July's iOS games
If you’re out and about a lot this summer, then you might be in need of some new games to play on your iPhone. You never know when you’ll need a moment in the shade to unwind and cool down, and a great new game can make that moment even more enjoyable.
Luckily, July brought a nice bounty of big and entertaining iPhone and iPad games, headlined by Gameloft’s glossy racing offering, Asphalt 9: Legends. Beyond that freemium gem, there’s also alluring indie game Holedown, location-based augmented reality blaster The Walking Dead: Our World, peculiar Japanese role-playing game Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2, and quite a bit more worth checking out.
Read through for 10 of the month’s top picks, and be sure to flip through June’s list if you’re looking for further options.
Asphalt 9: Legends (Free)
After five years, Gameloft’s long-awaited sequel to the fantastic Asphalt 8: Airborne is finally here—and early on, Asphalt 9: Legends is every bit the fast, fun, and flashy sequel we’ve been looking for. Asphalt 9 doesn’t break at all from the series’ core approach of sending speedy cars barreling across race tracks, all while grabbing huge air and smashing up rivals.
What’s new here is an optional, super-streamlined TouchDrive control mode that handles the steering while you focus on drifting and boosting, plus there are 70 new tracks, fresh play modes, and plenty of unlockables. Asphalt 9 is also stunning: With fluid animation and loads of detail and effects, it’s easily one of the best-looking games on iPhone and iPad.
Swedish studio Grapefrukt Games has produced a pair of minimal, mobile knockouts in recent years with both Twofold Inc. and Rymdkapsel, and we can go ahead and add the tantalizing new Holedown to that list. Holedown recalls brick-breaking classics like Breakout and Arkanoid, but instead of using a paddle to slap a ball at floating blocks, you’re launching balls deep below the surface of uncharted planets and watching them bounce freely.
Each block requires a certain number of bounces to be cleared, so your goal is to fire the balls and hope they ping-pong around enough to keep the gradually-rising blocks from going over the line. A clever progression system keeps you inching ahead with improved skills and new planets to discover, making Holedown a tough game to put down.
The Walking Dead: Our World (Free)
We’re finally seeing location-based Pokémon Go clones emerge on the App Store, and following the recent ho-hum Jurassic World Alive, now The Walking Dead: Our World is here to deliver augmented reality zombie-blasting. And as we found out during our hands-on testing earlier this month, it’s actually surprisingly compelling.
You won’t be capturing the undead invaders, Pokémon-style. Instead, your real-world map is populated by missions, and when you run into zombies, they’re projected onto your surroundings via ARKit—and put in the line of sight of your favorite firearm. The effect is sometimes impressive and sometimes awkward—that’s AR for you—but even if you turn AR off, Our World is an amusing out-and-about diversion.
Motorsport Manager 3 Mobile ($4)
Asphalt 9 is all about white-knuckle, wreck-inducing racing thrills, but as the title suggests, Motorsport Manager 3 Mobile puts you firmly on the sidelines. You’re not the driver behind the wheel, but rather the glue that keeps your racing team together—or perhaps the lubricant that ensures that the organization fires on all cylinders.
As with past games, MM3M is a comprehensive simulation and a top-to-bottom experience: It’s everything but the actual racing, really. You’ll assemble the team, invest in new car technology and facility upgrades, tinker with race strategy, and even direct drivers on the track. It’s a meaty, detail-oriented game that’s well-primed for armchair motorsport gurus.
Teen Titans Go! Figure ($4)
If you’re psyched about this weekend’s big-screen release of Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, then you might also get a kick out of the new Teen Titans Go! Figure game for iPhone and iPad. It’s actually a sequel to 2016’s well-reviewed Teeny Titans game, but if you didn’t play the original, you don’t have to worry about looping back: Just start right here.
As in the past game, this collectable-fueled brawler finds you amassing little digital action figures based on the DC Comics heroes, which you’ll use in simple battles against foes. It’s a richer role-playing experience than you might expect, with a Pokémon/Pocket Mortys sort of allure to it. For that matter, the bright look and surprisingly funny dialogue are absolutely spot-on.
Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2 (Free)
The Shin Megami Tensei role-playing game franchise enjoys a devoted following on consoles and handhelds (especially the Persona sub-series), and now the free-to-play Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2 brings the essence of the demon-battling experience to mobile.
It’s an odd one, for sure. You play as a Devil Downloader, someone who is able to summon demons via a smartphone app—and the creatures themselves are incredibly varied. Better yet, they have unique personalities, and you’ll have to negotiate with them in conversation to add them to your party. Once done, however, Dx2 lets you take them into turn-based fights either within the story mode or online against other players.
Sega’s game has familiar freemium annoyances along the way, but it’s packed with style and gloss, and really does bring a nice chunk of the beloved SMT experience to iOS.
Absolute Drift ($3)
Here’s another driving game that’s not focused on racing at all. Absolute Drift is all about you, your car, and your ability to whip that ride around tight turns without bashing it into the nearest wall, or knocking over the stacks of tires that inevitably line the trickiest curves.
It’s called the “Zen Edition,” but that prospective level of meditative bliss seems far out of reach at first. Drifting is an acquired skill in Absolute Drift, and you’ll inevitably practice time and again in the early stages, training missions, and free-roam playground to get a hang of the mechanics. But once you’re competent enough, Absolute Drift’s beautifully minimal stages really draw you in with their devious challenges.
Nishan Shaman (Free)
Rhythm games are ideal for touch devices, given the ease of tapping to songs and the immediacy of doing so on the screen, and Nishan Shaman is another great example. Developed by university grads from Chinese gaming giant Tencent, Nishan Shaman puts a folklore spin on the genre, telling the ancient tale of a reindeer shaman.
As that shaman, you’ll roam the land warding off evil spirits by tapping your drum—and conveniently, the flying foes attack in time with the beat. Given that, each level takes on a musical edge as you defeat spirits and survive the gauntlet. Nishan Shaman is beautifully drawn, with rich illustrations and compelling cinematics, and while short it’s entirely free. You won’t find any surprise in-app purchases here.
Mayhem Combat (Free)
Not in the mood for subtlety or nuance in your games this month? Maybe Mayhem Combat will fit the bill instead. Vivid Games’ brawler focuses on button-mashing brawls, taking cues from Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series as you face off against other online players or work your way through campaign missions against A.I. opponents.
It’s all about smashing the competition and being the last player standing, and while the depth of the combat leaves a lot to be desired, the ability to pummel random online foes is nice—especially with up to 10 players in a match. The characters are about as imaginative as the title—so, not very—plus the cartoonish visual style strongly recalls Fortnite, but Mayhem Combat still delivers quick, chaotic fun.
Galak-Z: Variant Mobile (Free)
Galak-Z: Variant Mobile hearkens back to the early era of giant robot anime series like Macross and Gundam, with visual and storytelling styles that strongly recall those early 1980s classics. In practice, Galak-Z is an exploration-driven space shooter, in which you guide your mech suit through the stars and into planetary caverns to blast threats, recover items, and more.
This Variant Mobile edition is a sequel to the earlier Galak-Z: The Dimensional game available on Mac, PC, and PlayStation 4, and it’s definitely streamlined—it doesn’t have the bite or complexity of the earlier game, which is probably better for compact devices and on-the-go play sessions anyway. But at least the strong sense of anime-inspired flair remains intact.