Every PC developer who crafts a solid game inevitably hears fans beg for an iPad version. For many the iPad as come to replace handhelds like the Nintendo DS as the mobile gaming platform of choice, but high-quality titles are hard to come by outside of a few genres. Thankfully, some PC developers are filling the gaps with iPad ports, and many are a perfect fit for the tablet.
Blizzard’s computer card game was only just released in the iPad, but the port feels like it could have been the game’s original platform. The graphics are crisp on the Retina display, the controls work seamlessly, and competitive battles bridge the PC and iPad editions, leaving you with no shortage of opponents.
The gameplay itself fits Blizzard’s tagline of “Deceptively simple, insanely fun.” The game is intuitive, but ranked play is fiercely competitive and requires a lot of skill. Paying real money for card packs is an option but not necessary to enjoy the game.
Hearthstone is free. The game requires an Internet connection and an iPad 2 or newer.
FTL, aka Faster Than Light, is a game I’ve placed in several best-of lists, and for good reason. This space-faring rouge-like puts you in command of a ship fleeing with critical data from deadly rebels. As you move from system to system you’ll have to deal with random encounters by managing your ship’s crew, weapons and power. Though easy to grasp, the game is fiendishly difficult to beat even on “easy.”
The iPad port is flawless. A clever magnification system is used to highlight whatever portion of the interface you’re using, and the port comes with all the “Advanced Edition” extras, though it’s wise not to enable them on your first try.
FTL is $9.99 and will only work on an iPad 2 or newer.
This clever turn-based strategy game uses a “simultaneous turns” system in which each player plots their movements at the same time. Once everyone is ready, the turn plays out, for better or worse. This makes for extremely complex tactical combat as each player must map out efficient turns and try to guess what the opposition will do.
The port is excellent. Though tactically complex, the game relies on a small number of special units and abilities, so there aren’t a ton of commands for the interface to manage. And the graphics, though simple, have a minimalist beauty that’s perfect for a Retina display.
Frozen Synapse is 99 cents and works on any iPad updated with iOS 4.2 or later.
Anyone who played PC games in the 1990s no doubt remembers Myst, an adventure title that arguably was the high water mark for the genre’s popularity. Fans of the genre can now enjoy the same experience on the iPad, where the original visuals translate surprisingly well. The controls, which were always simple, work perfectly with touch.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a modern interpretation of old-school adventure games (like realMyst) which uses the high-quality art, voice acting and music available to today’s developers. The game’s story is arguably better than the TV show and the graphics, though no match for the PC version, look great.
The Walking Dead: The Game is available in a number of “episodes” each of which last a couple hours and sell for $4.99. You can also buy multiple episodes in a package deal. Gamers who like this title should also check out The Wolf Among Us, another episodic game from the same developer. You’ll need an iPad 2 or newer to enjoy these games.
Introversion Software, one of the oldest indie developers still active, ported its cult classic Uplink to the iPad in 2012. This is one of the few titles that puts you in the role of a hacker and doesn’t abstract the experience with a strange “inside the computer” mini-game.
To win you must deploy cracking software, manage your computer’s resources and route your connections through multiple servers. This makes it a strategy game, albeit one that’s different from anything else you’ve played. The interface works well, aside from a few text fields that must rely on the iPad’s virtual keyboard, and the overall experience is much better than playing the original version on PC.
Uplink is $8.99 and will work on any iPad updated to iOS 4.2 or later.
Looking for a hardcore rouge-like? You’ve found it. Brogue is an ASCIII dungeon crawler with 26 randomly generated levels that tasks you with looting the Amulet of Yendor – and then finds hundreds of ways to kill you.
With that said, Brogue is not as intimidating as it looks at first glance. The touch controls are surprisingly precise and the turn-based gameplay is straightforward. You’re rarely told exactly what potions, magic items and scrolls do, but discovery is half the journey.
Brogue is free, and it will run on any iPad updated to version 6.0 or later.
This is yet another adventure game that’s made an excellent transition to the iPad. The original’s simplistic graphics have been updated to fit the Retina display, but they retain their old-school charm. As for the gameplay, well, it’s Monkey Island. The experience is not overly complex or challenging as adventure titles go, but it is hilarious.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is $2.99 and will work with any iPad updated to iOS 2.2.1 or later. The sequel, LeChuck’s Revenge, is $4.99.
Pirates! was originally released in 1987, four years before Sid Meier developed the original Civilization. Though critically acclaimed, the franchise was never developed like Civilization, and it was largely forgotten until a new version was created in 2004.
The re-release casts a wide net. You can sail, fight land battles, engage in sword fighting duels and trade with various islands. The campaign is open, meaning you have the option to go into the world and explore rather than stick to the plot, a feature that’s unusual among iPad games.
Sid Meier’s Pirates! is $4.99 and will work on any iPad updated to iOS 4.2 or later, but it’s best on the iPad 2 or newer.
Another 2004 release, the Bard’s Tale is a fun, comedic console and PC role playing game that lacked the name recognition needed to hit it big. When it came to the iPad in 2011, however, it was among the platform’s first big RPGs and finally earned the recognition it deserves.
While the game’s story is a homage to the silliness of old-school adventures (like Monkey Island) the gameplay has more in common with action-RPGs like Torchlight and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. You’ll fight various monsters and complete quests in a semi-open world. The controls work quite well and the graphics, though rather basic, at least allow for quick and responsive gameplay.
The Bard’s Tale is $2.99 and will work on any iPad updated to iOS 4.3 or later.
These ten games can provide you with hundreds of hours of entertainment and should satisfy gamers who have doubts the iPad can serve as a “real” game platform. Yet this list is just the tip of the iceberg, as there are many other PC ports available. Tell us about your favorite PC-to-iPad port in the comments.