80 Days

80 Days is great-looking art design meshed with a choose-your-adventure type story based on Jules Verne's "Around The World in 80 Days"...but with a steampunk spin. Perfect for a long flight.

Price:$4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49

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Badland

Simple one-finger-tap gaming amounts to guiding a little puffball through mysterious obstacle-filled landscapes in gorgeous silhouettes in Badland.

Price:$3.99, £2.99, AU$5.99 (universal app)

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Bean Dreams

Cute, colorful, simple to control, Bean Dreams feels like a retro platform game from the Nintendo era reinvented for phones and tablets. There are plenty of games like this on the App Store, but the multiple in-stage goals and weirdly challenging premise (control a constantly jumping bean with a hat) make this one stand out. There are also sequels, too.

Price:$2.99, £1.99, AU$3.79 (universal app)

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Capitals

A free game that's a combination between territorial strategy and word game, Capitals pits you against friends as you battle turn by turn to capture the board. Play it.

PriceFree (with optional in-app purchases)

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Carcassone

Already a classic board game in its own right, this port is still one of the best board game adaptations on a tablet, period. Online and local multiplayer and a weekly solitaire puzzle challenge add up to a ton of replay value, and in-app expansions offer tons of extra modes. If you're board-game apprehensive, don't worry:  Carcassone is a must-buy, and it's great for pass-and-play multiplayer.

Price: $9.99, £6.99, AU$12.99 (universal app)

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Does Not Commute

It feels like an arcade racing game, but the puzzles unfold as you realize you're controlling multiple drivers at the same time, trying not to crash or run out of time. It's free, or you can pay for the ad-free unlock.

PriceFree

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Fallout Shelter

Fallout 4 is an epic post-apocalyptic adventure, but Fallout Shelter is its free to play phone cousin, and it's much more adorable. Let people into your fallout shelter. Raise them carefully. Then hope they don't die.

Price: Free (with optional in-app purchases)

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FTL: Faster Than Light

A PC cult hit, indie game FTL 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.

Price: $9.99, £6.99, AU$12.99

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Galaxy Trucker

Originally a physical board game, this tablet adaptation starts as a timed battle to build your own ship out of interconnecting puzzle pieces. Then you "battle" against other players in card-based missions across the galaxy...trucking cargo. Online play, tons of missions, and it still feels like a board game.

Price:$7.99, £5.49, AU$9.99

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Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions

Geometry Wars has been around for years on consoles and even on the iPad, but it's made a triumphant return as a richer 3D arcade game with deeper challenges and crazily warped arenas.

Price: $4.99, £3.99, AU$6.49

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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Back in 2004, PlayStation 2 owners lost weeks of their lives to Rockstar's Southland epic Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. 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. It works with iPad-compatible game controllers, too: excellently, we might add. 

Price: $6.99, £4.99, AU$8.99 (universal app)

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone, a free-to-play game from Blizzard and a hit on PC, is 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.

Price: Free (optional in-app purchases)

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Her Story

It looks like an old, curved computer monitor. You can search for archived video clips about a murder investigation. As you follow a tangled story, you realize this is a really clever type of film in puzzle form. It looks perfect on the iPad screen, too.

Price: $4.99, £3.99, AU$6.49

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Hitman GO

It’s a puzzle game: don't get confused by the branding. Hitman GO is based on a series of violent games, but this version's done up like a retro board game. The many puzzle challenges are excellent and still involve stealth...but with sliding pieces.

Price: $1.99, £1.99, AU2.99

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Kingdom Rush HD

Tower defense games are a dime a dozen in the App Store, but Kindgom Rush HD is part of a franchise of games, all of them pretty great. Plenty of upgrades and missions will hook even the most jaded iPad player, and you don't need to worry about freemium grinding.

Price: $2.99, £1.99, AU$3.79

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Machinarium

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 point-and-click game, it's even better on a touchscreen device like an iPad.

Price: $4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49 (universal app)

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Monument Valley

Incredibly beautiful optical illusions that feel like M.C. Escher or the old PSP game Echochrome are actually puzzles in Monument Valley, a short but mesmerizing puzzler. Extra levels can be purchased in-game: get those, too.

Price: $3.99, £2.49, AU$4.99 (universal app)

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Olo

A favorite of ours for years, Olo is a great little table-top multiplayer kid-friendly game, with a kinetic twist: try to stay in bounds while knocking the other player's pieces off. Two- or four-player modes plus online play, and it's equally great on iPhone.

Price: $2.99, £2.49, AU$3.99

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Papers, Please

You’re a passport-processing drone in a totalitarian state. Endless people pass in front of you. Why do you do this? The story unfolds as you play. The unnerving retro-PC style and soundtrack work perfectly.

Price:$7.99, £5.49, AU$9.99

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Proun+

You’re a ball, racing along a rail through abstract worlds, avoiding obstacles. Tap to move or tilt your iPad to steer. It’s also beautiful to play: full of funky art, with plenty of tracks and challenges. And it’s mesmerizing.

Price: $3.99, £0.79, AU$2.49 (universal app)

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The Room Two

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.

Price: $2.99, £1.99, AU$3.79 (universal app)

Read full review
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Editors' Rating
4.5 stars

$2.99

Rymdkapsel

Somewhere between tower defense and Tetris, the simple laying down of territory, building facilities, and surviving wave after wave of attacking creatures makes Rymdkapsel 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.

Price: $3.99, £2.49, AU$4.99 (universal app)

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The Sailor's Dream

The newest "game" from Simogo, makers of Year Walk and Device 6, The Sailor’s Dream is more of a meditative, unfolding story that you explore and swipe through. Where does it go? What does it mean? It involves islands, memory, and to say more would ruin the beautiful experience.

Price:$3.99, £2.49, AU$4.99 (universal app)

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Super Stickman Golf 2

It may not have the fancy graphics of Tiger Woods Golf, but Super Stickman Golf is simple yet challenging -- and highly addictive. The sequel sports the same basic look, but adds spruced-up artwork, plus additional power-ups, and two multiplayer modes. Even better, it's free (with some optional in-app purchases).

Price: Free (universal app)

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Ticket to Ride

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.

Price: $6.99, £4.99, AU$8.99

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Transistor

A science fiction isometric adventure by the makers of Bastion, another indie hit that's been on this list before. Sink in, lean back. All you need to do is tap.

Price: $9.99, £7.99, AU$12.99

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Traps n' Gemstones

Long hallways, treasures, and lots of puzzles. Traps n' Gemstones is like a long-lost 8-bit Indiana Jones game, with iOS game controller support, too.

Price: $4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49 (universal app)

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Vainglory

It’s free, though you may be tempted to pay for extras. But like good freemium games, this online game (a MOBA, aka Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games, if you’re not familiar with the genre) will let you play to your heart’s content without costing a dime...if you’re patient. It pits teams against other teams to battle across large maps. It’s touch-optimized, so you’ll play with it on your lap...possibly for hours at a time. Like Hearthstone, another free game on this list, you could end up playing forever.

Price:Free, with in-game purchases that can be purchased with real money or earned via in-game currency

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Wayward Souls

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.

Price: $6.99, £4.99, AU$8.99

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

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. The sequel offers even more of the same.

Price: $4.99, £3.99, AU$6.49

Read editors' take
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MSRP: $19.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

You Must Build A Boat

You're on a boat. You fight monsters. You get treasure. This match-3 puzzle adventure is total 8-bit but it's incredibly fun. It's better on a smaller-screen phone, but the iPad version's fine, too.

Price$2.99, £2.29, AU$3.79

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Zen Pinball

Zen Pinball makes dozens of pinball tables, many of them fantastic: Star Wars, Marvel, and many, many more. Pinball nuts could lose themselves for weeks. The app comes with a free table to start you off, but you'll want to buy at least one more...or two.


Price: Free, can purchase extra tables (universal app)

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