Card games have been around for a long time, and while collecting physical cards can be fun in its own right, playing them on mobile allows you to collect all the cards you want without taking up any physical space!
There are many card games on the App Store that focus on deck building, strategic gameplay, and card collecting. If you're looking to fill that shiny iPhone 12 of yours with card games, here are some of our favorites, and be sure to check out our best controllers for iPhone while you're at it to take your game to the next level!
Plants vs. Zombies Heroes
Crazy Dave and his anthropomorphic plants are back to defend the world from the zombie invasion, this time in a whacky, superhero-inspired card game.
While PvZ games are always a lot of fun without taking things too seriously, Plants vs. Zombies Heroes is more fun than it has any business being. This game is definitely silly, from the very obvious inspirations for various plant and zombie heroes to the campy Batman-like music and sound effects. Still, it's also a well-balanced and enjoyable game. Much like the PvZ Garden Warfare series, PvZ Heroes lets you pick a side and choose from hundreds of different plant and zombie cards, each with its own special abilities.
For a game geared more towards a younger audience, I will note that there are in-app purchases, as well as events and limited packs that encourage players to put money into the game. Still, it is possible to play without spending any money. Just keep in mind that there are purchases ranging upward of $100, and ultimately, your packs are blind. Some guarantee a certain number of really rare cards, but you can spend a lot of money trying to get the particular cards you want.
Dr. Zomboss is back, and he's turning his Zombie minions into super-powered monstrosities! Fortunately, Crazy Dave has some tricks under that saucepan hat of his. Will you take up the role of a superhero sunflower or a monstrous hulk-like zombie? The choice is yours, assuming you can collect all the right cards!
From Matthew Inman over at The Oatmeal comes one of my favorite card games ever made. Exploding Kittens is fun, fast-paced, and frantic.
The goal is to be the last person standing. You'll need to play a variety of different cards to trip up your opponents and save yourself from Kittens who happen to have nuclear launch codes.
This game goes by quickly (it only takes about 15 minutes to play a game), making it extremely easy to play over and over again without taking up too much time. Plus, all the cards are illustrated and written by The Oatmeal, so do yourself a favor and read the comics on the cards; you'll be in stitches!
Featuring an absurd premise and art by The Oatmeal, Exploding Kittens was a card game launched on Kickstarter in 2015. It quickly became the most-backed Kickstarter campaign and has held that honor ever since, and now, you can enjoy the off-the-wall hijinks of the hit card game on your iPhone or iPad!
Phase 10: World Tour
If you've never played the hit Mattel card game Phase 10, you're missing out. Described as "Rummy with a Twist," each hand of Phase 10 has sets of cards you must collect before your opponent can, all to empty your hand first. It's a pretty basic concept with much room for variation and easily one of my favorite games to play with the family.
Phase 10: World Tour builds upon the basic rules of the traditional card game but adds new playstyles, international leaderboards, and more. You can challenge players around the globe or stick with the computer drive NPCs, both of which provide different types of challenge. This is a must-have if you enjoy traditional card games, like gin, rummy, racehorse, or UNO.
It's rummy, but with a twist. Can you collect the necessary cards before your opponents do?
Onmyoji: The Card Game
A spin-off of Onmyoji and Onmyoji Arena, Onmyoji: The Card Game is set in the mythological world of Yokai. You have been transformed into a Yokai in the city of Shinkiro. There, you will battle with countless other Yokai using their decks of Shikigami in a game the Yokai call Hyakuban, all while learning their stories and culture.
While Onmyoji is a solid card game with easy-to-understand rules and smooth gameplay, what really sets this app apart is just how stunningly gorgeous it is. Everything from the music to the characters to the voice acting feels more like a major console release than a mobile app. Although it features 2D artwork, unlike the mixture of 2D and 3D in the other titles in the series, I personally think it looks all the better for it.
Another big selling point for Onmyoji is the story-first build. While many other card games seem to add in bits of storyline just to kick off or as an afterthought, Onmyoji is about the story — stories, that is. Each Yokai you meet along your journey, and their Shikigami have their own fascinating stories that drive gameplay.
From the makers of Onmyoji and Onmyoji Arena, Onmyoji: The Card Game is built on the same Japanese myths, legends, and folklore, set to beautiful music and gorgeous artwork. Gather in Shinkiro, the land of the Yokai, where you will battle with your trusty Shikigami in the game of Hyakuban.
From the mystical world of Warcraft comes Blizzard's award-winning battle card game that has been über popular since its release in 2014.
Hearthstone pits you one-on-one against players from around the world or AI opponents of varying difficulty levels, so no matter your skill set, you can jump into the fray. You'll need to play minions, spells, and other useful cards to lower your opponent's health to zero before they beat you.
As you progress through the game, you'll get more cards, and with hundreds of cards available, there are a ton of different strategies you can employ to win matches.
As is the case with most battle card games, Hearthstone heavily relies on deck building, which can be difficult to master. I highly recommend checking out online communities like Reddit for tips, tricks, and helpful strategies from other players who are pretty willing to help newbies out.
Set in the World of Warcraft universe, Hearthstone's popularity has continued to soar for the better part of a decade, and it's showing no sign of stopping. With solo and PVP play modes and over 1000 different cards to collect and battle with, there is truly something for every card game lover in Hearthstone.
Set in a world where the gods, demons, and other supernatural forces rely on the belief and worship of humans to thrive, Chaos Academy features thousands of cards with ties to a diverse set of ancient religions and mythologies. The artwork is stunning and diverse, with influences from countless periods of human history and cultures.
Although, at first glance, Chaos Academy doesn't seem all that different from the hundreds of other anime-style collectible card games in the App Store, there are definitely a few ways in which it sets itself apart. The gameplay is almost like a cross between chess and a more typical CCG. Each player has an Emperor card with a massive HP pool but incapable of dealing damage. Using various hero cards, you must protect your emperor — the only factor determining a win is whose emperor survives.
I also found that the story better explained the co-existence of various religions and mythos than many similarly styled games do. And, though there is definitely some of your typical anime fanservice, the character designs feel really thoughtful and truer to the source material.
Join the Old Order at the Chaos Academy, where millennia-old battles continue to preserve the power of the gods and demons within the human world. Choose your emperor and collect your heroes to build powerful decks and battle your way to the top.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends
The Elder Scrolls: Legends was one of the more surprising games I reviewed earlier this year. I was pretty skeptical that Bethesda was going to make a battle card game that could stand up to the likes of Hearthstone or Magic The Gathering, but luckily I was wrong.
The Story Mode does a fantastic job of explaining the game and its mechanics. Bethesda did an excellent job making this game equal parts challenging and rewarding, making it very easy to avoid spending money to get better cards.
What makes The Elder Scrolls: Legends stand out from other popular battle card games is its two-lane battlefield. Each battlefield is split into two distinct sections known as lanes. Creatures in those lanes can only attack the opponent's creatures in the same lane. The lanes can also have different effects that affect the outcome of the battles going on in that lane.
Whether you're a newcomer to the strategy card game world or a seasoned veteran, The Elder Scrolls: Legends gets many things right, and I highly recommend giving it a shot.
A collectible card game based on the hit Elder Scrolls series, The Elder Scrolls: Legends features all the high fantasy excitement of Skyrim, Morrowind, the Clockwork City, and more in a highly strategic card game. Solo or PVP, ten minutes or hours, there is something for every playstyle.
Magic: The Gathering Arena
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It would be impossible to write a list of card games and not include Magic: The Gathering. It's one of the most popular collectible card games globally and has a massive community, both online and off.
Magic: the Gathering Arena really brings the classic Magic: The Gathering card game to the digital space flawlessly. The insane catalog of cards, mechanics, special abilities, the rich and deep lore behind the game, and the in-depth strategic gameplay are all present in this mobile version.
Although its predecessor, Magic Duels, didn't do a great job at acclimating new players to the world of Magic, Magic: The Gathering Arena has rectified this issue, adding extensive tutorials on the game. What I found most exciting about these tutorials is that you have the option from the get-go to skip them if you're already an experienced Magic player.
Magic: The Gathering Arena offers a ton of different game modes, including Story Mode, Practice Mode, and Arena Mode, so if you really want to learn the game inside and out, you can. Moreover, players can even participate in Magic eSports qualifiers, much like players could bring their decks to compete at real-life events.
The first collectible card game from Wizards of the Coast is now a hit mobile game in Magic: The Gathering Arena. Build your decks and battle solo or against players around the world, all from the comfort of your iPhone or iPad.
One of the most popular card games on the planet, UNO! is now available as an app, but there's a lot more to this game than the deck of cards. UNO! has a variety of play modes, including the classic, all set in real-time. You can play solo or partner up, play against the computer, your family and friends, or even players from around the world.
What really makes this app stand out is the wide variety of customization available. With a catalog of house rules, you get to decide what goes in your game. It gives them the freedom to make each game unique, switch things up frequently, and keep from ever getting bored.
Even more exciting, as UNO! celebrates its 50th anniversary, tons of fun events and updates will be released all year long.
Celebrate 50 years of the world's #1 card game with UNO! on iPhone and iPad. With a wide variety of house rules and the flexibility to choose which ones you want in your game, this is a must-have app for every UNO! fan.
Animation Throwdown: The Quest for Cards
An absolute mecca of cartoon mayhem, Animation Throwdown is a battle card game that draws from Fox's most popular animated shows. Your favorite characters from Family Guy, American Dad, Bob's Burgers, Futurama, and more are all included in this hilarious and fun card game.
The very fabric of the universe has been ripped apart, and all the cartoon worlds have to battle it out in a game of strategy and wit! Choose a hero and embark on a journey to save the world as you battle your way to the top.
Animation Throwdown mechanics are much simpler than other battle card games; however, the fast-paced nature of each match mixed with hilarious writing and characters makes this game a must-have for any fan!
Collect all your favorite cartoon characters from shows like American Dad, Bob's Burgers, Futurama, Family Guy, and King of the Hill in this whacky, fun collectible card game.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links
It's time to duel! If you were a kid growing up throughout the early 2000s, you knew exactly what that phrase meant. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links brings all the fun of the original card game to your iPhone and iPad screen!
Monsters, spells, traps, and all the other types of cards you remember from the TV show and original card game are back in the fantastic mobile implementation of the game.
The story mode teaches you all the basics of the Yu-Gi-Oh! battle system and pits you against some of the most iconic characters from the show. As you progress through the story, battle other players online, and complete challenges, you'll earn better cards to cycle into your deck.
If you were a fan of the show and the original game, Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links is an excellent game to get your fix!
All the excitement and drama of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the palm of your hand! Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links is a CCG based on the hit anime series and trading card game, Yu-Gi-Oh!
Pathfinder Adventures takes the classic D&D-like tabletop game Pathfinder and turns it into a highly complex but super fun card-based game.
You play cooperatively with computer AI or real players online to complete an adventure. If you're familiar with Pathfinder, you'll recognize the classes available to you, such as fighter, wizard, and rogue, as well as numbers that define your character's abilities.
As you progress through the game, your party will receive new items, feats, allies, spells, and weapons to improve your character. As time goes on, you'll be able to customize your character in very specific ways, making no two adventures the same!
A digital adaptation of Paizo's Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Adventures lets you set off in a fantasy world, solo or with friends in cooperative, strategic battles.
While there are plenty of standalone card game apps, Apple Arcade, Apple's gaming subscription service includes even more.
Unlimited games, one price
Apple Arcade has over a hundred premium games with more added regularly each week. There is something here for everyone, and it only costs $5 a month for all you can game!
Here are some of the best Apple Arcade card games:
In Cardpocalypse, you take on the role of a '90s kid, Jess, who just wants to be a Mega Mutant Power Pets master. But on her first day at Dudsdale Elementary, the popular collectible card game is banned, so all of the kids need to take their battles underground to prevent being caught. But then the mutants from the game begin to invade the real world, and it's up to Jess and her new friends to save the world.
Cardpocalypse is equal parts nostalgia, creativity, and excitement, all on the backbones of a solid card game. Collect all the best Mega Mutant Power Pets and customize them to build the winning deck.
Where Cards Fall
Although Where Cards Fall is not a typical collectible card game or even a traditional card game, it does incorporate cards in a really unique way and is just too pretty not to include in this list. A slice-of-life story in which you build houses of cards to bring memories to life, this game is incredibly unique and is sure to draw you in. All of this tells the story of a young adult struggling with the insecurities and emotions tied up in their memories.
Where Cards Fall is beautiful and immersive, with stunning music and visuals, as well as a deep story. Plus, it does technically use cards.
Card of Darkness
Although indie video game dev Zach Gage pops up on Apple Arcade often, Card of Darkness is a collaborative effort between him and Pendleton Ward, the creator of the Emmy Award-winning series, Adventure Time, and even just looking at the icon of this game, Ward's influence is prominent.
In Card of Darkness, you'll have to battle your way out of each dungeon floor by casting spells, slaying monsters, discovering secrets, and saving the world at the end of the day. But all of this is done by picking the right cards. Each level features a grid full of stacks of cards — these stacks contain monsters, treasures, weapons, potions, and spells. But there's one thing: you can only see the top card of each stack, so what lies underneath that card is a mystery. And once you take a card from a stack, you must eventually take all of the cards underneath it as well. Basically, you need to finish what you start.
A hybrid tactical RPG and deck-building game, Spelldrifter puts you in the fantasy world of Starfell, where you and your band of heroes embark on a quest for the entrance to the mysterious Labyrinth. Combining puzzle-like positional tactics and the highly customizable nature of a collectible card game, Spelldrifter is both replayable and highly challenging. Spellfinder also looks really good, with high-quality 3D models and smooth animation.
Make the most of both time and space to traverse deep into Starfell in this unique and exciting game.
Which card games are your favorites?
Do you have a favorite card game for iPhone or iPad that didn't make our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.