Here it is: the final part of our massive recap of 2012’s best iOS games. These 10 games represent everything we love about the platform. Original IPs and ports, 2D and 3D, hardcore and casual, all seem right at home on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Thanks for reading this year, and may 2013 bring everyone much joy and happiness!
#10: Bladeslinger Ep. 1
As much fun as ports and remakes can be, we love a good, original game. iOS has already been the launching pad for original IPs like Angry Birds and Cut The Rope, but neither of those series are as dark and edgy as Bladeslinger Ep. 1. Inspired in part by Devil May Cry and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, Bladeslinger tells the story of a cowboy with a robotic arm and a gunblade who arrives in his hometown, only to find it overrun by monsters. Bladeslinger’s freestyle combat system, which is much more fluid than Infinity Blade’s, lets you pull off impressive rolls, slashes, blocks, and shots, while the game’s expansive card system encourages you to save up for special attacks. This is just the first part of a promising new series, so we can’t wait to see what Episode 2 has in store.
Our Bottom Line: Bladeslinger is one of the best new iOS games of the year, due to its polished combination of action, exploration, and narrative.
#9: Metal Slug 3
Metal Slug 3 is the best example this year of an arcade port done right. Not only does this classic 2D shooter support the iCade Bluetooth controllers, but you can also use Bluetooth to play cooperatively with a friend. The game itself is a classic– you’ll have to shoot down zombies, aliens, giant crabs, mummies, submarines, and so much more. Brilliant animation will let you see the expression on every terrified enemy soldier’s face, and transformative power-ups (like obesity) can change the game in a second.
Our Bottom Line: Metal Slug 3 is the killer app for Bluetooth joysticks like the iCade, but even without physical controls, it’s practically flawless.
#8: Puzzle Craft
Chillingo’s addictive Match-3 game puts an added spin on a fairly ordinary genre, by letting you build up a town with the resources you gain in the fields and mines. Matching crops, stones, or animals will create new, rarer tiles, so you’ll have to plan ahead to get the goods you need. When the harvest or expedition ends, you can build structures that will provide you with even more tools and resources until your small town becomes a kingdom. Be warned, though: Puzzle Craft is easy to start playing, and very hard to put down.
Our Bottom Line: Puzzle Craft is a joy to play. You’ll be farming, mining, and crafting for hours at a time.
#7: Fairway Solitaire
Videogame versions of solitaire have come a long way since the game became a Windows pack-in. The best incarnation is Fairway Solitaire, a game that brilliantly combines the classic time-waster with the game of golf. Like in solitaire, the goal is to play all of your cards, but here some cards represent sand traps, water hazards, or swappable golf clubs. It all comes together with a humorous presentation, and leaves players with the persistent urge to play just one more game.
Our Bottom Line: Fairway Solitaire is a must-have puzzler for anyone who likes card games or golf.
#6: Total War Battles
If you felt like testing your strategy skills this year, there was no better way to do it than by playing Total War Battles. Although it’s based on a PC series, Total War Battles was designed from the ground up for touchscreen devices. In it, you control an army of archers, riflemen, and cavalry as you battle it out on a hex-based grid in feudal Japan. The game comes with a meaty campaign, but it also has a single-device multiplayer mode that lets you play against your friends in the same room. Short of graduating from West Point, there’s no better way to feel like a real-life general.
Our Bottom Line: Although it’s not much like the superb PC games and has several noticeable flaws, Total War Battles is a surprisingly beautiful and engaging mix of war gaming and puzzles.
Horn is a console-sized action RPG that will appeal to anyone who enjoys the Zelda series. In it, you play as a boy who wakes up one day to find that his village destroyed by mysterious forces, and every person and animal turned into a giant monster. Your job is to explore the decimated world, solving environmental puzzles and fighting the creatures to turn them back into their original forms. It’s an eery, beautiful game that will stay with you long after you’ve beaten it.
Our Bottom Line: Horn is an enormous, beautiful, carefully-constructed game that shows off what iOS devices can do.
#4: Fieldrunners 2
Fieldrunners 2 manages to do the near-impossible: It takes the tired tower defense genre and makes it feel new again. It does this by offering a little bit of everything, and executing it with style to spare. The game looks drop-dead gorgeous, with colorful, detailed environments, and tons of enemies onscreen at a time. Some levels come with pre-made pathways for the enemies to take, while others let you build your own routes by planting rows of towers. Any way you look at it, Fieldrunners 2 is a best-in-class game, with enough content to keep you busy for a long time.
Our Bottom Line: Fieldrunners 2 takes the cartoonish tower defense fun of the original and expands it for even more fun.
Lots of ports landed on iOS this year, but our favorite is Bastion, an action RPG that originally came out last year on Xbox Live Arcade. Many things stand out about Bastion, like its vibrant watercolor art and seriously cool narrator, but none of those things touch its extraordinarily fun gameplay. The game throws tons of enemies in your way and gives you a variety of awesome, upgradeable weapons to fend them off. The result is one of the biggest, best games ever to land on iOS.
Our Bottom Line: Bastion is simply astounding. This is an action RPG that deserves a spot on every gamer’s iPad.
#2: Air Mail
Air Mail is a flight combat game that couldn’t feel more distinct from the machine-gunning Sky Gamblers series. Instead, Air Mail is bright, cheerful, and colorful, like a Miyazaki anime. You play as a mail carrier who gets swept up in a war. Instead of shooting down enemies, you have to perform nail-biting moves like stealing crates of ammo, or cutting the tethers on enemy zeppelins. Without firing a single shot, you can win the war for your island community, and then celebrate by lighting off fireworks. Air Mail is a gorgeous game with an inspiring message at its heart.
Our Bottom Line: Air Mail is a delightful flight sim with broad appeal. It’s about the precise controls and engaging story, not locking on with missiles or machine guns.
#1: Rayman Jungle Run
Our top pick for 2012 isn’t a port, though it uses graphics and audio from Rayman’s recent console adventures. Rayman Jungle Run is an original platformer that more than any other game, feels perfectly suited for the iOS platform. With one touch, you can jump, float, punch, and wall-jump over twisting vines and volcanic vents. Each level lasts only a few minutes, but replaying each one for all 100 lums is a challenge that will take hours. We loved every second of Rayman Jungle Run, and in our view, it’s the best-designed game of the year. Apparently Apple agrees– while we were in the process of choosing our picks, they announced that Rayman Jungle Run is also their pick for iPhone Game of the Year.
Our Bottom Line: Ubisoft delivers a top-of-the-line experience by working with the touchscreen rather than simply porting to it.