Game

Armed with friends and iPhones? Fancy some multiplayer gaming fun? Then download these beauties

Gaming has a reputation for being anti-social, but it’s often at its best when a bunch of people are in a room together, competing for a virtual prize. This round-up looks at our take on the best multiplayer games when you’re each armed with an iPhone.

Our choices largely centre on immediacy and fun – games where newcomers should have a fighting chance against those who’ve played before. Also, such games need to work well on an iPhone, which means catering for the smallish display, and offering a control system that doesn’t equate to ‘Finger Twister’.

In each case, we note how to set up a local multiplayer match; but before you start do also ensure your copy of a title is bang up to date, or it may not connect to other iPhones.

Spaceteam

Free • v2.5.1 • 132 MB • By Henry Smith

In Spaceteam, a rickety ship hurtles through space, trying to outrun an exploding star. The only way to stave off impending fiery doom is for your spaceteam to quickly respond to instructions that flash up on your screens.

The snag is the control panels comprise semi-random buttons and switches. Also, your particular instruction might be intended for someone else’s panel. Hence: loads of frantic searching, and then shouting nonsense like: “Will somebody please discharge the Clip-jawed Fluxtrunions?”

It’s all completely ridiculous, loads of fun, and a great equaliser from a gaming standpoint. (Well, unless you’re the downed pilot of a real space-faring vessel that had controls that were a bit too complicated for their – and your – own good.)

How to play: Turn the dial to Play, and your device will search for nearby signals. Next, have everyone in the waiting room press their green buttons until you all find yourself in Sector 1, with a warning that you must work together.

Download Spaceteam

Flappy Golf 2

Free • v2.0.1 • 132 MB • By Noodlecake Studios Inc

An answer to a question precisely no-one had asked – namely, what would happen if you combined Flappy Bird with a side-on minigolf game – the original Flappy Golf was an unexpected hit. It took courses from Super Stickman Golf 2, but had you fly a winged ball to the hole in as few flaps as possible.

The sequel’s more polished, and its multiplayer mode replaces considered precision with a manic dash – the only prize is for getting to the hole first. It’s frenetic, colourful, silly fun – although be mindful those who know the courses well will be at an advantage.

How to play: Have everyone tap Play, then Race Mode, then Local, give their ball a name, and tap OK. One person acts as the game’s host, and should tap Host. Everyone else should tap Join, let the host accept them into the match, and tap Connect. When everyone’s joined, the host can tap Play and choose a course.

Download Flappy Golf 2

Super Stickman Golf 3

Free • v1.7.11 • 133 MB • By Noodlecake Studios Inc

Check out Super Stickman Golf 3 for golfing action that’s a tad more traditional. Only a tad, mind, because although this one dispenses with winged balls, instead giving you a little golfer who hits balls with a club, its courses comprise the likes of laser-infested submarines, and massive floating islands.

Along with the equivalent of Flappy Golf’s deranged race mode, Super Stickman Golf 3 offers a sedate turn-based alternative. The former echoes Flappy Golf’s immediacy, and the latter’s best for players at least somewhat familiar with the game’s intricacies, including its oddball power-up balls – and special hats. Either way, it’s a blast to play.

How to play: You set up local races as per Flappy Golf 2, but the host must also choose a game mode, to determine which (if any) power-ups everyone has. Turn-based games require players to be signed into Game Center. You kick off a bout by selecting a friend.

Download Super Stickman Golf 3

Exploding Kittens

$1.99/£1.99 • v3.1.9 • 215 MB • By Exploding Kittens

The original table-top card game version of Exploding Kittens was the most-backed Kickstarter of all time. Undoubtedly, many were roped in by Matthew ‘The Oatmeal’ Inman’s crazed illustrations, featuring all kinds of odd creatures and scenarios on the cards (altering the future using a golden-haired manatee, for example).

But most stayed for the game, which was an ingenious Russian roulette – featuring the titular explosive moggies. (In short: draw a kitten and you’re out – unless you can defuse it with another card.) On iPhone, the game’s equally good – packed full of vibrant imagery, absurd sound effects, and helpful additions like a ‘chance of kitten’ meter.

How to play: Tap ‘play with friends’, and then ‘I don’t have an internet connection’ if you all want everything to be done on Wi-Fi. Have the host tap ’host game’ and choose a deck. Everyone else should tap ‘find nearby’ and ‘join game’. When everyone’s joined, the host can tap ‘start game’.

Download Exploding Kittens

Letterpress

Free • v4.2 • 24.9 MB • By Solebon LLC

Essentially a cross between land-grab board-game Risk and famous word game Boggle, Letterpress is all about finding words within a jumble of letters. As you submit words, tiles flip to your colour. Any entirely surrounded by your claimed tiles get a darker shade and cannot be flipped by your opponent during their next go.

Strategy in Letterpress therefore hinges on carefully chipping away at territory, using letters in close proximity rather than those scattered all over the board. Bouts can often become a surprisingly exciting tug-of-war, as you wrestle to reign supreme over the last few tiles.

How to play: In the  menu, each player should tap Manage Account and set a memorable name. Next, tap New Game, then Favorite Players, and then Add a Favorite, using the memorable name your friend defined. This will then be added to the players list; tapping the name starts a game (for which internet access is required, note).

Download Letterpress

Scrabble

From free • v5.20.0 • 180–191 MB • By Electronic Arts

There are loads of pretenders to Scrabble’s throne, but to our mind this 80-year-old veteran of word games beats its modern-day rivals. As ever, the aim in Scrabble is to use your rack of letters to build a dynamic crossword on a tiled board, whenever possible making strategic use of bonus tiles (like triple-word and double-letter) to substantially boost your score.

On iPhone, Scrabble comes in free and premium flavours (and, confusingly, technically different apps in the US and elsewhere, due to licensing issues – hence the multiple links below). But whatever you choose, you get a solid take on one of the most famous board games of all time.

How to play: Scrabble requires an internet connection for multi-device play, and for each player to be signed into Facebook or Origin. Select one or more people and tap Play to get started.

Download Scrabble Premium (US)
Download Scrabble (US)
Download Scrabble Premium (ROW)
Download Scrabble (ROW)

Mini Motor Racing

$2.99/£2.99 • v2.0.3 • 924 MB • By The Binary Mill

There are loads of racing games on iOS, but from a multiplayer standpoint, Mini Motor Racing takes the chequered flag. It looks great and has a jaunty soundtrack, but we mostly like it because newcomers aren’t left floundering as their experienced chums zoom off into the distance, having previously committed to memory every nook and cranny of a circuit.

In Mini Motor Racing, courses are tiny, and the controls are customisable and straightforward – effectively it’s all about pointing your car in the right direction, and occasionally using boost to very briefly fling your car along at insane speed. (Tap pause and you can refine the controls, opting for buttons or a virtual steering wheel.) It’s not nuanced, nor particularly deep, but Mini Motor Racing is a superb game to play with friends.

How to play: Everyone should tap Multiplayer, type in their name, and then tap Wi-Fi. One should then tap Host. The host selects the track, number of laps, and car upgrades (higher ones are faster). Individuals can choose their own car design and paint job. Tap Ready when done, and then Start.

Download Mini Motor Racing

Osmos

$2.99/£2.99 • v2.4.1 • 34.0 MB • By Hemisphere Games

Very much a rarity in the sense of being an ambient arcade game, Osmos is an ideal choice if you want a unique and thoughtful head-to-head experience. The basic premise involves guiding a ‘mote’. Tap and the mote ejects a piece of itself, temporarily propelling it in the opposite direction. The aim: head the right way, to eat motes smaller than itself, and thereby grow.

In multiplayer, you’re of course battling a human with the same aim. Perhaps you’ll scoot about scooping up static motes bobbing in the microscopic goop, or barrel in for a surprise attack. And then tactics will need to change again, when everyone’s whizzing around the central ‘star’ in a solar system arena, barely in control of their actions – there, everything’s more about survival than defeating a rival.

How to play: Both players must tap Multiplayer, then In the Room. The devices should automatically connect. Each player then votes for an arena type. Once both of you agree, the game begins.

Download Osmos

Also consider…

Asphalt 8: Airborne

Free • v3.1.0 • 1.81 GB • By Gameloft

Equally blazingly fast and absurdly stupid, this arcade racer thumbs its nose to reality, having you careen through larger-than life courses full of rocket ships, volcanos and other madness. Local multiplayer’s under More racing options > Local Wi-Fi. Someone creates a room, others join, and you then all hope your router won’t give out before someone takes the chequered flag.

Download Asphalt 8: Airborne

Minecraft: Pocket Edition

$6.99/$6.99 • v1.1.5 • 152 MB • By Mojang

One of the most popular games ever made, Minecraft has you venture into a blocky world, to explore, build and survive. Collaborative modes exist, although be mindful to have your own personal always-on realm requires monthly IAP.

Download Minecraft: Pocket Edition

Reckless Racing HD

$0.99/49p • v1.4.7 • 79.8 MB • By Pixelbite

This top-down veteran has ramshackle cars belting around dilapidated circuits, such as a wrecker’s yard, and a mall parking lot. Recently given 64-bit support, it remains as fun as ever. Set up games by hosting a race after selecting one of the available servers.

Download Reckless Racing HD

SpellTower

$2.99/£2.99 • v4.0.4 • 259 MB • By Zach Gage

More or less what happens when you smash Crosswords into a reverse Tetris, SpellTower has a two-player Debate mode. Make a word and the requisite number of tiles is hurled onto your opponent’s screen, which is sure to make you popular.

Download SpellTower