We tend to play games by ourselves on our iOS devices a lot. They’re in our pockets or bags and we whip them out on trains or when we have a few moments to ourselves.
Sometimes though, it’s nice to be able to play games with other people. That’s why we created this guide, a list of the best games out there on the iOS platform that allow you to play with multiple people. We’ve split up the list into the types of multiplayer apps that they support to help you narrow down which games that you’re interested in.
Note that in the descriptions of the games we’ve mostly focused on the multiplayer aspects of the games so these aren’t full reviews. Instead they should help you decide whether or not you’re interested in playing them with others.
Please take a look at the list and if you feel we’ve left out any gems, leave us some comments below to help us flesh out the selection.
Same device or WiFi only Multiplayer Games
These games could be classified as ‘good party games’. They offer you the chance to play together on the same device with your friends or over WiFi together but not online. Because you really need more screen real estate to play games on the same device, many of these games are for the iPad only although there are a few in here that will run on both devices.
Slice HD [$2.99, App Store]
This is a great game to play with 2 or even more people. You have to move the blades out of the way carefully with your fingers to punch the buttons underneath. As the levels get more complex you need more and more fingers and quick reactions to avoid getting ‘sliced’. The sound and splatter effects are so good that we found ourselves jerking our hands away while playing because we actually felt like we were going to get cut. Great game to gather people around.
Mirror’s Edge [$9.99, App Store]
Mirror’s Edge is one of EA’s early offerings for the iPad and still one of my favorite side scrolling ‘runner’ games for the platform. The multiplayer component allows you and one other person to compete head to head in arenas in modes like straight up races or more acrobatic item collection exercises. Once you get the tap-and-swipe down this is a lot of fun.
Fruit Ninja HD [$2.99, App Store]
The swipe-to-cut mechanism of Fruit Ninja makes this an extremely easy game to plop down and play head-to-head without much learning curve. That makes this a great party game that almost anyone can jump in and play. This one is for two players head-to-head only. There is also an online play component to Fruit Ninja that will allow you to play with anyone over Game Center, but I think that the same-device play is more fun.
Foosball HD [$2.99, App Store]
The age old game den would never have been complete without a Foosball table. Foosball HD brings that same simplistic gameplay but also the low barrier of entry to new players. You simply swipe along your side of the board to control your players as they kick the soccer ball towards the opposing goal. Or into your own goal, which is my specialty.
Worms 2: Armageddon [$4.99, App Store]
The classic game for the PC, ported to the iPad. Worms 2 has a ton of modes for play including online but the hotseat mode is the most fun. Passing the iPad back and forth to take turns making your little worms fire off ridiculous weapons like the rocket launcher and sheep is super fun.
Marble Mixer [$1.99, App Store]
A super simple marble game that plays just like the marble games you played back in the day. Instead of drawing a circle in the dirt with a stick, now you get to use a $500 device to play it. Oh how times change. Still, really fun and very very easy to learn to play. A good party game.
Small World [$6.99, App Store]
This one is for board game newbies. If you’ve ever played something simple like Risk or the like and want to go up a skill level then Small World is a great introduction into more complex games. There’s no online play, just single-device play, which makes this limited use. It’s good for when you have 20-30 minutes to complete a game.
Neuroshima Hex [$4.99, App Store]
A fairly faithful reproduction of Renier Knizia’s popular board game. It’s a hex-based game that has you battling it out in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This one is good for any hardcore board game freaks or those who were fans of the physical game. It’s very faithful and doesn’t jazz the game up with too many fancy interactive elements.
Catan [$4.99, App Store]
It’s Catan for iDevices. There is little to say about Catan that hasn’t already been said but to summarize it’s a resource gathering and building game that pits you against 3 other opponents in a race to colonize a new land. A great game to play with 4 people, not as fun against the AI opponents. Leave yourself about 45min to 1hr to finish a game.
Fluke HD [$0.99, App Store]
Like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders rolled into one. A super simple board game with a low barrier of entry to young players. This is a fun and interactive game to play with the kids. You work your way around the board helped along and hindered by the various effects on the tiles. Bright, colorful and well executed graphics make this a polished entry.
Monopoly HD [$9.99, App Store]
It’s Monopoly for the iPad. Only playable together but why would you want to play Monopoly online anyway? The new TableTop mode gives you a top-down view that makes the game look as similar to playing it on a table with a real board as possible. It’s useful in those times where you didn’t bring the actual Monopoly board along.
Tower Madness HD [$7.99, App Store]
Tower Madness is one of the best multiplayer tower defense games out there. The addition of a human opponent makes this game a ton more fun than just playing against the AI. The game has you laying out defenses against your opponent while trying to steal his sheep. Nice inventive spin on the standard TD model.
Flight Control HD [$4.99, App Store]
Control planes as they come in for a landing, charting their flight paths with a finger so that they don’t cross and crash. The multiplayer modes allow you to play cooperatively or competitively on the iPad. This is very helpful on the higher levels where the action can get pretty thick.
Multipong [$2.99, App Store]
Four player pong. It’s more fun than it sounds actually, with the bip-bip of pong made more hectic by modifiers like bumpers and obstacles. Master the sliding hit to direct the ball towards the player that you want to take out first. Another good party game and one that’s iPad only.
Scrabble [$2.99, App Store]
Scrabble is a great addition to anyone’s game arsenal. It’s a crisp, well done version of the classic game. You’ve got the standard pass ‘n play modes, local WiFi multiplayer and a really cool mode that allows you to use your iPhones as your tile holders. There’s a separate free app to grab if you want to do that.
NBA JAM [$4.99, App Store]
One of the best basketball games for the iPhone period. A real gem of the App Store. NBA JAM is currently WiFi multiplayer only so good for jam sessions with friends in the back of a car or on the bus. I would love online play for this one so hopefully EA has that in store.
On the next page we’ll talk about some great online multiplayer games, some that you can play one turn at a time and reveal what we feel are the best MMO’s on iOS.
Online Multiplayer Games
This section will examine some games that are played online over the internet. There’s a mix of games here that can be played over WiFi only and over 3G so examine the app descriptions first if you want to play them from a bus or moving vehicle while traveling. Most of them are 3G compatible now but there are some exceptions. Unsurprisingly this section contains a lot of first-person shooters but the ones that are here all offer their own unique twist on the genre.
Eliminate Co-Op [Free, App Store]
Eliminate is a free first person shooter for the iPhone that has proved to be extremely popular. The Co-Op version has you fighting together against waves of robot opponents. It’s sort of like the ‘horde mode’ from console games like Gears of War. The game is free but limits your leveling and upgrade progress per-day unless you purchase ‘energy’ from in-app purchase. I’ve never bought time as a few minutes a day is enough for me.
Archetype [$0.99, App Store]
Instead of the freemium model of Eliminate, Archetype has you pay up front but delivers a pretty comprehensive experience. Large online battles in modes like capture-the-flag, deathmatch and more make this a must-purchase for any FPS fan.
Krazy Kart Racing [$2.99, App Store]
I’m pretty sure these guys just sat down and thought about how close they could make this game look to Mario Kart without Nintendo sending a cease and desist order. Krazy Kart is the result and it’s very close to that other Kart game. A fun and cartoony take on a racer that’s less hardcore than games like Real Racing.
Starfront Collision [$2.99, App Store]
One of the deeper and better looking strategy games on the iOS platform, Starfront takes a lot of cues from Starcraft. That’s not a bad thing either as the unit building and battle strategy make this one of the better examples of this kind of clone that’s out there.
Rainbow Six Shadow Vanguard [$6.99, App Store]
Shadow Vanguard is a more strategic take on the first person shooter. It emphasizes cover and teamwork much more than games like Eliminate. There is a deathmatch as well as a cooperative mode but the lack of voice chat makes the co-op mode very difficult for a gameplay mechanic that requires precise timing and teamwork. The addition of a chat mechanism would make it best-in-class.
Call of Duty: Zombies [$4.99, App Store] WiFi only, no 3G, online though
Call of Duty: Zombies is another pure co-op shooter that has you fighting off wave after wave of zombies with an online team. The ability to build up basic defenses like boarding up windows and doors gives it a tad more depth but this one is really all about blowing zombies away, wave after wave, until you’re overrun. Very little sense of context here but it’s a cool theme and a good way to waste some time.
Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus [$6.99, App Store]
Probably the best single-player FPS on this list, Black Pegasus also has a strong multiplayer component. Up to 10-player battles are possible in a bunch of different modes. The standard deathmatch and CTF modes are here but you also get the classic bomb defuse and team battles as well. The ability to progress through over 70 ranks and unlock weapons through xp earned in game is an added bonus. Probably one of the best looking shooters on iOS period.
N.O.V.A. 2 [$6.99, App Store] 10 people 5 modes, 10 maps, gameloft network
N.O.V.A. is frequently referred to as ‘Halo for iPhone’ and that comparison is pretty accurate. It’s gameplay is less realistic than Black Pegasus or Shadow Vanguard, with the same bouncy feel that Halo movement has. There’s good gameplay here though and it’s a bit more forgiving than those other games because of the speed of motion. There’s a ranking and perks system in place for incentive to keep playing.
Homerun Battle 3D [$4.99, App Store]
In contrast to the complexity of a shooter, Home Run Battle can be played with just one finger. It’s a home run derby game that you can play online versus other players and the leaderboard. There are various power ups and combos that you can perform during play, lending a bit more depth than simply just hitting more home runs than your opponent to win. There’s also an extensive array of uniform pieces that will give your batter better stats in one area or another.
Real Racing 2 [$6.99, App Store] 16 player 8 player WiFi
There are a ton of racing games on the App Store now but Real Racing is still easily the front runner if you’re interested in licensed cars and (relatively) realistic physics. The addition of damage models in the sequel was especially nice. You can battle against online players in up to 16 person races, which is about as much as most console versions will let you do.
Depict [$0.99, App Store]
A slightly simplified version of Pictionary for the iPhone allows players to draw and multiple-choice-guess the picture clues that they’re presented with. A simple 8-bit style adds some vintage flair to the player icons, draw style and interface. I especially like that you’ve got the choice of Game Center, Openfeint or Facebook integration, making it easy to find players.
2XL ATV Offroad [$4.99, App Store] 5 player
Aside from Real Racing 2, 2XL ATV is one of the most solid racing games on the App Store. The off-road setting is a nice change of pace from many of the road racing games available. The graphics aren’t quite as pretty here as they are in Real Racing but they’re still very respectable. Tons of tracks, a bunch of uniform and ATV customization options and online leaderboards and statistics round out a top notch multiplayer experience.
Prose with Bros [$1.99, App Store]
In Prose With Bros you use a set of 50 refrigerator magnet words to compose small phrase. Your opponent does the same and then your phrases are put up on the internet for people to vote on for 24 hours. At the end of the voting the phrase with the most votes wins. Having a ton of games going at once is probably best. The title is an obvious riff on Words With Friends, but the game is completely different and very fun.
Galcon [$1.99, App Store]
An online strategy game that lacks flashy graphics, but makes up for it in fun and depth, Galcon starts out extremely easy but ramps up in difficulty like crazy in later levels. Adding a human component makes it even more challenging as you have to deal with wacky tactics that people come up with just to screw with you. You command an armada of ships that you need to move from planet to planet conquering the inhabitants. Some planets will put up more of a fight, making the amount of ships you move extremely important. A fun game that can be played i sessions only a few minutes long.
Armada: Galactic War Online [Free, App Store]
This is another realtime strategy game like Starfront but it’s completely free. So if you’re only a casual strategy player then grab this one instead. There is an ingame purchasing system but it’s not necessary if you only want to play a game now and then against friends. The graphics aren’t as flashy as Starfront and the gameplay mechanics are far more simplified but it’s still quite enjoyable. The lower complexity also makes it a nice entry point for someone interested in strategy games but with little experience.
Online Asynchronous Multiplayer Games
There’s a special class of online games that allow you to play online against opponents but at your own pace. Asynchronous games let you make a move, send that to your opponent and then switch away from the game. When your opponent makes a move you’ll normally get a push notification and be able to view their move and make your own. It makes for games that play out over days instead of minutes but allows you to complete larger and more involved games that you might not have stood still for if you had to play them in real-time.
Strategery [$1.99. App Store]
One of my favorite games in this category, Strategery uses the same attrition mechanics that you find in games like Risk to determine how your troops conquer your opponents territories. It has some nice twists in how it rewards you for expansion with extra troops during your reinforcements phase and how you move troops between your own territories. Simple but clean graphics and an absolutely enormous map on the iPad version are highlights.
Uniwar [$0.99, App Store]
Old, old, old but still so very good. Uniwar has been around on the App Store for a long time and was one of the first asynchronous strategy games available. It’s graphics are dated and the strategies involved are fairly simplistic, but as millions of Starcraft players still playing matches on the original can tell you, it’s the human component that makes it fun. When I was playing a lot of Uniwar I regularly had 6 or 7 games going against friends and online opponents, meaning that there was always a move to make when I had a moment to spare.
Carcassonne [$9.99, App Store]
Another perennial favorite like Catan, Carcassonne does it one better by adding online play. It’s a game of land development where you gain land area tile by tile, increasing your reputation and influence. There’s a limited amount of land mass available so you have to be thoughtful in your placement. Ideal mechanics for a turn-based game that can play out over days.
Disc Drivin’ [$1.99, App Store]
A turn based driving game sounds like an Onion skit at first but it turns out that it’s really fun. You have powerups and special moves available, adding some layers of strategy and players take their turns navigating their discs around the track. I’m not too happy about the current 12 hour limit on turns because it can make races drag out. But the ability to have up to 20 races going at once means that you usually have one that’s ready for you to make your move on.
Reiner Knizia’s Samurai [$4.99, App Store]
A lack of graphics polish and fairly unfriendly controls may turn off all but the most dedicated of board game freaks but if you enjoy old-fashioned strategy games then Samurai is cream-of-the-crop. It’s an extremely faithful reproduction of the original game by legendary game designer Reiner Knizia so if you’re in the market for a 1:1 version of the game on iOS then this is it. If you’re a board game fan that hasn’t played Samurai then now’s your chance to jump in.
Chess With Friends [$2.99, App Store]
I hate Words with Friends, read the message at the bottom of this post for more on why. Chess with Friends is another story. It’s a very decent and well implemented version of Chess that allows for turn based play over many days. There’s even a free version if you’re only a casual player that doesn’t mind interstitial ads.
Dominion HD [$1.99, App Store]
Yes, Dominion is just Risk, but with online play. The graphics are actually better than the official Risk app though and the map is automatically populated at the beginning of a round which is nice. The gameplay is otherwise identical and if the official Risk app ever added online play then it might be a harder choice. For people that like to play Risk with friends but are never around them, Dominion is a great option.
Massively Multiplayer Online Games
This section isn’t very deep because there are really only two MMO’s on iOS that have really nailed the formula so far. This particular genre is very young on the App Store though so I think we’ll be seeing a ton more MMO’s appear in the next year.
Order & Chaos Online [$6.99, App Store]
Yeah, so Order & Chaos is World of Warcraft. I mean, it’s a nearly exact clone of it. It’s so close to WoW’s formula and graphic style that I can’t believe that Blizzard hasn’t thrown a fit. If you’ve ever played WoW then you’ve played this game. Multiple classes that level up through a tree, extensive quests for grinding levels, a set of abilities that you activate by tapping icons, it’s all there. Even the fonts for the character’s names are identical, it’s crazy. That being said, this MMO also seems to share in WoW’s playability and addictiveness. Really one of the best MMO’s out there for portable systems period.
Pocket Legends [Free, App Store]
Pocket Legends has also been compared a lot to WoW but it has it’s own distinctive style and cooperative nature. There’s a lot of focus here on instanced encounters that you and and your party members can complete without a huge investment in time. This is a good formula for a game on a mobile device where gameplay can be measured in minutes rather than hours. Since Pocket Legends is free, I’d suggest picking it up over Order & Chaos if you’re not sure how much time you’re going to invest in an MMO on your iPhone or iPad. If you get addicted and like the experience of portable questing, then check out another for-pay option.
So that’s our comprehensive list of the 40 best games out there to play with your friends.
Note that Words With Friends is not on this list. If you’re a WWF fan then I apologize, but it’s just too broken for us to add it to this list. Until there’s a penalty for just submitting random words until one sticks then we’ve given it up. It’s still out there though and here’s a link to it on the App Store if you’re interested in getting angry at your friends for cheating at an online Scrabble clone.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to tell us what games you think should have made the list. We’re always looking for great new multiplayer games and with the App Store growing by hundreds of apps each week, it’s always possible that we missed some choice ones.
Enjoyed this? Read: 5 must-have apps that Apple should have made itself.