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20 Killer iPhone Game Designs

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It’s no secret that beauty does not equal popularity in the App Store, but with competition tightening developers are no longer turning a blind eye to design. The heavies in game development have already dialed in the importance of a well-designed interface and their rankings in the App Store prove this point.

20 Killer iPhone Game Designs

This list shines the spotlight on some indie developers who you might not find in the top 20, but are shining bright in a sea of Krapps. Here’s a roundup of 20 of the best-designed action games from indie developers in the App Store.

Build a Robot

Build a Robot

With Build a Robot you have a chance to play artist with some terrific robot illustrations.

Bacteria Bash

Bacteria Bash

Bold and folky – this game takes a successful stab at hand-drawn graphics.

Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs

Fantastic animated graphics throughout and sound effects/soundtrack quality to match! The crisply illustrated graphics are major eye candy.

Turkey Hunter 3D

Turkey Hunter 3D

Turkey Hunter is a well-illustrated shoot-em-up that makes good use of the accelerometer for reloading your shotgun.

Parachute Panic

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=309620054&mt=8

Incredibly well executed hand-drawn application. The entire application plays off the pen and notepad theme with pencil to paper sound effects to boot. Watching your men getting eaten by a shark is especially fun.

Sheep Abduction

Sheep Abduction

Enjoy smooth 3D graphics and try catching these pesky sheep!

Brave Man

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=305092894&mt=8

What’s different about Brave Man from other pixel-graphic games is the designers over at Poppy used the pixel theme throughout, creating a consistent user experience. They also threw in some retro-arcade sounds to build on the old arcade look and feel. Conceptually the game is simple (you play until a finger is chopped off), and a lot of fun!

iBomber

iBomber

This game will have you through the instructions and blowing stuff up within seconds. You’ll feel like a badass Colonel with the well-chosen music and mission objectives.

Edimon

Edimon

Beautiful layered imagery make for incredible animations and fun gameplay.

Chase the Dot

Chase the Dot

There had to be one app on this list to win the "too good not to mention" award. This game is designed well in its simplicity.

Hotdog Panic

Hotdog Panic

Hotdogs can cause a panic – don’t give this dude mustard on his dog! Don’t miss this silly pixel-art creation.

ToMaCow

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=317038135&mt=8

Funky, chunky lettering and characters made even the "loading" screen fun to watch. Every screen illustrated to a T.

Sticky Licky

Sticky Licky

This hand-painted effect is unusual for the App Store and meshed well with the swamp locale and Creole music. Watch out the bees are not edible.

Greedy Bunny Bloodbath

Greedy Bunny Bloodbath

This app will have you laughing and happy with its crisp illustrations and animations. Let the acorns continue to hit the bunny on the head until his head pops off. Now that’s worth 99¢!

Music Pop

Music Pop

Pixar-esque graphics are fun to watch even when you’re losing terribly!

Ms. Chuck the Ball

Ms. Chuck the Ball

Fresh illustrations with a Pac-Man-type agenda.

Killer Whale

Killer Whale

The object of Killer Whale is illustrated well in its graphics: to eat up smaller fish and become bigger. The characters and even the logo "Killer Whale" have a fat, blown up look. Killer Whale is a fun game that’s easy on the eyes.

Monsternauts

Monsternauts

This hand-drawn look has a funky, retro color set and music to match. You’ll enjoy the outer space tunage as you drag your dancing monster to planet safety.

Bunny Breeder

Bunny Breeder

Beautifully illustrated, layout of screens and navigation is intuitive and simple to understand. I actually enjoyed looking through the "how to play" screens. Hilarious animations and sound effects when the bunnies are "breeding".

Digital Assassin 2: Sniper Reload

http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=324063868&mt=8

Nicely rendered 3D action.

How was this research conducted?

Hours of eye-crossing through pages and pages and pages of App Store games.

Criteria:

  1. Eye-catching iPhone icon
  2. Screenshots scanned for:
    • artfully crafted graphics
    • uniqueness (do they look like every other pixel-ly 3D war game?)
    • fun gameplay
  3. Reviews are 3-star or higher
  4. Last step is to actually download the game and play it!

Summing Up

All is not lost. Design is improving in the App Store.

Your Thoughts?

What killer app designs have you found in the Games category? Feel free to share more of your favorite apps in the comments and tell us why you think the design rocks!

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About the Author

Jen Gordon is the founder and Creative Director of Atlanta-based iPhone app design studio Clever Twist. Jen is passionate about design, iPhone, her family and straight talk. You can follow her on Twitter or on her blog.

This was published on Aug 11, 2009

16 Comments

Soner Gönül Aug 11 2009

They are great Jen!

Thanks!

Chris Aug 11 2009

FlightControl is a simple yet addictive game which is beautifully designed in my opinion.

Ryan Hamilton Aug 11 2009

@Chris – Indeed, Flight Control treats the eyes well. ;)

After scanning the list, I just had to check out iBomber, and it is quite a fun game. Thanks!

hazzard Aug 11 2009

One of the neat designs I’ve seen is Board@Work – nice use of an office theme and pretty creative graphics with the marker board. Good gameplay too in the crowded match 3 genre.

Wow, I cannot imagine the time it took to rifle through all those apps and come up with a short list. Very helpful info for those of us looking for design ideas, inspiration, or simply a new game to play!

I guess it’s not under the radar, but I got addicted to Paper Toss for a couple of weeks.

I love popper! It is very entertaining and I like the variety of games with each level. I just can’t get off level 10!!!

Koh Jing Yu Aug 12 2009

Hi Jen,
Thanks a lot for writing about Bacteria Bash.
I appreciate it a lot. :)

More well designed apps are coming, one in development already! :D

Great list but… you missed MouthOff, simple, fun and well designed http://tinyurl.com/b25w5b

I might have had a little to do with it :)

I like pixwar, Archon, Sorceror 1 & 2, and Dark Nova.

I’m largely unimpressed with a lot of games’ replayability.

Games that are built without good controls, without a good game concept … these are more like iPhone novelty items to me.

Design is clearly VERY important — but the CORE GAME CONCEPTS are equally as important.

In some instances, I wonder if the program being offered as a game really is a “game”? Or is it more of a novely item?

Cary Bakker Aug 14 2009

I definitely like FlightControl..

I like the simplicity of Rope’n’Fly – fun yet so, so simple graphically (other than the physics)

Enigmo gets my bid for the coolest casual game I’ve played…

Madison Aug 17 2009

Here’s another game that my friend showed me just last week. It’s an oldie but goodie re-made. They also made the game so the player can unlock more things the more they play. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=302882858&mt=8

Jason Aug 23 2009

Very nice collection of games indeed! I must say that Sticky Licky has a very unique touch to it. Reminds me of the game Braid. 5/5

Raven Sep 23 2009

Very nice collection, I just spotted an app thats due on friday!!! The graphics look so nice and friendly and the webpage is as cool as the game – http://www.peter-und-vlad.com

Mike Berg Dec 28 2009

Check out Face Race, it has a sort of old-fashioned, card game feel to it, but it uses real photos of the players in the game. Fun party game, too: http://weheartgames.com/getfacerace/

Alinka-Malinka Jul 15 2010

Take a look at:
http://agilescreensavers.com/index.php?page=iGames
Very nice game!!

The Mangler Mar 16 2011

Check out Ghost Ninja: Zombie beatdown!4:)

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