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Our favorite iPhone games of 2009


The first full year of the App Store is coming to a close, and so let's take a look back at our favorite games of 2009. Note that these aren't best-selling, most important, or even the best games of the year -- we'll leave those lists to other sites. But these are our favorite games -- the games we played this year that we feel stand out as our favorite experiences on the App Store.

The list begins after the read more link below, and be sure to agree, disagree, or share your own favorite games as usual in the comments.

Ramp Champ [iTunes, $1.99]

This one's a no-brainer if you're a regular reader -- not only does Iconfactory's polished skee-ball simulator show up quite often in our posts, but it appears on the TUAW team's Twitter feeds and we've even had lots and lots of score bragging in the site's backchannels. And that's not surprising, when you consider that the excellent graphics, spot-on gameplay, and realistic soundtrack puts you right back in the old carnival arcades without having to deal with the carnies.

Words with Friends [iTunes, $1.99, or a free trial]
Say what you will about us TUAWers, but we do love words and writing them, and when it came down to it, this was definitely one of our favorite games. Featuring smooth and good looking Scrabble-style gameplay, complete with online options and iPhone-specific features like push notifications for ongoing games, there's no better way to lay out some letter tiles and challenge vocabularies with friends (and in the case of our staff, spouses).

Doodle Jump [iTunes, $.99]
An addictively simple platformer with a charming little protagionist and constant free updates? We'll buy that for a dollar.

Canabalt [iTunes, $2.99]
Canabalt is exactly what an iPhone game should be, in that it does a whole lot with as little as possible. It's a post-apocalyptic action game that has you running across rooftops, dodging still-dropping nuclear bombs, and jumping in and out of ruined skyscrapers, all with just one tap control. An amazing soundtrack and easy-to-share Twitter updates seal the deal on this one. Any iPhone developer that can squeeze this much polish and depth into a pick-up-and-play app like this has our money any day.

Sway [iTunes, $4.99]
There have been lots of platformers this year on the iPhone, but very few of them have innovated with the multitouch screen, and none of them have gone out on a limb as far as this one did. Sway has you moving along levels, collecting coins (stars) and saving friends, but it uses the iPhone's accelerometer and multitouch screen to make your character glide along: each side of the screen controls one of your character's hands, and so you have to tap back and forth to grab the surfaces as you go. It's an idea that's simple to learn but tough to master, and it puts a whole new tilt on platformer exploration that only the iPhone can provide.

Zen Bound [iTunes, $1.99, or a free trial]
Zen Bound wasn't a game created for the iPhone, but it found its home there -- the touchscreen is perfect for the slow, swiping gameplay that has you wrapping a rope around variously shaped objects. Like a few other titles on this list, this is a game that came up earlier this year, and it's only had one major update since. But we keep coming back to the slow burn allure of this one: it's a beautiful and sumptuous game that only reveals its genius with extended playtime.

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