Birdseye view of a circle of mobile phones being used around a bench

Gaming on smartphone devices is a massive industry. The statistics bear this out. In 2018, Apple’s revenue from the App Store was $46.6 billion, while Google Play generated $24.8 billion. That means an average growth of 23-24% over the two platforms (Apple still has the overall lion’s share, with around 65% of the global app market).

 

When you look at the best-seller lists, the two categories are paid and free apps, although the distinction between the two models is becoming blurred. The advent of the ‘freemium’ business model raises the question of what a truly free app actually is. This model works on the principle that the basic functionalities of a game are provided free whereas more advanced features need to be ‘unlocked’ by paying for them. Alternatively, in more competitive gaming, the free version means playing a rather simplified version of the game with limited scope for advancement. You then need to pay either:

 

  • A single payment (for the full game or to remove ads).
  • A series of separate payments for extra resources or individual components for a game.
  • A subscription fee (usually monthly) for the full version.

 

Choosing the best game apps is easy because both Google and Apple publish daily updates of their top-selling paid-for and free apps. We can use those lists today, but it’s also revealing to take a look at a few of those perennial favourites over the last few years, as it gives us insights into gaming trends.

 

Before we take a stroll down gaming memory lane, just remember that when it comes to protecting your phone you’ve certainly got options. iPhone insurance will help you keep your head in the game so you can continue to enjoy those endless hours of fun.

 

What are the best free game apps?

 

Firstly, there are so many free game apps out there and so many genres. The app market (Apple and Android) is composed of a heap of different niches largely based on age, available time and interests. The most manageable approach is to look briefly at the most popular genres and select the archetypal game for each. It’s pretty certain that you will recognise a lot of these, as they have now become brand names in themselves. Some have even achieved the status of classics or curiosities in the annals of gaming history.

 

Action/Adventure games
Action or adventure games are where the player is in control of the action, which is mainly comprised of physical challenges – Donkey Kong was an early and iconic video game in this category.

 

Platform

The game’s character interacts with platforms (usually running, jumping, or falling) – Super Mario is the classic example.

 

Shooter

Sub-divided into first-person and third-person shooters. The first is where the game is seen on-screen from the main character’s viewpoint, such as Call of Duty, while the second is where the player can see the main character, usually from slightly above and behind – Fortnite is a current example.

 

Fighting

These focus the action on hand-to-hand combat. In most traditional fighting games, players fight their way to the top, taking on more and more difficult opponents, like Mortal Kombat.

 

Survival

Resident Evil was one of the first in this genre, but modern games like Fortnite are a great deal more sophisticated. These games are set in open-world game environments and give players access (often at a price) to resources such as tools, weapons and shelter to survive against other players.

 

Racing games

The name is self-explanatory but the format can range from realistic circuit or off-road racing games to outlandish and physically implausible street-racing games. Asphalt, Need for Speed and Real Racing are the big game franchises across multiple platforms. A rather inventive example is Race the Sun, whose main protagonist is a solar-powered glider!

 

Endless runner

Also known as “infinite running” games are a cross between racing and platform games. The player’s character continuously moves forward through a computer-generated journey of sorts, which is potentially endless. The player needs to make the character jump, attack, or perform special actions in order to progress. The classic example? Temple Run and its various iterations.

 

SIMS (simulators)

These games simulate specific scenarios where the player uses information, accessories and events to plan, act and react. These games can be used for various purposes such as training, analysis, or prediction (modelling). The most popular free apps (with limited functionalities but an option to pay to upgrade or ‘unlock’ resources) are health, nutrition, exercise, planning, business, military strategy, sports, life (The SIMS) and several flight simulators. There’s a sub-group which includes titles like Plague Inc., and Surgeon Simulator.

 

Strategy

The ‘Big Daddy’ in this genre is Sid Meier’s Civilization (now on version VI). This is the original aerial view strategy game first released in 1991. The objective? To “build an empire which will stand the test of time.” So players attempt to expand and develop their territories through the ages from the ancient era until modern and near-future times. It’s free on iPhone and iPad for the first 60 turns, but you can add packs with different regions of the world, such as Australia, Persia and Macedonia, Scandinavia and South East Asia. It’s a truly absorbing and elegant game and it occupies a whopping 3.3GBs on an iPad Pro.

 

Puzzles

In the freemium market, it’s clear that retro ‘80s games are coming back into fashion for a whole new generation. Titles like Tetris require spatial, visual and analytical awareness. As 3D and AR capability improves, the selection will grow. This is a highly popular sub-genre.

 

What is the most popular game app right now?

 

As of the beginning of June 2019, the most popular free game app is PUBG Mobile (2018).

This cross-genre military affair fits into the 4X gaming genre (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) and Battle Royale (where the last man standing wins). In Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) up to one hundred players parachute onto an island and scavenge for weapons and equipment to fight and kill. Just the kind of life skills we all need!

 

What’s the best game to play on iPhone?

 

The Battle of Polytopia

The Battle of Polytopia is currently being described as “the perfect introduction to strategy games”, taking the core essence from Sid Meier’s Civilization without being too complex. At the start, you find yourself in a little town, surrounded by the unknown, with a single fighting battalion under your command. You have 30 turns to explore, locate and either form an alliance with or attack other mini-empires. Meanwhile, you’re researching new technologies and trying to develop your civilisation. The aesthetics are pretty basic but it’s clearly hit the spot with many smartphone gamers.

 

Other games very popular in the gaming listings this year are:

Ultra Sharp – cut every object on screen (by dragging your finger across it). There are 320 levels to complete, which is a lot of time sitting on trains or buses.

Bumper.io – The blurb says: “Knock players off the stage with your bumper. Eat ice cream to become bigger and stronger! You must be the last on the map to win!” Mmmm. That’s clear. £2.99 removes the ads.

Heads Up! – A new take on the classic game of charades, and invented by Ellen DeGeneres. Tilt your phone to bring up a new word on screen. Video record your game sessions if you feel so inclined. There are 40 game decks with different themes in total but you’ll have to pay extra for many of them.

 

You can easily get lost in hours of fun with any of these games so don’t let an unexpected crash or damage to your phone bring your gaming to an abrupt end. Setting up iPhone insurance ahead of time can save you from having to shell out more money for a new device.

 

What are the best free games for iPhone and iPad?

 

When it comes to mobile games, you’ll find that there is a lot of crossover between iPhones and iPads nowadays. It’s far more common for games to appear on both devices, especially given the serious upgrades in handset processors and memory in the last few years. What’s more, the advent of the iPad Pro in 2016 and the recent explosion of apps using AR (augmented reality) has also meant that the range of nominally ‘free’ games has mushroomed.

 

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs

The long-running Angry Birds franchise moves into the third dimension. Rather than a side-on view as you catapult furious avians at semi-demolished buildings, you get a first-person viewpoint, and due to AR, you can now explore levels from multiple angles.

 

Threes

This is a truly free game! It’s a very small numbers manipulation game, the rules for which can be learned in 60 seconds, apparently.

 

Pokemon Go

Surely everyone knows what this augmented reality world is about? If your thing is wandering around staring at your phone while you try to locate, capture, battle with, and train virtual creatures, you’ll love this!

Pokemon Go

Plague Inc.

The basic premise in this game is to infect the world with a deadly plague and cause the complete destruction of humanity across the globe. Described on the App Store as “a mix of high strategy and terrifyingly realistic simulation”, it has been around for quite some time but is still highly popular, testament to the allure it has for iOS gamers.

 

Amusingly (given its subject matter), the developer, Ndemic Creations, has just won The Queen’s Enterprise Award for Innovation, and to commemorate that, it has launched what it calls “a huge ‘Royal Update’!”

 

What is the most popular game app of all?

 

Minecraft (2009) There are minimal limitations imposed on the gamer, allowing him/her to roam around and change their virtual world at will. Swedish developer Markus Persson designed and created this phenomenally popular game, the ultimate ‘sandbox’ experience. Deliberately low-tech in its aesthetic, players build with blocks in a 3D procedurally generated world. The great attribute is that this game really does appeal to players’ creativity, rather like ‘digital lego’.

 

Fortnite (2018) Survival or Battle Royale This multiplayer, platform-shifting gaming phenomenon is the perfect mix of survival, scavenging and exploring with a ‘last-man-standing’ kind of twist. Developed by Epic Games, Fortnite has been the phenomenon of the last three years. In 2019, it boasts three different game modes with the same general gameplay and game engine: the first, Fortnite: Save the World, is a shooter-survival game where up to four players collaborate to fight off zombie-like creatures. The second, Fortnite Battle Royale, is a free-to-play scenario where multiple players fight among themselves to be the last person standing. Finally, Fortnite Creative where players are given complete freedom to create worlds and battle arenas.

 

Candy Crush Saga For good or for bad, it’s a game that “looks something like a cross between Tetris and a Las Vegas video slot machine” says Adam Alter, an NYU associate professor who studies the link between addictive behaviour and incessant smartphone use. He termed the phrase ‘time-slack’, referring to people who are looking for something to eat up the minutes, who simply have time on their hands. The game itself works on the rewards model, tempting you to achieve goals and move onto the next level. In 2018, Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga were in the top ten apps used worldwide (according to usage data).

 

One list is worth consulting as it claims to present 40 free iOS game apps for iPhone and iPad “that aren’t stuffed with adverts or IAPs”.

 

There have been exponential innovations in smartphone devices as a whole, especially processors, RAM volume, screen sizes and display quality. This means that even free games are capable of delivering excellent graphic design quality and sophisticated functionalities.

 

Most games are designed and optimised for cross-platform hardware (use on smaller and larger screens – smartphones, ‘phablets’ and tablets). This is good news for casual mobile gamers, as the range and variety of gaming experiences can only keep growing. Let’s not forget the Apple Watch, either. Although it isn’t really optimised for gaming, there is a selection of apps available for play specifically on this wearable device.

 

The launch of Apple Arcade later in 2019 will adopt the model used by streaming providers like Netflix, Spotify and Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service. By paying a monthly subscription, you will get unlimited access to a selection of paid gaming apps, which will also be available on MacOS and Apple TV.

 

One thing is for sure. If your iPhone or iPad gets lost, stops working, is stolen or dropped from a height onto its unprotected screen, it’s not just an inconvenience, but incredibly costly – if you don’t have the right iPhone insurance cover. Insuring your smartphone, or any gadget for that matter, gives you the confidence that if anything does go wrong, you aren’t left out of pocket. Find out more about our iPhone insurance get a great quote today.

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