Dec. 27, 2010 at 4:54 PM ET
So as it turns out, you were very very good this year. And as a reward, Santa delivered an iPod Touch, iPhone or perhaps even an iPad to you (because, as everyone knows, Steve Jobs and Santa are totally in cahoots).
As you may know, the Apple's iDevices have become the portable gaming devices of the moment (Nintendo and Sony are very much on notice). The App Store is crammed full of games – many of which are quite excellent and many of which totally suck. With so many options, the question is: Where to start?
To get you started down the road of iDevice ownership, I've compiled the following look at some of the best games found in the App Store. There's a little something here for any and all kinds of gamers (and even some items for those of you who think you're not into gaming.)
And even if you already own an iPhone or iPad, check out the following list for some ideas on how to spend that iTunes gift card you found in your stocking.
The big hits not to miss
Even if you didn't own an iPhone, an iPod Touch or an iPad before this holiday, you've probably heard about "Angry Birds." This bird-flinging game of trajectory is a veritable phenomenon and for good reason. It's simple to jump into but difficult to master. You can play for mere moments or hours at a time. This is the first place you should stop on your road to iPhone/iPad gaming. (And you can read more about the "Angry Birds" phenomenon right here.)
"Cut the Rope" is another game that knocked people's socks off this year. Like "Angry Bird," this is a very well designed physics/puzzle game that will make you think as you try to figure out how to cut the rope and feed candy to a hungry (and adorable) monster. (For a full review, follow this link.)
Speaking of adorable, the undead have never been so cute as they are in the hit game "Plants vs. Zombies." And while you can play "Plants vs. Zombies" in many places – on your computer, or your Xbox 360 – there is absolutely no better place to play it than on an iPad or even your iPhone. Defend your home from a zombie invasion using all manner of zombie-eating plants. You will lose many hours of your life to this game.
And while we're on the topic of not being able to stop playing, once you start playing "Fruit Ninja" don't plan to stop any time soon. This game of fruit slicing is quite simple (slash your finger across the screen to cut all manner of flying fruit) but it's so well crafted you will want to play over and over and over and over and over again. (No, I don't have a "Fruit Ninja" problem. I can quit any time I want.)
I also highly recommend App Store hits "Flight Control" (a beautiful game in which you must guide airplanes to a safe landing) and "Words with Friends" (a Scrabble-like game that makes it easy to play with friends online.)
If you want to be wowed
When indie game "World of Goo" first appeared on the PC/Wii, it quickly became one of my all-time favorite games. Now, it's found a brand new home on the iPad. This clever physics-based-puzzle game has you building teetering towers out of adorable balls of goo. Yes, it's pricy at $9.99, but this is one epic, full-featured game that is truly a one-of-a kind. And it is worth every single penny. (For more on "World of Goo," click this link.)
Meanwhile, the action role-playing game "Infinity Blade" has also knocked my socks off. This game, in which you try to storm a citadel and cut down one colossal enemy after another, is not only totally gorgeous, the character customization will completely absorb you as you outfit yourself with all manner of swords, armor and magic. This one is seriously difficult to put down.
Apple named the beautiful game "Osmos" its iPad Game of the Year for 2010 and for good reason. This cosmic game of survival finds you floating about an ethereal world in which you must eat or be eaten. The lush ambient music and pretty, spare graphics are a absolute treat.
If you enjoy putting the pedal to the metal, then you must try out the superb racing game "Reckless Racing" for the iPhone and iPad. This top-down game of high speeds and hairpin turns is a great-looking game and a zippy blast to play.
If you're lucky enough to own both an iPhone and an iPad, then you'll definitely want to download "Chopper 2," a game of 'copter flight, rescue and battling that lets you use your phone as a controller for the iPad. This is something I hope to see more of down the road. (For a full review, click this link.)
If you like a good looking game and an engrossing story, then try the eerie point-and-click (or rather, point-and-tap) puzzle adventure "Drawn: The Painted Tower." It is absolutely beautiful to behold and the mysterious story of a lost girl and worlds painted to life will suck you in for hours on end.
Familiar faces visit your iDevice
Some familiar faces from other gaming places have made a very successful leap to your iDevice. That buxom babe of gaming Lara Croft for example, just leapt on iPhones and iPads in the excellent new action game "Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light."
Meanwhile, everyone's favorite game of gangland crime sprees and bad driving has careened onto the iDevices. I'm talking about "Grand Theft Auto" of course, which gets a great Apple translation with "Chinatown Wars."
But if you want to see really old school gaming get a wonderful new school makeover, give "Pac-Man" a try on your iPhone or iPad.
Guns, guns, guns ... and more guns
If you like gunning things down, you're in luck. There are some truly standout shooters to be found for your iDevice. The new "Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus" is a great place to start if you like some real-world style running and gunning. Meanwhile, for some excellent sci-fi first-person shooting, you can't go wrong with "N.O.V.A. 2." And the outstanding "Archetype" offers some great online multiplayer shooting.
Meanwhile, if you want to see just how good-looking the iDevice's graphics can be, be sure try out the on-rails shooter "Rage." Blood, guts and mutants have never looked so...uh...pretty. (For a full review of "Rage" follow this link.)
All four of these games are available for both the iPhone and iPad.
For those who like to pretend
Really, what gamer doesn't like to play pretend? And nothing scratches that fantasy itch like a good role-playing game. For a really top-notch RPG fire up "Pocket Legends," a massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the mobile set. This game lets RPG lovers do what they love most — create a character, go on daring quests and explore an epic fantasy world populated with thousands of other gamers. The graphics look good and, best of all, you'll be able to play this game across platforms — against iPhone owners, iPad owners and even Android phones owners as well.
Meanwhile, if you're one of the many many people out there who have been sucked into the hit Facebook farm-simulation game "FarmVille," you'll be thrilled to know that you can take your fantasy farming onto your iPad or your iPhone with some top-notch App Store versions of the game.
But now, imagine how great that game would be if you added...zombies. Yes, "Zombie Farm" for the iPhone takes the farming simulation of "FarmVille" and adds a delightful dose of the undead. Not only do you grow various vegetables and tend to your ever-growing plot of land, you also grow different types of undead and send them to invade some not-so-friendly neighbors.
For something a little closer to reality ... if you've ever wondered what it was like to run your own video game company, be sure to check out the simulation/management game "Game Dev Story" for the iPhone. Here you get to play the boss at an upstart gaming company. You will decide what kind of games to make, manage all kinds of employees – programmers, designers, sound engineers – and even develop a game platform as you try to work your way up from a small company to the big leagues of the game biz. This game is not only fun to play...it might even teach you a little something about how real game development works.
Have some guffaws with your games
If you like a few laughs alongside your gaming, give "Scarlett and the Spark of Life" a try. This point-and-tap adventure for the iPhone turns the save-the-princess trope on its head and lets you play a smart-mouthed young lady hell bent on rescuing herself. The writing is clever and humorous, the characters are all kinds of quirky and the puzzles that you (and Scarlett) find yourself pitted against are a joy to unravel.
I can't help but think "Scarlett and the Spark of Life" might have got a spark of inspiration from the delightfully witty point-and-click pirate adventures of yore – "The Secret of Monkey Island" and "Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge." You'll now find both of these wickedly witty games on the iPhone and iPad. (For more on the "Monkey Island" revival, follow this link.)
Meanwhile, if you want a laugh, then there's nothing funnier than playing god. Seriously, you will get a kick out of taking care of and tormenting the lesser beings that populate "Pocket God" and "Pocket God: Journey to Uranus" for iPhone an iPad respectively.