It’s new iPhone day! As my colleague Eli noted earlier, though, we’re living in a bit of a weird time in terms of technological advancements of iPhone hardware. In the earlier days, there were more major advancements to each new iPhone that were noticeably impressive, like the graphical leap from the iPhone 3G to the 3GS, or the gorgeous new Retina Display on the iPhone 4. In terms of hardware advancements that you could actually see, things have been incremental since around the iPhone 5S time. The bump up in screen sizes made things pretty interesting when the iPhone 6 models arrived, but last year and now with the new iPhone 7 there’s just nothing drastically different about each new iPhone.
Ok, that’s not totally fair. There ARE drastic differences, like the incredible leaps in performance that Apple likes to tout with charts that slowly curve up and then shoot nearly vertically into the stratosphere. There’s also amazing advancements in the iPhone’s camera technology, which are incredibly welcome and useful to everybody who carries one in their pocket. Games-wise, though, it feels like we’ve been at sort of a standstill for a few years now. There’s nothing that’s quite “blow your mind" crazy in terms of visuals; we’ve been enjoying “near console-like" visuals on iPhones for a long time.
Which is kind of funny, as when I sat down to think of some cool visually-impressive games to throw into a list for people to check out on their new iPhones, a lot of the usual suspects from the past few years are still the ones that pop up as graphical showpieces. Hey, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact it shows how some developers were so far ahead of the graphical curve that they’ve been able to endure multiple years as top-of-the-line games. Plus, there are some new games that are pushing the graphical boundaries of the latest devices. So with that, here’s some games to download to your new iPhone 7 that’ll wow your friends and loved ones.
Infinity Blade III – Well, duh! The Infinity Blade series has long been a showpiece for Apple’s latest iPhone hardware, and the third and final(?) installment is still one of the benchmark gaming experiences on the App Store even though it’s about to hit its third birthday this weekend. Not only is it still a visual showpiece, but Infinity Blade III is also great at showing how native touchscreen controls can work without just slapping virtual buttons all over the place.
Real Racing 3 – Even more astonishing than Infinity Blade III’s staying power is that of EA’s Real Racing 3. I mean this thing launched in early 2013, about 7 months before Infinity Blade III. Due to a constant stream of updates, Real Racing 3 has remained relevant for those three-plus years and I see no signs of that slowing down. Racing games have been avenues for showing off graphical capabilities on gaming platforms for decades, and even all this time later Real Racing 3 is still a sight to behold.
Asphalt 8: Airborne – Over on the other side of the racing game spectrum is Gameloft’s Asphalt 8. Whereas Real Racing 3 approaches racing in a more simulation kind of way, Asphalt 8 is anything but. You’re literally barrel-rolling and spinning your car in mid-air at 200mph. It’s awesome! Asphalt 8 has also always been one of my favorite iOS games graphics-wise. It’s incredibly stylish, runs at a really smooth clip, and features all sorts of neat graphical tricks that constantly have me dropping my jaw. Again, this is another game that came out in 2013 and still holds up incredibly well today.
AG Drive – See? I told you racing games are good at visuals. Here’s another example of that, the futuristic racer AG Drive. This falls somewhere in the realm of “F-Zero meets Wipeout", which is kind of funny because those are the two most well-known futuristic racing game series but they couldn’t possibly be more different from each other. Somehow, though, AG Drive finds a nice balance between the two and ends up being one of the better futuristic racers on the App Store. It was also notable for being among the first games to take advantage of 3D Touch when Apple debuted that feature during the last iPhone release.
Oceanhorn – Jeez, we might as well call this feature “The Best Games from 2013 to Play on Your iPhone 7" but Oceanhorn is certainly worthy of mention here. Like the other games above, this was one that was a graphical showpiece right when it launched, but thanks to numerous updates over the years it has managed to stay relevant. In fact, Oceanhorn is always one of the first games to update and take advantage of whatever fancy new software or hardware features Apple is releasing. In fact, just this past May it was updated to harness the power of the new iPhone SE and the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Will we be seeing a special iPhone 7 update for Oceanhorn too? I hope so!
UNKILLED – Madfinger Games is another one of those developers who are always pushing the boundaries of graphics on mobile devices. UNKILLED is their most recent offering, coming out just about a year ago, but honestly even all their older titles still look incredibly impressive even now. I recently started playing through Shadowgun again and man, that is one nice looking game. As for UNKILLED, I never really got into this one, but it’s continued to get a lot of nice updates over the past year and if you’re looking to show off the shiny on your new iPhone 7 this is a great, and free, option to do so.
Submerged – Ok, it’s not ALL old games in this list, as Submerged from Uppercut Games just launched a little over a week ago. Being a port from the PC version means Uppercut had to make some sacrifices in terms of visuals in order to get it working on iOS hardware, like scaling down the draw distance and reworking nearly all of the textures in the game. That said, it’s still one of the more beautiful games I’ve played in recent memory. Given the pretty large increase in performance between the iPhone 7 and the previous iPhone 6S, I’m hoping we start seeing developers updating their games to really take advantage of that extra power.
Eisenhorn: Xenos – Here’s another rather new game, being that it just launched over a month ago. While many people see a Warhammer affiliation and hope for some sort of wild action or strategy game, Eisenhorn: Xenos is definitely not that. I mean, there’s some combat and even an eventual Arena mode coming, but this game is far more about the characters, story, and lore of the universe than it is about beating the crap out of people. It also features some really nice visuals, which come at a cost of a few gigs of storage space on my iPhone. Thank the heavens for those new 256GB models this time around, although I’m sure I’ll somehow fill that one up soon enough and I’ll be making the same complaints this time next year.
Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade – Hey, another Warhammer game! Unlike Eisenhorn, Freeblade is very much an action game about blowing the crap out of everything as a giant mech. Funny enough, this was actually the showpiece game for Apple’s iPhone 6S keynote last year, as it took advantage of the new 3D Touch capabilities of that device. Nearly a year later and Freeblade has received a bunch of awesome updates and continues to be one of the more visually impressive games around.
Oz: Broken Kingdom – Ok, I couldn’t possibly get through this whole feature without mentioning the main game that was showcased at this year’s iPhone 7 unveiling. Well, the main game that wasn’t a Mario game, I should say. Oz: Broken Kingdom takes the familiar characters from the Wizard of Oz and wraps them up in a free to play team battler. The art direction is especially cool in this one, and yes, it also has some really impressive graphics, which is why Apple chose to show it off.