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Best free iPhone games of all time

by Phil Hornshaw

Not all iPhone games require you to pay 99 cents or more to download them. So what are the best free games for the iPhone? These selections are worth paying for even though they won’t cost you a dime.

Words with Friends Free

Who would have though that Apple’s iOS platform was the perfect platform for extended games of Scrabble-like board games? Words With Friends Free is exactly that -- a brand of Scrabble that you can play against your friends by taking turns, over the Internet, at your own pace. Each player places a word and submits it to Words With Friends, which vets it to make sure it really is a word, and keeps score. You can play up to 20 games at a time, with as much time as you want between turns -- it’s all up to you. And best of all (yes, better than free), you can play Words With Friends cross-platform, against players on Android phones as well as iPhones or iPads.

Angry Birds Free

Mentioning Angry Birds here feels like paying homage to the king, but the free version of Rovio Mobile’s inescapable and iconic casual bird-flinging masterpiece is actually a really solid game. First off, it features 15 levels that aren’t available in any other version of the game, which is at least something of an incentive to check it out. Secondly, it features the same very solid gameplay mechanics that make the paid version of Angry Birds work so well. Angry Birds Free is ad-supported and not nearly as cool as the full version of the game -- that sometimes gets updates with additional levels -- but it is a free version of Angry Birds that rewards your frugality with unique stages to play through.

Sudoku 2

Anyone who’s given Sudoku a try in the puzzles section of a newspaper knows how addictive it can be. The logic game has a simple premise, yet can be incredibly difficult. You have a grid of 81 squares, and that grid is divided into larger blocks that each contain nine squares. The key to the game is to make each column, row and block contain all numbers 1 through 9 without repeating. Once you understand the rules (for example, when you fill in a blank square with a 6, there can’t be another 6 in the same line either horizontally or vertically), the game becomes interesting as you start to use logic to fill in blank squares and eliminate numbers that could potentially fill them. Sudoku 2 is a beautiful, free way to play Sudoku on your iPhone, and it’s as addictive as it is elegant. The game provides all the features you would get if you were playing with a pen and paper, including the ability to mark squares with hypothetical numbers that could occupy them as you continue to eliminate options. It’s packed full of puzzles of varying difficulties and seems to go on forever.

Unblock Me Free

There are tons of puzzle levels in Unblock Me Free, even though it’s a demo game for its paid counterpart. The premise is simple, even though the game is challenging: in each square level, you have a series of wooden rectangles that are placed together in the grid. One of the pieces is colored, and this one you’re trying to slide off the screen. The blocks can move horizontally or vertically, but only in the direction that they’re smallest side is facing – in other words, you can’t move the blocks sideways. Even the beginner puzzles are a decent challenge. Unblock Me has an addictive nature that will draw you into its free puzzle-solving charms for a good long time.

Hanging With Friends Free

After the hugely successful Words With Friends, Zynga’s new take on the traditional hangman game is another winner. With the same drop-in-and-play vibe as Words, it’s a game that players can dip in to at their own pace. Create words for your opponents and see if they can solve them. There are lifelines and hints available if you get stuck (plus an in-app store where you can buy more coins), but get five words wrong in a game and you’ll lose. This word game doesn’t pack the same strategic punch as Words With Friends, but it’s still fun to pick up and play now and again.

Paper Toss 2.0

The follow up to mega-hit Paper Toss offers even more time-wasting fun for free. The original game was downloaded more than 100 million times, but the sequel takes things to a new level. More than just paper, you get to throw bananas, grenades, tomatoes and more, all in new, improved settings with crisper, cleaner graphics. The game’s dynamics remain similar, but the gameplay has been refreshed and improved to increase replayability. Factor in more power-ups, more people to throw things at, more unlockable items and Game Center leaderboards and Paper Toss 2.0 adds up to a heap of fun.

Fruit Ninja Lite

Here’s a prediction. A few minutes with the free, trial version of Fruit Ninja, and you’ll probably want to fork out the 99 cents for the full experience. Fruit Ninja Lite lets you sample just the classic mode, but omits the excellent arcade, Zen and multiplayer modes avaiable in the paid-for version. Still, what you get for free is a lot of fun: as fruit flies across the screen you must slash it with your finger like a samurai, but watch out for bombs or it’s game over. It’s a dynamic that’s perfectly suited to the iPhone’s touchscreen and furiously addictive.

Six-Guns

There’s an awful lot to explore in Six-Guns, and what’s more, it’s all free. Sure, you can use in-app purchases to speed things up a bit, but developers Gameloft make it clear in their description that you can play through the entire game without spending a dime. Set in an old West environment, Six-Guns is an open-world cowboy adventure with plenty of varied missions to enjoy, usually involving gun-totin' and horseback ridin'. Though the storyline and plot isn’t the greatest, play often and your character will gain access to better weapons and you can hone your cowboy skills no end.

Poker by Zynga

Developer Zynga hit the jackpot with this one — it’s the most popular Texas Hold’em poker game in the App Store and on Facebook with an an estimated 6 million people playing their hands every day. If you’re just a beginner, it’s easy to pick up and learn, but if you’re a more seasoned card shark, there are also plenty of competitive tables available. It’s easy to chat with your fellow players and various tournaments could see you winning thousands of chips to keep you playing that little bit longer.

Amazing Breaker Free

This free, trial version of Amazing Breaker, is an excellent physics-based puzzler with plenty of ice-smashing action. There’s 16 levels to try here, and you’re pretty likely to get hooked and want to upgrade to the full game. With universally positive reviews, this challenging puzzle game sees you blasting ice sculptures with bombs. You need to destroy at least 90 percent of each sculpture to move on, so the trick is to demolish every little fragment of ice, and therein lies the challenge. It’s easy to learn, but hard to master like the best and most addictive games.

Others in this series:

1. Best free iPhone apps of all time

2. Best paid iPhone apps of all time

3. Best paid iPhone games of all time