Check out our pick of the App Store for paid games with no in-app purchases whatsoever
When it comes to money, mobile gaming’s gone a bit weird. Lots of people seem determined to not pay for anything, which has resulted in talking about ‘premium’ iOS games that actually cost less than a budget title did in 1985 on a ZX Spectrum. And that came on a cassette!
The thing is, this has created a market where games are frequently free and stuffed full of in-app purchases or advertising. And even plenty of paid apps use IAP to swell the coffers a bit. So in this round-up, we’ve decided to celebrate those games that are truly ‘pay once then play’. All of them are fantastic, and every one of them doesn’t contain even a single in-app purchase. So buy them all!
$3.99/£2.99 • 214 MB • v1.1 • Simogo AB
A perfect slice of Scandinavian horror inside your iPhone, Year Walk finds you venturing out into a creepy forest, partaking in the titular year walk. Your aim: to obtain a vision of the future. The reality: an enthralling and sometimes genuinely terrifying mash-up of picture book, tap-based adventuring and brain-bending puzzles. Play it in the dark, with headphones on, preferably with a gale blowing outside. And don’t forget to grab Year Walk Companion if you want any chance of success.
$1.99/£1.49 • 3.2 MB • v2.0 • Nyarlu Labs
The finest arcade game on iPhone, Forget-Me-Not is a modern-day tribute to the very best coin-ops of old. There are hints of Pac-Man and other classics as your little critter explores mazes, eats flowers, grabs a key and heads for the exit. Every maze is procedurally generated and therefore unique, and (most) inhabitants appear as keen to blow each other to pieces as chase you. The result is an endlessly playable slice of touchscreen brilliance that feels truly alive.
$1.99/£1.99 • 31.8 MB • v1.0 • Gionathan Pesaresi
Also somewhat harking back to old-school gaming, Drop Wizard combines single-screen platforming action with an auto-runner. You send your little wizard (who never stops) left or right, and he emits a burst of magic upon landing. You must therefore use precise timing to blast foes. These are then punted across the screen, with the aim of hitting more stunned critters, creating a huge combo that trundles about before turning into fruit. Bite-sized level sets and inventive boss battles round out a superb game.
$2.99/£2.29 • 43.5 MB • v.1.1 • Little Eyes LLC
In 2009, the original Eliss in many ways defined iPhone gaming, and this semi-sequel is just as fresh. The aim is to tear apart and combine coloured planets, making them fit wormholes that periodically appear. Should planets of different colours collide, your energy is depleted. Eliss Infinity therefore becomes a balancing act, frequently having you tie your fingers in knots managing everything on the screen. The original’s 25 levels are present, each offering a unique challenge; they’re joined by crazed endless mode Infinity—the game’s standout feature.
$1.99/£1.49 • 14.7 MB • v3.1.3 • Zach Gage
SpellTower initially charges you with dragging out snaking words through a tower of lettered tiles. On confirming a word, the tiles it’s made from vanish and gravity does its thing. Finish just one game and Puzzle Mode unlocks, adding to the challenge by starting you off with an empty well but raising a new row of letters for every word you make. The final challenge is Rush Mode, doing everything against the clock, lobbing in tiles which demand you fashion words of a minimum length. So whether you’re into noodly wordsearches or stress-inducing panic, SpellTower is for you.
$1.99/£1.49 • 54.5 MB • v126.96.36.199 • Sirvo LLC
Played inside a four-by-four grid, Threes! is all about merging matching tiles. Ones and twos make threes, and thereafter pairs can be merged, doubling their face value. The snags: every move adds another tile to the board, and every tile simultaneously slides towards an edge when you move, assuming it can. The result is an endlessly compelling, genuinely habit-forming mix of strategy and luck, and it’s infused with a charm and personality usually absent from iPhone puzzlers.
$6.99/£4.99 • 36.6 MB • v1.26 • Rocketcat Games
This one dumps you in procedurally generated dungeons, battling hoards of foes, and finding spells along the way to blast their faces off. The controls are smart and the characters varied, but note this is a brutal game. Die and your progress and equipment vanishes — only your money remains, for grabbing the odd upgrade.
It was this or Implosion (see later) for the main list, but Wayward Souls just feels more like a handheld title — although not necessarily one you’d have expected on the iPhone.
Traps n’ Gemstones
$4.99/£3.99 • 16.3 MB • v1.01.1 • Donut Games
Traps n’ Gemstones also feels like its arrived on the iPhone from a handheld console. It’s a fairly traditional side-on platform game with a distinctly Metroid feel. You explore a huge pyramid, leaping about, finding relics, solving puzzles, and trying hard to not get killed by mummies. The virtual controls work well enough but the smartest thing here is the way Traps n’ Gemstones handles progress: die, and you simply continue with your score reset. So casual gamers can methodically work their way through, with little penalty; hardcore gamers can try and complete the entire thing in a single sitting.
$2.99.£2.29 • 12.5 MB • v1.2 • Mikengreg
Tapping into modern-day concerns about surveillance culture, TouchTone finds you seemingly working for a shady government organisation, checking out national threats by way of intercepting emails and calls. This is achieved by a puzzle-like interface of coloured signals and reflecting mirrors. Like Threes!, your progress is complicated by your actions moving multiple tiles — here, entire rows or columns shift as one. The resulting puzzles of sliding and logic can leave you stumped for days — but they’re rewarding when cracked.
Zen Bound 2
$2.99/£2.29 • 194 MB • v2.6.0 • Secret Exit Ltd.
Wrapping a piece of rope around a small sculpture in order to paint it probably doesn’t strike you as the most exciting of endeavours. In fact, you might argue it’s barely a game. Yet Zen Bound 2 manages to mesmerise in short order. In part, this is down to the ambience the game creates, a serene mood that puts you at ease; mostly, though, it’s the strange sense of tactility as the object floating before you effortlessly responds to your every swipe.
Our original list was… a bit longer than the one above. So here are twelve more games we couldn’t bear to omit from this feature. Grab them all!
Implosion – Never Lose Hope
$9.99/£6.99 • 1.31 GB • v1.0.4 • Rayark Inc.
Console-like hack-and-slash action game, where you use high-tech weaponry to bludgeon your way through waves of foes.
$4.99/£3.99 • 157 MB • v1.1.1 • inkle
Branching interactive fiction in a steampunk 1872. Manage resources, seek allies and find routes to circumnavigate the globe.
$1.99/£1.49 • 24.3 MB • v1.2.1 • Kimmo Lahtinen
High-octane madcap vertically scrolling racer. Zoom about, bashing other cars off the road, and work your way up the grid.
$2.99/£2.29 • 23.4 MB • v1.1.0 • Bad Crane Ltd
Pathfinding puzzle game. Send tiny trucks on deliveries in grid-like single-screen cities — but no road can be used twice.
$2.99/£2.29 • 98.5 MB • v1.1.6 • Santa Ragione s.r.l.
Gorgeous 3D auto-runner. Leap you way through surreal vector landscapes, in a game resembling something from a robot’s fever dream.
$1.99/£1.49 • 11.5 MB • v1.4.1 • The Electric Toy Company
Help Doug the dwarf to collect bling by digging down deep into the ground. Beware avalanches and deadly subterranean critters!
Ambitious, smart, dazzling puzzle adventure that plays with the conventions of games, literature and identity.
$3.99/£2.99 • 137 MB • v1.1 • Simogo AB
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Old-school exploratory adventure with a firm emphasis on style. Beautiful graphics and audio, and a compelling mystical story.
$4.99/£3.99 • 169 MB • v1.11 • Capybara Games Inc.
$4.99/£3.99 • 103 MB • v1.1.3 • Playdead
Atmospheric platform game set in a world of the dead. The spooky surroundings and clever puzzles combine to make a compelling experience.
XCOM: Enemy Within
$9.99/£7.99 • 1.96 GB • v1.1.0 • 2K
Tense turn-based strategy title that finds you fending off invading aliens with guns and brainpower. Best on a bigger iPhone.
$2.99/£2.29 • 49.1 MB • v2.0 • Kumobius
Entertaining platformer that works neatly within the iPhone’s limitations. Move your bouncing bean left or right to collect goodies and avoid traps.
Beat Sneak Bandit
$2.99/£2.29 • 75.9 MB • v1.0 • Simogo AB
Oddball fusion of rhythm action, platforming and puzzles, as a sneaky bandit infiltrates the nefarious Duke Clockface’s fortress, where everything dances to a beat.