A simple but beautiful game involving flapping a weird winged creature-thing through alien shadow-worlds. The sequel adds forward and backward movement, a lot more levels and -- bonus! -- 3D Touch support for new iPhones, if you have one.
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 sequels, too.
Like a dark Zelda, this randomly generated game is never the same twice. Even so, there are ways to survive and go deeper through dungeons, puzzles and a wide variety of grisly nightmares. It's thoroughly cute-disgusting.
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: Carcassonne is a must-buy, and it's great for pass-and-play multiplayer.
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.
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.
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.
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. Recent updates also add two-player gaming and iPad Pro optimizations.
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 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 looks like an old, curved computer monitor. You 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.
Like a children's book come to life, you'll need to look carefully for things hiding in vast black and white illustrations. Follow the clues, and see if you can spy the person resting in a tree, or the rogue monkey.
Coding meets puzzle gaming: In a series of challenging rooms, you'll have to figure out ways to get the assembly line to deliver what you need. The tools are really basic programming concepts. It's a great game, and kids could learn from it.
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.
A great PC game once again hits the iPad: this one's a dungeon-crawling adventure game with lots of loot and maps to decipher. Perfect on all iPad sizes (and pretty solid on the Plus-size iPhone, too).
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.
I'm not good at Minecraft. My son is. The pocket edition of Minecraft has gotten better over time to the point where it's one of the best mobile games, period. Controller support on iPads makes it even better.
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.
A favorite of ours for years, Olo is a great little tabletop 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.
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.
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.
Slow, meditative and oddly relaxing, with a gardening touch. With finger swipes, you prune plants from shoots to blossoming trees, while avoiding bad red circles. Hopefully, your trees will reach the light.
Imagine chess where all the pieces are scrambled. This brilliant game can be played single or two player, or in weekly puzzle challenges. The bizarre layouts (expect too many knights, or too few pawns, and everything in the wrong place) lead to total chess surprises.
Price: Free($2.99, £2.99 or AU$4.49 to unlock full game)
Creepy, atmospheric and full of brilliant puzzles: The Room and The Room Two are both worth buying, especially for fans of classic PC games like Myst. The Room Three is more of the same. Definitely not good for young kids.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)