As we noted in our Apple TV review, there are plenty of games for Apple’s black box, but the controller’s a bit iffy for complex fare. Also, Apple’s enforced limit of 200 MB per app means anything requiring more data results in lengthy downloads on first launch. It’s like owning a ZX Spectrum again and waiting for a tape to whirr.
So this selection is all about immediacy and fun: quick, straightforward games that you can understand in an instant. But that doesn’t mean they’re throwaway — even games that only require a single thumb can have surprising depth.
And by the way, we've actually tested all of these (and a whole bunch of others that didn't make the grade) so you can be confident that each one you buy will be money well spent.
Note: universal titles can be bought on another device or in iTunes, and they’ll end up in your Purchased tab in the Apple TV App Store app. But ‘Apple TV only’ games must be purchased in said app. If you don’t see one right away, use the search.
Alto’s Adventure (universal)
On an iPhone, this one looked lovely, but it’s gorgeous on the big screen. As your little snowboarder zooms along, performing tricks and leaping over ravines, weather and daylight subtly shift. But big scores require mastery — stunt combos and the ability to outrun angry elders when you blast past their camp grounds.
The strange little winged creatures in Badland appear to live in some kind of fairy tale hell, with forests boasting as many spinning saw-blades as trees. It’s a frequently intense battle, even though you can play sections over and over, and so beware of ending up in the zone for hours and abruptly realising your thumb’s seized up.
Bean Dreams (universal)
This smart, distilled platformer features a jumping bean who never stops bouncing. You move it left and right, using careful timing to squash monsters and make it to the exit using the fewest leaps. Extra replay value comes from further challenges where you grab all of the fruit and locate pet axolotls.
Beneath The Lighthouse (Apple TV only)
Nitrome’s arcade puzzler features a lighthouse with spinny rooms of spiked death. Your aim: get a rotund chap from entrance to exit, without being impaled. This requires making circular motions on the touchpad to spin the room, the protagonist tumbling accordingly, and it feels like one of the few titles that hasn’t tried to weld a joypad to the tiny Siri Remote.
Arguably the game that kickstarted the one-thumb leapy sub-genre on mobile, Canabalt still impresses today. Some people moan it’s too simple, but they miss the point — this game about leaping across rooftops is all about the thrill of hurtling along at speed. It needs only taps rather than clicks on the Siri Remote, which is a relief during marathon sessions!
There are loads of classic arcade knock-offs on Apple TV, so ignore them and instead grab this loving tribute. As its name suggests, it’s a slow burner — more hypnotic than frenetic at first, as you swipe left and right to blast away waves of dive-bombing aliens. But survive enough waves, and those aliens start learning new tricks, punishing any complacency.