10 Free to Play iOS Games That Are Actually Worth Playing
Mobile games are in an interesting position right now. The market segment is growing at a massive pace, yet the quality of games has not necessarily kept up. The reason for that, in my opinion, is the horrible Free-to-Play model. Ever since FarmVille found out that people will pay gobs of money to bypass timers, the quality of casual games has been on a steep decline.
Games like Dungeon Keeper or Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes had so much potential, yet were they were turned into steaming piles of crap due to the developers trying to build a slot machine instead of a game actually worth playing. It’s sad, and unfortunately this trend shows no sign of slowing.
Don’t believe me that Free to Play really isn’t? Take a look at the Top Grossing apps in the iOS app store. Out of the Top 100 Grossing Apps, exactly 1 app is a paid app (Minecraft Pocket). 1 out of 100! The other 99 are all “free games”. That should tell you where the money is coming from.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of supporting a developer’s hard work. But I’d rather feel like I’m getting something for my money, instead of buying “buckets of gems” to bypass arbitrary timers. I prefer to support developers who actually try to put out a quality product.
And on that note, there are actually some publishers that do free to play right. Developers that care more about a quality product than designing games to milk the customer for every last dime. So what we have here are 10 free to play games done right. Games that are actually worth downloading and playing. Games that make you want to pay for the game.
10 Free to Play Games That Are Actually Worth Playing
Star Realms/Cthulhu realms
This one recently appeared in our Top 10 iPad Board Game article. Both games are very similar, so go with Star Realms if you want a SciFi theme and Cthulhu Realms if you want a more Lovecraftian feel. These are deck building card games where you are trying to reduce your opponent’s life to zero. The game is free to download with a nice campaign to get you started. A single In-App Purchase (IAP) will not only unlock all game modes (including online multiplayer), but also unlock the full game on every platform it’s offered on (iOS, Android, and Steam).
A Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) that truly showcases the iphone’s graphic power. VainGlory lets players jump in on the action without spending a cent. The game does feature an in-app currency, ICE, but you can still enjoy the game without spending a cent. The ICE is used to unlock heroes and skins (purely cosmetic), but those can also be earned just through normal game play.
A “match 3” type of game. Triple Town has players trying to match up objects in groups of three to form a sort of town. The game is free to play, but once you run out of turns (placing an item is a turn), you have to wait on a timer to place the next one. The thing is, the app starts you off with a GENEROUS amount of turns. You can play for a very long time without having to wait. And to be honest, if you go through your whole bank of starter turns, you should probably pay the $4 to unlock unlimited turns. That’s the nice thing about Triple Town. You don’t have to keep buying “Crystals” to unlock more turns, one purchase and you’re done.
Uncharted: Fortune Hunter
Released to coincide with the PS4 game Uncharted 4: Thieve’s End (see our review here), Uncharted: Fortune Hunter is a puzzle game in the same vein as Hitman Go or Lara Croft Go where you need to find the optimal route to collect the treasure. The game is both fun and free, with the only IAP being very optional stuff that most players will probably never even need.
Most people probably know about Blizzard’s free to play card game. Hearthstone is a game that will be familiar to anyone who has played a collectible card game such as Magic: The Gathering before. Build a deck and try and beat your opponent. You can play without spending money, but if you wish to acquire booster packs of cards quicker, you can buy them.
Does Not Commute
A puzzle game where players are directing traffic through the city. Does Not Commute has some neat mechanics where after you create a route for one car, you then have to create a route for another, but the first car’s route will still play out. Things gets really dicey after you’ve directed a handful of cars through the map. The only IAP unlocks save points during your mission to make beating them somewhat easier.
Developer Bethsheda is well known for their Elder Scrolls and Fallout Games on the PC and consoles. Fallout Shelter is their first foray into mobile gaming. Players are tasked with creating a vault for the dwellers of the wasteland. You’ll be building rooms, repelling invaders, and scouting the wasteland for supplies and weapons. The only IAP comes in the form of lunch boxes, which most players won’t need to buy. You can earn them naturally by doing challenges in the game, but can purchase them if you want them faster. However you can also find most things in the wasteland that you will need, just by exploring.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve probably heard of Pokemon Go. An augmented reality game where players travel to locations around town to hunt for Pokemon. Real world places are turned into “pokestops” that players can go to to refill on items. Other places are gyms where a player can go to battle other player’s Pokemon. Players can purchase items via money in the game, but most probably won’t as you can get almost everything you need at the pokestops. You can also earn coins, the game’s currency, by holding gyms once per day.
Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest
Another “match three” type of game, Magic: The Gathering – Puzzle Quest takes the matching formula and mashes it up with some CCG deck building. The game has two currencies, runes and crystals. The first is used to level up your avatar and the second is used to purchase new planeswalkers or booster packs of cards. The game also gives out free booster packs ever 8 hours and is fairly generous with handing out runes. Most players can enjoy the game for quite a while without ever feeling the need to spend money.
Pathfinder Adventures is card game based off of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game tabletop game. This app was very buggy on its initial release, but has since been patched and updated to be fairly stable. The game is free to download and gives you two heroes to start off with. You can play the first campaign and quest mode as much as you want. Beating either (and monsters in game) will earn you gold that you can use to unlock more heroes or quests. While grinding for gold is very slow, the cost in actual money to unlock all the content is very reasonable, especially considering what it would cost to buy the actual, physical card game.