For years now, the performance of iPhones has meant that even the humblest can still be a good companion for gamers. Combine that with great battery efficiency and a huge catalog of great games (including some Apple Arcade exclusives), and the iPhone may just be the best mobile gaming platform out there.
While every iPhone made in the last few years will have no problem running even the most demanding mobile games, you don’t want to pay for power you won’t use or, conversely, save a bit of money and then find out that your favorite game isn’t t as slippery as you expected. So to avoid these scenarios, here is our guide to choosing the best iPhone for your gaming needs.
What kind of player are you?
Before heading to the Apple store with your credit card held high, it’s worth taking a little time to think about the type of gamer you are, as this will have a big influence on which iPhone you should buy. In summary, there are basically three main types:
This is someone who likes to play the occasional game of ‘quick hit’ while waiting for the bus, picking up the kids, or perhaps during their lunch hour. The games are usually things like Candy Crush, Dots, Wordscapes, or other simple ones that you can pick up and play, then stop after a few minutes. Honestly, if you’re a casual gamer, your calculations when choosing an iPhone are more likely to focus on things like cameras or size, not how well it can play AAA titles like Genshin Impact.
If you enjoy playing some of the more demanding games, maybe PubG, Asphalt 9, or others that have immersive graphics and faster gameplay, but still see it as a good way to pass the time rather than something you want to master, then might as well be a foodie.
Hardcore gamers, as the name suggests, are those who love gaming and want to play the most graphically advanced 3D games, have instant touch feedback from the screen, the smoothest renderings, and enough space to use the controls precisely. You know who you are.
So once you’ve figured out what kind of gamer you might be, here are our recommendations for the iPhone you need.
And, if you’re wondering how you can use a game controller with your iPhone, we’ve covered it in separate articles:
- How to pair a PS4 DualShock 4 controller with your iPhone
- How to pair an Xbox One controller with your iPhone
- The best iOS controllers
The best iPhone for gamers
The best iPhone for casual gamers: iPhone 13
Now, it should be noted that for casual games any modern iPhone will do, but from the current catalog we believe that the iPhone 13 is the one that best balances size, storage space and price.
You could go with the iPhone 12, but the base model only has 64GB of storage, which can fill up if you download multiple games and take photos and videos. Once you’ve bumped up the spec on an iPhone 12 to 128GB, it’s already getting closer to the price of the iPhone 13 which has a faster processor and improved cameras, so we think this would be the sweet spot.
The iPhone 14 is another great pick, but you’re spending more money on features you may not need.
What about the iPhone SE? Well, it can handle the processing, but the small screen might be too tiny these days. Still, that’s another option.
Read our full Apple iPhone 13 review
The best iPhone for keen gamers: iPhone 14 Plus
When it comes to more demanding games, one of the things that can really help is a bigger screen. Trying to operate virtual controls on a small screen can be an incredibly frustrating experience. Fortunately, you no longer need to spend big bucks on an iPhone Pro Max to get some serious screen real estate, as Apple reintroduced the Plus model to the standard iPhone lineup.
With the new iPhone 14 Plus you get the same impressive specs as the iPhone 14, including the A15 Bionic processor from the iPhone 13 Pro range, improved cameras, longer battery life and a brighter screen, but the panel is also 6.7 inches instead of the 6.1 inches of its smaller brother.
Apple also claims that the Plus’s battery lasts about six hours longer than the iPhone 14’s, which could be the difference between completing a game or rushing to try and find a power point before losing progress.
The best iPhone for hardcore gamers: iPhone 14 Pro Max
When only the best is worth it, be it in terms of power, screen or battery life, there is only one option: the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It comes loaded with the most powerful processor in an iPhone, the A16 Bionic, a 6.7-inch OLED display with super-smooth ProMotion that offers a 120Hz refresh rate.
Then there’s that battery. Apple claims it can last 29 hours when playing a video, admittedly games will cut it faster, but that’s three hours longer than the iPhone 14 Plus and nine hours longer than the iPhone 14.
Yes, you’ll cringe at the prices involved, especially if you need more storage than the base model’s 128GB, but you’ll also get one of the best camera arrangements available on a mobile device, plus there’s the Dynamic Island, which feels a bit like a minigame in itself.
If you’re serious about gaming, the iPhone 14 Pro Max is arguably the best gaming phone currently available.
Read our full iPhone 14 Pro Max review
Why not read our roundup of the best free iPhone games and our top 100 iPhone and iPad game recommendations?