1. Infinity Blade II
The year's most anticipated iPad game doesn't disappoint, if you're a fan of the original or crave console-quality graphics. A lot of this sequel's mechanics remain true to the original Infinity Blade: swipe-based swordplay, weapon upgrades, and lots and lots of dying. There are a few new wrinkles, though: for instance, you can now explore branching pathways. Plus, it all looks even better than before. We'd still prefer a full-fledged adventure, but Infinity Blade II is another step forward.
2. Kingdom Rush
Tower defense games are a dime a dozen in the App Store, but this latest one (a paid version of an extremely popular free browser-based game) is wonderfully animated, incredibly addictive, and assembled into a series of questlike challenges. Plenty of upgrades and coin collecting will hook even the most jaded iPad player, slowly but surely.
3. Little Things Forever
There's nothing all that complicated to Little Things Forever, but its elegant find-a-picture puzzles and nested challenges add up to a lot of casual fun. Each picture has hundreds of objects hidden inside it, with a clean, clear style that's perfect for little kids. The addictiveness factor is high.
Price: $2.99 (universal app)
Fans of point-and-click adventures, hand-drawn graphics, and artistically adventurous indie games, look no further: Machinarium is a gorgeously rendered journey through a slightly ominous universe where the answers to the puzzles presented aren't immediately obvious. Previously a PC/Mac game, it's even better on a touch-screen device like an iPad.
(Note: Machinarium won't play on a first-gen iPad.)
5. Modern Combat 3: Fallen
We're little short on first-person shooters on our list, but that's because there aren't a whole lot of really good ones.
Modern Combat 3: Fallen is a nice step up for the series and worth giving up the 1GB of space on your iPad that it requires (bummer, we know). While it might not quite measure up to console versions of Call of Duty, at least it will remind you of them.
You get 13 levels in the single-player campaign and there's also online play with up to 12 players on six different maps. We also appreciated that this one's a universal title.
A mesmerizing kinetic action game featuring spherical cell-like balls, the goal of Osmos is simply to jet around using momentum to glom with smaller objects and become the largest object in your micro-universe. Big eats small, and the more you move, the more mass you cast off. It's a fascinating miniature arcade experience with plenty of levels.
7. Pinball Arcade
Sorry, War Pinball, your crown was stolen. Pinball Arcade's tables are replicas of actual classic pinball machines, and more are being added monthly. A dollar gets you the app and one table, but others can be purchased in-app for a few bucks a pop.
Price: 99 cents (universal app)
8. Plants vs. Zombies
For those who haven't been keeping tabs, this gateway drug to tower-defense strategy games is quite a bit of fun for beginners or the more hard-core. It's a spot-on version of the PC/Mac version at a more affordable rate, with new mini games and modes that round out the standard levels.
9. Real Racing 2 HD
Firemint, the company better known for Flight Control, has made the iOS version of Gran Turismo for two years running. Real Racing 2's graphics enhancements and physics, along with its stable of cars, racetracks, events, and online play, put it in a league that nearly equals consoles. As an added bonus, the game works with HDMI-out, turning the iPad into a steering wheel while racing at 1080p resolution on a TV screen. It's an expensive game, but well worth it for racing fans -- the Retina Display-enhanced graphics show off the third-gen iPad extremely well.
10. Reckless Racing 2
Arguably the best top-down racer on the iPad right now, Reckless Racing 2 has nice graphics and a good selection of cars and tracks (some folks are already clamoring for an update, however). The original Reckless Racing HD is also good and was previously on this list.
11. Sid Meier's Pirates! for iPad
Those hungering for either pirate-themed strategy games or excellent PC gaming ports on the iPad will celebrate the arrival of Sid Meier's Pirates!, a port-exploring, ship-managing, booty-collecting game that's excellently adapted for touch. It's not only the best pirate simulation of all time, it's a triple-A PC game that's easily worth twice what the App Store's charging, and then some. This is a great example of the App Store economy in action.
12. Plague Inc.
The title may sound grim, but who knew that decimating the world with some horrible disease would be so fun -- and addicting?
Plague Inc. is one of two hit strategy games in the app store that challenge you to wipe out the human race (Pandemic 2.5, a port of the Flash game, is the other) and there are a few different ways to go about achieving your objective, though it's harder than it seems. Do you try to spread your disease rapidly but hold back its potency so it can fly under the radar? Or do you spend your points on making it more lethal and kill faster, thus slowing a cure, but potentially wiping out your hosts before it infects everyone? Ah, the choices.
Price: 99 cents (universal app)
13. Ski Safari
You're a skier and an avalanche is chasing after you. How far can you go and how many points can you score?
Ski Safari is one of the games that's simple to play, even forgiving, yet highly challenging. It's sort of Tiny Wings meets Jetpack Joyride meets Temple Run. Yes, it can get a little repetitive but it has enough character to keep you coming back. While you can end up playing for hours, it's also one of those games you can play for 10 minutes (the time it takes to do a decent "run") and feel satisfied.
Price: 99 cents (universal app)
14. Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy
Namco's Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy was one of the first games to hit the app store with Retina display support for the third-generation iPad and it's one great looking game. Those hoping for more of a hard-core flight sim, this certainly isn't it. But one of its strong points is its easy accessibility -- you can jump right in and play, and the levels, along with the various game modes, offer enough variety to keep things interesting.
15. Sonic CD
Sega's nearly forgotten rarity from 1993 (originally on the Sega CD, a failed CD-ROM peripheral for the Sega Genesis) is one of the best Sonic the Hedgehog games ever made. The side-scrolling epic is perfectly ported to iOS in a universal app, complete with Japanese and American soundtracks. A clever time-travel mechanic has Sonic zipping back and forth through the stages, adding up to a ton of gameplay. The touch controls are simple and easy to use, too.
SpellTower has always been a highly rated word game, but it's really taken off thanks to a combination of game developer Zach Gage being featured in the New York Times Magazine and an update to the game itself, which added Retina support for the third-generation iPad, plus a multiplayer mode.
The basic idea here is that as make words your tower of letters gradually crumbles, leaving you with fewer and fewer letters to use. Naturally, longer words earn you more points. Warning: This one is incredibly addictive -- in a good way.
17. Super Stickman Golf
Graphically speaking, this is about as far away from EA's Tiger Woods franchise as you can get, but don't let the crudely drawn "courses" fool you. The gameplay here is simple yet shockingly challenging and it's quite possible that you may find yourself playing this one more than the Tiger Woods game.
Price: 99 cents
18. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP
Do you like your games weird? Mysterious? Pixelated? Filled with indie music? If you answered "yes" to more than two of the above, pick up this ode to point-and-click graphic PC adventures of the '80s. The minimal feel, lush atmospheric sound effects, and puzzle-solving oddities add up to an experience worth having, especially if you dig the indie scene.
19. Ticket to Ride
Yes, we love board games on the iPad. In the tradition of Settlers of Catan and Carcassone, Ticket to Ride is an award-winning board game that's actually easier to learn but offers endless replay value. Online multiplayer is fast and a breeze to set up, and additional board game expansion packs are available for when you tire of the main game, which will likely be never. Newly added pass-and-play multiplayer -- and the ability to use the iPhone version of the game in local matches -- makes living-room play far more fun.
20. Waking Mars
It feels a little bit like Metroid and a little bit like an Alien spin-off, but Waking Mars is more about discovery than violence; the science-fiction plot has you exploring the depths of Mars, collecting research on new life forms, and cultivating that life in unique combinations. Simple touch controls abandon virtual analog pads for a far more organic feel. Now updated with Retina Display graphics, too. Trust us, it's cool.
Price: $4.99 (universal app)
21. Where's My Water?
This deceptively simple puzzler has you trying to run water sitting at the top of the screen to bottom so Swampy (the alligator mascot of the game) can take a shower. Naturally, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome -- and a few ducks to collect -- as you dig a path and tunnel the water to Swampy. This one also appeals to a wide age range, from young kids to grandparents.
Price: 99 cents
22. Words With Friends
We had Scrabble on this list for a while but have relented and swapped in Zynga's Words With Friends, a knockoff of Scrabble. Why? Well, because everyone is playing Words With Friends and it costs less than Scrabble, which lists for $9.99 but sometimes gets discounted.
23. World of Goo
Either you've played World of Goo before, or you haven't. If you're in the latter category, it's time to pony up and join the club. An indie Game of the Year candidate when it first debuted as a downloadable game on the Nintendo Wii and PC, the iPad version is actually an improvement thanks to a shift to intuitive touch controls, as opposed to Wii remote-based gestures. A combination of construction toolkit and puzzle-platformer, World of Goo instantly rises to the top of our App Store must-buys.
24. Zuma's Revenge HD
PopCap's sequel to Zuma is all about shooting balls to match and blast away like-colored balls before their steadily advancing stream reaches and destroys you (or, really, your frog). Simple, intense, and highly addicting, this one has 60 Adventure levels to get through plus 60 tests in Challenge mode.
25. Looking for more great games?
26. Air Mail
Imagine if Nintendo made games for the iPad...then play Air Mail. Somehow capturing a lot of the same style as Pilotwings and various Zelda games, this simple and beautiful-looking whimsical flight game has story-based missions, an open flight mode, and plenty of fun worlds to dive and climb through, along with a steampunk theme and a gorgeous soundtrack.
Price: 99 cents (universal app)
27. Angry Birds Space HD
Yes, Rovio's intergalactic Angry Birds sequel has been incredibly overhyped. It's worth it, and worth your money, too. For the first time since the original game, Angry Birds changes the equation by toying with gravity and adding a ton of clever level designs. Sure, it's a lot more Angry Birds, but this Retina display-enhanced game is the one you want to buy. (A non-HD iPhone version costs 99 cents, but we'd recommend springing the extra two bucks.)
Already a classic board game in its own right, the iPhone adaptation of this tile-based strategy game was one of the most beautifully executed in the App Store. A new update has added native iPad compatibility, thus it's earned a spot on our list. Online and local multiplayer and a weekly solitaire puzzle challenge add up to a ton of replay value, and in-app expansions mirror more expensive sets available for the actual board game. If you're board game apprehensive, don't worry: while Carcassone can take a little getting used to, it's a more worthwhile iPad game to own than Catan -- and it's great for pass-and-play multiplayer.
29. Contre Jour HD
Yes, there's a pattern emerging in puzzle games: solve a level, try to three-star it, and repeat. Contre Jour, however, has spectacular art design and music, along with creative imagination, making it feel like an Xbox or PlayStation 3 downloadable game. It's cheap at $2.99, and continually added extra level packs pay the value forward, much like Angry Birds.
30. FIFA 12 HD
We we were impressed by last year's FIFA 11 and EA Sports has upped the ante with this year's installment, adding a Manager Mode and a better control scheme (you and a friend can also use your iPhones or iPod Touches as controllers for the game on the iPad, which is pretty cool). The graphics have also improved, with more-fluid player movements and just all-around great gameplay (that said, you shouldn't expect full-on PS3- or Xbox 360-level graphics). The game does have a few bugs and crashes now and then, but hopefully this will be remedied in an update soon.
If you don't like the idea of spending $9.99, wait for this one to be discounted. EA frequently has sales.
Cool games, if i only had a IPAD heheheh