- Here are the best free games for the iPhone that balance gameplay, graphics, and at least annoying in-game ads and purchases.
- There is a good enough variety of games available for the iPhone to suit just about anyone’s interests.
- Many free games feature in-game purchases and ads, but we exclude overly annoying ads and microtransactions here.
Many people agree that it’s hard to beat the iPhone for on-the-go gaming. After all, you always have your phone with you, so it’s a convenient way to play. And the graphics and processing power of most iPhone models is pretty formidable as well.
If you subscribe to Apple Arcade you already have access to a curated collection of high quality games for $4.99 per month. If not, it can be harder to find excellent iPhone games, so here is a roundup of the 20 best free games for the iPhone, chosen for fun and innovative gameplay, visual quality, and the least annoying in-game ads and purchases.
Super Auto Pets
If you like to geek out over stats and abilities, and enjoy arranging units in the optimal order to capitalize on everyone’s skills in combat — not to mention the idea of elephants fighting lobsters — Super Auto Pets is for you. This auto-battler looks adorable, with a wide variety of animal units lined up for auto-combat in this turn-based game. The game is free, but there are paid expansion packs available.
Among Us is one of those games that helped many people find entertainment during the pandemic, and it remains one of the most fun multiplayer games around. Up to 10 friends work together as the crew of a spaceship, racing against time to figure out who among them is an imposter murdering everyone. It’s fun whether you’re on the lookout for the secret killer or if you are the actual imposter, working to take down as many people as possible before you’re found.
One of a handful of excellent combat shooters for the iPhone, Badlanders is a battle royale “looter shooter” — you explore a combat zone, taking down opponents and stealing their gear. If you can safely reach an extraction point, everything you looted is yours. The graphics are sharp, and the developers didn’t reinvent the wheel, so if you’ve played similar games you’ll understand the mechanics quickly.
Asphalt 9: Legends
The latest iteration in the popular Asphalt series of racing games, Asphalt 9 leans heavily into an arcade experience, which works well on the small iPhone screen. Enable TouchDrive, for example, and the game autosteers as if the car is on rails, which means you can concentrate on speed, stunts, and drifting.
Idle Magic Academy
If you’ve already run your own zoo, amusement park, and candy store in other business simulators, try your hand at running a generic version of Hogwarts. The Idle Magic Academy lets you enroll non-magical students and teach them the rudiments of magic while you expand the schoolhouse by unlocking dorms, classrooms, courses, spells, and potions. The gameplay is low-key, but of course you’ll have to tolerate ads to play the game for free.
Tower Madness 2
One of the all-time great tower defense games, Tower Madness 2 forces you to expend a ridiculous amount of firepower to keep persistent aliens from stealing a handful of sheep. The tech upgrades are fun, the visuals are charming, and some of the puzzle-like battlegrounds are quite challenging.
Cards of Earth
Part Solitaire, part Magic: The Gathering, this card-based puzzle game requires you to clear away cards through combat to reveal gold cards, which you need to collect. There’s a fair bit of strategy here as you learn how to best deploy cards with special abilities against one another, but the gameplay basics can be mastered in about five minutes.
The Battle of Polytopia
Like a pocket-sized version of Civilization, Polytopia is all about growing your city and building an empire. But in keeping with the pocket-sized concept, you get just 30 turns to earn victory. There’s a tech tree to research, warriors to train, neighboring empires to conquer, and more. And you can play solo or multiplayer.
You’re a radish in a clever platformer that challenges you to collect your children while jumping, running, and dodging — you know, all the usual things you do in an action platform game. The graphics are colorful and adorable and the gameplay is crisp, essential in a fast-paced game like this. And game mechanics aside, there’s a lot of personality and charm here, which is more than enough to keep you coming back for more.
Sky: Children of the Light
Not every game requires quick action or fast-twitch reflexes; some games can be enjoyed like a good book. Sky: Children of the Light is a charming adventure game in which you explore a strange alien wasteland, discover other characters and work together to restore fallen stars to the sky. The game is filled with relatively simple puzzles that propel you forward through a beautifully designed world.
Some mobile pinball games lean into fantastical, cartoon-inspired pinball games, but Williams Pinball offers you access to real-world classic pinball machines. They’re accurately rendered in rich detail and feature seemingly accurate physics so the gaming experience is as authentic as you’re likely to get on an iPhone. The game includes solo play as well as multiplayer matches.
Call of Duty: Mobile
Few PC and console games have been as successful as Call of Duty, so it’s far from surprising that there’s a version for the iPhone. And Call of Duty: Mobile doesn’t disappoint, with excellent graphics, responsive two-finger controls, and excellent multiplayer support, including a 100-player battle royale mode. If you have an iPhone controller like the Backbone, Call of Duty is even more fun to play because then your hands aren’t obscuring any part of the screen.
Build your own city with SimCity BuildIt. Like the full-size version of this game for the desktop, SimCity BuildIt lets you make all the key decisions — where the roads and buildings go, how to spend your limited budget, and how to control rising population, traffic, and pollution. There’s a surprising amount of power at your disposal, such as the ability to add famous landmarks to your civilization and trade with other players building their own cities.
This is the sort of game you can imagine Andy Warhol would have made had he lived in the iPhone era. Each level is a different puzzle, and the nature of the puzzle isn’t necessarily apparent until you start to play with it. Perhaps you need to paint all the pieces on screen the same color, or maybe you need to realign pipes or coax a flamingo to walk offscreen. The only thing every level has in common is that each screen eventually has to turn completely pink to move on to the next challenge. And you’ll come to crave the satisfying musical cue when each puzzle is cleared.
Rocket League Sideswipe
Rocket League Sideswipe is one of those fast-action games that takes a lot of practice to get good at, especially if you’re not 17 anymore. That’s largely because of the game’s underlying mechanic: You control rocket-powered cars in a large arena, and need to maneuver them to move the ludicrously oversized ball into the opponent’s goal. You’ll blast around the field, spending most of your time flying through the air to hit the ball and amusing your opponent’s car. It’s fun but hectic, and the floaty physics take some getting used to. But when everything finally clicks, it’s thoroughly addictive.
Doodle Jump 2
You’ll probably never get tired of Doodle Jump. While some high concept, story-driven games can eventually get stale, there’s something enduring about this action game in which you need to hop ever higher from one platform to the next. And there’s a surprising amount of variety here, whether it’s random game mechanics (occasional jetpacks help you climb, while some platforms are dangerous or fatal to step on) or the ever-changing visuals. Beware, though: The number of ads in this game can be annoying, relative to the other games on this list.
Froglike: The Frog Roguelike
The title of this game says it all; you play a heroic frog in a swampy version of a procedurally generated, hack-and-slash dungeon crawl. But instead of a dungeon, you’re hopping around on lily pads, keeping the Lily of Time powered up (by sitting on it as long as you can) and avoiding the villainous insects.
Equipped with an Asteroids-like triangular spaceship with all of three controls (left, right, and stop), you navigate the levels austere, 2D levels of Data Wing with street racing-like game mechanics. And while the game starts out as a simple racer, there’s a surprising amount of depth here: puzzles, timed trials, and even some story depth.
Super Fowlst 2
Super Fowlst 2 is clearly insane. You’re an interdimensional chicken capable of flying around a procedurally generated maze, tasked with stopping demons by crashing into them before they hit you with their deadly projectiles. You can take advantage of power-ups as you crack open crates and collect coins, and move from level to level to see what madness awaits you next. Get your fingers ready, because you’ll have to do a lot of tapping to keep your chicken airborne (not unlike Flappy Bird or the old arcade game Joust).
Billed by its developer as “a zen and relaxing game,” Golf Odyssey is an 8-bit, retro-arcade-style golf game that offers a new course on a daily basis. You can play the game with one hand as you drive the ball over dark mountainous terrains set against neon backdrops.