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TapSmart Game Awards – the best iPhone and iPad games of 2022

Five top games that gave our thumbs a workout over the past 12 months

Gaming’s come a long way since the early days of the App Store. Your iPhone and iPad can now host everything from tiny five-minute time-wasters to console-quality high-end games. But which are the ones really worth playing?

This piece celebrates our pick of the very best: five standout games that arrived during 2022 – and that we think you’ll love. Forget the App Store Awards and Apple Design Awards; ours are much better.

Winner: Knotwords (free or $11.99/£9.99)


The creator of Knotwords has form in subverting newspaper-style puzzles, having previously done interesting things with anagrams and chess. With Knotwords, he’s created a captivating hybrid of crosswords, sudoku, and logic puzzles.

Unlike with traditional crosswords, there are no clues, and you’re given every letter required to complete a puzzle. It almost sounds too easy. The snag: each puzzle is broken into pieces, within which the letters are scrambled. You must decide where each should be placed, to fashion the completed crossword.

Given how a handful of letters can make several words, Knotwords can feel like you’re ‘sculpting’ a solution through trial and error. But when you blaze through a puzzle, you’ll feel like a genius.

Unless you can’t stand games of this sort, at least install the free version, with its daily and monthly challenges. You’ll soon want to buy the one-off IAP for the full game, which unlocks additional modes for many more weeks of blissful word puzzling.

Get Knotwords

Runner-up: Isle of Arrows ($5.99/£4.99)

Isle of Arrows

This game’s creator describes it as a mix of tower defense and board game. It’s a blend that works superbly.

Each challenge begins with an elevated island that features a short path leading to a golden ‘compass stone.’ Cards at the foot of the screen then give you the option to extend the path or build structures that include defensive towers. Tap Start Wave and invaders march toward the stone.

The aim is to ensure enemies don’t reach said stone – if one does, you lose one of your ten lives. Success relies on carefully managing meager resources – selecting a new card costs gold, which is only won on dispatching foes. Things get even tougher when new paths and stones appear, forcing you to battle multiple strings of invaders at once.

Games are lengthy – Isle of Arrows is properly thinky lean-back stuff. And with its mix of immediacy, depth, and gorgeous visuals and audio, it’s a worthy runner-up in this year’s awards.

Get Isle of Arrows

Also commended

Three more games we loved playing this year…

Automatoys (free or $1.99/£1.99)

The contraptions in Automatoys straddle realism and fantasy. Operating them is simple – tap and everything that can move will. The aim is straightforward too: get the ball to the goal.

Doing so is less simple. You’ll need a keen sense of timing, not least if you want to be fast enough to win three stars. Throughout, wonderful visuals and a grin-inducing sense of invention will keep you glued to the screen.

Get Automatoys

Dicey Dungeons ($4.99/£4.49)

Dicey Dungeons

This PC hit from a few years back features turn-based battles. Cartoonish foes in randomized dungeons face off against gameshow contestants who’ve been turned into anthropomorphic dice. And, yes, we want to see that TV show too.

Anyway, dice are thrown during bouts, with you attempting to match numbers that activate offensive abilities acquired during the game. It’s immediate and fun, but with enough imagination, depth, and variety to stick around on your device for the long term.

Get Dicey Dungeons

Horizon Chase 2 (Apple Arcade)

Horizon Chase

The original Horizon Chase was a breezy racer that was a love letter to gaming’s past, when racers were about color and speed, rather than a slavish attention to physics and perfectly rendered asphalt.

This follow-up adds car customization and multiplayer, along with a slew of new tracks and events. It is still similar to its predecessor – which is why it doesn’t lead the pack here. That said, it without doubt earns its place on the grid among this year’s winners.

Get Horizon Chase