Every Apple Game of the Year, Ever

It's Basically the Oscars for Mobile Games

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With literally hundreds of thousands of games available for the iPhone and the iPad, it can be really hard to figure out what's worth your time. Lucky for you, every December Apple tries to round up the best apps and games that have released over that year, picking a top winner in both the iPhone and iPad games categories. The Apple Game of the Year is a prestigious honor, and it's one that developers don't take that lightly.

We've listed every winner from 2010 through 2015 below. Why nothing from before 2010? Back then, Apple really focused on their "Apple Rewind" feature that celebrated the best of the year that was, but didn't pick any clear winners -- and what fun is that?

We live in the Thunderdome, folks. Two apps enter one app leaves. With that in mind, here are all of the champions that have walked the hallowed halls of mobile gaming greatness so far:

2015: Lara Croft GO (iPhone)

Lara Croft GO Apple Game of the Year
Square Enix

Taking the essence of one game and replicating it in a totally different genre is a virtually insurmountable task. Unless you're the team responsible for Mario Kart or something quirky like The Typing of the Dead, it's the sort of thing that can't be done and shouldn't ever be tried.

But the developers at Square Enix Montreal knew just how to keep the Tomb Raider spirit alive in a different genre -- by focusing on the tension and dangers that made it great in the first place. Lara Croft GO is a turn-based puzzle game that challenges players to survive 101 unique puzzles as they try to unravel the mystery of the Queen of Venom.

2015: Prune (iPad)

Prune Apple Game of the Year iPad
Joel McDonald

Bonsai trees are meant to be a peaceful, meditative experience -- and Prune certainly falls well within that description. But it's also challenging and deeply satisfying when you get it just right. As the title suggest, players will prune the branches of a swiftly growing tree in a way that helps them reach the sunlight so that they can bloom. But since this is a video game, there are more than a few pesky obstacles that get in the way.

We included Prune in our list of the 10 Best Puzzle Games on iOS, and with good reason. It's as beautiful as it is fun, and provides plenty of "a-ha!" moments, just as any good puzzle game should.

2014: Threes! (iPhone)

Threes!
Sirvo LLC

If you only know this game as 2048, you're doing something terribly wrong. The original version of the popular sliding puzzle game, Threes! is a game that was beautiful in its simplicity and punishing in its high score drive. Players slide like-numbers together to create bigger numbers, but if they let the board fill up, it's game over.

Beating your friends scores isn't enough; every game of Threes! is a challenge to top your own personal best. A catchy soundtrack, charming visuals, and original gameplay made this one an easy pick for Apple in 2014.

2014: Monument Valley (iPad)

Monument Valley Apple Game of the Year 2014
ustwo

 With its MC Escher-inspired gameplay, jaw-dropping visuals and wordless story, Monument Valley became one of the App Store's biggest hits in 2014. It was so successful, in fact, that it became a key plot point in season three of Netflix's House of Cards.

Another puzzle game (Apple seems to like those), Monument Valley is a game of exploration through impossible landscapes. Players poke, prod, and turn the environment to reveal new pathways for their heroine princess. And considering the stiff competition in 2014 (it beat out Hearthstone!), you'd better believe this one is worth your time.

2013: Ridiculous Fishing (iPhone)

Ridiculous Fishing Apple Game of the Year 2013
Vlambeer

 There are two sports every outdoorsman enjoys: hunting and fishing. Ridiculous Fishing is the rare video game that celebrates both. Players drop a lure into the water as low as they can, avoiding every fish along the way. Once they've hooked a big one, the reel pulls back in, with players furiously trying to bait as many fish as they can until reaching the surface.

That's when things get weird.

The fish are flung into the air, only to be shot in the sky like skeet, with points awarded for every fish killed. Strange? Absolutely. Addictive? Completely.

2013: BADLAND (iPad)

BADLAND Apple Game of the Year 2013
Frogmind

 At a glance, BADLAND might have looked to the average App Store consumer like yet another endless runner. A gorgeous one, sure, but with little originality. A quick download, however, would prove those at-a-glance impressions wildly wrong.

First of all, the game isn't endless. BADLAND features meticulously crafted levels. And the gameplay isn't a one-trick pony, either. Sure, all you'll technically do is touch the screen to make your hero fly, but with a wild variety of devices in play that keep changing the experience, BADLAND quickly becomes an ever-evolving platformer with devilishly simple controls.

In the year's since the game's initial release, BADLAND has seen plenty of updates. The best of these introduced a level editor, letting you design and share you own BADLAND stages.

2012: Rayman Jungle Run (iPhone)

Rayman Jungle Run Apple Game of the Year
Ubisoft

Most platformers on the iPhone have relied on virtual d-pads and on-screen buttons to replicate the experience of holding a controller. Rayman Jungle Run eschewed such traditions, instead opting for one-touch simplicity. They achieved this by making one simple twist: Rayman would auto-run through every stage. The only thing the player could control were his jumps.

Well... at first. As you continued though, that "one button" controls would change. In some stages you'd need to punch. In others, you'd wall run or fly. Ubisoft showed the world just how much gaming you could accomplish with the tap of the touch screen. And in 2012, it blew our little minds.

2012: The Room (iPad)

The Room Apple Game of the Year 2012 ipad
Fireproof Games

Not since Myst has there been a game of environmental puzzles so intricate and complex. The Room became an absolute must-have for iPad owners in 2012, offering a series of unique boxes that could only be unlocked by identifying every nook and cranny and fiddling until its secrets popped out.

The Room has since been followed by sequels that have built on the mystery and mystique, and while they're just as good in terms of gameplay, nothing will every match the first time you got your hands on these puzzle boxes.

2011: Tiny Tower (iPhone)

Tiny Tower Apple Game of the Year 2011
Nimblebit

A skyscraper in pocket-size, Tiny Tower offers a simplistic (but deeply satisfying) empire-building experience. Players build floor after floor in their tower, setting up shops, and matching potential employees with their dream jobs.

The team behind Tiny Tower have since gone on to create a wide variety of cool mobile experiences. The multiplayer word game Capitals, the Snake-inspired roguelike Nimble Quest, and the Tiny Tower-esque Tiny Death Star were all produced by the fine folks at NimbleBit. 

2011: Dead Space (iPad)

dead space apple game of the year ipad 2011
EA

It was stunning to think that a game as good as Dead Space could look this slick on the iPad in 2011. As I write this, deep into the future, I'm still stunned.

An original story set between Dead Space and Dead Space 2, Dead Space for the iPad was every bit as tense, terrifying and gorgeous as its console brethren. As far as horror games go, this was your best choice on the App Store for years. As of September 2015, though, it's no longer available for download. Sorry folks -- you'll need to find your scares somewhere else.

2010: Plants vs Zombies (iPhone)

Plants vs Zombies Apple Game of the Year 2010
EA

Already a huge hit on PCs, EA showed the world just how powerful a little device that fits in your pocket could be for gaming. 2010 was still the early days of the App Store in a lot of ways, and getting a full PC port was basically unheard of.

Plants vs Zombies is a fantastic game on any system. It's innovative lane-based design put a new spin on tower defense that was sorely needed back then. But to put it in your pocket? Man oh man, that was pure bliss.

2010: Osmos (iPad)

Osmos iPad Apple Game of the Year 2010
Hemisphere Games

Another surprising PC port to iOS, iPad gamers in 2010 would have sworn that Osmos was built from the ground up with touch screens in mind. Serene, gorgeous, and powered by gravity on a scale that Carl Sagan would approve of, Osmos was a game of mass and movement amongst the stars.

Was it another puzzle game? Kind of. But then again, Osmos is the sort of experience that's hard to pin a label on. It may be old by mobile standards, but if you haven't tried it, the App Store's first iPad Game of the Year is still a fantastic experience for touch screen gamers.