With the chaos of the holidays slowly subsiding into the background, you’ve finally got a few moments to catch your breath and unwind a bit before getting back to the grind of your normal routine. We can’t think of a better time to kick up your feet, crack open the packaging on that fresh new iOS device you were luck enough to receive from a thoughtful friend or relation, and load that baby up with some heavy-duty games.
But which games? There are quite a few them, as just a glance at Apple’s overstocked App Store will tell you. Don’t worry, though—we’re here to make your life easier. If you’re the proud new owner of the latest iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch models, we’ve found nine games that take advantage of the innovations Apple has built into its iOS offerings. From artsy indies and frenetic arcade action to role-playing game geekery and brain teasing fun, these apps are must-have additions to your mobile device. (Note that the listed prices reflect the regular cost of downloading these apps, and that prices may go up and down depending on holiday sales.)
A geeky college student’s trek to catalogue magical flowers turns into a hilarious and utterly charming quest to liberate the island’s mechanical inhabitants from their oppressive spirit overlords in this bizarre, beautifully designed adventure from BitMonster. Defeating mask-adorned foes by chasing them down and ripping flowers off their back is as oddly compelling a pursuit as the game’s pleasantly peculiar character interactions.
Lili: $2, compatible with iPhone 4 and later, fourth-generation iPod touch and later, and iPad 2 and later
Micro meets macro in an abstract real-time strategy game from Omni Systems that blends a minimalistic, zen-inducing art style with world conquering battles. Exploring galaxies and populating planets to grow your seedling species is a calm affair at first, but as conflicts arise and battles between planetary bodies ensues, your intergalactic adversaries amply prove they’re no pushovers. Let the colonization wars begin!
Eufloria HD: $5, compatible with iPhone 3GS and later, third-generation iPod touch and later, and iPad
As maddeningly addictive as it is brutally challenging, Super Hexagon’s fast-paced arcade puzzle action has you dodging deadly walls that close in around you in a constantly cycling geometric doom vortex. Your average run may only last a dozen seconds in Terry Cavanagh’s game, but a catchy chiptune soundtrack and simple yet absorbing gameplay make this intense retro puzzler a tough one to put down.
Super Hexagon: $3, compatible with iPhone 3GS and later, third-generation iPod touch and later, and iPad
Stringing together words from stacks of random letters to earn points and clear blocks from the screen is a lot more exciting when your every move bumps the precarious tower higher and higher. Keeping the stack from hitting the top requires some careful strategizing and smart wordplay, but it’s the pressure-cooker nature of this brainy beast that’ll keep you playing Zach Gage’s SpellTower.
SpellTower: $2, compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Minecraft – Pocket Edition
Now that Mojang finally updated its iOS game to include a survival mode and more cool items to craft, the pocket edition of Minecraft is a must-download app for on-the-go tinkering. Whether you’re scavenging for materials to build things with, battling dangerous nocturnal creepers, mining deep underground, or erecting mighty castles, this blocky first-person sandbox offers a one-of-a-kind experience to play around in.
Minecraft — Pocket Edition: $7, compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
A captivating point-and-click adventure with RPG elements and plenty of style, this pixel perfect indie offering from Capybara tells a fascinating story of a lady-warrior and her canine companion as they embark on an ill-fated journey. Unusual ties to the in-game lunar cycle, neat character interactions, and some clever timing-based combat sequences round out the fun in this thought provoking interactive tale.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP: $5, compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad
Infinity Blade II
Aside from being one of the most visually stunning iOS games available, Infinity Blade II’s innovative sword fighting combat system is further refined in this story and action-driven sequel. Dueling against towering foes tests your reflexes as you execute carefully timed dodges, parries, and counterattacks to deal maximum damage with each blow. Delivering the sword-swinging smackdown has never been more satisfying in Chair Entertainment’s combat game.
Infinity Blade II: $6, compatible with iPhone 3GS and later, third-generation iPod touch and later, and iPad
Asphalt 7: Heat
An abundance of high speeds and flashy cars give Asphalt 7: Heat’s arcade-style street racing lots of horsepower. But looks aren’t the only thing about Gameloft’s racing offering. The game’s tilt steering controls are a responsive, fun way to play, and with tons of racers to unlock and lots of events to challenge through, you won’t find a slicker street racing. Fire up those engines and put the pedal to the floor.
Spooky and full of atmosphere, The Room is a mysterious puzzler that revolves around a locked safe sitting in the center of a single dark room. Initially scouring every inch of its surface for clues on how to open that safe deepens the mystery with increasingly elaborate physics puzzles. Things get creepier and stranger the more time you spent digging deeper into the room’s secrets. While this version works only on the iPad, developer Fireproof Gams also makes The Room Pocket for iPhone gamers. Find out for yourself why Macworld named this one of the top iOS apps of 2012.
The Room: $2, compatible with iPad 2 and later