Despite its age, Minecraft continues to win over new gamers with its endless exploration, open-ended LEGO-style fort building, family friendliness, and low price, and you don't need the latest iPhonemore
Despite its age, Minecraft continues to win over new gamers with its endless exploration, open-ended LEGO-style fort building, family friendliness, and low price, and you don't need the latest iPhone or iPad to make it run smoothly. But Apple's App Store offers a dizzying variety of similar and inexpensive family-friendly sandbox games that you may want to explore. So how do you choose? Here are our picks for the five best alternatives to Minecraft for your iOS device.
There are many Bridge Constructor games to choose from, and the Portal-flavored version is arguably the most charming. It combines physics-based crafting and puzzles with sci-fi shortcuts that teleport your vehicle riders through time and space, opening up cool new ways to play. You get no fewer than 60 scenarios to build in, with companion cubes, sentry turrets, lasers, and some light puzzles. And you can get the whole game for just $5, with no ads or in-app purchases.
While escaping from prison doesn't sound like it would be a family-friendly affair, The Escapists dials the seriousness way down with retro 2D pixel art, putting it on the level of a vintage action game like Double Dragon or Shinobi. There's also a comedy vibe, with one of your scenarios involving breaking out of a sweatshop run by Santa Claus. Whichever scenario you choose, there will be a variety of ways to get out -- cause a distraction, steal a uniform, dig a hole to the outside -- and you'll have the freedom to explore each area, as long as you keep a low profile and hide your stash of tools. The Escapists is just $4, with no ads or in-app transactions.
Boredom is frequently likened to watching grass grow, but Farming Simulator actually manages to make crop harvesting and animal husbandry interesting -- even fun. Milk cows, shear sheep, raise pigs, and sell the products you make from them in a market; you're running a business as well as building a farm. You can also spend time logging nearby forests and selling the lumber. If your friends own this game, you can even play with them locally, over Wi-Fi. Farming Simulator 18 is $5 and has no ads. There are in-app purchases to buy in-game currency, but they're not necessary to enjoy the game.
In the Scribblenauts games, you solve puzzles by crafting things out of thin air -- but instead of combining crafting materials to make the item you need, you describe the item with an in-game notebook. With this tool, you can conjure a dizzying variety of objects and creatures, and a built-in spell checker can take care of your typos. Your mission in Scribblenauts Unlimited is to rescue your sister from being turned into stone, which can only be undone by collecting starites, which you get by helping people throughout the game world. A farmer needs to sell a prize pig, someone needs to get a cat out of a tree -- that sort of thing. Scribblenauts has a very positive vibe and charming 2D artwork, and it's just $5 with no ads or in-app purchases.
It's pretty much impossible to talk about Minecraft without mentioning Terraria, because they both feature a retro art style, and they both orbit around exploring an exotic medieval fantasy world and crafting a gradually expanding home base. But folks with older devices may appreciate Terraria's less demanding 2D side-scrolling presentation. And its combat and world exploration are potentially more satisfying because of the variety of weapons and gadgets -- rocket boots, grappling hooks, laser guns, and other fun toys -- that will eventually be at your disposal. Terraria is $5, with no ads or in-app purchases.