There are times when you don’t want to spend any money. There are times when you look in your bank account, let out a sigh, and wonder how you’re going to get through the next few days of having to interact with the real world. Well, that’s where these games come in.
We’ve picked what we think are the 12 best games on the App Store that aren’t going to cost you anything to pick up. They all have in-app purchases, but these aren’t pay to play. They offer up some of the choicest brawls, battles, shooting, and puzzling that the App Store can muster, and you won’t have to pay a single penny to get any of them onto your iPhone or iPad.
Whether you’re looking for a deep and engaging experience, or something to fill those brief spells of spare time on the bus or at work, you’re going to find something that suits you here.
Marvel Contest of Champions
- Chock full of Marvel heroes and villains
- Smooth as silk gameplay
- Need to put the work in
While it’s true there are a lot of free to play brawlers on the App Store, none of them are as good as Marvel Contest of Champions. It’s not just gorgeous, it’s incredibly slick, and within seconds you’re going to feel like a superhero. Or villain, if that’s your thing.
There’s always new content being added, and the simple gameplay means that almost anyone can pick it up and have a chance at smashing some face in with super moves within just a couple of minutes.
If you’re looking for a Marvel game for your phone then this is definitely the best of the bunch. It’s great to look at, great to play and the story is strong enough that you’re going to want to push on just to see what happens next.
Related: Best PS4 games
- Gets you out of the house
- It’s Pokémon!
- You’ll make friends playing it. Probably.
- You have to leave the house
- Still lacks some key features
Pokémon GO is the game that sat atop the crest of the AR and location-based wave. And while that wave might have petered out prematurely, Niantic’s find-and-catch-’em-all opus is still well worth checking out.
You wander around the real world, following maps in order to capture Pokémon. Then you can fight them, use them against raid bosses and much, much more. Every step you take is helping in one way or another, and every monster you catch is another feather in your cap.
But the game has also managed to foster a community of eager players. Even now you can spot them clustered together, trying to catch some rare monster in the corner of a park. More than anything, that should be the legacy of Pokémon GO – it brought people together in the best possible way.
Guns of Boom
- Super fast shooting action
- Really competitive
- Constant new content
- A little intimidating for newcomers
- Health system is a bit weird
Before the world went made for battle royale shooters, Guns of Boom was easily one of the finest multiplayer FPS experiences on the App Store. In fact, even with PUBG and Fortnite available for iOS, it still ranks pretty damn highly.
The game owes a lot to Team Fortress 2, but it keeps things simple for touchscreen play. The controls feel just right, and the balance of the game is pretty well weighted unless you come up against a real power player.
There are a few problems with it, but when the shooting is as tight and impressive as it is here, they’re actually pretty easy to look past. And, if you’re into eSports, this is likely going to be the next big thing in the mobile version of that arena.
Related: Best Xbox One games
Silly Sausage in Meat Land
- It’s a game about a hilarious stretchy dog
- The dog is really stretchy
- Great touch controls
- Weird check-pointing
- Tough difficulty spikes
Some games make you feel things, other games show you incredible vistas that you’d never normally have a chance to see. Silly Sausage in Meat Land gives you an achievement if you sniff your own butt.
It’s a game about a dog who can stretch to incredible lengths. But the world is full of obstacles, and if they touch you while you’re stretched out it’s game over. There are spikes, saws, flames and all manner of other things to try and get past, and you can only stop your stretching and bring your body back to a normal size on specific chunks of the levels.
Pretty much everything Nitrome has made is brilliant, but this showcases everything that’s good about the dev. It’s a deconstructed platformer that you can play with one hand, it’s hilarious and it offers a slab of challenge that even the hardiest gamer is going to have trouble with.
- Completely addictive
- Anyone can play
- Always something new to unlock
- It’s basically Frogger
Yes, Crossy Road might just be a modern spin on a much-loved classic, but it adds so much to Frogger that it seems churlish to complain. It’s nowhere near as difficult as the game that inspired it, and it definitely lasts longer once you get into the rhythm of things.
The game is always getting updated, with new characters and backgrounds added to keep things fresh. The psychology at work here to make you keep playing even when you know you shouldn’t is both impressive and terrifying. But one more go never means one more go in Crossy Road.
There are lots of games that have tried to imitate what Crossy Road does, but none of them have managed. This is the gaming equivalent of stuffing your face with cheap chocolates at Christmas, and we’re pretty sure that everyone loves that, even if not all of you will admit it.
Related: Best Nintendo Switch games
New Star Soccer Manager
- Utterly addictive
- Free to play isn’t too grating
- Always something to do
- Maybe a bit TOO addictive
- Might be a bit simple for fans of deeper sims
The original New Star Soccer saw you leading a fledgling footballer through the first steps in his career and on to the big stage. This newest edition sees you becoming the manager of New Star United, and leading them to footballing glory.
As manager every decision is up to you. Which players to buy, what wages to offer, when to add more capacity to your stadium. The buck stops with you. When things are going well you’ll be heralded as a hero. When they go wrong, you’ll be able to hear the behind-the-back chuntering no matter where you are.
There are hours and hours of entertainment to be had here, and it’s never too taxing on the old grey matter. Jump in, make some choices, play a few games (during which you actually get to take control of your team from time to time), and then look up and realise an entire day has passed.
Real Racing 3
- Still one of the best looking games on the App Store
- So many cars to collect and races to complete
- Some won’t like the monetisation
- Not one for arcade petrolheads
There aren’t many games that were as divisive as Real Racing 3 when it first came out. It was the first game in the series to adopt the now ubiquitous free to play model, and some people railed against that decision pretty hard.
Which, quite frankly, is a massive shame. Because Real Racing 3 is actually ruddy brilliant. This isn’t some fast-thrash, using-your-opponents-as-brakes game, it’s a measured racer that tries to capture some of the reality that its title boasts about. And it does just that, really rather well.
Sure it creates a reality where you can afford to race some of the most expensive supercars in the world, day in, day out, but quite frankly that sounds a lot better than most of our realities. It handles brilliantly, it looks spectacular, and other than the smell of burning rubber, it’s the closest most of us are going to get to the front of the grid.
Related: Upcoming Xbox One games
- Best card game in the world
- Competitive matches are always available
- Fizzes with Blizzard’s class
- The meta is super dense nowadays
- You need to dedicate a good chunk of your life to it
What is there left to say about Hearthstone? Even after all these years, there hasn’t been a game that’s come close to matching this one’s style, swagger, or player numbers. What makes it that bit more special is just how good it really is.
Build a deck of cards featuring famous and infamous characters from the Warcraft world, then pit them against other players in battles to the death. There’s masses of single player content too, if that’s the sort of thing you’re after.
It works just as well on iPhone as it does on pretty much any other device. This is the perfect way to take what is undoubtedly one of the finest game of this generation with you wherever you go.
- Always a match waiting in multiplayer
- Surprisingly deep
- Always getting updates and new cards
- Harder to progress to the later levels sometimes
- Can get a bit samey
When Clash Royale first came out, it was a bit of a surprise. Now it’s a well established classic of the mobile gaming world, and rightly so. It’s a mix of a MOBA and a card collector, with a few extra trimmings thrown in for good measure.
Games last only three minutes, with the last 60 seconds giving you double the energy for a frantic finish. You need to smash your opponent’s castles using a variety of ranged and melee units, and explosive spells.
The way the game is built means you’re always going to be pushing on for one more go, to unlock the next unit or get to the next rank of battles. And none of the time you spend with it is going to feel wasted.
- One of the finest shooters on mobile
- Looks amazing
- Massive player base
- Humour might not be for everyone
- A decent amount of grind
It’d be churlish to call Shadowgun Legends Destiny for mobile, but if you were looking to describe it in a sentence that’s probably the one you’d pick. It takes the must-get-more-numbers template of Bungie’s MMOFPS, then folds it into the Shadowgun universe.
Here though you’re not the savior of the world, you’re basically a rockstar, and your visage gets plastered over the game’s hub when you do something impressive. And you’re going to do plenty of impressive things, mainly involving shooting alien beasts in the face.
There’s raids, there’s PvP, and everytime you play the game you’ll get new guns, new armour, and end up tougher. It’s that beat that’s going to draw you in, and when it does you’re going to remain stuck in the game’s web for a long time.
Related: Upcoming PS4 games
Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire
- A really unique way of doing action
- Fast and furious pace
- Some very tough sections
- You need quite small fingers
How do you do action on a touchscreen? It’s a question that plenty have pondered, and plenty have come up with answers to, but none of them have come up with the solution that Magic Touch does. It turns action into scribbles, and it’s amazing.
Playing as a wizard stood atop a tower, it’s up to you to cast spells to kill the knights who are trying to invade. Those knights are trying to invade via the medium of balloons, and all of those balloons have symbols on them. Draw the symbol on the screen and you pop the balloon.
Before long you’re tackling knights carried by multiple balloons as well as dishing out more damage with the special spells you unlock as you play. It’s every bit as bonkers as it sounds, but there’s a brilliant thrill here when you’re doing well and you’re going to want to capture it again and again.
Horizon Chase: World Tour
- A beautiful blue sky arcade experience
- Plays wonderfully
- The perfect mix of modern and retro
- Can be a bit repetitive
- Doesn’t have the depth of other racers
Sometimes you don’t want to race hell for leather. Sometimes you want to bask in a super sports car with the top down and miles of blue sky stretching out ahead of you, and that’s exactly what Horizon Chase offers.
It’s a wonderful mix between OutRun and an auto-runner, with plenty more thrown in for good measure. And every second of it that you play you’re going to have a smile plastered across the entire width of your face.
But on top of all of that, this is clearly a game that’s been put together with a good deal of love. Not just love for the games that inspired it, but love for the freedom that the open road offers. And it’s thanks to that love that it captures that freedom quite so splendidly.
What are some of your favourite phone games? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @trustedreviews.