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Free means free in this selection of gaming greats

Many free App Store games are packed with in-app purchases, and have mechanics geared towards grind and gouging you for money. The titles in this round-up are different.

Here, free means free, with creators having generously released their games for nothing. All of them are great, and most are ad-free too. (None have intrusive ads, and we mention how the ads work in those games that do have them.)

So get ready for hours of gaming fun – which won’t cost you even a single penny.

Crust Crusaders

Pizza fights back against healthy food in this novel single-screen shooter. You guide an auto-firing slice around claustrophobic arenas, blowing away deadly veggies and fruits. Over time, you upgrade your pizza with toppings that add shields and additional firepower. Bullet-hell bosses provide a sporadic sterner test in this very tasty arcade treat.

Includes ads for optional post-game continues or in-game boosts.

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Data Wing

On the surface, Data Wing is a gorgeous, minimalist top-down racer, with you blazing around neon circuits, shaving track edges to get a speed boost. But as you progress, the game slowly reveals a surprisingly deep story about technology and humanity. Even when that concludes, you’ll want to return to improve your high scores across the dozens of high-octane arcade levels.

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ElectroMaster

With its pixel art and cramped single-screen arenas, ElectroMaster evokes 1980s arcade titles. Each level finds you attempting to blast a gaggle of foes off the screen by way of your terrifying electro powers. The controls take some getting used to – tap-hold to power up; drag to move; let go to blast and then drag at speed to aim – but once they click, this is grin-inducing old-school fare.

Includes ads for continues. Also be mindful of some rude language within.

Get ElectroMaster

Empty.

This meditative puzzler invites you to remove objects from a space until nothing remains. This is achieved by you dragging to rotate a room, aiming to match the color of silhouettes and surfaces. Success relies on you figuring out in which order to remove the items, and having the precision to line everything up. If you’ve an iPad, this one works especially well on the larger, squarer display.

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Gnomitaire

Arnold Rauers has spent years creating intricate card games. This is his simplest effort, but still forces you to think as you sort cards into four columns. The twist is no column can include cards of the same suit, and suits must be placed below cards with matching markers. If that’s too easy, ‘expert’ mode blocks multiple cards from a single suit across columns and rows.

Includes ads to rewind to a prior solvable state in ‘expert’ mode.

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HungryMaster

This follow-up to ElectroMaster finds Delica and her talking cat turning monsters into fruit she feeds to ravenous houses. (No, we’ve no idea either.) It’s breezy arcade fare as you tap to make the hero move, and drag pixie dust trails from within her and across the landscape to blast foes into fruity goodness. 100 missions and tense boss battles should keep you hungry until you master this one.

Includes ads for continues. Again, be mindful there’s some rude language.

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Impossible Isles

Ducks hate rabbits. Rabbits hate ducks. At least that’s the case in Impossible Isles, which has you place tiles on a map, being mindful of rules that boost or erode your score. And those rules go beyond wildlife warfare – for example, mountains dislike water and an ogre smashes everything around them. With the deck shuffled daily, it’s quite the puzzle to maximize your score – not least when you factor in hidden bonuses.

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Kitty Q

You’re likely familiar with Schrödinger’s Cat – a thought experiment that states a moggie can be simultaneously alive and dead. Kitty Q has a half alive/half dead moggy arrive on your doorstep, in the hope you’ll solve its peculiar quantum superposition. To do so, you explore your surroundings and solve puzzles that refer to tricky scientific principles. Fortunately, Schrödinger’s great granddaughter is on-hand to help, and the cat will keep hold of inventory items (albeit in its tummy) while meowing encouragingly.

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Rocket League Sideswipe

Of all the games in this list, Rocket League Sideswipe feels set-up for IAP. But there’s none in this side-on reimagining of the famous 3D car soccer game for consoles. What you do get is an imaginative, polished futuristic sports effort, where vehicles blaze through the air and you try to smack a giant ball into a goal. You’ll find stiff competition in online players; exhibition matches let you hone your skills against computer opposition.

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Salvagette

Bullet-hell shoot ’em ups make you think things would be simple if everything stopped for a moment. Salvagette suggests otherwise. Here, everything is turn-based – but that doesn’t make things easier once the screen fills with bullets. In part, that’s because you ram foes rather than blast them and so must plot a path through all the flying debris to reach them. It’s an original and compelling take on a theme, further bolstered by multiple endings and in-game upgrades.

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Sticky Terms

Described by its creator as a game of untranslatable words, Sticky Terms is all about putting letterforms back together. Each puzzle starts out looking like abstract art. You tap to rotate each piece and then link it with others, to eventually reveal a full short saying. It’s tactile and fun – and you’ll learn some new phrases as well.

Requires you watch an ad to unlock each level set.

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Tiler More

This word game serves up random tiles you use to build words. Tiles can be dragged around, but stacks can be no more than three tiles high. To free up space – and construct completed words – stacks of two or three tiles can be merged. Initially, the going’s easy, but the toughest difficulty level is a brain-smashing juggling act in tile management – although the lack of a timer fortunately means you’re never spelling out S. T. R. E. S. S.

Get Tiler More

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