The best iOS games showcase the benefits of Apple’s control over both the hardware and the software for its phones. Powerful CPUs and GPUs in the best iPhones along with the advances in the latest versions of iOS have turned the iPhone into a capable gaming device in its own right.
The diverse selection of the best iOS games helps. Complex PC strategy games like Sid Meier's Civilization VI now sit comfortably alongside familiar mobile fare in the vein of Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds, and you'll even find experiences with touch inputs that rival anything you'll get on more established gaming platforms.
But you’ve got to sort through a lot of titles to find the best iOS games. Fortunately, we’ve done all the work for you, coming up with a list of the top apps you can currently download from the App Store. We’ve been careful to steer clear of games with overly aggressive cash shops and similar scourges of mobile gaming. Also, we're skipping Apple Arcade, Apple’s $5 a month streaming game service. That’s not because you should avoid Apple Arcade — to the contrary, it’s a great service that really complements the entire iOS experience — but we wanted to focus on games that anyone with an iPhone or iPad can enjoy. Apple also has a list of what it considers are the best games of the year available on the App Store right now.
Some of our best iOS games selections play better with touch inputs, some play better with a gamepad, but all of them might have you reaching for your phone instead of a Nintendo Switch when you're in the mood for a good portable game.
Best iOS Games: Action games
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If you want to feel like you're back in an arcade, check out some of the best action games for the iPhone and iPad. Action games cover a variety of styles, including platformers, first-person shooters, and other apps that test out your responses to rapid-fire happenings.
Alto's Odyssey, much like Alto's Adventure before it, embraces the simplicity of touch controls but uses them to craft a relaxing experience that's still challenging. And it's as memorable as anything you'll find on a console.
This iOS game is a wonderwork of both sight and sound, presenting new wonders as you tap the screen to make Alto and his snowboard flip and perform gnarly combos over ruin-pocked desert dunes. It's well worth the $4.99 download.
Download Alto's Odyssey for iOS
Call of Duty: Mobile
It took years to get a Call of Duty game on smartphones, but Call of Duty: Mobile has proven to be well worth the wait. It actually feels like Call of Duty, for one, both in its gameplay (which handles well even with touch controls) and in familiar modes like Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Gun Game. You can even enjoy a 100-player battle royale much like the Blackout Mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
The game is a free download, and while there is a cash shop, you could play for hours on end and never have to touch it.
Download Call of Duty: Mobile for iOS
Peruse the list of best iOS games, and you'll find plenty of good platformers that originated on other systems. But Oddmar was made entirely with smartphones in mind—and it shows.
The interface and the touch controls of this $4.99 download are both intuitive, and the humorous story about a Viking out to prove his worth adds some welcome levity to the frequently tense and frantic gameplay. If there's a Valhalla for mobile games, Oddmar has earned a place there.
Download Oddmar for iOS
Xenowerk should scratch the itch of anyone who's looking for a good top-down, twin-stick shooter on iOS. The onscreen controls work great, and the game's wide assortment of weapons and abilities keep combat interesting as you delve deeper and deeper into a lab where an experiment didn't go according to plan.
Xenowerk also happens to be delightfully creepy and atmospheric, as you have nothing more than a flashlight for illuminating the darkened halls. This attention to atmosphere helps this free download earn a place among the best iOS games.
Download Xenowerk for iOS
If you prefer first-person shooters to play more like Destiny than Call of Duty, Shadowgun Legends is the game you're looking for on the App Store. The shooting satisfies, as do the co-op story missions and big boss fights.
As the name implies, you can even earn a bit of in-game fame if you play for long enough. There's a cash shop, too, but it never feels essential for survival.
Download Shadowgun Legends for iOS
Fortnite may be MIA from the App Store right now, as Apple and Epic Games work out their dispute over App Store fees. But you can still get your battle royale fix with PUBG Mobile, a startlingly good port of the popular PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds shooter.
The iOS version of PUBG Mobile is all the more remarkable for running a heck of a lot more smoothly than its PC and console counterpart. Here you'll find familiar maps like Erangel and Vikendi, but there's also a map called Livik that's made specifically for phones.
Like other games in this genre, PUBG Mobile is a free download, with plenty of opportunities to make in-app purchases. But you can enjoy the game extensively without spending a dime if you prefer.
Download PUBG Mobile for iOS
Best iOS Games: Adventure games
Some of the best iOS games place an emphasis on story, atmosphere and exploration. These top adventure games for the iPhone and iPad certainly offer their share of action, but there's an entire world to explore. And thanks to some of the graphics and gameplay in these games, you'll want to spend a lot of time with these titles.
If Found... tells its story by inviting you to look through the diary of a young trans woman named Kasio. Instead of merely reading it, though, you erase her doodles and annotations about her experiences until you arrive at something resembling the truth.
The $3.99 game's a success not only thanks to the art direction and music, but also for the ways that Kasio's struggles strike a universal chord. In the process of learning about Kasio, you may end up learning more about yourself.
Download If Found... for iOS
It's Minecraft. No, better than that — it's Minecraft on a phone (or an iPad, if you prefer).
The world's most popular game probably doesn't need an introduction, but in case it does, it's a sandbox where you can create anything you can imagine, either in a freeform creative mode or in a more gamey survival mode that tosses in some nasty creatures to fight.
With its relatively simple but accessible controls that have made it such a hit, this $6.99 download is a great fit for iPhones.
Download Minecraft for iOS
Oxenfree gets its start when a bunch of teens hears spooky voices over the radio during a trip to an abandoned island. That may sound like one of the most clichéd premises imaginable, but this choice-based narrative game transcends those clichés to weave a memorable tale, much like Stranger Things did on television.
You can play the prologue for free, but you'll need to pay $4.99 to learn how the rest of the story unfolds. Trust me — it's definitely worth it.
Download Oxenfree for iOS
Gris is probably best understood as interactive visual poetry rather than a game. It resembles a 2D platformer in that you spend a lot of time leaping and learning new abilities, but for all that, you can never die.
Oh, but there is plenty of pain. Gris is an examination of the process of recovering from sorrow and grief, and it starts out in muted tones and erupts into color as the protagonist rediscovers her confidence amid the ruined landscapes.
Like a good poem, Gris doesn't take long to get its point across: You should be able to finish the $4.99 game within a handful of hours.
Download Gris for iOS
We consider Florence one of the best iOS games thanks to its blend of artistry and minigames. Had the game come out a few years after it did, it would have been right at home on Apple Arcade.
But it's just as well that Florence is available to anyone who ponies up $2.99. The game is as much a graphic novel as it is a puzzler, as you see how a woman named Florence Yeoh finds her life changing after she meets a cellist named Krish. Along her journey, you'll solve puzzles while Florence works out the puzzles of love and life. It's short, too: You can finish it in under an hour.
Download Florence for iOS
Mobile games are at their best when they let you sneak in a few moments of fun on a crowded commute or in a waiting room, and few games cater to that concept so well as Minit, a $4.99 download.
Minit looks like an old-school dungeon crawler, but the catch is that you only have a single minute to make it as far as you can before you die and the game resets. Fortunately, you keep everything you've unlocked along the way, ensuring that each foray into the dark tunnels feels unique.
Download Minit for iOS
Best iOS Games: Puzzle games
Whether you have a way with words, run a mean numbers game or just prefer finding perfect matches, you can't resist a good puzzle game. It's lucky you have an iPhone, then, as many of the best iOS games are great puzzle games. And you're sure to find one that fits your particular area of interest.
Monument Valley 2 is an uncanny one, not because the $4.99 game has anything to do with poorly digitized eyes. Instead, this best iOS game makes you work your way through M.C. Escher-inspired rooms with gravity-defying staircases and perspectives that should be impossible.
The first version of Monument Valley had a lot of that, too, but this sequel delivers a greater emotional impact by following a mother and daughter as they work their way through the surreal surroundings.
Download Monument Valley 2 for iOS
The simplicity of Threes demonstrates that the best iOS games don't need to have stellar graphics or complex gameplay. Threes is a math-based game in which you slide numbered tiles to the wall in order to combine like pairs in multiples of three, up to 24.
Use the wall to combine two 3 cards to get a 6, combine two 6 cards to get a 12, and so forth. As the devs say, "You can learn it in a minute," but it may end up being one of the apps that never leaves your phone. If you don't like the idea of paying $5.99 for such a simple concept, the ad-supported version is free.
Download Threes for iOS
The Room: Old Sins
The Room games have always deftly used haptic feedback and rich graphics to recreate the sensation of manipulating physical objects, but that winning puzzle formula has never worked so well as it does in The Room: Old Sins.
The $4.99 puzzle game is as creepy as it is challenging, as most of the action unfolds in a darkened dollhouse filled with its own puzzles in addition to the individual ones scattered about its shadowy floors.
Download The Room: Old Sins for iOS
Framed is basically the concept of storyboarding translated into game form. The $3.99 game is all about looking at various comic book-like panels and rearranging them to change the outcome of a story where you hear or see no words — only action.
This is one of the best iOS games and also a work of art — further proof that mobile games have strengths that PC and console games can barely mimic.
Download Framed for iOS
Donut County is a short game about controlling a growing hole in the ground with your finger and using it to swallow everything from chairs and cars to entire barns.
The physics make this $4.99 game memorable, as does the humorous tale that follows a cast of anthropomorphic critters like raccoons and bears. There's also a not-so-subtle subtext about the perils of gentrification.
Download Donut County for iOS
The Witness. a $9.99 download, is inspired by the Myst games that were so popular in the '90s, but in this best iOS game, the puzzles lean more toward the abstract.
You spend most of your time in The Witness wandering around a mysterious island, where you frequently confront gridded puzzles that initially seem easy. But that doesn't last long. Soon the puzzles ramp up to daunting degrees of difficulty, but it's immensely satisfying to solve one and uncover more of the island's many secrets.
Download The Witness for iOS
Gorogoa is about finding commonalities in disparate things, which makes it a good lesson for life as well as an entertaining puzzler.
In most of the puzzles in this $4.99 game, you're presented with seemingly unrelated images, which may include a darkened living room, a view across city rooftops, and a shot of a disabled man peering out a window. Select and rearrange specific elements of these images, and you'll end up with an animated sequence showing an apple falling from a tree and into a bow. It's challenging at times, but it's always rewarding.
Download Gorogoa for iOS
No other game has done so much to establish the puzzle platformer as an artistic genre as Limbo, which is a mainstay on any best iOS games list. There's good reason for that.
Because Limbo doesn't clutter its screen up, you're immersed in the oppressively creepy environment — particularly on a larger iPhone display. You're guiding a young boy through shadowy forests and villages infested with giant spiders and other horrors. Is he alive? Is he dead? You'll have to figure that out for yourself, and there's a good chance you'll still be wondering what it all means for years.
Download Limbo for iOS
Hidden Folks is basically Where's Waldo for smartphones, although it trades out the colors familiar from that series for a monochrome palette.
You'll need to find multiple objects in settings that initially start off small but then extend to gigantic canvases requiring multiple swipes before you find everything. Part of the appeal lies in the goofiness of this best iOS game, as all the sound effects were made with mouth noises.
Download Hidden Folks for iOS
Best iOS Games: Role-playing games
With role-playing games — or RPGs, as they're widely known — you take on a character and immerse yourself in an entirely new world and epic storylines. The best iOS games include some truly inventive RPGs that open up new worlds and spark your imagination, while also takin advantage of the graphics processing power available in recent iPhones and iPads.
Stardew Valley is a pleasant bit of escapism wrapped in a retro aesthetic that lets you flee today's ills and live out your days in a curiously friendly small town. Among other things, you can farm, fish, mine, and even court over a dozen folks for marriage.
The controls in the $499 game have largely translated well for mobile, as most movements and actions require nothing more than a single precise tap on the screen of your iOS device.
Download Stardew Valley for iOS
Bastion is one of the greatest indie games ever made, and luckily for us, it lost none of its magic when it was ported over to iOS.
This action roleplaying game follows a hero known as "The Kid," as he fights through the titular floating bastion, finding and upgrading tons of weapons along the way. The gameplay in Bastion is great, but it's just as remarkable for its stellar soundtrack, the narration, and the hand-drawn visuals.
You can play the first episode of Bastion for free, unlocking the rest of the game for $4.99.
Download Bastion for iOS
Resource management games are far from uncommon on the App Store, but few if any have the personality of Fallout Shelter. Here, you're in charge of running a massive bunker in the wake of a nuclear holocaust, and you need to check in to make sure you have adequate food, water, power, and other resources.
The free app gets more complex as your bunker goes, so you'll need to make careful decisions about resource allocation and fend off the occasional raiders. Best of all, everything is drawn in the beloved signature art style from the Fallout series, but you don't need to be familiar with that series to have a good time.
Download Fallout Shelter for iOS
Dead Cells rolls a lot of genres into one immensely satisfying and beautiful platformer. It's a roguelike, a Metroidvania, and it also has elements from the Dark Souls series mixed in for good measure.
The $8.99 game is hard, too, but not overly so. You have to restart from the beginning every time you die, but you at least get to keep all the new paths, mutations, and abilities you picked up along the way.
The touch controls in Dead Cells are excellent, which is impressive considering the precision needed to get through many of its levels.
Download Dead Cells for iOS
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Crypt of the Necrodancer is a $3.99 dungeon crawler you'll want to play with a pair of headphones on. That's not just because the music is fantastic (although there is that); it's also because you need to work your way through its dungeons to the beat of that music, synching your movements and attacks to its rhythm.
This unique approach in Crypt of the Necrodancer manages to make both dungeon crawlers and rhythm games feel fresh.
Download Crypt of the Necrodancer for iOS
Best iOS games: Card games
The venerable collectible card game has gone digital, moving from the table-top in front of you to the screen of your iPhone or iPad. With the best iOS card games, you're never that far away from a match, even if you're competing with people halfway around the world.
Clash Royale takes a lot of cues from Blizzard's collectible card game Hearthstone, but it differs in one big way: In this game, the battle cards actually come to life and duke it out on the battlefield.
Based on Supercell's own popular Clash of Clans series, Clash Royale allows for team duels, in-game communities, special events, and much more.
Download Clash Royale for iOS
Hearthstone was one of the first games to prove that PC and mobile players could play against each other (and earn everything on shared accounts) and everything will work out fine. In fact, the touch controls make this Warcraft-themed collectible card game a bit more fun to play than the desktop version as they recreate some of the feeling of playing with real cards.
The main drawback? The community is so established now that it's a little hard for new players to get a solid footing, but there's still a ton of fun to be found here. The animations alone make it worth checking out.
Download Hearthstone for iOS
Exploding Kittens started out as The Oatmeal's wildly successful Kickstarter-funded physical card game, before making it to smartphones with much of its outlandishness intact.
The basic idea is that when you draw a card with an exploding kitten, you need to draw a defuse card quickly to keep from getting kicked out of the game. It's loud, richly illustrated, brazenly funny, and fun to play regardless of whether it's with local friends or strangers you meet through the online matchmaking. Just don't expect deep strategy: This $1.99 download is all about the goofy fun.
Download Exploding Kittens for iOS
It ain't easy being a cultist, at least judging from what goes on in Cultist Simulator. In fact, this complex card-based game doesn't even have a tutorial, but then figuring out what's going on is a big part of the hook.
Along the way, the cards in the $6.99 Cultist Simulator will reveal a fascinating story that's steeped in Lovecraftian lore and thoughtful choices.
Download Cultist Simulator for iOS
Best iOS games: Racing games
The need for speed is as close as your mobile device. You've got plenty of racing games to choose from in Apple's App Store, and the very best iOS games take advantage of the processing power in the iPhone and iPad to deliver demanding graphics that never stutter as you race toward the finish line.
Asphalt 9: Legends
Asphalt 9: Legends has stunning graphics, lots of cars, plentiful modes, and multiple means of control — all of which combine to make it the best racing game currently on the iPhone.
Don't expect too much realism, though, as Asphalt 9 leans toward the arcade wing of the racing genre. But that's also why it's perfect when you feel the urge to kick things into high octane while stuck in a waiting room.
Download Asphalt 9: Legends for iOS
If you prefer a more realistic take on racing games, turn to Grid Autosport instead. This racing game boasts hundreds of cars and circuits, letting you customize the settings and difficulty to get the racing game of your dreams.
The touch and tilt controls are perfect for the iPhone's touchscreen, though you can also play with a gamepad. And the game looks good enough to play on a console, even though it's right there on your iOS device. (You will need to be running iOS 14, though.)
Our favorite thing may be the "buy once, play forever" philosophy of Grid Autosport. You pay the $9.99 download, but from then on, you can upgrade to new cars and tracks for free.
Download Grid Autosport for iOS
Best iOS Games: Strategy games
With strategy games, you're not just blasting everything in sight. Half the challenge is coming up with the best plan to beat your opponent. Among the best iOS games, you'll find more than few that place a premium on your ability to strategize.
Sid Meier's Civilization VI
Smartphones have come so far as a gaming platform that a rich strategy game like Sid Meier's Civilization VI can thrive on the iPhone and feel much like it does on the PC. In fact, it's arguably better, as the touch controls often complement the gameplay better than a mouse and keyboard.
You're only really missing out on animations for the various leaders, but that's a minimal loss. You'll enjoy it more if you play it on an iPad, though, as there's a lot more room to move around (and fortunately it doesn't require a separate purchase.)
You can start playing Civilization VI for free, but after a few turns, you'll need to pay $9.99 for the full game.
Download Sid Meier's Civilization VI for iOS
Usually when studios try to translate some of the biggest franchises to mobile, they end up sticking too closely to the console gameplay and end up losing some of the spirit on touchscreens. Square Enix smartly avoided that with Hitman Go, landing it on our list of best iOS games..
This $4.99 strategy game presents each assassination sequence as a stylized diorama with settings ranging from parks to busy airports. It works wonderfully, and it's even filled with the disguises and distractions that make the mainline games so memorable.
Download Hitman Go for iOS
Looking for a timely game? For the past year and a half, they don't get much timelier than Plague Inc.
In this 99-cent strategy game, you develop a disease and then spread it throughout the world until the entirety of humanity is wiped out. The concept was already grim when Ndemic debuted Plague Inc. way back in 2012, but it's taken on a new relevance with an update that reflects how false information can accelerate the spread of a virus.
Download Plague Inc. for iOS
Xcom: Enemy Within
As isometric tactical games, the XCOM offerings were particularly well-suited for a port to the touch-based interfaces of the iPhone and iPad. Xcom: Enemy Unknown was good when it appeared on the App Store in 2013, but Xcom: Enemy Within adds even more excitement.
In this $4.99 app, there are new enemy types and side missions. If you want tactical strategy and a good sci-fi story in a single addicting package, it doesn't get much better than the latest version of Xcom — either on the iPhone or off.
Download Xcom: Enemy Within for iOS
Lara Croft Go
Lara Croft Go doesn't play much like the Tomb Raider games, but it manages to channel the fun of them nonetheless. Lara still raids tombs here, but in this case you're helping her decide which tiled route will keep her from falling into various traps and which obstacles to take out with spears and other weapons.
The $4.99 game is turn-based, so you can take your time if you want. A built-in hint system helps out if you're stuck.
Download Lara Croft Go for iOS
Reigns: Game of Thrones
The original Reigns was a fantastic game that put you in the role of a monarch making key decisions using a Tinder-like interface of swiping left and right on cards detailing choices. With each decision, your standing with various factions went up or down.
Reigns: Game of Thrones follows much the same pattern, but its setting in George R.R. Martin's universe makes for a more compelling experience, in part because you can see how characters like Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister would fare if they were actually on the Iron Throne.
Download Reigns: Game of Thrones for iOS
Best iOS games: Sports games
The thrill of victory has never felt so close, thanks to the iPhone's touch screen, and the host of great sports games available on the iOS App Store. With everything from baseball to hockey, with both strategy and arcade-style games, there's something for every sports nut amid the best iOS games.
Football Manager 2021 Mobile
Whether it's Football Manger Mobile on the iPhone or Football Manager Touch on the iPad, this is the game for the soccer-obsessed to download. Rather than controlling the players, Football Manager puts you in charge of the entire team — you're in charger of putting together the team, coming up with tactics and navigating your squad to trophies and glory.
Pulling players from 60 leagues from around the world, Football Manager has a level of detail that will satisfy soccer fanatics. With European leagues kicking off their new season, this is one game you'll want to have on your iPhone or iPad.
Super Stickman Golf 3
No matter what courses you've played, you've never golfed anywhere as challenging as the holes on Super Stickman Golf 3. The challenging physics game would be tricky enough if you just had to get your ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible. But Super Stickman Golf offers multiple forms of head-to-head competition — both turn-based games and real-time race modes — that makes the game so compelling.
The latest version of Super Stickman Golf features 20 courses, 35 unique characters and a bunch of new power-ups to add to the mayhem.