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Best iOS games 2020

Best iOS Puzzle and Word Games

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(Image credit: Ustwo Games)

Best iOS Puzzle/Word Game: Monument Valley 2 ($4.99)

If you enjoyed the original Monument Valley, you need to grab its sequel right away. And if you've never played the puzzle game, Monument Valley 2 is a great way to get started, as it's a standalone game that doesn't require you to play the original first. The mentally stimulating puzzles are back, this time with a touch of color and light as you navigate through a kingdom that resembles an M.C. Esher print. Monument Valley 2 adds welcome new features like the ability to control a second character — the heroine Ro is joined by her child on this journey — while maintaining the minimalist look and immersive music that made the first game such a joy to play.

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(Image credit: Broken Rules)

ELOH ($2.99)

ELOH is a charming rhythm puzzle game that has you rearrange blocks to bounce a series of balls into their proper end goals. Similar to classic “light and mirrors” puzzles, ELOH nevertheless develops its own characteristic charm with the addition of a lively musical element, as each bounce and ricochet triggers its own unique sound effect that’ll have you nodding along to the beat in no time. The game comes with almost 100 puzzle levels, with no ads or in-app purchases to distract you.

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Euclidean Skies ($4.99)

The mind-bendingly excellent Euclidean Lands gets a worthy sequel in Euclidean Skies, a new perspective-twisting puzzler. Playing like a wonderful mashup of Hitman Go, Monument Valley and a Rubik’s Cube, Euclidean Skies has you guide your adventurer through a variety of puzzles that require you to manipulate the level itself. You rotate paths and blocks in 3D space like a giant, Dungeons & Dragons Rubik’s Cube, using clever maneuvers to knock out your foes. If a particular obstacle has you stuck, the solution likely involves taking the hazard out of the way with a clever twist of the map.

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(Image credit: Rovio Entertainment)

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs (Free)

Augmented reality breathes some new life into the Angry Birds franchise in Angry Birds AR. In many ways, it's the same physics puzzler as before, in which you've got to fling an army of birds toward a tower occupied by the birds' pig antagonists. The twist this time around is that AR overlays the structure on top of the world around you. This lets you circle around the tower, sizing up its vulnerabilities so you can attack at just the right point. Angry Birds AR currently offers 40 levels, with developer Rovio promising more to come.

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Dissembler ($2.99)

A nifty little puzzle game, Dissembler tasks you with matching three or more colors by swiping tiles until you’ve cleaned out the board. But what starts out as a simple exercise quickly ramps up in difficulty as the game adds more colors, intricate patterns, and other complications across more than 170 different levels. Puzzle of the day and an infinite mode are available for added replay value.

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Layton: Curious Village in HD ($9.99)

A mobile remaster of the first in this series of puzzle solving classics, Layton: Curious Village in HD has you join the cerebral Professor Herschel Layton and his clever assistant Luke as they unravel the many mysteries of the village of St Mystere in a quest for the Golden Apple. Curious Village features more than 100 puzzles designed by Akira Tago, as well as numerous minigames and collectables that you can unlock by talking to side characters and poking around in the village. The mobile port includes new and remastered animation sequences as well as an interface that’s suited for your phone. The game also doesn't require an online connection once you’ve installed it.

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The Room: Old Sins ($4.99)

Fireproof Games’ puzzle game series returns with The Room: Old Sins, challenging new and returning players with its wicked blend of tactile puzzles that cleverly take advantage of the onboard sensors housed inside your iOs device to give you the illusion of manipulating a complex puzzle box. This time around, you’re investigating the disappearance of an engineer and his wife, and the trail leads to their home and a cunningly contrived dollhouse. Equal parts slow mystery and clever puzzle game, The Room: Old Sins is heartily recommended for gamers in search of an excellent atmospheric treat.

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Twinfold ($3.99)

Fusing together elements of puzzle games like Threes and the classic Sokoban, Twinfold has you pushing blocks around the map, combining them together and then eating them to score points. The twist? Roving enemies and maze walls that reshuffle themselves every time you combine scoring blocks together. Twinfold forces you to think three moves ahead to evade enemies, while also forcing you to adapt on the fly as the maze shifts its obstacles.

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Alphabear 2 (Free)

Form the longest words, grow the biggest bears, and reach the highest scores with Alphabear 2, Spry Fox’s update to its cute bear-themed word game. As in the original app, players build words from tiles on the map, freeing up space for their bears to grow in size and points. Unused letters become rocks, which keep your bears from growing, adding a turn pressure element. Alphabear 2 mixes up the formula with more costumed bears to unlock, each with different effects and modifiers, as well as a story mode.

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(Image credit: Chester Monty Games)

Typochondria (Free)

If you’re the type to always point out the tiniest of spelling errors, then Typochondria might just be up your alley. It’s a quick-firing puzzle game that challenges you to spot the typo in each snippet of text, slowly ramping up the difficulty as you go along. You can challenge your wits with the pressure of arcade mode, compare your score on the leaderboards, or just chill out in the zen mode. Typochondria is ad-free, with in-app purchases unlocking additional content packs that provide new genres of fiction or non-fiction to go sleuthing through.

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Old Man's Journey ($4.99)

It's not as trippy as the Monument Valley games, but Old Man's Journey operates on the same premise — help a character get from Point A to Point B by rearranging the landscape to alter his path. More important than figuring out which mountains to drag in what order, though, is savoring the trip itself. Old Man's Journey features gorgeous hand-drawn animations that look like they should be hanging on the wall of a museum instead of appearing on your iPhone screen. With no dialogue or interruptions, this is one puzzle game you can really get lost in, especially if you've got a phone with a larger display.

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Wordscapes (Free)

The virtue of Wordscapes lies in its simplicity, as this app puts a mobile spin on the classic word search and crossword formula. Each level comes with a letter wheel that you can use to unlock words, slowly filling in the grid. Certain optional words count for bonus points, and words not included in the puzzle can score extra points. In-app purchases remove advertising and provide coins that you can use for hints.

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Framed 2 ($4.99)

Loveshack’s follow-up to its stylish 2014 comic book puzzle game Framed has you sneaking around in the Far East, engaging in various Spy-vs-Spy style shenanigans. As in the first game, Framed 2's gameplay consists of players having to rearrange a series of comic book-style panels to ensure they make it through each scene unscathed. Comic hijinks and a jazzy soundtrack make Framed 2 a delight, though its 23 levels might be a bit short for those looking for something meatier.

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Gorogoa ($4.99)

Gorogoa is a visually striking iOS puzzle game that has players manipulating a series of lavishly illustrated panels. You use objects in the environment or overlay panel elements on others in surprising combinations, as you go on a surreal journey to stop or placate a strange magical beast. Think of this game as Framed, if it had a love affair with esoterica and quiet mysticism. Gorogoa is a surprise that makes for a wonderful, if short experience.

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TypeShift (Free)

Game auteur Zach Gage returns with a new smartphone word game, TypeShift. Taking inspiration from crossword puzzles and anagrams, TypeShift has players manipulating a stacked series of words, moving them up and down like the tumblers of a combination lock to discover hidden words. A Clue Puzzle mode also adds a crossword-like twist, with players hunting for words based on a series of clues. The free app comes with more than 100 puzzles and daily challenges; puzzle packs are also available as in-app purchases.

Why we love Puzzle Games

A good puzzle or word game can be so addictive that it might get you kicked off a plane, end your relationships and even invade your dreams. The reason you can't just walk away from these little apps is the simple gratification you get from solving the problem. And when you don't instantly get that reward, you convince yourself that, with just one more turn, you'll have it. These devilishly fun distractions will have you wondering what you used to do with all your free time.

John Corpuz
John Corpuz flip-flopped between computer science and creative writing courses in school. As a contributor to Tom's Guide he's found a happy middle ground writing about apps, mobile gaming and other geekery.