Endless runners and auto-runner games are usually very similar with one key difference. The only goal in an endless runner is to earn the highest score you can, whereas an auto-runner usually has levels or some goal other than just the highest score. Many people use the terms synonymously, but what can I say, I'm a stickler.
Both endless and auto-runner games are incredibly popular due to their basic controls, simple gameplay, and their extreme replayability. That deadly combination makes for some amazingly fun games that are real easy to pick and play whenever you find a spare minute or two. Here are my favorite endless runners and auto-runners for iPhone and iPad.
- Alto's Adventure
- Crossy Road
- Geometry Dash
- Into the Dead
- Jetpack Joyride
- Sonic Dash
- Super Mario Run
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Beautiful art design mixed with a rich, calming soundtrack makes Alto's Adventure stand out in the ocean of endless runner games on the App Store.
You'll join Alto, a llama herder, on his snowboard as he slides downward on the Alps, rounding up the wooly creatures. The game includes a challenge system and a plethora of unlockable characters, making it entertaining every time you load it up. Plus, the announced sequel, Alto's Odyssey, will hit the App Store sometime this year. Wax up your board and hit the slopes so you can continue Alto's story later in 2017!
$4.99 - Download Now
This zany twist on the auto-runner keeps Frank, your protagonist, running and jumping forward at all times — instead of making him move, you control the scenery, platforms, and banners during his journey. Fail to move a platform down or up so that he can jump, and he may well get squished by the side of the screen. Stagehand is one of iMore managing editor Serenity Caldwell's favorite games of the year, and definitely worth a run (or two).
Ancestor manages to combine brain teasing puzzles with fast-paced side-scrolling endless runner action rather effectively. The game slows down as you encounter puzzles and obstacles in the game, but even with the added time, they come at you fast and frequently, making all nine different types of obstacles a real challenge each time you encounter them.
The retro look of Ancestor is what drew me to the side-scroller in the first place. Every pixel in this pixel-art masterpiece combines to create a unique look, all while maintaining an aesthetic that takes you back to when 8-bit graphics were the norm.
Free - Download Now
Why did the chicken cross the road? According to Crossy Road the chicken never did.
This Frogger-like endless runner puts you in control of a brave — stupid, perhaps? — chicken who needs to cross the dangerous never ending freeway.
Swipe and tap your way out of the dangers of incoming traffic and across turbulent rivers to reach as far as you can before you end up as a new hood ornament.
Free - Download Now
Geometry Dash is a massively popular auto-runner game that is near impossible to beat. With over 26,000 gamers who have left ratings on the App Store, the game still holds a 5-star rating.
The game is designed to be frustrating, fast-paced, and high-energy. The soundtrack is bumping, and your thumbs will be thumping the screen to make that little Square jump and avoid obstacles.
What makes Geometry Dash so successful is its robust level editor, which allows players to design their levels and play levels created by others. It's this unique level editor that makes the game so fun to play, mainly so you can see all the ways people make it impossible for you to win.
Pro Tip: Before you buy the full game, try downloading the preview, Geometry Dash Lite, for free to see if you like it!
$1.99 - Download Now
Into the Dead
Into the Dead cleverly mixes endless runner with the first-person-shooter action as you're tasked to run through an endless swarm of flesh eating zombies.
As you run through cornfields, forests, and grasslands you need to dodge zombies left and right, you can even pick up weapons on the along way to help you kill the zombies before they kill you!
The visuals are simple but utterly macabre, but it's the sound design of Into the Dead that makes it stand out. The growls of the zombie hoard, the heavy breathing of the hero, his footsteps through the cornfields, and even the screams when he gets eaten are all superb and make you feel tense as you're playing. I have personally never experienced a mobile game that does such a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere.
Free - Download Now
An oldie but a goodie, Jetpack Joyride is a chaotic and fun endless runner that has plenty of whimsy!
Whether you're running, flying with your jetpack, or doing a combination in a giant dragon robot suit, Jetpack Joyride takes the later part of the title very seriously. At times the gameplay even becomes a little like Flappy Bird as you need you'll need to tap repeatedly on the screen to hover in mid-air to avoid obstacles.
Jetpack Joyride doesn't take itself too seriously and the rather entertaining events that can occur even after you die — such as dropping a bomb on your head to propel you just a little bit further — are a real treat for your funny bone.
Free - Download Now
Sonic Dash brings SEGA's the speedy blue hedgehog to the small screen!
Have Sonic run as far as he can collecting as many gold rings along the way, all while he dodges obstacles, attacks enemies, and even does some sweet dance moves in the sky.
You even get to take on popular Sonic villains — like Zazz and Doctor Eggman — in boss battles that give you the chance to unlock even more gold rings, which allow you to purchase you power-ups and new characters.
This fast-paced, vibrant colored game will have you swiping your fingers across your screen as fast as you can in all directions; can you keep up?
Free - Download Now
Super Mario Run
Super Mario Run marked the first appearance of one of the world's most famous plumbers into the mobile gaming world, and it's a stellar game.
Nintendo designed Super Mario Run with the on-the-go lifestyle in mind; you can play the entire game with just one thumb, making it incredibly easy to play almost anywhere. Plus, there is a ton to do!
The World Tour mode takes you through 24 unique levels as Mario travels to save Princess Peach from his nemesis Bowser, while the infinitely replayable Toad Rally mode has you compete with players from around the world to collect the most coins within the time limit. Add in the Kingdom builder, unlockable characters, and plenty of secret coins to collect, and you'll be putting hours into this game before you know it.
** Note:** Although the game is free to download, you'll only be able to play the first three levels. You'll need to make an in-app purchase of 9.99 to play the whole game. Personally, I think it's 100% worth the money.
$9.99 - Download Now
What are your favorites?
It's impossible to list all the games, so I want to know what you think! Let me know in the comments below which endless and auto-runner games are your favorites to play on your iPhone and iPad!
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Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
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