Here it is– the final installment of our Top 50 list, with the 10 absolute best games of 2010. It wasn’t easy settling on these 10, and we want to thank all of the developers who poured their hearts and souls into entertaining us this year. We’ll see you all again in 2011!
#10: Cut The Rope
To be a best-selling iPhone puzzle game in 2010, you had to offer easy-to-learn mechanics, playful physics, lots of levels, and a hook for skilled players. Cut The Rope was the first game to come along and knock Angry Birds off the #1 sales spot after months of dominance, and you don’t have to spend more than a minute feeding treats to Om Nom to learn why. This incredibly special game has it all.
Our Bottom Line: Cut the Rope is a charming, challenging, and– most importantly– fun puzzle game that nearly anyone will enjoy.
#9: N.O.V.A. 2 – Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance
Last year’s N.O.V.A. was a challenge to gamers: See if you can tell the difference between this iPhone FPS and Halo on the Xbox. This year’s sequel ups the ante with Modern Combat 2′s 10-person multiplayer, plus a bigger story and more crazy weapons. This was Gameloft’s crowning achievement in 2010, and that’s no small feat– six of their games made it into our Top 50.
Our Bottom Line: It’s not leaps and bounds beyond what we’ve seen before, but as far as first-person shooters on the App Store go, N.O.V.A. 2 is the grandaddy of them all.
#8: Angry Birds
Wait a minute, what’s Angry Birds doing on here? This game came out in December 2009, but it was easily one of the biggest, most important iPhone games of 2010. Angry Birds blew out the competition in terms of sales– the developers are hoping to someday reach 100 million downloads across multiple platforms, and it’s looking like they might have a shot.
Plus, Angry Birds ruled the pop culture roost, getting name-dropped on late night shows like Conan O’Brien and Craig Ferguson, and even acted out on an Israeli sketch comedy show. Now that the Angry Birds have extended their brand with a seasonal spin-off, we can expect to see even more of them next year as well.
Our Bottom Line: Destructive physics help make this a very charming puzzler, and the great level variety seals the deal.
#7: Helsing’s Fire
While it never quite gained the persistent sales that Angry Birds and Cut the Rope achieved, we still love this unique physics puzzler. You play as Dr. Van Helsing on a quest to stop Dracula. But instead of shooting stakes, you have to destroy enemies with the power of light. Enemies must have a clear line of sight to your lantern so you can hit them with a magic potion. If this game was our trusty assistant, we’d give it a cool fist bump to show our appreciation.
Our Bottom Line: Helsing’s Fire is one of those puzzle games that does something completely original and is unbelievably entertaining.
#6: Real Racing 2
In 2009, Real Racing changed the mobile gaming landscape by showing us that the iPhone could produce PSP-quality visuals and gameplay. That’s why we awarded it our 2009 Game of the Year: Editor’s Choice. This year’s sequel is even better, with a bigger online racing roster and vastly improved graphics. It goes to show how much the competition stepped up, though. Without the following five games, the Real Racing series would once again be the best of the year.
Our Bottom Line: Real Racing 2 singlehandedly redefines racing excellence on the iOS platform.
#5: Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD
Aralon is the vast, open-world RPG that we’ve been waiting for. When you start playing, it won’t take long for you to start diverting from the main storyline. You might make some fish stew, smoke a pipe, slay some bears and collect their pelts, find a baby dragon to ride, or pursue dozens of sidequests. If you adore the Elder Scrolls series on consoles, you need to buy this game.
Our Bottom Line: Aralon: Sword and Shadow offers just about everything you could want in a gigantic open-world RPG. If you have the time to invest, you’re going to love it.
#4: Infinity Blade
Infinity Blade, released just this month, already seems to be writing the story of 2011. If the iPhone and iPad can produce photorealistic castles and knights right now, what can they do next year? The Unreal Engine is put to engaging use in Infinity Blade with a fast-action fighting game that feels a bit like Punch-Out, with an eerie storyline and epic enemies reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus. We have the feeling that this is just the start of something truly amazing.
Our Bottom Line: Infinity Blade is a stunner on many levels. It’s not a big game, but it’s a great one.
#3: Chaos Rings
Square-Enix is in the habit of making must-have games for consoles, like Secret of Mana for the SNES and Final Fantasy VII for the Playstation. This year, they poured their talents into making a mobile turn-based RPG that felt right for the iPhone.
Chaos Rings is a sci-fi fantasy game where you play as one of four couples abducted by a higher power. By exploiting your enemies’ weaknesses, gradually building your character’s skills, and exploring the devastated landscapes, you’ll eventually fight a life form that seems just a half-step below God. Multiple endings, gorgeous graphics, and deep strategic gameplay: It’s the iPhone game we always hoped Square-Enix would make.
Our Bottom Line: We had always hoped Square Enix would deliver an original, Final Fantasy-caliber series to the iPhone, and they’ve finally delivered.
#2: Plants vs. Zombies
While most games listed in our Top 50 were designed for the iPhone from the ground up, Plants vs. Zombies was made for PCs. Amazingly, the game hardly changed at all for the iPhone. With a slight tweak to the user-interface and graphics, the entire story mode was ported intact.
And we’re better off for it– Plants vs. Zombies is a colorful, charming defense game that will get its vines around you. From the wacky sense of humor to the top-notch animation, Plants vs. Zombies is the very best strategy game in a year filled with them.
Our Bottom Line: This absorbing and unique take on tower defense, or ‘flower defense’, is brimming with personality.
#1: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Here we are: The best game of 2010. When GTA: CW hit the App Store in January, we thought, ‘it can’t get any better than this.’ And while many, many games came close, none matched GTA’s brilliance.
If we had to sum up why this game belongs at the top, here’s why: It takes the best parts of both the PSP and Nintendo DS versions, and combines them into one game that costs even less. It has both the PSP’s sharp graphics, and the DS’s touchscreen interface.
While GTA: CW isn’t appropriate for young kids, it’s still the benchmark of quality for the year. If you’re looking for something more family-friendly, stick with Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, or Cut The Rope. But if you’re looking to get lost in a virtual world filled with sleazy opportunity and crimes that pay, take a ride to Liberty City.
Our Bottom Line: The critically acclaimed DS and PSP game is now one of the best iPhone games to date, at a mere fraction of the price.