What are good iPad games for newbies?
October 19, 2012 4:31 AM   Subscribe

What are the best "gateway games" on the iPad for a complete newbie?

I am jealous of all those people who say they get so many hours of pleasure gaming on their iPads.

I have never really played games of any kind: neither board games (other than chess, and some Go) nor video games. I have never had a Playstation or an Xbox or a Wii.

In other words, I really know nothing about gaming. But I do have an iPad now, so I want to put it to good use.

What I am really looking for are games that will serve as a good entry point to the gaming world. I don't really care too much at this point whether they are strategy games or war games or RPGs or whatever. I just want games that are reasonably easy to learn, that are reasonably complex in the depth they offer, and that will get me deeper into the whole gaming world that so many people adore.

Please make recommendations!
posted by rahulrg to Computers & Internet (42 answers total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
Carcassone on the iPad is my vice. I have taken it off a couple of times so that I can get some work done but it always creeps back on to the iPad.
posted by hariya at 4:37 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you like puzzle games, Trainyard is pretty much perfect. Very simple to learn, individual puzzles can take from minutes to hours.
posted by epo at 4:39 AM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

I got hooked with Harry potter Lego.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:43 AM on October 19, 2012

Flow is a deceptively simple and addictive game.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:55 AM on October 19, 2012

Puzzle Quest
McPixel (adults only!)
Infinite Surf

Also, download the TouchArcade app and pull it up once in a while to keep abreast of new games.
posted by griphus at 5:08 AM on October 19, 2012

Osmos, Angry Birds, Puzzle Agent, Galaxy on Fire 2, Lumines, and Peggle are a few that have managed to hold my interest.
posted by samsara at 5:08 AM on October 19, 2012

Oh! Almost forgot Organ Trail [sic]
posted by griphus at 5:11 AM on October 19, 2012

iPad/iPhone games tend to fall into the category of 'casual gaming', by which people usually mean games that are quick to learn and aren't too demanding in terms of time or learning curve. Which isn't to say that there aren't a ton of very well put-together casual games.

My recommendations:

Eufloria HD - a beautiful, abstract strategy game of planetary conquest. Simple, yet it can take many attempts to crack certain levels.

Osmos HD - like Eufloria, very abstract and nice to look at. Quite physics-y to play, but straightforward to get into.

Space Miner HD - just a well-paced asteroids-style game with lots of equipment-buying and powerups, and a few comedic story elements thrown in.

Sword and Sworcery - On offbeat, pixel-graphics, point-and-click adventure. Very good.

The Curse - lots and lots of little logic puzzles, riddles etc. Nothing much more than that, but plenty of entertainment therein.

Masyu - a unique kind of puzzle involving joining dots to form a single path. Will appeal to those who enjoy block-sliding games, sudoku etc.

Beat Sneak Bandit - a musical game where you guide a thief's movements by tapping along to a beat - oddly fun.
posted by pipeski at 5:15 AM on October 19, 2012

Check out the Avernum games by Spiderweb Software. They're an indie publisher with a rather unique set of turn-based RPGs. The graphics are nothing fancy, but the gameplay and mechanics are sound and the writing decent.

If you've got a Mac or Windows PC, you can try out the demos there before buying the iPad version.
posted by valkyryn at 5:20 AM on October 19, 2012

Some recommendations:

Trainyard, a fun puzzle game that slowly ramps up the difficulty. I also like Aqueduct.

For adventure games, you could start with Drawn: The Painted Tower. (Link is to full version; there's also a try-before-you-buy version.) It's a gorgeous game with a gentle, all-ages feel. There's also Puzzle Agent and Puzzle Agent 2, which are puzzles with a bit of a Fargo-esque adventure wrapping.

If you find you enjoy adventure games, you could progress to Machinarium, The Tiny Bang Story and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery. A lot of the classic old adventure games have been ported to iOS, and I really like The Secret of Monkey Island and its sequels. (Note that SoMI is an iPhone game; for iPad, you can either play it at phone size or use the iPad's doubling feature.)

There's tons of match-3 games on the App Store -- games where you match three or more of something together by swapping or otherwise manipulating the pieces. The classic is Bejewelled, but for a fresh take, I like Birzzle Pandora. There's also Tiny Town, an unusual match-3/strategy hybrid. And check out Corpse Craft, which uses a similar matching concept to fuel combat with terrific Edward Gory-style graphics.

For games that are more dynamic, but still easy to get into, you could try World of Goo, an action-puzzle game with a great graphical style, Plants vs Zombies, a very good introduction to the tower defence genre, and Beat Sneak Bandit, a rhythm game with groovy '70s graphics.

And, lastly, for a bit of light RPGing/platforming, LostWinds is utterly gorgeous.

Hope you find something there you enjoy!
posted by Georgina at 5:21 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you never want to do anything productive again: Kingdom Rush.

It's a tower defense game and a real time strategy game all at once. That is, you have to guard a path to your gates from all kinds of attackers with varying powers, but you don't just set things up, then watch passively as things play out, but you get to observe and react by buying more defenders (soldiers and various cool towers) and placing them as needed during gameplay. Think of Plants vs. Zombies, but better.

If you are new to games, it will do a great job of getting you started. It starts you out easy but not boring, then ramps you up to more challenging levels, so you will never feel that that you're being thrown in the deep end. If you do find some of the upper levels are killing you, you can find walkthroughs available on YouTube.

I'm new to tower defense games, and after mastering KR I've looked for others, but they pale before Kingdom Rush. Plus, the designers really understood hooks, with great visuals (no graphic violence), tiny, gorgeous details and a few Easter Eggs, sound effects, and various catchphrases for your defenders. Seriously, it is iPad crack.

Try it out free online.

Watch MeFites freak out over the free online version.

The official site.
posted by maudlin at 5:30 AM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

So hard to suggest games for a brand new gamer. Here's a list of games in a variety of categories, with very different types of gameplay, story, and style. I think if you give each of these a try, you can begin to narrow down to the types of games you like (or maybe, like me, you'll like all of them).

Angry Birds
The Incident
Cut The Rope
Spell Tower
Where's My Water?
New Star Soccer
Temple Run
Jetpack Joyride
posted by Rock Steady at 5:35 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh God, Triple Town. If I could quit you, I would. (seriously, I love that game beyond all reasoning, and which I see Georgina above linked as "Tiny Town". )
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:41 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more thing about Kingdom Rush: they keep updating it. I just noticed there's a new Bandits Campaign in Version 1.6 that gives me two new missions and a lot of other features. Updates are available free, and add-ons are pretty cheap. Smart and generous developers deserve to be rewarded.
posted by maudlin at 5:44 AM on October 19, 2012

Seconding Kingdom Rush so, so, so hard. Oh my God, you will not do anything productive with your life for a while.

Great graphics, really good music, great gameplay, cheeky sound effects that make me laugh but don't grate, and after a frustrating day at work, it's super-cathartic to wreck waves of goblins, spiders, and necromancers.
posted by joyceanmachine at 5:55 AM on October 19, 2012

Another tower defense one, with very pretty graphics: iBomber Defense Pacific
posted by agentmitten at 6:02 AM on October 19, 2012

World of Goo is another great game for the iPad if you like physics-based games.
posted by hariya at 6:10 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

OMG Kingdom Rush is now available on the iPhone too I'm doomed.
posted by maudlin at 6:46 AM on October 19, 2012

Kingdom Rush is pretty close to perfect if that happens to be your cup of poison. It will make you think tower defense games are good, which they aren't.
posted by The Bellman at 6:47 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might as well jump in with both feet: Infinity Blade is basically the standard by which all other serious iOS games are judged. The sequel came out this year and improved upon the original in every way, there's no reason not to just grab that.
posted by Oktober at 7:04 AM on October 19, 2012

posted by elizardbits at 7:05 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

My taste tends to run towards games I can play for a short time and then put down again, because I have a small child and thus can't usually play for long. So listen to others for the immersive RPGs and stuff, but here are a few good time-wasters I like:

Smallware makes Solebon, a very nice solitaire game that I've been stuck on for some time now. (I have burned so much time playing Scorpion!) The game has a large number of solitaire varieties built in, and has nice visuals to boot. Simple, elegant, and damn difficult.

Doodle Jump is great fun. Simple, but fun.

I think I first saw Spelltower mentioned here on MeFi, and I have been hooked for a bit. Kind of like Boggle mixed with Tetris - make words from adjacent tiles, before you run out of space for new lines.

Angry Birds and related by Rovio are pretty much classics. I'll note for the record that in the Angry Birds vein, things can get repetitive pretty quickly. Sure, the challenge of the different levels is fun, and the "must get all stars!" obsession can make things even more interesting. But for the most part, aside from the different visuals all the Birds games are the same.

And then there's Angry Birds Space. The addition of the gravity effects makes the game fresh and new for me again. It's just neat to play around with. Give the original a shot, play through Seasons and Rio, but keep Space in your back pocket for when things start to seem a little stale.

The newest game from the company - Bad Piggies - is a lot of fun too. Completely different kind of game; still the same physics in play, but the goal is to move a pig from point A to point B by building a vehicle out of a small number of parts. My three year old likes the game and can actually do pretty well on many of the levels, but it can get really hard really fast when you are shooting for the three star challenges.

(PS - if there is a regular version, a free version, and an HD version of a game - as there is for all of the Birds games from Rovio - go for the HD one. It's designed for iPad, and unlike the free variety there's no stupid ads everywhere. It's worth it to me to spend the $3.00 to remove ads. And I'd much rather pay it up front than get suckered into paying it after the fact.)
posted by caution live frogs at 7:08 AM on October 19, 2012

Is DrawSomething on iPad? (i know its on the iphone, and i play on an android tablet) it's like pictionary via text message...play with friends or total strangers...play well and it rewards you with more colors...a stylus is a good investment if you get hooked...
posted by sexyrobot at 7:09 AM on October 19, 2012

I am addicted to Super Hexagon at the moment (mefi thread here)
posted by corvine at 7:12 AM on October 19, 2012

World of Goo is a great suggestion. It's a physics based puzzle game with a great art style and sense of humor. You build bridges, basically, with gooey creatures.

Osmos HD is also great, as it's very chill. The soundtrack and experience are not frantic at all.

I really like Fruit Ninja, though many people will disagree, as a sort of mindless tap fest. Swipe your finger to slice fruit "tossed" up on the screen. Combos, multipliers, powerups, etc.

I believe Space Chem is on the iPad now. Very difficult puzzle game. Cogs is also a fun puzzle game.

Galcon is a fun Risk like game with both single and multiplayer. It's "realtime Risk," where you send fleets of ships and planets in an attempt to take over. Games are over in minutes.

Canabalt HD is great, as it requires one tap to do the only action available to you: jump. The flash game is free, so you can test it out.
posted by teabag at 7:22 AM on October 19, 2012

Plants vs Zombies HD

Bejeweled HD
posted by JaneL at 7:30 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

*hangs head in shame*

I'm addicted to Spider Solitare though I play it on the Nexus. And yes it's that game we all played way too often back on Windows, I was addicted then and I am addicted now.

I also play pretty much all the other games suggested too and would add my vote to those as great games oh and I'd add "Bad Piggies" to the list and Rebuild
posted by wwax at 7:31 AM on October 19, 2012

I'm not a gamer either, and I've been totally hooked on Carcassonne for months. It's fantastic. I've also gone through stages of addiction to Tiny Wings, Fruit Ninja, Orbital and Doodle Jump. All worth a try. Carcassonne games last 15-20 min or so. Tiny Wings and Doodle Jump games tend to last 2-5 minutes, if that makes a difference.
posted by kdern at 7:58 AM on October 19, 2012

The five year old Niece Renault loveslovesloves Mah Jongg. There's a bunch of different ones out there. Pay the buck to get rid of ads.

I'm currently addicted to Bridge Constructor, a puzzle game where you have to figure out how to build a bridge within a certain budget, and then send little cars over to try it out, and you see the stress levels building and why oh why can't they give you a hint option?

Previously, I was addicted to Mille Bornes (Tintin edition), which is exactly the same as the regular game, only with no cleanup, and you can just BURN through game after game after game.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:03 AM on October 19, 2012

Train Yard is my favourite IOS game by far. It really is a special thing

These games are great for some casual play, with learning curves that reward persistence:
puzzle → Cut the Rope & sequel, Plants Vs Zombies

puzzle/arcade hybrids → Tiny Wings HD, Peggle

arcade → Tilt to Live HD, and Jetpack Joyride
For a longer length of play, World of Goo is easy to pick up, difficult to master and beautiful in its execution.

Recently I've been hooked on 10000000. I mean really hooked. Casual. As. Hell.
posted by 0bvious at 8:05 AM on October 19, 2012

If you like football then under no circumstances ever download New Star Soccer as you may never raise your head from your iDevice screen, you'll lose your job and partner, and cease eating and personal hygiene will become a thing of the past.

posted by metaxa at 8:13 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am the most non-gamery person out there and I play Tiny Tower, Pocket Planes, and Puzzlejuice. Angry Birds had me going for a while too but I burned out on it.
posted by matildaben at 10:56 AM on October 19, 2012

Nthing Machinarium and Sword & Sworcery. Maybe the two best games on the app store. Both easy to learn, but within complex, engaging, and beautifully-designed worlds that seem like a rare thing compared to most iPad games.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:44 AM on October 19, 2012

Lost Winds is adorable, mildly challenging, and uses the unique properties of a tablet interface very well. There is a second installment and I am wishing for a third. Bonus: no in-game purchase.

Also, this question has just cost me a lot of time and money.
posted by mimo at 12:06 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Plants vs Zombies is sublime on the iPad. If ever there was a game made for a touch interface, this is it.

Hero Academy is pretty great.

If you like board games, the iPad versions of Ticket to Ride, Small World, and Puerto Rico (board games, initially) translate very well.

Osmos is fun.

If you have young kids, the Reading Rainbow app is absolutely phenomenal. The PBS Kids app is great, too.
posted by xedrik at 1:41 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a fan of Harbor Master. One of the very few things I miss after a switch to Android. It starts slow, and gets a bit more complex and a bit faster, but very gradually.
posted by arantius at 2:36 PM on October 19, 2012

I like puzzle games, so keep that in mind.


Nthing Trainyard and Carcassonne, mentioned above.

eta: oh god yes plants vs zombies
posted by kostia at 4:24 PM on October 19, 2012

If you like puzzles, I highly recommend Unblock Me. I hate flying, but my last cross-country flight from LAX to DC went by fast, thanks to this game.
posted by invisible ink at 4:50 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recommend Super Hexagon by Terry Cavanagh. It is a twitch reflex/pattern based game and was released in September for the iphone/ipad and pc to rave reviews.


Warning: It is rather difficult at first (although the premise is simple), and on top of that HIGHLY ADDICTIVE!!!

Let me know when you get over 60 seconds :)
posted by Kamelot123 at 11:58 PM on October 19, 2012

In the match three category: Super Monsters Ate My Condo by Adult Swim
Crazy, crazy, crazy fun.
posted by Mai2k3 at 12:56 AM on October 20, 2012

Also I would check out The Room. It's a puzzle box on your iPad which is far more complex than any real world puzzle box could ever be, and is just amazingly well crafted. More of an "experience" than a game tho, and pretty short obviously.
posted by Mai2k3 at 1:00 AM on October 20, 2012

I've been super into Plague, Inc. lately. You have to create a disease that wipes out the whole population of Earth before they find a cure. So addicting, watching all those little red dots spread across continents...
posted by exceptinsects at 3:39 PM on October 21, 2012

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