According to a recent survey by Compete, 51% of iPhone owners have five or more games installed on their device. What’s more, 37% of iPhone owners play games on it every day.
Many of those people aren’t playing whizzy 3D console-quality games like GTA, Call of Duty or FIFA – good as their iPhone incarnations are. For many iPhone owners, the games they hammer every day are simpler, casual games with frighteningly high addiction factors.
With many being even cheaper than chips, they have amazing gameplay-hours-per-quid ratios. Here’s our pick of the ten most addictive titles on the App Store. They’re well known to iOS veterans, but if you’re new to iPhone or iPod touch – or know someone who is – this is a primer in the most time-sucking games available.
1. Doodle Jump
It’s sold five million downloads so far, and spawned a legion of similarly cartoonish games with ‘Doodle’ in their names. But Doodle Jump stands above them all – you tilt the screen left and right to steer ‘Doodle the Doodler’ as he bounces up the screen, shooting or avoiding enemies, and taking care to land on platforms. It’s brutally simple, but will keep you in its clutches for months.
2. Angry Birds
This is the other iPhone game to have sold more than five million copies, and currently shows no sign of slowing down. The storyline involves green pigs stealing the eggs of the titular birds (hence the anger), but the gameplay involves catapulting the birds at the pigs and their castles until they’re all blown up. Which sounds silly, but getting through the 165 levels requires bags of brain-frying physics thinking.
3. Flick Kick Football
The best of a rash of free-kick games released during the World Cup, Flick Kick Football does what it says on the tin: you flick an on-screen football to kick it. You’re taking free kicks, and have to swerve them round defenders and the keeper, while placing them as close to the crossbar and/or posts as you can to earn bonuses. A plethora of modes – including a just-added Bullseye mode – and retro Roy Of The Rovers graphics make this compulsive fun.
4. Fruit Ninja
This is another game that sounds (and indeed is) really simple, yet grips you like a vice after a couple of minutes. You – or rather your finger – are a ninja, faced with regular volleys of fruit being chucked onto the screen. Your job is to swipe to slice them up as they fall, with progressively impressive bonuses if you get more than three at once. You can opt to play with bombs (which mustn’t be sliced) or not. Excellent fun.
5. Bejeweled 2 + Blitz
The Bejeweled games are rightly famous as some of the most popular puzzle games around, whatever device you play them on. Swap coloured gems around to make matches of three or more which then disappear. And repeat. But what makes it so addictive on iPhone is the inclusion of the Blitz mode, which tasks you with building as high a score as possible in a limited time, and then competing against your friends on Facebook. The definition of a game that you think is for killing a couple of minutes, but end up playing for half an hour at a time.
Canabalt is essentially one little stick man running along rooftops, with you tapping the screen to make him jump. That’s all. Yet it’s a beautiful experience thanks to the attention to detail, with flocks of birds and stylish monochrome graphics. More importantly, when you fall or smash into a wall, it’s nigh-on impossible not to start all over again. The fact that your distance is measured in metres adds to the one-more-go factor, with the ability to tweet it a neat touch too.
7. Space Miner: Space Ore Bust
Space Miner is essentially a whiz-bang update of classic arcade game Asteroids. The core gameplay involves guiding your ship around blasting lumps of space rock, after all. It’s elegantly done, but the addiction factor comes from the elements wrapped around that: grabbing ore from the rocks to upgrade your ship, with an RPG-esque storyline thrown in for good measure. The fact that you can clear every individual spacefield of asteroids if you spend the time invariably leads to obsession, as do the various achievements earned along the way.
8. Paper Toss
Well over 10 million people have downloaded Paper Toss – the fact that it’s free doesn’t hurt – but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s not every bit as addictive as the paid games on this list. It’s not entirely dissimilar from Flick Kick Football, except with the football replaced by a ball of paper, the goal replaced by a wastepaper bin, and the pitch replaced by various office scenes. Varying gusts of air impede your mission to chuck the paper in the bin as many times as possible. Get into a rhythm, and you’ll quite happily run your battery down playing this. Paid versions are available without ads and with more options.
9. Farmville by Zynga
Farmville isn’t only an iPhone game, of course. It’s based on the hugely popular Facebook farming game that’s taken the world – now including everyone’s mum, uncles and grandparents – by storm. The iPhone version is a well-designed reworking that syncs in with the Facebook version, allowing you to harvest your crops from anywhere. And that’s the key to its addiction factor: You’re constantly checking in on your farm throughout the day, with its social features pulling you back. If you’re already hooked through Facebook, this will fuel your addiction. And if not, it might just let you find out why your Facebook friends are unable to leave the game alone.
10. Flight Control
It’s now an oldie, but very much still a goodie. Flight Control is all about landing planes, tracing their flight paths on-screen with your finger to make sure they all make it to the runway without crashing into one another. There’s something truly zen about playing the game: you zone out from the outside world, and just see lines and plane icons. The simple scoring mechanic – how many planes you’ve landed – encourages you to keep coming back to beat your best too. Just be warned: don’t look at the highest scores from other players online – they’ll make you weep with insignificance.
Are you addicted to a different iPhone game? Let us know which one and why in the comments.