The rise of the freemium model has made free iPad games a lot more popular, and while some freemium games are nothing more than annoying attempts to bleed your wallet, the best offer in-app purchases that add to gameplay without becoming a requirement, thus allowing you to pay or not pay as you please. And between ad-supported gaming and freemium games, there are a lot of great free games you can download from the iPad app store.
Note: This list avoids free games with the over-the-top freemium models, so while a game like Dungeon Hunter IV offers great graphics and good game play, it doesn't make the list based on its annoying in-app purchase mechanics.
Temple Run was made popular when pop sensation Justin Bieber and Houston Texans running back Arian Foster became addicted to it. And it's quite easy to become addicted to this one. The premise is simple: keep running else the demonic monkeys will eat you. Turning left and right, jumping over chasms and rings of fire, and sliding under trees all the while collecting coins and unlocking powerups... yeah, it's crazy. Crazy fun. Think of it like a 3D version of Pitfall. With monkeys.
Hearthstone is the perfect example of the freemium model done the right way. This addicting card battle game allows you to buy card packs (and, now, an expansion), but never really pushes you to buy it. In fact, you can buy card packs for gold you earn doing quests in the game, and even buy access to the expansion without paying a dime. And the best part is this fun game is among the best card battle games on the iPad.
From the old to the new, Draw Something Free is one of the more recent viral games infecting our devices. Draw Something Free is a digital version of Pictionary, and a quite addicting one at that. The game allows you to play with friends or grab a random opponent and has the same turn-based gameplay that makes Words With Friends so easy to play. My only gripe: I have absolutely no artistic ability. But I still muddle through by choosing the easiest subjects to draw.
This one could almost be called an oldie-but-a-goodie if it weren't for the fact that Words With Friends is only three years old. Available on just about every platform known to mankind, including the ever-popular Facebook, Words With Friends is a Scrabble clone that allows you go play the word game in a turn-based format, even playing multiple games with different people.
Candy Crush Saga leverages the fun of a matching game with deliciously satisfying explosions. The game starts out simple enough at the beginning, but the puzzles offered by pesky insects and blocked areas get more difficult as you progress through the game. This one is great for both kids and adults.
One of the top strategy games on the iPad, Plants vs Zombies 2 is a great sequel to the original. It may not have as many different game modes, but it provides a solid experience. Anyone that loves tower defence games should check this one out. It does get more difficult not to spend money on it, but there is plenty of free content to make it a worthwhile download. And if you end up spending money to unlock an area later in the game, that means you like playing it.
If it seems like this list is heavy with endless runner games, it's for good reason. The genre seems to lend itself to the freemium model without being too annoying. It helps that Temple Run both popularized the genre and set the template for how to monetize it. Sonic Dash isn't going to win any awards for reinventing the endless runner, but for those who loved Sonic back in the day, this is a nice blast from the past.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful games on this list, Asphalt 8: Airborn also offers the most annoying free-to-play mechanics of any other game on this list. It also happens to be one of the best racing games on the iPad, which is why it is included. Asphalt 8: Airborn adds air stunts to the game, and performing them can give you a boost of nitro. But performing tricks slows you down, so you will need to decide whether or not a trick is worth it.
If you love World of Warcraft, you will want to download Pocket Legends. This MMORPG for the iPad offers three different classes and the ability to access your characters from your iPad or your iPhone, so you'll be able to play wherever you are and whichever device you take with you. The game includes quests, crafting, PvP and everything you expect from an MMO.