Updated: Original list by Matt Thrower, Updated by Jupiter Hadley on March 22nd, 2021.
This might seem like a crazy list to compile.
Almost any collectible card game or card battler ought to have enough content to be almost a hobby unto itself. Even an entire lifestyle in some cases, with the addictive qualities involved. The idea that you need more than one in your life is verging on dangerous.
On the other hand, that makes it even more important that you select the best for your tastes before you get stuck in. You could be playing this thing for months, or years. So you want to make sure you're backing the right horse before putting your money down.
This is all from experience, given the way that Hearthstone has taken over my life. But a properly designed collectable card game on iOS is such a joy that it would be a shame not to have one as part of your gaming CV. Here are the runners for this race: pick one, and get yourself stuck in.
I love the graphic style in Meteorfall - it's got an adorable edge to it, instead of looking overly intense. Meteorfall is a deck-building roguelike where you are able to choose one of four adventurers (gaining their starter deck) and start on your adventure. Throughout the game, you can unlock more cards, fight monsters, battle, and swipe to play or skip cards. Meteorfall is a fun looking game with lots of replay value!
Stormbound does things slightly differently then other CCGs. When each player uses a card from their hand, it is deployed as a troop in between the player's strongholds on the grid where gameplay begins. Creatures will be marching down the map, fighting each other, and eventually crashing into the enemy stronghold. It feels almost like a game of tug-of-war as you both place one card down, watch the spell, monster or structure appear, and then wait to attack their main stronghold.
This is a rare example of a collectible card game that doesn't offer in-app purchases at all. You pay one cost upfront and then play the game against a series of AI controlled opponents. These are set into a simple adventure framework to give it some narrative.
While that limits the shelf-life slightly, the game underneath is fantastic fun. It has you trying to align connection points between cards by laying them on a grid, to achieve aggressive and defensive effects. The positional aspect keeps you on your decision-making toes for every single turn
Slay the Spire is a procedurally generated deck-building roguelike where, in each run, you are able to build up your base deck, upgrade cards and burn ones that aren't useful. Overtime, you can unlock different starting heroes that have slightly different hands.
Slay the Spire is a really fun game - with so many different enemies to attack and ways to keep your deck interesting, it's well worth a look.
Shadowverse is a game that looks and acts similar to Hearthstone, however, in this game, it is much easier to unlock new cards instead of paying for new packs for your decks. There are still options to purchase cards, but you can unlock more without using your real-life money, and an ability to temporarily use cards using in-game currency.
Otherwise, Shadowverse is a deckbuilding game that uses a lot of skill and strategy in the way you play - so do expect to spend some time tinkering around with your decks in this one.
Spellstone is the junk food of the CCG world. It's ridiculously simple. You build a tiny deck from your collection and play games with a hand of just three cards. Each one you lay down joins a queue, and deals damage to the card opposite. If there's no card opposite, it damages the player instead.
Individual games slip down too easily to be satisfying. But the package runs from card collection and quests to crafting and arena-style play against other people. As a whole, it's amusing and addictive. Plus games are so quick you can maintain your habit for a minimal investment of time.
We can't go far into the list without mentioning the elephant in the room. Developed by Blizzard, you'd expect Hearthstone to be a fantastic mix of strategy, excitement and addiction. It doesn't disappoint.
It also runs on a generous IAP model, to the point where it's regularly held up as the pinnacle of free to play "done right". it's entirely possible to enjoy the game and succeed at relatively high levels without paying a penny. You just need regular play to earn in-game gold to fund your habit. Most certainly, the most popular card collectible game on iOS.
The newest version of Magic the Gathering, on mobile - Magic: The Gathering Arena works exactly like the physical card game. Using your decks of cards, you can generate five different colors of mana - then use the mana to summon creatures, activate your special abilities and cast spells. This is how you battle other players - killing off their health before they take yours down. Considering the history of MTG, you have probably heard of this card collectible game before it even hit iOS.
If you are looking for a more complex card game, Pathfinder Adventures is one to take a look at. This game is more than just card collecting and deck building - with dice-rolling and more mashed in. You will be going on adventures with characters in your party - finding items to help protect you and spells to take down enemies who might be in your path.
It's a game where the tutorials will really help you along - and it does take more than strategy to do very well in this game - you will need a touch of luck.
Summoner Wars is a cross between a more traditional strategy game and a collectible card game - where instead of having a deck you are using cards to move around the map. Your positioning will end up giving you the upper hand and helping you dominate your opponent - so there is still strategy involved, but it's a touch different. Summoner Wars makes for a great two player game and is easier to pick up and play compared to other games on this list.