Best story-driven games for iPhone and iPad

While many people turn to games for mindless fun, many others —myself included — fall in love with games because of their stories. A well-written narrative in a video game can transport you into a brand new world filled with interesting characters, a rich story, and it can challenge your way of thinking.

Both indie developers and big gaming studios have put out a ton of great story-driven games in the App Store over the years; here are several of my favorites!

Old Man's Journey

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Old Man's Journey is a beautifully crafted point-and-click adventure title that will leave you reaching for the tissues! The game has quickly garnered praise, by both critics and players, for its amazing visuals and superb storytelling.

Old Man's Journey proves that you don't need words to tell a great story, as the entire narrative is visual. As the old man reminiscences about his past, you slowly uncover the motivation behind his actions.

While I don't want to dive too deep into what the game is all about, thus robbing you of the experience it provides, I can tell you that Old Man's Journey is an emotional story that had me crying.

Want to know more about Old Man's Journey? Here's everything you need to know!

Ticket to Earth

Ticket to Earth is an absolutely incredible game and is a must-download for gamers everywhere.

Ticket to Earth takes place on the colony planet New Providence, where life isn't as marvelous as the government-controlled media — NP27 — would have you believe. It's arrival day, meaning the starship known as the Martian Princess has completed its 10-year journey from Earth, which will allow ticket-holding colonists board the ship to head home. Only 1% of the people on New Providence can afford a ticket, and there are massive protests in the center of the city.

It's not long before a mysterious stranger, killer robots, and mutated cockroaches visit an unsuspecting Rose (the protagonist), and the proverbial shit hits the fan.

The story is littered with surprising plot twists, impactful characters, and a well-written narrative that will keep you invested in the rich world of New Providence and the people who populate the planet.

Right now, Ticket to Earth's story is just getting started as only episode one is available; however, the developers, Robot Circus, have assured fans they are working very hard on episode two.

On top of a fantastic story, Ticket to Earth also offers an original battle system that breathes new life into the strategy RPG genre. The movement system offers an extremely deep and complex combat experience that never goes stale, as there are always new powers and abilities to acquire.

Tales from the Borderlands

Another amazing story-driven adventure game from the geniuses at Telltale Games, Tales from the Borderlands is funny, witty, and entertaining.

Although you will undoubtedly feel a bigger attachment to the game if you have played both Borderlands and Borderlands 2 on your console or PC, Tales from the Borderlands does a pretty excellent job of producing a compelling standalone story.

You'll play through the game controlling two main characters. Rhys is a Hyperion executive hoping to pick up the pieces and continue exploiting Pandora for riches, just like Handsome Jack did before his death. Fiona is a Pandoran con artist who only looks out for herself and is looking to land her biggest con yet. Thrown together by circumstance, both Rhys and Fiona will have to work together to get what they want.

As with most Telltale games, you can download the first episode for free, but you'll need to pay for subsequent episodes via an in-app purchase.


Reigns will crown you a king and then force you to make decisions, by swiping left or right, that almost always lead to your untimely death in increasingly interesting ways.

Doomed to repeat your life over and over while attempting to find a way to lift a curse, you'll have to balance the needs of your kingdom with those of the church, military, and your greed.

While Reigns' story isn't extremely complex, it's one of the most whimsical, dark, and hilarious games on the App Store. Plus, with several different endings, Reigns is a joy to replay over and over again, discovering new story elements along the way!

Don't feel too bad if your first playthrough leaves you a little dejected; there is good news: You can do it all over again times infinity!

Invisible Inc.

Invisible Inc.on iPad

Invisible Inc.on iPad (Image credit: Klei)

Invisible Inc. was a game that took me by complete surprise. Considering this game relies on being sneaky, I suppose that means the jokes on me.

The game is set in the year 2074, when mega corporations have taken control of the world's national governments. Invisible Inc. is a private intelligence agency that spies, hacks, and obtains information for these giant corporations. Everything gets turned on its head when Invisible Inc. has its supercomputer, known as Incognita, hacked by an unknown threat. You'll quickly be thrown down a rabbit hole of misdirection and dishonesty, leaving you to question who to trust.

This turn-based stealth game randomly generates levels athat you need to make your way through to complete objectives and avoid enemies. You can control 10 unique characters through the perilous missions, and each of them has loads of customization options, making sure characters never get stale.

The gameplay is complex, and it does take a while to get used to the ins and outs, but once you do, I promise you hours of fun await.

Note: Invisible Inc. is an iPad-only game.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

For now, Oceanhorn is the closest thing to a real Zelda game you can get on your iPhone and iPad. When you're playing it with an MFi-certified game controller, it's easy to forget you're even playing a mobile game!

Oceanhorn takes place in the world of Arcadia, where one day you wake up to find your father is missing. The only clues to finding him are his notebook and a mysterious glowing necklace. After finding your dad's old sword and shield, you'll learn the ancient history of Arcadia, and suddenly you're tasked with saving the entire world!

With colorful graphics, a fun combat style, and challenging puzzles, this adventure RPG feels like a console title. Plus, It's got a pretty lengthy story, meaning it will keep you entertained for hours on end.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Although Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is ancient in video game years, this 2003 Xbox game hit the App Store in 2013 and continues to be an insanely popular title.

If you're familiar with the Star Wars universe, it's not hard to see why this game is so well-liked. You can create your own Jedi or Sith and lead them through a story that takes place about 4,000 years before the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Darth Malak, a Sith Lord, has unleashed a wave of attacks against the Republic, leaving the Jedi scattered and vulnerable. Many Jedi Knights have fallen, and some have even turned to the Dark Side and followed Darth Malak. It's up to you to decide whether you want to side with the Jedi or the Sith as the story progresses.

Between the numerous Force abilities, deep character customization, and compelling story, it's easy to see why this Star Wars game remains a fan favorite.

Pro tip: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has highly active online communities on sites like Reddit, which is a great place to go for tips and tricks.

Tell us your favorites!

There are so many amazing story-driven games on the App Store that it would be impossible to list them all. Comment down below and let me know which story-driven games you love!

Updated June 28, 2017: Removed Final Fantasy Tactics from the list because it won't be compatible in iOS 11.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

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. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.