March's iOS games
March was a huge month for iOS game releases, as two of the world’s most popular PC and console games made their way to iPhone and iPad—and the core games are nearly identical to each other, to boot. Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds both brought their raucous 100-player online shootouts to iOS this month, and they both play impressively well on touch.
Looking for something different? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: March also delivered such highlights as Part-Time UFO, The Sims Mobile, .projekt, and more, and we’ve highlighted 10 of the month’s top iOS releases in the slides ahead. And if you need a few more options, be sure to check out February’s picks as well.
Fortnite is the biggest game in the world right now. In February alone, the free-to-play battle royale sensation racked up $126 million from in-game purchases and gained plenty of mainstream attention all the while. Also, it’s super fun—and now it’s available on iOS.
It was originally invite-only, which didn't stop Fortnite from topping the App Store charts upon release, but as of today it's freely downloadable by anyone with a compatible device. You’ll battle to be the last player standing from a group of 100 on a large island, and beyond simply shooting rivals, you can also build structures on the fly to aid in your survival. It’s impressive how well Fortnite plays even on a compact iPhone screen.
PUBG Mobile (Free)
On the other hand, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was the biggest game of last year until Fortnite stole its thunder, although it’s still plenty huge today. It also hit iOS in March, and unlike the paid PC and console releases, it's free-to-play. Impressively, it looks and plays exactly like its big brother despite the change.
PUBG Mobile, as it’s called, is a more traditional and realistic-looking battle royale entry. It’s still you against the pack of 99 other online players, but it lacks the cartoonish look and rapid building of Fortnite. It’s a slightly slower-paced survival experience as a result, but even so, PUBG has made the move to mobile surprisingly intact. And you don’t need an invite to start playing this one.
The Sims Mobile (Free)
Speaking of huge games making their way to iPhone and iPad: The Sims is one of the most popular series of all time, and now The Sims Mobile has arrived to take the place of the years-old Sims FreePlay. The Sims Mobile is another free-to-play take on the beloved life simulation, but it’s closer to The Sims 4 on Mac/PC in approach and style.
As ever, you’ll customize and take control of little humans as they take on jobs, build up their homes, and embark on friendships and relationships. You'll find some freemium timers in the mix, but you can also manually complete tasks to speed them along. We went hands-on before launch and found The Sims Mobile to be an effective rendition of the classic series, at least in the early hours—longer-term play could prove grindy.
Part-Time UFO ($4)
HAL Laboratory has built massive Nintendo games like Kirby and Super Smash Bros, but Part-Time UFO is something new and original—and also charming and compact. It’s essentially a digital take on the arcade crane game, but instead of fishing around to try and win a stuffed animal, you’ll use your UFO’s crane to transport items and solve puzzles.
Early on, that means loading oranges onto a truck or assembling pillars to build a structure, but the premise expands widely to the point of stacking cheerleaders, constructing lavish deserts, and even arranging Tetris-style pieces. Part-Time UFO is tough but thankfully endearing, and it recalls some of the zanier Nintendo handheld gems from over the years.
Marvel Strike Force (Free)
The hype around Avengers: Infinity War is building, and ahead of the film’s release, Marvel has dropped yet another game onto the App Store: Marvel Strike Force. It’s a turn-based, team-centric brawler that strikes more than a passing resemblance to Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and DC Legends in that you form a squad of heroes and take it into battle.
Strike Force offers access to more than 60 comic heroes, including Spider-Man, Black Widow, and Wolverine, although you’ll have to unlock them gradually. The actual combat is as simple as waiting your turn and tapping an attack or ability button, so this is more of a time-killer than a deep, strategic, action-packed experience. At least it’s incredibly attractive.
Kyrylo Kuzyk’s previous game, Evo Explores, was a thinly-veiled “tribute” to Monument Valley, but thankfully, .projekt strikes a much more original tone. It’s another puzzle game, but instead of exploring environments filled with impossible architecture, you’ll place blocks in a pattern so that their shadows match the pattern on a nearby wall. Actually, it’s two walls.
That means that each block must be perfectly positioned in the center to project the correct shadow on both walls, which requires a bit of logic and perhaps some trial-and-error fiddling. It’s pretty easy at first, but .projekt’s challenges should start poking and prodding your brain before too long—in a good way, of course.
Read Only Memories: Type-M (Free)
We dug this cyberpunk adventure when it first released on Mac a few years ago, and now Read Only Memories: Type-M feels right at home on iPhone and iPad as well. Set in Neo-San Francisco in 2064, Read Only Memories highlights the creation of the first sapient robot, who escapes from the lab and recruits your journalist hero to try and help it track down its creator.
You’ll unravel the conspiracy by investigating scenes and talking with bystanders in traditional adventure genre fashion, and the futuristic world and colorful characters make Read Only Memories highly appealing. This mobile version lacks the voice acting of the other editions, but it’s also much cheaper: After the free first chapter, it’s just $6 to unlock the rest.
Shadowgun Legends (Free)
The Shadowgun series has produced some of the most striking console-quality shooters on mobile, and the new Shadowgun Legends definitely continues that trend. While Fortnite and PUBG Mobile fight it out for the battle royale crown, Shadowgun Legends takes a very different blast-happy inspiration: Bungie’s sci-fi shooter favorite, Destiny.
Legends includes a campaign mode packed with 200+ quests, plus you can hop online with pals for co-op missions and raids to amass fresh loot. Add in competitive multiplayer action and Shadowgun Legends seems lavishly designed, impressively polished, and packed to the gills with content. Hopefully the freemium model doesn’t prove frustrating.
Here’s another Mac favorite that just made the leap to the App Store. Armello is a video game built with the feel of a board game without rigidly following the look of a real, physical game. It’s a turn-based game in which you’ll explore beautiful lands, amass a crew, fight enemies, and attempt to rule the titular land—and you can play by yourself or online against real opponents.
It’s uniquely monetized, too. The base game is free, although you have a limited selection of characters, and you can play as much as you’d like without spending a thing. If you choose, you can buy (and keep) in-game elements for fixed fees, or spend for a monthly subscription and unlock everything (but lose it if you stop paying). Your call on that, but if you dig tabletop games and role-players, Armello seems well worth a look.
Bandai Namco’s Tekken has been a force in fighting games for more than two decades now, but previous mobile entries went on curious tangents ranging from collectable card-battling to bowling. But now there’s a mobile Tekken that looks and feels much like the button-mashing originals, albeit streamlined pretty significantly for touch.
The end result plays a lot like the fun Marvel Contest of Champions, delivering a fluid fighting experience without a whole bunch of virtual on-screen buttons. You’ll swipe on one side of the screen to dash back and forth, and tap and hold on the other to launch attacks. It’s polished and effective, and Tekken does a nice job of keeping the big-game feel on much smaller screens.