Best Free iPad Games

by Simon Sage

Did you just pick up a new iPad? Maybe you’re looking for a new, cheap way to kill time? You’re in luck - we’ve got some great games here that look and play great on the big screen, and they’re all available for the low, low price of free. For many folks, these games will be great regardless of device you’re playing on, so even if you're an iPhone user, feel free to peruse the list.

It’s worth keeping in mind that just about all of these employ in-app purchases of some kind or another. Many gamers would much rather pay a flat fee up-front, but we’re writing this for the cheapskates. We’re also trying to avoid “lite” games, since you won’t get a lot of replay value by only having the first couple of levels and being pestered to upgrade to buy the rest.

Without further ado, here’s our list. Don’t be shy to sing out in the comments with your favorite free games for the iPad.

Smash Hit

The premise of Smash Hit is simple: tap the screen to toss a marble and shatter glass obstacles that are on your inalienable path. If you don’t and get hit, you lose even more marbles. Lose all your marbles, and it’s game over. You have to start from the beginning again with the free version, or you can cough up $1.99 to start from a set waypoint. Every section is littered with powerups and fresh batches of marbles to keep you going. If you manage to keep hitting the marble refill crystals without missing, you can fire off two, three, or five marbles at once. Smash Hit is very simply an on-rails shooter, but highly-polished physics of the marbles and the glass make for a massively accessible and compelling experience.


Speaceteam

Spaceteam is a decidedly unique local multiplayer game. Players gather together with their iPads and iPhones and connect over either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. They’re then presented with ridiculously-labeled spaceship consoles, with all manner of sliders, knobs, switches, and buttons. Each player then has a message flashing telling them which control needs to be tweaked in order to save their ship from exploding. The thing is, that control could be on anybody’s device, so what ends up happening is everybody starts barking ludicrous orders at one another with straight-faced urgency. Random events can have players in a panic trying to wipe goop off their controls while going through these episodes.

Spaceteam will be one of the most fun party games you play, and thanks to cross-platform compatibility, even your Android-toting friends can join in.


Plants vs. Zombies 2

Plants vs. Zombies is a venerable iOS franchise for a good reason. The bizarre premise of protecting your back lawn from hordes of undead with sunflowers is certainly part of that, but there’s a lot of tactical thinking in terms of plant choices before the attack begins, and placement. In Plants vs. Zombies 2, you’re taken back in time to defend against zombies dressed in era garb, and try out all sorts of new mechanics. The zombies are getting smarter, and challenge your reaction speed in a number of ways, though you also have a whole new complement of plants to use. Stages also have new terrain features to keep every round fresh. Plant food can be collected to super-charge any plant when things get especially hairy, plus new gesture-based powers can help you clear the bigger waves.

All in all, Plants vs. Zombies 2 presents deep strategic gameplay in a fun, colorful package.


Dead Trigger 2

Dead Trigger 2 brings back rootin’-tootin’ first-person-shootin’ to the zombie apocalypse. Despite the altogether realistic visuals, Dead Trigger 2 remains chock-full of tongue-in-cheek humor. Controls now use a fast and natural auto-fire mechanism which keeps the focus on moving and aiming. More notably, there’s a robust hideout and crafting system where you get various assistants to build stuff for you, though it takes time. There is a premium currency in place, but it’s used almost exclusively to speed up building times; all weapons can be created and upgraded using the currency you earn throughout gameplay. Regular events bring players to new parts of the world, with collective rewards if goals are met.

If you’re looking for a high-quality shooter on iPad, you’ll have a hard time finding something better than Dead Trigger 2.


Real Racing 3

Real Racing 3 is bound to keep gearheads entertained. It brings real brand-name cars to real-world tracks - hence the name. Though you won’t find live multiplayer races here, it features an interesting asynchronous multiplayer system whereby lap times are recorded from your friends, and you race against a bot that’s driving at that time. Of course you can bump them out and affect their track time, though there’s always a single-player career worth playing through too. Over time, players get new cars and upgrade various parts with their winnings.

Real Racing 3 is absolutely gorgeous, and the white-knuckled racing action will keep you coming back for more.


Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft plays as a familiar turn-based card game. Players summon creature cards and cast spell cards based on the familiar fantasy Warcraft universe. Every one of the nine heroes has their own unique special ability as well as a sizable batch of collectable and craftable cards. Casual online games, ranked matches, and grueling sealed-deck Arena games appeal to varying levels of commitment. In-app purchases are employed for access to the Arena or to buy new packs of cards. Hearthstone is without a doubt the best card game to come to mobile to date.


Dots

Dots is a light, casual, and addictive puzzle game where players need to line up same-colored dots as quickly as possible. You’ve got a limited number of time or moves to gather up these dots by matching them, get bonuses for tracing closed loops, and once you run out, the dots you’ve matched can be spent on consumable power-ups. There’s also a local multiplayer mode if you want to see how your friends stack up.

Dots is fun, sharply designed and highly accessible - give it a shot!


The Sims Free Play

The Sims FreePlay brings players a casual, fun sim game where they can build a home, relationships, and careers with a highly-customizable avatar. Players have to tend to their Sim’s needs, such as hunger and fun, and in the process earn Lifestyle Points which can be spent on various items. You can also buy Lifestyle Points outright, if you’re the impatient type. The possibilities are extensive, including starting new romantic relationships, having pets, and eventually having kids. You can build up your own little community of Sims, and visit those of your friends.

For those looking for a laid-back, constructive, and long-term game, the Sim FreePlay will have you covered.


Dungeon Hunter 4

Dungeon Hunter 4 is a fast-paced action-RPG that looks and plays like butter. Players hack and slash their way through an extensive single-player campaign, gather loot and gear, level up their abilities, and eventually take the fight into online multiplayer, both co-operatively and competitively. The graphics, particularly during boss battles, are sure to suck you into the world. For those that get particularly enamored, there’s a premium currency available if you want to pick up the swankiest gear.

Dungeon Hunter 4 brings some of the best action-RPG gameplay you’ll find on iOS.


You Don’t Know Jack

You Don’t Know Jack is an amazingly-written trivia game with a long-standing tradition of bizarre wordplay and general smart-assery. Players compete against Facebook friends for the high scores in themed episodes. Many of the questions adopt a standard multiple-choice format, but there are also Dis or Dat questions where you have to categorize terms, and the harrowing Jack Attack in the final round. The tokens earned through gameplay can unlock new hilarious parody commercials in between rounds or spent on consumable performance enhancers. In-app purchases can get rid of ads and give you all the tokens you could want. On top of the core Facebook-centric game, there’s a separate party version of You Don’t Know Jack with AirPlay support where multiple iOS devices can act as buzzers for local games displayed on your TV.

You Don’t Know Jack is an absolutely hilarious game, even for those of us that are way too dumb to do well with trivia titles.

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