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20 best iPhone games of 2009

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iPhone was once a gaming platform suitable only for the extremely casual or the extremely bored. Not after last year. The landscape of the iPhone has changed dramatically over the past twelve months, with gameplay evolving, narratives maturing and technological leaps constantly surprising us with what the smartphone is capable of producing.

These 20 games are the best – as well as the most fun and most addictive – examples of that improvement. And with Apple finally unveiling their long-rumored, much-discussed tablet device tomorrow, these are also the 20 games we’d most like to see upgraded and enhanced for that new format. If you still doubt the power and potential of mobile gaming, allow one of these to change your mind.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a week’s worth of Apple-related features. We’ll be live-blogging the conference tomorrow and reacting to the expected tablet announcement from a hardcore gamer’s point of view. Will this thing actually change our hobby in any real, meaningful way? Should you even be paying attention? We intend to find out, and of course, let you know.


20. Doom Classic

Price: $6.99
Free demo available? No

Why we love it: Doom is Doom… it was great back then, and it's even better now. The iPhone version doesn’t drastically change or improve gameplay, but id Software has perfectly translated the original experience into portable form. It's also a fantastic example of how to do FPS controls correctly on the touch-screen handheld. Downsides? You’ve probably played this whole thing in some form in the past, and the WiFi multiplayer is unreliable. Still, nothing compares to embarking on a quick five-minute trip to Mars Hell while waiting for your bus to arrive.


19. Canabalt

Price: $2.99
Free demo available? No

Why we love it: Exceedingly simple in design, yet capable of inducing panic-filled, adrenaline-fueled terror every time you play. Canabalt’s concept is never fully explained. You seem to be controlling a man as he leaps across rooftops, escaping the giant mech-like machines that are destroying his city in the background. As the game begins, you’re leaping out of a skyscraper window. From there, the intensity, momentum and speed only increase… and the jumps only grow more and more difficult. Some will complain that death is too random in Canabalt, but we found that it only enhanced our fear that each new leap could be our last.


18. Peggle

Price: $2.99
Free demo available? No

Why we love it: We've fallen in love with this Pachinko-style puzzle game on about nine different platforms at this point, but with endlessly satisfying tactile feedback, the iPhone version may be our favorite. Turned off by all the colorful rainbows and friendly unicorns? Go play Rogue Warrior. We’re so addicted to hitting every orange peg, and reaching every “Extreme Fever,” we don’t care who knows… or how many times PopCap re-releases it.


17. Flight Control

Price: $0.99
Free demo available? No

Why we love it: What Tetris was to the GameBoy, Flight Control now is to the iPhone. Both are classics that every owner of the system must try, and both require serious time-management skills in order to succeed. Flight Control’s immense popularity has led some critics to label it overblown and overhyped, but the game’s importance to the iPhone cannot be overstated. The simple and low-cost philosophy on display here – all you do is drag planes to runways and avoid collisions – has inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of imitators in the app development community. With good reason.


16. Blue Attack!

Price: $1.99
Free demo available? No

Why we love it: Developer John Kooistra has released several games on the iPhone, all of which are fantastic. Seriously, download Red Conquest and Blue Defense if you haven’t already. His best effort to date, however, is Blue Attack! The graphics are abstract, and the gameplay is hard to describe, featuring what seem to be space battles between massive war frigates (that look like blood cells) and a small attack plane (you). The keys to Blue Attack!’s success are the surprisingly detailed RPG-like upgrade system and the awesome tension that builds as your tiny avatar tries to survive against insurmountable odds.

Topics

iPhone Mobile

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25 comments

  • DoctorCrazy - February 17, 2010 11:53 p.m.

    Where is the Quest!!!!!!!!!!
  • WayByWind - February 2, 2010 12:30 a.m.

    I'd like to see a dedicated iPhone/Touch section of GamesRadar, and these bite-sized little paragraphs seem like a great review format.
  • kare123ty - February 1, 2010 9:13 p.m.

    I don't know if Canabalt is worth $3 because you can just play it online... Also, N.O.V.A. is a really good game, even without any joysticks or buttons because the controls are in good locations and work well. There is what I think is a fantastic pot of Mega Man 2, with even more modes than the original, but I don't know if it was released in 2009.
  • EricBratcher - January 29, 2010 1 a.m.

    Chinatown Wars was actually released in 2010, so it's not eligible for this article. Stay tuned. We'll probably be doing a bit more iPhone stuff going forward, especially if you guys make clear to us that you want it by clicking and commenting.
  • Gonzobot - January 28, 2010 4:17 a.m.

    The simple fact that you've got FPS games in a toplist for a system with NO BUTTONS OR JOYSTICK shows that you know jack shit about good games.
  • uupinko - January 28, 2010 2:11 a.m.

    Great article but I would have like to have seen Doom Classic closer to the top of the list. Jess www.online-privacy.int.tc
  • MattyBoomLol - January 28, 2010 2:03 a.m.

    Canabalt is truly awesome... but where is Train Conductor? :D
  • highsox20 - January 28, 2010 12:12 a.m.

    Solid list, WHERE IS NAZI ZOMBIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! best iphone game hands down
  • testertap99 - January 27, 2010 11:18 p.m.

    Drop7 is the best game on the iPhone, no question.
  • JohnnyMaverik - January 27, 2010 4:10 p.m.

    @ NotBraze Well seeing as GamesRadar only really review the big titles now in their super reviews, with a couple slipping through on the side (Machinarium, Rogue Warrior) I doubt they'd actually review many if any of the iPhone games themselves. I'm not sure how many of their Future owned partners review iPhone games either, so you'd probably end up with a blank section seeing as the reviews on this site have to come from GamesRadar or a Future partner (for obvious reasons).
  • boyverygood011 - January 27, 2010 3:56 p.m.

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  • boyverygood011 - January 27, 2010 3:41 p.m.

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  • iKOemos - January 27, 2010 5:11 a.m.

    NOVA looks awesome. I'm getting it.
  • raxafrax - January 27, 2010 5:09 a.m.

    Baseball Superstars 2010 is really good too.
  • NotBraze - January 27, 2010 3:01 a.m.

    You've had several articles now about how the iPhone (and, by extension, the iPod Touch) is a legitimate gaming platform, yet you guys still don't have a section dedicated to it like you do with everything else. These compilation reviews are great but I'd like to see iPhone games get individual reviews as well.
  • Ravenbom - January 27, 2010 2:26 a.m.

    Doom but no Myst? It's only like 5 bucks now and has a demo. Myst is more of what an iPhone game should be, since it's pretty chill (you won't be screaming at your iPhone while standing in line at the DMV) and there's a guide that comes with the game, something I didn't have back in the ftp days of the interwebz.
  • Hobojedi - January 27, 2010 1:09 a.m.

    THANK YOU. I've been looking for something good to play on my little iPod. Also GeoDefenseSwarm is great if you like the TD games. It gets hard fast though
  • Yeager1122 - January 27, 2010 12:11 a.m.

    Hmmmmmm now im thinking i got to get nova.
  • Ocelot3997 - January 27, 2010 12:02 a.m.

    @Darkmagshin Chinatown Wars is amazing, but it came out in January 2010. It will almost certainly be on next year's list though. At this point it's the #1 of 2010.
  • Cyberninja - January 26, 2010 11:42 p.m.

    still sad i dont have a ipod touch

Showing 1-20 of 25 comments

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