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Arcade football games for iOS

As we get settled into another NFL football season, I've put together a collection of games that puts you right in the action, playing as a runner, a kicker, or as the quarterback.


We're now in the second week of the NFL football season, and if you're a fan of the game you probably already know when and where you're going to watch your favorite team play this weekend. But when it's not game watching time in the middle of the week, or even at halftime, these are some great games that make you a part of the action without getting too involved.

There are full American football game options at the App Store like Madden NFL 12 and Gameloft's NFL series, but neither are nearly as good as what you would find on a console and the touch-screen interfaces leave a lot to be desired. That's why instead of talking about those games here, I went with easier to pick up and play arcade-like football games that won't keep you glued to your iPhone for a long time.

This week's collection of iOS apps let you focus on playing as specific players on a football team. The first focuses on running, letting you dodge tackles, and even showboat as you run into the end zone. The second lets you play as a kicker, sending the football through the goal posts or trying to get the perfect punt right by the goal line. The third puts you in the shoes of a quarterback as you swipe to make perfect passes to moving receivers.

NFL Rivals
As you dodge defenders, you'll also want to run over the colored squares that add to your point total. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NFL Rivals (99 cents) is the NFL licensed version of an older favorite of mine, BackBreaker 2: Vengeance, a game that put you in the shoes of a football player running and dodging tackles to get to the end zone. Just like the original, beautiful 3D graphics and solid animations give you the feeling of powering your way down the field. But in NFL Rivals, you now have the ability to play as your favorite team as you either run for touchdowns or prevent the other team from scoring. You start off customizing your player by picking your favorite team, and you can set the jersey number, and skin tone.

Once on the field, NFL Rivals adds new moves and features to keep the game exciting. In addition to the spin, juke, and sprint moves found in earlier iterations of the game, you can now jump over low tackles and objects by tapping on the middle of the screen. You also have a "trucking" move that turns your player into a power runner, bulldozing your way through high tackles and under props on the field. Having a low solid object to jump over or a low-hanging bar to "truck" under look a little out of place on the football field, but NFL Rivals is an arcade game, and the added obstacles definitely make for some complicated challenges. You also can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment after a long line of jumping over objects, dodging tackles, and showboating into the end zone.

Don't feel bad about Showboating, either -- that's how you get the most points. You get more points if you can showboat or high step into the end zone at the end of your run. The Showboating move slows you down, making it possible for tacklers to catch up to you, so you have to choose the right time to start showing off in order to make it to the end zone while racking up the most points. If you want to take your showboating a step further, there is an extra button that makes your showboating move even more exaggerated and quite a bit slower while doubling the points you'll receive if you make it to the end zone. But don't be surprised if you end up eating the turf 5 yards short of the end zone before you get the hang of it.

NFL Rivals is an excellent arcade football game that keeps things interesting with the capability to play on both sides of the ball. The game mechanic is very addictive, and as you progress, you'll need to use every move at your disposal to reach the end zone or tackle your opponent. Anyone who played the BackBreaker games or likes the idea of an easy to pick-up-and-play football game will appreciate the challenge and polish of this title.

NFL Kicker
The key is to string together kicks that hit the golden zone for higher multipliers and more points. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NFL Kicker (99 cents), from Full Fat games, lets you flick to kick a football through the goal posts using players from your favorite NFL teams, and offers tons of challenges and game modes to keep it interesting. The game gives you a brief tutorial called Basic Skills at the beginning to get you started, then it's up to you to make precise flicks to score the most points.

NFL Kicker comes with a few game modes to cover the challenges of both place kickers and punters. The In The Zone game mode has you line up for your kick, check windspeed, then send the ball through the uprights. But there are also colored zones within the uprights that give you more points for being more precise. Coffin Corner is a punters paradise that challenges you to kick the ball with just the right amount of power and angle to land it as close to the goal line as possible. In Time Attack mode it's all about speed and volume as you kick as many field goals as you can in the time allotted.

As you progress through the game you'll earn coins you can spend on equipment and even upgrade your stadium. You don't earn coins quickly, but by being precise you'll earn more. I mentioned that there are zones within the uprights, but the golden zone gives you the most points, which later translates into coins at the end. It's not easy to hit the golden zone every time, but fortunately the game has after-touch controls that let you swipe to alter the football's trajectory after it's already in the air. Each time you successfully hit the golden zone, your score multiplier goes up, which means more points and more coins. But if you miss the zone, you'll go back down to a zero multiplier. This setup makes you want to kick it just right every time so you'll be checking wind speed and distance a lot as you try to line up the perfect kick.

Like Flick Quarterback from the same developer, NFL Kicker has an enormous amount of polish, with excellent graphics and detailed player models that make it feel realistic. If you like the idea of playing as the kicker on a football team, or just want a good challenging game that doesn't get too deep into the rules of American football, this is a great choice.

Flick Quarterback
Wait until the receiver turns green before flicking to throw the perfect pass. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NFL Flick Quarterback (99 cents) is made by the same developer as NFL Kicker and is an excellent touch-screen game that manages to make you feel like a real quarterback as you connect with receivers. The game offers a Basic Skills level to get you started and explains how the game works: you must complete passes to open receivers while accounting for both defensive players and wind speed. Hitting an open receiver almost always results in a touchdown; there's no defense after the catch. But you will need to make crisp passes in order to get high scores.

The game offers a few different game modes and all of them add to the experience of throwing good passes. The main mode is called Playmaker, in which you'll need to lead receivers with your passes for them to make clean catches. As the game progresses, more defenders are added, making it crucial that you flick the ball with just the right amount of force to get it to your receiver. You'll have some help there -- a circle under the receiver turns green when he gets into open space, but you'll still need precision, because a defensive back is often not far behind. Scores are based on how well you lead the receiver and number of touchdowns after successful passes.

A Quick Fire game mode gives you 45 seconds to complete as many passes as possible. Completed passes add seconds on to your time and the quality of pass matters, too: with a good leading pass you can get 5 seconds added on, but with a close call catch, you'll only get 3 seconds (and misses subtract 3 seconds). The feeling of urgency forces you to walk the fine line of getting the pass off while remaining precise.

A third game mode called Trick Shot tests your accuracy by having you throw passes into barrels. As you progress, the barrels get farther away and wind speed starts to play a role forcing you to make perfect passes to hit the target. All of the game modes are fun and different enough from each other that you'll want to try each again and again.

NFL Flick Quarterback is an excellent game for football fans who want to make the perfect pass. With several game types and plenty of variation, this will be the perfect game to play as you wait to get through halftime.

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