Given that a large proportion of us have at least one iOS device, iPhones and iPads give the impression of single-person use. Each of us has our own, and so generally speaking any apps are ours alone to use and any games are ours alone to play. But iOS games can be more than just for you to play in solitude on the bus or when you're waiting for a meeting to start; there are plenty of good multiplayer games out there too.
With its large screen, the iPad is particularly good for local multiplayer in which several people play on the same device. These games obviously cannot really be as complex as local multiplayer on a home console, where each player has her own controller, but it's not always all about trying to replicate the console experience. And you'd be surprised at just how many different kinds of games do make a good fit with the touchscreen, buttonless device. Here are some of the best:
Local – same device
These games all involve multiple players on the same iPad, making use of the large screen. These are good for those moments when you're hanging out with friends and don't know what to do next, ensuring some laughs as you all lean in over the same device. And you only need to buy one copy of the game, which is always a bonus.
Bloop - $0.99
This is a great little party game, simple but loads of fun to play with friends. The screen fills with coloured tiles and you and up to three friends must simultaneously try to tap the most, which leads to plenty of bumped knuckles and general mayhem. Since the tiles shrink, this is much better suited to the larger iPad screen than the iPhone, though you can play on either.
This game feels a lot like those addictive endless runners, except that the levels do have an end and are stunning to look at. This actually looks a lot like the console version of Mirror's Edge, but with a side-on rather than first-person view. When you play against a friend, each of you takes one of the short ends of the iPad as you race through the level, trying to overtake each other and reach the goal in the fastest time.
This fast-paced, fruit-slashing game is fun enough when you're playing on your own, but add a friend to the mix and you've got a real winner. The two of you sit at the short ends of the iPad, with the screen split down the middle, and compete for high scores, seeing who can slash the most fruit and net the most points. With different blades and backgrounds to unlock, and multiple modes, this one stays fun for ages, which is great for the low price.
Perfect for if you only have one friend that likes Settlers of Catan, this pits the two of you against computer opponents to make up the numbers you need. It might seem pricey for an iPad game, but it's much cheaper than buying the actual board (especially if you never have enough people to actually play it), and it has everything the physical game has minus the feel of cardboard in your hands.
Like when you used to play Worms with your friends on the same computer, this is a case of handing the controls (in this case the whole iPad) over to each player in turn. Four of you can play at once, each controlling your own personalised team of comical worms fighting it out in colourful environments to be the last one standing. As far as weapons go, the old favourites like the Sheep and Banana Bomb are there, so this is almost as good as having the latest PC version – but much cheaper!
Stepping it up a notch, some games let you play with each player on a different device but only using the wireless connection between iPads, which means you have to play in the same room. This might seem like the worst option, since you have to pay out for multiple copies of the game but don't have the luxury of distance play, but the one game I've picked for this category is so good I had to include it anyway.
Minecraft – Pocket Edition - $6.99
This is fairly expensive for an iPad game, but it includes a whole lot of content and continues to grow through free updates. The latest of these added Creepers, which makes Survival mode a little more challenging. And you can also unleash your creative side in the Creative mode, with friends using their own devices to jump into your world. At the moment, you can only play multiplayer if you're pretty much in the same room, but Mojang is working on implementing online multiplayer too.
Asynchronous online multiplayer is best for when you want the fun of playing against another human being rather than a machine but you're too busy to set aside a block of time in which the both of you are free to sit down and play. With asynchronous online multiplayer games, you can play at a distance and at different times, and games can span weeks.
Draw Something - $2.99
Draw Something might not be as wildly popular as it was last year, but it's still a fun casual game. It's essentially Pictionary, so it's easier to play on the larger iPad screen that it is on an iPhone. With a huge catalogue of words and three difficulty levels, this is one for all ages and abilities. If you're not sure about it, you can download the free version and upgrade to the paid if you want to get rid of ads.
For more involved gaming against friends in other parts of the world/country/town, there are several games for the iPad that offer synchronous multiplayer, i.e. games in which all players are present and playing at the same time. These games really show off the iPad's capabilities.
Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave - $2.99
Tower defence games aren't for everyone, but if you do like them you'll love this. It combines colourful graphics with detailed mechanics, throwing RPG elements into the mix alongside the traditional tower defence play. You can play with up to three friends, either co-op or competitively in the Arena mode. Use voice chat in the “Tavern” to plan your strategy, and then get busy setting up towers and traps, levelling up your heroes, and collecting loot.
Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 – Free-to-play
If your only Magic-playing friends live far away, or you just like the idea of the iPad keeping track of things like damage for you, then you'll be happy to know that a virtual version of Magic: The Gathering exists. It's just as detailed as Magic fans would hope, with no dumbing down to get it onto the iPad. The only catch is that while it's free to download and play with the three included decks, you'll have to pay to get hold of any more cards.
Finally, one for the WoW fans: Order & Chaos Online is an incredibly complex (for an iOS game) MMORPG that has thousands of players exploring its world in real time. You can do everything you'd expect to be able to in a game like this on the PC: customise your character (race, gender, appearance, class, talent), learn skills (apparently 1000+ of them), collect equipment (2000+), carry out quests (500+), and join up with friends to trade or set off on an adventure together.