The best of the best
On Tuesday, the App Store editors announced 2016’s best apps and games for iOS devices, alongside popular music, TV, and movie picks from Apple Music and the iTunes Store. Looks like 2016 was quite the year for Apple entertainment. Did your favorite apps and games make the list? Here’s the full rundown.
Prisma (free, iPhone) burst on the scene this year as everybody’s favorite photo app, letting users transform their photos into images that look more like paintings and drawings, with dozens of different styles to choose from. Want to see how your selfie looks as an impressionist painting? As medieval Japanese art? As a bit of psychedelia? This app is for you. Apple’s App Store editors say this is the App of the Year—and call it “too cool for words.”
MSQRD (free, iPhone and iPad) lets you record video selfies (to be shared on social networks, or as live video) and adds Snapchat-style effects, turning your face into a monkey or Hillary Clinton, say, or enlarging your eyes beyond normal. The effects are occasionally terrifying, admittedly, but it’s also hard to put down.
News apps proliferate all the time, but Quartz launched this year with a truly fresh approach: News as SMS-style messaging. “We’ll send you messages, photos, GIFs, and links, and you can decide when you’re interested in reading more,” the makers said when it launched. Say the App Store editors: “Using Quartz feels like a conversation with a well-read friend.”
C’mon, Vogue. (free, iPhone) Billed as “the only fashion app you’ll ever need,” this app provides daily doses of fashion, beauty, runway and celebrity style and more. The App Store editors say, “sometimes we can’t help just diving in and gorging on page after page of sharp writing, breathtaking photos, and stunning clothes.”
Meditation Studio ($4, iPhone) Get yer ommmmmmm on. This app lets you explore curated collections of guided meditation sessions. You can mix and match to create your own path to enlightenment. Say the App Store editors: “These bright, newbie-friendly guided sessions help us fine-tune our equilibrium.”
Detour (freemium, iPhone) offers “immersive audio walks through the world’s most interesting places”—basically, guided walking tours of some of the world’s great cities (the San Francisco download costs $25) and neighborhoods (the Haight walk, meanwhile, costs a closer-to-average $5). The App Store editors weigh in: “It’s augmented reality for the savvy traveler.”
Credit Karma (free, iPhone) lets you monitor your credit score and reports for free; it also lets you dispute errors on your credit report, and sends you alerts about big changes to your credit-worthiness. The App Store editors say it will “help you immediately steer your finances back on track.”
Glasses by Warby Parker
Glasses by Warby Parker (free, iPhone and iMessage) lets you shop for inexpensive-but-stylish glasses and sunglasses with free shipping and returns. The App Store editors: “Being able to deliver five pairs of glasses to our door for a free home trial makes it a crystal clear winner.”
Hyper (free, iPhone, iPad, iMessage, Apple TV) “cuts through the junk” and publishes one great video—from a variety of sources around the Internet—every hour, letting users see the coolest stuff and disregard the rest. The App Store editors call it a “slick and beautiful magazine of movement.”
Tinycards (free, iPhone and iPad) comes from the makers of Duolingo, and lets you create flash cards—or pick from ready-made decks—to test and improve your memory on whatever topic you choose. “You’ll find country capitals, vocabulary in different languages, history, constellations, hat styles, you name it!” Your favorite decks can be shared with friends.
The makers of Clash of Clans topped themselves in 2016 with the App Store’s Game of the Year: Clash Royale, (freemium, iPhone and iPad) a multiplayer battle game that combines fighting and deck-building skills to create a fast-paced contest against the kings of the realm. Macworld games columnist Andrew Hayward called it “free-to-play done right.” App Store editors: “Undeniably fun.”
Choose-your-own-adventure storytelling meets Tindr meets gameplay: Reigns ($3, iPhone and iPad) installs you as, ahem, the king of the realm and poses a series of decisions to you—swipe left or right to choose your path as you attempt to balance the needs of the church, the people, the army, and the treasury. But look out! Hidden treachery awaits. “This game absolutely floored us,” the App Editors say.
Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes
Here’s another franchise that keeps finding new ways to bring the fun. Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes (freemium, iPhone and iPad) is a deck-building game that sets you out on a journey of discovery. And for the first time on mobile, you can choose to play as either plants or zombies. Macworld: “It’s a lot of a fun, and a much-savvier-than-expected extension of PopCap’s fantastic series.” App Store editors: “The humor is plentiful and the animation is wonderful.”
Twofold inc. ($4, iPhone and iPad) is one of the more interesting entries in the genre of game we might as well call “Zen puzzler.” The makers say: “Scroll the playfield to unravel the tiles, then make a path to clear them away. … The minimalist visuals hide a depth that will keep schallenging and surprising as you master it.” The App Store editors call it a mix of Threes, Bejeweled and Tetris, adding: “You’ll be amazed at the polish.” We agree, adding that it’s a “delightfully designed” puzzler.
Riptide GP: Renegade
Prepare for thrills in Riptide GP: Renegade ($3, iPhone and iPad). The game lets you experience the fun of “illicit hydrojet racing”—all the more fun because you can’t really experience it in real life. “Fast and Furious” meets, well, water. And jets. “On Apple TV, it’s our 2016 Game of the Year,” the App Store editors say.
FIFA Mobile Soccer
FIFA Mobile Soccer (freemium, iPhone and iPad) lets you play “football” with more than 30 leagues, 650 teams, and 17,000 players, all taken from real life. You can even build your own team with a goooooooooooal of creating a champion. This year’s big new feature: “Attack mode,” in which you only play your attacking possessions against opponents, in 75-second bursts. The App Store editors say the new feature offers “the best part of soccer gaming.”
Rodeo Stampede - Sky Zoo Safari
Rodeo Stampede - Sky Zoo Safari (freemium, iPhone, iPad, and iMessage.) Let’s just let the App Store editors have their say: “Most of us could ride a real-life bull for a few seconds tops. So bounding from animal to animal across a raging stampede is impossible fun, bolstered by easy one-touch control and tricky challenges. The tycoon side of the game—where you build a zoo for the cuddly creatures you’ve befriended—brings the experience full circle with some light, diverting strategy.” Our take: If you like Crossy Road, you’ll love Rodeo Stampede.
Klocki ($1, iPhone and iPad) is another relaxing puzzle game—you rearrange tiles so that a single line runs throughout the structure—with calm music backing the gameplay. App Store editors call it “absorbing.”
Steppy Pants (freemium, iPhone, iPad, and iMessage) bill itself as “the most realistic walking simulator you’ll play this year!” Sounds goofy, but gameplay is challenging: Avoid stepping on cracks while avoiding reckless drivers. The App Store editors conclude: “This hysterical mash-up of Flappy Bird and Crossy Road is sly, silly, and mesmerizing.”
If The Trail (freemium, iPhone and iPad) reminds you a bit of the old “Oregon Trail” game, but with better graphics, you’re not alone. The aim of this game? “Set forth to reach the town of Eden Falls—explore, craft, collect, trade, discover, and eventually settle and build.” The good news? You’re unlikely to die of dysentery. The App Store editors say: “The true stars of this game are the amazing vistas and stirring soundtrack.” We weren’t as impressed, but you should try it yourself.