Four years after an uneven iOS debut with Ridge Racer Accelerated, Namco Bandai’s long-running drift-racing series returns to mobile in fine form. Ridge Racer Slipstream offers little that we haven’t seen in recent handheld and console offerings, but it handles well, looks great, and packs just enough features to keep you on board for the whole hog. Online, arcade, and career modes all earn credits needed to buy and upgrade cars to keep pace as the competition gears up, while series icon Reiko reprises her role as announcer.
Even more so than the middling Angry Birds Star Wars II, Angry Birds Go! feels like an elaborate advertisement for other products rather than a purposeful game. The ever-in-vogue kart racer spinoff is tied into a series of marginally useful Telepods toys, and also tries to sell its soundtrack from the menu screens. But this free-to-play affair takes things much further via the introduction of sponsored boosts. Want to keep your kart from breaking down during a race? Use the State Farm Insurance power-up. Much more galling is the Goldfish-branded speed boost, which shoots a stream of virtual cheddar crackers behind your kart for the entire race. No, really.
Gameloft surely hopes that GT Racing 2’s flashy lighting and obsessively modeled licensed cars will make it stand out from — or at least keep pace with — a recent surge of App Store racing sims, notably genre leader Real Racing 3. Lens flares and dust effects are well and good, but GT Racing 2’s visual fidelity threatens to overshadow its real strength: as free-to-play racers go, it’s got great controls. GT Racing 2 doesn’t reinvent the iOS racing control scheme, but it executes it better than most of its competitors.
CSR Racing was an unconventional entry for the racing genre, seeing as it included very little actual racing. Instead of steering around obstacles, you were tasked with dragging down a straight stretch of road, with timed control prompts like gearshifts used to influence your performance. Still, it became a massive free-to-play hit, spawning numerous copycats along the way. Follow-up CSR Classics offers much of the same tone as the original affair, though with the added element of classic hotrods to appeal to the gear head in us all.
Codemasters has a seasoned pedigree when it comes to racing games, and it shows with F1 Challenge for iPhone and iPad. As the name suggests, F1 Challenge is an officially licensed Formula One game, but this top-down racer’s real draw is its unique control scheme. Instead of virtual buttons dedicated to left and right steering inputs, F1 Challenge uses a vertical slider to control the angle at which your speedster approaches each track’s hairpin curves.
Despite securing the official (and lucrative) NASCAR license, Eutechnyx’s most recent offering on the App Store isn’t a racing game, strictly speaking. Instead, NASCAR: Redline is more like a career management sim: as a fresh-faced rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, you must win races to finance new car parts and pit crew training sessions to climb to the top of the standings. Unfortunately, some of the mechanics feel unclear, while in-app purchases for this premium game seem unnecessary and frustrating.
By the eighth entry across nine years, you usually know what to expect from a game franchise – and in the case of Gameloft's Asphalt, that typically meant solid but inconsistent production values, and decent arcade-style racing action that never quite matched the flashy console games it emulated. It was "pretty good – for a mobile racer," but Asphalt 8: Airborne finally sheds that qualifier, and essentially feels like a reboot in terms of quality. It's actually rather amazing, especially for a mere dollar.
Riptide GP2 is a straightforward racing game on a platform full of them. Piloting jet skis – called “hydros” in the game – is a fun twist on the typical four-wheel affair, but the structure will be familiar to anyone who’s browsed the iOS racing scene. Luckily, the water effects contribute a real sense of speed and pace when combined with Riptide’s responsive controls, and there's loads of single-player content to enjoy.
We're past the halfway point for the year, and 2013 has already proven to be an incredible time for new iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch games. Whether you tend towards quick-hit affairs or engrossing, strategic time sinks (or a little of both), there's been an absolute wealth of great options to choose from in a huge array of genres. Why wait until January rolls around to look back on such greatness? We've compiled our picks for the 25 best iOS games of the year to date, all of which are surefire options for on-the-go entertainment.
The App Store is a wonderland of diverse gaming goodness, including deeply absorbing role-playing and strategy games, gripping narrative experiences, and titles that let you build up a character and skills over a large stretch of time. But for many of us, the games we turn to the most are the ones that offer immediate, short-term thrills – the games we can play for a few minutes at a time with minimal hassle, but which are entertaining and engrossing enough to play for much longer when desired. For those needs, we present the 25 best quick-hit games for iPhone and iPod touch, all of which let you play a game, level, race, or round in a few minutes or less. When you need to fill a short stretch of your day, these are the games you'll want.