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Best iOS Games Of 2021

As one of the most widely-owned pieces of sophisticated computing technology, the iPhone and its iOS family, including the iPad, actually have a much more significant impact on video games than most people may realize. In a 2019 USA Today article, research analyst Michael Pachter explained, "There are 900 million iPhones out there, only around 300 million consoles, so it is clearly the biggest base of gamers."

Despite the ubiquity and power of modern iOS devices, many serious gamers often don't think of their phone as a primary gaming platform, even though big franchises like Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Mario Kart all have been adapted to the system. For instance, pros like Dr Disrespect have doubled down on their distaste for mobile gaming. 

Of course, it can be difficult to make an argument that playing these types of games on a relatively small touchscreen is necessarily easier than on their larger, controller-connected counterparts, even if it may be more convenient. However, those perceptions and challenges have not kept developers from continuing to innovate and deliver satisfying, engaging challenges to iPhone owners. Here are the best iOS games of 2021.

World of Demons

One of the best new games available on iOS devices, World of Demons, comes from PlatinumGames. This Japanese development studio has worked on high-profile properties, including Star Fox and Bayonetta, but is perhaps best known for NieR: Automata. World of Demons capitalizes on the studio's experience with crafting deep, layered worlds to deliver an extensive and rewarding mobile videogame experience.

In World of Demons, players explore a beautiful, cel-shaded world. According to an interview with IGN, the game's art and inhabitants are inspired by Japanese folklore involving an invasion of supernatural creatures. This action RPG tasks players with hunting down, defeating, and then taking control of over 100 different monsters. 

In a glowing review, Digitally Downloaded said, "It is visceral, fast, challenging, dynamic, and offers exquisitely precise action. It is PlatinumGames to a 'T.'" The rest of the critical community seems to agree, making World of Demons one of the best-reviewed games on iOS devices. Anyone looking for a satisfying mobile gaming experience from a veteran studio should head on over to the App Store and snag World of Demons.

Fantasian

Developers' efforts to find the perfect gaming experiences for mobile devices have yielded some exciting and even revolutionary results, including Pokémon Go's socially-augmented VR experience. However, as explained by The VergeFantasian brings innovation to iOS that starts in the real world, with a game composed of scenes that play out over handcrafted dioramas that have been 3D scanned into its virtual world.

Fantasian and its unbelievable dioramas all come from the mind of Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy series, and his development studio, Mistwalker. The game functions as a fairly standard JRPG as far as combat and random encounters go, with a few interesting twists. The most important wrinkle here is the Dimengeon, a tool that allows players to collect random encounters in separate dimensions and face them all at once, rather than entering combat every time an enemy appears in the environment, streamlining gameplay.

In a review of the game, Destructoid's CJ Andriessen said, "I've played a few of the RPGs available on Apple Arcade and I don't think a single one has come close to matching Fantasian's vision and execution." Gamers looking for a deep, immaculately crafted mobile game will find plenty to enjoy in Fantasian, one of the best new iOS games available.

Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins

While developers have made impressive strides in bringing console-style gaming experiences to mobile devices, the nature of playing games on a communication device like a smartphone can also lend itself to alternate approaches. Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins capitalizes on this to deliver an immersive experience in the Doctor Who universe, using "found phone" mechanics. As pointed out by GameSpace, developer Kaigan Games created for Sara is Missing and SIMULACRA.

In Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins, players have just found the missing phone of Larry Nightingale, a key player in the 2007 episode of Doctor Who "Blink," which memorably featured Carey Mulligan. Using that phone, gamers then work their way through texts, emails, phone messages, and images to find clues and help solve puzzles, wrapping up some of the plot threads left unresolved in the original story.

While the licensed nature of Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins and references to an episode that aired over a decade ago make this game particularly appealing to Doctor Who fans, there is plenty to enjoy for anyone. As Finger Guns said in a review, "This is a well built and terrifically executed adventure that is worth the minuscule pennies it's asking for entry."

Dragon Quest Tact

As impressive as gaming on mobile devices has become, there is still an unfortunate trend of taking recognizable licenses and tying them to microtransaction schemes to make a quick buck. At first glance, Dragon Quest Tact, a gacha RPG from Square Enix, seems dangerously close to falling to this trap. Thankfully, according to Gamezebo, "There's a massive game here waiting to be discovered, and if it gets its claws into you, you're going to want to discover all of it."

In Dragon Quest Tact, players create teams of adorable monsters borrowed from the long-running RPG franchise to engage in complex tactical battles that play out over a grid. As Pocket Gamer explains, "Unlike in other gacha games, the matches can't all be won by sheer strength alone." The game even eases up on those gacha rules a bit with a feature called scouting, which allows repeat pulls to help players find high-tier monsters without too much incessant grinding.

While many reviewers caution that Dragon Quest Tact may not be for everyone due to its length, complexity, and gacha structure, there is undoubtedly a rewarding experience waiting for gamers willing to dive in.

Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!

The Crash Bandicoot series has always focused on constant forward movement through essentially linear 3D levels, making it a natural candidate for the endless runner treatment. Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! finally makes that connection in an endless runner that provides an authentic Crash Bandicoot experience that's easy to play on a mobile device.

A review from Gamezebo said, "The controls never let you down, the graphics capture the primary colored jungle silliness perfectly and anyone with a history with Crash will feel a nostalgic tingle when they take a look." Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! takes the franchise's beloved aesthetics and combines them with well-honed mechanics to deliver a satisfying experience.

While the game has generally received praise for its presentation and controls, there is one area that has led to a somewhat mixed response from critics: the difficulty, or lack thereof. Pocket Tactics said, "it's missing that quintessential Crash ingredient: pure, unadulterated, phone-throwing rage." 

Although the skill the game demands may be less than a traditional console outing, gamers looking to spend some time with a fun and playable Crash Bandicoot original on their mobile devices should find what they're looking for in Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!