LogoIf you haven't noticed, free to play games have hit critical mass on the App Store. There's definitely a load of bad ones that put monetization first while gameplay takes the back seat, but that certainly isn't the case for all of them.

We've started writing guides this year to help players get the most out of these free to play games while spending little, or no money, and they've been hugely popular. If you want to load up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with games and spend zero dollars in the process, here's the best free to play games we've played that were released in 2013:

blockheads

The Blockheads, Free [Review] [Forum Thread]
Again I find myself amazed that the whole Minecraft thing has grown so big that we have whole free to play side scrolling collaborative games like this out there. The Blockheads is another great spin on Minecraft with a cool twist that you have multiple characters completing tasks, which gives it a much more in depth feel compared to your typical crafting game.

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Injustice: Gods Among Us, Free [Forum Thread]
This game is a mix of all sorts of different free to play mechanics (including but not limited to card collecting) along with all sorts of heroes and villains from the DC comic universe. Once you get into it, it's a ton of fun, particularly as you build up your roster of favorite super heroes (or villains).

nimblequest

Nimble Quest, Free [Review] [Forum Thread]
Who knew that the same basic game of Snake I was playing on my Nokia phone ages ago still had such legs? In NimbleQuest you control a snake of RPG characters that all fall in line with typical fantasy tropes. Strategy comes in to play when choosing which characters to lead your party with and which ones to upgrade first with gems. I'm partial to having the knight first, but, there's tons of viable options.

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Papa Pear Saga, Free [Forum Thread]
King.com has made a name for themselves for taking existing gameplay formulas that work really well, cranking the difficulty up, and providing endless content for players to play through. In this case, Papa Pear Saga tips its hat at Peggle, and while that's a game that will likely never be duplicated, this sure is a pretty good replacement while we wait for the Peggle 2 Xbox One exclusivity to die off.

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Plants vs. Zombies™ 2, Free [Review] [Forum Thread]
Plants vs Zombies 2 is a fabulous free to play game in that it genuinely is free to play. You can play it as much as you want, and unless you really feel like going crazy with totally optional power ups, you never need to spend a cent- A fact that I think surprised everyone when we first heard that the game would be free.

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Real Racing 3, Free [Review] [Forum Thread]
The Real Racing series is about as well known in the world of iOS as Infinity Blade when it comes to awesome graphics, and Real Racing 3 does not disappoint in that department. The free to play timers can be a little obnoxious at first, but they all fade away as soon as you start collecting a roster of cars. Definitely stick this one out, it gets way better.

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Robot Unicorn Attack 2, Free [Forum Thread]
The original Robot Unicorn Attack was an amazing game, so it'd only stand to reason that the sequel would be equally incredible. This time it's totally free, with in-game currency used to do things like unlock new parts for your robot unicorn. There's some premium unlocks too, which mostly seem to focus around music which you're basically just paying the license fees for. Regardless, you've got to drop a buck to hear Always while running.

smashbandits

Smash Bandits Racing, Free [Review] [Forum Thread]
It only makes sense to follow up Smash Cops with Smash Bandits and put you in charge of running from the cops instead. Smash Bandits is a great time, especially if you're the kind of person who loves huge explosions. They've somewhat recently redone the whole free to play model too, making the game way more friendly to players in the process.

tds

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star, Free [Review] [Forum Thread]
Yeah, this game is way more stingy with the bux than its big brother Tiny Tower, but there's so much great Star Wars nerd fan service going on in here I don't even care. Building a Death Star is super fun, just be prepared for it to take forever unless you feel like opening up your wallet.

templerun2

Temple Run 2, Free [Review] [Forum Thread]
Never in a million years would I have guessed that Temple Run would spawn an entire genre of behind the back runners on the App Store, but, it did. I still vastly prefer the original, and it doesn't get better than Temple Run 2. With loads of updates, all sorts of seasonal surprises, and more, you need this on your device.

  • Echoen

    A fair list.

  • MonkeyChunks

    In the name of all that is good don't waste your time with Tiny Death Star. It drags you in at first then after you spend many hours on it it just reveals that it is more of the same for infinity.

    • mclifford82

      That was obvious from the screenshots. That's how every one of those Tiny Tower games is, at the end of the day.

      Nimble Quest was great

    • Goggles789

      I honestly couldn't figure that game out. I tried it based on the Star Wars draw, but the whole time I was left wondering, "Ok, so how am I actually supposed to participate in this game, in a meaningful way?" Couldn't find the answer, so I deleted it after 10 minutes.

      • hakamhakam

        Yeah, I actually stick it out and play the game for awhile but I just don't get it, I just couldn't made any progress and my action really feel meaningless. I just give up but I go back to the game from time to time just to listen to the music.

  • Bill Do

    Nimble quest was a paid game at one point

    • mclifford82

      Yep, just long enough to get those that wanna "help the little guy"

    • rewind

      Nimblequest is a premium game that's free for some reason, because there is no push or need for any average person to buy the IAP. However, I spent $5 for the red gems, and that's the only NimbleBit game I've spent money on. And now I feel guilty for not supporting their other games because they should be rewarded.

  • RunningWild

    Don't forget Skulls of the Shogun has gone free.

  • ste86uk

    The best by far on that list for me was PvZ2 I couldn't believe it was free!

    • dancj

      Yeah. PVZ2 barely suffered at all from being F2P.

      Real Racing 3 on the other hand was completely ruined for me by the timers, having to pay for damage and the low frame rate on my iPad 3

    • rewind

      Did anyone notice the recent, awful update that changed the map layout? The cool map now looks cheesy and sloppy, and pretty pathetic.

      • krayzkrok

        Yes, Touch Arcade really needs to highlight this. The patch completely rebalanced the entire game, making it almost impossible to progress without plant purchases. It's certainly not the same game that everyone is recommending, so proceed with great caution. Me? I just deleted it.

  • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

    Combat Monsters - was great when it came out, slight inflation in IAP's (most notably 'coin tripler' went from $3-$5), but is rec to anyone still.

  • derkoi

    "We've started writing guides this year to help players get the most out of these free to play games while spending little, or no money, and they've been hugely popular." - As a developer I find the above statement a bit worrying. Granted games that try to con you out of your money are bad but if no one spends any money on games it's not good for the future of small developers.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      What's sort of interesting about the whole thing is that how to min/max these games while spending no money has sort of turned into the new strategy guide. I'm not too worried about some sweeping tidal wave of people wising up to micro transactions, as your typical middle-aged woman funneling $25 a day into Candy Crush hasn't ever, and probably won't ever, read TouchArcade.

    • http://entrepreneurialblog.com Niclas Johansson

      As a developer, shouldn't one of the basic goals of F2P games be to increase engagement (measured in DAU/MAU), given the fact that engagement will generally convert to IAP revenue (by a factor that varies from game to game)? I've paid for a lot of IAP in games - after playing them enough to be convinced of the value (either of the IAP in itself or as a nod of appreciation to the devs - or, in the best cases, both).

  • Wooton

    Pixel People is incredible; surprised I didn't see that here.

  • koryc

    Weird,you put papa pear on that list despite giving it a 3 star review?isn't asphalt supposed to be on that list since it's f2p?what gt racing 2 or csr classics,all 3 of those aren't as tight on the iap like rr3

    • Pete Osborne

      I thought that was odd too, Clumsy Ninja scored better but was omitted but remember that this list is likely compiled by different people than the reviewers. I guess Asphalt is listed as paid as it was 99c for the majority of it's time whereas Nimble Quest has been free for the majority.

  • timb

    Clumsy Ninja really deserved to be on this list. Very fair use of IAP (you only use the IAP currency for cosmetic stuff) and the AI and physics are amazing on the platform. Amazing little game.

    Otherwise the list was pretty fair.

  • koryc

    At first,clumsy ninja is great,but becomes boring after a while

    • timb

      It's a pretty great physics sandbox to be honest, especially when you get all the potions, boxes, platforms and ballguns. The latest Fun Pack with the jet pack and cannon is awesome! Then again, I'm the kind of guy who loved Gary's Mod and just enjoys tooling around in the GTA games. (Saints Row The Third was the best for this sort of thing.)

  • Papa Deuce

    I have decided that I am too old..... IMO all of these games in this thread are no better than mediocre. I have tried most of them, and those I haven't tried have no appeal to me. I think that since I am finding less and less that I enjoy on iOS, my spending will likely drop by 50% or more in 2014. Or maybe it will increase as more premium games arrived on iOS.

    I just know that I will be cutting back on buying so many "crap" games.

    • timb

      Spending? These are all free games!

  • Womble

    Nice list indeed! Some great games there.

  • Nycteris

    Good list. Thanks for the hard work you do exposing yourself to dumb comments.

  • solistus

    Real Racing 3? The game with ridiculous timers that stop you from playing and IAPs that would cost hundreds to unlock? It was widely panned as one of the worst, most abusive F2P games this year... Is this list a joke?

  • VirginiaWSmi

    Those applications are really good and really wonderful to be use as a past time activity. Thus, it can also help people to be enjoyed and be able to test their skills in that game.