What do the following iOS apps and games have in common? Well, they all surprised the heck out of us when they were released. That’s saying something, considering we’re all jaded journalists and such.
Apps that come along and knock our socks off are rare, so we’ve put together a list of ten of the most surprising apps from the last five years of the App Store to commemorate that fact, and to maybe show you some cool stuff you might have missed.
These are the apps that came out of left field, making innovative use of iOS hardware and software to bring us a truly unexpected experience.
Hipstamatic – The grandaddy of hipster photo apps, Hipstamatic created the crop and filter genre, with switchable virtual lenses and film types to apply to your ironic images. Word Lens – Aim your iPhone camera at a sign in another language and see it magically transformed right on your device. If this isn’t transformative tech, I don’t know what is. Cycloramic – This one lets you set your iPhone down on a hard surface, then uses the built-in vibration feature to spin around in a circle, taking a 360-degree video of the entire process. Wow! Dark Sky – This innovative weather app does one thing really well: warn you when it’s going to rain. You can even get a 5 minute warning, which is enough to get your umbrella out and stay dry! Star Walk – Astronomy apps have been all the rage, especially since the iPad came out. But this one lets you hold your iOS device up to the sky, and it will show you what stars and other heavenly objects are up there, in real time. Heck, you can even track Santa with it during the holidays.
These games either came out of nowhere and burned themselves into the collective unconscious, or were so bizarrely fun and successful that they had to be mentioned here.
Game Dev Story – We’ve spent entire days in thrall to this cleverly addictive saga of video game development, putting our retro-styled pixel people through their paces to push out the next great hit. Candy Crush Saga – What’s so surprising about a match-three game becoming the top-grossing app in just a few weeks? Well, it’s a match-three game. Tiny Wings – One indie dev, Andreas Illiger, sat down and created this brilliant piece of game design, popularizing the one-touch game genre and garnering a ton of copycat and clone apps in the bargain. Plus, he made a lot of money, which we like to talk about, too. Angry Birds – Did you ever think that flinging birds in a slingshot at pigs in bizarre structures would turn into a global hit, spawning way too many tie-in items, like fishing lures? Us, neither. 10000000 – Small, brutally difficult indie game that became a smash hit overnight. That’s pretty surprising, right?
While games may not be the largest percentage of apps in the App Store (non-games lead the way overwhelmingly), they are the most popular single category, with over 151,000 active games in the App Store as of this month, according to 148Apps.biz.
One could argue, and indeed I will, that games are the most transformative type of app in the App Store, bringing a quality of play to iOS devices previously impossible to achieve. As 148Apps staffers have been heard to proclaim, there are over 1.2 billion thumbs waiting to play games on these crafty little devices.
Of course, there have been landmark games since the App Store went live in 2008, titles that create, extend, and improve on the current state of the art. Here then, are the top 20 of those games, as chosen by your App Experts at 148Apps.
Doodle Jump – This one started the jumping game craze, inspiring a host of clones and imitators along the way. Angry Birds – Need we say more? The grumpy avians have taken over the public consciousness. Tiny Wings – Not just another bird game, Tiny Wings showed us how one mechanic, brilliantly executed, could take an unknown designer to untold heights.
Candy Crush Saga – Good heavens we still get a lot of invites for this casual, money-printing game. Clash of Clans – Say what you will about free to play, but this game has gotten it right. Tiny Tower – Nimblebit hit the jackpot here with a smart combination of tower building and free to play retro gaming.
Temple Run – If anyone deserved to have a huge hit, it’s the folks at Imangi Studios, who have been pushing the boundaries of quality gaming from the beginning. This one created the 3D endless runner genre at a breakneck speed! Puzzles & Dragons – Another free to play darling, this one gets all the elements right to keep players entertained and paying. Where’s My Water? – Disney’s breakout hit, with a new IP (intellectual property) and a fiendishly addictive mechanic.
Pocket God – 47 updates later, still going strong and keeping kids of all ages entertained and laughing. Minecraft Pocket Edition – The surprise PC hit the iPhone like a ton of cube-shaped bricks, letting crafters and miners of all stripe build and explore on the go. Words with Friends – Scrabble with people you know. What’s not to like? This one started the “with friends” genre with a bang. Draw Something – Super successful, super quick, leading Zynga to buy the developer for a landmark price.
Infinity Blade – This game set the bar high for utter gorgeousness and a fighting mechanic that still sees itself in current games on the App Store, some two and a half years later. Canabalt – Heard of the endless runner genre? Canabalt started it all with a one-touch game that exploded onto the scene in 2009 and has remained in the collective imagination ever since. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP – This one proves again and again that the indie spirit can be captured and distributed via mobile, with a game that may never have gotten noticed on the bigger consoles. Galaxy on Fire 2 – This space exploration and dogfighting game set the standard for utter gorgeousness, as well as finding a way to build a space sim on a tiny mobile device.
Spaceteam – Don’t forget to flush the four-stroke plucker! Wait, what? Play this game with a few of your (drinking) friends, and you’ll see what multiplayer party games *should* be like. Real Racing – Still the gold standard for racing games on a mobile platform, the original game hit the starting line in 2011, with sequels upping the ante on visuals, controls, and profitability. Super Hexagon – If you hate yourself, play this brutally difficult yet strangely compelling arcade game and thank indie developer Terry Cavanaugh in the morning.
The Best App Ever Awards have been around ever since ever since the App Store first came into being five years ago. Each year the best of the best have been culled from hundreds (even thousands) of releases. This list represents five years worth of winners, as decided by Best App Ever readers. Five years worth of apps and games that have been chosen above all others due to their all-around awesomeness. Five of the Best Apps Ever.
Here they are.
Shazam (Shazam Entertainment)
A lot of people were pretty excited when the iPhone first came out, and it was apps like Shazam that helped to keep them that way. In a time when smartphones were being scoffed at, being able to hold your phone up to a speaker and have it identify whatever song is currently playing was pretty freaking impressive. It goes so far beyond kitschy stuff like virtual lighters or photo booths. This is an app that serves an incredibly useful purpose; especially for those of us who enjoy finding new music.
2008 was the App Store’s first year, and even then there was no shortage of great apps and games for iOS users to enjoy. The likes of eWallet, Fieldrunners, Facebook, and Rolando were all exemplary nominees. However, in the end they just weren’t able to compete with the ability to identify any song that’s playing on the radio, in a store, or wherever else. It’s simply too handy.
Pocket God (Bolt Creative)
I don’t want to be presumptuous, but Bolt Creative may very well be responsible for creating the current “Feel like something’s missing? Wait for an update!” environment that has overtaken the App Store. With 47 (47!!!) episodes released to date, Pocket God is just might be the most thoroughly supported app in the world. This funky sandbox of wrongness has seen so many tweaks and changes over the years that it provides users with mini-games that cover almost every single popular genre on the App Store.
2009 was very close, but Pocket God managed to take first place over apps like 2Do and Twitter, and some wonderful games like Real Racing and Flight Control. Perhaps it was due to all the diversity inherent in all those episodes, or maybe people just really like torturing small virtual islanders. Whatever the reason, Bolt Creative captured a lot of hearts (and probably zapped them with lightning or tossed them to the sharks) that year.
Angry Birds (Rovio Entertainment Ltd)
Say and think what you will about Angry Birds and its current cultural phenomenon status; it’s still a clever game. Rovio’s little physics puzzler that could took the App Store by storm and has continued to do so with multiple spin-offs. Often duplicated, never replicated, this little bird-chucking game has solidified the genre as something synonymous with mobile gaming. There’s even one version that uses the “Star Wars” license. Honestly, there aren’t many other iOS games that can make that claim, and even fewer that aren’t directly affiliated with Lucasarts one way or another.
2010 saw the inclusion of a number of fantastic iOS games to the awards. Games like Infinity Blade, Real Racing 2, and Solipskier are all wonderful in their own right. That makes it all the more impressive so see them, and second place nominee Pocket Legends get edged out by a game about loading birds into a slingshot. Don’t underestimate the power of simple yet addictive gameplay.
Jetpack Joyride (Halfbrick Studios)
Barry Steakfries wasn’t new to the App Store when Jetpack Joyride was released, but it is the game that cemented his mobile celebrity status. Barry’s hijacking of a jetpack made of machine guns wasn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of gameplay (think a hybrid of endless runners and classic corridor flying games like Copter), but Halfbrick polished the heck out of all the mechanics and absolutely overloaded it with personality. To this day it’s still one of the best examples of “just one more try” games on iOS.
2011 was a great year for iOS gamers. Infinity Blade II, World of Goo, Tiny Tower, Where’s My Water, and a whole lot more all made the list. To see little ol’ Barry with his impossible flying machine sitting above them all is a great indication of just how powerful and compulsive an extremely well-made endless game can be. Especially on a mobile platform.
Walking Dead: The Game (Telltale Games)
Telltale’s adventure games have been a bit hit-and-miss over the years, but pretty much everyone felt The Walking Dead was a major hit. Lee’s tale won over many a stone-hearted gamer, and the iOS release more or less cemented Apple’s mobile devices as viable gaming platforms. Making the tough choices isn’t any easier when it’s on a smaller screen, that’s for sure.
2012 was another great year; with games like Punch Quest and Outwitters, and apps like Clear and Action Movie FX narrowly edged out. It’s a testament to how far the App Store has come to see so many great and diverse offerings listed. And it’s a testament to Telltale Games’ ability to craft an incredible story about equally incredible characters to see Walking Dead: The Game come out on top.
Posted by Andrew Stevens on July 5th, 2013 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
A new update has flown in, adding an all-new episode to Angry Birds. Red’s Mighty Feathers has Red facing waves of Bad Piggies in the new Egg Defender mode, which throws 73 unique Piggie contraptions at players. In the 15 new levels, player’s use Red and his newly acquired magical feathers to attack and stop the advancing pig army. Now go launch yourself into action in the new Egg Defender mode.
A new Angry Birds update is on the way as Rovio posted an image on Twitter, teasing a new level pack that will be released soon, reports Pocket Gamer. The tweet reads, “This just in: Red Bird will have a special power soon. #BeakingNews #NewSquawkTimes #DailyQuail” and comes with the following image.
Angry Birds continues to show its brand in new areas, this time as lures and fishing rods thanks to Finnish manufacturer, Rapala. Now, fishermen can use lures like Rattlin’ Red Bird, DT Fat Bomb Bird, and Skitter Pop Bad Pig, while kids can use beginner Angry Birds style fishing poles and float sets, reports TUAW. Currently, the equipment is only available in Finland and Denmark but will hopefully make it to our shores soon.
Birds will fly through portals in the upcoming Angry Birds Seasons update, scheduled to release next week on May 16th. Pocket Gamer reports that the update, named Abra-Ca-Bacon, will feature 30 new levels with an additional 6 stages for players to unlock. The new stages take full advantage of the portals as players will fling their birds into one end and watch them come flying out from another.
Check out the video below to get an idea of just how awesome this could be. Also, bacon.
When I was growing up, my friends’ parents never really got gaming. Some might have appreciated that their kids loved playing games, and would still buy them the relevant equipment, but they never really understood why it excited us so much. I happened to be part of a, then, very select group. I had parents who figured it out perfectly. My Dad was never any good at playing any games but he enjoyed talking about them because he was forever fascinated by the progression of technology. It was my Mum, however, that turned into a major rival. In the good sense, of course.
As a kid, we would have battles to beat each other’s Tetris scores. We’d compete at games of Columns too, meeting up to work together to progress through Bubble Bobble (we never did beat it).
One of the most important things I believe I’ve ever been given is a set of parents that were constantly supportive and encouraging of what I set out to achieve. That’s continued right up until today.
With my father sadly no longer with us, my relationship with my mother is even stronger than it was before. Having pursued a potentially risky path of freelance writing, she’s always been there fully supportive. Whether it be by accepting that money is a little tight this month, or by making sure I’ve got a sandwich by my side while I struggle to meet a tight deadline. Of course, I do the same for her, but Sunday isn’t about me, it’s about her!
Crucially, she’s quite the solo gamer and tech enthusiast now. In recent years, she spent a few hundred hours playing through Dragon Quest VIII on the Playstation 2. Something that I’m rather proud of telling other gamers. More relevantly for readers of 148apps, perhaps, she’s unlocked and at least two-starred every single level of Angry Birds imaginable, and I don’t mean just standard Angry Birds. I’m talking standard, Space, Star Wars, Seasons and Rio. She’s a machine when it comes to flicking birds towards pigs.
We’ve got the one iPad between us which luckily isn’t too much of an issue, although it never stops either of us flocking to the Apple Store together to gaze at the new specimens. Sure, we both know that the iPad 2 is a very fine device in its own right but that doesn’t stop either of us eyeing up the size of the iPad Mini or pondering just how much faster the iPad 4 might seem. She’s got her own iPhone now too, having been given my “old” iPhone 4. It’s the perfect tool for her to play SpellTower while on the move, her language skills being far superior to mine.
She hasn’t quite delved into the apps world as much yet. She reckons it’s because she’s too busy. I reckon it’s because there’s always “just one more” level of Angry Birds to conquer.
I’m an extremely lucky person to have not only such a supportive mother, but one that is just as excited as me about new technology, gadgets and the wonders of the App Store.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. [And from all of us at 148Apps, too, Jen’s mum! –Ed.]
Posted by Andrew Stevens on May 2nd, 2013 + Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Angry Birds Friends is the new, more social Angry Birds game you may or may not have ben waiting for. The game has you challenging Facebook buddies for the top prize in weekly tournaments that feature new levels every week. Daily rewards are also available along with the ability to send and receive gifts and, of course, brag about how good you are. Your tournament progress on the Facebook game and iOS app will automatically sync so you can play anywhere.
- Challenge your Facebook friends for bronze, silver, and gold trophies!
– Brag, send gifts, and invite your Facebook friends to play!
– Four classic power-ups, plus one exclusive to Angry Birds Friends on mobile!
– Daily rewards!
– Free bird-coins just for completing the tutorial!
Touch Arcade has reported that you can now download Angry Birds Star Wars for free through the Starbucks app. If you already have the Starbucks app downloaded, you can go to the messages tab where you’ll find a list of free music, along with Angry Birds Star Wars. If you don’t have the app, go to this link HERE.
Coffee and video games are a perfect match together! So dreamy.
The new Angry Birds Toons cartoon series premieres this weekend, March 17th, and you can watch it in all Angry Bird apps. Just download an update to your Angry Birds app and get them access on Sunday to a new in-game channel button. Angry Birds Toons will feature 52 episodes allowing us all to enjoy a new cartoon airing at the same time every weekend. Go update your apps and get ready to learn more about the Angry Birds and the Bad Piggies!
Posted by Jeff Scott on March 7th, 2013 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Angry Birds, the biggest selling game of all time with over 1 billion downloads has gone free on the App Store for the first time. On the off chance that you haven’t bought it yet, grab it now for guaranteed fun. Both the iPhone version and the iPad Version are free for a week week as the App Store App of the Week.
Seriously, the folks at Imangi have to be in a state of shock. They’ve just reported that Temple Run 2, the sequel to their hit game, Temple Run, has hit 50 million downloads in just 13 days. That’s a ton more than Angry Birds, which previously held the record as fastest growing mobile game, with 50 million downloads in 35 days.
Congrats to the team at Imangi Studios; we’re super happy for you all.
“Temple Run has evolved into something so much bigger than us,” says Keith Shepherd, co-founder of Imangi. “The game has performed beyond our wildest dreams, and we are thrilled that gamers and fans have embraced Temple Run 2 in such a short period of time.”
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on December 11th, 2012 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
The fact that Angry Birds is now three years old is both stunning and obvious. It doesn’t feel like it could be that long ago the breakout mobile game hit the streets. At the same time, it’s only been three years? Wow.
The update comes with full iPhone 5 support, 30 new levels, cake, and Pink Bird! Grab the update on your favorite iOS device now.
Happy Birdday! Can you believe that Angry Birds is turning three? We sure can’t! Celebrate with 30 NEW LEVELS, birdday cake, and the bubbliest bird ever — Pink Bird! But watch out for the cake — it’s not a lie, but it packs a BIG punch!
Party with 15 new “Birdday Party” levels and some EXPLOSIVELY delicious cake!
Pop pigs in 15 new Bad Piggies -themed levels!
Say hello to Pink Bird!
Full iPhone 5 support!
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on November 29th, 2012 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Angry Birds Star Wars gets a new update today with Episode V: Hoth, now with 20 new levels, Princess Leia pink bird, and AT-ATs. What more could you want? Ok, fine. Have a couple extra bonus levels, too.
It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth. Unfortunately the evil Lord Vader discovers their hideout, and the desperate Rebel birds must escape the AT-ATs and Pigtroopers hot on their trail. But the Rebels have an ace up their sleeve with the debut of PRINCESS LEIA and her attractive new power!
Posted by Jeff Scott on November 8th, 2012 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
In case you missed it last night, Angry Birds Star Wars (iPhone $0.99), (iPad $2.99) was released at midnight. Carter gave it 4 stars and noted “Angry Birds Star Wars may not come from a galaxy far, far away, but it does add some interesting new variations on the famous gameplay, along with plenty of Star Wars references.”
Rovio has also released this killer cinematic trailer for the game.
Posted by Rob LeFebvre on October 12th, 2012 iPad Only App - Designed for iPad
Those Bad Piggies are at it again, this time with a pan-load full of delicious egg recipes. It’s like they’re rubbing it in those Angry Birds’ faces. So rude. I bet the Piggies are just laughing.
– 41 delicious egg recipes
– Animated illustrations that brings the birds and pigs to life
– Step-by-step photo instructions
– Funny and surprising photos of the finished recipes (those piggies are at it again!)
– Social media integration and built-in album to share photos of your creations
– Real egg timer built into the app
– Full index for quick and easy access to your favorite recipes
– Easy virtual bookmarks for your favorite recipes
– Option to switch between metric and imperial units
Angry Birds have created a new Tumblr page to announce some sort of a Star Wars tie in. Could be a Star Wars level in Angry Birds: Space or could be a while new game. We will hopefully find out on October 8th, when the announcement is scheduled to go up.
Posted by Jeff Scott on September 27th, 2012 iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Can games, like television shows, have spin-offs? I guess so. Bad Piggies from Rovio is now available for both iPhone / iPod touch and iPad. It’s a physics puzzle game, similar to a mash up of Angry Birds and Amazing Alex. We’ll have a full review up soon. Until then, here’s a gameplay preview: