Here are the apps plus one accessory that I use most often during my down time. I can't guarantee they are best in their class, but I can strongly recommend each one.
Entertain your children, stimulate their development, and give them an alternative to the mindless distraction of TV
My three-year-old, Emily, is smitten with "Daddy's favorite toy." After a timid start, she's quickly mastered the swiping, tilting, and tapping of my 2nd Gen iPod touch. Like any child, she loves playing games, and we've downloaded a number of apps that entertain her, but also offer an enriching learning experience.
$2.99, app2.me/197; Free "Lite" version, app2.me/2640; other variations of this app available
Sports games have made the transition to iOS devices quite well.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
This is probably the best Tony Hawk title ever made. I'd enjoyed playing this title on a PC and a Game Boy Advance, so I thought I'd give it a try on the iPhone. This complete port of the game has better graphics than the original. Playing this really brings back memories—the nostalgia is almost unbearable.
Great graphics and death-defying speeds keep simulation, arcade, and kart racers interesting
Need for Speed Shift
$6.99, app2.me/363; $12.99 (iPad), app2.me/2600; free version also available
The success of shooters on consoles is spilling over to the iPhone
You'll lose track of time with these compelling, addictive games!
Osmos for iPad
$4.99, app2.me/2728; iPhone version: $2.99, app2.me/2729
The App Store offers a wide variety of paid and free iPhone game apps—so many, in fact, that it's divided into 19 subcategories to help you find what you're looking for. Apple showcases the best in sections titled New and Noteworthy, What's Hot, Made For iOS4, What We're Playing, Five Minute Fixes, Top Paid Apps, and Top Free Apps. Generally, paid games have more complex graphics, more levels, and longer playing time. Many of the best games are frequently updated by the developers, incorporating new levels, better graphics, and, sometimes, new modes of gameplay.
Every so often, a game for the iOS comes along that captures that addictive "just one more round" quality to keep players locked to their devices well past bedtime. Halfbrick Studios' Fruit Ninja is just such a game.
The objective of the game is as obvious as any classic arcade title. Shoot (or in the case of Fruit Ninja, slash) the bad guys (in this case, fruit) while avoiding the bombs. Increase the number and speed of targets and bombs with each progressive level. Miss three targets and the game is over.
This is one of my favorites for the year (see my mega-review here), and now available in HD for iPad! Stunning graphics in an already superb RTS equals, well...Land Air Sea Warfare HD!
This is the perfect example of how to do a freemium game right. I'm not saying the game itself is perfect, but it is a lot of fun. And, nothing pops up every five seconds asking you to pay to remove the ads. In fact, the first time I played the game I thought the ad banner was just the top part of the framework. I didn't actually realize it contained ads. If you want to get rid of them you just go into the options, push a button, and confirm that you don't want any more ads. In fact, this is only the second game I've ever felt compelled to purchase IAP from. So enough about that, on to the game itself.