Best iPad games

The iPad's large-format screen, high pixel count, multi-touch controls and motion capabilities have the potential to put it in a league of its own when it comes to portable gaming. From ambient floating blob simulators to frantic first-person shooters, we've rounded up our ten favourite iPad games.

Nik Rawlinson
Nik Rawlinson has been writing about tech since Windows 95 was looking distinctly futuristic. He is a former Editor of MacUser magazine and one-time scribe for Personal Computer World. Nik is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Nik Rawlinson
6 min read

It may look like an oversized iPhone but, as a games platform, the iPad still has some growing up to do. In fact, it's entirely possible that Apple may have accidentally invented the best portable gaming machine ever. The iPad's large-format screen, high pixel count, multi-touch controls and motion capabilities have the potential to put it in a league of its own. We're sure developers will soon come up with some great ways to take advantage of it. In the meantime, scattered among all the lazily up-scaled iPhone games and down-scaled console titles, there are already some genuine stormers. Here are our ten favourite iPad games.


Cut the Rope

Cut the Rope HD
Price: £1.19
Cut the Rope HD is a recent addition to the iTunes Store, but we can already see it becoming a classic. A package is delivered to your doorstep. Inside is a small green monster and a note informing you that the creature feeds on candy. What follows is a series of increasingly clever puzzles that involve dropping dangling sweeties into the monster's mouth by slashing your finger across the ropes, keeping the confectionery aloft. It sounds simple, but gradually the challenge level increases, without ever becoming frustrating. A beautifully daft premise, plus smart use of physics and an extremely simple control system, equals one extremely addictive iPad game. 
Also consider: Zen Bound 2 Universal (£1.79)


Need for Speed
Need for Speed Shift for iPad
Price: £7.49
The iPad has a distinct advantage over other gaming platforms when it comes to racing games. The tablet's size and shape, combined with its built-in accelerom­eter, allow you to use the 'Pad itself as a steering wheel.

There are several similar racer games available on iTunes at the moment, but Need for Speed Shift is still the best. For novices, clutch and gas can both be automated, so you can concentrate on steering and sliding around corners. Races feel lightning-fast and the high-res visuals are great, with neon-tinged cityscapes whizzing past your ears. Local multiplayer is also supported.
Also consider: Real Racing HD (£5.99)


Real Golf
Real Golf 2011 HD
Price: £3.99
In the absence of a branded Tiger Woods or official PGA iPad game, virtual golfers have a choice between the cutesy cartoon-like charms of Let's Golf 2 and the more serious, naturalistic approach of Real Golf 2011. With some big-name professionals to play against and real-world courses to play on, Real Golf 2011 will appeal to fans of authenticity.

It looks pretty good, too, with motion-captured animations and lush backdrops. The swing meter system feels natural, though we were less enamoured by the putting mechanic, which seemed a bit hit and miss. Despite this, Real Golf 2011 is currently the best iPad golfing game, and even has a multiplayer mode.
Also consider: Let's Golf 2 HD (£2.99)


Broken Sword
Broken Sword: Director's Cut HD
Price: £2.99
Point-and-click adventuring gets a whole new lease on life on the iPad. Touch control is the ultimate way to play this once popular, but now, sadly, overlooked genre. Classic game developers seemed to have cottoned on to the idea, too.

Broken Sword: Director's Cut HD is just one example, but you'll find many other old favourites have been treated to a multi-touch makeover. Beautiful hand-drawn artwork and brain-melting puzzles abound, and a hint system is on hand if you get stuck. Perhaps the iPad will kick-start a new generation of great adventure games. In the meantime, we're more than happy to revisit the oldies if they transfer as well as this.
Also consider: Monkey Island 2 Special Edition: Le Chuck's Revenge for iPad (£2.99) 


Osmos for iPad
Price: £2.99
If you thought games were all about violence, zombie-baiting and tooth-grindingly frustrating button combinations, Osmos for iPad should change your perspective. In this relaxing, Zen-like game, you control a 'mote'-- a floating micro-organism that grows bigger by absorbing smaller life forms, and risks being absorbed itself by something higher up the food chain.

You can propel your mote by tapping just outside it, and control time using a meter at the bottom of the screen. The trippy ambient sounds and dreamy visuals work brilliantly on the iPad, but no description can really do it justice -- Osmos is just truly lovely to play.
Also consider: Bit.trip Beat HD (£3.99)


Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars HD
Price: £5.99
Originally designed for that other touch-control device, the Nintendo DS, GTA Chinatown Wars HD transfers perfectly to the iPad, and offers one of the best blends of driving, action and puzzling available on Apple's tablet. The distinctive comic-book visuals look great at the iPad's increased resolution and the larger screen also makes the game more enjoyable to play than many of the other cramped portable ports.

Chinatown Wars provides the full Grand Theft Auto experience, too -- it's not just a throwaway mobile nugget. All the essential GTA elements are here, from the side quests to the radio stations and Rockstar's trademark dark humour. An essential purchase.
Also consider: Samurai: Way of the Warrior HD (£1.79)


Mirror's Edge
Mirror's Edge for iPad
Price: £5.99
The original Mirror's Edge was an ambitious first-person Xbox 360 and PS3 game that, through no fault of its own, ended up in the £5 bargain bins almost immediately after it was released. The iPad is, if anything, an altogether more suitable platform for the franchise.

Played side-on, you take control of parkouring female protagonist, Faith, who must leap, slide and sprint her way past obstacles and enemies over a series of quasi-3D rooftop courses. Striking futuristic visuals and a simple finger-swipe control system help to lift this fast-paced action game way above the usual level of lazy console-to-mobile iPorts.
Also consider: Canabalt(£1.79)

First-person shooter

Nova HD
Price: £3.99
We've seen some pretty crazy things in our time, but the chances of a (Microsoft) Halo game appearing on an (Apple) iPad are about as slim as a malnourished supermodel after a surprise run-in with a steamroller. In the meantime, we have NOVA HD -- a highly Halo-esque first-person shooter that works brilliantly on the iPad.

You'll have to take the cheesy story and dialogue with a healthy pinch of salt, and FPS veterans may find the controls take a little getting used to, but you'll soon be popping headshots left, right and centre. The 3D graphics are pretty strong, too.
Also consider: Call of Duty: Zombies HD (£2.99)

Tower defence

Plants vs Zombies
Plants vs Zombies HD
Price: £5.99
Now a perfectly acceptable genre in its own right, the 'tower defence' type of game is well suited to the iPad's pick-up-and-play gaming style, and there's no better example than Plants vs Zombies HD. The idea is simple -- defend your home against advancing zombie hordes by strategically placing various types of plant life in your garden.

Does it make any sense? Not really, but it's hugely addictive and, though it begins rather gently, things can eventually get quite frantic. The intuitive touch controls and humorous art style both scale up to the iPad's screen extremely well. All in all, it's fairly hard to put down. 
Also consider: Fieldrunners for iPad (£4.99)


Angry Birds
Angry Birds HD
Price: £2.99
If the words 'angry' and 'birds' hadn't featured somewhere in our roundup of the best iPad games, we wouldn't be doing our job properly. As the name suggests, Angry Birds HD is the iPad version of the popular iPhone hit.

It combines a staggeringly simple premise with charming visuals, a well-balanced challenge level and a control system that virtually anyone will pick up in approximately 2 seconds flat. The idea is to burst a bunch of evil green pigs by catapulting a series of flightless cartoon birds at them. And, frankly, who wouldn't want to play that?
Also consider: Flight Control HD (£2.99)