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 mashups 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.
Editors' note:This list is updated periodically, most recently on May 2, 2014.
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.
Made by the same studio behind Machinarium, another game on this list, Botanicula also started as a PC game but has made it to the iPad perfectly. It’s a point-and-click adventure with odd puzzles and odder plant-like characters. Just try it.
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.
A PC cult hit, this indie game has made it onto the iPad with all the trimmings and bonus content of the PC versions, plus a perfect set of touch controls. Manage your ship across various missions, all randomly generated. It’s strategy, not action, and the graphics are as simple as they come, but it’s endlessly addicting.
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.
This free-to-play game from Blizzard, a hit on PC, is the first "free" title to make it to the iPad Top 30 with good reason: it’s a game worth paying money for. You may do that via in-app purchases, but you don’t need to: keep playing endless matches of this collectible card game online to earn extras instead. And don’t be surprised to see hours melt away from your life…as long as you’re online.
It’s a puzzle game, based on the Hitman series of stealth games. And even more weirdly, it’s designed to look like a retro board game. But the many puzzle challenges are excellent and still involve stealth. It’s just stealth with sliding pieces.
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.
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.)
Incredibly beautiful optical illusions that feel like M.C. Escher or the old PSP game Echochrome are actually puzzles in Monument Valley, a game that you won’t want to end, but will…and faster than you think. But, more levels are on the way. Get this game.
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.
It's a weird premise: your ship lands in the middle of an unknown galaxy, and you tap and explore nearby planets, collecting resources, hopefully meeting aliens and old relics, and...frequently, dying. Try to survive, and collect enough of what you need. No two games are alike. It feels like a one-player board game with the visual appeal of a comic.
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. It's an episodic pay-per-episode game: the second episode is now available for $4.99, but you save money with a season pass.
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.
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. 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. And more tables are being added. You can buy the tables within the Zen Pinball app, too.
Price: Free, extra tables $0.99 to $1.99 (universal app)
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 used to cost a few bucks, but now it's free.
Ride along a central rail and tilt your iPad to dodge obstacles as you glide through scenery that looks like "Tron," and you have Unpossible. It’s a quick arcade survival game, and your average play session may only last 10 seconds. But its controls are smooth and it’s got tons of challenge. Multiple difficulty modes and daily challenges spice things up a little.
Take a Super Nintendo RPG and make it a randomly-generated dungeon-exploration action-RPG that’s surprising, tough, and brings death constantly. Now you understand Wayward Souls. Fans of Spelunky and 16-bit adventure games, don’t hesitate.
There isn't a turn-based strategy game as deep and impressive on the iPad: 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.