The App Store has been around for almost 14 years now, and during that time, we must have seen over a million games come and go and stay and expand. But only a tiny fraction of those games have become blockbuster sensations because of the mighty App Store's reach on iPhone and iPad, and many of the first big hits are still alive today for you to relive the good ol' days of mobile gaming.
Games didn't seem as repetitive during the first five or so years of the App Store's existence, and there was always a big title that everyone was rushing to play as soon as it came out. The games in the list below all bring back that feeling for me, some dating all the way back to 2008 when the App Store was born.
Some of these games are free, while others cost a little money. However, most of them do have in-app purchases. Some will be available for free if you have an Apple Arcade subscription. Either way — rest assured that you'll be playing a fantastic nostalgic game in no time.
Unfortunately, there are a few apps that I can't mention because they have gotten removed for one reason or another. For example, Flappy Bird was removed from the App Store in February 2014 due to its addictiveness in nature.
Rovio Entertainment unleashed Angry Birds on December 11, 2009, almost a year and a half after Apple created the App Store. The premise was simple: hungry pigs would steal eggs from birds, and those birds would get angry enough to take their eggs back. As the player, you would help the birds out, slingshotting them to destroy the pigs and collect points and stars.
Critics and users alike have praised Angry Birds from the start, and the app became 2010's most popular paid iPhone app in the US App Store, costing $0.99. According to mobile analytics company Sensor Tower, the game was the top app in the US App Store 311 times over its lifespan, with at least an 80-day undefeated run.
Rovia removed the original Angry Birds game from the App Store in 2019, but it did bring it back in 2022 as Rovio Classics: Angry Birds, a remastered version that costs $0.99 just like the original. The classic edition is based on the 2012 version of the game when it had eight episodes with over 390 levels, no in-app purchases, and no advertisements.
Another edition you can play today is Angry Birds Reloaded in Apple Arcade. You must pay for an Apple Arcade subscription at $4.99 a month, subscribe using a free trial, or get it as a part of a package, such as Verizon's 5G Play More and 5G Get More plans.
- Angry Birds 2 (free with in-app purchases)
- Angry Birds Blast (free with in-app purchases)
- Angry Birds Dream Blast (free with in-app purchases)
- Angry Birds Evolution (free with in-app purchases)
- Angry Birds Friends (free with in-app purchases)
- Angry Birds Journey (free with in-app purchases)
- Angry Birds Match 3 (free with in-app purchases)
Officially named Bejeweled 2 on iOS, your goal in the game was very similar to Candy Crush, another popular game we'll get to in a minute. While playing, you would try to combine same-colored jewels to get as many points as possible. Combining four gems or different patterns would let you create power-ups to get more points faster.
PopCap Games originally developed the game, but Electronic Arts purchased the company in July 2011 for $650 million in cash and $100 million in stock, so EA has been developing the game and its variants since then.
Unlike Angry Birds, Bejeweled was available to play on other platforms before the App Store even existed. It started as a browser game in November 2000 and even made it to classic iPod models with click wheels in September 2006. In October 2007, a web app version for Safari on iOS was released.
When it was finally introduced to the App Store in July 2008, it became Bejeweled 2, and it stayed there until September 2015, when EA finally discontinued the game. However, EA released Bejeweled Classic, which was based on the web app Bejeweled 3, in December 2011, and it's still available in the App Store today.
Aside from the classic version, there are two other Bejeweled games on the App Store: Bejeweled Blitz and Bejeweled Stars.
- Bejeweled Stars (free with in-app purchases)
Bloons Tower Defense, or Bloons TD, has been around since 2007 but didn't come to iOS until 2009. Unlike the previous games on this list, it's even still available in the App Store. The goal of Bloons TD is to make sure balloons do not reach the end of the obstacle course. To do that, you need to buy and construct towers with different abilities to pop balloons faster. If you let too many balloons through the finish line, you lose.
Ninja Kiwi has been developing Bloons TD since August 2007. The title started as an Adobe Flash game played over a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple's Safari, Opera, and Netscape Navigator. The game was brought to iOS on September 25, 2009, as Bloons TD 3, where it saw considerable growth in users worldwide. In February 2022, Bloons TD 6+ joined the hundreds of games available on the Apple Arcade. It currently runs on the rather popular Unity Engine.
While we could definitely discuss who made this game famous, I'd argue the App Store pushed this game to its highest popularity. Bloons TD 4 and Bloons TD 5 were in the top 10 paid apps on the App Store. In 2012, it was said that Ninja Kiwi sold over a billion copies of the game.
There are multiple Bloons TD games available in the App Store today. The main entry titles include the original Bloons TD and its successors, Bloons TD 4, 5, 6, and 6+, while the spinoffs are games like Bloons TD Battles.
Candy Crush Saga is similar to the Bejeweled games (see above). Initially created for Facebook, it was made famous by the App Store. The goal of Candy Crush Saga is to match the candies to get three or more in a row. You go through different levels to get the highest points with other things you need to pop.
Candy Crush was originally a portal game available on various websites starting in 2011 before making its way to Facebook as Candy Crush Saga in April 2012. The App Store version became available on November 14, 2012. By April 2017, the game had 2.7 billion downloads and, at its peak, made about $1 million a day, making it one of the highest-grossing games ever reported.
As of this writing, Candy Crush Saga is still the developer's most popular title on the App Store, topping the top free games chart at number 14. A few spinoffs have been made.
Clash of Clans, also known as Clash, started on the App Store in August 2012 and is still available today. The game's goal is to build a clan village and compete against other clans. You can create an army, buildings for resources, defenses, and traps in the village. When you build an army, you can attack computer AI in single-player mode or attack real people's villages.
The game made it into the top five on the App Store between December 2012 and May 2013. Additionally, in 2013, according to Data.ai (previously known as App Annie), the game had the third-highest revenue. According to Sensor Tower, Clash of Clans has been one of the highest-grossing apps. At the time of this writing, it's the 15th top highest-grossing game.
The developer, Supercell, hasn't made another Clash of Clans game. Instead, it has updated the original app and created different but relatively similar games called Clash Royale and Boom Beach.
- Clash of Clans (free with in-app purchases)
Cut the Rope has been around for over a decade. The goal of Cut the Rope is straightforward: cut little strings to collect stars. After you've collected all the stars, you must get the candy to the frog.
Chillingo released the first iteration of the game in October 2010 as part of a series the developer calls "Om Nom Stories." The app hit 600 million downloads by 2015. In 2018, the app hit over a billion downloads.
The original Cut The Rope is still doing well at number 80 on the App Store for puzzle games.
- Cut the Rope: Experiments (free with in-app purchases)
- Cut the Rope: Magic (free with in-app purchases)
- Cut the Rope: Time Travel (free with in-app purchases)
- Cut the Rope: Time Travel GOLD ($0.99 with in-app purchases)
- Cut the Rope GOLD ($0.99 with in-app purchases)
- Cut the Rope for iPhone - Value Pack ($3.99 bundle)
Doodle Jump is one of the longest-running games on the App Store, starting in April 2009. The game's goal is to jump up as far as possible to get the highest point amount. You jump by leaping onto platforms. There are also springs, trampolines, and other items to make you go higher. However, objects like spikes, broken platforms, black holes, and other traps make you lose instantly.
The game started on Windows Phone, iPhone OS, BlackBerry, Android, Java Mobile, Nokia Symbian, and Xbox 360 for the Kinect platform. It became a big hit when the popular TV series "The Big Bang Theory" mentioned the game in an episode. From that episode, some theorized that the game reached one million downloads. In 2010, Lima Sky, the developer, officially announced that the game hit 10 million downloads in the App Store and Play Store for Android.
Doodle Jump is still doing pretty well today and kept up to date. The second iteration is number 52 on the list of adventure games in the App Store. The original paid version of the app is number 146 of the paid games on the App Store. Both apps offer in-app purchases.
Fruit Ninja was released to the public in April 2010 by Halfbrick. Your goal in the game is super simple: slash fruit and stay away from cutting the bombs. You get extra points for slicing multiple fruits at once.
All of the games in the series are still super successful. Currently, the original game and the second iterations are 160th and 175th in the list of free games on the App Store, respectively. Fruit Ninja is also 165th in the App Store's top paid games list. An iteration of the classic game is also featured on the Apple Arcade.
Subway Surfers was released in May 2012 by Sybo Games. Since then, it has grown in popularity, becoming one of the most popular games on the App Store.
Like many of the other games on this list, the overall goal of Subway Surfers is simple: run as far as possible away from a peace officer that is chasing you without running into a train or wall. The game allows you to slide, jump, and move left or right. The secondary objective is to collect coins that will enable you to buy upgrades that help you while you run, such as a hoverboard, score booster, headstart, and more.
In 2017, Subway Surfers became the most installed game. In 2018, it was the second most downloaded game of all time. Subway Surfers is still top-rated, listed as number two of the App Store's top free games.
The game developer has only made one Subway Surfers game, but it has added "World Tour" events and mini-games to make it feel like you're playing a whole new game.
- Subway Surfers (free with in-app purchases)
Next up, we have Temple Run, which has been on the App Store since August 2011. Your goal in the game is very similar to Subway Surfers (see above). Instead of a peace officer, you're running away from a monster out of a temple. However, it's a little more complex. To collect coins and avoid obstacles while running, you tilt your device slightly left and right. You either swipe up to jump over things or swipe down to slide under objects to avoid some objects. The game also will have you turn around corners.
In 2012, it was the top-grossing iOS app despite only 1% of users paying money for the game. By June 2014, the game had over one billion installs by users around the world. The app still has large-scale success, listing as number 59 on the App Store's list of top free games.
One of my favorites of all time, Trivia Crack, developed by Etermax, gained popularity on the App Store in October 2013. The idea behind the game is pretty basic: answer different questions. Within the primary game mode, the questions are sorted into six categories — entertainment, art, sports, history, science, and geography.
Since its introduction, Trivia Crack has been released in 180 countries and hit number one in 125 countries. Additionally, in 2021, it was reported by Business Wire that the game reaches more than 150 million active users annually.
As you can tell by the screenshots below and above, the game hasn't changed much. However, the developer has added different game variations and a PayDay version where you can win real money.
Many other games trended big time on the App Store, but a lot of them became popular on other platforms before being available for iPhone and iPad. Some examples include:
- Among Us!: Among Us! (free with in-app purchases)
- Asphalt: Aphalt 8 Airborne+ (Apple Arcade), Asphalt 9 Legends (free with in-app purchases)
- Call of Duty: Call of Duty Mobile (free with in-app purchases)
- The Elder Scrolls: The Elder Scrolls Blades (free with in-app purchases)
- FarmVille: Farmville 2: Country Escape (free with in-app purchases), FarmVille 2: Tropic Escape (free with in-app purchases), FarmVille 3 – Farm Animals (free with in-app purchases)
- LEGO Star Wars: LEGO Star Wars Castaways (Apple Arcade)
- Madden: Madden NFL 22 Mobile Football (free with in-app purchases)
- Mario Kart: Mario Kart Tour (free with in-app purchases)
- Minesweeper: Minesweeper ~ (free)
- NBA 2K: NBA 2K22 Arcade Edition (Apple Arcade), NBA 2K Mobile Basketball Game (free with in-app purchases)
- Need for Speed: Need for Speed No Limits (free with in-app purchases),
- PAC-MAN: PAC-MAN (free with in-app purchases)
- PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds: PUBG MOBILE (free with in-app purchases)
- Pokemon: Pokemon UNITE (free with in-app purchases), Pokemon GO (free with in-app purchases)
- RollerCoaster Tycoon: RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch (free with in-app purchases)
- Solitare: Solitare (free)
- Star Wars: Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes (free with in-app purchases)
- Tamagotchi: My Tamagotchi Forever (free with in-app purchases)
- Tanks: Pocket Tanks (free with in-app purchases), Pocket Tanks Deluxe ($4.99 with in-app purchases)
- Tetris: Tetris (free with in-app purchases)
- The Oregon Trail: The Oregon Trail (Apple Arcade)
- UNO: UNO! (free with in-app purchases)
- Words with Friends: Words with Friends 2 Word Game (free with in-app purchases), Words With Friends – Word Game (free with in-app purchases), Words With Friends Classic (free with in-app purchases)
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