Jetpack Joyride ($0.99, iPhone/iPad)
Why it stood out: From the folks who brought us produce-pulverizing hit Fruit Ninja comes another endlessly addictive, arcade-flavored entry. Packed with personality and pick-up-and-play appeal, Jetpack Joyride straps players into cool rocket-powered rides and tasks them with collecting items, combating baddies, and, of course, ratcheting their scores through the roof.
Infinity Blade II ($6.99, iPhone, iPad)
Why it stood out: Following the original hack-and-slash hit, this broadsword-swinging sequel not only raises the bar for portable touch gaming, but chucks it javelin-style toward the heavens. Sporting brilliant visuals, character-building depth, thumb-blistering combat, and a fantasy world that could teach Tolkien a few things, Infinity Blade 2 may be the one on-the-go game to rule them all.
Where's My Water? ($0.99, iPhone, iPad, Android)
Why it stood out: As adorable as it is addictive, this physics-based puzzler challenges players with giving a cleanliness-obsessed cartoon alligator a shower. Well, more specifically, it tasks them with delivering water to the anal-retentive reptile through a series of increasingly difficult puzzles. Who knew plumbing problems could be so much fun?
Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation ($6.99, iPhone, iPad)
Why it stood out: Sure it’s a blatant Call of Duty rip-off, but Modern Combat 3 also rivals Activision’s modern-military monster hit in almost every way; from its rich single-player campaign and robust multiplayer offerings, to its Bruckheimer-styled set pieces and adrenaline-amping action, no other smartphone shooter gives foxhole fanboys this much literal bang for their buck.
Contre Jour ($0.99, iPhone, iPad)
Why it stood out: Former Angry Birds publisher Chillingo trades the furious fowl-flinging action of their biggest hit for a more aesthetically ambitious take on touch-gaming. Featuring a cinematic score and gorgeous visuals evocative of Tim Burton’s more haunting work, Contre Jour refreshingly pleases the eyes and ears as much as the thumbs in an experience that’s more interactive art than arcade game.
Quarrel Deluxe ($2.99, iPhone, iPad)
Why it stood out: Like Words With Friends on a Red Bull bender, Quarrel Deluxe is a bizarre, but brilliant blend of traditional Scrabble-esque gameplay and Risk-inspired strategizing. In addition to leveraging letter arranging skills to top opponents’ scores, cunning wordsmiths must also work toward conquering a world map. Don’t let Baldwin get his mitts on this one!
Life Is Crime (Free, Android)
Why it stood out: Unlike the glut of copycat games that make trolling the Android Market a chore, this location-based crime sim stands out like a guilty perp in a police lineup. Its inspired concept turns real-life to-do list tasks — like going to the bank — into reputation-building, territory-dominating virtual criminal activities — like robbing said bank.
Grand Theft Auto III: Ten Year Anniversary Edition ($2.99, iPhone/iPad, Android)
Why it stood out: The controversy-stirring title most credited with spawning the do-whatever-the-hell-you-want genre goes portable with all the Liberty City-leveling action that kept fans tethered to their PlayStation 2s a decade ago. Break the law?and plenty of kneecaps?as you climb the criminal ladder one high-jacked car at a time in this over-the-top open-world romp.
Bag It! ($0.99-$2.99, iPhone, iPad, Android)
Why it stood out: Thanks to the billion or so Tetris copycats cluttering the smartphone market, it’s difficult for truly worthy imitators to stick out from the stacking-puzzle pack. Bag It! bucks this trend, though, by turning a totally mundane task — bagging groceries — into a fast-paced, personality-packed puzzler that guarantees you’ll never again make the mistake of placing the canned goods on top of the bread.
The Oregon Trail: American Settler (Free, iPhone, iPad)
Why it stood out: There’s not a thirty-something gamer alive who wasn’t educated on the harsh realities of early pioneer life by playing floppy disc classic The Oregon Trail. This frontier-taming follow-up not only strikes a nostalgic nerve for the original, but also rustles up addictive resource-gathering and village-building activities, all wrapped in a charming Wild West presentation.