Top 5 Multiplayer Apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad

Multiplayer gaming on the iPhone was new a year ago. Now, the rapidly maturing field offers a plethora of options. We’ve picked out some of the best for you, but first, a little cleanup:

To play over local WiFi, all players must connect through the same hub. WiFi and 3G global games allow you to compete from anywhere, but are sometimes geared towards a universal pool of gamers; playing with your friend can be impossible if the game automatically matches you with the opponents.

With that said… let the games begin!

NOVA (Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance) Gameloft; $6.99. Gameloft has been a powerhouse of iPhone games since day one. Gameloft’s specialty is delivering the kind of experience you’d expect from one of those old-fashioned gaming machines connected to a TV, but the size of an iPhone. (The company’s “Brothers In Arms” franchise, a “Call of Duty” knockoff, is legendary.) NOVA is a HALO-like first-person shooter set in a sci-fi world, and up to four can play in one game. The graphics are beautiful, the gameplay is sharp, and you have a good amount of wiggle room to explore on each screen, adding to the realism.

Galcon, Galcon.com; $2.99. Some say that Gameloft gets by with the perfect implementation of someone else’s idea. The secret of Galcon’s addictive power, on the other hand, is its originality. The graphics are flat and geometric, but are not intended to be realistic. The action is in the strategy, but here’s the catch: there are no turns. You do all your galactic domination in real time. It’s simple, it’s addictive and it’s the best at what it does. Add human opponents and your iPod touch or iPhone becomes an arcade you can’t leave.

Alive 4-ever, Meridian; $2.99. Do you prefer your shooting games with a top-down point of view and waves and waves of the undead? Alive 4-ever is for you. You and up to three other survivors fight in a zombie-infested wasteland, where if you know what’s good for you, you even shoot the dogs. You will play Alive 4-ever until you realize that you have become one of to them,and go in search of fresh brains to eat. Bonus: With the multiplayer game, you now have a lunch date. Bluetooth and local wifi (you and your friends), without global wifi.

MyBrute, Bulkypix, $3.99. MyBrute removes everything except the fight, then doesn’t allow you to control the fighter. If that turns you off, skip to the next “best”. If not, you are a fan of RPGs. RPGs are all about building, training, equipping, and perfecting your character, then pitting them against others and letting nature take its course. MyBrute does it brilliantly, with equipment and skills that outclass wazoo and dojos vying for the privilege of training your cute little gladiator. Caution: Extremely addictive for RPG fans and provides an insidious option to purchase new features. Fighters also kill each other’s pets, but it’s like a cartoon, so you won’t mind.

FAST (Fleet Air Superiority Training), SGN; Free. Does real-time, online 3-D dogfighting sound good? So you want FAST Go to where the highest DefCon is and take on the enemy over Wi-Fi, either in private combat against friends or random internet victims. Fight head-to-head or in 2v2 dogfights. Ten planes, 30 missions, unlimited opponents.

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