LogoThis has been an incredible year for iOS gaming. 2014 brought us viral hits like Flappy Bird, the entire phenomenon surrounding Flappy-like games, MFi controllers of all sorts, and more solid iOS games than we can even believe. iPads got thinner, iPhones got bigger. iOS 8 improved a bunch of tiny annoyances of iOS 7, added neat new features like Metal, and we're already seeing a few awesome games on the App Store utilizing these new technologies. This year, 138,546 games were released, and of those, we reviewed 515. Distilling that down to one is a nearly impossible job, but in the weeks preceding our year-end coverage one game kept popping up as a clear stand out for everyone.

TouchArcade Game of the Year

Wayward Souls, $6.99 [Review] [Forum Thread] - Rocketcat Games has a fantastic track record for releasing great iOS games. Hook Champ [$2.99] served as the groundwork for both Super QuickHook [$2.99] and Hook Worlds [$0.99]. Similarly, Mage Gauntlet [$2.99] was a great tease of what was to ultimately come of Wayward Souls [$6.99]. If you've been following TouchArcade for the last few years, you're likely incredibly familiar with all these titles, for everyone else, if there's just one iOS game you play this year, it should be Wayward Souls.

Like Shaun who reviewed it, I'm not sure whether it's more appropriate to describe it as an action RPG with elements of roguelikes, or a roguelike with elements of an action RPG. All the important roguelike elements are there like permadeath, randomly generated dungeon layouts, and increasingly difficult floors to explore. Similar to roguelikes, a lot of the game can hinge on luck in regards to which monsters you come across, what loot you get, and how direct of a path you're able to take to that particular floor's exit.

Combat is all realtime, and feels just like playing whatever favorite 16-bit era action RPG you most fondly remember. Additionally, multiple classes allow for incredibly varied play styles which all manage to feel distinctly different. The coins you earn in game are persistent between runs, and are used to buy upgrades for each of your character classes. This provides an overarching feeling of progression, even if you're losing everything else when you die. It's really clever game design, and when paired with the ridiculous amount of totally cosmetic equippable hats you can find, "Just one more run..." is all too easy to say after each death.

Wayward Souls has been updated several times since release, both adding new features and increasing its price with each update. It's an interesting way of pricing a game, as the price you pay is representative of the value you're getting at the time of purchase. For instance, it's a little more expensive now than it was at launch, but you're also getting a game with new dungeons, bosses, and game modes.

Wayward Souls is a universal app that plays beautifully regardless of whether you're playing with native touch controls or with an MFi controller. You can import or export your game saves, and if you're into achievements, there's a bunch of those too. The music and sound design is great, the pixel art is sharp, and I really can't think of a game I enjoyed playing more this year than Wayward Souls.

Runner Up

Monument Valley, $1.99 [Review] [IAP Expansion Content Review] [Forum Thread] - Following the release of Whale Trail [Free], ustwo went silent while the rest of us waited to see what they'd unveil next. With the talent behind the studio, it wasn't hard to get really excited as soon as the earliest screenshots of Monument Valley [$1.99] started getting revealed. It is not at all hyperbole to call the game a piece of art, as you could take a screenshot of any part of the game and it'd make for amazing wallpaper of whatever device you're playing it on.

Set in a world filled with impossible architectural artwork reminiscent of the works of M.C. Escher, you must guide Princess Ida through all sorts of brain-bending obstacles. Monument Valley is a game that could only work on touchscreen devices, as so much of solving each level and opening paths for Princess Ida to walk on involves rotating, sliding, and otherwise interacting with the level itself. Be sure to play with the sound on, as the game is both an audio and visual treat.

Monument Valley is challenging, but it's easy enough for even the most casual of gamers to get through without much frustration. It's a rather short game, but we feel we vastly prefer games that are short, powerful, and meaningful to games that drag on forever which potentially lead to you not completing them at all. It won't take you much more than a few hours to get to the end of Monument Valley, and you might even beat it in one sitting. The Forgotten Shores expansion was released not long ago which for (as of this writing) $1.99 doubles the content included in the game, as is a highly recommended purchase if you even vaguely found yourself enjoying Monument Valley.

Honorable Mention

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Free [Review] [IAP Expansion Content Review] [Forum Thread] - Like many collectible card games, Hearthstone is a game that you can learn to play in an afternoon, with a depth (both in regards to gameplay and community) that can totally absorb your life if you're not careful. Currently playable on the PC, Mac, iPad, and Android tablets, Hearthstone started as a tiny side project inside of Blizzard and has since turned into a massive worldwide phenomenon complete with a shockingly large eSports component of professional Hearthstone players and streamers.

The initially meager cardpool has been expanded through the release of The Curse of Naxxramas single player adventure and more recently the release of Goblins vs Gnomes which is sold through individual card packs much closer to what you would expect out of a new collectable card game set. Along with new cards and mechanics comes a shift in the metagame, making Hearthstone a constantly evolving game that changes from day to day.

We're incredibly excited to see the iPhone Hearthstone client released next year, as if you think the game has hit critical mass already, just wait until every person with an iPhone is capable of playing.

  • Maglor

      \\ Λ_Λ
       \(´∀`) It's Game of the Year!!
        > ⌒ヽWOW!! I Love This Game!!
       /   へ\
       /  / \\
       レ ノ   ヽ_つ
      / /
      / /|
     ( (ヽ
     | |、\
     | 丿 \ ⌒)
     | |  ) /
    ノ )  Lノ

  • horizoniki

    Woo! I'm so freaking happy, Wayward Souls totally deserves it, though the other contenders were excellent games, TA's pick was totally expected.

  • Fangbone

    Article says if there's one game you must play this year it is Mage Gauntlet. I think he means Wayward Souls.

    • dancj

      I loved the trailer for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

      "If you see one film this year - see Star Wars. But if you see two - see Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"

      • StealthDawg

        Wtf are you talking about...

      • dancj

        You can't see the similarity?

      • Nekko

        Lol dafuq?

      • YourAverageDude

        I really like macaroni and cheese but I recommend you purchase formal wear at bed bath and beyond. If you see one concert this year see Kesha if you see two concerts go directly to jail do not pass go

      • horizoniki

        Would you like a shmoke and a pancake?

      • Mess

        Wow, so many people not getting this...

      • dancj

        Thanks. I didn't think I was being too random.

  • Pepelutin

    I thought it would be Banner Saga.. But this one is awesome too. It's hard to make a choice between so much games.

    • gmattergames

      Agreed, it's bs that BS got no love.

  • socalledsin

    Easily my favorite, not only of this year, but of mobile games to date. Still gets at least a daily play, though I don't think I'll ever pass the third dungeon, the challenge is what keeps me coming back. Great choice for game of the year.

    • Dailon Huskey

      Totally agree it is a very hard game but that's part of the allure and why I can't stop playing it either!

    • armilla

      Agreed! This is why the game is highly deserving and will endure as a classic.

  • worldcitizen1919

    I agree fully with Hearthstone as one of the best for 2014.

  • C. Stubb

    Heheh, "Roguelike"...

  • speedyph

    Well deserved ⛄️⛄️⛄️

  • http://halfgeekstudios.wordpress.com/ Huy

    So many great games this year its very tough to pick. I would personally go with XCOM & Shadowrun but that's because I love sci-fi games moreso than fantasy. 🙂

    • Jim Shorts

      I agree with XCOM. Think it is the best I've ever played on my ipad period.

  • Womble

    I can see that this is an awesome game and I don't disagree with this choice, but it's too difficult for me to be fun(yes, I'm unskilled and impatient).

    • scottsoapbox

      A controller helps with the difficulty factor a bit as it makes split second moves easier than the touch controls.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com/ Silent Rocco

    I like everything about this game. But still I lost interest extremely quickly. Cannot put my finger on the exact reason. But yes, deserved. But I really love Monument Valley.

  • Von Strubel

    Wayward souls is a great game, but nothing more. Played it for a while and lost interest quickly because it seems often unfair. Also all my success was lost when switching iPhones. Bummer.

    • Apricosomoso

      It seems unfair because you suck

      • Von Strubel

        Maybe so but i still payed for it and don't regret it, so all the better for your small ego.

      • Reaganomics

        He may suck at this game, but you suck at sounding useful.

      • Apricosomoso

        You suck at finding the point of comments. Never intended to sound useful. Jokes on you suckaaaaah

  • NickyNichols

    I'm so happy for all the praise Monument Valley has gotten. I paid full price and absolutely loved Whale Trail and was so sad to hear how underwhelming sales were and that USTWO was thinking about throwing in the towel due to the disappointment. They then pushed Whale Trail to freemium and thankfully kept the company going. Monument Valley is amazing and truly deserves to be played by every single person who owns an iOS device.

    • hephy

      That's because the USTWO developer is a whiny tool. He has been since Whale Trail came out in the first place with similar complaints about it not making enough money. As good as I heard Monument Valley is, the fact that USTWO developed it is why I haven't pulled the trigger on it.

  • NOEN

    There were a TON of good games this year. I'm still trying to get through most of them. I don't know if I could even try to pick one single game for GOTY, but Wayward Souls is a great pick. Definitely one of my favorites of the year. Congrats to the Rocketcat team! It's well deserved!

  • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

    I don't envy the task of picking one game out of so many* but Wayward Souls is a fine choice. Brutally difficult (I may never beat even boss #2) but I keep coming back! Just tried it with an MFi controller for the first time, and it's great that way.

    * I'm kidding no one. I AM jealous.

  • brantov

    guys at toucharcade, i love you.
    this game will be on my iPhone FOREVER!
    i just't can say how much i'm happy now.
    best GOTY award for best iOS game. EVER.

  • RamazUltra

    Great choice! Very fun and amazing game. I chose Bardbarian for GOTY.

  • imdakine1

    I've stayed away from hearthstone although I hear praises for it everywhere! My fear is the freemium aspect and have not gotten into multiplayer internet required games only before and as stated before an very skeptical about the freemium model.

    Any thoughts on how this freemium model works with this game?

    Although 80 days didn't make the list I ended up just buying it and will gift it shortly as an electronic stocking stuffer to my Dad. The game seeks unique and might be something someone older might appreciate as well.

    Congrats with a successful year! Thanks for such a great app/site!

    • BohemianCoast

      I'm normally intolerant of FTP games because they start fun and gradually become tedious as timers kick in. But I've been playing Hearthstone since August, haven't spent any money. Still loving it; in fact it appears to have spoilt me for all other gaming to the extent that I get grumpy if my internet connection isn't good enough for me to play. You do have to accept that you'll play games against people with much better cards than you, and that you realistically can't collect all the cards as a free player. But given that, it's a ton of fun, and there are no timers or other irritations. And about every two days or so, you get to play an Arena run, where you're on a level playing field with all the pay to play players.

      I'm not normally a cheap player, either. I've bought both the other games in this article. But I don't really want to spend money on Hearthstone now. What I'd like is to be able to buy some great merch.

    • armilla

      It's great and you have nothing to lose for trying. Even at the beginning it's fun since you're marched up with people in your general skill level. You're missing out!

  • InkyTheGhost

    So happy to see this! Totally in agreement, this game is truly special, in a year with tons of fantastic games.

  • grgg

    Great choices! Totally agree with Wayward. Congrats Rocketcat!

  • terrence92

    I agree 100 %

  • GiHubb

    I really don't get all the hype for WS. To me it's a game with very little story and a bad checkpoint system where if you die, usually against a boss, you have to repeat the same dungeon floors while although random, add nothing in gameplay as you have to fight the same enemies over and over and over again.
    After I beat the first boss I lost interest completely and deleted it. I liked Mage Gauntlet much more, for me it had a more interesting progression and a story that drew me in. WS felt as a step back.
    But I seem to be in the really tiny minority. Oh well.
    Personally my GOTY is Battleheart Legacy with Leo's Fortune as runner up.

    • Jinxi

      I too loved Battleheart Legacy, but it lacked the depth I wish it had. The gameplay was near perfect to me regarding touch controls. Here's to hoping for a sequel.
      I haven't tried wayward yet, but after so many positive comments I will give it a go!

    • bababewey

      I didn't like Wayward Souls either, Battleheart Legacy is also my GOTY.

    • noteatino

      Wayward Souls is so hard, but incredibly rewarding. I've spend easily +70 hours playing it and I still picking up some days. About your complain of the lack of diversity on the enemies, maybe you haven't passed the first dungeon, because every dungeon have their totally new enemies. The permadeath is hard, yeah, but as on the review says the purpose of this game like others roguelikes isn't finish the game in one run, but is to comeback after lose all that battles with best chances of overcome it using the upgrade system of the game. Personally it's my favourite iOS Game untill now, and one of my fav of all time games in general.

      • brantov

        nothing to add.

    • cofunguy

      Same here..WS just doesn't cut it for me. Like battlelore and Monument Hill over WS since I deleted WS after 1 hr.

    • c4r105

      I agree with you WS for me was very boring and repetative.

    • James

      I agree. It was fun for a very sorry about of time and that's about it. I lost interest fast. There were a lot better games this year in my opinion.

  • hippiesrlame

    Great choice

  • jar0d

    Congrats to Kepa and RocketCat games!!

  • Jake7905

    Good choice, and the second best rogue-like released this year, behind FTL.

  • radioactive_pal

    Weak wear.

  • evilelvis777

    I used to love RPGs on the SNES, but WS is a shallow imitation of them, with the "permadeath" aspect of it becoming quickly annoying. I really can't understand why you are all raving about it, maybe I'm expecting too much......

  • Mj1ggy

    Eh, I would have rather seen something that better embodied mobile gaming. Wayward Souls is pretty good and all but it feels more at home as a PC or older console game - personally I never got fully used to the touch controls, and I grew tired of it relatively quickly (still on my device, though). My understanding is that Monument Valley is fantastic and a worthy choice, and I think and argument could be made for a port like FTL or XCom, but the mobile games that grabbed me most this year were Threes, Hoplite, and my personal choice, Out There.

    • ChokingBlue

      I think i tried playing wayward souls with touch controls once and i never realised how good a game it was until i picked it up and played it with my mfi controller where for days i couldnt put it down

      • evilelvis777

        But surely any game on the ios that only comes into its own with an external controller can't be game of the year?

      • ChokingBlue

        good point

  • Vestid

    Wait, so is this the best game or the most noteworthy / interesting?

  • godelescherbach

    I thought that Threes gameplay wise is the only one that actually innovated in its mechanics and has done a superb job of it. It's not just that it's innovative, it's also insanely addictive and fairly deep little puzzle game.
    If it weren't for the fact that it lost to other three amazing games, I would be a little disappointed that it didn't make it to your best three. I
    Really good year indeed

    • evilelvis777

      I think threes is a lot better than the top 3 choices.....

  • Quazonk

    Game of the year, and I'm #1 on the worldwide leaderboards. Does this make me iPhone gamer of the year?

    • cofunguy

      More like a person with too much time to spend. Get out and enjoy life dude.

      • Quazonk


      • Anotherkellydown

        I noticed that when I picked it up again after listening to the GOTY podcast. Insane job man! I haven't figured out how to unlock endless mode yet but I'm sure I'll never come close to that. It says "survived" next to your name in the game while everyone else's has a floor level.

        Excellent pick TA, you got me back into the game. And congratulations to Rocketcatgames!

    • Apricosomoso

      How many floors?

      • Quazonk

        999 (the "Endless" Shadow ends after that)

    • noteatino

      I'm your fan, dude.

  • gmattergames

    I can't imagine having to decide GotY, but Hearthstone is world-class. Hate the big guys all you want, but it's hits all the marks.

  • christopherrocs

    Is everyone forgetting about the clear goty, battle heart legacy?

    • evilelvis777

      Agreed. Battleheart wipes the floor with the top three choices.

  • korossyl

    Civilization Revolution 2, Final Fantasy VI, Talisman.

  • nini

    What's the point in GOTY if it's always some RPG or strategy game? Personally I give everything to Leo's Fortune for being fun and actually feeling like you messed up and could get better whereas Wayward Souls just punished you relentlessly regardless of if you got better. It's the sort of game you play when you enjoy masochism and call it fun, it's a specific gamer type I know but i'm not one of them and kinda recoil in fear and hate at permadeath dungeon-crawling roguelike games like some do towards F2P games but without yelling endlessly it'll kill gaming.

    • God's Grundle

      What's the point of anything?

      • Quazonk

        Hahaha no kidding

  • PlannedObsolescence

    Wayward Souls could have been GOTY two years ago and prob runs great onthe original iPad. I would have selected a game that shows off the technological advances Apple has made in iOS and the hardware over the past year but forgot there aren't any. I don't believe a single, new Metal based game even came out this year so why bother with new apple hardware? Apple obviously realized pixel games aren't helping them sell new hardware and recently announced all new apps MUST support 64-bit next year after a certain date and i'm with them on that as gaming basically died on iOS this year between distribution rights squabbling and people private equity back freemium junk that both south park and the simpsons took time to bash this year. sad stuff.

    • dancj

      You bother with new apple hardware because some games will get graphical boosts on it - and eventually games will come out that require the newer hardware. Same as always.

  • LordShad0wz

    I bought and don't play wayward souls. Since there's no good way to heal and the checkpoint system is so bad it's been deleted off my phone for a long time. It's definitely not game of the year for me.

    • Quazonk

      "No good way to heal" and "bad checkpoint system" are what makes this game what it is. If there were checkpoints and health potions everywhere I would never play it again. It's a game about surviving dungeons without dying. I don't know why this is remarkably confusing to some people. It's not a game about being pampered to the finish line. It's an old-school game that says "you will win if you are skilled at the game, you will fail miserably if you are not". A SHITLOAD of us find the fun in becoming skilled at the game. Reaching one floor higher this run than the last run, and eventually clearing dungeons. What a sense of accomplishment. It seems like the WS nay-sayers all say the same thing: We don't like it and deleted it from our devices because it's too hard. If you don't give it enough play time for it not to become too hard for you, your loss. I would certainly call it game of the year, and in my opinion it is by far the best mobile game ever produced up to this point.

      • evilelvis777

        It's not "old school"; the graphics are certainly reminiscent of various SNES games, but that's where the similarity ends. I've been playing computer games since the days of the Sinclair spectrum and most RPGs have save points, basically because they had depth which could never be realised in one sitting. Give me Soul Blazer or Zelda any day over this mediocre game......

  • Reignmaker

    Ok, I bit the bullet and bought the game after reading this article. What I found is the same thing I found with Rocketcat's other offering PunchQuest - a great game with annoying Game Center issues.

    Both are score-centric offerings where you're attempting to beat your previous best run and build upon what you've done. Unfortunately Game Center scores never seem to be captured. For PunchQuest I have like 1 Game Center score that's saved from an early play-through and everything else seems to be local, even though I'm connected to the internet and I'm getting the GC welcome drop-down. For Wayward Souls, I don't even see a place for local scores outside the worldwide high scores, and local area scores which don't even seem to load.

    Rocketcat's response to my query? "It's Apple's fault, not ours." Wow. Ok...it's just strange to me that basically every other game I've downloaded hasn't had this problem with basic GC integration. It's left a bad taste in my mouth.

    Furthermore, no iCloud integration? That's pretty basic stuff that's missing from a GOTY winner.

    • garbul

      In Rocketcat's defense, Game Center is still a mess even after Apple promised to help reduce cheating. I still see scores of 9,991,209,381 on a regular basis, and it really sours the entire idea of high score chasing.

      You raise a really good point though about iCloud integration. I thought Battleheart Legacy was a contender for GOTY, and that app has awesome upload/download iCloud functionality and multiple saves.

  • Nycteris

    Ok, ok -maybe I should give Wayward another try.

  • 7lilwhitewolf7
  • Sup?

    Awww yisss.