Top 10 iPhone games of 2010

With 2010 coming to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the greatest games to hit the iOS over the course of the year. I have many more favorites than I’ve listed in this slideshow, but I guess I have to make a cutoff somewhere. In any case, many factors have contributed to the iPhone becoming one of the greatest gaming platforms yet, and I think it will continue to get even better in 2011.

There’s no question that the popularity of the iPhone made game developers see an opportunity to create something special for a new mobile device. As a result, just about every big-name game developer now has something for the iOS. We also get cutting-edge game development; the touch screen challenges game designers to come up with new ways of using gestures, swipes, and taps to control the action on the screen. Even newer technologies like in-app purchases have changed how developers can package games anddownloadable content on the iPhone. All of these things make the iPhone a unique platform for game development, and games in 2010 were leaps and bounds more advanced than those even from 2009.

So without further ado, here is my slideshow (with countdown) for the best iPhone games of 2010. Make sure to comment on this article for games you think should have been on the list or if you just want to talk about your favorites!

10. Archetype

Archetype ($2.99) is a new multiplayer first-person shooter that demonstrates the power of the upgraded graphics on newer iPhones. Both 3GS and iPhone 4 users will be able to play this game. When you launch Archetype for the first time, you’ll need to register a unique screen name to create your account, but that’s it–no e-mail address or extra purchases required. Part of the marketing push for Archetype is that it’s not a “freemium” title; you won’t have to purchase power packs or spend any extra money at all on downloadable content. With Archetype, you pay only once and play as much as you want.

Dual joysticks control movement and firing just like other touch-screen FPS games, and the HUD lets you know where your health and ammo levels are at a glance. You get six weapons and two grenades to choose from that you will find throughout the levels as you play. It comes with only a couple of game types, including a training type of challenge mode and online multiplayer in which you can play five-on-five team death match games. Racking up kills online earns you experience and medals (and is a heck of a lot of fun), but not much else. We hope that later versions include more perks for gaining experience, like special items or outfits, for example, but it’s hard to complain about a game that looks this good and is this much fun.

9. Miner Disturbance

Miner Disturbance (99 cents) is a fun mining game that will immediately remind you of arcade classic Dig Dug, but offers much more. The object of the game is to complete goals as you dig downward into each mine. Some goals will require that you collect a certain number of minerals, whereas others will only require that you’ve dug to a specific depth.

But as you dig your way deeper, you’ll face baddies like moles, bats, and other underground dwellers that you’ll be able to defeat by swinging your pick. As you go farther into the game, you’ll face water-filled caverns forcing you to go up for air, and hot lava that may mean certain death. All this adds up to plenty of variation on the digging mechanic and remains exciting for me even after several days of playing.

Miner Disturbance lets you navigate from mine to mine by tapping on circled locations on the main map or, if you have collected cash rewards, lets you buy better mining equipment at the above-ground store. The controls are a bit tough to get used to at the start (as any touch-screen directional systems tend to be), but quickly become second nature as you dig deeper into the mines

8. Space Miner: Space Ore Bust

Space Miner: Space Ore Bust ($4.99) takes the old arcade classic Asteroids and mixes in some RPG elements and a sense of humor to create a truly entertaining game. Most of your time is spent mining different sectors of open space, using an onscreen joystick to turn and buttons for thrust and fire. By itself, blowing away the asteroids is pretty fun, but there’s much more to Space Miner than a simple arcade shooter. You warp to sectors from your base, a mining facility run by your Uncle Jeb (which offers a store to buy new ships and ship components). You also have an apartment on the station where you can view your stats. Most of the funny storyline plays out through conversations with cartoonlike characters in between missions on the station.

Space Miner: Space Ore Bust has a southern country feel, with banjo music, ships that look vaguely like semi trucks, and dialogue that fits right in with the down-home theme. As you progress, you’ll gain new licenses that let you explore more-difficult sectors as you mine for ore and blow away enemies. Each load of ore adds to your money total, letting you buy new ships and parts to increase gun damage, strengthen your hull, improve your engines, and increase tractor beam strength for easier ore collection.

7. BackBreaker Football 2: Vengeance

Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance ($2.99) is the sequel to Backbreaker Football, a game that put you in the shoes of a football player running and dodging tackles to get to the end zone. Just like the original, beautiful 3D graphics and solid animations give you the feeling of powering your way down the field. But in BackBreaker Football 2: Vengeance, you now have the ability to play on the other side of the ball as a defender who needs to dodge blockers and ultimately tackle the ball carrier. You start off by customizing a player with a few options for jersey number, skin tone, and uniform, but you’ll be able to unlock more uniforms and other goodies as you play the game.

Once on the field, Backbreaker Football 2: Vengeance adds new moves and features to keep the game exciting. In addition to the spin, juke, and sprint moves found in the original, you can now jump over low tackles and objects by tapping on the middle of the screen. You also have a “trucking” move that turns your player into a power runner, bulldozing your way through high tackles and under props on the field.

6. Fruit Ninja

Fruit Ninja is a simple, but well-made game that challenges you to slice and dice fruit as it flies onto your iPhone screen, using a ninja sword. The controls are extremely simple, requiring you to swipe your finger through a flying fruit as you would slice with a ninja sword. There are two game modes: Classic and Zen. In Classic you’re challenged to slice fruit as it flies on screen while avoiding occasional bombs that will end the game immediately or allowing three fruits to drop below the bottom of the screen. In Zen mode you won’t have to worry about bombs or missed slices, but will need to slice as many fruits as possible in 90 seconds. Bonuses are awarded for hitting multiple types of fruit in one slice.

Even with a fairly simple game concept, Fruit Ninja manages to be quite fun in each of the game modes as you try to get your best score. The crisp and colorful graphics make each slice satisfying, leaving the appropriate colored splat as the juices hit the board behind the playing area. Overall, this simple game offers just the right amount of action, bright colors, and challenge to be perfect for both adults and kids.

5. Super QuickHook

Super QuickHook is the sequel to one of my favorite iPhone games of 2009, adding brand-new locations, new obstacles, and more fun and addictive gameplay.

As with Hook Champ, the object of the game is to swing from obstacle to obstacle using a grappling hook you shoot ahead of you by touching the screen to swing through levels. Super QuickHook adds a scrollable level-selection screen with new maps and environments, OpenFeint connectivity for high scores and leaderboards, and a new Endless Mode that challenges you to see how long you can last ahead of an avalanche.

As a big fan of Hook Champ, this was an easy purchase for me, and I think Super QuickHook definitely lives up to the first game. Each level shows scores and times for the developer, giving you a goal to work toward in each environment. You also can race against another online player’s ghost or your own ghost from your previous best time. The game came with 18 levels at launch, including the endless Avalanche level, and many more levels have been added since release.

4. Reckless Racing

Reckless Racing is just plain fun, taking some gameplay ideas from old classic console games like RC Pro-Am, and adding in modern graphics and physics to make a racing game that is a blast to play and looks great on the iPhone 4 Retina Display.

The game delivers on two major counts: graphics and controls. Reckless Racing is absolutely dazzling, with vibrantly colored cars and tracks that are just shy of photorealistic. And you get to choose from five different control schemes–everything from basic left/right-gas/brake buttons to an onscreen steering wheel, to accelerometer steering. We’re partial to the buttons, but we are also enamored with “tank” mode (in which your car just goes flat-out the entire time–all you do is steer).

Whatever control option you choose, you’ll find absolutely perfect arcade physics. Cars skid and slide and screech around corners (in varying amounts depending on whether you’re on gravel or asphalt). If you like drift, you’ll love Reckless Racing.

3. Cut the Rope

Cut the Rope is an inventive, addictive, and extremely polished arcade puzzler, in which you interact with increasingly complex, physics-based puzzles to get a piece of candy into the mouth of a cute monster named Om Nom.

Cut the Rope’s interface starts out simple: you just swipe your finger to cut a rope, which drops an attached piece of candy into Om Nom’s mouth. Soon, you’re cutting multiple ropes (occasionally more than one at a time, using multitouch), trying to maneuver the plummeting piece of candy to pass over stars on its way to Om Nom (between one and three stars, which equates to your score for each level). The game slowly introduces new elements–like candy-lifting bubbles and candy-breaking spikes–that make the timing and precision of your actions more important. Over its 100 levels, Cut the Rope throws even more challenges at you, including sliding anchors, arcing lightning, candy-eating spiders, and more elements that you touch to interact with, such as blowing air cushions and pulleys with hand-cranks. The levels are divided into different unlockable “boxes” (Cardboard, Fabric, Foil, and Gift Boxes; you unlock the fancier boxes by earning stars), but you can play any puzzle within a box once it’s open–so you can skip puzzles that get frustrating, and it’s easy to go back later and try to improve your score on individual puzzles.

Like other super-successful iOS games, Cut the Rope is a perfect storm of gaming: it’s very easy to learn, incredibly addictive, and fun to pick up and play for minutes (or even seconds), and it makes great use of the multitouch interface (there are a couple moments in the game where it’s almost easier to set your device down, so you have enough fingers free for snipping). Cut the Rope has countless thoughtful touches in its interface, sound, and artwork. It’s a must for physics-based puzzle fans, who at the very least should check out Cut the Rope Lite.

2. Infinity Blade

Infinity Blade, Epic’s first game for the iOS, is finally here and just about any gamer will appreciate this melee combat title that’s simple on its surface, but offers plenty of complexity underneath to keep you coming back for more. The graphics are out of this world, easily pushing Infinity Blade to the head of its class for complex graphics on an iOS device. The gameplay is an interesting mix of on-rails movement, cut scenes, and metal-on-metal melee action, all of which work extremely smoothly using touch screen buttons and swipe gestures.

Gameplay in Infinity Blade consists of touching onscreen navigational points to move and battling one enemy at a time as you progress through an enormous castle. There are no joysticks or gamepads to move around with, and you have no freedom to rome the landscape (a dissapointment after the Epic Citadel demo), but the melee battles will quickly make up for your lack of mobility.

Fighting is usually a mix of various dodges and blocks, then an attack move to score a hit on your opponent

1. Real Racing 2

Real Racing 2 ($9.99) is the long awaited sequel to popular driving game, Real Racing ($4.99), and it definitely lives up to all the hype over the past few weeks. I was fortunate enough to get an early copy, so I’ve been putting it through its paces all week, and I’m definitely impressed. Like the original game, Real Racing 2 offers the same sensitive accelerometer steering that feels just right on the iPhone. But there are a lot of new features in this sequel that make it even better than the original.

One of the biggest changes is the ability to drive real-world cars; Firemint managed to get 30 officially licensed cars, and each car sounds and drives like its real-world counterpart. You also can take part in auto-matched 16 player online races, though you’ll want to have a solid connection over Wi-Fi or 3G to be competitive. You also can compete in 8-player local Wi-Fi races for the most seamless multiplayer experience.

The original Real Racing was known for its amazing graphics, and Real Racing 2 is even better with fairly high frame rates and realistic-looking lens flares and reflections as you tear around the track in one of 15 different locations