Updated: Original list by Mark Brown, updated by Jupiter Hadley on March 22nd, 2021.
What the heck is AR (augmented reality)? Well, it's somewhere in the middle between virtual reality and boring old normal reality. We devised a list of some of the best AR games for the iPhone that'll help you escape that "normal reality".
Your phone shows you the real world, using the camera, but lays robots, Pokemon, information, dinosaurs, dog ears, and ghosts on top. Using AR, you can get a feel of being in the game - seeing the game itself overlayed on your actual surroundings in real life.
What you get is a reality that's just a bit more interesting than reality.
We have been watching AR games grow, especially with a few contenders really showcasing what can be done with this tech, and have put together a list of the best AR games and apps for iOS for you to download right now.
Ah yes, Pokemon GO. The app that turned mid-90s dreams into mid-10s reality. Now you can really find a Geodude in your bedroom or a Growlithe in your back garden. The game's mostly about location, but once you encounter a Pokemon you'll see the AR magic happen on your iPhone.
The real world will appear on screen, and a colourful critter will be romping about - ready to be captured. It's cool, and kicked off a summer of people posting photos of Pokemon appearing basically anywhere and everywhere!
Smash Tanks is an AR board game for iOS, where you can place the board on any surface in front of you, watching the world build itself on your tabletop! In Smash Tanks, you can use various tanks to destroy buildings on the board, attack your opponents' tanks and otherwise allow you to win. You get three tanks to play around with, so you'll need to pick who you move and attack with carefully, while paying attention to the world around your tanks.
The matches are bite-sized and fun to play with, and the concept of a digital board game that builds itself on your tabletop is quite fun too!
The Machines is a competitive, MMO, co-op strategy game where you can fight with opponents, either online or locally in your room, destroying their bases and shooting them! As you move your device around, the sound of the game adjusts as it sees objects around you, to show how audio would actually travel if you were fighting in your room. There is a lot of features to this game that make it stand out among the crowds - so if you are looking for a realistic shooter that brings something new to your phone, The Machines is worth considering.
Of course, Angry Birds got in on the AR trend! Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs takes the concept of Angry Birds and brings it into your bedroom, backyard, the train - wherever you currently are. Just like in most Angry Birds, you will be playing out a physics based puzzle where you launch birds into towers, looking to knock everything over and kill the green pigs that are lurking in the structures.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs is exactly what you'd expect from that kind of AR game!
If you'd like to bring an escape room to your own home, ARia's Legacy will easily allow you to do so! This game places different objects in whatever room or area of your house that you want to turn into an escape room - showing you cabinets, keys, pickaxes, rocks, etc - and you need to use these objects to then try and escape.
You are able to touch and move the objects around, triggering sound effects when you are on the right track. There are a lot of challenging puzzles, but the fact that it's in your own home really makes the game quite unique and special!
If you are looking for a more educational app to add to your phone, Civilizations AR allows you to take a closer look at ancient relics and cultural treasures - as if they are literally in your home. You can turn any room into a museum - and unlike in a museum, you can actually pick up the objects, rotate them around, zoom in, and take a closer look.
Civilizations AR does give you information about these different objects, going deep into secrets around them and the history of the items, if you are up for a bit of learning! Although it's not really a classic AR game for your iPhone, it still deserves to be on the list!
Star Walk is one of those apps that makes your phone feel like a little magical box of secrets, rather than a consumer device that everyone seems to have on them at all times. The app lets you point your phone at the sky and find out what that weird dot is. Is it a planet? A star? A point in a constellation? The moon?
You probably should have known that was the moon. It's pretty big. You can also point the app towards the ground to show the stars who thought they could hide in the other hemisphere. You can't hide from me, space, I have an iPhone!!