It's safe to say that Apple's given the gaming industry a square kick in the tender regions.
Despite their bluster, dismissing Apple in every way possible, Sony and Nintendo are both clearly concerned by the meteoric rise of iPod touch and iPhone as handheld gaming devices.
Although great games are the driving force behind the success of Apple gaming, low prices have also helped. Most 'premium' titles cost six quid or less, and many developers end up in a race to 69p, thereby providing games that'd cost 20 quid on a rival platform for the price of a Kit-Kat.
But what if you've spent the last of your cash on your shiny Apple object of desire? Can you get great games for nothing at all, or is the 'free' section of the App Store best ignored?
The answer is, of course, both, and the trick is finding the gems amongst the dross. What follows is our pick of the bunch - our top 70 free iPod touch and iPhone games.
Not so much an endless runner as an endless chopper, Timberman has your square-jawed (and, in fact, just plain square) lumberjack hacking away at a giant tree. You tap to move left or right, dodging deadly branches, and must chop at speed, lest your power meter run dry. Those in it for the long haul will find 30 Timbermen to unlock, including a certain large, angry, green superhero.
We've seen quite a few spot-kick flick-based efforts on the iPhone, but Tiny Striker also brings to mind old-school arcade footie like SWOS. It's all goalmouth action here, though, with you scoring from set-pieces, initially against an open goal, but eventually by deftly curling your ball past walls of defenders and a roaming 'keeper.
Run Sackboy! Run!
The wee knitted chap from LittleBigPlanet lands on iOS, in yet another endless runner. We should yawn and hit delete, really, but Run SackBoy! Run! is absolutely gorgeous, with stunning scenery based on the LittleBigPlanet titles. The gameplay's intuitive and simple, but inventive level design will keep you coming back time and time again.
Originally intended as a joke, Flappy Golf smashes Flappy Bird into Super Stickman Golf 2. But on playing the game, it's anything but throwaway. You get the crazy courses of Noodlecake's 'proper' golf game, but the wildly different controls (flap your winged ball left or right) force you to find new ways to tackle them. And the demented multiplayer race mode is an excellent bonus.
Another iOS platform game that relies on your ability to use a single dextrous digit, Mr. Crab finds the eponymous hero rescuing his kind from levels wrapped around towering tubes. It's all about timing, using scenery to double back and grab whatever you've missed, and, at certain points, figuring out how to defeat terrifying bosses. It looks fantastic, and there's surprising depth behind this game's stripped-back control system.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
The first iOS Sonic kart game worked nicely on the platform (a rare thing for the genre), and this sequel doesn't disappoint. You get plenty of dynamic, colourful tracks to speed around, grabbing power-ups and boosts along the way. Periodically, your kart will transform to become a boat or plane, adding further dimensions to the racing action. It's a bit grindy now and again, but you won't care when you're drifting like a loon across an aircraft carrier, before plunging into the sea.
Sausage!! Sausage!! Sausage!!
Sausage!! Sausage!! Sausage!! is another of Poppy's excellent one-thumb arcade experiences for iOS. A sausage falls at random intervals from the top of the screen, and you must catch it in your bun. It's absurd, bright, cheerful and oddly addictive.
This sweet survival game is full of character, as you assist a Victorian gent, out for his evening constitutional. The problem is it's a bit windy, and the gent's hat is in danger of blowing away during a gust — press the screen and he holds it in place. Each step increases your score and also the chances of seeing thoughtful comments from the hatted chap.
BaconBaconBacon feels a bit like Bejeweled slipped through a time-warp and collided with oddball British gaming humour from the early 1980s. Instead of gems, you swap pigs, and must smite vegans guarding them for extra points. Bonus pigs can be matched for extra sausages, or to fill a ketchup bomb.
In this insanely tough arcade test, you coax a finicky biplane through side-on levels of floating islands. The slightest touch on anything but a collectable coin or runway spells doom, and ghosts of previous crashes helpfully litter the way as you retry. IAP is available to buy coins for restart points, which in this case are tacit admission of your lack of gaming prowess.
Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary
The Boulder Dash series has a long pedigree, but this is the first time its co-creators have teamed up since the classic 1984 original. It's also the first time (in several attempts) the game has worked on iOS. The game itself is business as usual: dig through dirt; avoid boulders and enemies; grab gems. But it looks great, controls well, and even includes the original caves as an optional IAP.
Zombie Highway 2
The zombies in this title are surprisingly sprightly, leaping towards any oncoming vehicle and aiming to shake it until it flips, presumably whereupon they prise open the door and eat the occupant's BRRAIIINNZZ. You must fend them off, by scraping your vehicle against wrecks littering the highway, or blow them away with your gun.
Sky Force 2014
Sky Force 2014 celebrates the mobile series's 10th anniversary in style, with this stunning top-down arcade blaster. Your little red ship, as ever, is tasked with weaving its way through hostile enemy territory, annihilating everything in sight. The visuals are spectacular, the level design is smart, and the bosses are huge, spewing bullet-hell in your general direction.
Crazy Taxi City Rush
We imagine this Crazy Taxi rethink will alienate some fans of the original series, but plenty of the classic time-attack racer's feel remains intact. You zoom through city streets, picking up and dropping off fares against the clock; only this time, everything's largely on rails. It's sort of Crazy Taxi meets Temple Run, with plenty of upgrades and mini-games to master.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
At some point, a total buffoon decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Gameloft's Asphalt 8: Airborne dispenses with such foolish notions, along with quite a bit of reality. Here, then, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren't acceptable according to the car manufacturer's warrantee.
What mad fool welds Boggle to tug o' war Risk-style land-grabbing? The kind who doesn't want anyone to get any work done again, ever, that's who. Letterpress is, simply, the best word game on the App Store.
You make words to win points and temporarily 'lock' letters from your opponent by surrounding them. The result is a tense asynchronous two-player game with plenty of last-move wins and general gnashing of teeth when you realise 'qin' is in fact an acceptable word.
We're pretty certain if there's one thing you shouldn't be using for a joyride, it's a jetpack that's kept aloft by firing bullets at the floor. But that's the score in this endless survival game with decidedly tongue-in-cheek humour, not least the profit bird power-up, a rather unsubtle dig at certain App Store chart-toppers.
Super Monsters Ate My Condo
Logic? Pah! Sanity? Pfft! We care not for such things, yells Super Monsters Ate My Condo. It then gets on with turning the match-three genre and Jenga-style tower-building into a relentless time-attack cartoon fest of apartment-munching, explosions, giant tantrums and opera. No, really.
Most developers create games from code, but we're pretty sure Hero Academy's composed of the most addictive substances known to man all smushed together and shoved on to the App Store.
The game's sort-of chess with fantasy characters, but the flexibility within the rule-set provides limitless scope for asynchronous one-on-one encounters. For free, you have to put up with ads and only get the 'human' team, but that'll be more than enough to get you hooked.
Developer Matt Rix is bonkers. That's the only explanation for Trainyard Express, which isn't so much a demo version of the wonderful Trainyard as an entirely separate edition.
The mechanics are great: draw tracks to lead trains to like-coloured stations, combining or crossing them on the way, as necessary. It starts out easy, but soon hurts your brain, and the 60 puzzles aren't repeated in the paid-for version. Bargain.
Three bushes make a tree! Three gravestones make a church! OK, so logic might not be Triple Town's strong suit, but the match-three gameplay is addictive. Match to build things and trap bears, rapidly run out of space, gaze in wonder at your town and start all over again. The free-to-play version has limited moves that are gradually replenished, but you can unlock unlimited moves via IAP.
Real Racing 3
While Asphalt 8 aims squarely at arcade racers, Real Racing 3 goes for the simulation jugular. Its stunning visuals drop you deep into high-quality racing action that sets new standards on mobile devices. Plenty of cars and tracks add longevity, although do be aware the game is a bit grindy and quick to hint you should buy some in-app cash with some of your real hard-earned.
Fans of the ancient Pitfall series on the Atari might feel a bit short-changed, given that this comeback in the shape of a Temple Run clone diverges wildly from the platforming action of the originals. However, it's one of the best-looking endless runners on iOS, and if you persevere there are exciting mine-cart and motorbike sections to master.
Again, the forced Plus+ account sign-up is hateful, but it's worth persevering to get to this addictive game, where you "unleash the awesome power of your finger," according to the App Store blurb.
The aim is to drag your finger from the start to the finish of each simple maze. The problem is you're against the clock and obstacles litter your path. Great graphics and 200 levels of compelling gameplay ensure you'll be glued to your screen.
Almost entirely lacking in depth, Dactyl is nonetheless one of the most furiously addictive games on the App Store. A gloriously demented Whack-A-Mole-style effort, Dactyl merely tasks you with tapping red bombs to stop them exploding.
Almost immediately, though, red bombs arrive thick and fast, forcing you to keep track and tap them in order, to avoid the inevitable 'game over'.
Trace is a sweet, inventive platform game which has you navigating hand-drawn obstacles to reach the star-shaped exit. The twist is that you can draw and erase your own platforms, to assist your progress.
With an emphasis on time-based scores rather than lives and the ability to skip levels, Trace is very much a 'casual' platform game, but it's none the worse because of it.
Reminiscent of a twin-stick shooter mashed into an RPG with a really big wand, Solomon's Keep has your wizard battle endless hordes of supernatural foes, with the help of your thumbs and some in-game spells. It's a bit like an overhead Diablo, or, if you're getting on a bit, a powered-up Gauntlet.
Buganoids resembles a NES game where the author decided to mash together random bits from various arcade classics. You patrol tiny planets, blasting 'across' them to kill nasty bugs. The gameplay's reminiscent of Gyruss and Tempest, and although the controls sometimes feel a little off, the game's always fun for a quick blast.
Spider: Hornet Smash
Tiger Style's Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is an App Store classic, combining arcade adventuring and platforming action, with you playing the role of a roaming arachnid.
Hornet Smash includes a level from that game, but its main draw is the frenetic arcade minigame. Still controlling our eight-legged hero, the aim is to fend off attacks by swarms of angry hornets, while weaving webs and munching tasty lacewings for health boosts. Three environments are included in this compelling and innovative title.
One for pool sharks, Bankshot tasks you with sending your orb to a goal by bouncing it off of at least one wall. A few different modes are on offer in this attractive neon-style game, but the best is Blitz, a high-octane time-attack affair.