D adventure in the mold of Metroid, perfect for any gamer who loves a hefty dose of exploration with their action.
#23: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard
Gameloft is known for their superior iOS shooters, and when you play Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Shadow Vanguard, it’s easy to see why. The controls are tight, the campaign is satisfying, and the online multiplayer is fantastic. And in keeping with the series, you’ll find yourself breaching doors and rescuing hostages with a team instead of going solo. If any shooter will keep you coming back for more, it’s this one.
Our Bottom Line: The tactical team-based combat in Shadow Vanguard adds a fresh layer to Gameloft’s terrific FPS formula.
#22: Contre Jour
Chillingo’s artsy platformer combines many different elements. It’s partially inspired by the children’s book The Little Prince, with its small yet mysterious worlds. It also shares a visual style with the console and PC game Limbo, and adds the simple goals of iOS physics puzzlers like Cut The Rope. By altering the landscape or swinging your tentacle on hooks, Contre Jour will have you navigating a hostile world that is just as deadly as it is inviting.
Our Bottom Line: Contre Jour gets its hooks in you right from the start– and what beautiful hooks they are.
#21: Disc Drivin’
Disc Drivin’ actually came out at the end of 2010, but it received a major update in early 2011 that made it the Must Have game it is today. The gameplay is kind of like Mario Kart meets shuffleboard. Each match takes place over asynchronous online multiplayer, and you race other players by flicking a disc around various floating, curvy tracks. You can also collect power-ups that grant you special powers, like speed boosts or bombs that blast other players off the sides. In fact, some members of our staff wasted more time with Disc Drivin’ than any other game this year. It’s a total blast.
Our Bottom Line: Disc Drivin’ is an addictive, turn-based multiplayer racer that will keep you flicking day in and day out.
You can read the first part of our 50 Best iOS Games of 2011 series here.
Read the second part of our series here.