Game

Got friends with phones? Fancy some multiplayer fun? Then try these great games

Gaming has a reputation for being anti-social, but multiplayer gaming has existed from the medium’s earliest days. And whether you’re in a room with friends, or fancy battling chums all around the world, there’s plenty to choose from on the App Store.

Our recommendations mostly center on immediacy and fun – and so we won’t delve into the Fortnites of this world; we also haven’t chosen any traditional boardgames (although Catan and Ticket to Ride are both great).

Ticket to Ride

In most cases, our picks allow newcomers to at least have a fighting chance against those who’ve played before — or at least gain some skills rapidly! For each title, we’ll also outline how to set up multiplayer matches, to help you get started.

Flappy Golf 2

Free • v2.0.12 • 154.4 MB • By Noodlecake

The original Flappy Golf crossed a side-on mini-golf game with Flappy Bird, having you fly a winged ball to the hole in as few flaps as possible. This sequel is more of the same, but far more polished.

Flappy Golf 2 also has a multiplayer mode that replaces the single-player’s considered precision with manic dashes to the hole. It’s frenetic, colorful and silly — although be mindful those who know the courses well will be at an advantage.

Multiplayer: Local or online / 2–4 players

How to play: For a local game, have everyone tap Play, then Race Mode, then Local, name their ball and tap OK. One player acts as a host, and taps Host. Everyone else then taps Join and Connect. The host then taps Play and chooses a course. For online play, start the process of inviting friends using the Online button.

Download Flappy Golf 2

Super Stickman Golf 3

Free or $3/£3 • v1.7.23 • 204.4 MB • By Noodlecake

The golfing action here is more traditional — but only barely. Although the game lacks winged balls, the courses are madcap fare, comprising 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 somewhat familiar with the game’s intricacies, including its power-ups – and special hats. Either way, it’s a blast to play.

Multiplayer: Local or online / 2–4 players

How to play: Set up local races as per Flappy Golf 2, with the host choosing a game mode to determine power-ups. Turn-based games require Game Center. Kick off a round by selecting a friend.

Download Super Stickman Golf 3

Asphalt 8: Airborne

Free + IAP • v4.9.0 • 2.6 GB • By Gameloft

Equal parts blazingly fast and absurdly stupid, this arcade racer thumbs its nose to reality, having you careen along larger-than-life courses full of rocket ships, volcanos, and other madness.

However, its arcade sensibilities mean you don’t have to learn tedious things like gears and when to properly turn into a corner. Instead, you bash, power slide, and boost your way to the checkered flag. (Or, quite often, into a wall, in a moment of fiery, smashy madness.)

Multiplayer: Local / 2–8 players

How to play: Under Play > More Racing Options, select Local Wi-Fi. One player creates a room for others to join, and you then all hope the router won’t give out before someone speeds to glory.

Download Asphalt 8: Airborne

Mario Kart Tour

Free • v2.0.1 • 211.7 MB • By Nintendo Co., Ltd.

This Nintendo property is one of the breeziest console racers around. On iPhone, we sadly get a watered-down, simplified take, packed full of IAP. Sigh. Still, the bones of Mario Kart remain — and multiplayer brings back the fun.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game, it involves famous Nintendo faces scooting about larger-than-life courses in little go-karts, occasionally thwacking each-other with power-ups. It’s immediate and accessible, although be wary of the grindy single-player mode when you’ve no friends around to race.

Multiplayer: Online / 2–8 players

How to play: Under Multiplayer, create a room. Within, you can adjust race settings, including speed, item slots, and whether computer racers are allowed. Friends you’ve added in-game will be able to access this room from the same area.

Download Mario Kart Tour

Spaceteam

Free or $5/£5 • v2.8 • 176.1 MB • By Henry Smith Inc.

In Spaceteam, a rickety ship hurtles through space, trying to outrun an exploding star. The only way to stave off 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, and your jargon-packed instructions are often intended for someone else. Hence: loads of ridiculous fun, frantic searching, and shouty nonsense like: “Will somebody please discharge the Clip-jawed Fluxtrunions?”

Multiplayer: Local / 2–8 players

How to play: Turn the dial to Play to search for nearby signals. Next, have everyone in the waiting room press their green buttons until you’re all in Sector 1, being warned to work together.

Download Spaceteam

Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes

$10/£10 • v1.9.4 • 152.5 MB • By Steel Crate Games, Inc.

This one’s a bit of a cheat, because you can play it with a single device — but it is a multiplayer game. It all hinges on a complex modular bomb that needs defusing. Sadly, the instructions aren’t exactly user-friendly…

If you’re playing the game properly, the person with the bomb and those with the manual (available online or as a printable PDF) won’t be able to see each other, making it ideal fodder for online play. Just ensure your tempers don’t get too explosive when everything inevitably goes wrong.

Multiplayer: Local or online / Unlimited players

How to play: One person has the app. Everyone else has the manual, in digital or printed form. Then you can start collaborating/shouting.

Download Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes

Exploding Kittens

$2/£2 • v4.0.2 • 244.3 MB • By Exploding Kittens

The table-top version of Exploding Kittens was a hugely popular Kickstarter. Much of this was down to Matthew ‘The Oatmeal’ Inman’s crazed illustrations, featuring odd creatures and scenarios — such as altering the future using a golden-haired manatee.

Fortunately, the game is great, too — an ingenious Russian roulette with explosive moggies. In short: draw an exploding kitten and you’re out – unless you can defuse it with another card. On iPhone, the game augments the original with vibrant imagery, absurd sound effects, and a handy ‘chance of kitten’ meter.

Multiplayer: Local or online / 2–5 players

How to play: Tap ‘play with friends’. For a local Wi-Fi-only game, tap ‘I don’t have an internet connection’. Have the host tap ‘host game’ and choose a deck. Everyone else should tap ‘find nearby’ and ‘join game’. Online, the process is similar, but the host shares a game code. When everyone’s joined, the host taps ‘start game’.

Download Exploding Kittens

The Battle of Polytopia

Free • v1.15.1 • 48.1 MB • By Midjiwan AB

One of the most involved games in this round-up, Polytopia is like a stripped-back take on turn-based strategy title Civilization. The aim is to stomp about the map, duffing up opponents, and researching technologies that’ll help you more rapidly expand your empire.

Where Polytopia primarily differs from Civilization is in dialing down the complexity. Maps are small, technologies are limited, and games are relatively swift. But this doesn’t make it any less compelling to play.

Multiplayer: Local or online / up to 12 players

How to play: In Multiplayer > Profile is your player ID. The host needs everyone’s code to add them as a friend. Then they can use New Game, choose game settings (online or pass and play; win scenario; map size), and add players to a game.

Download The Battle of Polytopia

Clash Royale

Free • v3.2.2 • 158.7 MB • By Supercell

This one’s a fun real-time strategy game in a shoebox. You drop troops on to a battlefield, to smash up your opponent’s towers. They’re doing the same, and the troops you each have access to are down to card values, what’s in your hands of troop cards, and your respective energy reserves.

It’s entertaining stuff, particularly when playing against friends. And although this is another game that takes a bit of time to get to grips with, it’s worth the effort.

Multiplayer: Online / 2–4 players

How to play: In the Social section, you can add friends in the Friends tab. Under Create, make a clan, and you can then battle each other in private duels.

Download Clash Royale

Letterpress

Free or $5/£5 • v5.0 • 40.3 MB • By Solebon LLC

A mix of Risk and Boggle, Letterpress has you find words within a jumble of letters. Submit a word and its letter tiles flip to your color. Those surrounded by your claimed territory get a darker shade and cannot be flipped by your opponent during their turn.

Strategy hinges on carefully chipping away at territory, using letters in close proximity rather than those scattered all over the board. Bouts can be tense tugs-of-war, as you wrestle to reign supreme over the last few tiles.

Multiplayer: Online / 2 players

How to play: In the … menu, players should tap Manage Account and set a memorable name. Next, tap New Game, then Favorite Players, and Add a Favorite, using your friend’s memorable name. This will be added to the players list. Tap the name to start a game.

Download Letterpress

Brainito

Free • v2.0.2 • 149.5 MB • By Juan Manuel Altamirano Argudo

Think you’ve got what it takes when it comes to spelling out short words from a jumble of letters, and performing basic math to reach a target word? Brainito will leave such self-confidence in tatters.

Over several rounds, the game merrily smashes your brains in, due to the stress of trying to be exceptional (or even reasonable) against the clock. Taking on another player just adds to the mental load. It’s good stuff.

Multiplayer: Online / 2 players

How to play: Invite friends in the friends tab, and you can then have one-on-one bouts against them.

Download Brainito

Osmos

$1/£1 • v2.4.3 • 36.9–44.7 MB • By Hemisphere Games

This ambient arcade game has you guide a mote that wants to grow by gobbling up all the other motes. Tap and the mote ejects a piece of itself, temporarily propelling it in the opposite direction. Balancing movement and size is the key to victory.

In two-player mode, this is a thoughtful head-to-head experience, whether scooping up static motes bobbing in the microscopic goop, barreling in for a surprise attack, or battling gravity while whizzing around a central ‘star’ in a Solar arena.

Multiplayer: Local / 2 players

How to play: Go to Multiplayer > In The Room. Devices should automatically connect. Vote for an arena type. When both players agree, battle commences.

Download Osmos or Osmos for iPad