The best iPad games offer bold graphics, adrenaline-pumping challenges and immersive experiences. But the thing that truly separates a great game from a good one is how it uses the ample screen real estate on Apple’s tablet.
No matter what the genre — and our list of best iPad games covers them all from card-playing games to endless runners — the titles we pick look great on the assorted screens of everything from an iPad mini to an iPad Pro. That means richer graphics, more details and better touch controls than you’d get on other devices.
Don’t get us wrong — gaming’s fun on any iOS device. (Check out our picks for best iOS games to see just how fun.) And many of the best iPad games selections play just as well on Apple’s phones. In case you’ve got both devices on hand, we’ve even designated the games that play just as well on the iPhone as they do on the iPad.
But the focus here is on iPad games and the ones that make the most of your tablet. If you’re looking for fun, no matter the genre, these best iPad games are the ones to download.
Best iPad games: Action games
A lot of different types of games qualify for the action game genre. From platform games to shooters to side-scrollers, so long as the pace never flags and the on-screen action keeps coming at you, you’ve got a great action title on your hands. And these are the action games for the iPad that have caught our eye.
In a world that’s seen better days, a new form of life has emerged: a kind of intelligent goop. You are that goop in Mushroom 11, an oddball mix of platform game, puzzler and post-apocalyptic exploration.
Although Mushroom 11 originated on PC, it feels tailor-made for the iPad’s touchscreen as you prod your tablet’s display to urge your goop on, occasionally splitting it apart to complete puzzles that require you to be in two places at once. It’s creative and offers great value – although you’d pay way more than $4.99 to ensure our own world doesn’t end up like this!
Download Mushroom 11 for iPad
Giant Dancing Plushies
In Giant Dancing Plushies, a $3.99 rhythm action game, terrifying aliens have invaded and are determined to stomp our world to pieces. No, hang on: cute and cuddly (but still terrifying) alien dancing plushies have invaded – and mostly seem keen on obliterating army types dead set on ending their groovy moves.
You play the plushies, moving to the beat, occasionally using Street Fighter-style special moves to unleash stuffed-toy furry fury on your angry aggressors. It’s absurd stuff and lots of fun – and you can even have the giant toys dance along to your own music collection.
Download Giant Dancing Plushies for iPad
You’re in space. There are lots of spaceships. So of course everyone’s trying to blast each other to pieces. In this $5.99 shoot ’em up, you pilot a spaceship and get to make NEEEOOOWWWW and DAGGADAGGADAGGA noises as you swoop between asteroids and annihilate opponents.
Although Interloper provides a backstory and missions, Interloper is more exhilarating arcade fare than lengthy campaign. For mobile, this works – it’s great to dip in and out of. Neatly, it reorients itself for landscape or portrait play too.
Download Interloper for iPad
Super Fowlst 2
Demons have broken through into our reality in Super Fowlst 2, and only you can stop them! Also, you happen to be a chicken. On the plus side, you’re a determined chicken, who arcs left or right with a tap of the screen in this free four-way scrolling arcade game.
It’s familiar stuff. Bonk enemies on the head and they vanish. Grab keys to unlock doors. Collect coins. Don’t die. But algorithmically generated level layouts keep things fresh, permanent power-ups help you get further into the game during each attempt, and bizarre boss battles keep your feathered fingers nimble.
Download Super Fowlst 2 for iPad
With its abbreviated takes on App Store classics like top-down racers, one-thumb platformers and games where a hole gulps down the landscape, Fancade almost comes across like the App Store in microcosm. For a freebie, it’s generous indeed.
Then you realize that it’s built on a construction kit and recognize the other side of the App Store – making games – is within your grasp, too. You can kick things off with pre-canned kits or a blank canvas. Want to thank the dev? Pay $0.99 for an ad-free month.
Fancade is also a great game for the iPhone.
Download Fancade for iPad
Steredenn is fairly simple, in that this $3.99 blaster merely requires you to shoot all of the things on your iPad screen. The game’s DNA has roots in classic scrolling fare like R-Type, and finds you fending off waves of baddies, before confronting huge bosses that are armed to the teeth.
The twist is that every game of Steredenn is different. Environments are semi-randomly generated. Upgrades are acquired at level’s end to complement your existing two-weapon set-up. Added to that is a layer of madcap oddness, with foes that have giant chainsaws strapped to their ships, and upgrade weapons ranging from massive stabby swords to pyrotechnic madness.
Download Steredenn for iPad
Super Cat Tales 2
Console-style platform games are a tricky proposition on mobile devices, where’s there’s no physical controls — only a slippy touchscreen. The free Super Cat Tales 2 clevely subverts the genre by reimagining it for your iPad.
There are echoes of classic console fare: chunky pixel art; secrets to find; coins to collect. But the controls simply have you press left or right, your cat automatically jumping on reaching a platform’s edge or leaping between walls like a furry ninja. You’ll fight this at first, but it’ll soon become second nature – and you’ll wonder why all mobile games aren’t made this way.
If the ads in Super Cat Tales 2 become too much, just pay $4.99 to go ad-free.
Super Cat Tales 2 is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Super Cat Tales 2 for iPad
Best iPad games: Adventure games
Sometimes you want a game that puts as much emphasis on story and atmosphere as it does toward on-screen action. The best adventure games for the iPad include chilling scenes and puzzling mysteries. You’ll find them to be satisfying additions to your tablet.
If ever there was a game made for iPad, it’s this wonderful $3.99 thriller from Simogo. After an exciting movie-like intro, you find yourself stranded on a remote island, with no idea how you got there. Your aim: escape.
Device 6’s presentation of the world is unique, upending and blending the conventions of games and books. The paths you travel comprise the story’s narrative, within which you’ll find embedded puzzles and an increasingly meta side to the tale. It’s smart, stylish and unique – and wouldn’t work on traditional game systems.
Download Device 6 for iPad
Initially, unmemory looks like an illustrated mystery novel, if you set your reading app to display a chapter as one long scrolling pane. You awake with blood on your hands and, well, no memory.
Everything changes a few minutes into the game, when you hear a phone ringing and remember there was one depicted further up the page. At that point, it becomes clear each chapter of the $5.99 unmemory is a network of interlinked puzzles cleverly woven into the larger narrative. Top stuff – and a superior experience on the iPad’s larger display.
Download unmemory for iPad
Best iPad games: Arcade games
Instead of riding your bike down to local arcade like you did back in the old days, your iPad becomes an arcade with these old-school offerings. Best of all, you don’t have save up your quarters to give these best iPad games a try.
Like Super Cat Tales 2 abovet, Drop Wizard evokes gaming of old but remakes it for the touchscreen. This time, there are shades of classic single-screen platformers Snow Bros. and Bubble Bobble.
Unlike the games that inspired it, this $2.99 effort is an auto-runner, with your wizard blasting magic at enemies upon landing. Those that are dazed can be booted into the air, at which point they tumble around and eventually turn into fruit, because that’s what happened in video games. It’s glorious – like a vintage arcade cabinet has been squeezed onto your iPad.
Drop Wizard is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Drop Wizard for iPad
Osmos for iPad
Arcade games tend to be fast-paced, but this $4.99 effort is ambient in nature. Osmos has you control a mote, which moves by ejecting pieces of itself. This makes the mote shrink, but it can grow by absorbing smaller motes it collides with.
This mechanic plays out across a range of arenas. Some resemble primordial soup and demand patience as you slowly conquer what surrounds you. Others find you careening around central “Attractors,” like planets orbiting a sun. The iPad’s larger screen affords you the precision you’ll need in this beguiling game.
Download Osmos for iPad
Edge is a $2.99 App Store classic that tasks you with guiding a cube around blocky isometric levels, collecting objects and trying to not fall into the deadly void. With its minimalist vibe and superb soundtrack, this iPad game offers plenty of atmosphere as you map out each level in your mind.
And you’ll need to do so if you want to gain the highest grades. They’re only dished out for people who complete levels quickly enough in Edge – no mean feat when platforms shift and move, and collectables are sneakily hidden within the landscape.
Edge is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Edge for iPad
Imagine Pac-Man. Now imagine it compressed into a three-by-three grid, and instead of ghosts chasing you, massive chunks of scenery fly around, constantly threatening to smash you to pieces. And all of that on fast-forward.
That’s the basic premise of Jumpgrid, a high-octane, pulse-pounding $2.99 twitch arcade effort. All you need to do is eat eight dots and leap into a portal. But even though each level takes mere seconds in theory, many will have you maniacally wide-eyed, desperately trying to win when your fingers fail you for the umpteenth time.
Jumpgrid is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Jumpgrid for iPad
Best iPad games: Card games
Collectible card games have gone digital, moving from the tabletop to our digital devices. And while the iPad’s big screen may seem like overkill for this genre, this entry on the best iPad games list makes the most of the expanded screen space.
Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale
There are loads of App Store titles that mash a deck-building card game and turn-based strategy together and pack the combination into a diminutive playfield – but the $6.99 Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale is the best.
Its twist is a clever risk-vs.-reward mechanic. Cards are bought or discarded for extra cash. Every turn, you’ll have to weigh up whether to add to your inventory or risk facing an enemy when you’re decidedly lacking in kit. It takes a while to master, but there’s lashings of depth here if you make the time.
Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale for iPad
Best iPad games: Puzzle games
From solving riddles to unscrambling words, puzzle games are a great way to keep your mind sharp. But the best iPad games do more than just transplant puzzlers to a tablet. Point-and-click adventures become easier to control, while game makers take advantages of big screens and gameplay physics to redefine the genre on the iPad.
Love You To Bits
Old-school point-and-click mechanics benefit from a larger display, but Love You To Bits further deserves a place on your iPad due to its gorgeous, vibrant visuals.
The storyline finds the protagonist rookie space explorer’s robot friend Nova scattered across the galaxy. He has to search for her many parts and put her back together.
This $3.99 adventure is relentlessly creative, with regular pop-culture references to movies and games. Its charm and imagination will propel you through the odd logic snafu right to its heart-warming conclusion.
Download Love You To Bits for iPad
Like Euclidean Lands, Euclidean skies finds you manipulating landscapes and buildings that impossibly float in the sky. Turrets and floors must be shifted and spun to help the hero reach her goals in this $4.99 puzzler.
Euclidean Skies is a visual treat, which combined with its tactile nature makes the game ideal fare for the iPad’s larger display. More space for fingers and eyes gives you a better chance at everything from constructing new bridges out of nowhere to defeating huge bosses by crushing them within warped chunks of levitating structures.
Download Euclidean Skies for iPad
Little Alchemy 2
Little Alchemy 2 marries science and whimsy, tasking you with creating new elements by mixing objects from your inventory. You begin with basics like air, earth, fire and water – along with the knowledge there are nearly 600 more items to discover.
Having space to experiment makes this free puzzler ideal for iPad. And although there’s a temptation to drag every new discovery on to every existing one, there is logic at the game’s core. It might not be scientifically accurate, but where else would you get a plane by merging metal with a bird?
Download Little Alchemy 2 for iPad
Baba Is You
This innovative $6.99 single-screen puzzler invites you to tear up the rule-book – or, more accurately, make your own. And we mean that in a broadly literal manner, because rules that govern object and win conditions are written out using on-screen tiles in Baba Is You.
By shoving said tiles around, you can upend everything — changing every wall into a key, for example — and determine whether objects can be pushed or are even solid. This one starts simple, but before long merrily smashes out your brains. Baba Is Brilliant, then.
Baba Is You is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Baba Is You for iPad
The Gardens Between
Time travel forms the core of this gorgeous $4.99 puzzler. Two friends unwisely touch a glowing orb and find themselves on fanciful islands constructed from their memories. The aim: to reach the top of each miniature mountain.
The path in The Gardens Between is linear, but often blocked. You must manipulate objects and time — running time backward or freezing the children while moving the scene — to progress. The visuals need an iPad’s large display to be appreciated, while the game’s tactile nature feels at home on the touchscreen rather than under the lifeless click of a PC cursor.
Download The Gardens Between for iPad
7 Billion Humans
Like its predecessor, the equally impressive Human Resource Machine, the $4.99 7 Billion Humans is simultaneously a tricky puzzler, a lightweight programming primer and a wry commentary on the future of employment.
The premise of the game is that robots do all the work, making humans feel worthless. The robots therefore have humans fill their days with mundane box-sorting challenges, directed by programming steps that you define.
On a phone, 7 Billion Humans is fiddly. On an iPad, it’s great – funny, brain-bending and with the potential to teach you a thing or two, in more ways than you might first imagine.
Download 7 Billion Humans for iPad
Day Repeat Day
There are two sides to this intriguing $4.99 match-three effort. The puzzles in Day Repeat Day are much like Bejeweled or Candy Crush, having you make a set number of matches within a limited number of moves. But there’s a messaging center as well.
Within that, a story plays out that finds you chatting with colleagues, friends and family, attempting to navigate a work/life balance in a world that doesn’t care much for life. Take your time with this one and breathe in its details — it’s a brilliantly pitched dark satire masquerading as a casual game.
Download Day Repeat Day for iPad
Best iPad games: Racing games
Get behind the wheel — virtually, of course — as your iPad transforms in a powerful race car or a challenging course. Even better, the best racing games on the iPad make the most of the tablet’s touch interface to satisfy your need for speed.
Need for Speed Most Wanted
Too often, racing games go all-in on realism. Need for Speed Most Wanted has a different approach, echoing arcade racer OutRun 2 in having you blast along at manic speeds and drift for miles around long, sweeping bends.
The world of this $4.99 racer is much grimmer and grayer than Sega’s classic, but it’s exhilarating as you become the best street racer around, beating rivals and outrunning cops. The touchscreen controls are pitch-perfect, and the game wisely avoids the loot crate nonsense and absurdly brief races that afflict its successors.
Download Need for Speed Most Wanted for iPad
Rush Rally Origins
Later entries in the Rush Rally series are reminiscent of console fare, with tense races and behind-the-wheel viewpoints. But this $4.99 racer for the iPad harks back to the origin of the series, playing things out from above across a range of time trials, championships and multi-car clashes.
The vaguely retro feel (albeit with modern-era graphics) continues through to the controls, which make it a cinch to drift around corners, giving you a fighting chance against unforgiving physics and tough computer opponents.
Rush Rally Origins is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Rush Rally Origins for iPad
Best iPad games: Role-playing games
Take on a new persona and immerse yourself in a compelling story by trying out great role-playing games — or RPGs — on the iPad. Our favorite games make the most of the iPad’s screen so that the only thing you have to contemplate is your next move.
Book of Demons
There’s a distinctly retro vibe to Book of Demons, a $9.99 dungeon crawler, which borrows from classic titles like Diablo. But in reworking the genre for the touchscreen, this game concocts something that’s simultaneously suitable and unique.
Pathways are limited and responses to attacks are automatic. But you can optionally direct your firepower and unleash spells, which can be upgraded over time.
With an oddball aesthetic reminiscent of papercraft, Book of Demons might not be what you’d expect – it’s more RTS than hack-and-slash – but it’s ideal iPad fodder.
Download Book of Demons for iPad
You might think you’ve had a bad morning, but the protagonist of this $8.99 strategy game has just been woken, told his empire is likely gone, and informed that he died and is in fact a clone. It must be a Monday.
In Crying Suns, you figure out what’s going on, by bossing around your crew, taking in exposition, sending commandos on missions, and blowing up enemy ships. With a more defined structure than similar games, there’s a strong narrative here; and there’s replay value in chipping away at the story in subsequent attempts — and blowing up more bad guys, obviously.
Download Crying Suns for iPad
FTL: Faster Than Light
In FTL: Faster Than Light, you’re trying to save the galaxy. Unfortunately, you’re being chased by folks dead set on your destruction. As a result, you’re constantly on guard and making life-or-death decisions in this $9.99 strategy title.
You can jump to new sectors of space, but this can land you in fraught battles. When in a scrap, you must prioritize your crew’s actions, ensuring your collective survival.
Fortunately, you can pause FTL to have a think. And during battles, the interface is ideally suited to iPad, even if you might not think that when your ship’s ablaze and you’ve no idea where your enemies are hiding.
Download FTL: Faster Than Light for iPad
Best iPad games: Sports games
Sports are better on big-screen TVs. So it stands to reason that sports games thrive on the iPad, too — especially when the games have figured out creative ways to employ touchscreen controls.
Touchgrind Skate 2
Skateboard games on consoles give you a gamepad for controlling an on-screen avatar. In contrast, Touchgrind Skate 2 (free, with in-app purchases for unlocking new locations) gets you up close and personal with your board by having you use two fingers to guide it across the iPad screen..
In effect, your digits stand in for legs, with you gently tilting them to steer and using a range of gestures in a timely manner to perform show-off stunts. It’s clever and more freeform than pseudo sequels Touchgrind BMX and Touchgrind Scooter – although they are fun, too.
Touchgrind Skate 2 is also a great game for the iPhone
Download Touchgrind Skate 2 for iPad
With modern console soccer games demanding you grab a gamepad and memorize a dizzying number of button combinations to kick a ball about, Retro Goal is a breath of fresh air. It rethinks the beautiful game for iPad, streamlining it to the important bits.
On the management side, you use your meager funds to upgrade your team. On the pitch, you control goal attempts, using gestures to perform silky smooth moves that’d leave a World Cup winner breathless. You get 10 games for free and then it’s just $0.99 to unlock the full game.
Download Retro Goal for iPad
Best iPad Games: Strategy games
A proper plan is more than half the battle when it comes to strategy games. And these best iPad games reward you for coming up with the right plan for victory, whether in a turn-based game or conquering your opponent.
The Battle of Polytopia
You can buy full-fat Civilization for your iPad or iPhone, but it’s expensive and time consuming. If you’re lacking in funds or hours, The Battle of Polytopia gives you similar turn-based bouts of Machiavellian maneuvering in stripped-back form.
The free game limits the size of worlds and how many tribes you can battle. Buy extra tribes and things open up – but even then, technology cuts out before guns and planes arrive, keeping things manageable. Still, there remains plenty of scope for building strategies and improving your game, not least in the turn-limited score-attack mode.
The Battle of Polytopia is also a great game for the iPhone
Download The Battle of Polytopia for iPad
Bad North: Jotunn Edition
Vikings, eh? Always wanting to be stabby and pillage-y, as you’ve discovered now they’ve found your island kingdom. Your only hope: to bravely defend your islands by commanding limited groups of soldiers.
In Bad North: Jotunn Edition, battles are automatic and rely on you using cunning strategy. Place archers up high; have pikemen take on invaders whose weapons have less range. Over time, the situation evolves, for better (new weapons) or worse (dead commanders are gone for good).
With each island being procedurally generated, every campaign is unique, making Bad North great value at $4.99.
Download Bad North: Jotunn Edition for iPad
Far: Lone Sails
If you’ve ever got grumpy at a complex intersection and thought you could do a better job of designing one, Freeways offers your chance to prove it. This superb $2.99 ‘interchange design simulator’ gives you entry/exit points and lets you get on with it.
Arrows denote traffic flow and density and early levels merely task you with connecting the dots. Eventually, you’re mired in multi-level spaghetti junctions from hell, causing miles-long tailbacks. With the iPad’s screen acreage, you’ve at least room to draw (and re-draw) and a fighting chance of success.
Download Freeways for iPad
Genre mash-ups have a tendency to create something compelling — not least when two gameplay types that shouldn’t meld fashion something brilliant. That’s the case with freebie Salvagette, which combines bullet-hell shoot ’em ups with turn-based strategy.
Your aim in the single-screen arena is to ram your ship into enemies, which signal their intention to fire by way of blue halos. You have endless time to plot your pathways, and yet the game becomes surprisingly tense as the screen fills with projectiles.
Download Salvagette for iPad
- Read More: Best iPads