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The 20 Best iPhone Games of 2011

20. Backstab

Backstab ($6.99) is an adventure game that plays much like Assassin’s Creed except set in the Pirates of the Caribbean. You control Henry Blake, a British military officer who gets caught on the wrong side of a frame up. His life ruined, Henry sets out for some bloody justice. Along the way you’ll run your sword through quiet a few chests and leap across many rooftops. The game also throws quiet a few bizarre twists at you, including fights with zombies, performing tasks for the favors of large-breasted women, and curing diseases. It’s an epic game with professional voice acting and 3D world environments.

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19. Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III ($15.99) is the updated 2006 Nintendo DS version of the RPG classic ported beautifully to the iPhone. Control a 4-member party as they, what else, attempt to save the world from a great evil. FFIII’s gameplay is unique in that you can switch the class of any character during the game (once the switch feature is unlocked). There are over 20 classes to choose from, starting at the typical warrior and mage and including more rare D&D classes like bards and sages. This is an RPG by the masters of RPG game design. Be warned though, Final Fantasy III is an immensely challenging game.

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18. Icebreaker Hockey

Icebreaker Hockey ($0.99) is a game dedicated to the breakaway in hockey, meaning you control a player on perpetual offense trying to put the puck in goal and achieve style points by scoring from within certain zones. You can even score points for the occasional showboating. How are your air guitar skills? The game is fast-paced sports fun and filled with achievements that add replay value. If you liked Homerun Battle 3D, you’ll like this one as well. The simplistic control scheme is perfect for casual gameplay.

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17. First Touch Soccer

First Touch Soccer ($1.99) is not only the best-looking soccer game on the iPhone, it’s also the best realism-based soccer iPhone game period. The game allows you to select from over 250 club teams and play in 30 competitions and 7 different game modes. A Dream Team mode allows you to earn cash from victories and assemble a dream team of players from the present and the past. The game’s excellent AI keeps thing challenging over time. The replay system lets you rewatch your best moves and even upload them to YouTube.

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16. Zombie Gunship

Zombie Gunship

Zombie Gunship ($0.99) puts you in the gunner’s chair of an AC-130 military plane as it attempts to prevent waves of zombies from reaching a bunker. If one zombie makes it, the bunker door automatically closes, and it’s game over. You view the scenery below via night vision goggles that supply the black-and-white visuals and which add an element of challenge. You can upgrade your weapons over time to improve your zombie blasting abilities, just don’t take out too many civilians as well, or you’ll be forced to abort your mission.

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15. Legendary Wars

Legendary Wars ($0.99) sets two castles against each other. The object is to build and send forth troops from your castle in an attempt to destroy the other castle while also protecting yours. Castle defense is a popular genre in the App Store, and Legendary Wars distinguishes itself with a three-lane battlefield system that requires a level of micromanagement that keeps things challenging. Things get even more complex when the variety of troops available increases. The game’s sense of humor never lets things get too serious though.

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14. NBA Jam

NBA Jam ($0.99) is the classic arcade sports title that works surprisingly well on the iPhone. Its over-the-top actions don’t require the precise control of a physical joystick, and its less-than-serious tone fits perfect with the iPhone’s casual-gaming strengths. Each team features several NBA players, so you can substitute Joakim Noah for Carlos Boozer to start alongside Derrick Rose, if you so choose. A campaign mode allows you to unlock players from the past and introduce new style uniforms and basketballs to the game.

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13. Death Rally

Death Rally ($0.99) is a top-down racer with heavy elements of combat. As you race, you shoot at fellow racers with a machine gun and a second weapon of your choice. Prize money is earned for each race depending on how high in the rankings you finish and by how many cars you destroy and other factors. The cash can be used to upgrade the various attributes of your car. Along the way, you’ll also unlock new cars and weapons. The game features sharp graphics that take advantage of the Retina Display. The developer promises to add online multiplayer soon.

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12. Tiny Tower

Tiny Tower (free) lets you build a skyscraper floor by floor and direct the lives of the people who live in it. The charm of the game comes with the tenants who occupy the various floors. Each has a distinct personality that you must try to match with a dream job at a business in the building. There are dozens of businesses you can create for your tenants, including laundromats, soda fountains, arcades, sushi restaurants, etc. It’s a freemium title, so the developers try to encourage you to spend real money to speed up otherwise slow tasks like building new floors, but you don’t have to spend money to have fun. Like other popular freemium titles, this is a game to be enjoyed over time as you watch the fruits of your labor grow.

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11. Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer ($4.99, universal) is a fantasy-based card game that, in turn, is based on a real-life card game of the same name. The basics work like this: players start with the same 10 cards, and as the game progresses, resources are strategically spent on new cards. Cards are used to battle against creatures, and with victory comes victory points. Whoever has the most victory points at the end of the game wins. Because the game has existed as a real card game for a while, there is a lot of help available online on how to play.

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10. 9mm

9mm ($6.99) is a violent third-person shooter game. It has a rare age-restriction of 17+ in the App Store for sexual content, violence, and drugs and alcohol—all the good things in life! You play Jon Kannon, a detective gone bad who is battling local gangs. It’s not a complete open-world game like Grand Theft Auto, rather you are guided through the game via missions. 9mm features several hours of gameplay in all, including several difficulty levels, which add replay value. With nice cut scenes, plenty of guns, and even an online multiplayer mode (take on up to 12 strangers in an all-out gang ware), 9mm is an excellent adults-only crime game.

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9. Angry Birds Rio

Angry Birds Rio ($0.99) is a sequel to what has become not just a game but a cultural phenomenon. Rio contains 135 levels split into 4 episodes. The classic gameplay is preserved here— you’re still launching birds to knockdown structures, except this time you’re trying to break fellow birds out of cages instead of destroying evil pigs within the structures. There is a tie-in with the movie Rio where once you defeat the initial set of stages, you unlock two macaws who were characters in the movie. As you progress to new episodes, the games throws new twists at you like interfering monkeys and even boss battles. There is also a ton of hidden content to find and/or unlock, which gives the game replay value. With Rio, the Angry Birds franchise continues its roll.

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8. Reckless Getaway

Reckless Getaway

Reckless Getaway ($2.99, universal) is a fun, fast-paced driving game with loose physics. The object of the game is to evade police pursuit all the way through 16 levels. There is no brake or gas pedal, so your only task is to steer the car through the various obstacles. Besides dodging and outrunning the police cars, your other goal is to earn points by collecting coins, performing jumps scattered about the courses, and completing other various tasks. As you gain points, you fill up 4 stars that measure your performance for each level. While surviving the police pursuit is the somewhat easy part of the game, it’s the earning of the 4 stars that gives the game a lot of replay value.

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7. World of Goo

World of Goo ($4.99) is a quirky physics puzzler that has been a hit across many different platforms. The object is to stretch pieces of goo and build elastic structures so that the goo can travel along it and into a pipe. Other obstacles like balloons and windmills need to be factored in order to solve each level. Experimenting with the gooey physics and seeing what the limitations of the pieces are is part of the fun and vital to the problem solving. The game achieves that perfect balance of not-too-hard, not-to-easy puzzle difficulty that makes it assessable to everyone.

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6. The King of Fighters-i 002

The King of Fighters

The King of Fighters-i 002 ($4.99) is a popular arcade fighting game in the same vein as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Choose from 14 playable characters (6 more will be available in an update coming in October) to fight with. The game features 4 single-player modes of play, including a traditional arcade mode with 3 vs 3 team battles (this is the most popular mode), a regular 1 vs 1 fighting mode, endless mode, and a training mode. Special attack moves are simplified for the touchscreen, making the game a frustration-free experience. Currently, King of Fighters really is the king of iOS fighting games.

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5. Cut the Rope: Experiments

Cut the Rope: Experiments ($0.99) is a sequel to the now-classic iPhone puzzle game. If you’re unfamiliar with one of the best iPhone games ever, the basic premise is to manipulate a piece of candy across the screen so that it falls (or flies) into the adorable Om Nom’s mouth. You accomplish this by, yes, cutting ropes (as the title suggests) but also by utilizing other methods like whoopee cushions and suction cups. Experiments features 75 new levels to play through. While the basics remain the same, there are a few new gadgets and game twists to entertain even veteran players.

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4. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP ($4.99) is a game like none other you’ve played before. The game’s storyline is that you are a warrior seeking to find the Megatome in order to destroy an evil force called the Gogolithic. The controls are essentially of the point-and-click adventure variety, but from that framework, the game frequently departs from the familiar with never-seen-before gaming twists, a few that border on the ridiculous. It’s amazing how the developers were able to wring such beautiful graphics out of what is essentially a clichéd use of 8-bit blocky pixels. And the haunting soundtrack by Jim Guthrie lifts the game to a new level. Overall, it’s a unique gaming experience.

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3. Dead Space

Dead Space ($6.99) is a horror-tinged first person shooter filled with lots of sci-fi action and a complete story arc that will leave you satisfied once you’ve made the journey. The setting is a space station invaded by ugly aliens called Necromorphs. Besides the usual big-frigging-gun appeal, the game features unique fighting skills like a cool kinesis talent and zero-gravity combat. Professional voice talent and an excellent soundtrack are the icing on the cake. Combined with the game’s Retina Display graphics, this is one of the best produced games in the App Store.

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2. Order & Chaos Online

Order & Chaos Online ($6.99) is MMORPG in the same vein as World of Warcraft. Or, to put it less nicely, it is essentially a ripoff of WoW, which is a good thing. A very good thing. The control scheme is specifically designed for the iPhone and iPad. Order & Chaos gets all the things that WoW gets right, albeit on a smaller scale. The addictive combination of quests, leveling, and chatting up strangers will soon have you wasting away your free time. I was completely surprised how relatively “bug free” the game was seeing as how many players are running around in this virtual world. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a good online RPG for iOS.

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1. Anomaly: Warzone Earth

Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD ($3.99) puts you in control of a fleet of vehicles as they travel through a war-torn landscape protected by alien war technology. Warzone Earth is a reverse tower defense game where instead of strategically building towers to destroy waves of creeps, you direct the creeps to destroy the towers. Take out towers by flanking them and taking advantage of limited aiming radius or utilize special power-ups to heal your troops. Warzone is one of those rare games that gets every element right, from the controls to graphics to game strategy.

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