Despite the iPhone’s lack of a d-pad and other hardware controls, it is very popular as a gaming device. Part of its popularity is due to its excellent connectivity features, which include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3G, and Push notification. These features support wireless multiplayer games, and there are currently more that 200 of these games available in the App Store.
There are two main types of wireless games. The first type, local games, allows two or more users in close proximity to play against each other. The second type communicates over the Internet with a central server allowing users on the other side of town or around the world to play against each other. Both approaches have their respective strengths. For example, local games using Bluetooth connectivity don’t need an Internet connection. With this type of game, two or more people in a car or on a bus can play each other even without any phone connectivity. And because the wireless connectivity is over much shorter distances and does not involve the Internet, response times are quicker and better suited for fast action games. (Local games can sometimes be played over a local Wi-Fi network without involving the Internet.)
On the other hand, Internet/server-based games let you meet and play gamers from around the world. Because so many people are connected to the remote lounge, it’s usually easy to find someone to play with.
A few games support both approaches, but most support one or the other. This article briefly describes some the best multiplayer games in a number of different categories.
There are several excellent multiplayer titles in the action game category, and some of them are the games I love the most.
Flight Control ($0.99; firemint.com) is one of the most addicting games I’ve played. You need to control the route of landing airplanes without having them crash into each other. (Multiplayer capability is over local Wi-Fi networks or via Bluetooth.)
Blades of Fury ($4.99; gameloft.com), a fighting game, will be especially well received by Street Fighter fans. Visually, it’s one of the best titles and runs well even on older hardware. (Multiplayer capability is via local Wi-Fi networks or via Bluetooth.)
Bomber Online ($3.99; eurocenter.fr) is the best Bomberman clone for the platform. You need to strategically place bombs in order to kill your enemies and destroy obstacles in this fast-paced online title. (Multiplayer over Internet server).
Alive 4-ever ($2.99, meridiande.com) is a great collaborative title where you need to shoot down the zombies surrounding you. This title offers a wide choice of weapons and—as opposed to most shoot ‘em up games—requires some strategic thinking. (Multiplayer capability over local Wi-Fi networks or via Bluetooth.)
Call of Duty: World At War: Zombies ($9.99; activision.com) is a nice first-person shooter. It is recommended for owners of latest-generation hardware: older models may be too slow to run it. (Multiplayer capability for 4 players is over a local Wi-Fi/Internet connection; 2 players gaming is via a Bluetooth connection.)
There are other first-person shooters as well; Doom Classic ($6.99; idsoftware.com/doom-classic) is a perfect re-implementation of the PC classic (Multiplayer capability over local Wi-Fi networks). Eliminate (Free; eliminate.ngmoco.com) is a nice first person shooter (Multiplayer capability via Internet server).
MiniSquadron ($2.99; twitter.com/mrfungfung) is the best “retro” (2D) dogfighting title and great fun when played with other people. (Multiplayer capability is over local Wi-Fi networks.)
Several multiplayer board games exist.
(Free, profiles.mobileorchard.com/profiles/858-myMobileApps) is the best free FICS chess client available. FICS is an international chess network with tens of thousands of online players. This is opposed to some games that are on proprietary chess servers run by comparatively small iPhone developers. Other recommended, but commercial, FICS clients include Magnus’ Super Online Chess ($1.99; onlinechesssupport.blogspot.com) and Cyber Chess - FICS & ICC ($7.99; ppclink.com). The latter also supports the other, large global chess network, ICC. Finally, the best chess client with a proprietary server is Chess Elite ($3.99; 99games.in/chesselite.html). (All titles are multiplayer over an Internet connection to chess servers.)
Sea Battle Classic ($2.99; iphonesoft3g.com) is the best Battleship (a.k.a. Torpedo) implementation available for the iPhone. (Multiplayer capability is over local Wi-Fi networks or via Bluetooth.)
Music games have become popular recently, particularly among people that love listening to their favorite tune while playing.
If you’re a Metallica fan, you may prefer Metallica Revenge ($4.99; tapulous.com/metallica), a special edition of Tap Tap Revenge that includes 10 songs from Metallica (Multiplayer via Bluetooth).
Puzzle games have always enjoyed huge popularity among players and game developers. In general, they require some strategic thinking to solve.
The iPhone and iPod touch are perfectly suited for racing games because of their excellent 3D graphics, responsive touchscreen, and accelerometer control. There are quite a few of excellent racing titles.
You might want to check out Real Racing ($4.99; firemint.com/realracing) if you’re looking for something with a more realistic look and feel to it, (Multiplayer via local Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth).
There are quite a few decent sports titles available for the iPhone and iPod touch. My favorites focus on soccer, golf, and snooker (pool).
($9.99; eamobile.com/iphone-games/fifa-10) is the most authentic European soccer game available, allowing you to play virtual representations of real players and teams and create your own future superstar (Multiplayer via local Wi-Fi network).
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Snooker and Pool Star Online Earl Strickland ($0.99 each; iplay.com) are both excellent titles with realistic game play. Virtual Pool Online ($2.99; celeris.com) is another challenging title with an excellent physics engine. (All titles are multiplayer over the Internet.)
Adrenaline Golf Online
($4.99; euro center.fr) is the best multiplayer golf title currently available. You’ll enjoy the graphics of this and other games in this section, especially if you have an iPhone 3G S or iPod touch G3 (Multiplayer over Internet).
Turn-based strategies (TBS) with remote multiplayer capability are a perfect match for the iPhone. In general, they don’t require the high-screen resolution and sophisticated input systems of real-time strategy games. This helps reduce problems caused by network lag.
($2.99; mechowars.com) is an older alternative to Rouge Planet. Both are highly rated on the App Store, but Rouge Planet has a slightly higher rating (Multiplayer over Internet).
More multiplayer games
These are just a few of the excellent multiplayer games available for the iPhone and iPod touch. For more info, please take a look at my blog post titled “Everything you’ll ever need to know about multiplayer games,” which is found in the iPhone Life blogs (iphonelife.com/werner.ruotsalainen). In that post, I elaborate on 80 titles and include demo videos so that you can see what the games look like when played in multiplayer mode.