ta_logo_whiteIt seemed to make more sense this month to do our ratings a little earlier than usual to make room for our upcoming best of 2009 articles. With the pre-holiday release rush we've seen, it seems unlikely that there are going to be that many more games coming out this month especially with the iTunes connect holiday downtime-- But any games released after this post will be included in January's ratings.

Our final scores are not the product of any traditionally objective measures such as graphics or sound, but simply reflect the games we would most recommend to others.

December was a huge month for some great iPhone game releases, this month's "Best iPhone Games" are highlighted here:

5 Stars

641298

Need For Speed: Shift - Racing games seem to be a natural fit to the tilt controls of the iPhone and EA's latest entry in to the genre can easily stand next to the best racing games on the platform in terms of the amount of included licensed materials, different game modes, and overall fun-factor. With control settings and driving assist options that range from the game practically playing itself to a competent racing simulation complete with a manual transmission mode, Need For Speed: Shift is a must-have for any fan of racing games. (Review, App Store)

596730

N.O.V.A. - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance - Drawing inspiration from Sci-Fi console classics, NOVA is a surprisingly complete and full featured iPhone first person shooter. With an epic single player campaign that will take you several hours to complete, graphics which are among the best currently available on the platform, and four player online deathmatch modes, NOVA has successfully lived up to the insane amount of pre-release hype. (Review, App Store)

242870

Sword of Fargoal - By far the most approachable roguelike, Sword of Fargoal is a classic dungeon crawler with randomly generated levels which provide nearly infinite replay value. Aside from being a fantastic game, Sword of Fargoal also serves as an excellent example of how retro ports should be done. The iPhone version preserves the look and feel of the original while adding new OpenGL effects and other modern graphical flare. If you've never played a roguelike before, Sword of Fargoal is a great introduction to the genre. (Review, App Store)

4.5 Stars

758884

Labyrinth 2 - The sequel to the game that pioneered the marble rolling genre on the iPhone before the App Store even existed, Labyrinth 2 takes the standard wooden labyrinth game and adds even more obstacles, fantastic 3D graphics, and a full featured online level editor. The user created content community has already exploded and you can load up Labyrinth 2 every day and have a new batch of levels to play through, all of which download almost instantly inside of the game. (Review, App Store)

133287

PAC-MAN Championship Edition - Developed by the original Pac-Man designer, Tōru Iwatani, Pac-Man Championship Edition succeeds in breathing new life in to this arcade classic. With great controls, colorful graphics, and fast-paced game modes, Pac-Man Championship Edition is by far the best Pac-Man game on the platform. (Review, App Store)

583887

Driver - An excellent port of the PlayStation/PC game, Driver includes all of the content of the original with updated graphics and an iPhone-friendly interface. Players complete missions in four full in-game cities and on top of that there are additional game modes that are just as fun as the single player campaign. (Review, App Store)

The rest of December game ratings can be seen in their respective rating categories (also found in the sidebar navigation): 5 Stars, 4.5 Stars, 4 Stars, 3.5 Stars, 3 Stars, and 2.5 Stars.

As always, we expect there will be some debate about relative scores, but keep in mind that everyone's personal ratings may vary based on individual tastes.

  • Vingdoloras

    No Red Conquest? :-(

    Got NOVA, the graphics are amazing...

  • Vingdoloras

    No Red Conquest? :-(

    Got NOVA, the graphics are amazing...

  • kdaddy

    This is the best rating i have seen so far, you did Justice to the whole stuff, thanks, i am calm with TA Ratings. I haven't played SF but will try it out now

    • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

      Indeed. Not giving 5 stars to one-tap wonders helps a bit with the credibility.

      • game developers should be forc

        Jesus christ. How long are you going to whine about canabalt?

      • game developers should be forc

        Consider suicide please. Or at least stop posting.

      • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

        Some people have different opinions than you. You're just going to have to grow up and learn to deal with it.

  • kdaddy

    This is the best rating i have seen so far, you did Justice to the whole stuff, thanks, i am calm with TA Ratings. I haven't played SF but will try it out now

    • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

      Indeed. Not giving 5 stars to one-tap wonders helps a bit with the credibility.

      • game developers should be forced to dance on the street for nickels

        Jesus christ. How long are you going to whine about canabalt?

      • game developers should be forced to dance on the street for nickels

        Consider suicide please. Or at least stop posting.

      • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

        Some people have different opinions than you. You're just going to have to grow up and learn to deal with it.

  • Chad

    I'm just wondering if they've even seen Battle for Wesnoth

    • MrMuesli

      Probably. But when you get over how much content there is, you realise how utterly dreadful the UI is as you painstakingly try over and over to hit the micro- millimetre 'hospots'. Life's too short....really.

  • Chad

    I'm just wondering if they've even seen Battle for Wesnoth

    • MrMuesli

      Probably. But when you get over how much content there is, you realise how utterly dreadful the UI is as you painstakingly try over and over to hit the micro- millimetre 'hospots'. Life's too short....really.

  • EatKodosDaily

    After being extremely disappointed by Eliminate, I just can't bring myself to try NOVA. The controls were absolutely horrid, I don't understand why developers keep using virtual joysticks for looking... how long ago now was it since John Carmack demonstrated the superiority of tilt to aim? Five months? Shouldn't all the other developers have picked up on that now? Joysticks are for moving, tilting is for aiming, taps for fire / reload / swap weapons... jump/duck I suppose.

    • Chad

      Cause tilting is not very accurate, and it affects our viewing angle (unless you want to bounce your head around like a nitwit to follow the screen.

      • nizy

        Based on that comment you haven't played either Doom Res or COD Zombies (both have excellent tilt controls in a shooter). The tilt control in Zombies is far superior to each other method - its more accurate, faster and also uses less screen real estate (which also makes locating the virtual buttons much better).

    • bob

      the controls for nova are amazing, VERY accurate, and i want more games to use this method, I also want NOVA 2 asap haha, best game yet so far

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      NOVA "feels" better to me than Eliminate, definitely. Although, like the first Eliminate outing -- no invert look. !!

  • EatKodosDaily

    After being extremely disappointed by Eliminate, I just can't bring myself to try NOVA. The controls were absolutely horrid, I don't understand why developers keep using virtual joysticks for looking... how long ago now was it since John Carmack demonstrated the superiority of tilt to aim? Five months? Shouldn't all the other developers have picked up on that now? Joysticks are for moving, tilting is for aiming, taps for fire / reload / swap weapons... jump/duck I suppose.

    • Chad

      Cause tilting is not very accurate, and it affects our viewing angle (unless you want to bounce your head around like a nitwit to follow the screen.

      • nizy

        Based on that comment you haven't played either Doom Res or COD Zombies (both have excellent tilt controls in a shooter). The tilt control in Zombies is far superior to each other method - its more accurate, faster and also uses less screen real estate (which also makes locating the virtual buttons much better).

    • bob

      the controls for nova are amazing, VERY accurate, and i want more games to use this method, I also want NOVA 2 asap haha, best game yet so far

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      NOVA "feels" better to me than Eliminate, definitely. Although, like the first Eliminate outing -- no invert look. !!

  • Volodymyr

    This must be a joke.

    NOVA, SHIFT and driver cannot be called best games...
    They are ugly....
    NOVA - to easy, poor multiplayer experience
    Shift - unreal controls physics... you try to turn, car almost not responding.
    Driver - boring, very hard to control the car...

    • Alienmario

      you are an idiot

      • Sticktron

        His comments about Shift and Driver are spot on.

      • MidianGTX

        He's terrible at games.

      • Volodymyr

        Idiot is a son of your father.

        MidianGTX says:
        December 23, 2009 at 9:57 am
        He's terrible at games.

        Yeah? You think so? name the game where u are a master?

      • Ape lover

        nice reasoning bobo! now go back and play that shoot the tiger game.

      • Volodymyr

        Ape lover, i have over 10 years of gaming experience both on PC and on pocket devices :)

        I bet that i will own you in Q2, Q3....... etc

    • sk8erdude50

      shift was the only accurate one, the rest- well, ur an idiot, especially with nova since it has three difficulties

      • Volodymyr

        idiot ... idiot... have you ever thought that there is a possibility that from us 2 idiot is actually u.

        I've played NOVA on normal mode. Its to easy to be called normal mode. Of course if it is hard for u, than what can i say.....

  • Volodymyr

    This must be a joke.

    NOVA, SHIFT and driver cannot be called best games...
    They are ugly....
    NOVA - to easy, poor multiplayer experience
    Shift - unreal controls physics... you try to turn, car almost not responding.
    Driver - boring, very hard to control the car...

    • Alienmario

      you are an idiot

      • Sticktron

        His comments about Shift and Driver are spot on.

      • MidianGTX

        He's terrible at games.

      • Volodymyr

        Idiot is a son of your father.

        MidianGTX says:
        December 23, 2009 at 9:57 am
        He's terrible at games.

        Yeah? You think so? name the game where u are a master?

      • Ape lover

        nice reasoning bobo! now go back and play that shoot the tiger game.

      • Volodymyr

        Ape lover, i have over 10 years of gaming experience both on PC and on pocket devices :)

        I bet that i will own you in Q2, Q3....... etc

    • sk8erdude50

      shift was the only accurate one, the rest- well, ur an idiot, especially with nova since it has three difficulties

      • Volodymyr

        idiot ... idiot... have you ever thought that there is a possibility that from us 2 idiot is actually u.

        I've played NOVA on normal mode. Its to easy to be called normal mode. Of course if it is hard for u, than what can i say.....

  • MrMuesli

    Very glad to see SoF there at the top along side some biggy's. A thoroughly well deserved position: )

  • MrMuesli

    Very glad to see SoF there at the top along side some biggy's. A thoroughly well deserved position: )

  • HenryBaker

    I co-sign on "Volodymyr" being an idiot.

  • HenryBaker

    I co-sign on "Volodymyr" being an idiot.

  • araczynski

    can't believe i missed angry birds, love chucking games, and the .99 price, sold.

  • araczynski

    can't believe i missed angry birds, love chucking games, and the .99 price, sold.

  • Deewin

    Ok I own all those titles (except sword of fargol) and still ended up playing more Cartoon Gunner than those combined! In fact, I love that game so much I ended up buying cartoon wars! Leveling up mechanics can really make a game addictive....

  • Deewin

    Ok I own all those titles (except sword of fargol) and still ended up playing more Cartoon Gunner than those combined! In fact, I love that game so much I ended up buying cartoon wars! Leveling up mechanics can really make a game addictive....

  • Deewin

    Just saw the trailer for fargoal and went to buy it but it's being modified :-/ I'm going to be disappointed if it's going up in price!

    • http://www.fargoal.com/ Jeff McCord

      Hello Deewin and others,

      We (the Sword of Fagoal devs) are very sorry about the message you are currently getting from the iTunes App Store about the App not being available because it is being updated. We want to be very transparent and let you know exactly what has happened from our understanding:

      1. We placed "Sword of Fargoal" on sale for 60% off (to $1.99 US) on Monday morning at 11:00 am PST for a very specific holiday "One Day Sale." We had no idea at that time of the great honor that TouchArcade was going to give us of being one of the "Best iPhone Games December 2009."

      2. As-of Tuesday evening at 8:30 pm PST -- a full 9.5 hours after the sale was originally due to expire -- we submitted to Apple our price change back to the regular price (of $4.99 US). Again, at this time we did not know that TA was going to publish their fantastic review of Fargoal.

      3. At about 2:00 am PST this morning, TouchArcade published their front-page news and 5-star review, AFTER we had already submitted the price change to Apple. Again, we are honored and thankful to TA and to our fans, but the price change (to regular price) was already submitted for several hours at that time.

      4. We woke up to news from customers that they had been trying to acquire our game, but they were getting a message from iTunes saying, "This item is being modified. Please try again later." We spoke to Apple and they say that because so many apps are being processed by their system due to the shutdown period that are in a queue for having the change from last night go into effect. They assure us that the situation should resolve sometime today (which we hope that it will).

      In the mean time all of our interested buyers cannot buy that game at any price! For that we are very sorry for the inconvenience and hope for your patience in this situation.

      What Will Happen Now?

      Hopefully, Apple will be able to get through their backlog situation and "Sword of Fargoal" will again come online sometime later tonight. We realize that it is a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and there is still a slim chance that the hangup will continue through the holidays.

      We also apologize (to Deewin and others) that when it DOES come back online that the price will indeed be at the higher price ($4.99 US). However, we stress again that this does not have anything at all to do with the TA honor we have received -- TouchArcade can vouch for us on this!

      Also, we believe that if you decide to still purchase the game when it comes back online, you will not be disappointed. We have had both "roguelike" fans and newcomers alike that it is worth the full price. And there is a new free update coming shortly after the holidays that will make the game even more full of fun and surprises, with future "episodes" to come, so the content is rich and continually evolving for our players.

      Thanks for allowing my long explanation. We just wanted to set the record straight about the timing of the price increase and the temporary glitch with Apple's system, and hope that you will remain excited about buying our game once it is resolved -- hopefully later tonight!

      Sincerely,

      Jeff McCord
      Sword of Fargoal

      • Chad

        Apple's system is bloated with glitches and delays...you shouldn't have to apologize for them. The biggest bottleneck for economic success is Apple's way of handling App Store updates and approvals.

      • http://www.fargoal.com/ Jeff McCord

        Thanks for your thoughts -- We just feel bad for our fans and potential interested buyers. We also understand, however, that Apple has pulled of an amazing feat to create the App Store model in less than 18 months (July 10, 2008) -- with over 100,000 apps and 2 billion downloads! So we understand with such huge volumes of activity how things like this could happen! If you happen to read this and are interested in the game, please be sure to check back periodically when the Apple issue is resolved, and it will eventually be available again -- Just don't forget about us!! -- JM

      • http://www.fargoal.com/ Jeff McCord

        Apple has fixed their backlog - Sword of Fargoal is now able to be purchased again on the App Store - iTunes link here: http://bit.ly/8MDq3N

      • Deewin

        gonnna wait for the next sale if it ever happens

  • Deewin

    Just saw the trailer for fargoal and went to buy it but it's being modified :-/ I'm going to be disappointed if it's going up in price!

    • http://www.fargoal.com/ Jeff McCord

      Hello Deewin and others,

      We (the Sword of Fagoal devs) are very sorry about the message you are currently getting from the iTunes App Store about the App not being available because it is being updated. We want to be very transparent and let you know exactly what has happened from our understanding:

      1. We placed "Sword of Fargoal" on sale for 60% off (to $1.99 US) on Monday morning at 11:00 am PST for a very specific holiday "One Day Sale." We had no idea at that time of the great honor that TouchArcade was going to give us of being one of the "Best iPhone Games December 2009."

      2. As-of Tuesday evening at 8:30 pm PST -- a full 9.5 hours after the sale was originally due to expire -- we submitted to Apple our price change back to the regular price (of $4.99 US). Again, at this time we did not know that TA was going to publish their fantastic review of Fargoal.

      3. At about 2:00 am PST this morning, TouchArcade published their front-page news and 5-star review, AFTER we had already submitted the price change to Apple. Again, we are honored and thankful to TA and to our fans, but the price change (to regular price) was already submitted for several hours at that time.

      4. We woke up to news from customers that they had been trying to acquire our game, but they were getting a message from iTunes saying, "This item is being modified. Please try again later." We spoke to Apple and they say that because so many apps are being processed by their system due to the shutdown period that are in a queue for having the change from last night go into effect. They assure us that the situation should resolve sometime today (which we hope that it will).

      In the mean time all of our interested buyers cannot buy that game at any price! For that we are very sorry for the inconvenience and hope for your patience in this situation.

      What Will Happen Now?

      Hopefully, Apple will be able to get through their backlog situation and "Sword of Fargoal" will again come online sometime later tonight. We realize that it is a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and there is still a slim chance that the hangup will continue through the holidays.

      We also apologize (to Deewin and others) that when it DOES come back online that the price will indeed be at the higher price ($4.99 US). However, we stress again that this does not have anything at all to do with the TA honor we have received -- TouchArcade can vouch for us on this!

      Also, we believe that if you decide to still purchase the game when it comes back online, you will not be disappointed. We have had both "roguelike" fans and newcomers alike that it is worth the full price. And there is a new free update coming shortly after the holidays that will make the game even more full of fun and surprises, with future "episodes" to come, so the content is rich and continually evolving for our players.

      Thanks for allowing my long explanation. We just wanted to set the record straight about the timing of the price increase and the temporary glitch with Apple's system, and hope that you will remain excited about buying our game once it is resolved -- hopefully later tonight!

      Sincerely,

      Jeff McCord
      Sword of Fargoal

      • Chad

        Apple's system is bloated with glitches and delays...you shouldn't have to apologize for them. The biggest bottleneck for economic success is Apple's way of handling App Store updates and approvals.

      • http://www.fargoal.com/ Jeff McCord

        Thanks for your thoughts -- We just feel bad for our fans and potential interested buyers. We also understand, however, that Apple has pulled of an amazing feat to create the App Store model in less than 18 months (July 10, 2008) -- with over 100,000 apps and 2 billion downloads! So we understand with such huge volumes of activity how things like this could happen! If you happen to read this and are interested in the game, please be sure to check back periodically when the Apple issue is resolved, and it will eventually be available again -- Just don't forget about us!! -- JM

      • http://www.fargoal.com/ Jeff McCord

        Apple has fixed their backlog - Sword of Fargoal is now able to be purchased again on the App Store - iTunes link here: http://bit.ly/8MDq3N

      • Deewin

        gonnna wait for the next sale if it ever happens

  • Will

    I think the SoF 5 stars is probably just retaliation for STP's 2/4 review.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      That would be quite a trick, since the TA review came out first.

  • Will

    I think the SoF 5 stars is probably just retaliation for STP's 2/4 review.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      That would be quite a trick, since the TA review came out first.

  • Frumius

    What, no Skies of Glory? Omg. Something is wrong! It's an awesome Multiplayer (internet, bluetooth, wifi) WWII combat flight sim. Just awesome.

  • Frumius

    What, no Skies of Glory? Omg. Something is wrong! It's an awesome Multiplayer (internet, bluetooth, wifi) WWII combat flight sim. Just awesome.

  • ZildjianKX

    No 'Beat It!' ?

    • Deewin

      +1. I wish more people knew about the gameplay but it's kind to describe through a trailer :(

  • ZildjianKX

    No 'Beat It!' ?

    • Deewin

      +1. I wish more people knew about the gameplay but it's kind to describe through a trailer :(

  • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

    People in here can be really annoying at times.
    Can't you be a bit less aggressive? Always complaining.
    It would be nice, if you could appreciate something once a day.

    I think, the choice is nice! Of course there are always personal favorites.
    But there won't be a single list on earth satisfying every single person.

  • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

    People in here can be really annoying at times.
    Can't you be a bit less aggressive? Always complaining.
    It would be nice, if you could appreciate something once a day.

    I think, the choice is nice! Of course there are always personal favorites.
    But there won't be a single list on earth satisfying every single person.

  • Jonah

    Wasn't a big fan of Driver, I forgot how boring it was on the PS1, its been that long, as soon as it came out, I bought it immediately for my 3GS then I realised why I hated Driver 10 years ago. Just one dimensional rubbish, seriously anybody who thinks it inspired GTA 3 is a moron, GTA existed before Driver, albeit in 2D, basically Rockstar just carried on a natural progression by taking the franchise where they wanted it to go, once technology caught up. Its like comparing a brainless Guy Ritchie flick to the Godfather, its all about depth, Driver has none

  • Jonah

    Wasn't a big fan of Driver, I forgot how boring it was on the PS1, its been that long, as soon as it came out, I bought it immediately for my 3GS then I realised why I hated Driver 10 years ago. Just one dimensional rubbish, seriously anybody who thinks it inspired GTA 3 is a moron, GTA existed before Driver, albeit in 2D, basically Rockstar just carried on a natural progression by taking the franchise where they wanted it to go, once technology caught up. Its like comparing a brainless Guy Ritchie flick to the Godfather, its all about depth, Driver has none

  • sikichi

    driver was too boring!!

    i will just put zenonia instead of that

    and nova hmmmmm multiplayer was not too much intense!! and it always disconnected but not the same with MC

    i should pick eliminate

    • Volodymyr

      Jonah and sickichi are know what they are talking about.

      At last... :)

  • sikichi

    driver was too boring!!

    i will just put zenonia instead of that

    and nova hmmmmm multiplayer was not too much intense!! and it always disconnected but not the same with MC

    i should pick eliminate

    • Volodymyr

      Jonah and sickichi are know what they are talking about.

      At last... :)

  • http://www.bitwiseops.com/AmazingTips AmazingTips

    Skies of Glory should have been up there...Avatar as well IMHO.

  • http://www.bitwiseops.com/AmazingTips AmazingTips

    Skies of Glory should have been up there...Avatar as well IMHO.

  • HenryBaker

    N.O.V.A. is the best Iphone game of the entire 2009 year. Unlike eliminate, the graphics and Multiplayer on N.O.V.A. are fantastic. Real Racing which came out in 2009 should of made the list as well.

    • Michael

      These games are only from December. I'm sure that RR will be on the "Best of 2009" list.

  • HenryBaker

    N.O.V.A. is the best Iphone game of the entire 2009 year. Unlike eliminate, the graphics and Multiplayer on N.O.V.A. are fantastic. Real Racing which came out in 2009 should of made the list as well.

    • Michael

      These games are only from December. I'm sure that RR will be on the "Best of 2009" list.

  • kennfusion

    Sowrd of Fargoal, LLC lowered their price got some nice media for it and then changed it again once they got some press, not even leaving the reduced price for 24 hours.

    It was just a media PR scam.

    Boycott Fargoal, LLC

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      Read the explanation above before you get all righteous, kennfusion. BTW, Sword of Fargoal got some nice media because it's a really good game; it had nothing to do with their one-day sale.

    • MrMuesli

      Somehow, I find that very hard to believe. How about living life on the less skeptical side? You'll enjoy it much more.

  • kennfusion

    Sowrd of Fargoal, LLC lowered their price got some nice media for it and then changed it again once they got some press, not even leaving the reduced price for 24 hours.

    It was just a media PR scam.

    Boycott Fargoal, LLC

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      Read the explanation above before you get all righteous, kennfusion. BTW, Sword of Fargoal got some nice media because it's a really good game; it had nothing to do with their one-day sale.

    • MrMuesli

      Somehow, I find that very hard to believe. How about living life on the less skeptical side? You'll enjoy it much more.