Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.


Be sure to also check out our picks for essential iPad games as well as our recommendations for Android phones and tablets.

Now that you’re done completely losing your mind in excitement over the shiny new iPhone someone gave you for the holidays, you’re probably wondering which games to download first so that you’ll have something to do after dinner once everyone else either passes out or watches football.

Well, we’re always happy to help with your festive conundrum, so here are 15 games you can get from the App Store right now to get your mobile-gaming career started right.

And while many of the games on this list are “free,” most of these do offer in-app purchases for gear, cosmetic items, and more.

Event

GamesBeat Summit 2023

Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments.


Register Here
It's the most fun you'll pretend to have with a table.

Above: It’s the most fun you’ll pretend to have with a table.

Image Credit: Fireproof Games

The Room Pocket (Free first level; $1 to unlock the rest)

The Room is one of the best-looking mobile games you’ll ever see. It’s a puzzler that tasks you with unlocking a series of boxes. You do this by examining them from every angle to find keys, open secret panels, and generally just wiggle stuff around with incredibly responsive touch controls.

It also has a strange metaplot straight out of the world of weird-fiction author H.P. Lovecraft. Apparently, the puzzle boxes exist in a bizarre unworld that humanity was never meant to encounter or something. But the main part is that these puzzles are really good.

It's a bit light on graphics.

Above: It’s a bit light on graphics.

Image Credit: Reactive Games

Codename Cygnus $1 per episode

This one isn’t a game so much as an interactive radio play where you choose your path through a 1960s-style espionage story. Every once in a while, the app gives you a choice as to how to proceed. Do you make like Daniel Craig’s James Bond and knock that guard out? Or do you choose stealth and sneak by like boring old Roger Moore’s James Bond? When you’re done, you get to see a profile of sorts to tell you what kind of superspy you’d make.

People looking for a deep gameplay experience in which their choices matter and affect future events should look elsewhere to meet those needs, but Cygnus still provides a fun story and just enough interactivity to earn it a spot on this list.

They just keep adding stuff.

Above: They just keep adding stuff.

Image Credit: Halfbrick Studios

Jetpack Joyride (Free)

Here’s the easiest sell on the list — Jetpack Joyride is probably the best supported free game in the App Store. It’s an endless runner from the creators of Fruit Ninja, and its simple, one-touch controls and steady supply of missions give you plenty to do. The steady supply of updates with new vehicles and playstyles will make sure you’re still playing it months from now.

It’s so fun that you won’t even care that it isn’t superrelevant anymore, what with all of the giant robots and water scooters and stuff.

The entire game looks like this.

Above: The entire game looks like this.

Image Credit: Nyamyam

Tengami $5

This beautiful puzzle adventure takes its inspiration from origami and pop-up books. And if its looks aren’t impressive enough, here’s a fun fact: If you were so inclined, you could make everything in this game yourself with real paper. I’m not sure if you’d want to do that, but it’s nice to know the option exists.

The game itself is low-key and relaxing with pretty, calm music to go along with the sedate visuals. Pop in some headphones, and it’ll provide some relief if you need a little break from all that family time.

The Hunting makes heavy use of the Olloclip's fish-eye setting.

Above: Don’t worry — you won’t be alone for long.

Image Credit: Plendy Productions

The Hunting (Free for Part 1, $2 each for Parts 2 and 3)

We recently interviewed the director of this interactive zombie film with takes place across three chapters. It’s downright terrifying in parts, and it’ll have you second-guessing every choice you make as you wind your way across the undead-filled countryside in search of your similarly besieged girlfriend.

Highlights include an especially terrifying bike ride and a creepy little girl you know you shouldn’t follow but probably will.

Don't let the floating paddles distract you; avatars would just get in the way.

Above: Don’t let the floating paddles distract you; avatars would just get in the way.

Image Credit: Yakuto

Table Tennis Touch $4

Table Tennis Touch is a virtual Ping-Pong game with spot-on physics and plenty of stuff to do. You can face off against one of its A.I. characters, each of whom has a unique play style and strategy. Or you can perfect your paddle skills in one of the 12 minigames.

I don’t even like table tennis, and I love this one.

If you do well, the entire game world takes on a trippy, Día de los Muertos look that isn't distracting at all.

Above: If you do well, the entire game world takes on a trippy, Día de los Muertos look that isn’t distracting at all.

Image Credit: Evan Killham/GamesBeat

Record Run (Free)

If you’re planning on carrying a lot of music around in your phone, here’s a way to make it even more fun.

Record Run comes to us courtesy of developer Harmonix, makers of Rock Band and Dance Central. And surprise: It’s a rhythm game. This one has you running down the a city sidewalk picking up records and dodging obstacles to the beat. As you complete missions in the game (e.g.,earning four stars on a song), you earn Backstage Passes that you can use to open additional song slots. It’s quick and easy to add your music to the playlist, and it renders fun and challenging levels within seconds.

And all of this is free, in case you missed it the first time.

Now you can keep working on your cubic dream house wherever you are.

Above: Now you can keep working on your Cubist dream house wherever you are.

Image Credit: Mojang

Minecraft: Pocket Edition $7

If you have yet to start slinging boxes around in developer Mojang’s blockbuster, this might be your chance.

This pared-down port doesn’t have all of the gadgets and features of the PC version, but you can still dive in and start building away. You can even play multiplayer if both you and your partner are on the same Wi-Fi network. So when you jump into your buddy’s world and burn down the house they spent weeks building, they’ll be right there to punch you in the face.

Flips!

Above: Stunts!

Image Credit: Ubisoft

Trials Frontier (Free)

The first mobile installment of developer RedLynx’s physics-based, motorbike racing series captures all of the flipping and seconds-shaving fun of its console and PC counterparts. And it’s free, so that isn’t bad, either.

Some annoying free-to-wait business sets in eventually when you can’t play the game for hours while one of your bikes receives an upgrade. But you’ll usually be able to find something else to do in the meantime, even if it is “find something else to play.”

Your time with Frontier, however, will be worth the wait. It’s a solid and addictive game.

This one comes from the Bureau of Super-Obvious Titles.

Above: This one comes from the Bureau of Super-Obvious Titles.

Image Credit: Mediocre Games

Smash Hit (Free)

While we’re talking about games with cool physics, here’s Smash Hit. It’s a conceptual title where you float on rails through a series of music-inspired environments while throwing pinballs at the glass structures that block your path (or the ones you just want to break).

You can play all you want for free, but a $2 purchase unlocks iCloud syncing and restarts from checkpoints. And it’s worth the buy because this is a great-looking game, and it has a lot of cool stuff to show you.

OK, enough with all that gushing over physics.

Above: OK, enough with all that gushing over physics. For a little while, anyway

Image Credit: Playmous

God of Light ($2)

If you’re looking for some more puzzles, God of Light has what you need.

It’s a light-based puzzler in which your goal is to get a beam from one end of the screen to the other by reflecting, splitting, curving, and changing its color to get past obstacles. Extra fun comes from how level is completely dark when you start; it’s only after moving your light around do you see what you have to work with.

This one's for the Word Nerds.

Above: This one’s for the word nerds.

Image Credit: Bacon Bandit Games

Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey (Free)

This word game with role-playing elements — or role-playing game with word elements — puts you in the robes of an adorable Reaper and then sends you through a series of spelling-based battles with monsters. Because that makes complete sense.

You fight your enemies by spelling the longest words you can from the field of tiles at the bottom of the screen. Some of them have special abilities or will hurt you if you use them, so it also has a bit of strategy in it. But mostly, you’re just jacking up ghosts with spelling, and that’s absolutely something you want to do.

It's the monkey-in-a-lab puzzle game you never realized you needed.

Above: It’s the monkey-in-a-lab puzzle game you never realized you needed.

Image Credit: Vested Interest

Simian Interface ($1)

You can play this exercise in spatial reasoning online, but it’s worth your dollar to solve its tricky puzzles with the tilt controls on your phone. It has you rearranging shapes and colors to put them into an unspecified configuration, but you have to figure out what that goal is as you go. Sometimes, you’re putting squares into boxes, and sometimes you’re arranging a variety of shapes into a single pattern.

It’s a quick play, but you’ll love it while it lasts. Especially because it has cats in it, for some reason.

No, really. It's fun.

Above: No, really. It’s fun.

Image Credit: Holy Water Games

Feed Me Oil 2 ($1)

A less ecologically responsible version of the Where’s My Water series, the Feed Me Oil games have you using gadgets, ramps, and fans to move black gold from a source pump into a goal area, where the living landscape in which all of this occurs will eat it or something.

But look — that’s not important. What matters is that it’s a cool and creative game with some very tricky puzzles and a ton of solving options. Each level doesn’t necessarily have one solution; it just gives you a start point, an end point, some tools, and a whole bunch of oil and leaves you to it.

Hopefully, you're partially psychic.

Above: Hopefully, you’re partially psychic.

Image Credit: Evan Killham/GamesBeat

100 Floors (Free)

Our final suggestion for your new iPhone boasts an unbelievable amount of content, all for free (or 99 cents, if you want to lose the ads). It started out with the eponymous 100 puzzles, but regular updates have more than doubled that number. The basic format of all is the same, however: Use your phone’s various functions to tilt, tap, mute, and shake your way through a bunch of single-room puzzles.

They get pretty vague at times, but that’s part of the fun. Unless you frustrate easily, in which case you might want to stick with The Room for your touch-puzzling needs.

GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.