After getting together to pick our official 2010 iPad and iPhone game of the year, we also had our writers compile lists of their personal favorites from the last year, and their reasons why.


My recent take on two higher-profile games over the last couple of weeks have left many of you resentful or sore. And while this isn't a perfect place to explain a simple belief of mine that informs my critical analysis, it'll do.

I do not think that our touch devices can recreate the feel of a controller in a satisfying way. On-screen UI, the common "workaround," is a lazy and irritating aspect of an endless list of App Store titles attempting to ape console experiences. The simple fact of the matter is that our touch devices can do two things really well: touch and swipe -- not A, B, X, or Y and analog sticks.

What makes the iPad and iPod cool is that they can offer something our Xbox 360s and PSPs can't; they can allow us to directly interact with mobile games in meaningful, totally unique, and sometimes particularly active ways. We can't, after all, stick our hands into our HDTV sets, physically tap on menu options, or carry our consoles in our pockets.

And I believe we should celebrate our touch devices because they offer a fresh and interesting way to play games that no other platform at the moment can. The good games are the ones that take advantage of our hardware. The bad games are the ones that forgo good design by pulverizing our eyes with impure UI elements or other pointless workarounds.

This was a long way of just saying this: here are five of my personal favorite iOS games of 2010, all of which use the platform as I believe it is best used.

Solipskier, $0.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - I love indie games because they're often minimal games that present a single intriguing and polished hook. No flair or filler. Solipskier is a perfect example of this, as it's game about creating Technicolor ski slopes as you ski. It's a wild and fun idea that actually comes together to create an entertaining game.

Game Dev Story, $4.99 - [Lite] - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - I've been writing about games and talking to dudes who make games for a little under five years now, so I think GDS hits me in a spot that it can't for people who haven't devoted their lives to games, games design, and sales. Still, GDS is a remarkable and upbeat simulation that pretty much represents the game development process in an entertaining and streamlined way. And, oh, man, are there carrots that keep you invested in GDS for entirely way too long.

Robot Unicorn Attack, $0.99 - [iPad] - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - OK, I should probably use this space for Infinity Blade or Monkey Island Tales 1 HD, but damn do I love me some Robot Unicorn Attack. It's perfect for on-the-go play, getting a laugh from friends, or even scratching the itch to listen to bad euro synthetic music for a few minutes.

Yoot Tower, $7.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - A lazy bit of shorthand for Yoot Tower is to describe it as "SimCity in the Sky," and I'll continue using that because I'm lazy. But I guess I'm also using it because it's so accurate -- this is SimCity in the sky. The balancing act of keeping guests happy coupled with the need for financial gain and continuous building is satisfying and you've got to appreciate the small touches of humor and personality.

Civilization Revolution for iPad, $6.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - The iPad version of Civ Rev hit earlier this year and I've yet to put it down. I think, actually, I've spent more than 60 hours with this one. Like a good Civ, Civ Rev for iPad is complex, yet careful streamlining makes this accessible for even the most unfamiliar with the series.

Image via my pal @nasluks! Embarrassing, but fun!

  • http://twitter.com/NoSuperMan ImNoSuperMan

    love solipskier. Robot unicorn is fine too. Havent tried rest of the games. But I think Analog sticks work more than well enough. I actually prefer them over conosle controllers. Buttons and d-pad are kind of a pain on touchscreen but not that big of a pain to not let me enjoy a good game.

  • diffusion8r

    Why is Game Dev STory not GOTY/Runner Up when it appears in both of the first 2 staff lists and the actual ones do not?

    • http://twitter.com/nicholsonb Brad Nicholson

      I think I was the only dude arguing for "Game Dev Story" to be GOTY. These lists are just our favorite games of 2010.

      • diffusion8r

        damn, you (and according to his list, Jared) should have argued/bribed harder ;)

      • http://twitter.com/nicholsonb Brad Nicholson

        Ha! Yeah, I love GDS with an intense passion, but I was unable to argue against the might of Space Miner.

  • http://www.rocket5studios.com/ Tim Miller

    I don't understand all the fuss over Robot Unicorn. I bought it. I played it a few times. I get bored after a few jumps. Is there something about this game I'm missing other than unicorns are funny and trying to see how far you can go before you die? There are tons of iOS games like it (it's certainly not the first), is it simply the theme that gets this one so much press?

    • http://twitter.com/nicholsonb Brad Nicholson

      For me, it was the character and humor. I love it and still play it all the time.

    • TheTheory

      For me it is a whole-package kind of thing. The graphics are fun and cute--with a dash of bloody awesomeness, the gameplay for a "see how far you can get" Canabalt-style game is responsive and satisfying, and the music really ties everything together. It isn't a critical best-of-the-year game... but the appeal is certainly there on an individual gamer basis. It would probably make my own top-10 list.

    • Anonymous

      I agree, I totally didn't "get" the game. I felt like I was waiting for something new to happen - at least in Canabalt you get new buildings, so there's something. Here it was just... rocks...

  • John

    " A lazy bit of shorthand for Yoot Tower is to describe it as "SimCity in the Sky," and I'll continue using that because I'm lazy. But I guess I'm also using it because it's so accurate ā€” this is SimCity in the sky."

    Or, you could just describe it as SimTower.

    • http://twitter.com/nicholsonb Brad Nicholson

      Not everyone knows what SimTower is, my man.

  • RG54

    There alot of weird choices on here which may explain why space miner won... i think intentional pick small games just to be outside the box...

    • Not

      Small games?!

      Game Dev Story is massive and has been around since the beginning of time - likewise Civilization.
      The Tower - Sim Tower - was pretty big the first time around.
      Robot Unicorn has been big on the net for ages & was put out by a TV channel.

      Solipskier I will give you, that is a "small" game.

      • RG54

        yes but they intentionally leave out games that deserve some recogition... real racing 2, aralon, infinity blade... they may not be no#1 but them not even makin the list is weird

  • http://blog.dobert.pl Dobromir Chodkowski

    Can you believe that, for some reason, Civ Rev is not available in all countries? I want to waste my 60 hours with this game too... :(