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The best free iPad games, period

Some things in life really are free. Check out our picks for the best games on the iPad that don't cost anything at all (unless you choose to buy in-app upgrades later).

Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
Asphalt 8: some of the best racing games on the App Store are free to play. Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

In case you haven't already figured it out, there are a lot of good free games on the iPad. In fact, free-to-play might be the future of mobile gaming, period. Look to Candy Crush Saga and Plants vs. Zombies 2 if you need any convincing.

See for yourself in the slideshow below, and click through for our picks. Board games, arcade games, shooters, puzzles, simulations -- there's something for everyone.

Best free iPad games (pictures)

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But, the hunt for free games does have its caveats: nearly all these games try to make money either through ads or in-app purchases. The former can get annoying if the ads are too intrusive, and the latter (called "freemium") could hook you into spending a lot of cash on nickel-and-dime extras. The games on this list, while often employing in-app purchases, are fun enough in their free state that you don't need to buy anything unless you really want to -- just beware of those occasional hooks to spend.

I've tried to pick games that stand on their own, with tons of content in their free iterations that make the games well worth the download. Total cost for you? $0.

Did I miss any? Sound off with some suggestions below.

Don't mind spending a little money? Make sure to check out CNET's list of best iPad games, some of which don't cost more than a dollar anyway.

CNET Top 5
Watch this: Free iPad games

Editors' note: This post was updated on December 20, adding four new games.