The iPad comes off as a serious little piece of machinery. After all, it’s a tablet computer, and most people who carry one are business-like themselves, with seemingly little time for fun outside of the hours they spend on the go, answering emails and pecking out reports. But the iPad is in fact an excellent gaming machine. While it’s not as portable as the iPhone, its screen is much bigger and affords lots more room to accurately control on-screen characters and objects.
If you blew your week’s pay purchasing your iPad, don’t worry. Here are the five best free iPad games, sorted by genre: Racing/Sports, Simulation, and Kids/Family.
TOP 5 FREE IPAD RACING AND SPORTS GAMES
iQuarterback 2 — iQuarterback 2 doesn’t offer the full football experience, but it does let you practice throwing the ball at a variety of targets in a variety of weather conditions. You can also rack up achievements and high scores, and show them off via the Game Center. Sure beats nursing a broken femur.
Pro Zombie Soccer: Apocalypse Edition Lite — A rather twisted take on zombie-killing and the classic game of soccer. Jax, a poisoned soccer enthusiast who’s hours away from becoming a zombie himself, decides he’s not going to go quietly into the dark night. He uses his soccer ball to re-align an orbital weapons platform to blast as many zombies as possible before he joins the undead. Bizarre, but undeniably fun.
LightBike 2 — LightBike 2 puts you behind the wheel(?) of a LightBike from Tron. The rules of the game are pretty transparent: Race through the grid and create light-walls that will cut off your opponent and smash ’em to bits. LightBike 2 looks great, and its bite-sized gameplay sessions keep the experience from getting old too quickly.
GT Racing: Motor Academy Free+ — A free-to-play racing simulator with massively multiplayer online (MMO) elements. Win races to unlock new cars, and upgrade your account to gain access to even more sweet rides.
Drift Mania Championship Lite — Drift Mania, as its name suggests, is a unique game based around the skill and style of drifting. But be warned: there’s drifting, and then there’s beautiful drifting. Drift Mania Championship Lite rates you according to the latter, and you’re ranked on angle, speed, and the impression you make on your audience. Don’t disappoint them.
TOP 5 FREE IPAD SIMULATION GAMES
Vegas Towers — Vegas Towers is a game that puts you in charge of building and managing–wait for it–towers. Specifically, you’re charged with constructing a luxury resort skyscraper in Vegas, and you have to include enough big noises and shiny things to keep the visitors coming in. Be prepared for some rough competition: we are talking about Vegas, after all.
We Rule Deluxe — We Rule is a social sim game that lets you build up your own kingdom and till the land. You can construct fantasy structures like the Minotaur’s torturous maze, or you can take a more sensible, realistic approach and build conservative structures that don’t look like objects out of a madman’s nightmare. Your buddies can visit your kingdom and help it grow.
Farm Story — Farm Story is a very decent iOS take on Zynga’s FarmVille. The basic concept is familiar: grow crops, raise animals, and build up a pretty homestead. You can also visit your neighbors and behold the fruits of their labor.
Restaurant Story — Build your own restaurant, assemble a menu, and invite Facebook friends to become your neighbors. Standard stuff, but based on a tried-and-true formula. Restaurant Story is a solid offering in the free-to-play iOS category.
Tiny Tower — Tiny Tower is great on the iPhone, but it excels on the iPad. Build up a tower with retail stores and residential suites, then manage your stock and your tenants. The iPad’s screen lets you appreciate the game’s retro sprite-based graphics that much more.
TOP 5 FREE IPAD KIDS AND FAMILY GAMES
Smurfs’ Village — Smurfs’ Village asks you to assist Papa Smurf in building a new Smurfs’ Village after the evil jerk Gargamel destroys the old village and scatters its denizens. Your task is to help build a village that’s better, faster, stronger than the old one. Grow crops and gardens, mix potions, build houses, and assemble nuclear missiles to defend yourself in case Gargamel comes nosing around again (okay, maybe not).
New York 3D Roller Coaster Rush HD — New York City is all right as a tourist destination, but if someone built a giant roller coaster to twist through its skyscrapers, the city would really sing. With the free version of New York 3D Roller Coaster Rush HD, you can race a roller coaster through New York City and experience the gut-churning drops that would assuredly come with the ride.
My Horse — Every kid wants a pony, but paying room and board for one of the little beasts can get costly. My Horse on the iPad is a fun and surprisingly realistic horse simulation. Feed, groom, and love your very own horsie.
Airport Mania: First Flight Lite — Airport Mania: First Flight is a kid-friendly time management game. Land planes, upgrade your airport, and dole out beverages to travelers (the budget doesn’t cover full meal service anymore).
Draw Free — With Draw Free, you can paint pictures and edit photos without the mess of finger-paints. Better still, it’s a very decent app for young artists who will automatically take to drawing pictures with their fingers instead of smearing paint on the iPad screen itself. You can even print out each masterpiece as it’s completed.