Apple Arcade landed with a thump in 2019. Over 70 games showed up at once, all angling for attention. Dozens more have since been added to the service, including a range of App Store greats and timeless classics.
But which should you try first? Our list unearths the best titles on Apple Arcade to give you an instant gaming hit, whether you fancy high-octane arcade action, a brief bout of puzzling, or a deeper gaming experience packed full of narrative and adventuring.
Apple Arcade costs £5 per month or comes as part of every Apple One bundle.
Additional text: Matt Tate
Despite the minimalist visuals, the exhilarating one-thumb action in SP!NG makes you feel like Spider-Man as you swing through side-on levels, getting into the flow and scooping up diamonds. Right up until you impale yourself on a spike, that is. Fortunately, levels are short and possible to memorise – just as well when aiming for bling-collection perfection.
Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat
Guitar Hero? Pah! Drumming rhythm action games are where it’s at. In Taiko no Tatsujin Pop Tap Beat, it’s you and your thumbs against everything from J-pop to the William Tell Overture. The entire thing is gloriously demented tappy fun – although you won’t see much of the on-screen madness when zeroed in on the note markers!
Clap Hanz Golf
In everything but name, Clap Hanz Golf is an Everybody’s Golf game for Apple Arcade, marking the end of developer Clap Hanz’s long exclusivity deal with PlayStation. But don’t expect an inferior knockoff. Like its predecessors, the infectiously cheerful Clap Hanz Golf hits that perfect sweet spot between arcade and simulation golf, while the new touch controls arguably make hitting a great shot even more satisfying.
When it comes to RPGs, names don’t come much bigger than Hironobu Sakaguchi, best known for being the man who created Final Fantasy. His latest game, Fantasian, is an unashamedly old-school JRPG (you’d better believe there are random battles), but stands out from the crowd thanks to its wholly unique visual style, which uses stunning handcrafted dioramas to form its game world.
Like Yogi Bear meets Metal Gear, Sneaky Sasquatch has you play as the titular hairy chap, who steals grub, hides from rangers, and acquires exciting new possessions from a kleptomaniac raccoon. It’s joyful stuff, from how Sasquatch messily stuffs his face, to the beautifully realised way he tiptoes around humans.
Recalling long-dead iPhone classic Dungeon Raid, Grindstone is a match game where you draw a snaking path to remove items from the board. Only here, a brute-like hero scythes his way through hordes of bloodthirsty creeps. As you work your way up a mountain, increasingly intricate layouts demand think-ahead tactics.
What The Golf?
Mini-golf? Yawn. But wait, because What The Golf? goes weird almost instantly, with the golfer flying through the air instead of the ball. Later, you send an entire clubhouse towards the hole, and the ball thinks its Spider-Man, swinging from walls. If that doesn’t make you chuckle, you’re deader than a ball in the rough.
There’s more than a whiff of Limbo and Inside in Little Orpheus. You spend much of your time hot-footing it, occasionally pausing to fashion a pathway forwards or avoid a terrifying enemy. But this game’s dazzling imagery of a world beneath the Earth’s surface combined with its wonderful voiceovers make it worth exploring.
Card of Darkness
This combination of Rogue-like adventuring and cards (illustrated by Adventure Time artist Pendleton Ward) demands you balance risk and reward. You flip cards to grab bling but need to clear entire stacks to progress. Lack health/weaponry to do so and you’re dead. It’s thinky brilliance, with speedy levels that let you crack on in short bursts.
Super Impossible Road
Roads? Pfft. Cars? Whatever. In this racing game, you coax a metal ball along a roller-coaster track stretching into space. In time-attack challenges and competitive races alike, ‘cheating’ by leaping between sections of track can get you ahead – assuming you don’t mess up and hurl your ball (and ego) into the abyss.
A Monster’s Expedition
Fresh from his adventures in superb mobile puzzler A Good Snowman, the titular monster heads for warmer climes. Keen to learn about humans, he explores exhibits dotted around islands, shoving over trees and rolling logs to create bridges. Presumably, the green lobby will also teach him a thing or two about destroying woodlands.
The Last Campfire
Can a flame be rekindled? That’s the aim here, as a lost ember searches for home, helping bring light to the Forlorn – creatures in abject despair. That might sound a miserable experience, but The Last Campfire is a beguiling game of puzzles within puzzles, brimming with ideas, beautiful visuals, and moments of joy and hope.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Described as an interactive pop album, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a blisteringly fast and ballsy rhythm action romp of bikes, lasers, neon and dance battles that whiff of Rez with a serious injection of speed. You’ll fumble without a controller, but with one in your hands will find this the most exhilarating of Apple Arcade titles.
South of the Circle
Apple Arcade gives the impression narrative is vital for a green light, and South of the Circle is almost all narrative. Interaction is minimal, bar Firewatch-style walky bits, as you explore the past and present of protagonist Peter, lost in Antarctica after his plane goes down. Beautiful stuff and a couple of hours well spent.
Think it’d be cool to be James Bond crossed with Spider-Man crossed with a robot? The snag is you’re the size of a spider as you skitter around surfaces, using gadgets to slice through panels, flip switches and cunningly ruin the plans of nefarious types who don’t even know you’re there. Just avoid getting whacked by a newspaper.
How do you make dungeon crawling family friendly? Get rid of the gore, add loads of cartoonish characters, and arm the hero with a ridiculously huge sentient sword. You won’t miss the blood – this one’s a riot as you dodder about, exploring a colourful world and slicing foes in two as you attempt to take the sword home.
The real trick with point-and-click adventures is to immerse you in another world. Mutazione nails this as you direct Kai, visiting relatives in an isolated community mutated after an asteroid strike. It’s gentle, meandering and full of minutiae. But if the quiet worldbuilding doesn’t win you over, in-game custom generative musical gardens just might.
Zelda? Not quite, but Oceanhorn 2 is the closest you’ll get to Nintendo’s classic on Apple Arcade. Tasked with saving the world, you roam about a vibrant realm, duffing up enemies, finding missions to complete, and grabbing bling. With a controller in your mitts, it feels like you’re playing on a proper console.
This tense, tight brawler has you fend off all manner of blocky foes that appear to have escaped from a ZX81. One-finger controls at first flummox, and you’ll yearn for a gamepad. But stay the course and your deft digit will let you roll, parry and give a seemingly endless gang of menacing guardians a serious thrashing.
Beyond a Steel Sky
It’s taken a mere 26 years for Beneath A Steel Sky to get a sequel. You again explore Union City, trying to unravel a dark mystery. To modern eyes, it can feel clunky and rough, but there’s enough story and smarts to make for a fitting follow-up that’ll often leave you scratching your head.
Assemble With Care
Assemble with Care shows how Apple Arcade can serve up finite, succinct slices of gaming beauty. Played across a dozen or so chapters, it tells the story of a globe-trotting restorer who arrives to help townspeople repair their stuff – but also their relationships. If it doesn’t hit you in the feels, you’re clearly a monster.
Lego Builder’s Journey
Quite the contrast to Lego’s other Apple Arcade game – a mindless brawler – Builder’s Journey is a contemplative puzzler. Like the toy it’s based on, you’re encouraged to fiddle with pieces – and sometimes break the rules – to continue on your brick-built journey. Parents may get the odd lip wobble from the narrative too.
Pac-Man Party Royale
Apple nabs the most famous videogame character of all, pitting the yellow dot gobbler against multicoloured cohorts in jolly cartoonish mazes. You take on chums in a fast-paced battle to eat everyone and beat the glitch. Got no friends? Then you can play against bots instead, each of which wears an adorable metal hat.
You’d always bet on the people behind mobile classic Threes! to come good with gameplay. And this RPG’s touch-friendly exploration is twinned with a relentlessly grin-inducing script that mixes the modern and magic. The battles are unique, too – instead of kicking seven shades out of a foe, you must figure out how to run down their energy.
App Store greats and timeless classics
April 2021. Apple finds a bunch of App Store classics down the back of the sofa. Idea! IAPs are hacked out with a spoon, a few titles get an extra lick of paint, and the resulting concoctions are squirted into Apple Arcade, further ramping up its value. Job done!
Here are the best of those oldies-but-goodies. (Deep breath…)
Badland+: Use one thumb to guide a flapping critter through a forest suspiciously packed full of terrifying traps.
Blek+ (depicted): Draw living scribbles to scoop up the dots in a gorgeous mix of Pac-Man, puzzling and penmanship.
Chameleon Run+: Run through abstract levels, switch colours to land on matching platforms, and yell at your thumbs when you fail.
Cut the Rope Remastered: Feed greedy green guts Om Nom by cunningly using physics to send candy into his gaping maw.
Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition+: Explore a strange wilderness world. Exploit the environment. Survive. Be glad you’re not doing this for real.
Flipflop Solitaire+: Get your cards in order, but in a rule-breaking take on Solitaire that lets you stack up and down.
Fruit Ninja+: Take out your aggression on flying fruit, like a samurai going nuts in Tesco. Then battle on your friends too.
Mini Metro+ (depicted): Watch underground maps come alive as you draw lines between stations to keep the network from overloading.
Monument Valley+: Guide Ida through a fantastical world of Escher architecture and grumpy Crow People, uncovering the mysteries within.
Really Bad Chess+: Break your chess brain with a take that has one AI level, and so balances games by mixing up starting pieces.
Reigns+: Swipe left! Swipe right! No, you’re not dating – you’re ruling a kingdom. And every decision matters.
SpellTower+: Draw lines on a letter grid to create words and watch tiles tumble. Too easy? Take on rising towers and timers too.
The Room Two+: Discover puzzles within puzzles in this mysterious and beautifully designed tactile classic.
Threes+ (depicted): Swipe to combine numbers in a claustrophobic grid. Grin at the personality. Wonder why you ever wasted time on 2048.
Tiny Crossword+: Fill out crosswords! The daily tests start out suitably tiny but there are larger challenges lurking.