Our look back at the 50 best iOS games of 2012 continues with part 3, covering #30-21. If you agree or disagree with our picks, or want to guess what’s in the top 20, leave a comment below! You can find part one of our Top 50 here, and part two here.
#30: Jack Lumber
A collaboration between Sega and Snuggle Truck developer Owlchemy Labs, Jack Lumber is a touch-based action game that takes Fruit Ninja’s slicing gameplay to the next level. You play as a legendary lumberjack who wants to get revenge on the tree that killed his dear grandma. After Jack sends blocks of wood flying into the air, you have to neatly slice them down the middle as they tumble in slow-motion. Jack Lumber is easy to learn, but the special logs and power-up syrups introduced later in the game add a lot of fun challenges.
Our Bottom Line: Jack Lumber is a mythic, larger-than-life character who could be the App Store’s modern-day Paul Bunyan.
#29: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Last year, Rockstar’s port of Grand Theft Auto 3 ranked towards the top of our Best Games of 2011 list. This year, GTA Vice City is still a Must Have download, but it faced some tougher competition. If you’re not familiar with the series, Vice City is set in a fictional version of Miami, where drug lords and local gangs have the run of the town. You play as an up-and-coming mafioso, voiced by Ray Liotta, who takes the city under his control one business at a time. As usual for the series, you can expect amazingly-staged shootouts and car chases under the postcard-perfect sunshine.
Our Bottom Line: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was a landmark console game ten years ago with its unique setting and unbeatable gameplay. Now, it’s a landmark mobile game.
#28: Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour
Nobody does Call of Duty on iOS like Gameloft. Like its three predecessors, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour offers one of the most fully-featured first-person shooters on the App Store to date. You get a beefy campaign mode, tons of upgrades, and some of the best multiplayer shooting you can fit in your pocket. Tie it all together with best-in-class controls and killer graphics, and you’ve got a console-style experience that probably won’t be beat until next year’s installment.
Our Bottom Line: Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour is the closest they’ve come yet to recreating a recent Call of Duty game on iOS.
#27: Avengers Initiative
Marvel’s take on Infinity Blade may not have an original gameplay mechanic– it often feels like a re-skinned version of Epic’s Unreal-powered series– but it does offer excellent graphics and one-on-one combat that does the characters justice. You play as The Hulk (but also Captain America, since the recent update) as he tries to find the source of an attack on S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. We also loved the replayability factor. The hunt for more ISO-8 and experience points, used to unlock new outfits and abilities, makes Avengers Initiative very hard to put down.
Our Bottom Line: Avengers Initiative takes a proven gameplay formula and makes it even better with interesting characters and more addictive components. Despite the obvious influences, it stands very well on its own.
#26: Spin Up
Spin Up reinvents the arcade high-score genre with its unique gameplay. Like a DJ spinning records, you have to spin the segments of a crumbling space elevator so that your astronaut can try to survive. Eventually, you’ll be eaten alive by sentient printers or linger too long on a broken ladder, and the game will end. Besides the fun retro graphics, we enjoyed the two different gameplay options: You can either scramble upwards for a high score, or try to take out enemies and computer monitors along the way to unlock new playable characters.
Our Bottom Line: Spin Up is one of the most creative high-score games we’ve ever played.
#25: Angry Birds Star Wars
When two mega franchises like Angry Birds and Star Wars come together in an excellent game, it makes everyone happy. Angry Birds Star Wars is exactly what fans would expect: an adorable physics game cleverly infused with characters and locations from the Star Wars universe. Bird versions of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and Leia are featured prominently, as are pig versions of Stormtroopers and Darth Vader. There’s lots of bird-flinging and destruction– some of it taking place in outer space– and when it’s all said and done, one thing’s for sure: The imperial forces will have a lot of rubble to clean up.
Our Bottom Line: Angry Birds Star Wars is exactly what you’d expect, meaning it’s clever, adorable, and a lot of fun.
#24: Arc Squadron
If you were a Nintendo gamer in the ’90s, chances are that you’re a fan of Star Fox. Arc Squadron zeroes in on that nostalgia and offers a gameplay experience worthy of Fox McCloud, Slippy Toad, and company. In it, you pilot a space ship through 64 levels peppered with enemy fighters and giant bosses. Your arsenal is full of impressive firepower, coupled with slick controls that let you shoot and pull off barrel rolls with ease. There’s a lot packed into this gorgeous game, making it feel like a worthy spiritual successor to the classic franchise.
Our Bottom Line: There are no two ways about this. Everyone needs to play Arc Squadron, and they need to play it now.
#23: Waking Mars
Tiger Style Games, the company behind Waking Mars and Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, can invoke a mood like no other developer on the App Store. Waking Mars puts you in the boots of an astronaut on a mission to terraform the caverns of Mars. To do that, you fly around using your jetpack, planting seeds and growing plants that help open up new areas and pathways. The red planet they’ve created is as eerily beautiful as it is satisfying to explore.
Our Bottom Line: Waking Mars offers a unique, engaging, atmospheric experience you won’t find anywhere else.
#22: Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders
The Sky Gamblers series is so visually impressive that Apple has featured it onstage to show off the kinds of graphics iOS devices are capable of displaying. But it’s not just looks that this game has going for it. The game features excellent World War II-era dogfighting, with a hangar full of planes, a handful of gorgeous environments, and gameplay that mixes arcade-style shooting with sim-style flying. Apple was right: this is a game to show off to friends without an iPhone to let them see what they’re missing.
Our Bottom Line: Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders is a WWII-era combat flight game that hits the sweet spot between arcade and sim, and offers great online play.
#21: Zuma’s Revenge HD
Popcap’s classic Match-3 shooting game is a welcome addition to the App Store. After playing through many clones and knock-offs, Zuma’s Revenge HD showed them all why the original series is still the best. You have to blast your way through dozens of twisting marble chutes, earning power-ups and even facing a few bosses along the way. Then, when you’re done with the lengthy main campaign, you can try the ultra-tough challenge missions for extra bragging rights. There’s never been a more fun and responsive version of this game in the crowded Match-3 genre.
Our Bottom Line: Zuma’s Revenge HD is another home run from PopCap.