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Stylist's 50 best game apps

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A woman in a crisp white shirt and suit trousers is intently using her phone on the train. She's not checking her email, she's playing Candy Crush Saga.

Games are no longer isolated to geeks, gamers or children. Smartphones have paved the way for hundreds of clever, witty and highly addictive apps, and most of all, games we're not embarrassed to talk about by the water cooler or at dinner. Take the 50 billionth app to be downloaded from iTunes. It was a word game called ‘Say The Same Thing’ created by OK Go, the indie band who danced on treadmills in a music video. Even Ellen DeGeneres has launched an app for the charades-like game she plays with guests on her show.

We've worked our way through iPhone and Android apps and shortlisted the very best games you should download. From blockbusters like Cut The Rope, to technological groundbreakers like The Room to beautifully whimsical puzzles like Incoboto Mini, there's a game app for every mood and time-span right here...

Words: Sejal Kapadia, Main image: Icon Pop Quiz

  • World of Goo

    £1.99, iTunes, Google Play

    "It puts Angry Birds to shame", "Four hundred million gallons of imagination", "It made me a more complete person". This is what has been said about World of Goo, a game where you drag and drop living, squirming, talking, globs of goo to build structures, bridges, cannonballs, zeppelins, and giant tongues. Each level introduces strange and oddly beautiful puzzles.

  • Little Things Forever

    £1.99, iTunes, Google Play

    Find objects in this Where's Wally? style puzzle, where you search colourful patchwork images built from hundreds of little things.

  • Beat Hazard Ultra

    £2.99, iTunes, Google Play

    A spaceship shooting game that not only plays your iTunes library as a soundtrack, it uses each song to set the pace and length of the game. Intense music will cause you to shoot more and your enemies to grow, while soft music creates a more therapeutic shooting round. We’re going back to shooting to Ed Sheeran's voice as we speak…

  • Icon Pop Quiz

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    The best quiz app around. Name famous people, hit films, TV shows and characters represented as illustrated icons. We discovered this app on Christmas Day and keep coming back.

  • Candy Crush Saga

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    “I’m obsessed with Candy Crush and I’ve never, EVER been into any kind of game apps or games,” says Acting Beauty Editor Samantha Flowers. As you score points by matching ‘candies’ you progress on a map through ‘Candy Town’. It’s deliciously colourful, simple to play and likely to be the blockbuster game of this year.

  • Dream of Pixels

    £1.99, iTunes

    Dream of Pixels has taken the Tetris concept and literally turned it upside down. It has adorned it with whimsical graphic design and soothing music, making it the most dream-like version of Tetris you'll ever play. A real beauty.

  • Cut The Rope

    69p, iTunes, Google Play

    There’s a cardboard box on your virtual front doorstep labelled ‘feed with candy’. A pair of eyes blink through a small hole and your love story begins. Soon enough, you’ll be slicing ropes incessantly with your fingers to feed the hungry little frog aptly named Om Nom. 300 million downloads don't lie.

  • Angry Birds

    69p, iTunes, Google Play

    The gaming world changed in December 2009 when Angry Birds joined the app store. It has since been downloaded 2billion times on smartphones and tablets and turned into a successful franchise including Angry Birds Star Wars and Angry Birds Rio. No matter which you play, you’ll want to hurl a bird at greedy pigs over and over again.

  • Beach Buggy Blitz

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Race a hot-rod beach buggy on what seems to be an infinite tropical island. The scenery looks as good as the game plays. And a beach beats any race track.

  • Draw Something

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Draw Something is a brilliant digital version of Pictionary, where you and a friend can play at your own pace, in your own time. You might find yourself squeezing in a doodle between meetings.

  • Granny Smith

    1.49, iTunes, Google Play

    The makers of this game have been described as the Pixar of the mobile gaming scene, with a string of hit apps. Help Granny Smith get her apples back in this adorable and surprisingly fast-paced game.

  • 4 Pics 1 Word

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Guess the word illustrated by four different pictures. There are no complicated rules and it doesn't require registration. It's just a satisfyingly simple word puzzle.

  • Doodle Jump

    69p, iTunes, Google Play

    Help a little green creature jump across graph paper by moving from one platform to the next. Not only has it won the hearts of tech journalists with its simple aesthetic – doodles on a graph paper – your addiction might verge on obsession.

  • The Room

    £1.49, Google Play

    The Room Pocket, Free, iTunes

    The Room is nothing short of an app phenomenon. The critically acclaimed game boasts the most natural looking visuals ever seen on a mobile device. Without giving the mystery away, it's an intriguing story paired with challenging yet doable puzzles, that'll be over far too quickly.

  • Dumb Ways To Die

    Free, iTunes

    It all started with a campaign to promote safety on Melbourne's Metro Trains. One award-winning, viral video later – where animated characters demonstrate 'dumb ways to die', from poking a stick at a grizzly bear to standing on the edge of a train station platform – and you have the coolest game app around. The lives of those adorably dumb characters are in your hands...

  • Edge

    £1.99, iTunes, Google Play

    Edge has been praised for its slick, modern design, so you won’t be embarrassed to play this on your commute. Push a colour-changing cube through an uneven, precarious and often moving platform without falling into the dark abyss.

  • Royal Revolt!

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Anna Fielding, editor of Stylist.co.uk, is currently hooked on Royal Revolt! When a Prince returns from Bogmarts boarding school with a B.A. in Petty Magic, he learns his father has died and his greedy relatives have usurped the kingdom. So he's forced to resort to old-fashioned fighting... a lot of sword-swishing against a fairy tale backdrop.

  • Dots: A Game About Connecting

    Free, iTunes

    You're given 60 seconds to draw lines through and clear as many matching coloured dots as possible. It's incredibly simple and we were immediately hooked on it.

  • Devil’s Attorney

    £1.99, iTunes, Google Play

    In Devil's Attorney, you're Max McMann, an 1980s defence attorney who is high on charm but low on moral fiber. Your objective is to free all of your clients and use the money you earn to buy accessories and new furniture for your apartment; boosting your ego and unlocking new courtroom skills in the process.

  • Fruit Ninja

    69p, iTunes, Google Play

    Use karate skills to squash, slice and splatter fruit. It's carnage but so so satisfying. This one's also a favourite of David Cameron.

  • Funky Smugglers

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Enjoy a funky 70s-style soundtrack while keeping the airport safe from hammers, scissors, and other illegal goods in this groovy arcade game.

  • 8 Ball Pool

    69p, iTunes, Google Play

    8 Ball Pool has thousands of dedicated followers who play with friends via Facebook or match up with random users. Each player gets 30 seconds to set up and complete a shot. But don't let that discourage you; it's easier than aiming a real cue stick.

  • Nun attack

    99p, iTunes, Google Play

    This fun app follows a group of vigilante nuns who fight the evils in the world, such as zombies, skeletons and werewolves, with guns and attitude. Light humour meets feisty girl power.

  • Incoboto Mini

    £1.49, iTunes

    When The Corporation causes all the suns to go out, a small boy named Inco and his strange friend, Helios, go on a galaxy-spanning quest to light the skies once more. Incoboto is a rare and touching experience unlike any other app with its sombre soundtrack, unique mechanics, charming writing and artwork.

  • Temple Run

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    You know that moment when the hero in a film finally gets his hands on the treasure and you scream ‘RUN!’ This is it. You control when you turn, jump and slide as you race your way down ancient temple walls and steep cliffs. A real thrill ride.

  • Lane Splitter

    69p, iTunes, Google Play

    If you've ever fantasised about being Trinity from the Matrix this is your fix. Swerve past and squeeze through ever changing traffic at high speeds by tilting your device left and right.

  • Megapolis

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Build your very own city by managing everything from the finances to the design and infrastructure. It gives you the same kick as managing a business, without the stresses of uncooperative clients and deals falling through. Even if the most gorgeous and successful city sits in your pocket, it'll still have your name on it.

  • My Horse

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Live the dream of owning and looking after a realistic horse by grooming, feeding and treating it. When you’re ready, there are eight different breeds to collect and look after.

  • The Great Brain Experiment

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Are you faster or more attentive than other people? Can you remember more or make better choices? Be part of a unique scientific experiment by playing this quirky app. In the background, a group of Neuroscientists at University College London compile and analyse the data, to answer questions like ‘What makes me happy?’

  • Osmos HD

    £1.99, Google Play

    Winner of multiple Game of the Year awards, Osmos is a fascinating, physics-based game on Android. As a blue glowing mote, your goal is to absorb safe smaller particles in order to grow. We were mesmerised by the hypnotic graphics and ambient soundtrack. It's one of the most serene phone games out there.

  • Zombies, Run!

    £2.49, iTunes, Google Play

    Zombies, Run! turns exercise into a rather scary game. A tale of zombies, co-created by novelist Naomi Alderman, is delivered straight to your headphones through voice recordings, instructions and sounds. The guttural breath and rattling groan of zombies are soon everywhere. There’s only one thing you can do: run.

  • Pocket Plane

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    If a holiday starts at the airport for you, you'll love this app. Manage, grow and customise your own fleet of planes as they fly interesting people and cargo to over 250 cities around the map.

  • Say The Same Thing

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Created by American idie band OK Go, Say the Same Thing is the word game where you and a friend can only win together. You each start by entering a random word and then guessing a word that connects those two words. Repeat with each new pair of words until you finally say the same thing.

  • Rayman Jungle Run

    £1.99, iTunes, Google Play

    Rayman Jungle Run is becoming a classic after being voted in the 'App Store Best of 2012'. Help Rayman run through the jungle by dodging cannon balls, jumping through falling rocks in the Pirate Ship section and escaping a giant “flower” that doesn’t smell too good – all new features.

  • Splice

    £2, Google Play

    One of the most challenging and stimulating puzzle apps. Splice is an experimental and artistic game set in a microbial world. Every level ("strand") consists of a number of cells you need to rearrange into a target structure in several moves ("splices"). First though, you need to work out how the little cells react to each other and predict the sequence of splices you'll make. If you successfully solve a strand, you'll be left with a very heady sense of accomplishment!

  • Sprinkle

    £1.49, iTunes, Google Play

    Adjust the height and angle of a water cannon to fight fires, move obstacles, spin wheels and activate traps. Though it might be in the same vein as Angry Birds, this award-winning game has distinguished its own identity in the app world.

  • The Walking Dead

    Free, iTunes

    The Walking Dead is an award-winning 5-part game series inspired by the a comic book of the same name. Each gamer has a unique experience as they shape the choices and actions made in this fast-paced narrative.

  • Unblock Me Free

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    This is the best 'block remover' game around. Solve the puzzle by sliding blocks of wood to get the special red piece out. That's it. No extra frills or flashy gimmicks, but you're guaranteed hours of low-energy fun.

  • Words With Friends Free

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Words With Friends is social gaming at its finest. It's a Scrabble-like word game you can play with one of your friends on the go.

  • To the City of the Clouds

    £1.49, iTunes, Google Play

    An interactive adventure novel where your choices determine how the story pans out. The game is entirely text-based - without graphics or sound effects - but it's powered by your imagination.

  • Fairway Solitaire

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    More than just a Solitaire game, Fairway Solitaire follows a hilariously sarcastic gopher's desire to put all golfers in their place. Thus you have an odd-but-genius mix of solitaire and golf. Better than your usual deck of cards.

  • Heads Up!

    69p, iTunes

    Heads Up! is a fun charades-style game which Ellen DeGeneres plays on her show. Hold the phone to your head, let your friend describe the word that's appeared on it, and guess the word before the timer runs out. Words can be anything from celebrity names to accents, which is what makes this game so fun.

  • Eufloria

    £2.99, iTunes

    Gorgeous graphics and pin-sharp detail has made this space exploration and plant growth game a winner. You start with a colony of seedlings - they're like your soldiers - on an asteroid. The goal is to colonise other asteroids by sending your seedlings to them. But when enemies lurk up you have to send your seedlings to attack, albeit in the most calm way imaginable.

  • Table Top Racing

    £1.49, iTunes

    Feel like a Borrower as you race across incredibly-detailed table tops with giant obstacles.

  • Fall Down!

    Simply tilt your device to make a ball descend as fast as you can before it gets squashed at the top. It's a rapid game ideal for killing a few spare minutes.

  • Touch Hockey: FS5 (free)

    Free, iTunes

    A much-loved arcade game in your pocket.

  • The Simpsons: Tapped Out

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    It seems a lot of people have lost a lot of hours to this city building game, created by the writers of The Simpsons. The goal is to rebuild Springfield after Homer accidently wiped it out. Plus, there's entertaining commentary from the characters along the way.

  • Subway Surfers

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Normally we wouldn't promote graffiti and trespassing, but Subway Surfers is set in Miami - such crimes are rooted in its history - and the game is so much fun. Your goal is to help Jake escape from the grumpy Inspector as fast as you can, whilst collecting coins and dodging trains. And believe us, it moves fast.

  • Puzzle Retreat

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    It's hard to find genuinely unique puzzles in app stores, but this is an exception. Follow two simple rules: fill the grid and use all ice blocks to fill it. With no time limits or the requirement of points, it's just you and the puzzle.

  • Despicable Me: Minion Rush

    Free, iTunes, Google Play

    Just as entertaining as the films. Jump, fly, dodge obstacles, collect bananas, and play along with those hilarious minions who react to your response, even if you're still.

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