We've all seen it before: a child, with an $500 iPad on his/her lap, playing Angry Birds, while his/her guardian waits in line, reads a magazine, or naps while their prepubescent charge is distracted. With no complicated controller or learning curve necessary for thousands of games on Apple's App Store, it's no wonder more and more children are seen commandeering their parent's expensive iPads and iPhones to play Cut the Rope.
While the majority of games on iOS devices are defined as casual, it would be a mistake to assume all are kid-friendly. In fact, many games have been ported over to iOS devices from other systems, some of which were made well before these kids were born. More and more developers are recognizing Apple's large user base, and companies like Square Enix are slowly porting over entire libraries—years of gaming history—and adapting them for touch screen play.
Recent iOS ports of hardcore titles, new and old,got us thinking that there are many stellar titles that have been adapted to play on Apple's touch screens. Some ports have been horrid, but we're going to pretend they don't exist. Instead, we've put together a list of titles available on iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches that successfully made the jump from consoles, handhelds, and PCs.
10. Chrono Trigger
Back when Nintendo was still king of the Japanese role-playing block, Chrono Trigger hit the SNES in 1995. One of the most revered role-playing games of all time, Chrono Trigger has seen one superb sequel titled Chrono Cross and multiple re-releases on the PlayStation, Nintendo DS, and most recently iOS devices.
Since we're discussing Chrono Trigger, a synopsis of why the game is one-of-a-kind is a necessity. Chrono Trigger was created by a “dream team” of game developers, including Dragon Ball's Akira Toriyama, Final Fantasy's Hironobu Sakaguchi, and Dragon Quest's Yuji Horii. With Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu as composers, it's no wonder Chrono Trigger has been successful on every platform it has been ported to.
The iOS port is no different. Crono, Marle, and Lucca's time travelling quest to save the world from an alien parasite plays well on iOS touch screens, albeit the controls are not perfect. However, the beautiful sprites hold up on the iPhone's display, and the game features the updated translation and additional dungeons created for the DS version. Unfortunately, Square Enix neglected to include the anime cutscenes seen in the PlayStation version, and the game currently doesn't feature widescreen support for iPads. Bummer.
Still, the sheer pedigree of the game combined with how great it looks makes it one of the best JRPGs available on iOS. We can only hope these recent ports serve as proof that Square Enix still has interest in the series, and that one day, Schala willing, we'll see a third Chrono game sooner rather than later.
9. Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition
Released by BioWare in 1998, Baldur's Gate is just about as hardcore as games get. The epic role playing game is based off of the 2nd edition of the Advanced Dungeon's and Dragons rule set, which for the layman means its game mechanics are as complicated as they are deep.
Last December, Overhaul Games remade the 1998 classic as Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS. Updates to visuals, widescreen support, user interfaces, and gameplay were included, making the Enhanced Edition the the definitive version of the game.
Needless to say, a large chunk of the iPad's established user base will find Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition's learning curve to be a bit too steep, but for those who grew up on western RPGs, the iPad edition of the game presents a portable and intuitive way to enjoy a classic.
Selecting doors may cause a bit of trouble for those with chubby fingers, and general movement is much easier with mouse control, but neither of these issues warrant much frustration or break the game. Simply put, Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition harbors upwards of 200 hours of portable gameplay, making it one of the beefiest experiences available on the iPad.
8. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Rockstar has been hard at work porting its Grand Theft Auto games to iPads and iPhones, including GTA III and Chinatown Wars. While both of these games play great on iOS devices, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the latest GTA game ported over to iOS, and it holds out as the best of the three GTA ports for two reasons.
First and foremost, Rockstar learned from porting GTA III to iOS and included the option to customize the on-screen virtual buttons with Vice City. The Grand Theft Auto games feature an abundance of contextual buttons, and naturally this becomes a problem on a touch screen. The ability to move and resize these virtual controls makes Vice City much easier to play on iOS than its ported predecessors.
Second, Vice City is set in a fictional version of 1980s Miami, complete with Hawaiian shirts, bright colors, and classic music straight out of the time period. Furthermore, Ray Liotta voices protagonist Tommy Vercetti as he takes over criminal organizations, Scarface style. It just can't be beat.
Simply put, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is the definitive GTA experience on iOS devices, and holds up as one of the best open-world games available on iOS, despite minor control issues. Next year marks the 10-year anniversary of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so let's hope Rockstar continues the trend and we see an improved port next year.
7. Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions
There are a lot of Final Fantasy spinoff games floating around these days, and some are of questionable quality. Released originally in 1998, that's not the case with Final Fantasy Tactics. Nearly 10 years later, FFT was remade and re-released on the PlayStation Portable with the War of the Lions subtitle, and a few years after that the updated version of the game made its way to iPhones and iPads.
The iPhone version of War of the Lions doesn't hold up well. The text is too small, and certain iPhones—like the 3GS and 4—have a hard time keeping the framerate steady. However, the iPad version of the game runs just fine, and Square Enix recently updated the game by adding smoother graphics, new animations, and iCloud support.
With a plot that George R.R. Martin would appreciate, dozens of job classes, half a hundred hours of gameplay, and a terrific art style, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions is a must buy for iPad owners with a penchant for strategy RPGs.
6. Sonic CD
Originally released in 1993 for the Sega CD, the Genesis' ill-fated CD drive attachment, Sonic the Hedgehog CD was a commercial failure. Not because it was a poor game, but because the Sega CD never caught on with gamers. In fact, manyfans argue Sonic CD rivals Sonic the Hedgehog 2 as the blue blur's all-time best game.
Sonic CD introduced the series to Metal Sonic and time travel. It also introduced Amy Rose, Sonic's first love interest. Because this was well before Sega began to drown fans in spin-off characters, Amy Rose was a welcome addition. What's more, Sonic CD featured multiple endings, and came with a soundtrack that still holds up well today.
Sega ported Sonic CD over to the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube in 2005, which were both well received. In 2011, Sega ported it again to touch based devices and modern consoles. A fast-paced platformer on a touch-screen sounds like a frustrating endeavour; however, the responsive virtual controls quickly made Sonic CD one of the best platformers available for iOS. As a result, Sonic CD proves fast-paced platformers can work and even excel on touch screens.
Take a hint, Nintendo.
Brogue is a little known roguelike created by a man named Brian Walker in 2009. As a roguelike, permadeath, ACSII graphics, and turn-based strategy make it a hardcore experience. However, unlike most roguelikes, Brogue sports an intuitive learning curve and an emphasis on making ASCII graphics gorgeous. Originally, the game was available for PC, Mac, and Linux, and it's available for free here.
Since last March, it's also available on iPad for free. As the @ symbol, Brogue tasks players with traversing a 26 floor dungeon to obtain the Amulet of Yendor—a quest that is much more difficult than it sounds. Along the way, mysterious potions, scrolls, and often cursed weapons will assist the little @ symbol towards its goal. Of course, acid jellies, bloat bats, vampires, and dozens of other surprises stand in the way.
Since Brogue features simple controls and menus, moving through the dungeon warrants little trouble; however, the included virtual movement pad could use better hit detection. Be that as it may, Brogue is a hardcore experience, and the best traditional roguelike on iPad.
4. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
A long, long time ago in 2003, BioWare's take on the Star Wars universe showed just how well the iconic franchise can be handled by someone other than George Lucas. The narrative, comprising of the Sith Lords Revan and Malak, begets memorable twists while introducing some unforgettable characters in true BioWare fashion.
It's a good thing then that the one-time Xbox exclusive made its way to a modern iOS devices last month, allowing first timers another way to experience one of the best Star Wars stories ever told. Even better, the game has transitioned well into purely touch screen controls, in part due to KotOR's pause-and-play combat. For veterans of the series, it's simply a treat to go back in time and see how BioWare handled D&D mechanics and morality before the likes of Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Being able to pause at any time to issue commands while playing makes up for any lost reaction time during Jedi lightsaber battles, and while selecting dialogue options can be a bit clunky, movement around iconic Star Wars planets made the transition well. Really, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic's port leaves little to be desired.
3. The World Ends With You: Solo Remix
What? Another Square Enix game on this list? Don't be so surprised! Square Enix appears committed to porting applicable games to iOS, and for the most part the Final Fantasy developer is doing a wonderful job of it. The World Ends With You: Solo Remix continues this trend. In fact, the iOS version of TWEWY adapts to the iOS platform and comes out more accessible than its Nintendo DS originator. As a result, it's Square Enix's best iOS port to date.
Set in Shibuya, Japan, TWEWY is nothing if not unique. The gamestars an angsty Japanese youth named Neko who wakes up dead in an alternate reality, and has to play “the Game” to return to the real world. Of course, this is all set to some stellar J-Pop music and a backdrop inspired by graffiti culture. Again, the game is like nothing else out there.
However, it's the touch screen controls that make TWEWY a great iOS game. Originally on the DS, TWEWY makes use of two characters at a time on both the top and bottom screens. On iOS, the combat has been modified to be on a single screen. This allows the combat to be much more accessible to newcomers while also maintaining the frantic strategy of each battle.
That's not all, either. Square Enix also added redrawn sprites for iOS retina displays and a remixed soundtrack. Really, The World Ends With You: Solo Remix is the perfect adaptation of the DS version for both newcomers and veterans alike.
2. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
It's not often we see large, modern games ported over to iOS. This list is filled with older, updated titles of niche games and classics from past generations. XCOM: Enemy Unknown's iOS port breaks this cycle, and serves as proof that iOS ports are getting better. Released last October as a high profile, AAA console and PC game, Enemy Unknown was both commercially and critically successful, and cited as one of the best games released in 2012.
A mere eight months later, Enemy Unknown plays just as well on the iPad as its PC and console counterparts, which was quite the surprise. Sure, entering and exiting buildings may be a bit more difficult, and certain graphical assets are downgraded on the iPad, but neither of these issues take away from the fact that this is a remarkable port of a high profile game.
Take our word for it. XCOM: Enemy Unknown fits on the iPad. Combating an alien threat, repurposing extraterrestrial technology, and managing the panic levels around the world feels like it was made for a portable touch screen.
Not enough can be said about Supergiant Games' Bastion. Thanks to the game's stunning hand-drawn art style, excellent sound track, and unique narration, Bastion holds up as one of the most original, unexpected, and thoughtful games since its release in 2011.
The protagonist, "The Kid," wakes up to find the mysterious Cataclysm destroyed his world and everyone he knew. His adventure—from slaying enemies to falling off a ledge— is narrated by a gravelly voiced man. With a few faithful weapons and a lot of dangerous enemies kicking around, The Kid sets off to set things right again.
None of the other games on this list near the perfection that is Bastion's iOS port. Supergiant Games went the extra mile by developing an intuitive touch based combat system that plays to its strengths but doesn't take away from the game's playability in any way. What's more, those who prefer traditional controls can switch to virtual buttons and play the game much the same way they would on an Xbox 360 controller at any time. Throw in some retina display, and the game looks better than it ever has.
Bastion's due to receive a spiritual successor, titled Transistor, in 2014, and it looks to be just as beautiful as Bastion. Here's hoping Supergiant Games takes the time to port Transistor over to iOS devices in the future.