The pigs and birds are back with a bunch of new levels based on the Star Wars prequels, in one of the most unlikely-yet-successful mash-ups ever. Your tolerance for more Angry Birds may be thinning, but this latest installment manages to be an improvement once again, with light and dark-side themed levels. And if your kid collects the toys, they work with the app via a clever QR code-based scanner.
Simple one-finger-tap gaming amounts to guiding a little puffball through mysterious obstacle-filled landscapes in gorgeous silhouette. Imagine Rayman as a shadow-puppet show and you can imagine how good this game looks on a Retina Display.
An indie award-winner when it debuted on the PC and Xbox Live Arcade (and most recently, as a Chrome browser game), the iPad edition has touch controls that are minimal and elegantly suited for the gameplay. Wear headphones for this one: the soundtrack and continual, supercool narration are a huge part of the experience.
Already a classic board game in its own right, the iPhone adaptation of this tile-based strategy game was one of the most beautifully executed in the App Store. A new update has added native iPad compatibility, thus it's earned a spot on our list. Online and local multiplayer and a weekly solitaire puzzle challenge add up to a ton of replay value, and in-app expansions mirror more expensive sets available for the actual board game. If you're board game apprehensive, don't worry: while Carcassone can take a little getting used to, it's a more worthwhile iPad game to own than Catan -- and it's great for pass-and-play multiplayer.
Another Cut the Rope game emerges to steal hours of our family time. The formula's the same: slice ropes, pop obstacles, and find a way for candy to reach the hungry mouth of Om-Nom. There are 120 levels, new characters, and some improved graphics. More, better, cheap, and kid-friendly.
If you’ve ever grown up reading cool, sometimes haunting, illustrated puzzle-books, Device 6 is the closest an app has ever come to capturing that experience digitally. It’s nearly indescribable, and a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure, but buried in the text of the story you’re reading is an unfolding and very strange mystery. The rest is best left to you. It’s worth the investment.
Back in 2004, PlayStation 2 owners lost weeks of their lives to Rockstar's Southland epic Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Somehow, the game's been miniaturized for iOS and offered up for a pittance. The entire game's there, along with the fantastic soundtrack and touched-up graphics. Controls get a little funky on the iPad, but it's compatible with soon-to-be-released iOS 7 MFi game controllers which should help make everything a lot smoother.
You know the routine: swipe, swipe, tap, tap, knock the immense and awesome-looking bad guy to the ground. Infinity Blade's formula hasn't changed much, but the third version has a ton of content, a follow-through on the series' increasing weird backstory, and the best graphics yet. Consider this your iPad Air show-off game.
Tower defense games are a dime a dozen in the App Store, but this latest one (a paid version of an extremely popular free browser-based game) is wonderfully animated, incredibly addictive, and assembled into a series of questlike challenges. Plenty of upgrades and coin collecting will hook even the most jaded iPad player, slowly but surely. The sequel's out there too once you finish, but start with this one.
There's nothing all that complicated about Little Things Forever, but its elegant find-a-picture puzzles and nested challenges add up to a lot of casual fun. Each picture has hundreds of objects hidden inside it, with a clean, clear style that's perfect for little kids. The addictiveness factor is high.
Fans of point-and-click adventures, hand-drawn graphics, and artistically adventurous indie games, look no further: Machinarium is a gorgeously rendered journey through a slightly ominous universe where the answers to the puzzles presented aren't immediately obvious. Previously a PC/Mac game, it's even better on a touch screen device like an iPad.
(Note: Machinarium won't play on a first-gen iPad.)
Have you ever wished the Legend of Zelda were finally made for iOS? It won't be, but Oceanhorn comes close to capturing that feel in a cute yet lengthy-enough adventure. Simple controls mixed with stand-out graphics make for one of the better recent adventure games on the App Store.
A mesmerizing kinetic action game featuring spherical, cell-like balls, the goal of Osmos is simply to jet around using momentum to glom with smaller objects and become the largest object in your micro-universe. Big eats small, and the more you move, the more mass you cast off. It's a fascinating miniature arcade experience with plenty of levels.
The title may sound grim, but who knew that decimating the world with some horrible disease would be so fun -- and addicting?
Plague Inc. is one of two hit strategy games in the App Store that challenge you to wipe out the human race (Pandemic 2.5, a port of the Flash game, is the other), and there are a few different ways to go about achieving your objective, though it's harder than it seems. Do you try to spread your disease rapidly but hold back its potency so it can fly under the radar? Or do you spend your points on making it more lethal and kill faster, thus slowing a cure, but potentially wiping out your hosts before it infects everyone? Ah, the choices.
Rayman’s second platform-style running game on iOS is another wacky little arcade-style game with a good number of levels and challenges, and simple two-button game play. Similar to the first game, Rayman Jungle Run, Fiesta Run adds a few new techniques and some vamped-up graphics, but stays true to form. It’s one of the most Nintendo-like games on the App Store, and it’s somewhat ridiculously addictive.
For those hungering for either pirate-themed strategy games or excellent PC gaming ports on the iPad, there's Sid Meier's Pirates!, a port-exploring, ship-managing, booty-collecting game that's excellently adapted for touch. It's not only the best pirate simulation of all time, it's a triple-A PC game that's easily worth twice what the App Store's charging, and then some. This is a great example of the App Store economy in action.
Created by former Metal Gear Solid 4 producer and Halo 4 creative director Ryan Payton and originally launched via a Kickstarter campaign, Republique is a five-part serial stealth adventure with console-level graphics, a surveillance-state theme, and A-level voice acting. The first episode is $4.99, and you can preorder the rest of the season from there. Based on early returns, though, this is the App Store's next must-have high-end game, and it's perfectly designed for touch.
It's a dead-simple formula: cast your line, try to survive as far down as possible, get lots of fish, and then...shoot them as they fly in the air. Collect money, buy more gear, repeat. And yet, it's completely addictive, fun, and has a wonderful retro-ish design. Looks great on an iPhone, and works well on the iPad, too.
The much-anticipated sequel to last year's fantastic and creepy The Room (which you should buy, too) plays a little like the old Myst and Riven games. Use multitouch to spin, examine, and unlock secrets in a series of haunted puzzle boxes, uncovering a disturbing storyline along the way. Great use of the iPad's graphics and touch interface.
Somewhere between tower defense and Tetris, the simple laying down of territory, building facilities, and surviving wave after wave of attacking creatures makes for an arcade-like experience that’ll suck an hour from your evening faster than you’d possibly expect. The minimalist look is equally effective on larger or smaller iPads.
The latest in the visually impressive Sky Gamblers series of flight-action games puts you square in the middle of World War II, flying vintage craft in single- and multiplayer missions. The visuals are practically console-quality, the controls are easy to get used to, and there are plenty of missions to keep you busy.
SpellTower has always been a highly rated word game, but it's really taken off, thanks to a combination of game developer Zach Gage being featured in the New York Times Magazine and an update to the game itself, which added Retina support for the third-generation iPad, plus a multiplayer mode.
The basic idea here is that as you make words, your tower of letters gradually crumbles, leaving you with fewer and fewer letters to use. Naturally, longer words earn you more points. Warning: This one is incredibly addictive -- in a good way.
Our expectations weren't that high for Star Wars Pinball, which comes courtesy of the folks who make Zen Pinball, but we are pleasantly surprised with the results -- and its rather deep gameplay. You can play as the "Light Side" or "Dark Side," which impacts some of the animations in the game, and there's a multiplayer element. A total of six Star Wars tables cover movies ("Return of the Jedi," "The Empire Strikes Back"), characters (Darth Vader, Boba Fett) and spin-offs (The Clone Wars). They're all good.
Note: There are are actually six different Star Wars tables to choose from, though each costs $1.99. While this is a standalone app, the tables are also accessible from Zen Pinball.
It may not have the fancy graphics of Tiger Woods Golf, but Super Stickman Golf is simple yet challenging to play -- and highly addictive. The sequel sports the same basic look, but adds spruced-up artwork, plus additional power-ups, and two multiplayer modes.
Yes, we love board games on the iPad. In the tradition of Settlers of Catan and Carcassone, Ticket to Ride is an award-winning board game that's actually easier to learn, but offers endless replay value. Online multiplayer is fast and a breeze to set up, and additional board game expansion packs are available for when you tire of the main game, which will likely be never. Newly added pass-and-play multiplayer -- and the ability to use the iPhone version of the game in local matches -- makes living-room play far more fun.
Cute cartoon puzzles lie before you: How do you steal an egg and not alert the soldier? What about getting the cheese around the garden? Tapping each level’s bits and pieces and discovering the solutions gets increasingly challenging. It’s made by Rovio, the creator of Angry Birds, but has a far more patient, yet still kid-friendly, approach.
It feels a little bit like Metroid and a little bit like an Alien spin-off, but Waking Mars is more about discovery than violence; the science-fiction plot has you exploring the depths of Mars, collecting research on new life forms, and cultivating that life in unique combinations. Simple touch controls abandon virtual analog pads for a far more organic feel. Now updated with Retina Display graphics, too. Trust us, it's cool.
This deceptively simple puzzler has you trying to run water sitting at the top of the screen to the bottom so Swampy (the alligator mascot of the game) can take a shower. Naturally, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome -- and a few ducks to collect -- as you dig a path and tunnel the water to Swampy. This one also appeals to a wide age range, from young kids to grandparents.
It’s $20. It’s also a full PC strategy game, beautifully converted to iOS and touch. There are better bargains out there, to be sure, but there probably isn’t a turn-based strategy game as deep and impressive; it has invading aliens and a global squad-based war, but it unfolds with the brainy decision-making of Civilization. Gamers with a long vacation ahead, rejoice. Read our deeper impressions of XCOM here.
Simple, yet at times impossible to figure out. Quiet, beautiful, and extremely creepy, Year Walk has a simple swipe-to-explore vocabulary, woodcut-like graphics, and a very weird story. And it feels like a game dreamed up on an iPad.