The best iMessage games

By , Feb 21, 2017

When Apple took the wraps off the iMessage App Store last year, it quickly became evident that the messaging service would become the next playground for some weird and wonderful applications. Since then, developers have largely graced us with conventional stickers and app extensions, despite another under-represented category increasingly showing promise: iMessage games.

Almost half a year after opening the gate, it seems a good time to take stock of the games playable through Apple’s messenger and hand-pick the ones not only most captivating but also smartest at circumnavigating the limitations of iMessage. If you fancy the thought of challenging a friend to a duel on iMessage but don’t want to waste anyone’s time trialling potential duds, read on to find out about the current top performers on the iMessage App Store.

Rationalizing a subjective item like ‘fun’ is tough and bound to leave some room for controversy. In view of that, we will kick this off with a quick disclaimer on the criteria applied to filter out the winners below. Due to the restrictions of iMessage, most of the games on offer are turn-based games requiring one or more participants to take their turn and subsequently await the next player’s move.

Accordingly, favorable ratings were awarded to those apps either making good use of this sequence or games at least not completely crippled by the mechanisms. Further attention was paid to the circumstance whether or not an iMessage app would take up space on your Home screen or reside exclusively inside iMessage. With that out of the way, here’s to hoping that the app selection process below has become a little more transparent. Let’s begin.

The best games for iMessage

Four in a row

Because they unfold turn by turn in real life as well (until the person losing bumps the table that is), classic board games are arguably the most logical targets for iMessage game adaptations. This insight has not escaped developers and as a result a large share of games on iMessage emulate vintage games like chess, backgammon or a host of card games. They all function well enough to give them a crack, but sending invitations back and forth to proceed with the game will cost you time and eventually nerves. There is however one exception to the rule, mostly because it curtails the long-windedness: Four in a row.

Four in a row guarantees a good laugh and, best of all, completing one or two matches is not going to take you and your game partner close to a full day. It’s generally speaking the punchy games that excel in iMessage, or the ones eschewing the painful turn-based sequences (as you will find out below) altogether.

If you don’t follow our link directly, be aware that there is more than one app available for Four in a row. This one has made the cut on grounds of affordability (it’s free) and simplicity, as it does not come with what I consider bloatware in the context of iMessage apps (an Home screen icon on your iPhone). If you have relished playing the original game, this is a great substitute on the go.

  • Device support: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
  • Cost: Free

Cobi Hoops

Shooting hoops on iMessage does not sound like a natural match at first, but turns out it is amazingly satisfying. Cobi Hoops challenges you to score as many baskets as possible in a thirty second window, providing little more than a dotted line to help with the trajectory of the ball.

To its credit, the game mechanics and ball physics would have been solid enough for a standalone app, which makes this one a bit of a secret gem in the ‘iMessage games’ category.

Cobi Hoops’ biggest flaw and also convenience come in unison: when you would expect a straightforward shootout mode against your friend, the game instead allows unlimited trials before sending out the high score to your opponent. While that chips away at the competitive character of the game, it at the same time basically offers a single player experience, as you are not required to wait for your iMessage buddy to react to every single streak of yours.

The game boasts an in-game purchase for $1.99, adding a bit of depth to the single player mostly, including a jovial bonus mode, fresh characters and new courts.

As hinted at earlier, it commendably enough does not dump an app icon on your Home screen, which is a plus in this category of games. If you have a penchant for sports (games), do not overlook Cobi Hoops.

  • Device support: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
  • Cost: Free ($1.99 in-app purchase)

Quiktionary

Together with the board games category, word games and puzzles on iMessage share the numerical majority on the platform, arguably again for implementation reasons. Most of these games do bode well with the iMessage framework, which is not to say that they are automatically a thumbs up for casual players. In fact, most of the word games available are about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Enter Quiktionary, which thankfully comes to the rescue for the wordsmiths amongst us. In short, the app will ask you to guess a four letter word (minor clues are given) at your own pace, then challenge your game partner to undercut the result. What’s good is that unlike with most word games, you are given the leeway to solve the riddle by yourself first, completely free of pesky interruptions or back and forth invitations on iMessage.

As soon as a game between two players has ended, you will also unlock one of thirty collectable fun facts – nothing revolutionary I grant you, but a respectable attempt to increase the long term engagement with the app. On a final note, Quiktionary is the only apparent iMessage app in this article necessitating a place on your Home screen. If we want to remain consistent, this is a minus in the context of iMessage apps. With that said, if you’re having a good time playing Quiktionary on iMessage, chances are you will appreciate having access to the full-blown app as well.

  • Device support: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
  • Cost: Free

FastThumbs

The synopsis for FastThumbs almost writes itself. As the name promises, it’s all about typing speed and showing off the insane(ly poor) muscle memory in those thumbs of yours. Choosing from a range of 5 (music related) topics, you are clocked on 10 random phrases or words you need to hammer into your keyboard. Thereafter, your skills are being evaluated, i.e. you are collecting points for speed and copping punishment for the pretty hilariously named ‘fatThumbs penalty’ aka typos.

I’m a big fan of speed typing and would never shy away from the odd duel with Blackberry users back in the days (mostly to make a case for the superiority of touch keyboards). Now that we have by and large all reached a level playing field, it is still animating to see who is fastest.

Besides, the fact that FastThumbs takes the notion of iMessage games literal by delivering a game on the act of typing itself is kind of tongue-in-cheek.

If you’re having a ball but your patience is starting to wear a little thin with the musical flavors, FastThumbs gives you the in-app choice to purchase other contents priced at $0.99 each. These packages are fine, but at the end of the day the point of the exercise is to be fast, irrespective of the words you’re cued to type. To cut a long story short, if you like the sound of flaunting your typing skills do give it a try, it’s definitely worth your time.

  • Device support: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
  • Cost: Free (in-app purchases at $0.99)

Wit – What is this

On the face of it, Wit is just another puzzle game. Dig a little deeper though and you will quickly understand why this one stands out from the pack. Wit’s strongest suit is the personalization of puzzles, in other words you can pick any of your own photos or saved images as the blueprint for a puzzle your friend can chew over.

The fun and mischief you can have with that needs no extra mentioning, and it is furthermore very smart in regard to the creation of the mosaic. No matter if you would like to scatter a picture into 4 or let’s say 40 pieces, it is completely up to you and executed through one intuitive swiping gesture.

Once you’re chuffed with the riddle, you can kick up the difficulty another notch by blurring the pieces or using an enhanced shuffling option. Finish your work off with a Where is that/Who is that/What is that? tagline and send it to a lucky someone, who will in turn be able to realign the pieces and hopefully solve the mosaic (which is always the hallmark of a good puzzle, remember that).

Wit is personal, entertaining and – depending on the complexity of the puzzle orchestrated by you or your mate – a great game to fill either five minutes of your lunch break or its entire duration.

  • Device support: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
  • Cost: Free

Mr. Putt

Everyone likes minigolf, right? Well, Mr. Putt manages to bring the fun to your iMessage chat, making this the second (and final) sports-related game to make the cut for our iMessage game charts. Mr. Putt looks sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing, plus more importantly plays realistically. The aim and power put behind your swings are comprehensible and contribute to an easy learning curve, which means the rivalry between you and your friend can quickly come to a head without suffering distractions over controls or game modes.

As much as this is an unadulterated adaptation from the real game of mini golf, it does – to our great benefit – do away with one of the etiquettes of (mini) golf: turn by turn play. The mode responsible for hours of time wasted sending game invitations back and forth is thankfully discarded in favor of each player finishing the course in one go. If this has become a salient theme in our game picks, that is because it makes that much of a difference.

Mr. Putt is up for grabs at no extra cost and features four polished 9-hole courses, which makes for a lot of ground to be covered before perhaps starting to feel a little repetitive. Considering the quality and contents of the game, this one is another no-brainer in our book.

  • Device support: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch
  • Cost: Free

Honorable Mentions

Checkmate! 

All grievances about the conventional turn-by-turn board games aside, the popularity of chess games on iMessage cannot be denied. Out of the wealth of contenders for honorable mentions, Checkmate! brings home the bacon, mostly on accounts of looks (I mean come on, it’s a chess game). At the price of $0.99, Checkmate! boasts ‘handcrafted’ chess pieces and various color themes including a vibrant red one bestowing each knight with an adorable Christmas hat.
As far as chess games on iMessage go, this is a good one to swoop for, not just because of the hats.

StickyMonster

Some iMessage apps straddle a fine line between qualifying as games and sticker apps, StickyMonster being illustrative of such category. The appeal of this particular one is that it gamifies stickers in that you and your iMessage friends get to create the most grotesque figures together and turn-based, meaning somebody starts drawing the head and afterwards passes the sketch on for the outlining of the torso and so on and so forth. Everyone partaking in the drawing is able to immortalise the end product in their sticker drawer afterwards, which is neat and promises ample nostalgic LOL moments down the road.

GamePigeon

Amended through popular demand, GamePigeon gives you no less than twenty games, amongst which you will find board games, skill games and other lighthearted oddities. The collection weighs a comparatively heavy 40MB, which doesn’t come at a surprise in view of the variety on offer. Initially not included due to some personal reservations with the incremental turn by turn gameplay, it’s ultimately a matter of taste – some of the games on offer (Tanks, Knockout) are genuinely unique and a fun spin, others are arguably less polished versions of games we have featured prominently in our list above (Four In A Row, Chess, Mini Golf). If you like the sound of an allrounder capable of almost two dozen different games, GamePigeon is available to download for free.

 

Have anything to add to our list?

At long last, we have made it to the end of our list of best games on iMessage. Since it is such a particular discipline, one which is arguably still trying to find its feet, more often than not the games will feel iffy, bumpy or simply fall just a little short of expectation. The good news is that this does not hold true for the six nominees shortlisted above, so by all means do give them a spin.

Because whenever you are lost for words while chatting, sometimes a little iMessage game can do wonders.

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  • Matrixnubee

    I’m actually really surprised this iMessage game didn’t make the list as it’s the most common game I see everyone play around me and is actually the way I found out about immessage game extension hahaha!

    GamePigeon’s Pool!!! So addicting!!! But so much fun.

  • How did gamepigeon not make this list… so many games to choose from and a quality app. I play pool on it all the time.

    • Steffen Reich

      honestly, I for one did not love my time with gamepigeon and it was one of the first iMessage games I ever played – but I hear you and I’m clearly outnumbered in that opinion so it’s been added to the list! That’s what you guys are for, checks and balances and all that!

  • therealjjohnson

    How did iMessage pool not make this list? Lol. I think you guess might be out of touch just a bit.