Edit: To sum up my question, what is the established back gesture for iOS games (when no pause button exists)?

I have a block puzzle game, square grid, and some levels fill up the whole screen with them. In Android this is no problem because there's a hardware back button. iOS devices, however, have no such thing.

I need some kind of back button to get to the menu, where you can restart, undo, select other levels, go to options page, etc.

I looked at iOS game demos on youtube. All I found was many of them have a pause button in some corner, but this is not a great solution in my case. I could not find a demo illustrating some kind of back gesture, like swiping from the left edge towards the right? Most demos are direct screen captures instead of showing a user and their hands, so I could not confirm this.

I figure most iOS games have adopted some kind of standard practice for this. What is it?

EDIT: I found this article about iOS 7 doing a left-right swipe to go back one page, apparently for safari. This was kinda my first though, because surely there is a back gesture for the back button of web pages? I don't know if this same gesture is standard practice in iOS games, but I put it here because it's my first guess.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You most likely have to program this yourselve. Try downloading some games from the store and look at what they do. \$\endgroup\$
    – rlam12
    Apr 23, 2017 at 17:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rlam12 ofc i was planning to implement this myself, as soon as I know exactly what it is. I can't DL and run any games. Not all of us have access to a working iphone. \$\endgroup\$
    – DrZ214
    Apr 23, 2017 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't have an iPhone to check with, you probably shouldn't be making an iPhone game. How else are you going to check your implementation on the actual hardware to make sure it works as intended? \$\endgroup\$
    – Gnemlock
    Apr 25, 2017 at 1:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gnemlock I have a javascript game working right now on chrome/firefox. It will be an embedded web app for Android and iOS devices, or at least that's the plan. I find it convenient and wise to test on a simulator before investing in expensive apple hardware. All I'm asking is what is the established back gesture for games when no pause button exists. To the anonymous downvoter: is that really worthy of a downvote? \$\endgroup\$
    – DrZ214
    Apr 25, 2017 at 2:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ My game Cognizer (free download) has this. You just implement a button in your game and assign it back functionality. I kept it for the Android version since the hardware back button is such a dumb idea. Take a look: itunes.apple.com/us/app/cognizer/id1088717471?ls=1&mt=8 \$\endgroup\$
    – Almo
    Apr 25, 2017 at 3:24

1 Answer 1


The standard practice is to have a button somewhere onscreen to do this. That's because it is obvious, clear and present whenever the user decides they need to pause.

While the swipe / gesture is a nice idea, users will have trouble actually remembering how to pause, when the time comes - remember that they're not going to read the help each time before they play, instead they'll maybe read it just once - when they first play your game. It could be a few sessions before they ever decide they need to pause; by then they've forgotten how. Then again, you could have a loading screen before each level, with a tip showing user how to pause.

In case they have forgotten how to pause using a swipe, they will probably hit the Home button that goes back into iOS, and when they find the game icon and come back in, gamestate should be paused (you'd need to code this explicitly if you haven't already). This is unorthodox as the primary means of pausing, but it may work if you absolutely cannot tolerate a button, since it is in any case standard behaviour for mobile games.

Auto-pause once a certain amount of time has gone by without user input. Whether or not this can be made to work with your game, is down to you.

Have a pause block, or pause tile revealed beneath a vanished block. These can be scattered randomly around. Of course this may trigger unwanted pausing during actual play. You could also have these trigger some sort of an "upgrade / level up screen" that implicitly pauses the game.

Allow some kind of multi-tap (say tap three times in quick succession) rather than a swipe. Again you will have the difficulty of ensuring the user knows how to do this, but you'll be less likely to have the input confusion that a swipe may cause. Maybe something like holding your thumbs on left and right edge of the screen for a second could work well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As a person who finds some UIs intolerable (Android has a "menu" button too, and guess how you get to the Google Play store's menu? AH HA, GOTCHA. Left-swipe! The menu button does jack all) one thing you could do is if the game pauses on returning to the home screen would be to have an indicator in that menu showing that the swipe gesture is available. Even something along the lines of "Did you know? You can swipe from the left side of the screen to pause!" \$\endgroup\$ Apr 25, 2017 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm trying to find room for a permanent on-screen pause button, but some levels fill up the whole screen with blocks and it would suck to have to add borders just for this button. I'm also paranoid about gestures because what if you want to grab a block at the left edge and move it to the right? Other wild ideas include gestures that involve the gyros, like flicking the device, but there's no way we can expect the user to figure that out unless it's somehow standard practice. \$\endgroup\$
    – DrZ214
    Apr 25, 2017 at 18:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DrZ214 I'll just say "agreed again"? I accidentally activate my Android tablet's "split screen" thingy all the time. I should turn it off as I don't actually use it even though it seems UTTERLY AWESOME in principle (the problem is that virtually no apps--aside from those supplied by Google--support it). Uh. Add a menu bar at the "screen top" and put the name of the game there? Maybe some discrete ads? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 25, 2017 at 19:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DrZ214 Have an occasional pause block, or pause tile revealed beneath a vanished block, that allows you to pause? These can be scattered randomly around. Of course this may trigger unwanted pausing during actual play. You could also have these trigger some sort of an "upgrade / level up screen" that implicitly pauses the game. Either change the game dynamic itself (intrusive), or the UI (annoying). \$\endgroup\$
    – Engineer
    Apr 26, 2017 at 6:03

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