The best iPad action games

by Simon Sage

Are you ready to test your reflexes? These great action games for iPad will see just how well you can dodge, fire, pivot, and twitch. We’ve got a good mix of physics games here, endless runners, and everything in between.

Ready? Let’s go!

Badland

Badland is a beautiful physics platformer with one-touch controls. Usually, it’s game over as soon as you hit anything in a standard platformer game, but that’s not the case here. In Badland, you control this odd little creature trying to flap its way through a treacherous forest. Debris falls in your path, and odd machinery peaks through the brush and occasionally knocks you around, but when you throw in the multiple power ups available throughout the game things get really interesting. Some types make you smaller and able to fit through tiny crevices, while others make you larger and massive enough to push aside obstacles. You can play local multiplayer and try to nudge opponents off the edge of the screen, which moves gradually forward as you progress. The art style is certainly dark, but a little whimsical too.

Definitely check this one out if you're looking for something visually refreshing.

Dumb Ways to Die

In Dumb Ways to Die, players have to successfully get through a gauntlet of simple mini-games for as long as possible, though they become progressively more difficult the longer you go. These can range from shooing piranhas away from your crotch, swatting bugs, and holding on to balloons so you don't dive onto the train tracks. The art style fantastically morbid - cute little characters are constantly getting maimed in new and exciting ways. As you play, you unlock more of them for your collection. The best part about this game is that it's actually a kind of public service warning by the Melbourne transit association to make sure people don't do stupid things near the tracks. There's even an obscenely cute music video. Well-played, Australia. Well-played.

For a dark-but-cute test of reflexes, Dumb Ways to Die is fantastic.

Fruit Ninja

There’s an indescribable sense of satisfaction from slicing open juicy fruit with ninja-like precision - a satisfaction that has stood the test of time and remains highly accessible. Halfbrick has remained extremely diligent in keeping their original fruit-slicing game up-to-date with new content. Yes, in-app purchases have been implemented for certain power ups, but the starfruit you earn through normal gameplay can be also used to buy these bomb deflectors, bonus fruit, and new blades. There are plenty of achievements to earn over time, too. If playing on a bigger screen, you’ve got local multiplayer.

Fruit Ninja may be an oldie, but it’s still a goodie.

Icycle

At its core, Icycle is a simple platform game with a series of unlockables earned by gathering currency scattered throughout each stage. You earn up to four stars depending on how much of that currency you collect, how many times you die, and meeting other specific challenge goals for each stage. That’s all pretty standard. What makes Icycle truly amazing is its absolutely bizarre premise and art style. With only an umbrella and a miniature bicycle, players must guide the hapless (and nude) Denis through a frozen nightmare in order to find a lost love.

Icycle is one of the most mind-bending, unique games to hit mobile in a long time. This is a must-have.

Infinity Blade 3

Infinity Blade 3 follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessors: players face off against imposing opponents in fantastic one-on-one duels in a lush fantasy world. Swipes, taps, and gestures translate to slashes, thrusts, dodges, and supernatural abilities. As players meander from encounter to encounter, they uncover more and more of an evolving storyline that spans back into the previous games.

Infinity Blade 3 has set the bar for graphics on iOS, and cements the series’ prestigious status on the App Store.

Into the Dead

If you ever needed a good reason to run, it’s zombies. Into the Dead currently ranks among the top endless runners out there right now. Players adopt a first-person perspective of someone dodging the undead while running at breakneck speeds through fields, forests, and even more treacherous terrain. Along the way you’ll occasionally have a firearm or a canine companion to help you out, but ultimately, the zombies always get too thick, and drag you kicking and screaming to an untimely end.

Into the Dead adds a healthy dose of panic to the classic endless running formula.

Osmos

At first blush, Osmos might seem a little too slow and ponderous to be called an “action” game, but its unique physics gameplay demands a lot of intuition. Players control a small cell that drifts through organic soup, absorbing other, smaller cells. The catch is that propelling yourself in a given direction ejects mass in the process. Also, if you make contact with larger cells, they’ll absorb you instead. Things get particularly interesting when you try your hand at multiplayer mode.

Osmos is without a doubt a thinking man’s action game, requiring both foresight and good reflexes.

Spaceteam

Spaceteam is a decidedly unique local multiplayer game. Players gather together with their various iOS devices and connect over either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. They’re then presented with ridiculously-labeled spaceship consoles, replete 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 or trying to reattach panels while going through these episodes.

Spaceteam will be one of the most fun party games you play, and thanks to cross-platform compatibility, everybody enjoy it.

Super Hexagon

Super Hexagon is an insanely difficult, abstract twitch game where players have to navigate through a maze that's continually collapsing in on a central shape. The pulsing rhythm and constant spinning of the play area make Super Hexagon really, really hard, plus the fast-paced soundtrack isn't likely to calm your nerves. There are three difficulties to start, and as you beat each stage, a new version of the level unlocks that has the same track go at what feels like twice the regular speed. It doesn't take long before things get a little ridiculous.

Super Hexagon is an absolutely fantastic game - so long as you're a glutton for punishment.

Tiny Wings

Tiny Wings remains one of the most charming games on mobile. With simple one-touch controls, players dive bomb a hapless little bird into gulleys so that he may slingshot out the opposing ridge and fling him further into the skies than his own little wings could possibly allow. Players are racing against the clock, trying get as far as possible before daylight runs out - keep up a good pace, and you can out-fly the sun.

The watercolor art style, refreshing music, and simple gameplay make for an accessible and fun action title.

Honorable Mentions

  • 01

    Punch Quest

    An over-the-top endless runner crossed with RPG elements

  • 02

    Duet

    Two dots have to keep orbiting each other while avoiding incoming obstacles.

  • 03

    Temple Run 2

    The classic endless runner looks better than ever.

  • 04

    Impossible Road

    A minimal, vertigo-inducing endless faller.

  • 05

    Cordy 2

    A beautiful kid-friendly platform game.

So those are currently our favorite action games for iPad, but are yours? We’re always on the lookout for more iOS games to include on our lists!

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