AppUnwrapper’s Favorite iOS Games of 2020 (GOTY List)

Appunwrapper.com will turn 10 this coming year and, for the past few years I’ve been highlighting my favorite games. I started my Game of the Year lists in 2015, and continued with 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. 2020 has been a crazy year, but that didn’t stop developers from releasing some phenomenal iOS games. Between Apple Arcade and standalone apps, there were so many strong contenders. But I finally narrowed my GOTY list down to a total of 25 games that I think are must-play. Keep in mind that, as a puzzle fan, my choices will skew towards puzzle and adventure games. If that’s your jam, you should feel right at home here and find enough games to last you quite some time.

There is No Game: Wrong Dimension – 2020 AppUnwrapper Game of the Year

Draw Me a Pixel managed to sneak in an iOS port of their brilliant puzzle adventure, There is No Game: Wrong Dimension, just before the end of the year. I had thought I had my GOTY chosen by then, but I couldn’t deny how deserving it is of the title. I already gave it a glowing review last week, but it’s a hard game to talk about without spoiling the magic. The idea is that the narrator of the game doesn’t want you to play the game, for reasons unknown at first. So he tries a number of things to stop you and you have to outwit him. Eventually, you both get pulled into another dimension and need to work together to find your way back home. Each chapter takes place in a different dimension and features unique themes and mechanics. Between the clever puzzles and the humorous script, it’s hard not to fall in love with the game. Again, it’s really just something you have to play and experience firsthand. So do yourself a favor and grab this masterpiece before anyone spoils it for you.

Creaks

Amanita Design’s Creaks would have been my GOTY if There is No Game hadn’t released before the year’s end. It combines the kind of quirky visuals the developer is known for with level-based puzzles, a bit of a departure from their usual point-and-click adventures. The puzzles are still held together by an interconnecting mansion that you explore, but instead of running around and collecting objects to use in different places, you’re focusing on one puzzle at a time. As I said in my review, it also does a fantastic job teaching the mechanics without an overbearing tutorial. You learn how each creature behaves by experimenting, not by being told. The game oozes charm, all while making you feel smart when you complete a tricky level. And perhaps most impressive of all is the the dynamic soundtrack that changes each time you play so you won’t get tired of it if you’re stuck for a bit. It’s games like Creaks that made me truly appreciate Apple Arcade, because without it we’d probably have to wait a year or more for a port, instead of getting it at the same time as other platforms. If you have an Apple Arcade subscription, please play this as soon as possible. And if you don’t, it’s worth getting one for Creaks and others I’ll be listing here, as well.

A Monster’s Expedition

Draknek’s A Monster’s Expedition is such an impressive open world puzzler that it’s really almost a tie with Creaks. It takes place in the same universe as their other games, A Good Snowman is Hard to Build and Cosmic Express and features the same protagonist. The main goal in the game is to visit every island and museum exhibit, but to do so, you need to knock down trees to create bridges between them. It’s a game that’s very easy to get into no matter your skill level, but seeing every last bit of the world is something that will challenge even the best puzzle experts. I still haven’t completed the game 100% myself yet, but that’s more for lack of time than interest. Some islands require reusing entire clusters in new and creative ways to reach them. One thing that’s especially impressive about the game is how you start off with all the same abilities and mechanics, but you don’t realize it until you’re forced to learn one of them to solve a puzzle. So if you go back to the start, you might be able to try things you didn’t know you could do before. On top of the clever puzzle design, there’s humorous descriptions for everyday items in the museum, and the visuals are very easy on the eyes. A Monster’s Expedition is basically a puzzle fan’s dream come true and it’s endlessly impressive how all the islands tie together. You can read my full review for more, but this is another game that’s worth getting an Apple Arcade subscription for.

South of the Circle

Apple Arcade really came through this year, and this time an exclusive made my top 10 list. State of Play released a very mature narrative adventure game called South of the Circle, in which you play as Peter, a scientist searching for help after his plane crash lands in Antarctica. It takes place during the Cold War, so he’s not sure who he can trust while he’s out there on his own. As he treks through the snow, he thinks about his relationship with his colleague, Clara, and his memories blend with reality. What sets this game apart from others is the writing that always feels natural and never forced or out of place. Peter is shy and hesitant and the awkward conversations between the two characters make them feel like real people. There’s also a lot of underlying messages that are expressed through the story without being force-fed to the player. South of the Circle is a short game and one that’s light on gameplay elements, but absolutely superb on the storytelling front. It also doesn’t hurt that all the characters are fully voice acted, so you can enjoy it like a long movie. Again, I have a full review if you want to know more, but if you like narrative games, this is a must-play.

Kingdom Two Crowns

Back when Kingdom: New Lands released, I loved everything about it except the permadeath. I lamented that there was no way for me to just experiment and get comfortable with the game without having to start from scratch every time I died. Well, Raw Fury answered my prayers with Kingdom Two Crowns. If you want the challenge of completing the game without any deaths, you can do so and you’ll be rewarded with an achievement. But if you just want to chill and play through the game without worrying about being perfect, you can continue playing even after your crown is stolen. The game will even get easier if you die, as the Greed monsters reset but you keep all the gold in your bank and any upgrades you earned. There are still mistakes you can make that will make it more difficult — or even impossible — to complete the game, but it’s generally a lot harder to mess up in an irreversible way. I put countless hours into the game and, even though I never got good enough to complete it without any deaths, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it and appreciate the effort in making a version of the game that anyone can play. Again, I have a full review you can read if you need more reasons to buy it, but you really can’t go wrong with Kingdom: Two Crowns.

Little Orpheus

Little Orpheus, from The Chinese Room, is another Apple Arcade exclusive that oozes charm from every pixel. It’s a puzzle platformer in which you play through the story Soviet cosmonaut Ivan Ivanovich tells about his fantastical adventure where he lost the atomic bomb that powered his exploration capsule, Little Orpheus. You’ll meet ferocious dinosaurs, slimy alien worms, and all sorts of other strange creatures in this fully voice-acted adventure. There’s also a ton of humor and playful banter between Ivan and General Yurkovoi who questions him and finds his tall tale hard to swallow. The game is broken up into episodes to feel like you’re playing through a mini series, and each one starts with the opening credits to really sell the idea. The fantastic soundtrack from Jim Fowler and Jessica Curry pulls everything together to make for an unforgettable experience. It’s these small, memorable games that really sell Apple Arcade for me and I hope we see more like it. Once again, I have a full review you can read to learn more.

Genshin Impact

I don’t usually let myself get sucked into free-to-play games, especially those with gacha mechanics that encourage endless spending. But miHoYo’s Genshin Impact got too much attention for me to ignore it, and people I respect were playing it, so I decided to give it a shot. Well, here I am 80 or so hours into it and I’m still playing. The gacha system does bother me, but I’ve gotten so much entertainment from it without spending a penny. I particularly enjoy exploring the gorgeous landscapes, discovering hidden chests and other items, and solving puzzles. I do wish the joystick was floating instead of fixed, since movement is currently clunky on my iPad. But overall, I’m really impressed with how much content the developers have given away for free. If you don’t mind not getting all the characters you want and aren’t overly competitive, you should be able to have some fun with it. I enjoy it more when I play casually instead of worrying about making the most of my time with it, but each person’s play style will vary. I have more videos here and on my YouTube channel if you want to see how things progress over time.

FAR: Lone Sails

FAR: Lone Sails from Okomotive and Mixtvision has you piloting a strange locomotive through a desolate landscape. It would probably be classified as a puzzle platformer, but instead of just running around, you’re controlling and feeding fuel to your vessel. It also has some tools that you need to use as part of puzzles, but nothing ever feels out of place. Any puzzles are part of your journey forward and involve getting your ship through some obstacle. It’s a short game and the controls aren’t perfectly suited for touchscreens, but I enjoyed every second with it. It’s a very meditative game once you get into the groove and you find yourself wanting to stay in this world until you finish it. I also wrote a full review if you want to learn more, but this is another game that’s really easy to recommend to just about anyone.

Beyond a Steel Sky

I never played Revolution’s classic point-and-click adventure, Beneath a Steel Sky, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the sequel, Beyond a Steel Sky. It features the same characters from the original, but the developers did a great job filling in necessary information so I could follow along even though I was new to the series. I still would like to go back and play the first game one day, since I had such a great time with this one. The dialogue was entertaining, the plot kept me interested, and the puzzles were creative. I especially liked using the hacking device on machines to get them to do my bidding. The game had some nasty bugs initially, but has since gotten lots of updates, including one that added achievements. Now that I’ve gotten a brand new iPad Pro, I’d like to try and squeeze in some time to play through this gem again in 2021. If you have an Apple Arcade subscription, make sure to play Beyond a Steel Sky. And once again, you can read my full review for more details.

The Last Campfire

Hello Games is best known for their infinite space exploration game, No Man’s Sky, but this year they released a small — yet still quite impressive — puzzle adventure game on Apple Arcade and some other platforms. The Last Campfire made me realize that I was craving an open world puzzler without even knowing it. It has you taking control of a little creature named Ember, who roams around and helps others like them find peace. It’s more serious in tone than most of the other games I’ve listed here, but the world is rich and full of life, and I especially enjoyed searching for hidden collectibles. This was another winner from Apple Arcade and one more reason to subscribe if you haven’t yet. I didn’t review The Last Campfire, but you can see all my impressions here.

The Procession to Calvary

The Procession to Calvary is another game that snuck in right before the end of the year and weaseled its way onto this list. It’s a spiritual sequel to Four Last Things and I was eagerly awaiting the iOS port. As with the first game, all the art is taken from Renaissance era paintings, so you’re essentially playing inside them. Combine that with Monty Python-esque humor and bizarre puzzles that include carrying around a decapitated head, and you have a real winner. I especially liked the premise of playing as a warrior who’s upset she’s not allowed to kill anymore because the war is over. Again, I wrote a full review that can tell you more if you’re not convinced yet.

unmemory

unmemory combines a text-based story with puzzles, in a similar vein as Device 6 and Blackbar. As you read, you’ll encounter puzzles that need to be solved in order to continue. The game mixes visual and audio clues, and you even have to flip your device upside-down at times. I felt like a proper detective solving all the puzzles, and I still haven’t even found all the hidden secrets and Easter eggs. I’ll have to revisit it along with A Monster’s Expedition in 2021. I don’t think this game got nearly the amount of attention it deserves, so if you haven’t picked it up yet, please do so. I also have a full review you can read if you need more convincing.

Worm Jazz

Worm Jazz wormed its way into my heart with its snake-like puzzles that involve eating bombs to explode your head and then grow it back. Ah, the life of a worm! The puzzles are often deviously tricky, but an undo button means they never get frustrating or annoying. I had a blast (pun intended) solving all the levels and unlocking special hats for Mr. Mark. Everything about this game was just lovely and the developer was always quick to update it to fix any issues. If you’re a puzzle fan, just grab Worm Jazz immediately. It also has super friendly monetization, as you can play the entire game for free if you don’t mind ads. If you prefer a premium experience, there’s a one-time IAP for that. But either way, play this game! I also have a full review with more details if that’s not enough for you.

Unit 404

Unit 404 is a puzzle game from Maxim Urusov, the developer of the Sequence games. I couldn’t really get into his previous games, but this one sucked me in and I blew through most of it in a few days. In each level, you need to get the robot to the exit. But you don’t directly control him. Instead, you move platforms around and create a path for him to walk on. That’s oversimplifying, it though. The platforms are made up of boxes that have different properties. Some pull others to them, some rotate the boxes around them, and some move in the direction the arrow is pointing. The game seems pretty straightforward at first but gets quite challenging later. I still haven’t even completed the game, mostly because of the lack of an undo button. It wasn’t an issue for most of the game but I found it a bit frustrating in the final chapter. Still, I got plenty of enjoyment of it and would easily recommend it to any puzzle fans. I don’t have a review, but you can see more of my coverage of it here.

Spyder

Spyder is an Apple Arcade game about an insanely cute mechanical spider who’s also a secret agent. He has super spy tools that allow him to crawl on ceilings, grab and carry objects, cut through panels, and even swing using a grappling hook. Some chapters are more relaxed and let you take your tone exploring, while others are a bit more frantic. There are also stickers and achievements to find, so there’s plenty of replay value even after you complete the game. Still, I’m hoping it will get some new content one day, because I absolutely loved crawling around as a mechanical spider. This is yet another winner from Apple Arcade and you can read more about it in my review.

Book of Demons: Tablet Edition

Book of Demons is only available on iPad, which limits its audience, but I spent so many hours with it that it absolutely deserved a spot on this list. It’s a dungeon crawler made of papercut characters and monsters and the dungeons are all generated based on the time you have available to play. It’s a really novel idea that I would love to see adopted by other games. It also feels great on a touchscreen, as the controls are all tap-based instead of onscreen buttons. Your equipment and spells are all depicted as cards and you loot new ones along your journey. A big part of the game is finding the cards that fit your play style and deciding which ones to upgrade, since doing so often requires more mana. I prefer passive skills over active ones, so I built my character around those and focused on tapping on monsters to attack them. If I want, I can continue playing the game, as you enter a “freestyle” mode once you complete the main campaign. I feel like I’ve had my fill for now, but I appreciate the option of I ever have the urge to hop on for a bit. I also started a new character to try out a different class, but I prefer my warrior. Anyway, it’s a great dungeon crawler that’s easy to get into and even easier to recommend. I never reviewed it, but you can see all my coverage here.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

ustwo games’ Alba was another latecomer, but earned its place on this list with its adorable protagonist and her determination to save the nature reserve on the island where her grandparents live. You run around taking photos of the local wildlife and identifying all the species. You also need to clean up the island by throwing out trash and help folks out to get them to sign your petition to stop the building of a luxury hotel where the nature reserve is. The game is geared towards kids, but is still plenty enjoyable for adults thanks to its well-written dialogue and charming characters. The island is a joy to explore and I loved finding all the different species. This is yet another good reason to get an Apple Arcade subscription. I don’t have a proper review for the game, but you can see my other coverage here.

Lamplight City Mobile

I’d been hoping for a mobile port of Grundislav Games’ point-and-click adventure, Lamplight City, ever since I played some of it on my PC a few years back. Then it released out of nowhere without any warning. It was a pleasure to be able to play it on my iPad and I had a great time solving five different cases with private investigator Miles Fordham and his deceased partner. When you’re not looking around different locations for clues, you spend your time questioning suspects and witnesses to find out more information. Perhaps the most unique aspect is that you can move on from a case without accusing the right person, but it will affect the ending you get. I had a few small issues with the game, but none of them were enough to ruin the experience for me. If you like adventure games, you’ll want to grab this one. You can also read my full review for more details.

Kavel

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to you that I like match-three games. But I gravitate to those that do something unique and especially prefer high score chasers over level-based puzzlers. Jerry Verhoeven’s Kavel was one of two color matching games this year that stole most of my down time. You’re given 50 moves to place tetrominoes on the board, matching four of the same color to build a bomb. The rules are a bit more complicated than that, though it’s not all spelled out for you, so you need to either discover it through play or learn from others. But once you learn all the rules, the game really opens up and involves a ton of strategy to maximize your points before you run out of turns. My high score so far is 200,000,000 and I still have trouble getting close to it again. But that doesn’t stop me from trying! This is also the first game that ever game me my own theme, called App Unwrap and based on the colors of my icon. I was already obsessed with the game before then, so that had no bearing on it making it onto my GOTY list. You can read more in my review, but if you like high score chasing puzzlers, don’t hesitate to pick it up.

Circulous

I was already impressed with teenage developer, Brayden Gogis, of Chain Reaction Games when he released The Company Game, but he’s come a long way since then and his latest game, Circulous, is proof of that. This is a proper adventure game, where you travel between different locations, carry objects in your inventory, and solve puzzles in order to progress. There’s even some voice-acted dialogue to accompany all the hand-drawn environments. Once again, it’s episodic, so we’re still waiting to see how it plays out. But the first two chapters released already and sucked me into this world and I’m eager to see what happens to Amanda. The use of an in-game smartphone was a brilliant way to incorporate puzzles into the game and the puzzles themselves are often quite tricky. As long as you’re ok waiting for the rest of the game to release, this should be an easy choice for any puzzle adventure fans. You can also read my review of the first part of the game to learn more.

ALTER: Between Two Worlds

ALTER: Between Two Worlds is an innovative puzzler from developer Fivestone Games, published by Crescent Moon Games. It has you shifting back and forth between two different dimensions in order to access parts of each level that you otherwise couldn’t. It’s a short game, but each level does something different and challenges you in new ways, so you never feel like you’re wasting time. I loved every bit of it and was sad when it was over, so I would be thrilled to see a sequel at some point. Again, you can read my full review if you need more convincing.

Adventure Escape Mysteries: The Covenant

Haiku Games pumps out several Adventure Escape games per year and they’re all well-made, if sometimes annoying. I’ve never been as impressed with any, though, as I was with The Covenant that released earlier this year. It’s inspired by cheesy horror movies and the show Survivor, and has you voting each night to see which student gets sacrificed to save the rest of them from some demonic being. What’s so impressive about it is that the story changes depending on who you decide to take with you each day and who you vote off. So there’s tons of replay value. It was also just a genuinely fun script and I would love to see them do more like this. The only issue I had with it was a poorly designed mini game at the end that was far more frustrating than it needed to be. If you’ve never played an Adventure Escape game, this is a good place to start. You can see more of my coverage here.

Seven Scrolls

At first glance, Seven Scrolls may seem like a cheap knockoff of a Michael Brough game, but despite its obvious influence, it’s unique enough to stand out on its own. You play as a monk and can carry up to seven different scrolls at a time, each with random effects. One might heal you when you kill a monster, while another will kill you when a monster heals. There are scrolls that can clone you and even bring you back from the dead. The randomness is both a curse and a blessing, as you’re somewhat a slave to the RNG gods. But there’s still a ton of fun to be had here. The main issue is that there’s no leaderboards, so you can’t compare your scores with everyone else. Still, it’s a great game that I find myself going back to every once in a while. You can read more of my impressions here.

High Rise – A Puzzle Cityscape

High Rise is the other color matching game that I spent a lot of time with this year. I never got as good at it as I wanted to, but I still improved my strategies. The idea is that you combine same-colored blocks to form buildings, and you want to keep making them grow to increase your score. There’s a lot going on and you often have to manage multiple colors at a time, so it’s quite easy to mess up a perfect game with one poor placement. If you’re looking for an endless high score chasing puzzler with depth, you’ve come to the right place. Once again, I have a proper review if you want a better explanation of its mechanics.

Bird Alone

George Batchelor’s Bird Alone has you spending a few minutes every day with a chatty parrot. You make music with him, draw pictures, and even plant flowers in a garden. Sometimes he’ll offer words of wisdom, but other times he’ll need you to comfort him. This isn’t a Tamagotchi, where you have to feed him and check in constantly. This bird likes his alone time, too, so he won’t be able to entertain you 24/7. It’s a lovely game, though also sad at times. I don’t have a review, but I did write a first impressions piece to give you a better idea of what the game’s like.

And I’d like to give a special shout-out to the real-life walking simulator, 8800 Blue Lick Road. You can read more about it here.

And there you have it, my top 25 games of 2020! This is by no means a definitive list of all the games worth playing, but I had to cut if off somewhere. You can also browse my Recommended category to find other games I think are worth playing. Some of these games might also be on sale right now as part of the end-of-the-year holiday sale, so make sure to check out that list, as well. And here’s to even more great games in 2021!

***
Note: Sometimes a promo code is provided for a game, but it does not affect the review in any way. At AppUnwrapper, we strive to provide reviews of the utmost quality.

Check out my recommended list for other games you might like.

If you like what you see on AppUnwrapper.com, please consider supporting the site through Patreon. Every little bit helps and is greatly appreciated. You can read more about it here. And as always, if you like what you see, please help others find it by sharing it.

I also offer affordable testing and consulting for iOS developers.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE © AppUnwrapper 2011-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author is strictly prohibited. Links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to AppUnwrapper with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dr Renier Palland
3 months ago

Well damn done! These are also the best games I’ve played this year. I do have one issue though – you know how big a Survivor fan I am! Why didn’t you tell me about the Adventure Escape one?

(Joking)

I am proud of this list. You are the only writer who is able to encapsulate the beauty of iOS gaming without being verbose or overtly critical. I’ve bookmarked this and told Siri to remind me.

Thank you!

Happy 10th anniversary!

Beth
3 months ago

Congrats on 10 amazing years!
I so look forward to your best of lists, I always find a few hidden gems that I’ve somehow managed to miss! This post has me realizing just how many of my favs were Apple Arcade games, makes me excited to see what’s in store for us next year! Hey, maybe 2021 will be the year we finally get Hero Emblems 2 ..I figure the universe owes me something good after this crazy year.
I’ve also been pulled into Genshin Impact …what a game, it absolutely feels like a console game! I NEVER would have expected to love a gatcha game, they normally have me rage quitting …lol

Claire
3 months ago

So many games to check out – thank you! Just watched the house/game walkthrough, I was reacting to the same things you were at at about the same time which made me laugh more. It started to feel like I was in a game and I wanted to tap on the curtains to get some light in at one stage 🤣