There are a lot of great things about living in the totally digital world of the App Store. For one, you can magically beam new games and apps right out of thin air and onto your device without having to get off your lazy butt and drive to some store. However, while being lazy is great, an even bigger bonus to the App Store is the ability for developers to offer content and bug fix updates for months and even years after a game is initially released. Back in the day if you bought a game for your console that had a critical bug in it, you were pretty much stuck with it, and new content typically meant waiting for a sequel. That’s not how we roll anymore. With that, here’s a look at some of the best updates we saw this year.
Aralon: Sword and Shadow, $4.99 – One of iOS’s first open-world RPGs got a new lease on life with an update that added support for iOS 8, all the new iOS device screen sizes, and even threw in some new graphical effects. The game definitely feels dated by today’s standards, but it was fun to be able to revisit the world of Aralon, and it still feels magical having such an expansive little world tucked away in my pocket.
Big Action Mega Fight!, $2.99 – Big Action Mega Fight! is a pretty killer homage to old-school beat’em ups that launched in November of last year, and in an effort to cast as wide a net of players as possible, it was designed as a free to play game. Energy timers, in-game currencies… the whole bit. The problem was that model just didn’t fit this style of game. So this past June the developers said screw it and removed all IAP from the game, rebalancing everything and giving it a one-time up-front cost, and not only was it a better experience for players but it earned more in a week as a paid game than half a year as a free to play one.
Boson X, $2.99 – The love child of Temple Run and Super Hexagon got two hefty updates in 2014. Back in June Boson X received an update with 6 brand new levels. Seeing as the original game contained 6 levels itself, this effectively doubled the content of the game for free. Sweet! But they weren’t done yet, as just this month another update with a batch of 6 new levels along with a new playable character pushed this already amazing game way over the top.
Canabalt, $2.99 – The granddaddy of endless runners on iOS had been feeling pretty neglected for the past few years, but that changed in 2014. In June Canabalt at long last received and update with widescreen support along with some new playable characters and new music. In July a huge update hit that added many new game modes that toyed around with the simple mechanics of the game. Then just this month an update hit which added native resolution support for the new iPhone models, ensuring Canabalt will have a spot forever on my device.
Crossword Dungeon, $3.99 – Originally released in 2012, Crossword Dungeon was a dungeon crawler where the dungeon was actually a crossword puzzle. It was an incredibly unique idea that blended two genres together really well, but its initial version didn’t feel fully fleshed out. This year a major update hit that addressed many of the issues with the release version and expanded on the idea in a lot of interesting ways. There’s still more that can be done, but the latest version of Crossword Dungeon finally realized much of the potential the original release had.
Enviro-Bear 2010, $1.99 – Enviro-Bear 2010 set the world on fire when it released for iPhone way back in 2009. Despite many writing it off as simply a joke game, there are surprisingly solid mechanics behind it, and it takes a ton of practice and skill to be successful. I feel very confident in saying it’s by far the best bear-driving-a-car simulator ever released, and it’s an all-time favorite of all of us at TouchArcade. Sadly, poor Enviro-Bear had been neglected for the past couple of years, but back in February an update hit with full widescreen and iOS support, bringing this driving bear game up to modern standards.
Game Dev Story, $4.99 – Practically everyone knows Game Dev Story. Originally released as a Japanese PC game in the late ’90s, the game was ported to iPhone in 2010 and fit like a glove. It’s a simulation game that allows you to create your own game company and develop your own games in the hopes of becoming the biggest game dev studio in the world. The game is bursting with charm and strong simulation gameplay. Being a port of such an old game, Game Dev Story has always had some quirks on the iPhone, but in the past couple years it really started to feel outdated. Thankfully this year brought a new update with better support for current screen resolutions and some lovely border art to fill in the gaps left by the odd original screen ratio. It still has some quirks but it feels much more modern now. Plus this game was never about the graphics anyway, and the gameplay remains as strong as ever.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, $4.99 – GTA: Chinatown Wars is an often overlooked GTA game, but it can easily hang with its console and PC older brothers. At the time of its original release in 2009, it even introduced a bunch of novel ideas to the GTA formula that are still used today. Being a game made for another touchscreen device, the Nintendo DS, it transitioned well to the iOS platform in 2010. However, like other games on this list it had been neglected for several years and in this case it was even completely broken on iOS 8. Thankfully Rockstar allocated some resources to the little GTA that could and with a big update just a couple of weeks ago Chinatown Wars on iOS is now better than it’s ever been with full Retina resolution support, Universal iPad support, MFi controller support and proper support for all iOS screen sizes.
Injustice: Gods Among Us, Free – My biggest guilty pleasure of 2013 got some major love via updates in 2014. DC and Warner Bros’ fighting game/card collector hybrid Injustice: Gods Among Us has received regular updates ever since its original release, but it was in celebration of its first anniversary that a massive version 2.0 update was launched adding an online multiplayer component, a welcome UI overhaul, new characters and a new gear system that greatly expanded the upgradeability of the fighters in the game. Injustice just keeps on bringing it too with regular new challenges, promotions and more. I have a feeling 2015 will be another big year for this popular game.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light™, $3.99 – Originally released on consoles and PC in mid-2010, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a fantastic dual-stick shooter set in the Tomb Raider universe. Shortly after its debut it made its way to iOS and felt perfect on the touchscreen platform. It hadn’t seen any updates in the past few years, but with the release of a new sequel on PC and current-gen consoles this month Guardian of Light on iOS received a much-needed refresh with support for iOS 8, all the latest screen sizes and resolutions, and Universal iPad compatibility. The update breathed new life into one of the better games on iOS, but I’m still holding out hope that the sequel makes its way to mobile in the future.
Lunar Silver Star Story Touch, $6.99 – This early ’90s JRPG has received numerous ports and re-releases on a variety of platforms over the past two decades, and in the summer of 2012 it arrived on iOS in the form of Lunar Silver Star Story Touch. It was a great port, but it did have its share of issues, and a massive update to the game has been in the works ever since. This year that update finally hit and it added drastically improved visuals, true widescreen support, and Game Center, making it much easier for a whole new generation of mobile gamers and long-time fans alike to experience Lunar Silver Star Story.
Minecraft, $6.99 – Minecraft has been on iOS for years now, and has received a constant stream of updates adding new bits to the game here and there. But it was this year that two major updates landed that finally made this portable version feel more along the lines of its PC counterpart. An update in July added infinite world and caves (finally!), along with plenty of new block types and a ton more new features. This update alone made the Pocket Edition feel the most Minecraft-y yet. In November version 0.10 was released, and although more minor, it gave the game a welcome facelift and again added in several new features. Who knows? Maybe in 2015 we’ll finally reach version 1.0 with Minecraft – Pocket Edition.
Miss Claire Garden, $2.99 – One of 2011’s best and most underrated platformers Miss Claire’s Garden received a HUGE update in early 2014. It featured fully remastered HD visuals, Universal iPad support, Game Center achievements, support for MFi controllers, widescreen support, a set of brand new levels and many more new features. If you loved that mechanic in the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 where you could pick up items and enemies and toss them around, then I can almost guarantee you’ll love Miss Claire’s Garden, as it’s a total homage to that. However, it’s also a totally original and charming platformer in its own right, and hopefully the updated version garners it the kind of exposure it deserves.
Oceanhorn ™, $7.99 – One of the biggest games of 2013 continued to get a ton of love throughout 2014. The gorgeous Zelda-inspired adventure Oceanhorn seemed like it was constantly getting updated to take advantage of new hardware or software features, but it was the massive Game of the Year Edition update in August that felt the most significant of the bunch. It added 4 additional hours of gameplay which included a brand new area called the Island of Whispers. The update also included a new fishing mini-game complete with Game Center leaderboard support, because you know, every action adventure game needs a fishing mini-game.
Reckless Racing, $0.99 (iPad Version – $0.99) – We have three different games in the Reckless Racing series nowadays, and I love all three in different ways. As much as the game was expanded on in the second and third entries, there’s something about the original that will always hold a special spot in my heart. Unfortunately the original Reckless Racing languished for years without any sort of update, but alongside developer Pixelbite taking the game back from EA and republishing it under their own name, they released a new update earlier this month that brought support for iOS 8 and the various iOS device screen sizes that are available now. It was an absolute treat to be able to revisit this App Store classic once again.
Secret of Mana, $7.99 – One of the 16-bit era’s most revered RPGs, Secret of Mana, arrived on the App Store in late 2010, and was a perfect fit for a mobile device like the iPhone. It was a pretty good port at the time, but unfortunately it hadn’t received much love since and felt decidedly lacking in certain areas. That was until this year when in July Square Enix released a huge update which added widescreen support by way of colorful border art, MFi controller support, improved visuals and greatly improved virtual controls. With the iOS version finally feeling up to date, this legendary RPG can continue to live on.
Slayin, $0.99 – One of the earliest great updates of 2014 was the version 2.0 update for Slayin, which came out in January. Slayin is one of my all-time favorite games, and this update added three brand new playable characters. As anyone familiar with Slayin knows, each of the original three playable characters played quite differently from one another, and each gave the game a unique feel. The same was true of the new characters, and with a total of six playable characters there was a ton of variety to be found in Slayin.
Terraria, $4.99 – It was a big deal when the hit craft ’em up action adventure Terraria landed on iOS last year. However, the iOS version was a very vanilla experience, and it was a bit lacking when compared to its PC counterpart, which around that same time had received a massive content update. It took some time, but in early December the version 1.2 update hit Terraria on iOS, bringing it very close to matching the amount of content in the PC version. Don’t get me wrong, the original release of Terraria on iOS was fantastic, but this huge update added so much new stuff it feels like a whole new game now. With the PC version set to get another big update soon, the mobile version may again be playing catch-up, but I’m a patient man and I welcome any and all future updates to Terraria on iOS.
True Skate, $1.99 – True Skate released back in October of 2012, and certainly received some nice updates during 2013. But it was in 2014 when developer True Axis really cranked it up to 11. Along with a steady stream of new original parks and tons of added features, one of the most significant things to happen to True Skate in 2014 was when it partnered up with Street League Skateboarding to become the official mobile game of the popular annual street skating competition. This included a slew of new parks that were recreations of SLS parks from last year and this year. I have a feeling the world of True Skate will continue to expand and improve throughout 2015.
Wolfenstein 3D Classic Platinum, $1.99 – Wolfenstein 3D was one of the first successful first-person shooters on the App Store when it launched way, way back in March of 2009. A lot of that was simply due to it being an all around fantastic game, but the lack of up/down movement when aiming also translated very well to virtual touchscreen controls. id Software added a lot of content to Wolfenstein 3D over the years, including the Spear of Destiny expansion levels, Universal iPad support and Retina Display graphics. One thing it was sorely missing for some time though was widescreen support, so when iOS 8 broke the game id took the time to fix it up and returned it to the App Store complete with glorious widescreen.
10000000, $2.99 – A long-time favorite around TouchArcade, Luca Redwood’s 10000000 received an awesome update in February of this year. This RPG-ish match-3 was one of the best gaming experiences around in 2012, but the problem was once you beat the game there really wasn’t a lot of reason to continue playing, which is kind of strange for a matching game like this. February’s update addressed this in a great way, essentially letting you restart with a “new game+" once you’ve beaten it. Each time you beat 10000000 now will level up your Ace rating, which will somehow translate to Redwood’s upcoming game You Must Build A Boat. Even without that, it’s great to have a reason to continue playing 10000000 forever, and that same update also added a bunch of Game Center achievements and full 4-inch screen support.
1-bit Ninja, $2.99 – Released in 2011, 1-bit Ninja was controversial for not allowing a fairly basic expectation of platforming games: moving to the left. Many, including ourselves, found that risky design decision to be the major factor in making the game one of the more interesting and strategic platformers around. Not to mention the incredibly cool ability to switch the perspective to 3D at any time, which allowed for tons of hidden secrets and made it fun to explore. The only thing really missing was widescreen support, and this month an update appeared that not only added widescreen but it added native resolution support for the new iPhones and Universal iPad support.
As with all of our Best of 2014 content, this list is in no way a complete list of all the great updates that hit this year, as there’s just far too many. This list represents the updates we thought were especially significant or were for games that are particular favorites of ours. If you have any game updates that you loved in 2014, definitely tell us about them in the comments below. This was definitely a great year for older games that you thought might have been abandoned forever getting unexpected updates and a new lease on life. I’m looking forward to all of the new games we’ll be seeing in 2015, but I’m also excited to see what kind of updates arrive that allow old favorites to continue to get better and live on into the future.