We've mentioned in the past how difficult it was deciding on Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor [99¢] as our game of the year in 2009, along with Space Miner [99¢ / HD] in 2010. It shouldn't come as much as much of a surprise that as the App Store has gained even more momentum, making these picks has become much more challenging. Interestingly enough, this year all of the games that we had in consideration for game of the year were also universal, which made the decision to drop the differentiation between the iPhone game of the year and iPad game of the year that we did in 2010 incredibly easy.

In 2011, we're looking at iOS games as exactly that, games for iOS devices. We might prefer playing some of these games on the iPad (or in some cases, even the smaller screens of the iPhone or iPod touch) but they're all fantastic experiences regardless of what device you're playing it on. With the advent of iCloud, we're hoping in 2012 developers take universal compatibility to new levels, and create games that are not only great on all devices, but can be seamlessly played on as many devices as you own.

Also, if you'd like to get some more insight on the TouchArcade game of the year process, check out the most recent episode of The TouchArcade Show. We discuss what we each liked about all of these games and more.

TouchArcade Game of the Year

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, $4.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Our minds were blown at GDC 2010 when we first got our hands on Sword & Sworcery. The initial experience of playing the game is so powerful that it gave me chills. I really can't think of any other mobile game that has invoked a similar emotional response that I've played in my entire life. Sworcery is an absolute flawless combination of an entirely original soundtrack by Jim Guthrie, pixel art that is easily among the best I've ever seen by Craig D. Adams, and the creative genius of Kris Piotrowski along with the proverbial behind-the-scenes glue provided by Capybara Games to bring the whole project together.

Sword & Sworcery is universal, and while we ever-so-slightly prefer the overall experience on our iPads, it's still just as incredible on the smaller screens of the rest of the iOS device family. In fact, if all you have is an iPhone or iPod touch, you might want to just opt for Superbrother: Sword & Sworcery EP Micro [$2.99], which is a couple bucks cheaper at the expense of losing universal compatibility. Regardless of what device you play it on, S&S is a game you simply must play, from start to finish, with a great pair of headphones on if at all possible.

TouchArcade Game of the Year Runner Up

Anomaly Warzone Earth, $1.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Tower defense games have always been an App Store staple. It just seems to be a genre that perfectly meshes with both the touch controls of iOS devices, as well as providing an overall gameplay experience that works really well for playing on the go. Unfortunately, it seems there's only so much you can do in a tower defense game, and even though the past few years have brought some great entries into the genre, they all felt sort of the same. Then, from out of nowhere, comes Anomaly Warzone Earth. In essence, 11 bit studios took the traditional tower defense formula, and flipped it around, offering a whole new take on an otherwise stale section of the App Store.

They didn't stop there though, as especially when played with headphones, Anomaly Warzone Earth is ridiculously immersive. Incredible amounts of effort went into creating a game that looks and sounds as good as it plays, and the game feels fresh the whole way through, as 11 bit studios constantly throws new challenges and gameplay elements at you all the way up to the last level. Similar to Sword & Sworcery, Anomaly Warzone Earth [99¢] is also available as a slightly cheaper although non-universal version as well.

Honorable Mentions

We also wanted to honor three other stand-out iOS titles that were among all of our best-of lists for the year. Like our game of the year and runner up, they're all universal and should be on every iOS device that you own if you're even remotely interested in iOS gaming.

Infinity Blade II, $6.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - A great sequel to Infinity Blade [$5.99] by Chair Entertainment, Infinity Blade II expands upon the original in every way possible. It's by far the best looking game on the App Store, and we suspect it will likely serve as the graphical benchmark of what iOS devices are capable of throughout 2012. If you want to stretch the legs of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and see what its truly capable of, Infinity Blade II is the game to do it with.

Mage Gauntlet, $2.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Rocketcat Games has had a fabulous track record for releasing phenomenal iOS titles with its Hook series of games, and Mage Gauntlet continues that tradition by being its best game yet. Flawless controls combine with all the retro trimmings to make us warm with nostalgia while feeling modern enough that even people who weren't around for the great action RPGs of the 16-bit era can appreciate it. Recent updates have improved gameplay even further, and have added universal compatibility. We can't wait to see what Rocketcat does in 2012.

SpellTower, $1.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - The App Store is home to a plethora of clever puzzle games, and Zach Gage's SpellTower is our favorite of the year. Gage elegantly combines the simplicity of a word game with the complexity of a strategy game, and its multiple game modes provide something for everyone regardless of whether you like to take your time and hunt for the best words, or be on the clock and racking up points as quickly as possible. We prefer SpellTower on our iPads, but it's just as much fun on the iPhone and iPod touch as well.

TouchArcade Rating

  • http://twitter.com/rocketcatgames Rocketcat Games

    hel ya

  • http://narziss.net Narziss

    YEEEEEEEESSS!!!! 

    <3 s&s ep!!!

    • http://narziss.net Narziss

      This game gave me chills.  Even rewatching the trailer gives me chills.

  • chris Gras

    Hipster game of the year! :)

  • Anonymous

    Sly move by Touch Arcade to pick an inaccessible game that most people can't complain about.

    • Anonymous

      Or maybe they picked it because they actually like it.  Gasp!

    • Anonymous

      How is it "inaccessible"?

      • http://www.toucharcade.com Eric Ford

        It's inaccessible for the lunar deficient.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      How is Sword & Sworcery "inaccessible" by any stretch of the imagination? Friends of mine who couldn't be more of a "non-gamer" have managed to complete it and enjoy it. It's ridiculously accessible, unless you're referring to something else other than people being able to play and appreciate the game?

      • Anonymous

        I’m not referring to the difficulty.  The problem is the affected pixelated graphics,
        convoluted dialogue, and snoozy wandering around gameplay combine to leave no
        points of entry for the average gamer.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I'm not sure what to say, as you don't see the sort of success that S&S did without appealing to that average gamer demographic.

      • Johnny Donuts

        Nah, the art style and dialogue give it an atmosphere of its own, which attracts the average gamer.

      • http://narziss.net Narziss

        Yeah, I actually found these "problems" to actually be its virtues!  It drew in a non-gamer audience, and it provided something different and striking for old gamers.

      • Adam Antoszek-Rallo

        are you sure you don't mean "leave no point of interest for *me*", instead of "the average gamer". because in my limited experience, most gamers i know, from casual to hardcore, enjoy this game (if they played it at all). it really seemed immensely popular and well regarded.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_E7GGSH32PQ2E5V6PGHZHZZ2M5E Anonymous

        Should have picked Ant Raid as GOTY, at least on iPad....

  • Anonymous

    well deserved! <3

  • http://twitter.com/DotComCTO DotComCTO

    Puh-lease. Gesundheit should be in the Honorable Mentions. Far superior in every way to SpellTower. I'd also say that Defender of the Crown needs to be somewhere in the top 10.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

      Gesundheit is a great game! For me it wasn't really GOTY material, though. It was beautiful, but didn't really have much staying power. But that's just me.

    • http://twitter.com/touchgameplay TouchGamePlay

      Both Defender of the Crown and Gesundheit were both good Ports but as Nissa already did mentioned not really GOTY Material.

    • Anonymous

      The folks from Superbrothers went to college with the Gesundheit guy. We love love love him.

  • Colin Walsh

    I lack a sense of self-awareness and a staggering amount of ego-centrism therefore I feel entitled to inform you, in an incredibly condescending manner, that some other games that I like should have been on this list which contains games that I don't care for or actively dislike for a varying number of reasons which are unimportant but I may feel the need to fill you in on.

    I also have no concept of how reviews work, nor how these highly subjective lists of games that the curators of this site apparently like very much, which is why you are all wrong and why don't you just replace everyone with cold, unfeeling robots already? Only then will you be able to achieve the impossible goal of a truly unbiased review of something as hugely subjective as a videogame.

    Also, as a hardcore gamer I think you're a bunch of casual game playing louts who should care more about pixel shaders and polygon counts and less about stupid kiddy games.

    • Johnny Donuts

      Loved it!

    • Alex G

      Crysis is dull

    • https://me.yahoo.com/a/u8jytcE3lcXQkPo5swXokBlkkLKWoeUUMzMCjzRP3w--#a8996 spidey

      A true hardcore gamer never calls himself a hardcore gamer. Ergo, you are a lesser human being who thinks he can throw around words like pixel shaders and polygon counts and be thought of as someone who understands the core building blocks of what makes a great game. Emotions are but natural for anything you immerse yourself in. Asking a reviewer to not have a feeling for a game he played, and explored and lived is like asking a football game commentator to not care about football. Replacing human reviewers with robots will do little to satiate you and will only act as a fodder for you to complain about the weak AI of the robots. Perhaps you feel that you will do the world a better service by writing reviews yourself. But in the world where TA has to cater to an audience, half of which post "Meh" and "Doh" and the more intelligent "Whatever" as an iTunes review, you should be thankful for the high quality of writing you get to read here.

      PS: Sorry man, I so couldn't help myself. Awesome comment btw

      • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

        You lost me on that first sentence.  I'm a hardcore gamer.  I have been for 25 years.  We exist.

        Also, I think you missed the mocking tone of his post.  I think he was trying to be funny.

    • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

      Not sure what point you're trying to make.  Your mockery is still garbage, so you end up just as bad as the ones you're mocking. 

  • Colin Walsh

    On a more serious note, congratulations to everyone on the nominations and S&S on the win!

  • Alex G

    Good choice by TouchArcade.  It is inevitable that people will disagree but it comes down to opinion and my opinion matches TA's in this instance. 

  • Anonymous

    Tis the time for joy and holiday cheer

    One thing you can expect right about now

    The usual whine about Toucharcade’s Game of the Year.

     

    As you plow through your games and apps galore

    I won’t rip your game preference or flavor

    Be it Infinity Blade, Tintin or yet another Minigore.

     

    Always an honor to receive an award

    Be damned honorable mention or otherwise

    New games I await so I won’t no more be bored.

     

    To the devs big and small

    It’s been another great year for iTune games

    Congrats to Superbrothers and the rest of ya’ll!  

    • https://twitter.com/#!/NissaCam Nissa Campbell

      Can't decide if you or Colin win the "best comment on this article" award. It's pretty prestigious so I'll have to consider it carefully.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/u8jytcE3lcXQkPo5swXokBlkkLKWoeUUMzMCjzRP3w--#a8996 spidey

    This has been a fantastic year for iOS gaming. I have spent twice as much as last year (both time and money) and my unplayed games on iPad and iPod are twice as many. In 2009, iOS was largely a casual gaming platform. In 2010, it was still a casual gaming platform with some deeper games coming out as exceptions. In 2011, I think it is a platform that has a great balance for a gamer who likes to fling a few birds (among other things) while in a queue somewhere and the gamer who would like to immersed for a few hours in a game world. It's been a great platform to game on this year.

  • http://twitter.com/back2this Sean Yuan

    Congrats to the winners! It's been a great for iOS gaming and a great a year here at TA. Thanks to the staff/writers for an awesome 2011.

    @back2this:twitter 

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. They cop a lot of flak for some stories, usually from people too cheap to pay $1 for a game, or angry that x isn't y. Kudos for them on the website, and on staying active in the comments, too.

      I'd have given the award to IB2 though :P Strange to see Shadowgun didn't get a mention ;)

  • Anonymous

    some of these comments are just straight embarrassing ..cringe* people seem to spend more time here trying to collect likes from pathetic comments its unreal.

  • Anonymous

    haha what happened to good graphics don't make a game. kinda tuns that argument on its head.without the nice pixels this game would be lame..just admit it.

    but maybe the same could be said of skyrim. personally i like s+s. i think itsa good choice.

    • http://twitter.com/touchgameplay TouchGamePlay

      Hell i would play Skrim even if it would be Textadventure because of the epic Music from Jeremy Soule. "...Dragonborns to your Weapons..."

  • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

    Where are Monsters Ate My Condo? Gesundheit? and what about "august game of the month" Jetpack Joyride? Cant understand the choices this website makes.... if you want the true GOTY head into the forums....

  • Anonymous

    Sword and Sworcery definitely deserved some recognition, but I don't think it should've gotten GoTY. While the game was great and unique, it was way too short. Especially for something that had been in development for a long time and was super hyped up. Still waiting for an expansion or a second game... If the game had been longer and had a bit more depth, then I'd agree with the GoTY decision. I think it deserves GoTY, but I still think there would've been better choices.

  • kKNd

    Superbrothers S&S is one of the most unique games I have ever played with and even though it is 100% deserved, I am still quite surprised that a game like this could achieve GOTY instead of some more mainstream stuff. Again, congrats to the developers and let's hope we will see some similar quality game from them soon enough.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CKBNMJGLGCBQOSH2BM264QIHLI Bridget

    S&S as game of the year?   Ehhhh.....  Yeah, I cant think of anything good to say about that.   Frankly, adventure games put me to sleep.  Cant stand them, never could.

    Still, been a good year for iOS games as a whole.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5FLRQI2X2LU3IHMCG7HEAEFD5I Cat Astrophy

    lol no Jetpack Joyride

  • Andrew Lane

    I love your list!  I still need to find some quality time to sit and finish Sword and Sworcery, and if I get an iTunes card for xmas, anomaly warzone earth might be first to be purchased.  

    One question: was world of goo last year?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rickard-Olsson/685258932 Rickard Olsson

    Mage Gauntlet should definitely not be there. Personally, I'd put Gesundheit in its place.

    • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

      Agree, its a simple hack-and-slash game, theres thousands of games out there that are far better than that one...

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I'd love to see this list of thousands of games. :)

      • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

        Knowing your games of the year you probably need several lists, ill make it just for you, prepared to be amazed by many many iOS games....

  • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

    I can't agree with S&S EP for #1.  Frankly, it was boring.  I was enthralled at first, and tickled by the art direction, which is beautiful, but esssssa;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;... sorry, I fell asleep on the keyboard just thinking about that game.

    • http://twitter.com/ohprinceoh princeff

      Comment of the year! Lol

  • http://twitter.com/ohprinceoh princeff

    I actually have it on my phone. Purchased it for a dollar. Played it one time. Never played it again. Not that I don't like the game, I thought it was cute. But I just don't like games that I have to disable my iPod just to play it. (Ahem Gesundheit!). Also, where the hell is Jetpack Joyride? I know it's one of those games we love to hate, but gotta admit, playing it on the iPhone seems like the most casual thing to do for non-hardcore gamers. Sorry my taste for games is not as indie as yours!! Also, Infinity Blade 2! God it's that game I recommend to people who borrow my phone, just to let em see how awesome my phone is! And stop mocking me for everything iPhone doesn't have/can't do that their Android phones can!

  • daniel so

    I'm playing S&S for the first time.. got the megatome.. this game is NOT fun.music is nice tho

  • http://twitter.com/Paulmcraelind PaulMcraeLind

    I was really surprised that I didn't enjoy S&S as I was really looking forward to it. Wonderful music and awesome art, mixed in with sleep inducing gameplay.

  • Kevin Nelson

    Disappointed that Dead Space didn't even earn an honorable mention. That was easily the iOS game of the year in my opinion. Glad to see Sword and Sworcery win though, as it was excellent.

  • Anonymous

    While there's many games that I'd love to see up there or in the game guide list, I can't argue against a single title on those lists.

    iOS gaming really seemed to mature a lot this year and the higher price points being set keep me hopeful for 2012 to be even better. Although free to play must die, just look at Dungeon Hunter 3.

    I took Eli's advice about supporting good games like you would good bands. Even though I use AppShopper to keep track of my wish list, I actually avoid buying games while on sale now. Checking my budget using the mint.com iPad app I see that even with my excessive iTunes spending, I save lots of money considering I gave up console for iOS...except for Skyrim.

    Btw great comment Collin.

  • Anonymous

    S&S looks great but actually playing it sucks. It involves a lot of frustrating hand gestures to touch obscure elements. I was turned off after I started rubbing trees in a certain order. Pity really when it started off so well.

  • daniel so

    ... this boss fight, with the golden trigon... i've played this game before. it was called pong.

  • Briker Ed

    Frankly, I would have given S: S & S EP the award just for "daring" to be that much different on the commercial app market.