The iPad as a game console: Can Apple do it better than Nintendo?

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The iPad has come a long way , With each new generation, it made a big leap forward. Since the launch in the spring of 2010, games are not only there, but the biggest beneficiary of this development. First and foremost through the hardware: the iPad now has a Retina display and puts every HD TV in the shade. With the A9 chip and the M9 coprocessor, the basic version already has enough power for hardware-hungry games. The iPad Pro even goes beyond that. The entry-level price of the iPad is comparable to modern handheld consoles like the Nintendo Switch.

But not only the hardware is convincing. There are so many games in the App Store that Apple outsourced iOS 11 as a separate menu item. The variety is enormous: In addition to small games in between, true console successes with depth and scope rank themselves. The App Store offers classics, indie pearls and in-house developments for every taste in the game. The prices are especially convincing: many games are available as a free download. Only for in-app purchases then demand money. Even paid games rarely require more than ten euros. This is not a comparison to the console competition of Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft – there begins the price range for games at this price.

Hard- and software convince so. Only one problem hinders the iPad on the triumphal procession in the console world: Apple. More specifically, Apple’s traditional skepticism about video games.

Apple’s Stumbling Stones

The start was good at first. Already for the first iPad presentation opened the then iOS boss Scott Forstall the stage for game developers. Publishers like Gameloft and Electronic Arts presented their latest developments for Apple’s tablet. In autumn 2010, Apple launched its own gaming network Game Center. With iOS 4.2, the interface for multiplayer options and leaderboards also moved to the iPad. What started promising, however, has disappeared today in the sinking. With iOS 10, the Game Center app disappeared again from Apple’s mobile devices. Games can still use these features, but players no longer have the ability to manage their friend lists – the cross-game feature just does not exist anymore. A similar move would be unthinkable on consoles.

In addition, Apple’s iOS platform has not been an easy solution to manage savegames – so every game developer has to take care of it himself. Apple’s obvious lack of understanding for the needs of developers on the Apple TV is particularly clear: With the fourth generation, Apple brought the App Store on Apple TV in 2015. Games were especially popular. However, the games were not allowed to be larger than 200 MB, all other data had to be downloaded and cached first. This may work fine on TV episodes, but it’s impossible for big game worlds. Only in January 2017 Apple relaxed this regulation and increased the limit to 4 GB. On the other hand, console games for the Playstation or Xbox fill entire 25 to 50 GB blurays.

Apple is taking big steps forward with every new generation of iOS. Rarely, however, do these steps make life easier for game developers and thus gamers.

External Controllers

An important building block for the iPad as a game console is the controller. Many games use the touch screen of the tablet in an innovative way. Often he enriches entire genres by the control options with swipes and gestures. Puzzles, puzzle games and board games, for example, find a new home on the iPad. But not every title benefits from the touch screen. Particularly implementations of well-known titles from the genre ego-shooter or racing games need a controller with analog sticks and own buttons. Again, Apple hesitantly opened the iOS platform to gamers’ needs.

Steelseries Nimbus

The iPad Controller

With iOS 7, Apple finally thought of gamers in 2013. Since the update, iPhones and iPads also support external gaming controllers. Meanwhile, there are a variety of such accessories. In the test convinced the Nimbus Steelseries. The controller is just as good in the hand as the big role models of Sony or Microsoft. The device has a built-in battery that you charge via Apple’s Lightning cable. You do not need a cable to play, you connect via Bluetooth. You can control hundreds of games with the controller, many of them top titles. In addition, the controller also works with the fourth-generation Apple TV as well as your Mac. The price is around 60 euros.

Meanwhile, there are some external controllers within the framework of the MFi program (“Made for iPad”, ie: “Made for the iPad”). Thus, the iOS platform now supports the Bluetooth controllers of some manufacturers. Unfortunately, there is still no Apple-developed controller. These external controllers are based on the big role models of Microsoft and Sony. The Nimbus controller from Steelseries convinces with its long battery life and extensive game support.

The Future

Although Apple may have found little interest in the medium of video games in the past, this could be in But change the future. On the one hand, Apple sees the enormous popularity of games in the App Store – otherwise there would not be a separate category in the new App Store layout. In addition, offers a greater interaction between the iPad and Apple TV. Nintendo shows with the switch how successful the connection of a stationary and mobile console can be. Apple has created a practical alternative to AirPlay technology. With AirPlay, you mirror your screen content of the iPad via Apple TV to your TV. This is completely wireless and even with the third generation of the Apple TV.

Much more important than gadgets with the hardware but designed the software – that is: the games. Since Apple recently landed two large catches. Nintendo, the traditional console manufacturer and game developer from Japan, now brings its own content in the App Store. In addition to “Super Mario Run” more offshoots of popular Nintendo series are announced. But smaller indie developers rely on Apple’s iOS platform. In September, Apple not only presented new iPhones in the new Steve Jobs Theater, but opened the stage again for game developers. The highly acclaimed studio Thatgamecompany, formerly the exclusive provider of Playstation games, presented its latest game with Sky. Apple’s recent interest in the games of big and small game studios could be an indication that Apple wants to do more for gamers.


The iPad thrives on a serious platform for gamers. The hardware convinces with power and lightness, the App Store offers an undefeated range of games. With an external controller, you can gamble on the go as comfortably as on the couch. Hopefully, Apple will also recognize this potential of the iOS platform in the future and reactivate the Game Center. Until then, gamers will not be bored.

Must-Haves for iPad Gamers

Asphalt 8: Airborne : The Asphalt series is also with its eighth offshoot an action orgy. The racing game does not follow the rules of physics. Instead, you race at top speed through the racetracks. Especially daredevil maneuvers fill your nitro boost – making it even faster. Abbreviations, ski jumps and drift deposits continue to fuel the action. The elaborate graphics convinced and the music drives with electronic beats. External controller also supports the game. Unfortunately, the commercials between the races annoy and disturb the fun. Use apps like Youtube Gaming to stream your races live using the iPad. The streams land directly in your own Youtube channel. There you and others can also watch the races afterwards. In-app purchases unlock more cars.

             Download on App Store

Asphalt 8: Airborne

Developer: Gameloft

Deus Ex: The Fall : The Deus Ex series looks back on a long tradition. At the turn of the millennium, it started as an action role-playing game. At the beginning of the 2010s there was a new start with “Human Revolution” as a first person shooter with RPG elements. The iOS offshoot “Deus Ex: The Fall” is based on the recent alignment. On the iPad, you also navigate through the game world from the first person perspective. As with other shooters, you control the character with your left thumb, with the right direction of view. Unfortunately, this does not work so well in hectic battles. There is no support for external controllers. As with the console offshoots, shooting is also optional here. You can sneak through the game world and hide. Your opponents then switch off silently and undetected. The language version is English.

             Download on App Store

Deus Ex: The Fall

Developer: SQUARE ENIX Ltd

Minecraft : Minecraft is on everyone’s lips – at least in the target group of 6-16 year olds. The creative arts and crafts game has sold more than 120 million copies worldwide – only Tetris is more successful. Minecraft fans get their money’s worth on the iPad: Game modes such as “Survival” and “Creative” have also made it onto the tablet. With the “Better Together” update, you can now also play with and against players on other platforms. The control succeeds surprisingly well on the touch screen. With a virtual directional cross you walk through the area. You are mining raw materials and shaping the game world. You also organize your inventory directly on the touch screen. Paid in-app purchases add more texture to the game. The scope of play is enormous, the implementation for the iPad succeeded.

             Download on App Store


Developer: Mojang AB

Oceanhorn : The story is not new, but it still works: plagued by nightmares, the nameless hero awakens from a restless sleep. His father has disappeared to fight a legendary monster. The hero does not hesitate for long and even searches for father and monster. Not only the premise, but also the gameplay is strongly oriented to “The Legend of Zelda” from Nintendo. Also Oceanhorn is an action adventure. The focus is on the exploration of the game world, equipped with sword and shield. Thanks to controller support, this is particularly easy. The graphics convinced with a loving cartoon look. The soundtrack is also atmospheric. For fans of role-playing and adventure classics like Final Fantasy or “The Legend of Zelda” a good alternative.

             Download on App Store

Oceanhorn ™

Developer: FDG Mobile Games GbR

Knights of the Old Republic : Thousands of years before the stories about the Skywalker family, there was also war in a galaxy far, far away. The evil Sith Lord Dark Malak wants to destroy the Republic. Of course you have to prevent that. Thanks to the successful iOS porting of “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” you can handle this conflict on the go. But you need time. The scope of this role play is immense! At the beginning you create your own character and choose between different classes and assigned abilities. As the game progresses, you will gather more teammates. The bouts are turn-based but action-packed. There is also support for external controllers, which makes control easier. The speech is in English, but there are German texts. A true classic – not just for Star Wars fans.

             Download on App Store

Star Wars®: Knights of the Old Republic ™

Developer: Aspyr Media (iDP)

Walking Dead: The Game : Zombies can not be killed – neither in comics nor on the iPad. Not even in Telltales adventure milestone “Walking Dead: The Game”. The game has been awarded awards and best marks. Five chapters cover the adventure game. The first episode is available for free in the App Store, all other costs together 16,99 Euro. They play the role of inmate Lee, who has to fight through the zombie apocalypse. You will meet the little girl Clementine and other companions. Instead of action, decisions are in the foreground: Who in the group gets the scarce resources? Which team member do you sacrifice for the group? Especially the story convinces in this exciting adventure game. The control via touchscreen also works well.

             Download on App Store

Walking Dead: The Game

Developer: Telltale Games

Indie Pearls: Insider’s Tips

Superbrothers : The game was first released in 2011 for Apple’s platforms and has not lost its charm to this day. Behind the lovely pixel graphics hides a true adventure game. Similar to the Nintendo classics like “The Legend of Zelda”, you are heading out into a big world. In addition to the graphics, especially the sound convinces. The background music is consistent. The soundscape brings the landscapes to life – headphones increase the fun. The controls are clever: in landscape mode, you explore the big game world, by turning the iPad into portrait mode you open the combat mode. Here you fight against monsters and dangers. The combat system is simple. It depends above all on the right rhythm. Overall a strong argument for the iPad as a gaming machine.

             Download on App Store

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Developer: Capybara Games Inc.

Papers Please : Check papers, study regulations, put stamps. What in real life means the drunken everyday life of a border official, can be captivated in “Papers, Please”. No wonder, because this is where official everyday life is packed into an extraordinary setting. The scene of the game is Arstotzka, a parody of former Soviet states. You assume the role of an anonymous border official. Every day there are new regulations. These must be compared with the submitted papers at each passport control. Whoever fulfills them, may go through. If you make mistakes, fines are imminent. Quickly develops a puzzle mechanics under stressful conditions. At the end of the day, you will receive your salary, barely enough to survive. Failure is part of the gameplay – not only for high scores, but also for moral issues.

             Download on App Store

Papers, Please

Developer: 3909 LLC

Monument Valley : How to solve impossible problems? A question of perspective – at least in Monument Valley. The puzzle game will introduce you to seemingly impossible tasks. The goal: to move your character to the exit of a level. All you need is a complete path. On closer inspection, however, you realize: The level seems broken! Similar to the works of MC Esher there are breaks in perspective. There are connections that are logically impossible. So you have to create these impossible perspectives yourself. Sounds simple, but it is a tremendous puzzle. But thanks to the beautiful graphics and soothing music, stress rarely comes into play. The touch control is perfectly adapted to the large iPad display. If you’re stuck, use the built-in screenshot mode and ask your friends.

             Download on App Store

Monument Valley

Developer: ustwo Games Ltd

Strategy Games: Puzzle Fun

Faster Than Light : “Bridge to Captain: We’re Under Attack!” Phrases like this are not just a hallmark of science fiction Series like Star Trek, but also the gameplay of “FTL: Faster Than Light”. They take command of a spaceship, closely followed by rebels. On a map you jump from point to point and towards safety. On the way there, you will encounter enemy spaceships, traders and ambushes. Only through coordinated processes do you win. Do the shields have enough energy? How long do the laser cannons have to charge? You do not just have to ask these questions, you also have to answer them. But failure is part of the concept. And so the randomly generated journey through space begins again and again by new ones. Graphics and music have a retro look.

             Download on App Store

            FTL: Faster Than LightDeveloper: Subset Games, LLC

Hearthstone : Where Blizzard says, quality is expected on the iPad as well. With Hearthstone, the “World of Warcraft” developer brings a card game offshoot of the big online world to the iPad. This is about turn-based card-boasting instead of big game worlds. Each turn, you draw a card on your hand, play cards from your hand onto the field, and attack the opponent, either directly or through the cards you play. The principle is simple, but it is becoming ever more complex. The tutorial is constantly adding new maps and actions. It attracts you gently but effectively into the game. The presentation is complex: In addition to the graphics in the Warcraft style convinced especially the loving German synchronization of the characters. More card packs can be unlocked with in-app purchases.

             Download on App Store


Developer: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Hitman Go “/>

Hitman Go (Image: Apple, Square Enix, Montage)

Hitman GO : Some console games do not work on the iPad. Because they are technically too complex, the controller without controller does not work or the game is too complex for the platform. All three factors apply to the Hitman series. Nevertheless, developer Square Enix has created a successful offshoot for the tablet. By playing the core principle in a completely new context: The optics are reminiscent of a board game, stand on the game characters. You also take over the role of the contract killer Agent 47. But you take them step by step across the board – past civilians and guards who move on their own. Your goal: the level exit or your target person. Step by step you puzzle your way through the game boards. The levels are entertaining, but tricky. The iCloud sync keeps iPhone and iPad up to date.

             Download on App Store

            Hitman GODeveloper: SQUARE ENIX Ltd


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