Whether you use your iPad as a portable workhorse or as a creative tool, you aren’t taking full advantage of your tablet until you start gaming on it.
With a beautiful, expansive screen and a huge selection of games available in the App Store, there’s never a shortage of new titles to try on your iPad. These games are best on the iPad because they shine on the Liquid Retina screen, they creatively employ the mobility of the device, or simply because they’re downright great games.
Remember the early iPad days, when a quick game of Temple Run or slicing kiwis in Fruit Ninja was enough to forget about life’s dramas? Let’s go back there, friends, with some of the best games to play on your iPad and iPad Pro.
Make space on your iPad because this iconic game is both impossible to ignore and extremely space-intensive. But it’s well worth the 20 GB of storage needed for Genshin Impact because the cult open-world RPG will likely become your favorite iPad game. You’ll hardly ever run out of new things to explore in Genshin Impact, like the rowdy carousel of manga-style characters or the beautiful world filled with inventive enemies. The best part? It’s completely free to play, and players report that you don’t have to spend anything to enjoy the best the game has to offer.
If you want to relax and grow food while juggling the normal anxieties of normal life — dating, fulfilling the wishes of your late grandfather, running a farm, making sure you pet your chickens every day — Stardew Valley is the game for you. The tap controls work great on iPad, with the added bonus of a bigger screen so you can peek at all the cute details in this iconic indie game.
It’s like Mafia, but online. What’s not to love? Among Us made us feel like we were among anyone but ourselves during the height of the pandemic. It’s maintained its popularity in the months since because of its fast-paced, social environment that sort of makes you feel like you’re playing a game with all the big kids in the neighborhood after dark.
We’re probably supposed to put something about your children loving their Minecraft creations more than they love you, but we won’t do that, because you already know. But the question is, have you tried Minecraft? This game is beloved not just by little ones — it’s actually an incredibly advanced open world survival game that you can explore literally forever. The colors are practically made to be enjoyed on a big, beautiful screen, and you’ll enjoy using the touch controls on your iPad if you don’t have a PC to play this with. Alternatively, hooking up a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to your iPad may make your Minecraft experience even better.
It’s essentially a crime to play Alto’s Odyssey on a screen smaller than your iPad screen, even if you’re working with an iPad Mini. This endless downhill platformer has been at the top of every mobile game chart since its release in 2018, and it’s possibly the prettiest game on the App Store today. With a calming color palette and a slew of engaging levels that both excite you and chill you out, you won’t want to put your iPad down once you start skiing in Alto’s Odyssey.
If turn-based strategy games are your bag, Civ VI is perhaps the best one you’ll find on iPad. This game is free to play, but it won’t belong before you’re dropping real cash so you can play past the first 60 turns. Keep your civilization alive and prospering for as long as possible as you stand up to the trials of a growing society — deities determined to make life on Earth harder, for instance.
Even though Monument Valley was released all the way back in 2014, it still stands the test of time even eight years later. This isometric puzzle platformer is befuddling, addictive, and filled with visuals that’ll make you so glad you splurged on that Liquid Retina screen. I can’t promise that this one will be relaxing, since the levels are increasingly challenging and visually confounding, but I can promise that it’ll be the first thing you open on your iPad every time for at least a few weeks after you buy it.
The Gardens Between
Similar to Monument Valley, The Gardens Between uses isometry to create puzzles that will light up parts of your brain you haven’t used in eons. This nostalgic puzzle game tells the story of two childhood friends forced apart when one moves away. It plays off of backyard imagination and a kid’s conception of time to stretch core memories into fascinating puzzles that can only be solved when you let time move forward. Yes, it will make you cry.
If you want to learn something while you play a unique and fascinating game with adorable animation, check out Dot’s Home. This game uses real-life experiences of Black Americans who have been (and still are) disenfranchised through housing discrimination to fill out a heartwrenching story of a time-traveling activist. As Dot discovers the tough decisions her family has made to ensure adequate housing over the decades, she’s exposed to the (based on reality) ways her parents and grandparents were taken advantage of by landlords, developers, and gentrifiers.
Speaking of time travel, Oxenfree is one of the best time travel games out there today and it really shines on iPad. Touch controls are best for this game since you move around the platformer by clicking where you want to go. I loved playing Oxenfree, which follows a mourning teen as she visits her late brother’s favorite spooky island with a group of friends, on my Nintendo Switch, but touch controls would’ve made the experience even better. Plus, you can keep diving into the time warp over and over again until you’ve experienced all the outcomes of this heartbreaking game.
Donut County is satisfying, addictive to no end, and extremely cute. What more could you ask for from an iPad game? With extra space to appreciate all the details in this puzzle-ish game, the iPad takes Donut County from cutesy download to fascinating feat of programming. Drag your hole in the ground around to absorb the items around you, making your hole bigger and more destructive with each item you take.
Dungeons of Dreadrock
Dive into Dungeons of Dreadrock, a nostalgic dungeon crawler that takes place beneath a snowy mountain filled with enemies and puzzles. This 16-bit game evokes old Zelda games, both in aesthetics and in how masterfully difficult the puzzles are. With 100 relatively short levels to pass, Dungeons of Dreadrock is perfect for gaming on your iPad.
Zoë Hannah is a freelance video games, mental health, and e-commerce journalist. You can find her reviews, essays, and reporting in publications like WIRED, IGN, Insider, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a spooky video game or an immersive novel. Find her on Twitter @zoehhannah or browse her clips at zoehhannah.com.