Best free iPhone games 2020

Love iPhone games? Love free things? Great! As you’ll see in our roundup of the finest zero-cost driving games, sports sims, puzzles and shooters, some of the best mobile gaming experiences don’t cost anything whatsoever.

This feature outlines the 40 free iPhone games we consider the very best. If you don’t love freebie gaming after tackling these gems, seek help (or dig out your wallet and take a look at our list of the best iOS games).

New in our list this month: Ready Set Goat, Shooty Quest, Shadow Frog and Zombie Goes Up.

A quick note on IAP: Many free games make their money through the use of IAPs (in-app purchases). Sometimes these unlock cosmetic changes; sometimes it’s almost impossible to play without them. Needless to say our 40 picks are all good citizens in this regard, but our reviews provide more detail.

Best free iPhone games

1. The Battle of Polytopia

At the start of The Battle of Polytopia, you find yourself in a little town, surrounded by the unknown, with a single warrior unit under your command. The game gives you 30 turns to explore, locate and ally with or attack other miniature empires, research technologies, and advance your civilisation.

Much of the game is based around strategising, making the best use of limited resource allowances. Would it be beneficial this turn to research hunting and utilise nearby (and tasty) wildlife? Or would the smart move be getting the technology to forge huge swords, subsequently enabling you to gleefully conquer rival cities?

In essence, then, this is Civilization in microcosm – a brilliantly conceived mobile take on 4X gaming (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) that betters actual Civ games that have appeared on iPhone. In limiting your turns and giving you a score at the end, the game also feels puzzlish, since you must figure out how to better your lot with very limited resources and time.

For more bloodthirsty players, there’s also a ‘domination’ mode, where you play until only one tribe remains standing. However you play, it’s an astonishing achievement, huge fun, and the best freebie game on iPhone.

IAPs: Extra tribes cost between 99p/99c and £3.99/$3.99. The more you have, the more you can take on in any one game – and on larger maps, too.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download The Battle of Polytopia

Best free iPhone games: The Battle of Polytopia

Best free iPhone games: The Battle of Polytopia

2. Super Fowlst 2

Demons have broken through the barriers between worlds, but all the action heroes are busy. It therefore falls to a chicken to stop them all. (Hey, Hollywood: it turns out that not all ideas have yet been committed to film!)

You are that chicken, in a game that is a demented mash-up of Flappy Bird, procedurally generated maze-like levels, shooty action, coin collection, and an awful lot of headbutting evil critters into oblivion.

The controls are simple: tap the left or right of the screen to arc in that direction. The trick is in the timing, getting it right so you smack into an enemy rather than their fiery demon breath. Fortunately, there are things to aid you: power-ups activated by an upwards swipe; between-game chicken upgrades like missiles you fire from your bottom; occasional mech suits, with which you can get all stompy.

The last of those proves particularly useful when it comes to the boss battles punctuating the game. Initially, you’ll grin at the absurdity of battling foes like a sentient avocado that hurls his brother (the stone) your way – before you realise how quickly they can smash you into a fillet.

It’s all great stuff – a superb slice of arcade action for iPhone, cleverly updated for the touchscreen.

IAPs: For an entirely reasonable £3.99/$3.99, you can smash the ads like an egg.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Super Fowlst 2

Best free iPhone games: Super Fowlst 2

Best free iPhone games: Super Fowlst 2

3. Pigeon Wings Strike

Evil minions have taken over the city, and only pigeons in biplanes can save us. This is what budget cuts get you. Fortunately, these aviator avians are the business, zig-zagging through buildings, subways, and tunnels, and blasting drones and flying fortresses to bits. At least, when they’re not flying into walls. Which happens quite often…

Yep, Pigeon Wings Strike has a beak firmly planted in ‘absurdly fast endless arcade game’ territory. You belt along at insane speeds, wiggling your iPhone up and down to adjust altitude, holding the left of the screen to keep the throttle down, and prodding the right to boost when slipstreaming other pigeons – or unleash laser death when facing adversaries.

The tilt controls are pitch perfect, which given that they are, well, tilt controls is a bit of a shock. But then this is a freebie take on the already-confirmed-excellent Pigeon Wings, and so no-one should have expected anything different.

The only downside is the game’s a touch one-note, but that doesn’t really matter when it’s as fabulous as this. And as an added bonus, do well and you can unlock all manner of critters for your hangar – a boost-happy frog; a speed freak skunk; a rabbit that encourages nearby pigeons to get all shooty. How can you say no?

IAPs: 99p/99c removes the ads forever, which, frankly, is a bit of a bargain.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Pigeon Wings Strike

Best free iPhone games: Pigeon Wings Strike

Best free iPhone games: Pigeon Wings Strike

4. Disc Drivin’ 2

When you imagine a racing game, turn-based play probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But Disc Drivin’ 2 mashes shove ha’penny into futuristic racing fare like Wipeout, somehow creating something that’s furiously compelling rather than ridiculous.

OK, it is a little bit ridiculous, but, most importantly, the game is huge fun. You select a track, kick off a race against a randomly selected online opponent, and flick your little disc onwards. Your aim is to hit speed-up pads and build boost, and to not end up hurling your disc into the abyss or getting it impaled.

Naturally, just as in traditional racing fare, a solid grasp of the tracks helps. Fortunately, you can spend as much time on them as you like in the speedrun mode, mastering every turn, and committing to memory jump and trap locations. But the actual racing bit is pleasingly unique, with its mix of snooker-like aiming, speed, and split-second decision making.

With 15 tracks, up to ten online races on the go at once, and a slew of unlockables to collect, Disc Drivin’ 2 should keep you flicking for months. Moreover, it cements itself as being the best freebie iPhone racer, despite omitting many of the conventions you’d expect from the genre.

IAPs: You can buy stacks of coins to speed up unlocking cards. IAPs vary from £1.99/$1.99 for 100 coins to £38.99/$39.99 for 3,600. A better bet is the one-off £4.99/$4.99 ‘Premium’ IAP that removes ads, ups your online race count to 25 (from 10), and gives you as many goes as you like on the daily challenge.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Disc Drivin’ 2

Best free iPhone games: Disc Drivin' 2

Best free iPhone games: Disc Drivin' 2

5. Data Wing

First impressions of Data Wing are essentially “this is a quite nice top-down racer”. You guide a little triangular ship about a minimal track, battling inertia in a manner similar to controlling the spaceship in classic arcade blaster Asteroids. But, unusually, your ship doesn’t explode when it hits something; instead, Data Wing encourages you to grind track edges for boost, which flings you along at sometimes irrational speeds.

If that was all you got, Data Wing would still impress, but this game is far more than a basic racer. Sure, there are time trials, races where you must hit checkpoints before the clock runs out, and skirmishes against opponents. But some levels flip the game on its side and have you battle gravity. In these adventure-oriented mini-quests, you explore caverns, find keys, and figure out how to use the environment to clamber towards a distant – and very high-up – exit.

While all this is going on, there’s a narrative playing out on the level-select screen, involving your job as a ‘data wing’, working for Mother, the AI at the heart of a machine. This becomes almost as engaging as the arcade action, delving into hacking, and affording you glimpses of life beyond the screen.

On paper, it’s a strange mash-up that probably shouldn’t work, and yet it does. In short, Data Wing’s an iOS classic that’s not to be missed.

IAPs: Data Wing has no IAPs or ads – it’s totally free. Bargain of the year? We think so.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Data Wing

Best free iPhone games: Data Wing

Best free iPhone games: Data Wing

6. SpellTower+

The original SpellTower remains one of the finest word games on any platform. Drawing from traditional paper-based word searches and crosswords, SpellTower subverted the genre by bolting on bits of Tetris. This mash-up provided lashings of word-based strategy, and appealed to a wide range of puzzle fans.

In its free form, SpellTower+ more or less is the original SpellTower, spruced up a bit visually, made free (with ads), and with the odd extra rule. It’s still marvellous.

Your journey begins in Tower mode, facing a stack of letters and black squares in a well. You tap out words that can be formed from snake-like pathways – there’s no ‘straight line’ limitation here! When they are submitted, gravity plays its part, and tiles left floating fall. Finding the longest word isn’t always a high-score strategy – instead, you must make best use of what’s on the grid.

Beyond Tower, you venture into modes that borrow from Tetris-like arcade puzzlers, growing the stack after each move or against the clock. You also get a daily crack at a Tower mode, and the new Search. The latter has you manipulate a square board packed with double-score tiles, and you only get one attempt to submit a high-scoring word.

Pay up and you get a lot more, but even for free, SpellTower+ is a must-have for iPhone.

IAPs: The full game unlock IAP costs £4.99/$4.99. This removes the ads, enables you to peruse statistics, and provides access to Search, Zen, ExPuzzle, Double Puzzle, Bubble Puzzle, and Blitz modes.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download SpellTower+

Best free iPhone games: SpellTower+

Best free iPhone games: SpellTower+

7. Peak’s Edge

Game creator Kenny Sun appears to be obsessed with triangles if his previous efforts, Yankai’s Triangle and Yankai’s Peak, are anything to go by. Peak’s Edge is also packed full of pointy critters, in a game that’s a decidedly claustrophobic take on a semi-randomised turn-based strategy title.

The aim in each tiny procedurally generated level is to trundle your little pyramid to a glowing white goal. Evil pyramids block your way, but your pyramid is armoured. Smack into your foes and they disappear. But if they hit you first, that side of your pyramid loses its armour and becomes vulnerable. One additional hit there and your game’s over.

Fortunately, you can apply new armour – and also gain new skills – by rolling on to a pick-up square. Eventually, you’ll be blazing about, meting out all kinds of pointy justice, and digging deeper into the game’s seemingly endless hexagonal dungeons.

Before that point, you’ll probably be a bit baffled. Peak’s Edge looks abstract and alien; its slew of power-ups is initially hard to keep in your head. But persevere and Peak’s Edge takes hold, providing you with essentially unlimited replay value, and one of the iPhone’s smartest slices of focused handheld strategy.

IAPs: Go premium for $2.99/£2.99 and you remove ads, get unlimited undos, and unlock all armour and skills.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Peak’s Edge

Best free iPhone games: Peak's Edge

Best free iPhone games: Peak's Edge

8. Knight Brawl

Although occasionally veering into sensible (Undisputed Champ) and hyper-casual (Golfing Around) gaming, Colin Lane’s best known for deranged sports titles featuring absurdist physics and barely controllable protagonists. Whether wrestling in Rowdy Wrestling or playing basketball in Dunkers 2, you battle how your player moves, rather than just the opposition. That line of thinking now comes to gladiator battles – and it’s superb.

You start off with basic one-on-one matches, to get to grips with not horribly dying. A double-tap on an arrow button has your fighter lunge towards an opponent, potentially knocking away their shield or armour – assuming your weapon’s pointing in the right direction. Deliver a killing blow, and you presumably get serious bragging rights offscreen at the videogame characters inn.

Where Knight Brawl shifts from amusing curiosity to essential download is in offering you so much to do. Beyond the basic battles, there are free-for-all scraps, and missions that edge into platform game territory. The odd design decision is questionable – you can quite often win multi-fighter skirmishes by hanging around on the sidelines and letting everyone else duff each-other up; nonetheless, Knight Brawl is buckets of fun and not to be missed.

IAPs: For £1.99/$1.99, you can remove the reasonably frequent but not horribly intrusive pop-up ads. Given how much game you get, that seems like a bargain.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Knight Brawl

Best free iPhone games: Knight Brawl

Best free iPhone games: Knight Brawl

9. Shadowgun Legends

In this first-person shooter, stone-cold killers are treated like rockstars. There’s a confidence and swagger here that’s rare for this genre on mobile; but this isn’t misplaced, because with its dazzling visuals, accessibility and depth, Shadowgun Legends is a first-rate mobile title.

It controls well, with your left and right thumbs, respectively, moving and aiming. Autofire takes care of any aliens dumb enough to get in front of your sights. Buttons then trigger special kit you’re lucky enough to own, such as sentry guns.

The fast-paced missions are linear in nature, but have a sense of pace and rhythm that’s invigorating and compelling. And because progression happens rapidly, it feels like the game rewards you for your time, even when you only dip into it for a few minutes.

There are downsides. The storyline is forgettable, and you’ll eventually need to splash out on at least one IAP to unlock enough inventory slots for upgrades, without you otherwise having to be mired in busywork after missions. But other than those niggles, Shadowgun Legends has all you need from a solid mobile FPS: loads of shooty action; visuals to coo at; smartly conceived multiplayer; and adoring fans clamouring to build a massive statue of you in the game’s central hub. (OK, so that last one’s a bit odd, but do you really want to say no to them?)

IAPs: This one’s stuffed full of IAP with heroic-sounding names, like Alien Hunter Pile (£4.99/$4.99) and Legendary Treasure (with a legendary £99.99/$99.99 price-tag). Once you’re heavily into the game, you’ll need to splash out on at least the cheapest IAP, to unlock dozens of extra inventory slots. Ongoing payments aren’t necessary, though.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Shadowgun Legends

Best free iPhone games: Shadowgun Legends

Best free iPhone games: Shadowgun Legends

10. PinOut!

The iPhone has seen radical reworkings of pinball, from Zen‘s highly animated tables through to puzzle-like precision flipper INKS. PinOut!, though, rethinks pinball as an endless runner of sorts. You face off against a single massive table, with the aim of getting as far as possible before the timer runs out.

This is a gorgeous game. The visuals are all glowing neon, like what we imagine the Tron bikers play during their downtime. Throughout, your ears are bathed in a fantastic synth-pop soundtrack. But this would all be for nothing if the game disappointed – but it’s one of the best pinball titles on the iPhone.

Like the aforementioned INKS, PinOut! is best thought of as a precision shooter. Whereas a lot of classic pinball tables are all about combos and speed, PinOut! demands you figure out the most efficient route to the next miniature table, which usually involves hitting a specific ramp. If you can grab dots along the way, to replenish the clock, that’s a bonus.

It sounds simple – reductive, even, compared to ‘proper’ pinball – but PinOut! proves a frequently exciting, tense game, not least when you’re running low on time and your ball hits a wall at precisely the wrong angle, costing you precious seconds. However, eight varied themes and a small selection of mini-games keep you interested and boost replay value. And the varied tables and slightly simplified physics make PinOut! very suitable for iPhone – unlike traditional pinball titles, which feel fiddly on a smaller screen.

IAPs: PinOut! has a single £2.99/$2.99 IAP that unlocks checkpoints. In the free version, you have to start from the beginning every time.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download PinOut!

Best free iPhone games: PinOut!

Best free iPhone games: PinOut!

11. Asphalt 9: Legends

If you’ve played a reasonably recent Asphalt game, you’ll know the series left reality behind some time ago. What you get instead is unhinged arcade racing, where cars are hungry for nitro, drift for miles around corners, and regularly soar into the air, cartwheeling and spinning like a baton thrown by a particularly furious parade leader.

But Asphalt 9 breaks from traditional racers in another way: there’s a system called TouchDrive, which means you don’t have to steer. That nugget of information probably sent shivers down the spines of traditionalists – and now has them ranting about how mobile doesn’t have proper games. The thing is, it really works.

While your car rockets along, you swipe to target obstacles (boost; ramps; entrances to skyscrapers you totally shouldn’t drive through), and tap to nitro, drift, and perform crazy stunts. This doesn’t remove the thrill of racing – instead, it’s honed down to its purest essence. The game becomes the racing equivalent of those fab one-thumb platformers that taught gamers you don’t need directional controls if the rest of the game is pitch-perfect.

That said, you can revert to standard controls if you wish. Either way, Asphalt 9’s an exhilarating ride, whether you’re in a smashy high-octane race against similarly nutcase drivers, or fleeing from the fuzz in exciting escape scenarios.

IAPs: It’s an Asphalt game, so has a boat-load of IAP. In short, you’re paying to avoid grind, and some (entirely optional) car packs are ludicrously expensive. However, the £1.99/$1.99 starter pack – some cash and a Porsche – isn’t a bad buy.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Asphalt 9: Legends

Best free iPhone games: Asphalt 9: Legends

Best free iPhone games: Asphalt 9: Legends

12. Super Cat Tales 2

The original Super Cat Tales felt like someone had shoved a classic old-school platform game inside your iPhone. Only instead of a dungaree-clad plumber doddering about, it starred a rag-tag bunch of moggies. In this sequel, the cats are back, to thwart the invasion plans of a mysterious tin soldier army.

Super Cat Tales 2’s pacy, breezy platforming action, packed with secrets, urgency and excitement, ensures it grabs hold from the off. A nicely written slice of backstory draws you in, and before you know it your cat is leaping about, grabbing the suspiciously large number of levitating gold coins that appear in this kind of game, and hopping into the occasional massive yellow tank for robot-smashing action.

Although the bright, chunky visuals might feel like a throwback to the SNES, the controls in Super Cat Tales 2 are thoroughly modern. One thumb at each side of the screen is enough to let you run, dash, clamber up walls (and scrabble down them like a terrified kitten when holding on a second too long), and wall-jump like a feline ninja.

At first, it all feels alien as you rewire your thumbs; but the game soon beds in as a near-perfect iPhone platformer. Frankly, we’d be recommending this one for a tenner; for free – or five quid if you go premium – it’s a bargain.

IAPs: The £4.99/$4.99 premium mode removes the ads. You can also pay to unlock levels if you haven’t found the objects you need to progress.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Super Cat Tales 2

Best free iPhone games: Super Cat Tales 2

Best free iPhone games: Super Cat Tales 2

13. Fancade

If you ever get that nagging sense there’s no longer any ambition in iPhone gaming, Fancade squashes such thoughts in style. However, it’s not in the games themselves that the ambition really lies.

Yes, we said games, because Fancade is a collection of simple titles you dip in and out of on an overriding quest to reach the end of a pathway that zig-zags through floating isometric islands. What you’re served is often familiar: two-button bouncy physics driving fare; path-finding and building twiddling, like a stripped-back Monument Valley; fleet-of-foot one-thumb platforming. But what initially drives interest is Fancade’s bite-sized nature. Blow through a few levels of one thing, and you’re on to another. It’s gaming for the short attention span generation – the App Store reimagined as WarioWare.

This on its own would be quite impressive. Even if Fancade’s mini-games aren’t brimming with imagination, they are fun and polished. But Fancade also invites you to make your own games. If you’re especially driven, you can do so from a blank canvas; alternatively, mere mortals can grab a pre-made kit and experiment with components to see what happens.

Even if you don’t delve into making your own tiny worlds, Fancade is a must; and if you do, it’ll likely stay welded to your iPhone indefinitely.

IAPs: There are non-recurring monthly (99p/99c) and annual (£9.99/$9.99) options, primarily to keep the Fancade servers running. But spend some cash and all wait timers are removed as a thank you.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Fancade

Best free iPhone games: Fancade

Best free iPhone games: Fancade

14. Beach Buggy Racing 2

For reasons we’ve never fully understood at Macworld HQ, the iPhone has always suffered a dearth of decent kart racers – so we’re suckers for a good one when it comes along. And Beach Buggy Racing 2 blasts past that particular barrier.

If you’ve played kart racers before, you’ll know the score. You zoom along larger-than-life tracks in tiny cars, race positions changing more often than the British weather whenever you decide to take a holiday. Periodically, you can grab power-ups to unsportingly use against opponents. Hit the chequered flag first and glory awaits.

With balanced controls, lovely visuals, and interesting course design, Beach Buggy Racing 2 ticks every box. Its upgrade and unlock path is fair, meaning if you don’t splash out on IAP, you’ll still regularly get new goodies (tracks; cars; drivers) – at least if you play often.

There’s also plenty of track and weapons variation. You’ll bomb past a medieval castle with fire-breathing dragon, blasting fireworks at all and sundry; the next race may find you bouncing atop giant turtles in a prehistoric wilderness, waiting for the optimum moment to encase your rivals in blocks of ice. It’s a pity there are no cups – you at any point only have two races to choose from – but the compulsion cycle here is nonetheless rock solid.

IAPs: Coins upgrade weapons, gems buy coins, and you can buy gems – 99p for 90, up to £99.99 for 15,000. Or just grind for free. Now and again, limited offers appear, which are fairly good value if you need a boost.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Beach Buggy Racing 2

Best free iPhone games: Beach Buggy Racing 2

Best free iPhone games: Beach Buggy Racing 2

15. Sticky Terms

Philipp Stollenmayer has form in creating weird games, such as artsy puzzler Song of Bloom, surrealist bacon flipper Bacon – The Game, and acrobatic letter puzzler supertype. Sticky Terms veers towards the last of those, and although the letters here don’t flip about, they need moving around for each of the game’s puzzles to be completed.

In fact, what you see at first rarely resembles text. Often, the initial construction is akin to abstract geometric modern art. These puzzle pieces are pulled apart with a meaty pop, spun with a tap, and then rearranged in a manner that creates full words.

The twist is the words are untranslatable and distinctly weird. This is a game that has you recreate the likes of neko-neko (an Indonesian term for a well-meant idea that makes everything worse). Short of you having a dictionary in your head, success therefore relies on you recognising letterforms, and gradually piecing them together.

It’s a simple concept, and it works superbly, from initial layouts that look like random symbols sprayed across your display to the little drumbeat that signifies success. Short of you hating word games and puzzlers, Sticky Terms should remain glued to your Home screen until you’ve worked your way through its dozens of handcrafted challenges.

IAPs: The game has no IAPs, but you need to watch an ad to unlock each set of words.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Sticky Terms

Best free iPhone games: Sticky Terms

Best free iPhone games: Sticky Terms

16. Rowdy City Wrestling

If you’re reading this list in order, you’ll have earlier spotted Knight Brawl, Colin Lane’s bonkers take on medieval sword fighting. He’s arguably best known for demented brawlers, though, including Wrassling and Rowdy Wrestling. These games ramp up the absurdist nature of the sport, featuring wrestlers with whirling arms battling each other in a world of bouncy physics.

Rowdy City Wrestling takes the latter title and plays it straight – or as straight as it’s possible for a Colin Lane game to be. The wrestlers are still cartoonish and hurl themselves about with merry abandon. But you now feel like you’re in full control, with the crazy physics dialled down to something more manageable.

As with Knight Brawl, there’s plenty of silliness here, too, in the visuals and script – and also plenty of depth. Career mode features your newbie wrestler trying to earn the cash needed to improve their stats and become world champion. But to get there requires everything from dodgy fights at the nearby docks to lugging chairs around. If there’s a downside, it’s that the endless mode is insanely tough until you’ve worked your way through a good chunk of career mode; still, the original always exists for one-off brawls until you make it that far.

IAPs: You can hurl pop-up ads out of the ring for a one-off and very reasonable £1.99/$1.99.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Rowdy City Wrestling

Best free iPhone games: Rowdy City Wrestling

Best free iPhone games: Rowdy City Wrestling

17. Golf Skies

Golfers hope for clear blue skies, to remain dry when tackling the back nine. Golf Skies instead has you direct balls in the sky, having decided traditional courses are boring. Here, they’re deconstructed and wrapped around tiny floating planetoids, each exerting its own gravitational pull.

Fortunately, you gain control over your ball in a manner that would make golfing pros green with envy. After smacking your ball skywards by dragging an arrow to set power and direction, left and right buttons allow you to steer it, aiming for tiny spots of fairway dotted about the hovering orbs.

The twisty-turny nature of your path obliterates any realism left in the game, and yet the soul of golf remains at the heart of Golf Skies. Despite its surreal presentation, the game’s challenge still centres on committing courses to memory, figuring out the best route, and not messing up shots.

You get six courses, bought using collectable coins; these can also net you more powerful balls with which to hack away at your scores. In all, something of a hole-in-one, then, even if Golf Skies makes you think real-world golf would be a lot more fun if participants had to weave balls through windmills poking out of tiny planets hanging in the air.

IAPs: Smack the adverts into the rough and out of sight forever for £2.99/$2.99. You can also buy coins to speed up unlocks: 100 for 99p/$0.99; 500 for £2.99/$2.99; 1000 for £3.99/$3.99.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Golf Skies

Best free iPhone games: Golf Skies

Best free iPhone games: Golf Skies

18. Look, Your Loot!

If you’ve played Arnold Rauers’s superb Card Thief, you’ll know a ‘living’ grid of cards and a smattering of role-playing elements makes for a tense and exciting gaming experience. But if you’re emptier of wallet than the bling-hunting heroes in that kind of title, Look, Your Loot! represents an excellent alternative.

The hero this time is a mouse keener on gold than cheese, and armed with spear and shield alongside disarmingly cute whiskers. The game takes place on a grid, most slots of which are filled with something dangerous and violent. The remainder then contain the odd power-up, or barrels you hack to bits, in order to see what’s inside.

You slide your tile to move, and the mouse’s life force depletes on attacking foes, but can be replenished with elixirs, or defended with shields. As you duff up monsters, new cards enter the grid. You must force an optimum path to stay alive. Best the boss that appears after a set number of turns and you get to choose a permanent skill before continuing your quest.

It’s simple stuff, but captivating – and nerve-racking when you know everything can go wrong on a careless swipe. Varied modes will further cement the game to your Home screen, ensuring the rodent hero can get all stabby for many months to come.

IAPs: Three £1.99 IAPs exist – one removes the ads (and gives you a free booster per game), and is well worth grabbing. The others are a bling starter kit (100,000 gold and 60 gems) and a 50 per cent price cut for boosters. Either’s fine for big fans but not necessary for enjoyment.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Look, Your Loot!

Best free iPhone games: Look, Your Loot!

Best free iPhone games: Look, Your Loot!

19. Threes! Free

Every platform needs its perfect puzzle game, and on release Threes! made its claim to be the iPhone’s. As with all brilliant examples of the genre, Threes! has at its heart a simple mechanic, which in this case involves merging cards within a tiny four-by-four board. But it’s the details that propel Threes! beyond the competition.

The idea is to match numbers. Slide a blue ‘1’ into a red ‘2’ and they combine to become a single ‘3’ card. Two 3s make a 6. Two 6s make a 12. And so on. The snag is every move you make slides every non-blocked tile on the board as well. If you’re fortunate or have planned ahead, this can result in several merges in one move; if not, you end up with a mess to clear up. And since after every turn a new card enters the board in a random spot on the edge you swiped from, planning is key.

It takes a few games for Threes! to click, but once it does, it never lets go. You’ll be dying to see new cards (each is infused with a unique personality), and will soon spot how reaching higher-numbered cards boosts your score substantially. The free-to-play aspect is also generous: watch a video ad and you get three more games in the bank, which can be built up into a substantial reserve.

This gives the game a fighting chance against a raft of inferior Threes! clones (most of which have 1024 or 2048 in their names) that litter the App Store, and sucked life out of the paid version of Threes! Our advice: stick with the original; you’ve no excuse now you can play for free.

IAPs: Threes! Free has no IAPs.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Threes! Free

Best free iPhone games: Threes Free

Best free iPhone games: Threes Free

20. Sky: Children of the Light

The aim in Sky is for the titular children to spread hope through a desolate kingdom by returning fallen stars to the heavens. A big ask for a kid, you might think, but you’re not alone. And that’s because Sky plays out as a massive multiplayer adventure, where you and others tackle puzzles together – while also spending quite a bit of time just larking about in the seven dreamlike realms.

If you’ve ever played Journey, you should be right at home, as you control an impish character who darts through beautiful 3D environments, occasionally launches into the air, and skids down hillsides in a manner that makes your feet wince. Progress typically involves poking around, unlocking doors, and finding elements that reveal new realms.

Often, you’ll meet others, communicating through a limited range of parps and gestures. Sometimes, several players must work together to beat an obstacle. And occasionally, someone will take your hand and you’ll both soar towards the clouds. During those moments, Sky is something else. Conversely, it can be trying when you get stuck, unsure what to do next or where to go. Nonetheless, for free this is a unique and beautiful gaming experience.

IAPs: You can buy candle packs, which start at 99p for three, and go all the way up to a gargantuan £48.99 for 150. A starter pack of 15 for £4.99 adds wing upgrades, and you can spend £19.99 on a winter musical pack. Our advice? Just play the game and avoid using IAP to blaze through it – and your bank account.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Sky: Children of the Light

Best free iPhone games: Sky: Children of the Light

Best free iPhone games: Sky: Children of the Light

21. Clash Royale

With developer Supercell known for some of the biggest-grossing (and, in IAP terms, grossest) games on the App Store, you might approach Clash Royale with suspicion. After all, it feeds off of a kind of collector mentality, and is stuffed full of IAP. But look past that and you’ll find one of the most infuriatingly compulsive multiplayer titles around.

The basic set-up has you battling other players online, on tiny single-screen arenas. Each player has a King tower and two smaller flanking buildings. Units are placed on the battlefield by selecting cards from your deck (four being available at any one time) and each costs some ‘elixir’ (which slowly refills). Duels are all about figuring out how to best your opponent by countering their attacks and unleashing surprises of your own.

This could all have gone so wrong, but Clash Royale is a surprisingly fair game. Sure, if you want the best units and access to the top arena immediately, you’re going to have to pay a small fortune. But if you’re happy scrapping away in the lower leagues, you can play and slowly build a better deck without spending a penny. Even the timer system to unlock chests won in combat doesn’t prove irksome, given that without it, you’d probably end up playing Clash Royale around the clock.

IAPs: Primarily, IAPs are to buy gems, which can be converted into gold with which to purchase/upgrade cards. A ‘fistful’ (80) costs 99p and is basically worthless, but 500 gems for £4.99 will give you a nice boost in the lower levels. Probably avoid the ‘mountain of gems’ at £99.99.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Clash Royale

Best free iPhone games: Clash Royale

Best free iPhone games: Clash Royale

22. Ready Set Goat

Being a goat in an idyllic mountain home is pretty great – right up until the Creeps start calling. Where they come from, no one knows, but they appear out of thin air, run around making a nuisance of themselves, and vaporise any goats they happen to run into. Since you’re a goat, this isn’t ideal.

However, with Ready Set Goat being a video game, you can jump on their stupid Creep heads in a tried-and-tested manner. And that’s basically the entire game as you zip back and forth, tapping the screen to leap on to Creep bonces – or at least avoid running into them.

Only things aren’t quite that simple. The game takes no prisoners, bleaty or otherwise. Mess up by a fraction of a second and you’ll be staring at an ex-goat and a game over screen. Stick around for a few dozen seconds and you’ll think you’re doing pretty well. Should you more fully master the game, it’s possible to pull off stompy combos that result in jewels hanging in the air. Grab five and you get a power-up.

This one’s old-school in every way, with simple controls, pixel art, chip-tune music, and brutal arcade sensibilities. But work your way up the ‘bleaterboard’ and you’ll feel like a gaming god.

IAPs: Although IAPs are listed on the App Store, none appear to be accessible in the game itself.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Ready Set Goat

Best free iPhone games: Ready Steady Goat

Best free iPhone games: Ready Steady Goat

23. Samsara Room

From the off, this point-and-tap adventure in a shoebox is deeply strange. You appear to be in a sealed room, with gaudy wallpaper, and a mirror on the wall that reflects… something. Is it you? Hard to tell. If it is, you’re looking a bit peaky.

Start poking around and you find objects, possible clues and confusion. A little lizard is on the wall, but scurries off when tapped. There’s a locked clock, and far too many candles. Sooner or later, you’ll discover not everything is as it seems – a ‘fake’ item provides a path to something else entirely.

And then it all goes a bit weird. Things happen that defy the laws of reality, and you’re sent spinning headlong down a surreal and entertaining journey of discovery. All of which perhaps sounds a bit vague, but the joy in Samsara Room is in the exploration and regular breakthroughs – along with seeing what shifts and changes happen to your locale on your way to ‘enlightenment’.

There is the occasional bump. A couple of puzzles are a touch too obscure, and require too much of the old ‘use every object everywhere’ thinking that was irritatingly prevalent in old-school adventuring. But for the most part, this is an atmospheric, interesting, smartly designed room escape title wonderfully conceived and executed for small-screen play.

IAPs: There are no IAPs whatsoever. Free really means free in this case. Barg!

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Samsara Room

Best free iPhone games: Samsara Room

Best free iPhone games: Samsara Room

24. Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

You know how it is when you’re a space lizard. There you are, getting by in your dirty space van, having alienated your friends. Your lover has left, and you’re stranded in orbit around an annoyingly conservative planet, with terrible internet connectivity and food. Then your spacesuit springs a leak. Life is bleak – until you reason there is a way to live and feel alive: become a bounty hunter.

So perhaps lizards think a bit differently in what makes life worth living, but this is the set-up to a clever, challenging turn-based strategy title. Your dinky lizard sneaks up to marks and strikes them down. As you get deeper into the game, you must figure out how to avoid retaliatory gunfire, deal with portals, and dispatch the local bitey slime-based wildlife. Sometimes, it all goes a bit Bomberman, too, with you lobbing explosives about.

This is a finite quest, and so there is an ending to aim for. However, getting there isn’t easy. Despite each level taking place on a single screen, it takes time for the rules to click, and for you to master the games various strategies and weapons. Throughout, though, it’s a masterpiece. We realise it might not look like much, but this bounty is very much one to set your sights on.

IAPs: For £2.99, you can remove the ads.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

Best free iPhone games: Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

Best free iPhone games: Bounty Hunter Space Lizard

25. Power Hover: Cruise

If you liked the boss battles in the superb Power Hover, you’re going to be overjoyed with Power Hover: Cruise, which expands those challenges into full-fledged endless stages.

Pyramid has you take on traps built into a colossal ancient tomb. You leap over ramps, weave through laser meshes, and squeeze through gaps in walls as the screen unhelpfully rotates.

Machine is all about belting along an underground tunnel, where concepts like ‘floors’, ‘walls’ and ‘ceilings’ cease to have meaning. In the distance, a crazed android hurls all manner of projectiles your way – and one hit spells death.

Dive sends you underwater, and Metro zigzagging through a city, avoiding countless spikes. But Air is our favourite, with you surfing atop a snake-like winding road in the clouds, taking on all manner of wildly spinning machinery.

Power Hover veterans will know what to expect in terms of aesthetics; and sure enough, Cruise is a gorgeous game, with a frantic, head-bobbing electronic soundtrack. It does, however, retain the original’s inertia-heavy controls. We’re fans of them, too, because they afford the game a unique feel that’s rewarding when mastered; but we are aware some people find it tricky to get to grips with the way you arc across the screen rather than immediately dart left or right.

Given the ferocity of the stages, there’s potential for frustration, but Power Hover: Cruise is worth persevering with, because it feels so good when it all clicks and you blaze along on a winning run.

IAPs: New bots/vehicles, each with unique attributes (including, in some cases, handy extra lives), are available via IAP. Prices vary from 49p/99c to £8.99/$8.99. Any one purchase removes ads from the game. All unlockables can alternatively be won by hitting pre-defined high-scores.

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Power Hover: Cruise

Best free iPhone games: Power Hover: Cruise

Best free iPhone games: Power Hover: Cruise

26. Yokai Dungeon

The lantern festival is in full swing, and so of course yokai have crashed the place. They stomp about, being all weird and demon-like, flaunting the fact that precisely no-one invited them. It’s your job as a kind of ghostbusting fox to blast the yokai back into Japanese folklore, leaving everyone to enjoy their festival in peace.

There are no special ghost-obliterating contraptions in Yokai Dungeon – instead, you scoot about the place and shove objects at the roaming yokai, squashing them against walls. Deal with every yokai within an arena and coins shower down. Work your way through a number of levels, and you confront a massive boss that requires a few hits to kill.

With its cartoonish vibe and sleek controls, this is an excellent arcade effort. The basic gameplay recalls 1980s classic Pengo, and there’s a pinch of Bomberman within as well. And with randomly generated levels, loads of characters to unlock, and special items to equip, Yokai Dungeon stands more than a ghost of a chance of staying on your device for the long-term.

IAPs: 99p/99c removes all adverts, along with netting you additional goodies and a free continue. If you like the game, buy it, because ads appear quite often.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Yokai Dungeon

Best free iPhone games: Yokai Dungeon

Best free iPhone games: Yokai Dungeon

27. Tile Snap

In 2018, Ian MacLarty’s Dissembler kept us glued to the screen. It’s a puzzler about unraveling abstract works of art – kind of like a minimalist Bejeweled if every time you ‘matched three’, the matched items abruptly flew off of the screen. Tile Snap takes the same basic premise, adds wallpaper-like patterns the 1970s would be proud to call their own, and serves up the entire tasty dish for free.

Throughout, you kind of wonder what the catch is. This is properly premium puzzling for no outlay. The visuals are lovely, with each tile being distinct. The interaction and animation as you flip tile pairs is pitch-perfect. And, fortunately, the puzzles themselves are solid as well.

Ultimately, it’s all about thinking several moves ahead, making matches in the right order, so no tiles end up being isolated. But should that happen, Tile Snap doesn’t do anything as gauche as serve up ads so you can continue – it instead allows you unlimited undos so you can try a different set of steps.

This makes for a lean-back puzzler that provides a challenge, but that also allows you the chance to relax for a bit, rather than feeling like your brains are being smashed out by a brick.

IAPs: There are no ads, but you can support the game by buying hints. Each walks you through an entire level. Five cost 99p, 12 cost £1.99, and a one-off £2.99 payment gives you a new hint every day.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Tile Snap

Best free iPhone games: Tile Snap

Best free iPhone games: Tile Snap

28. -Cast-

This one starts you off on a four-by-four grid packed full of colourful cards. You select a starting point, and aim to work your way through an ever-replenishing deck. You pick up points by swiping to move over cards that match your colour, but much of the strategy lies in the picture cards.

One of the most important has two arrows. Grab that and your colour changes, allowing you to munch cards of the new hue. This is important, because move over a card that’s the wrong colour and your score starts dropping rather than rising. Beyond that, you’ll also have to grapple with cards that force you to move in a certain direction, bombs, and skulls of doom.

We’ve seen quite a few iPhone strategy titles based on moving about a tiny grid, and Cast is among the best of them. It’s simple to pick up and play, but has enough depth to keep you thinking up new strategies, and its colourful visuals are clear and smart. There is perhaps a bit too much of an emphasis on luck – but then that’s the nature of the beast when playing solitaire card games – even if Cast is a long way from the sort you’d play with a traditional deck.

IAPs: 79p/99c flips the ads out of sight, like an expert card shark.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download -Cast-

Best free iPhone games: Cast

Best free iPhone games: Cast

29. Shooty Quest

The Deadly Arrow can never catch a break. After vanquishing all the enemies of the realm, he retired with his faithful cat. Only fate intervened – after a shopping trip, Mr Arrow returns home to discover a smouldering ruin, no cat and the painted sigil of a rival kingdom.

Naturally, a substantial amount of shooty violence then permanently lodges in the hero’s mind as he sets out to find his cat and impale anyone who gets in his way. In each of the game’s 36 arenas, he sits dead centre as enemies flock towards him. Tap and you fire off an arrow. Easy!

Only it isn’t, because your reload speed isn’t instant, enemies come thick and fast, sometimes bouncing off hazards (that you cannot shoot through), and certain foes can only be harmed by specific weaponry.

In effect, the game becomes a frenetic juggling act, echoing single-screen shooters like Robotron, but demanding you off foes in a certain order – and with specific weapons you choose with a tap. That all this happens in real time is enough to give you palpitations.

With an endless arena level, RPG-style weapon upgrades, boss battles and multiple endings to discover, this is a fun, replayable arcade effort you’d be mad to not want a shot at.

IAPs: For £4.99/$4.99, you can remove the ads and double up how many coins you get on completing a level. Solid value if you enjoy the game.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Shooty Quest

Best free iPhone games: Shooty Quest

Best free iPhone games: Shooty Quest

30. PAKO Caravan

The original PAKO was a survival car chase game, like a stripped-back GTA with you always on the run. The sequel added Crazy Taxi-like destination challenges. They were both great.

The first freemium game in the series, PAKO Forever, didn’t work, though, reimagining the concept for portrait and making survival difficult to the point of frustration. This latest entry retains the series’ trademark “one mistake and you’re dead” thinking, but this time lays the blame at your own ineptitude rather than psychotic police cars diving in to smash you up.

The big change comes in shifting the main source of inspiration from police pursuit games to Snake. As you drive about claustrophobic landscapes peppered with obstacles, you run into collectables that increase the size of your caravan. As your caravan grows, you have to carve out increasingly labyrinthine pathways, leaping over your own trail to keep going.

The portrait set-up is great for two-thumbed play but – presumably intentionally – makes it tricky to see what’s coming. But PAKO Caravan’s colourful nature, varied levels (from mowing lawns to guiding a string of shopping trolleys around a store) and hidden secrets to find ensures it’s a more pleasurable experience than its direct predecessor, despite retaining a serious long-term challenge.

IAPs: Direct the ads away from your device for £3.99/$3.99.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download PAKO Caravan

Best free iPhone games: PAKO Caravan

Best free iPhone games: PAKO Caravan

31. Pico Hero

Pico looks like a tiny ninja, but beneath an outer layer of black fabric and mystery lies a heart of green. And that’s because this hardcore action hero is a friend of the Earth and animals alike.

Unfortunately, his idyllic life is rudely interrupted when a bunch of bad guys rock up at Pico Hero’s farm, lob a few explosives about, and make off with his animal chums. Just to prove they are bad guys, said chums are caged, and placed at the end of snaking desert landscapes and city streets. Your mission is to get them back. And also to plant loads of trees, using seeds scattered about the place.

In terms of action, Pico Hero approximates a twin-stick shooter from that point, although aiming and firing happens automatically. You’re therefore scooting the little guy about, avoiding incoming projectiles, dishing out wanton violence, and occasionally popping a seed in a convenient hole. Periodically, there are bosses to defeat, new weapons to master, and puzzles to solve.

There’s something slightly off about the controls, which feel a bit slippy. But if you can grapple with them, there’s loads of great game here, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. And if you find yourself having blazed through the entire thing, there’s a level editor for creating and sharing your own ninja-baiting challenges.

IAPs: A piffling 79p/99c eradicates ads that show up after a game, and nets you optional unlimited lives as well.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Pico Hero

Best free iPhone games: Pico Hero

Best free iPhone games: Pico Hero

32. Shadow Frog

Frogo’s lost in some caves, looking for a way out. Keys are littered about, and if Frogo finds three, he magically moves to the next cave. The snag: the walls and floors are littered with spikes. The other snag: as Frogo leaps around, his shadow is always in hot pursuit – and should it catch up, our jumpy hero becomes dead-o.

The controls here are entirely single-digit. Frogo automatically sprints and you tap to jump or, when Frogo is hanging on a ledge, have him climb. With careful timing, he can leap between walls like a slippery ninja.

Most of that you’ve seen before – although Shadow Frog’s basics are well executed. What sets the game apart is the shadow. With Frogo moving at speed, you must think ahead to not only avoid spikes and the odd roaming enemy, but also to ensure you don’t end up consumed by your spooky silhouette doppelgänger.

The going can be quite tough, what with the labyrinthine routes you often need to take – and the game recognises that. Fail too often and the shadow will be disabled for that level, to let you unlock the next – although the game coldly warns you you’re not getting a ‘proper’ score for such shadowless cheating. If only the protagonist had thought to pack a torch, he’d never have had such problems.

IAPs: Ads that sometimes appear after you die can be eradicated for £1.99/$1.99.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Shadow Frog

Best free iPhone games: Shadow Frog

Best free iPhone games: Shadow Frog

33. Zombie Goes Up

Poor zombie. It wants to bring about the zombie apocalypse, but has been buried deep beneath the earth. You must help this brave – if wannabe murdery – creature reach the surface, and presumably blink wide-eyed at all the Walking Dead merchandise littering the planet.

The controls are simple – prod the left or right half of the screen to have your auto-digging zombie head in that direction. But there’s more than dirt to get past in order to reach the surface. The ground is packed full of coffins (some are checkpoints; others are deadly), pipes, spikes and terrifyingly colossal underground beasties.

Hit anything you shouldn’t and you’re dead. Well, as dead as a zombie can be, given that zombies are already at the very least somewhat dead. At that point, you’ll need to start again. However, because levels in this game are fixed, previous failed attempts let you build a map of each level in your head, which is helpful for finding bonus bones used to build each stage’s skeleton.

Quite what the zombie’s then going to do with all those skeletons, we’ve no idea. Perhaps it should bone up on genuinely successful ways to bring about the zombie apocalypse rather than just winging it. Then again, it probably can’t read – zombies are known more for growling BRAINZZZZ than having actual brains.

IAPs: Want to devour the post-death ads forever? £2.99/$2.99 and you can.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Zombie Goes Up

Best free iPhone games: Zombie Goes Up

Best free iPhone games: Zombie Goes Up

34. Star Jolt

This brutal high-score chaser comes from the same school of hard knocks (and by ‘hard knocks’, we mean ‘very very hard games’) as Super Hexagon and Flappy Bird. In other words, it laughs in your face as your digits repeatedly fail you, ending games within mere seconds. But the compulsion loop is strong to the point that you’ll want to have another crack immediately.

The actual gameplay is extremely simple. You’re in a rocket ship blazing along a winding corridor. Brush the sides and you bounce playfully off of them. Hit an edge head-on and you explode. Game over. Said explosion is inevitable, given the snake-like corridor, and the twitchy slide controls. Your aim is during your brief seconds of life to scoop up as many blocks as possible with your ship.

All this is augmented by superb design: an old-school CRT effect that recalls ancient arcade games; endearingly silly nuggets of script; a jaunty tune bopping away in the background. Just be aware the game ramps up the frustration factor to the max – and may therefore cause your phone to end up having a journey of its own into a nearby wall.

IAPs: Ads show up after every few games – and given how rapidly you tend to die, they can irk. Remove them for £2.99.

For iPhone | Download Star Jolt

Best free iPhone games: Star Jolt

Best free iPhone games: Star Jolt

35. Zombie Football!

There’s an old joke that if American football players are so tough, why do they wear armour? A sensible answer (yawn!) suggests protection from injury – tackling often involves running at someone as hard as possible. But in this game, it’s to avoid being torn limb from limb. That’s because Zombie Football! has a field packed with the undead.

In fact, it packs the field with more than that. Instead of perfectly manicured grass, gloopy mud is everywhere. Cones fence off areas, forcing you down narrow pathways. (Comically, your tough footballer can’t just barge his way through.) There are occasional power-ups, too – speed-up arrows and food. Mostly, though, this game wants to stop you scoring a touchdown through your innards being torn from your shrieking form.

Clearly, it’s bonkers, but it really works. There’s a charm and an old-school sensibility here, which at once feels like the early days of the App Store, and also retro-gaming. Smart level design means you can’t just breeze your way through either; and even when you do beat the game, you can try for faster times.

There’s also a nasty surprise for any complacent virtual footballers: a ‘survive the arena’ minigame, where you run towards food power-ups in a walled-off arena, until inevitably overwhelmed by ravenous foes. Well, the crowd needs something to do at half-time.

IAPs: This game is free and has no IAPs or ads whatsoever.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Zombie Football

Best free iPhone games: Zombie Football!

Best free iPhone games: Zombie Football!

36. AI Dungeon

Back in the 1980s, text-based adventures were big business. Most were rubbish, randomly killing you for having the audacity to type in a command. But some titles – notably those by Infocom and Magnetic Scrolls – pioneered a kind of interactive storytelling that was clever and deeply immersive. AI Dungeon ambitiously attempts to match such creations, but does so on the fly.

You kick things off by selecting a basic setting, such as ‘fantasy’ or ‘apocalyptic’. If none of the options work for you, you can build a custom scenario by typing out a couple of opening sentences, and then jump right in.

Naturally, we decided to be an editor in the Macworld office, looking for a USB cable, while haunted by Jony Ive’s eyes. Because the AI is a bit unhinged, things quickly went weird. We found ourselves in a conference room with Tim Cook and “family members of those who died in the fire”, some of whom we were told were holding hands and “appear to be dead”.

Yeah, we’ve no idea either, but AI Dungeon excels at surreal and often hilarious (if sometimes chilling) weirdness. It’s like entering a dreamworld capable of (loosely) holding on to characters, objects, and ideas. You can only imagine the kinds of virtual adventures that will be possible as the system evolves.

IAPs: There are no IAPs within the game itself, but if you’d like to support AI Dungeon’s development, its creator has a Patreon.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download AI Dungeon

Best free iPhone games: AI Dungeon

Best free iPhone games: AI Dungeon

37. Total Party Kill

Sacrifices must be made, argues Total Party Kill. And that’s what happens in each level of this amusingly dark platform puzzler.

The aim is simply to escape single-screen dungeons. The snag is they’re full of spikes, and place exits inconveniently high up. Usually in this sort of game, you might move some boxes to make some steps. Here, the three heroes – a knight, a ranger, and a mage – reason they only have themselves to work with. And we mean that quite literally.

So from the off, you’ll use the mage to freeze a friend solid, thereby making a platform. Or the knight will dispatch a chum with a massive sword, propelling him across the screen to thump a switch. The ranger has a bow and arrow, and can pin one of the party to a wall. (Quite why he doesn’t use his seemingly extremely sturdy arrows to create impromptu ladders, we’ve no idea. Presumably, he’s a mean one.)

As you work your way through the game, the routes and puzzles become trickier, giving the logic area of your brain a thorough workout. But escape always brings a smile as the victor celebrates – while his cohorts hang or lie lifeless, or remain entombed in blocks of ice.

IAPs: There’s just one IAP here – you can remove the ads for £3.99/$3.99. They show up fairly often, and so if you don’t want to rob the game of momentum, splash out.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download Total Party Kill

Best free iPhone games: Total Party Kill

Best free iPhone games: Total Party Kill

38. OCO

The minimalism and refinement at the heart of platform game OCO is such you suspect Apple design guru Jony Ive would give it a polite nod, if he were into games. Its universe is one of subtle gradients and perfect shapes; its levels are single-screen creations, wrapped around a disc. The controls, too, are stripped right back – all you can do is tap to jump.

This might put you in mind of endless runners, but OCO is more cerebral at its core. Each level demands you grab a number of precisely placed collectibles – and they are the key to success. Each level therefore tasks you with finding the correct route through what becomes a kind of maze, perfectly timing jumps – which often align with a head-nodding background beat.

As you work your way through OCO, its world slowly reveals new ideas that force you to rethink how you play. End-of-level achievements for speed and fewest jumps add replay value to those tests you’ve otherwise completed.

On its own, this would be impressive enough, but OCO’s not nearly done. Work through its 135 levels, and you can keep going with daily challenges, and even a built-in level editor, where you can create your own OCO landscapes to share with an online community. Simple, beautiful, and engaging, OCO is ideally suited to iPhone.

IAPs: 99p/99c removes the ads. You can also buy gold bits for instantly unlocking level sets. 99p/99c gets you 2000. Pay £9.99/$9.99 and you get 50,000 – enough for everything in the game at the time of writing.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download OCO

Best free iPhone games: OCO

Best free iPhone games: OCO

39. Spaceteam

In multiplayer game Spaceteam, a star has inconveniently gone supernova near your ship, and you must outrun it to avoid being turned into space vapour. The tiny snag: whoever created the control panel for your craft was a sadist – and a slap-dash one at that.

Controls are unhelpfully spread across the screens of whoever’s playing, and instructions are dished out at a rate of knots. Instead of being able to blithely order “warp factor four” to an underling, you instead find yourself yelling “will someone please turn on the Spectrobolt?”, while frantically trying to deal with whatever orders are being barked nearby.

What starts out as controlled chaos rapidly turns into a total madhouse when the control panels start falling to bits, leaking green ooze, and replacing words with symbols. You’ll ponder that spandex-clad TV spaceship captains never had it this tough – but also that they never seemed to be having this much fun flying their ships either.

IAPs: A single £4.99 IAP unlocks a range of upgrades, including more challenges, symbols-only games, and a ship’s cat (for ‘companionship’).

For iPhone and iPad (Universal) | Download Spaceteam

Best free iPhone games: Spaceteam

Best free iPhone games: Spaceteam

40. VWLS

THS GM S LL BT WRDS. If you understood that previous sentence, you’ll probably do rather well at VWLS, a word game that strips the vowels from themed words – and then invites you to put them back.

Each level gives you a simple clue, such as “barn is my home”, and then provides several sets of scrambled consonants. On selecting one, it’s placed into the main work area, and you can move the letters around, dragging vowels into place once you figure out the word you’re trying to construct.

It’s a simple concept – but also a sneaky one. You’ll blaze through the first few puzzles, wondering what all the fuss is about. Soon enough, though, the clues get a little more cryptic and the words you’re tasked with finding become a touch more obscure.

VWLS doesn’t break your brains to the point of a tricky newspaper crossword, but there will be times when you’ll juggle a smallish set of letters, flummoxed as to the combination you need to turn it into something that doesn’t sound like a zombie trying to get its point across. Naturally, you’ll then feel like a genius on cracking it – only to be faced with another half dozen tiny PZZLS.

IAPs: The game spells out two IAP options: £7.99/$7.99 nets you 400 extra puzzles, 100 hints and removes the ads; or you can just remove the ads for £1.99/$1.99. If you like the game, go for the former, because the extra puzzle packs on their own come in at the same price if you buy them all.

For iPad & iPhone (Universal) | Download VWLS

Best free iPhone games: VWLS

Best free iPhone games: VWLS

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