It happens every time. We'll boot up a game like Vice City, Max Payne, or Crazy Taxi on our iPads and iPhones, and then it hits us: we're playing console games on devices that can take phone calls, browse the web, and fit in the palms of our hands. In the case of Vice City, it wasn't so long ago that we were waiting in the line for the game, eagerly anticipating playing it all night on our PS2s. Now, we can play it on the bus.

Like last year, 2012 has seen quite a few ports released on the App Store -- and not all of them of former console titles. We've seen DS ports and PSP ports, in addition to some notable PC ports. The App Store is full of them.

Not all ports are great, though. Sometimes, in the translation, they pick up a few new bugs or issues that never get squashed. Controls are often questioned, too, as few ports nail the transition from gamepad to touch screens.

Our top ports of 2012 show that there's an art to porting. Each of these games feels at home on iPad and iPhone, which is to say, they control well, they look great, and they provide insanely satisfying experiences on level (or beyond) their source material.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, $4.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - [ TA Plays ] - Aside from its touch implementations, Vice City remains the same 80's-themed, open-world shooter you fell in love with as you cruised a color-infused Miami and jammed to Flock of Seagulls in a stolen car. The touch joystick and buttons feel great, and don't take away from the experience.

The World Ends with You: Solo Remix for iPad, $19.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - [ TA Plays ] - As we said in our review, The World Ends With You: Solo Remix is not a game built for five-minute diversions. Rather, it's one meant to leave a permanent impression. And it does on iOS, in addition to DS. The use of touch with taps and swipe gestures makes it stand out amongst the port crowd.

Crazy Taxi Classic, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - [ TA Plays ] - Crazy Taxi's iPhone-sized package presents the perfect time-killer while you're waiting for a table, bustling along on the commute to work, or looking for a fun pass-and-play style game with friends. Check it out.

Bastion, $4.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - [ TA Plays ] - Bastion started out as an XBLA title before branching out to other platforms, including touch. With two superb control methods, it's surprisingly flexible as far as play styles are concerned. And as for the game, it's a fantastic action adventure game with solid sound design, great writing and tons of other awesome content.

Max Payne Mobile, $2.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] -
Max Payne, as a shooter, does feel a little dated. Some of the scenario design has that old-school save and reload sensibility, and boy those textures look gross. On the other hand, this is Max Payne. The sand-box-y combat remains satisfying and the writing holds up pretty well, too. The touch implementation is superb.

FINAL FANTASY TACTICS: THE WAR OF THE LIONS (iPad), $15.99 - [Review] - [Forum Thread] -
Some of the control implementations of The War of the Lions are arguably not so great, but for the most part, they work and work well. If you're looking for a deep, insanely long tactics game on your iPhone or iPad, you won't find better on the App Store.

GHOST TRICK: Phantom Detective, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Ghost Trick on mobile is, basically, a pixel-perfect port of the DS version -- and like most DS ports, Ghost Trick feels stunningly good on mobile. Solid gesture-based controls coupled with the game's superb premise, writing, visuals make this game a don't miss.

Baldur's Gate, $9.99 - [Forum Thread] - Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition's new content might be forgettable, but the journey that the game takes you on isn't. Enhanced Edition is a solid port of an amazing RPG that had a hand in steering modern western RPG development. If you missed the game the first time around, this is a great entrance point.

THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY, Free - [Review] - [Forum Thread] - Square Enix managed to take all of the fantastic musical numbers from the Final Fantasy series over the years and turn it into a game that lets you interact and play with it. Cool. Theatrhythm was a standout title on the Nintendo 3DS this year, and although the port over to iOS included a bunch of changes as well as a decidedly different pay model it still translated extremely well. In fact, rather than flip out about how much the game would cost if you bought every single music pack on iOS, I rather appreciated that I could buy certain packs at my own pace, which should extend the life of Theatrhythm on my iOS device for quite some time.

  • rodgerodger

    I think you forgot to add The Walking Dead. 🙂

    • Doctorossi

      I don't know if they're considering The Walking Dead a port for awards purposes, as it was released more-or-less simultaneously with other format versions. Everything on the list is an older title.

      • HUKASFILM LTD. ✩

        Episode 1 wasn't released until 3 months after the console version, and the DLC dragged even farther out behind that. What magical timeframe does a game have to be released in to qualify as a port?

        Walking Dead comes out 3 months later on ios and its not a port.

        Theatrhythm comes out 5 months later on ios and it is a port.

        Makes sense.

      • Doctorossi

        Ok, dude. It was just a guess, not an absolutist declaration.

      • bones boy

        LOL - absolutist declaration ... Gonna use that in my meeting in 15 minutes

    • Eli Hodapp

      HINT: All of our lists have yet to be posted. 😉

  • Doctorossi

    I'm surprised by the absence of Sonic CD, but I suppose you can only justify including so many entries in this category.

    • FakeName

      Sonic CD is pretty debatable here. For one thing, it was neither emulated nor ported from an existing version; the remake was made from scratch using an engine. Also, it was released last year (albeit, very late last year.)

    • Tacocat

      I'm surprised you didn't take two seconds to actually research before commenting. Sonic CD came out last year and was on their best of list for last year.

  • MrSpud

    So when is Baldur's gate getting reviewed? Or are you guys waiting for a patch just like I am!

  • NotTodayDEAR

    What? No Spectral Souls?

    An infinitely better game than Final Fantasy Tactics, especially if you're claiming good controls are a factor in your list (something you point out that FFT does not have). Not to mention the overall design, music, massive story told from 3 separate angles, over 100 hours of game-play, interesting combat systems, etc. I could go on.

    FFT is dated, it was great on my old PS1 and that's where it belongs.

    I can agree with TWEWY though, that felt really good to play on iOS, but overall it seems like another case of, "quick we need a top XX list, throw something together with minimal research, hell, just pick some of the latest games people have heard of, nobody will give a damn."

    Did you guys get taken over by IGN or something, because that's what Touch Arcade is starting to feel like nowadays. Lackluster research, pandering to the big names, reviewers that focus on personal bias rather than objective quality journalism.

    Get it sorted.

  • Brandon

    I disagree. The touch joystick and buttons DO take away from the experience.

    • Greaps

      I agree. It would be nice if external controller options were more broadly supported on iOS, particularly on the iPad. The Sixaxis is usable via Bluetooth on other devices, and would be a great way to play GTA, for example. Not every control scheme is good for every kind of game, and it would be nice to have more options.

  • Timothy Polumbo

    the final fantasy game is a slap in the face... it should not be on this list

  • Cat Astrophy

    "In fact, rather than flip out about how much the game would cost if you bought every single music pack on iOS, I rather appreciated that I could buy certain packs at my own pace, which should extend the life of Theatrhythm on my iOS device for quite some time."

    Regardless of pace, you're still spending an absurdly overpriced amount for content in a game that has more features removed than added from the 3DS version. I can appreciate giving it a decent score but in the top list for 2012? Come ON. In fact none of the games here where Square requires you to pay for the game TWICE to play it on iPad and iPhone should make this list on principle alone. I don't care how good the game is, putting them on these lists just encourages the practice by helping boost sales.

    • Jared Nelson

      Wait, so a game that I've had an incredible time with since the moment it came out and wouldn't have had a means of playing otherwise shouldn't be considered for a "best of" list because... it's not universal? That's... an interesting perspective, I guess.

      • Cat Astrophy

        Games should also be judged on their value. A game that costs as much as Square charges* compared to every other port on this list (and basically iOS in general) should be universal. You're encouraging Square to rip people off by giving them more publicity than they deserve.

        *This includes the price of amount of IAP required to get an experience that's even close to the $30 3DS version.

      • Eli Hodapp

        We don't really waste time bickering over value propositions because prices are constantly changing and it seems silly to take a stance on it as there's an ocean of difference in value between someone who is gainfully employed and can afford to buy things and someone who gets a $20 a month iTunes allowance from their parents and needs to stretch that to ridiculous lengths. Instead, we focus on games that are good and let everyone else figure out their own financials.

      • Jared Nelson

        Just... no. There is so much wrong with your line of reasoning I just can't even comprehend it. And we didn't add "for iPad" to the title, that's how it's named in iTunes.

        As for "just buy a 3DS to play that version" well, that is honestly the stupidest argument I've ever heard in my life.

  • Lamar Taylor

    Vice City is the real deal even on a touch screen. I enjoy mobile games for what they time wasters. My iPhone or iPad aren't meant to replace my PS3 or XBox when it comes to games...they just provide a mobile experience. Too many folks nitpicking over minor things and taking everything too serious.

    • HelperMonkey


  • Stranded87

    I really think The Last Express should have been included. Not sure how much love it gets around here but it's pretty much indisputably a classic which still holds up really well now. And no, that's not just my opinion, it's the opinion of almost everyone (certainly almost every critic) who's ever played it.

    • Tacocat


      • Stranded87

        Yes, well, if you're representative of the standard level of intellect around here then I suddenly understand why The Last Express wasn't highlighted.

      • Tacocat

        That's funny. You very literally couldn't sound like more of an elitist snob if you tried.

      • Stranded87

        If you'd had something more productive to say than 'lol' then I wouldn't have had to.

    • Eli Hodapp

      Ok bro, we get it.

  • shurcooL

    You missed Carmageddon. Seriously, play it for a few hours and try saying it's not the greatest thing with a straight face, I dare you.

    • Tacocat

      Lol x2.

  • Bloko

    Spectral Souls is a pretty mediocre game, no offenses.
    Everyone has the right to have an opinion, but it's just not right to come here with yours and huff about the whole credibility of their work based on that. If you think Spectral Souls is a better game than FFT, good to you. No one needs to agree with that.