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Best iPhone and iPad games 2015 / 2016

Katharine Byrne
23 Dec 2015
Best iOS Games
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We round up the best free and paid iOS games to play on your phone and tablet in 2015

iOS games have traditionally been brushed under the carpet compared to the latest PC, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U releases, either for being too simplistic or not worthy of gamers' time. But there're plenty of new and interesting things happening on iOS, and the iPad, in particular, is quickly becoming a must-have platform in its own right. If you're looking for something new to play on your iOS device this Christmas, then take a gander at our top picks from Apple App Store. 

Most of the games on this list fall into the 'paid games' category, but we've also included our favourite free to play games as well. Some also have free versions available, or free chapters which give you a small part of the story before asking you to buy into the rest of them. For the most part, though, the vast majority of these games don't cost more than a couple of pounds and are well-worth picking up. 

While the image of games on a device is generally of single-player action or multiplayer over the internet, the iPad with its big screen is uniquely placed to become the hub of family entertainment. So, instead of having to break open that old board game with all of the pieces missing, you can just whack the iPad on the table, fire up your favourite family game and get straight into the action. Best yet, many classic games have been updated for the digital age, bringing you more modes, features and options than before. I've rounded up the best of these on page two of this article.

Alternatively, check out the rest of our top game picks for 2015 here

Threes!

Threes icon

It may be overshadowed by its infinitely inferior clone, 2048, but Threes! is the ultimate addictive number-sliding puzzle game. This game is all about matching multiples of three to make the highest possible combination of numbers without running out of play space on your ever-increasingly crowded board. 

You start by sliding blue ones and red twos together to make three, but then you can only match threes with threes, sixes with sixes, twelves with twelves and so on. The whole board moves in the same direction you decide to slide, too, so you'll have to plan each move very carefully. The soundtrack is also very, very catchy. 

Price: £2.29 (or free with ads)

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is like stepping into an Escher painting. With its twisting, turning environments, UsTwo has created a stunning isometric world that constantly shifts and changes shape as you guide your heroine Ida through its beautifully rendered mazes. Like The Room games below, Monument Valley is wonderfully tactile, as you'll need to rotate levers, slide and raise platforms and manipulate your enemies to clear a path toward your goal. 

It's short and sweet, but its Forgotten Shores DLC is arguably even better, as it takes UsTwo's clever perspective-based puzzling even further, transporting you through even more visually ambitious playgrounds that will have you marvelling at their ingenuity. 

Price: £2.99 (£1.49 Forgotten Shores)

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter

You don't need to be a fan of Fallout 4 to enjoy Bethesda's free-to-play Fallout Shelter, as this delightful management sim is essentially a post-nuclear apocalyptic version of the Sims. As you take control of your very own Vault, it's up to you to keep your Vault Dwellers happy and safe from the dangers of the Wasteland.

You'll start off with only a few rooms, but you'll gradually dig deeper into the Earth's crust to build a huge underground community, and every Vault Dweller will need your constant, undivided attention. The latest update has even added pets to the mix as well, but your main task will be making sure your Dwellers' stats and abilities are matched up with appropriate jobs and tasks, such as food and energy production, and ensuring they're armed and ready for any unwanted intruders. 

Price: Free (with optional in-app purchases for extra items) 

Device 6

Device 6 iOS icon

They say the printed word is under attack, but if all eBooks were like Device 6, we'd happily make like Fahrenheit 451 and throw our entire library of books on a funeral pyre without the slightest hesitation. Made by Swedish developers Simogo, Device 6 is a revolutionary take on the traditional text adventure. Simple things like making you physically move your iPad as the main heroine Anna turns a corner in the story or arranging the text in the shape of a flight of stairs (complete with appropriate sound effects) immediately make Device 6 stand out from the crowd, but its clever use of text and puzzle design is really what sets this game apart.

Riffing off 50s sci-fi and pulp thrillers, this intelligent puzzler hides its solutions in the text and illustrations of each chapter, asking players to poke and prod the source material as they search for answers. Audio clues are another vital piece of the puzzle, so you'll need a pair of headphones to play the game properly (or somewhere quiet where you can use your iPad's speakers). 

Other great games from Simogo include Year Walk, a creepy, first-person exploration game based on Swedish mythology, and Beat Sneak Bandit, a funky rhythm-stealth action title where you must tap the screen in time with the music in order to steal the treasure and avoid the guards.

Price: £2.99

Her Story

Her Story

Her Story is a little different from other mystery games on the App Store, as you can play as much or as little of it as you like and still come away feeling like you've understood the main story. In fact, the main detective work has already been done for you, but thanks to a shift in database systems at your local police station, the evidence has been fragmented and split up into short video clips, so you'll need to type in search terms to piece together what actually happened. It's only when you delve a bit deeper that you begin to realise there's a lot more going on here than you first thought.

Even more extraordinary is the game's lead actress, Viva Seifert, whose stunning performance really sucks you in and makes you question the reliability of her narrative. We lost hours playing this when it first came out on PC, and would highly recommend this on iOS as well. 

Price: £3.99

The Room / The Room 2 / The Room 3

The Room

The Room was one of the early breakout hits on iOS, but The Room 2 and The Room 3 are even better. Each game has a very simple premise: open a series of boxes to solve the mystery inside. However, getting there requires considerably more brain power, as each one's clockwork-style mechanisms become increasingly more complex as you progress.

As you spin various dials and mirrors, wind levers and tug at rods and coiled springs, there's a wonderful sense of physicality to The Room games, making them some of the most tactile iOS titles around. Bar Device 6, they're some of the only games that really use the iPad's touch interface in new and satisfying ways. Add in an intriguing plotline and each one is a must-buy game for puzzle fans.

Price: Free (The Room); £1.49 (The Room 2); £3.99 (The Room 3)

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Ghost Trick iOS icon

Originally released for the Nintendo DS in 2011, Ghost Trick is a fantastic puzzle game from the creator of the Ace Attorney games. You take the role of Sissel, an amnesiac ghost who winds up dead after an altercation with a mysterious assassin. Luckily, Sissel still has a role to play in this world as he must now use his titular "ghost trick" powers to stop his friends from meeting the same fate. 

Unfortunately, his lack of a functioning body means he has to take a rather more subtle approach to warning his unsuspecting victims, and he does this by manipulating inanimate objects in his environment. Where the DS version used the console's stylus to move Sissel's spirit from one object to another, the iOS version does the same thing with touch to great effect. 

Before the game is done, you'll have dunked a pair of headphones in a fish tank so a young girl can pay attention to her barking dog, dropped a wrecking ball on an assassin (although not before you've honked a bicycle horn to scare him and slid down a telephone wire as an umbrella), and rolled a tray of doughnuts across the floor so you can reach a Christmas tree to name just a few bizarre tricks you'll have to pull off. The script is top-notch, too, but it's the super slick character animations that really give Ghost Trick an extra layer of charm. 

Price: Free (chapters 1-2); £7.99 (all chapters) or £3.99 each for chapters 3-7, 8-13 and 14-end

Hearthstone

Heartstone iOS icon

We're very dubious of 'free' games, as many such titles are frustrating grinds unless you regularly drop money on them. Hearthstone, however, is free-to-play done right. It's a head-to-head competitive card game in the style of genre classic Magic: The Gathering but set in the World of Warcraft - although no knowledge of either is necessary to enjoy it. You get a bunch of cards at the beginning, from which you build a deck of 30 cards, then you play games first against a computer AI to get you feet before taking on real players online. 

The game is pretty simple at first glance, you get mana points every turn which you spend to cast spells or summon minions to fight for you - so you could fling a fireball at your opponent, and then the first one to reduce their opponent's health to zero is the winner. Winning games give you cards, and you can quickly build competitive decks by simply levelling up the various characters classes. You earn gold by completing daily quests, and this can be spent on packs of random cards, you can buy these using cold hard cash, but it's really not neccesary unless you're very impatient. It's been proven that you can quickly build powerful decks for free by concentrating on one or two character classes. It's a brilliant and absorbing game and one that has us utterly captivated.

Price: Free (with the option to buy additional cards) 

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead iOS icon

Not for the faint of heart, The Walking Dead is one of the best zombie games in years. Based on Robert Kirkman's comic book series of the same name, The Walking Dead is both brutal and gut-wrenching in equal measure as your rag-tag band of survivors try to survive the zombie apocalypse. 

You play as Lee Everett, a man on his way to prison when the virus breaks out, but a car crash soon sees Lee on the run to freedom. That sense of joy doesn't last long, though, as the undead are on his trail. During this episodic-based game, you'll join forces with a host of different characters, including young Clementine who's been left to fend for herself while her parents are away travelling. Conflicting personalities abound, and it's often up to you to either dispel arguments or take sides. Everything you do has a consequence, too, and will affect your relationships with people further down the line.

This not only leaves room for multiple playthroughs, but it also asks you think carefully in often high-pressured situations, leading to some pretty tense moments as you try and figure out what's best. The story continues in The Walking Dead Season Two as well.

Price: Free (episode 1); £10.99 for episodes 2-5 or £3.99 each 

80 Days 

80 Days iOS icon

Based on the novel "Around the World in 80 Days" by Jules Verne, 80 Days is a text adventure with a steampunk twist. How you travel is very much up to you. Do you take shorter, cheaper routes in automaton-driven cars and mechanical camels across the land, or longer journeys on solar-powered airships and roaring steamboats?

Multiple pathways await you, but only if you make the effort to discover them along your travels from gleaned tidbits of information from the locals or from buying maps at the city market. There's also your relationship with your master Phileas Fogg to maintain as well as your dwindling wallet, but developers Inkle Studios manage to disguise all these choices in clever conversation trees that are as enticing to read as they are to discover. Just tap the next sentence and the rest of the story will unfold just like a real novel. If you're a big fan of text adventures, you should also check out Inkle's Sorcery series. 

Price: £2.99 

World of Goo

World of Goo iOS icon

World of Goo has been released on almost every gaming platform going, but the iOS version remains one of the most intuitive. This delightful physics-based puzzle game is all about using your limited number of goo balls to construct various shapes and structures in order to deliver your remaining goo balls to the huge suction pump at the end of each level.

As you stretch and piece them together, they gloop and woggle together like a strange kind of molecule model. It's perfect for anyone who likes building stuff out of Lego, but the best thing about World of Goo is that you can remove certain goo balls from the centre of a structure to use elsewhere. Sometimes this will end in disaster, creating a Jenga-like effect as all your hard work crumbles under its own weight, but luckily there's a "retry" button for any fatal errors. It gets fiendishly difficult later on, too, particularly when different types of goo balls with their own unique properties begin to appear, but developer 2D Boy's huge number of ideas will always keep you entertained. 

Price: £2.29 (£3.99 for HD version)