Did you just buy a Verizon iPhone 4 this week, and are you looking for the best paid and free iPhone games? We compiled this massive list at the end of 2010, and we stand by every single one of these recommendations, so load up your brand new iPhone and start playing some great games!
Thumpies is a music/rhythm game with a sick sense of humor. You have to tap the drums along the bottom of the screen in time with the ghastly bouncing monster heads. These monster heads grunt out percussion, horns, and even harmonize with each other. Unlocking more and more bizarre Thumpies becomes an all-consuming goal, and the great music is just a bonus.
Our Bottom Line: Thumpies is wacky fun that turns the rhythm genre on its creepy head.
#49: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Millions of virtual skaters made Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 a hit back in the 90s, and Activision brought this all-time console classic to the iPhone back in April of this year. The full console game survived the transition, even if we did have to make do with a control scheme that was basically a Playstation controller grafted to the touchscreen. A nearly endless series of challenging goals will keep you busy with this extreme sports game for a long time.
Our Bottom Line: The sheer quality of the original console game overshadows the slight issues with this iPhone port.
#48: Baseball Superstars 2011
Gamevil’s long-running Baseball Superstars series got even better in 2010. This year’s edition received an improved pitching system and refinements to just about every mode in the game. Plus, this is the only baseball series on the App Store that lets you play as a flying demon or escaped convict.
Our Bottom Line: Baseball Superstars 2011 is a Must Have sports game; it’s as simple as that.
#47: Mushihimesama Bug Panic
This year, Japanese game developer Cave released a series of incredible games: Espgaluda 2, Dodonpachi Resurrection, and Mushihimesama Bug Panic. Mushihimesama, or ‘Insect Princess’, is a twin-stick shooter that overwhelms you with enemies and attacks, but never stops being fun, expansive, and lighthearted. This is also one of the most challenging iPhone games of the year.
Our Bottom Line: Mushihimesama Bug Panic enters a crowded shooter genre on the App Store, then blows them all away with thousands of glowing bullets.
#46: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
Everyone remembers the awkwardness of their first few years of school, like doing homework, meeting new classmates, and battling the unspeakable evil you’re destined to destroy. Well, Harry Potter’s experiences may not be the same as yours, but they’re wonderful fantasy escapism. This full DS/PSP port is one of the best kid’s games of the year, and it masterfully combines the goofiness of Legos with the high fantasy of the first four Harry Potter books and movies.
Our Bottom Line: Harry Potter’s unabridged adventure on the iPhone is first class.
#45: Gangstar: Miami Vindication
2010 was the year that Grand Theft Auto officially came to the iPhone (look for that game a little higher on this list), but Gameloft’s Gangstar series helped pave the way. This sequel added boats and motorcycles, plus a cast of interesting characters, like a swamp-dwelling Cajun criminal.
Our Bottom Line: It’s not as epic as GTA: Vice City, but we have to respect the ambition that brought Miami Vindication to the iPhone.
#44: ChuChu Rocket
Originally released on the Sega Dreamcast, ChuChu Rocket has found a new life on iDevices. A recent update just gave CCR online multiplayer via Game Center, so you can challenge friends and strangers to see who can shepherd the most mice to their rocket ships. Don’t miss this revitalized classic.
Our Bottom Line: There’s a reason ChuChu Rocket is a classic, and this port shows why.
#43: Zenonia 2
Zenonia was hugely influential on the App Store in 2009, and the sequel set a new standard for iPhone RPGs again in 2010. This time, the Zelda lookalike added online arena matches and four different playable characters. For lengthy, addictive action-RPGs, it’s hard to match Gamevil’s lineup.
Our Bottom Line: The iPhone’s first game-changing RPG is back and yet again setting the bar higher.
Archetype was the first first-person shooter of 2010 that amazed us with the number of players we could battle at once. While a few others came along later to succeed it, like Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. 2 and Modern Combat 2, Archetype is still a fantastic way to get an online deathmatch fix on the go.
Our Bottom Line: Refined in nearly every way, Archetype is one of the best first-person shooters on the platform.
#41: Samurai 2: Vengeance
This iPhone sequel gets an award for “most improved”. The original had an amazing cel-shaded style, but Vengeance added refined controls that let us easily shred our enemies to pieces. The most satisfying part? Ending a vicious combo attack with one final strike that causes your opponent to separate into two halves.
Our Bottom Line: Samurai 2: Vengeance has improved by leaps and bounds over the original, and has evolved into an extremely satisfying action hack and slash game.
#40: Puzzle Quest 2
Match-3 games usually require a twist or two to make them more appealing, but Puzzle Quest 2 has dozens. There’s your character’s rich spellbook, a nearly endless supply of fantasy opponents, minigames for every minor action, and a lengthy and intriguing storyline. Puzzle Quest 2 is a full PC game that feels right at home on your iOS device.
Our Bottom Line: Puzzle Quest 2 is the definitive Match-3 game for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
#39: Beyond Ynth
Beyond Ynth, from FDG Entertainment, is a challenging puzzle game with a unique premise. You play as a bug who must topple boxes end-over-end to reach your goal. Clever level design and additional replay value in the form of bonus diamonds will keep you thinking all the way through.
Our Bottom Line: Beyond Ynth is as tough as nails due to levels crafted with high finesse. This puzzler isn’t for the faint of heart.
Another great puzzle game, Trainyard is an indie gem that starts simple but ends up maddeningly complex. Your goal is to guide colored trains to their respective stations by drawing tracks, but eventually you’ll have to merge trains with precise timing and avoid crashes.
Our Bottom Line: Trainyard is a unique puzzle game that gives you tons of content but stays fresh throughout.
#37: Ragdoll Blaster 2
Ragdoll Blaster 2, a physics puzzler with firepower, is one of those games that makes you feel smarter as you advance. Solving each complex, Rube Goldberg-like stage requires thoughtful aiming and rapid-fire reflexes.
Our Bottom Line: The ragdoll-launching phenomenon is back, and even more of a blast than before.
Carcassonne is based on a popular German board game, but this iPhone version is amazing in its own right. Playing against the computer or other players online, you have to lay down tiles to create a scenic landscape filled with towns, roads, and fields. You gain points by laying down tiny figurines called meeple, and that’s just the start of this deep, strategic board game.
Our Bottom Line: This award-winning board game is also an amazing app, loaded with multiplayer features.
#35: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: LeChuck’s Revenge
Adventure games have found a new home on Apple’s handheld devices, and one series we’re glad to have back is Monkey Island. LeChuck’s Revenge is a hilarious and memorable adventure, and this Special Edition comes with improved graphics and audio. For a nostalgic kick, you can always swipe over to the original presentation.
Our Bottom Line: Classic adventure fans and newbies to the genre alike will fall in love with the brilliance of Monkey Island at what many would call its peak. One of the best games of all time is magically even better.
#34: Super Mega Worm
Like in the movie Tremors, Super Mega Worm is about a giant, subterranean worm that eats cars and people. This arcade-like action game lets you cause horrific havoc above ground, and we got a big kick out of its retro graphics and sense of humor. Even better: SMW has declared war on Santa.
Our Bottom Line: Super Mega Worm is pure kitschy fun. There’s not much to it, but its charm and high level of ridiculousness will keep you smiling the whole way through.
#33: Space Miner: Space Ore Bust
We gots meta-tears from laughing so much at this game’s ridiculous dialogue, but it’s the action that kept us coming back. In this twist on Asteroids, you have to clear dense fields of space rocks and suck up their precious ore into your cargo bay. Then it’s off to Uncle’s farm to sell your harvest, buy some new equipment, and stake your claim in a new part of the galaxy.
Our Bottom Line: Asteroid blasting has never been so fun’¦ and profitable.
#32: Street Fighter IV
Easily the best one-on-one fighting game on the iPhone, Street Fighter IV started off great and has only gotten better with time. Major updates every few months have added new characters and features, and the single-player dojo training will give you plenty of optional challenges to take on.
Our Bottom Line: Street Fighter IV sets the golden standard for iPhone fighters.
#31: Super QuickHook
Rocketcat’s Hook series reached its peak with Super QuickHook, a game that manages to combine an endless survival mode with level-based progression, character customization, online high-score challenges, and exploration. It’s got a great sense of humor as well, and might be the only game on this list with a shameless love of hats.
Our Bottom Line: Super QuickHook is a worthy sequel to Hook Champ in every way. Don’t let our minor quibbles stop you from swinging to the App Store and grappling it up.
#30: Pix’n Love Rush
Pix’n Love Rush is a hyperactive love letter to the world of videogames. You play as an excitable cat who must run, jump, and shoot through randomly-selected mini-worlds. If you do well, you’ll advance through a variety of gaming-themed backgrounds, but if you fail, your low spot in the online leaderboards will shame you publicly.
Our Bottom Line: Pix’n Love Rush is a surprisingly epic, retro-styled gem.
#29: Dodonpachi Resurrection
Surviving this arcade shoot ’em up is like trying to stay dry in a rainstorm. Bullets fly all around you, and it’s nearly impossible to stay alive. But if you let bullets graze you, you’ll power up your attacks and give it as good as you get. Dodonpachi Resurrection also has some of the best controls we’ve seen in an iPhone shooter.
Our Bottom Line: This hardcore shoot ‘˜em up is absolute bullet heaven.
#28: Hero of Sparta 2
This series is obviously a clone of God of War, but we still love it. In Hero of Sparta 2, you can slay giant monsters, wield mythical weapons, and ride a flying horse. You’re just doing it on your iPhone instead of your Playstation.
Our Bottom Line: If you have a PSP, buy God of War. If you have an iPhone, buy Hero of Sparta II.
#27: Slice It!
One of the more intriguing puzzle games of the year, Slice It! is a game about creating equal-sized pieces with a certain number of cuts. It’s like when you have to serve a pizza to a large group of people who all want an equal slice, but they start putting arbitrary demands on how many times you can slice it. Then the pizza man starts delivering oddly-shaped pizzas, and it just gets complicated.
Our Bottom Line: Even people who hated geometry class are likely to enjoy cutting up shapes in Slice It.
#26: Gun Bros
One of the best freemium games of the year, Gun Bros is a twin-stick shooter that serves up hundreds of waves of enemies. As you fight, you’ll unlock new weapons and earn virtual cash to buy them. Some of the guns, like pistols that shoot knives, can get a little expensive, though, but that’s when you just recruit your friend and use their arsenal.
Our Bottom Line: Gun Bros is the best free, online shooter since Eliminate Pro.
#25: Dungeon Hunter 2
This sequel to our Game of the Month from September 2009 adds online multiplayer through Game Center and an even bigger story and quest. Specialized training means you can be exactly the kind of monster-slaughtering hero you want, and it’s wrapped up in a gorgeous visual and audio presentation.
Our Bottom Line: Dungeon Hunter 2 takes everything that made the original a great Diablo clone, and makes it better.
#24: Broken Sword: Director’s Cut
This classy adventure game made historical mysteries exciting long before The Da Vinci Code. You play as a pair of investigators who are looking to solve a murder, which seems to be tied to the ancient order of the Knights Templar. Great cutscenes and voice acting make this a highly cinematic game.
Our Bottom Line: We were swept up by this intelligent, intriguing story with lots of likable characters.
#23: Mirror’s Edge
While Canabalt was a simple running game set in a dystopian future, Mirror’s Edge takes that premise and, well, runs with it. In addition to jumps and slides, you can also fight hand-to-hand with enemies and wall-run across oppressive billboards. We love the elegant look of this game, and the swipe controls work perfectly.
Our Bottom Line: Mirror’s Edge delivers a stellar action-adventure experience that iPhone users would be silly to ignore.
#22: Galaxy on Fire 2
This epic space-faring game combines trading, fighting, and intergalactic bar-hopping all in one app. It’s got hours of missions to get lost in, and some gorgeous views to admire while you drift among the stars. If you love space-age RPGs, this is the one to buy.
Our Bottom Line: Galaxy on Fire 2 is a supernova. Get lost in space and don’t bring your head up until you’ve reached the end.
#21: Tilt To Live
A shooter that doesn’t require you to hit any buttons, Tilt To Live has a great sense of humor to match its catchy visuals. Just guide your arrow to the power-ups, avoid the red dots, and rack up awesome achievements. Since its original release, Tilt To Live has added a few new game modes, and we think it’s now one of the best action games on the App Store.
Our Bottom Line: Buy this accelerometer-based high-score game and you’ll stave off boredom for hours.
#20: Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus
This excellent military-themed FPS was one of the first to bring iPhone online multiplayer into the same arena as console shooters. Five on five matches are now the new gold standard for iPhone gaming. Plus, MC2 has a lengthy single-player campaign that borrows all the best parts of Call of Duty.
Our Bottom Line: Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus provides top notch modern warfare on the go, with a lengthy campaign and a deeply addictive multiplayer mode.
#19: Sword and Poker 2
This irresistible game combines two great loves of ours: poker and RPGs. Once you learn the basics of building poker hands by placing them on a grid, you won’t be able to stop. Sword & Poker 2 also gives you plenty of tough enemies to fight and an enjoyable challenge– go as far as you can before you’re forced to spend a precious healing potion or end the level.
Our Bottom Line: Sword & Poker 2 refines the well-balanced gameplay that made the first game so wonderful and addictive. It’s practically perfect.
The Angry Birds may have caused a lot of destruction in 2010, but the boys from Fragger blew things up the old fashioned way. In this physics puzzler, you have to lob grenades at the bad guys with expert precision. There’s a greater emphasis on aiming than in Angry Birds, and we loved how accessible this game is to just about anyone.
Our Bottom Line: Fragger is a deviously fun game that’s easy to pick up and play, but very difficult to put down.
#17: Solomon’s Keep
One of the best twin-stick shooters of the year, Solomon’s Keep is a dungeon crawler with an action bend. Arcs of lightning will fly from your fingers and burning-hot embers will litter the floor as you leave a trail of broken bones and zombie guts all the way to the top of the tower. Our favorite feature: Randomized skill upgrades that make the game different every time you play.
Our Bottom Line: Solomon’s Keep is a quick-hitting dungeon crawler that delivers solid replay value and retro appeal.
#16: Ninjatown: Trees of Doom!
As soon as we started to tire of Canabalt clones, along came Ninjatown to make endless, high-score platforming fun again. You have to guide the adorable Wee Ninja to the heights of the great Trees of Doom, but clever obstacles (that actually become much more difficult the higher you climb) will try to make you fall. This game nails both the challenge and adorable visual style.
Our Bottom Line: Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Ninjatown: Trees of Doom will absorb your life.
#15: Rimelands: Hammer of Thor
A fantastically original RPG, Rimelands features a turn-based combat system where you roll dice to inflict damage. The stronger you become, the more dice you have at your disposal. Rimelands also has an intriguing story and some great isometric graphics that entertained us for hours.
Our Bottom Line: Rimelands is a highly original RPG that combines dice-rolling chance with player-driven decisions.
#14: Game Dev Story
Game Dev Story is nothing less than an ode to gaming– the developers, the fans, the reviewers, and the industry. In this sim game, you control a startup from the Atari past to the Playstation present, creating blockbuster videogames of your own design. Once you start playing this one, you’ll spontaneously catch fire and never stop.
Our Bottom Line: Game Dev Story is a challenging, interactive overview of our shared gaming experience.
#13: Spider-Man: Total Mayhem
One of the best beat ’em ups of the year, this action game from Gameloft does full justice to the license. Spider-Man moves with incredible fluidity, his world is bright like a comic book panel, and the gameplay variety will keep you springing and slinging.
Our Bottom Line: Your Spidey sense should be tingling, because Spider-Man Total Mayhem is a remarkable game on just about every level.
#12: Fruit Ninja
Fruit Ninja is one of the year’s biggest success stories, catapulting Australian developer Halfbrick onto the world stage and inspiring a slew of Fruit Ninja clones. Like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja has immediate pick-up-and-play appeal: Just grab an iOS device, start swiping the screen, and make piles of fresh fruit salad.
Our Bottom Line: As far as simple pick-up-and-play games go, Fruit Ninja is among the best.
This haunting, semi-scientific game reminds us of “Powers of 10”, a documentary that shows the scale in which the natural world operates. You play as a sentient mote (a speck, really) that can gobble up smaller motes and be eaten by larger ones. The trick is that you have to expel a little bit of your mote to move around, which makes you smaller. It’s gorgeous and perfectly balanced, an amazing iPhone or iPad download.
Our Bottom Line: Osmos is an elegant physics game perfectly suited for the iPhone’s touchscreen.
#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.