Top 10 best iPhone games: September 2009

Has this been the finest three months yet for the iPhone?

Top 10 best iPhone games: September 2009

Would you believe it’s been almost three months since we last had a round up of the best games on iPhone? In the games industry three months is a heck of a long time. On the App Store it’s an eternity.

Which I think you’ll see reflected in our revised list. We’ve seen some absolute classics in recent months, and all the signs are that developers are really getting into their groove with the iPhone.

In truth, we could happily make this into a top 20 list, such is the breadth of quality on the App Store at the moment. But nothing nails your colours to the mast like a finely honed top 10, and the following games are undoubtedly representative of what’s so good about the iPhone as a gaming platform.

As always, do let us know what you’d put on your top 10 list.

Top 10 iPhone games

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Tiger Style

If this was a top 10 of the most innovative games on the App Store, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor would be battling for the number one spot. The fact that it’s also on our overall top 10 list shows that those fresh ideas have been executed brilliantly.

If you were to boil the game down in terms of genre, you would have to say that it’s a platform-puzzler, but that would be to do it a gross disservice.

Guiding an arachnid around the titular Bryce Manor, you have to spin webs to catch bugs, with differing tactics needed according to the species. Underpinning it all is a wonderfully subtle story full of dark implications.

Wolfenstein RPG, id

The sheer love that’s gone into transforming a fun-if-ugly mobile RPG into this brilliant-and-gorgeous iPhone RPG is apparent. From the beautifully detailed and distinctive character art to the lashings of wicked humour, Wolfenstein RPG is about as far from a lazy Java conversion as it’s possible to get.

It plays wonderfully too, capturing the spirit of the original FPS while incorporating one of the most intuitive turn-based RPG systems you’ll ever come across.

It’s an intoxicating mix that looks and plays unlike anything else on the App Store, which is quite a feat in itself.


It seemed to take everyone by surprise that the iPhone could play host to such a slick, intuitive flight combat game. Yet here F.A.S.T. is, with gloriously smooth 3D graphics and some of the finest uses of the iPhone’s accelerometer control input yet.

At heart it’s a simple arcade blaster, with the straightforward requirement of blasting everything that moves. Yet the various control nuances on display, such as tilting and lifting the handset to bank left and right, lift it well clear of the mundane.

The multiplayer options are the icing on this particularly delicious MiG-shaped cake.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene, Taito

There are several excellent reimaginings on this list, but none has toyed with the original formula as much as Space Invaders Infinity Gene. It takes the classic original as its basis and then proceeds to literally evolve before your eyes.

Before long you’re moving your ship around the screen in a blur of elaborate enemy flight patterns and neon explosions.

It looks absolutely stunning, as colour is gradually introduced, and it’s all set to a mesmerising electronica soundtrack that mirrors the action perfectly.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect is the implementation of an RPG element, with a branching system of upgrades and unlockables opening out as you work your way through the levels. A brave and inspired revamp of a video gaming touchstone.

Real Racing, Firemint

There’s a growing viewpoint that there’s no place for fully formed, console-like experiences on the App Store. Playing Real Racing makes you hope and pray that this isn’t so.

As a technical showpiece for what the iPhone can do, it’s still unrivalled. As a thrilling racing game in its own right, the same can be said. With a slick racing engine, brilliantly implemented tilt control and some fiendish AI, you’d have to hop over Sony’s PSP to find anything to match it.

Real Racing’s technical chops seem to have cast it as something of a tech demo in many people's minds, but it’s far more than that. It’s one of the best games in any genre on the system.

DrawRace, RedLynx

On the surface, DrawRace’s successful formula could be cynically dismissed - take Flight Control’s top-down path drawing mechanic, apply it to a car racing game and whack it onto the App Store for MEGA SALES. But that would be to miss the absolute brilliance with which it’s been implemented.

By keeping things simple yet encouraging the application of a tidy racing line, it appeals to casual players and hardcore racing fans alike.

Meanwhile, its tight incorporation of online stats, where you’re told that you’re better than X per cent of people after each level prompts countless retries in an attempt to sneak up the rankings.

To put it in its own parlance: DrawRace is better than 99 per cent of other games.

Flight Control, Firemint

The breakout hit of the App Store, and probably the most imitated game on this list to date, Flight Control continues to reign supreme as an instantly playable yet endlessly rewarding experience.

You have to guide endless waves of aircraft to the appropriate landing area by sketching out a flight path with your finger. As the airspace gets more and more congested you find yourself frantically constructing elaborate holding patterns on the hoof.

If we were to award a prize for the biggest time sink on the App Store, Flight Control would inevitably win. It’s also many people’s contender for game of 2009.

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, LucasArts

There aren’t many classic games that could make the switch to iPhone almost without change and still remain as good as they ever were. The unique control input alone means that your average conversion requires far more than a simple nip and tuck.

Monkey Island, though, fits the iPhone like a glove, and the only significant change is the revamped visuals - and even they can be dismissed with a simple swipe of the finger.

Which means it’s the same peerless point ‘n’ click (touch?) adventure game with the same level of rapier wit, easy charm and brain warping puzzles. Unmissable.

Zen Bound, Chillingo

Zen Bound is one of those special experiences that would only really work well on the iPhone. The process of gently wrapping up a series of 3D objects in string gains so much from the tactile interface of Apple’s device that any traditional control mechanism would destroy a large part of its charm.

That’s not to undersell the supreme sense of satisfaction you feel after completing a level. While it sells itself on being a meditative, relaxing experience, Zen Bound also works beautifully as a purebred puzzler.

However you approach the game, though, Zen Bound remains one of the finest games on the App Store.

Rolando 2, ngmoco

Taking the place of its illustrious predecessor on this list, Rolando 2 is a masterclass in how to pull off a successful sequel. Inevitably lacking the sheer gut-punching impact of the original, Rolando 2 instead strides forward with confident gameplay revisions and tweaks, ironing out the niggles found in the original.

It also makes an appreciable leap forward stylistically, introducing some beautifully implemented 3D elements to make the world pop out from your iPhone’s screen.

As a result, Rolando 2 comfortably secures a second term for the series as the incumbent iPhone flagship title.