Thousands of the best free iPhone and iPad games are available to download for free. The sheer selection is part of the reason the iPhone is among the top phones on sale today.
The snag is that many are awful to the point they’d be an embarrassment on a 1980s home computer – or packed with enough freemium gunk to suffocate a hippo. However, the standouts are some of the best free games around for mobile. That’s what we’re interested in at Stuff: the very best iPhone and iPad games to play today!
To help you find your next mobile obsession, we outline our new favourites below and then group older choices into sections, starting with racers, ending with puzzlers and taking in pretty much everything you can imagine on the way.
The best new free iPhone and iPad game to download today is…
Coolson’s Pocket Pack
Chocolate letters fall into a well. It’s your job to sort them into packages of various sizes, ensuring the finished items always spell out a word. Because candy is educational. Or something.
The trick is to rack up massive scores by chaining packages, which means never throwing a letter back into the stack. And, of course, if the stack hits the top of the well, it’s game over.
A simple concept, perfectly executed. And if you like it, the same creator offers an equally tasty treat in the form of the similar but deeper Coolson’s Chocolate Alphabetfor iPad. Nom.
Asphalt 9: Legends
There’s a point where arcade racers lose all connection with reality – and they’re all the better for it. Asphalt isn’t bothered by trivial concerns such as an actual car’s inability to fly hundreds of metres through the air, or drift endlessly around gloriously sweeping bends; instead, it’s all about zooming around beautifully rendered and inventive courses, occasionally smashing rivals into a wall, just because you can.
It’s shoppy and grindy, and by default doesn’t even have you steer. Instead, you time actions and select your route. But it works wonderfully, providing many hours of exhilarating racing, making it one of the best free games without you having to dip into your wallet.
It’s possible Data Wing is the biggest bargain on mobile. If there was any justice, someone would glue it to the top of the freebie games charts forever. And yet it all seems so simple at first – a top-down racer, where you zoom about minimalist circuits, gaining speed from scraping track edges.
But the racing’s only part of what’s soon revealed as an expansive neon-infused adventure, featuring a deranged AI, a world that exists beyond the screen, and gravity-battling sections that recall classic 8-bit title Thrust. There are no ads, and no IAPs – just hours of enjoyable arcade action peppered with thoughtful, clever narrative.
Beach Buggy Racing 2
For whatever reason, kart racers don’t have a good track record on iPhone and iPad, either having the speed and staying power of a Sinclair C5, or just being rubbish – like a Sinclair C5. Beach Buggy Racing 2 is a bit different.
From the off, the game properly belts along. Its lush visuals are bright and breezy. One course features a beach with giant crabs you can send flying with a bash; another has a huge dragon keen on turning you into a flambé special.
There’s grind and the odd difficulty spike; and the lack of cups is frustrating – you get just two races to choose from at any given moment. But otherwise this is right now the closest you’ll get to Mario Kart-style larks on your iPhone.
Disc Drivin’ 2
Surprise! It turns out one of the best freebie racers on Apple devices doesn’t feature cars and is turn-based. In Disc Drivin’ 2, it’s you against online opponents, flicking your disc around deviously designed courses suspended in space. You get up to two swipes per turn, and some handy boost power, to blaze past your foe, and then wait a bit to see how they respond.
It all sounds very odd, we’re sure, but Disc Drivin’ 2 is tense and compelling. And for those moments when you just want to barrel along for a bit, rather than waiting for someone else to take their turn, there are speedrun challenges and daily collect ’em up races.
In short, this unconventional mash-up of shove ha’penny and Wipeout really hits the mark.
Rocket League Sideswipe
Super Arcade Football
The best footie game ever is of course Sensible World of Soccer, and this freebie is the closest you’re going to get to it on an iPhone. Dinky players sprint about a pitch, booting the ball about in pinball fashion. Realism? Pah. But the game’s energy neatly recreates what you feel football to be like when you play.
Like the Sensi games, this one’s tongue is firmly in cheek. Some mean-spirited cut scenes are a mis-step, but otherwise it makes you grin with absurd pitch customisation (mud pits; meteor strikes) or the manner in which game have almost as much violence as Speedball 2, with the refs surprisingly reticent to hand out cards. A funny old game, then? Yep – but a playable and frequently exciting one too.
Super Stickman Golf 3
Super Stickman Golf 3’s ancestor is the same Apple II Artillery game Angry Birds has at its core, but Noodlecake’s title is a lot more fun than catapulting birds around, making it one of the best free games around.
It’s a larger-than-life side-on mini-golf extravaganza, with you thwacking balls about giant forests, space stations distinctly lacking in gravity, and strange fortresses with a suspiciously high deadly laser count.
The single-player game’s fun, but SSMG 3 comes into its own in multiplayer, whether you’re taking the more sedate turn-by-turn route or ball-smacking at speed in the frenetic race mode. Note that the free version has some restrictions (limited courses; fewer simultaneous turn-based games), but there’s still plenty of genuinely crazy golf here to take a swing at.
What a hazard: Deep Golf
If frenetic golfing shenanigans lead to you having heart palpitations, try Deep Golf instead. Its zen-like action takes place deep underground, on procedurally generated cartoonish courses as you swing and putt your way to the centre of the Earth.
Pumped BMX Flow
Following on from previous entries in the Pumped BMX series, Flow finds your frantically pedalling protagonist soaring into the air by way of ludicrously high ramps, in order to perform all manner of show-off stunts – and then ideally landing safely (i.e. not on their head) to do it all again and again.
In fact, Flow has procedurally generated tracks that can potentially go on forever – although even if you get really good, your fingers are going to give out at some point. Still, this is a BMX racer you can get properly ‘zen’ with, chilling out with courses that stretch into the infinite.
Pocket Run Pool
Smacking balls around a real pool table can be pretty great. In gaming, the experience is often ruined by the computer opponent, given that its ‘brain’ can calculate perfect shots in a fraction of the time it takes you to blink. Pocket Run Pool deftly deals with this by eradicating opponents entirely, leaving a solo effort based on maths, strategy, and quite a lot of aiming.
The game’s played top-down, on a minimal table. Pockets have multipliers. Points are awarded on the basis of ball number x pocket multiplier; and when each ball is pocketed, multipliers rotate, meaning you must plan ahead to get the best score. In all, this is a really smart spin on pool for the solo player on the move.
Kitty Death Room
We’re not sure what’s going on with the kitty in this platform puzzler, but things look grim – for the cat. Each smallish level is packed with deadly traps, and the heroic moggie needs to reach an exit. This often requires the kitty eat green pellets that allow it to expel ghost-like versions of itself, which can then be used as platforms.
If that’s not weird enough, spooky between-level areas involve cryptic chats with spectral folks – and bring yet more opportunities for death. Although death is not the end – you have endless attempts to reach the goal.
All of which suggests the kitty might be battling its way through a terrifying feline purgatory. Still, you’ll have fun in this tough mobile cracker, even if the cat’s regularly going splat.
Super Mombo Quest
You get the sense this speedy platformer isn’t taking itself seriously on realising its madcap hero can stick to walls using its massive tongue. That’s a pretty grim superpower, but the game’s a delight.
You make your way through interconnected levels across an expansive map, grabbing gems and jumping on enemies. But this is more than Mario welded to Metroid.
Each level challenges you to attain the coveted Mombo Combo by dispatching enemies at speed. There are deranged boss battles (giant laser cats!), alternate mombo forms, and tons of secrets to find. For free, it’s a steal – as, frankly, is the premium mode (no ads; play online) at under a fiver.
Super Cat Tales 2
In time-honoured videogame tradition, evil aliens have invaded and only the cats can save us! Or something. Well, at least it makes a change from implausibly indestructible muscle-bound hulks.
With its chunky retro pixels and old-school platforming action, you might initially think a hitherto unknown 16-bit classic has scrabbled into your iPhone. But in fact, Super Cat Tales 2 is modern in its approach and is one of the best free games around.
Levels are short but smart, encouraging mobile play and repeat attempts. Best of all, you can dash, leap, wall-jump, and blow up aliens using massive yellow tanks, all by using the clever two-thumb control system. It baffles at first (argh: muscle memory!), but when mastered makes you wish every virtual D-pad would be destroyed at the claws of a very angry cat.
It’s hard to see how platform games could get any more minimal than OCO. This one’s stripped back to the point even Jony Ive might suggest adding additional textures. But OCO does an awful lot with a little, resulting in a beautiful, engaging game.
Each of its circular single-screen levels has you gather up floating bling (this is still a platform game, after all), and make for an exit. The snag: you automatically move and can only tap to jump. This forces you to think carefully about the route you’ll take, and make cunning use of power-ups.
Add to that a level editor, procedurally generated audio, and eye-popping visuals reminiscent of modern art, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
It’s Full of Sparks
A firecracker’s life is brief. The fuse is lit and then you go out in a colourful, noisy explosion. But the doddering rockets in this game have had enough, and want to extend their life by extinguishing their sparks.
Each of the 80 levels tasks you with belting towards water, trying very hard not to explode along the way. Complicating matters is a trio of coloured buttons, used to toggle hazards, bridges, and helicopter rotors that can help and hinder.
This is a tense, fast-paced, frustrating, and entertaining platform game that arrives on your device with a bang – and whose spark won’t die until you’re done.
Pigeon Wings Strike
When under attack from swarms of enemies with massive guns, most videogame leaders are massive idiots, sending out a lone fighter to shoot everything down. Pigeon Wings Strike goes one better, because the plane is piloted by a pigeon.
Fortunately, this pigeon can do pretty amazing things in the air, slipstreaming chums, obliterating drones, and weaving through tunnels and between buildings.
At least that’s the plan. In this deranged high-octane mash-up of ALONE…, R-Type and Pigeon Street, you’ll initially see a lot of pigeon pie filling. But once it clicks, and you master the wonderful tilt controls, this one will stay even more welded to your device than pigeon poop to the roof of your car. Only in a good way. This is one of the best free games out there.
Power Hover: Cruise
The original Power Hover remains a stunning mobile game, charting a robot scything across minimal landscapes, having choreographed adventures in a desolate but beautiful world. Power Hover: Cruise is a more intense affair, transforming some of its predecessor’s levels into tricky endless challenges.
Whether you’re racing after a demented machine in an underground tunnel, or soaring above the clouds on a trap-infested snake-like road, Power Hover: Cruise is a compelling, essential game. Although given how hard it can get, it would probably have been better entitled Power Hover: NYAAAARRRGGGHH.
Doodle Jump 2
Terrifyingly, we’re at the point where some iPhone games can be considered retro – or at least ‘classic’. If you were around at the dawn of the smartphone revolution, you’ll recall how Doodle Jump had countless iPhone users glued to the screen, as devices were tilted left and right in an effort to help a strange four-legged protagonist climb endless heights.
Over a decade later, this sequel is more of the same. That it’s still compelling is testament to the original game’s elegance and smarts, although you’ll need to go all-in to amass the ridiculous number of collectable stars required to unlock the later levels.
Mobile games are so often solo pursuits; even those claiming to be ‘social’ usually require battling someone you’ve only ever ‘met’ on Facebook or Game Center. Spaceteam is different – two to four players join on a local network, faced with a control panel of dials, buttons and sliders.
Between you, everyone must coordinate to rapidly deal with silly time-sensitive instructions (“Set Shiftsanitizer to 1!”), lest the spaceship explode. It’s a hugely entertaining experience and also works across platforms, meaning your Android-device-owning chums needn’t sit out and wear a glum expression.
There’s some IAP, but only for entirely optional challenges and aesthetic enhancements, and those are primarily designed to support the indie who made the game in the first place. We’d say they’re well worth investigating, too, making some of the best free games available.
Taking a classic scrolling brawler like Double Dragon or Streets of Rage and having it work on a touchscreen is tough enough. Making it one-thumb controlled should have been a punch in the face too far. Yet Beat Street is a miniature masterpiece.
Get past the whiff of freemium grind, and you have hours of fun beating the tar out of the anthropomorphic vermin that have decided to take over your city. And just like in the good old days, you can unsportingly cave in someone’s face with a baseball bat or brick if you’re lucky enough to chance upon such a weapon during your travels.
If you thought the battle with the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail was silly, it’s got nothing on Knight Brawl. This absurdist hack ’em up finds your sword-wielding protagonist whirling arms and bouncing about as if on a trampoline.
Wrestle with the controls and you’ll eventually elevate yourself to stabby mastery in a range of free-for-all scraps and one-on-one bouts. And when you hanker for bling rather than glory, you can partake in some pilfering and murdering, leaping about castles and unsportingly slicing unsuspecting guards up from behind.
It’s entertainingly bonkers, even if the sound is sadly limited to clangs and grunts, rather than an overly confident foe yelling “had worse” and yelling that they’ll “bite your legs off” when relieved of their own.
Pixel Shooter Infinity
Arcade games originating on systems based around gamepads rarely fare well on a touchscreen. Shoot ’em ups are an exception, a single digit affording you the precision to weave between projectiles and merrily obliterate everything in your path.
Pixel Shooter Infinity draws from Japanese bullet-hell classics, but distils everything into single-screen rounds and dresses them in monochrome garb. The end result feels like Robotron: 2084 and looks like a 1980s vector game.
It’s constantly intense and exhilarating as you blow away enemies, temporarily halt to let your gun cool, and grab gems to power up your weapons. It’s tricky too – more like Pixel Shooter You’ll Be Dead By Level Ten than Infinity.
Missile Command: Recharged
A relentless, bleak arcade classic, the original Missile Command has you desperately fend off an endless barrage of nukes, until all your cities are gone and the game coldly announces ‘The End’. Recharged rethinks the game for mobile, and is a rare retro remake that doesn’t muck things up.
Sure, purists might gripe about the lack of a cursor and an inability to control where your shots come from – here, you tap and launches are blasted from a random silo. But it’s fast-paced and frenetic stuff as you try for chain reactions and over time gradually build your defensive clout with power-ups and an increasingly deft tapping finger.
Imagine for a moment the terrifying claustrophobic shooting action from Robotron: 2084 combined with an unhinged Japanese cartoon, all reimagined for the touchscreen. That’s ElectroMaster. And it’s deeply weird. From what we can tell, a schoolgirl is attempting to rescue her sister from, and we quote, a “swarm of b——ds”. Quite.
What this means for you is holding down a finger to charge up your blaster and then zapping foes off the screen, like a cross between a wannabe Marvel supervillain and a sumo wrestler. Periodic power-ups keep things interesting, letting you blaze around as a ball of energy – or just winning extra points for snarfing oversized fruit.
A love letter to classic arcade games, PewPew Live is a grab bag of old-school gaming delights. Its twin-stick shooty larks recall Robotron: 2084 as you blast your way through hordes of enemies. Nuggets of Asteroids are dotted about another of the five modes, and the entire game recalls that seminal title’s gorgeous vector graphics.
PewPew Live is also old-school in being hard as nails. It has a ferocity that’s alien to mobile games but that should appeal to veteran gamers and anyone who loves a challenge. Plus, if the thing kills you within 30 seconds, that makes it a good bet to fill an odd and otherwise dull moment with a splash of colour and buckets of adrenaline.
Stop the clock: Time Locker
If you thought bullet hell shooters would be easy if you could only pause for a bit, Time Locker suggests otherwise. This game’s dazzling blocky retro universe only moves when you do – bar a world-devouring void in hot pursuit.
A nefarious evil gang has – for reasons that are never made entirely clear – stolen all Pico’s animal chums. This isn’t terribly smart, because Pico appears to be some kind of ninja with a penchant for weaponry and getting a bit shooty.
Across 100 levels, this retro-infused blaster has you stomp about, automatically gunning down nearby nasties. Timing, positioning and a little stealth are vital for survival – although stumbling across heavy artillery also helps.
Should you murder your way through the entire production, there’s a level editor too, for fashioning custom carnage and sharing it with similarly bloodthirsty friends.
Making a game about palindromes would be tricky, given that there aren’t that many of them. Palindromic sequences, though… That’s where Otteretto heads, coming across like a turn-based Tetris or Columns that has you select strings of coloured tiles to net the points you need to smash through each level’s target.
We already mentioned in our best browser games list how the web take on Otteretto plays well on mobile. But this proper app version goes a step further, adding a daily mode where you take on the world, with everyone having the same set of squares. And if you’re not a massive skinflint and throw a few quid the developer’s way, you get a few cracking extra modes too.
Dungeons of Dreadrock
There’s a whiff of the familiar about Dreadrock, which dumps you in a bunch of single-screen dungeons and has you set out to save a sibling who’s about to be inconveniently sacrificed. The action plays out in real time, with you exploring and defeating each puzzle by way of a mix of brainpower and dexterity.
The basic mechanics are something we’ve seen countless times on mobile, but rarely does everything come together this well. Beyond the game’s cracking pixel art, you get compelling and smart level design, and plenty of surprises – such as when a seemingly defeated enemy pursues you through subsequent (and then very tense) bite-sized challenges.
The original Linia caught Stuff’s eye some years back, with a mix of game styles we likened to “Fruit Ninja, as reimagined by a lover of precision geometry”. This follow-up’s in similar territory, having you slice your way through pulsating minimalist works of art, aiming to match a colour pattern at the top of the screen.
It’s an exercise in exactness and patience. As shapes whirl and dance, overlapping hues only occasionally display the sequence you need. Even once you spot it, nailing a perfect cut is tricky. But gorgeous visuals and a chill-out soundtrack make for a mesmerising challenge.
Striving for a level of minimalism even Marie Kondo would think a bit much, Empty. has you remove items from rooms until nothing remains. This is achieved by rotating each room so that objects merge into surfaces of the same colour, whereupon they vanish.
It’s a meditative experience. The gentle soundtrack engages and aids focus. There are no timers and no ads. It’s all about immersing yourself in tactile, hand-crafted levels.
There are 19 in all, which won’t take that long to beat, even if savoured at a relaxing pace. But like a favourite jigsaw puzzle, Empty. is always worth returning to when you need to unwind.
Bart Bonte has form in the colour-based puzzle game department, having already released yellow, red, black, blue and green. You might think that’s enough. Nope: pink is another superb slice of brain-smashing logic puzzling.
The idea in each stage is to flood the screen with pink. How you do this rapidly becomes head-scratchingly tricky as the devious nature of the game’s creator becomes clear. Despite the confined single-screen set-up of these puzzles and the simple visuals, there’s plenty of creativity on display throughout pink’s 50 levels.
Naturally, there’s a help system (powered by adverts), but you’ll feel like a failure if you venture into that. When you need a break, instead restart the app and bob your head to the funky intro music and cool-as title screen flamingos.
Match and rhythm games
Plenty of mobile games have you fashion words from random stacks of letter tiles. Sticky Terms instead hacks the letters to bits and leaves you to it. Each level therefore starts out resembling minimalist modern art. You need to figure out which bits go where and drag the pieces into place.
Everything about Sticky Terms is a joy, from the delightfully tactile interface to the subtle sound effects. And in a nice twist, the words you’re trying to create are broadly impossible to translate into other languages; so on completing a puzzle you’re given the word’s origin and definition. See – games can be educational and great!
Match games are best when they bin trying to rip off Bejeweled and instead do something different. And Casual Metaphysics is certainly different. The aim is to match similar shapes, which then evolve. Chain enough together in one sweep and you amass huge points. Dawdle and your existing score drops.
The other snag is you’re playing against opposition – either a human in single-device mode, or a freaky glowing computer-controlled hand ‘inside’ the screen. Early days are simple enough, against boneheaded AI and with few shapes. A few levels in, though, there’s not much ‘casual’ in Casual Metaphysics as you desperately try to find from within a sea of various forms a winning chain that’ll keep your lead intact.
PopCap’s gem-swapper is one of the most famous games around, and it feels perfectly at home on the touchscreen. Along with the standard mode, you get several unique variations on the theme: in Butterflies, you must carefully consider every move, to ensure your winged creatures aren’t eaten by a deadly spider; and in Diamond Mine, you battle against the clock to dig ever deeper into the ground, blasting away at the rock with explosive special gems.
Little Alchemy 2
This logic puzzler starts you off with a few items, the aim being to combine them into new things. Imagine a lazy universe-building god with an iPad and you’re there.
Sometimes, the combinations are obvious – a couple of ponds becomes a lake. But many are humorous (meat from a livestock and a sword – ouch), or require lateral thinking (merging a car and bird to make a plane).
In droughts between discoveries, there’s the temptation to tediously ‘drop all the things on all the other things’, but it’s always a blast when you find something new.
Strategy and word games
Zach Gage has cornered the market in subverting newspaper puzzles for mobile. With co-conspirator Jack Schlesinger, he’s had another crack at crosswords. This time, you get all of the letters, but they’re scrambled within Tetris-like pieces. It’s your job to figure out where each letter should go, in order to complete the puzzle.
Attacking crosswords from the opposite direction causes your brain to do a backflip and your muscle memory to scream. But it’s engaging stuff, whether you’re trying to blaze through a ‘daily mini’ or tackle the much trickier puzzles that rock up towards the end of each week. For a tenner, you can go premium; but even for free, there’s a slew of word game goodness here.
Super Auto Pets
This game’s creator describes it as a “chill auto battler”. That is a lie. It’s chill in there being no hurrying: you get endless time to fine-tune the team you send into battle. But for all its cute characters, this game will merrily tear your face off.
Much of that is down to how each unit affects others. At first, it baffles when you get obliterated in battle as foes power-up chums, belch out reinforcements and materialise a cartoon bus. But stick around and it will click. You’ll learn combinations that work – only to hit another wall you’ll have to climb.
If you want your hand held, steer clear. But if you want a game that’s hugely rewarding if you put in the effort – and yet bite-sized per game, Super Auto Pets is a must.
The Battle of Polytopia
Civilization’s a great free game, but there are two tiny snags on mobile: first, Civ games take forever, which isn’t good when playing on an iPhone; secondly, mobile Civs are rubbish on the tiny screen of an iPhone. Enter: The Battle of Polytopia, which takes the basics of classic Civ, but speeds things along nicely.
In this distilled, compelling and surprisingly tense take on becoming a world-conquering despot, there’s a real sense of focus: you’re by default up against a moves limit, and the maps are tightly packed. Yet it’s not reductive: you still get tech trees, cities to found and expand, and a range of enemies to administer a jolly good thrashing to.
Belt up: Builderment
Earth’s low on resources – so, natch, has found another planet to plunder. In Builderment, you use your automation genius to concoct snaking conveyors belts that transport resources to factories. They then craft items that eventually result in packages being sent to Earth. Or possibly just slung over a hedge.
Cards of Terra
You’ve crashed on an alien world full of hostile creatures tearing chunks out of each other – and they’ve inconveniently kidnapped your crew. Fortunately, the alien princess protagonist has magic tricks up her sleeve, and pits her enemies against each other.
This all plays out as a combination of solitaire and collectable card game, with you moving cards atop ones of different colours, so they have a fight. That in itself would be a fine puzzler, but Cards of Terra excels itself with a range of superbly designed modes, tough boss battles, and cards with complex rules that have them perform independent actions, making the board feel alive.
Bling king: Look, Your Loot
The rodent hero in Look, Your Loot has no truck with ‘quiet as a mouse’, instead stabbing monsters to death in this card-based dungeon crawler in a shoebox. Death is only ever a few swipes away, so you must traverse the claustrophobic dungeon with care, in this compelling mash-up of strategy, path-finding and RPG.
Bullet-hell shooters are tricky enough, let alone when some wag has nicked your guns and you’re in a battlezone that’s barely bigger than a shoebox. Fortunately, Salvagette plays out in turn-based fashion, giving you time to consider your every move, en route to ramming the opposition to pieces.
It’s an odd combination, but one that works as you track each foe’s glowing orb, which lets you know when they’re going to blast ordinance your way. And despite time only moving when you do, the game can become surprisingly tense as you plot a path to survival – or at least the in-game store, where you can grab handy upgrades paid for with the cash you get for blowing up your enemies.