Every year when Apple releases new hardware, we like to put out a list of games that take advantage of whatever hardware advancements they’ve made in those newest devices. The problem is that several years ago we got to a point where mobile games were already pretty much “console quality". Not just that, but whatever raw power Apple’s latest devices are capable of it’s hard to take full advantage of that from a gaming perspective, both because it can be very cost prohibitive but also because fancier visuals will drain batteries faster and most people rely too much on their iPhones and iPads to be burning through the battery life playing games. And so it’s ended up for several years now that our “Best games to Play on [Insert New iOS Device]" lists have ended up featuring the same games over and over.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. There ARE new games coming out that are visual showpieces, and even some of the older titles end up being updated to take advantage of newer technology like Apple’s Metal framework. With that said we’ve put together a list of eleven games that we think do a great job of showing off what your new Apple device is capable of. I mean, if you’re going to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a new phone or tablet you want to be able to show off what it can do to your friends, right? This list is by no means definitive and in fact it was three times the size when I first started putting it together, so if you have games you feel are graphical powerhouses or just have incredible art styles then definitely list them off in the comments section.
Alto's Odyssey, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – The original Alto’s Adventure was a visual treat with its stunning landscapes and incredible atmosphere, and the follow-up Alto’s Odyssey improves upon all those same elements while offering even more amazing environments to snowboard your way through. While not a technical behemoth the Alto’s games have an enduring style thanks to their excellent art design and are sure to illicit some oohs and aahs from those who see it in action.
Asphalt 9: Legends, Free – [Guide] – [Forum Thread] – Gameloft has always been geared towards graphically impressive, “console-like" mobile games, and it seems that year after year they’re topping themselves in terms of high-end visuals. Asphalt 8 was one of those benchmark titles in terms of graphics for quite a number of years, but finally a sequel launched this year in Asphalt 9: Legends that amps up the visuals to match the completely over-the-top racing that’s found in the game itself.
GRIDâ„¢ Autosport, $9.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Being that it was originally created as a game for PC and consoles back in 2014, it isn’t surprising that the iOS port of GRID Autosport is a graphically impressive game. From detailed car models and expansive racing environments, GRID is a really jaw-dropping game. The best is yet to come though, as developer Feral Interactive has announced they’ve fully utilized Apple’s Metal graphics framework to make the iOS version look even better, and I think the side-by-side results in this video speak for themselves.
Hungry Shark World, Free – [Forum Thread] – Ubisoft may have just released Hungry Dragon recently, but for my money I love the look of the nearly three year old Hungry Shark World just a little bit better. It took the popular Hungry Shark series into true 3D and with the animations and character designs it almost feels like you’re playing a Pixar movie. If you prefer dragons over sharks then by all means jump into Hungry Dragon, or better yet just download them both since they’re free, but whichever games you end up with they’re sure to impress with their wonderful visuals and personality.
Infinity Blade III, $6.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – What would a “best games" article be without an appearance from Infinity Blade? Despite the original title being nearly 8 years old, all three Infinity Blade titles still hold up incredibly well from a visual standpoint even in this day and age. The third game is probably the most graphically advanced but honestly all three games still look impressive thanks to Chair and Epic’s expert use of their Unreal Engine. This series will probably always be a staple in any “best graphics" lists until the end of time.
Playdead's INSIDE, Free – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – I was going to keep this list to just ten games, but man, I couldn’t bring myself to bump Playdead’s Inside from the list. It may not have that instant WOW factor that some of these other games have, but you’d be hard pressed to find more impressive uses of lighting and shadows in any game around. It also sets up some really dramatic scenes with its side-view camera angle and creates a mood with its visuals that’s downright unsettling at times.
Into the Dead 2, Free – [Guide] – [Forum Thread] – PikPok’s original Into the Dead created one of the best (and creepiest) atmospheres in any mobile game, and last year’s sequel took those visuals to an entirely new level. More varied environments, more creepy zombies on screen, and more weapons to blast said zombies to the moon made Into the Dead 2 one of the more impressive games to show off the type of visuals an iPhone is capable of.
Nimian Legends: BrightRidge HD, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – This is an interesting game because it’s largely the effort of one person who just wanted to make a big open fantasy world for players to explore. Over the years more “gamey" elements like storylines and missions have been added, but for my money Nimian Legends is at its best when you’re just getting lost exploring its vast space. What really makes it stand out visually is its extensive options that allow you to really crank up the graphics to the point that even these latest iPhones might not be able to handle things maxed out.
Oddmar, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – The little Viking to be Oddmar joins Alto’s Odyssey as being the only other 2D game to make this list. In this day and age impressive graphics typically mean 3D, but 2D games can be just as stunning with the right art direction and animation. And let me tell you Oddmar has both in spades. The world is colorful and vibrant, and the characters feel almost alive with their fantastic animations and expression. It also doesn’t hurt that Oddmar is just an all around wonderful throwback platforming game, but being especially easy on the eyes is a mountain of icing on that delicious cake.
Subdivision Infinity, $4.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Subdivision Infinity knows exactly what it is: A white-knuckle space shooter. Sure there’s some story stuff going on and variations in missions to break things up, but at the end of the day this is a game that’s all about blasting the crap out of bad guys in space and looking spectacular while doing it, and it excels in this area. This has always been one of the more visually impressive games on mobile, but about a year ago developer Mistfly Games implemented Apple’s latest Metal technology and really cranked the graphics up to 11.
The Witness, $9.99 – [Review] – [Forum Thread] – Jonathan Blow’s long-awaited follow-up to his indie darling Braid had long been rumored for an iOS release, but it didn’t actually happen until exactly one year ago yesterday. And as everyone always thought the experience translated extremely well to the touchscreen. What’s more is that The Witness accomplishes the rare feat of being visually impressive from both a technical standpoint but also just from a great art design standpoint with its vivid use of colors and stunning environments.