In the last 12 months, iPhone and iPod touch have gone from interesting mobile gaming devices to leaders of the portable gaming pack. How rapid the ascent has been, how quick the change, how fantastic the games along the way.
2010 will be remembered as the year that iPhone and iPod touch became the perceived centre of gravity for portable gaming.
Not only have the world's most accomplished developers gravitated toward iOS, but Apple has aggressively pushed boundaries with new devices, features, and services.
iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch pushed graphics forward into high-definition territory, and Game Center - for all its many quirks - codified Apple as a true platform-holder to rival Nintendo and Sony.
What has truly transformed iPhone and iPod touch so dramatically in 2010 are the amazing games. From gaming's biggest franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed to casual surprises like Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja, 2010 has been a banner year.
There are too many great games to list them all, but this is certain: these ten titles deserve praise for their commitment to quality, innovation, and pure fun.
Real Racing 2 - Firemint
Without a doubt the best racing game on iPhone and iPod touch, Real Racing 2 establishes a new standard with its superb design and stack of features.
It's the closest thing to a definitive iOS gaming experience, offering astounding visual quality, robust gameplay, and accessibility in one elegant package.
Technically speaking, it's a groundbreaking title with 16-player online races that also provide enormous replay value. Differential vehicle handling ensures that each licensed car feels distinct and damage modelling furthers the game's simulation claim.
What truly impresses about Real Racing 2, though, is that fun hasn't been lost in the spirit of simulation. Career mode is packed with challenging events, online multiplayer is a blast, and there's a slew of tough achievements to unlock via Game Center.
A true benchmark in iPhone and iPod touch gaming, Real Racing 2 is not only one of the best of 2010, but for the devices as a whole.
Buy Real Racing 2 from the App Store - Read the full review
N.O.V.A. 2: Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance - Gameloft
Bar none the best first-person shooter on iPhone and iPod touch to date, N.O.V.A. 2 combines a thrilling single-player campaign with a robust multiplayer experience for one unforgettable game.
Showing naysayers that shooters aren't just possible, but can dish out serious gameplay on iPhone and iPod touch, N.O.V.A. 2 builds on the young series with improved controls, better level design, and multiplayer that far outstrips anything attempted by other developers.
There's nothing that comes close to its phenomenal multiplayer design and it's sure to have you hooked into the new year.
The game wears these improvements on its sleeve, boasting rich, detailed graphics that rival the best on the platform. A clear leap from the first game and an evolution for the genre, N.O.V.A. 2 can't be missed.
Buy N.O.V.A. 2 from the App Store - Read the full review
Infinity Blade - ChAIR/Epic Games
While Infinity Blade amazes with the best graphics of any iPhone and iPod touch game to date, it's the gameplay that has us convinced it's among the top titles of 2010. Long after the glamour of its graphics has subsided, the tactile sword-fighting and simple, yet rewarding role-playing elements will keep you playing.
The game's straightforward approach works - the gesture-based control scheme is accessible and surprisingly challenging, and the role-playing is deep enough to reward you for investing in your character without overwhelming with statistics and ridiculous customisation.
It's this ideal combination of accessibility and depth than makes it one of the year's finest and hopefully a sign of more things to come.
Buy Infinity Blade from the App Store - Read the full review
Sentinel 3: Homeworld - Origin8
An exemplar of tower defence, Sentinel 3: Homeworld has it all: a manageable variety of defences at your disposal, an appropriately challenging level of difficulty, and enormous replay value.
Smartly evolving elements emblematic of the genre rather than trying wild new features or crazy controls, this is tower defence done properly.
Instead of just throwing a bunch of enemies at you and sharply increasing the difficulty, there's an emphasis on tactics: dumping towers is insufficient for victory and learning where to place towers, when to upgrade, and which towers to use is critical.
Overall strategy in how you spend cash and experience earned from completed levels on new units and abilities plays a role too. These role-playing elements together with several modes and superb OpenFeint integration give Sentinel 3 phenomenal replay value and make it one of the most robust games of the year.
Buy Sentinel 3 from the App Store - Read the full review
Chaos Rings - Media.Vision/Square Enix
Square Enix has built a reputation for constructing quality role-playing games and Chaos Rings makes good on that standing with an engaging battle system, in-depth character customisation, and a unique cast of character that come together in a bizarre story.
Running contrary to the fad of old skool 2D role-playing romps, Chaos Rings is proof that not only can full 3D epics be done, but they can be done well.
Tweaks to genre conventions, including turn-based battles and item-based skills, ensure accessibility while the game's original story and structure encourage replay.
Among the best role-playing games on iPhone and iPod touch, it's easily one the year's most notable releases.
Buy Chaos Rings from the App Store - Read the full review
Spider-Man: Total Mayhem - Gameloft
Easily the best third-person action game on iPhone and iPod touch to date, Spider-Man: Total Mayhem excels for one simple reason: slick, super-fast combat.
No other title delivers such satisfying action, such effortless control, such variety. Across the game's action-packed 12 levels, you're swinging through the New York City skyline, pummelling notable villains from the Spidey's universe, climbing skyscrapers, and tangling up goons with web shots.
There's a nice mix of moves that are easy to pull off, which in turn encourages you to vary your attacks and spice things up. It's an ideal quick-hit action romp made all the more authentic thanks to colourful cel-shaded visuals that pop on the screen.
Buy Spider-Man: Total Mayhem from the App Store - Read the full review
Cut the Rope - Zeptolab/Chillingo
A darling game with charm and substantive puzzle play to match, Cut the Rope was the year's breakout hit for good reason - it's fantastically fun.
Guiding a piece of candy to the ravenous Om Nom couldn't possibly be any more enjoyable, each level's tricks and traps providing a nice balance between fun and challenging gameplay.
Variety is among the game's strengths, with dozens of hazards to overcome and helpful items to use from bubbles and sliding pulleys to spikes and hungry spiders.
New levels offered for free via updates makes Cut the Rope the gaming gift that keeps on giving. Zeptolab and Chillingo have created a wonderful game that deserves full recognition among the best of 2010.
Buy Cut the Rope from the App Store - Read the full review
Carcassonne - The Coding Monkeys
By sheer quality of design rather than gameplay invention, Carcassonne earns a place among the year's best iPhone and iPod touch games.
In a year when online multiplayer was a rare feature, Carcassonne far exceeded expectations with its robust network play. Furthermore, it set the benchmark for boardgames with such connected play - most continue to scoff at the notion of online multiplayer as developer The Coding Monkeys continue to lavish this stellar adaptation with new features such as voice chat and push notifications.
More impressive than online multiplayer is its superb design, which perfectly captures the spirit of the physical boardgame. A hallmark game that will influence iPhone and iPod touch boardgame conversions in the years ahead.
Buy Carcassonne from the App Store - Read the full review
Fruit Ninja - Halfbrick
A simple idea polished up into a great quick-hit arcade game, Fruit Ninja is the year's most notable casual game with its straightforward fruit-slicing action.
Simplicity makes it accessible, but the attention to detail and commitment to expanding the game's modes and features set it well apart from other arcade titles.
Slashing bananas, apple, mangoes, strawberries, and other assorted fruits with a finger is easy fun and the wealth of goodies to unlock, achievements to earn, and leaderboards to master send the replay value soaring.
Strong production values also contribute to the game's high quality, securing it a spot as one of the year's best.
Buy Fruit Ninja from the App Store - Read the full review
Dark Nebula, Episode 2 - 1337 Game Design
Among the dozens and dozens of ball-rolling platform games on iPhone and iPod touch, Dark Nebula, Episode 2 surpasses them all with expertly designed levels and spot-on controls.
First and foremost, it nails the controls, proving that the accelerometer can be used to great effect in the hands of a talented game designer. Frustration never creeps in as a result - you're able to effortlessly navigate the varied levels, collecting treasures and confronting a host of challenges from narrow passageways to aggressive enemies.
Dark Nebula, Episode 2 is an example of platform gameplay for iPhone and iPod touch done right, it's finely tuned controls and challenging levels worthy of a place alongside the year's best.
Buy Dark Nebula, Episode 2 from the App Store - Read the full review