Endless running/survival games
The best endless game for Apple TV: Alto’s Odyssey
On the iPhone, this game looks lovely, but it’s even more gorgeous on the big screen. As your little sandboarder zooms along, performing somersaults while leaping over dunes and ravines, weather and daylight slowly shift. But properly big scores require mastery – stringing together stunt combos, and figuring out how to outrun an enraged mongoose when you disturb its slumber.
If that all feels a bit much stress and effort for a lean-back Apple TV one-thumb effort, have a go at Zen Mode instead. That’s just you and the endless desert, without a high score, collectable bling, or chance of failure in sight.
View Alto’s Odyssey on iTunes Preview (£4.99, universal)
This one finds Sir Hammer auto-running about mazes, locating captured soldiers, and trying to not get his face torn off by floating eyeballs, giant crows, doddering zombies, and colossal bosses.
It’s a melting pot of retro fare – there are nods to the pioneering 3D Monster Maze, Wolfenstein 3D’s angular environments, Ms. Pac-Man (in missions involving hunting down fleeing food), and even Gauntlet’s rasping speech.
It’s simple, effective stuff, works nicely with the Siri Remote, and rewards repeat play by having you level up Sir Hammer with new kit, such as a handy radar for detecting nearby enemies.
View Hammer Bomb in iTunes Preview (99p, Apple TV only)
We’re cheating a bit here, because although Duet Game has an endless mode, it’s best experienced after the sizeable and compelling narrative chapters.
The game involves red and blue vessels in a tight orbit around nothingness, and they smash on contact with anything whatsoever. You must tap left or right to reverse your orbit and avoid incoming walls. Which probably sounds dull and derivative, but Duet Game instead proves mesmerising through smart level design, gorgeous aesthetics and a set-up that works better on Apple TV than on a smartphone (where the game was already really good). Yeah, we were pretty surprised about that too.
View Duet Game in iTunes Preview (£2.99, universal)
In deep contrast to most endless games on Apple TV, Mars: Mars is a contemplative affair. Echoing iOS hit Desert Golfing and arcade classic Lunar Lander, the game has you leap across Mars, puffs of your jetpack carefully manoeuvring you towards the next landing spot in a manner that (hopefully) won’t make you explode on touchdown.
The two-button controls work within the Siri Remote’s limitations, the minimal visuals look great on the big screen, and you can earn extra characters that provide new locations with distinct challenges. Progress syncs across devices, too, so you can pick up from where you left off on your iPhone.
View Mars: Mars in iTunes Preview (£free, universal)
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!
View Canabalt in iTunes Preview (£2.99, universal)
If you were thinking that Pac-Man 256 is an iOS game that’d work rather well on Apple TV, you’re right. The dot-muncher roams about an endless maze, chomping everything in sight, dealing with ghosts (including with new power-ups, such as a spectre-surprising laser-belch), and keeping ahead of the relentless all-devouring glitch.
View Pac-Man 256 in iTunes Preview (£free, universal)
You know the drill: hop about; don’t get run-over or drown; and don’t dawdle, or a massive eagle swoops in and takes you to a very bad place presumably involving talons and shrieking. But on Apple TV, there’s sort-of co-op multiplayer. If you both die, it’s game over, but mischievous sorts can nonetheless belt their opponent and push them into traffic — hence the ‘sort of’.
View Crossy Road in iTunes Preview (£free, universal)
Puzzle and arcade games
The best puzzle or arcade game for Apple TV: Guitar Hero Live
Guitar Hero Live brings the full console experience to Apple TV (and iOS devices), as you shred the new six-button guitar controller — £80, required on Apple TV — while notes scroll down the screen. There’s a new look — video crowds cheer (or boo) while you play in the Live mode — plus streaming music channels provide hundreds more music video-backed tracks to play along with.
View Guitar Hero Live in iTunes Preview (£free + £9.99 unlock, universal)
Bring You Home
Echoing Framed, Bring You Home has you swap on-screen panels, aiming to crack the combination that will allow alien Polo to continue on a quest to rescue his pet-napped chum.
The pleasing tactility of the iPad version is gone, but the game nonetheless works nicely on the telly. The considered controls slow you down and make you think, but also it feels like you’re directing a classic cartoon.
Get a solution wrong and Polo comes a cropper in an amusingly slapstick manner. You’ll want to go back to levels you beat first time, just to see how Polo can fail. (Or perhaps that’s just Stuff’s evil side showing.)
View Bring You Home on iTunes Preview (£2.99, universal)
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
Dot-munching in fast-forward and bathed in neon, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX has you dart back and forth between two halves of widescreen mazes, a string of ghouls in hot pursuit. Every time you clear one half of the maze, a bonus appears on the other; munch that and the original half is refilled with a new configuration. Brush past dozing ghosts and they join your spectral trail, transforming CE DX into a blazing fast mash-up of Pac-Man and Snake.
Loads of bite-sized levels, cross-device iCloud sync, and a single purchase price add further shine to the best Pac-Man to date. Although we would like to slap whoever assigned the bomb command (for temporarily nuking ghosts) to the directional pad ’button’ on Apple TV.
View Pac-Man Championship Edition DX in iTunes Preview (£4.99, universal)
This early App Store classic gets a new lease of life on Apple TV. Edge Extended (and its predecessor, Edge) find a cube trundling about, locating small glowing cubes, and attempting to reach each stage’s exit as quickly as possible. Controlled using swipes and holding the touchpad for ‘edge time’, it still feels fresh.
View Edge Extended in iTunes Preview (£2.99, universal)
The most serene game in this round-up is also the most beautiful. Abstract shapes hang in the air, and you brush across the touchpad to spin them, aiming to turn the cast shadow into something recognisable. A beautiful and tactile mobile title on touchscreens, Shadowmatic effortlessly transforms into a relaxing lean-back telly experience.
View Shadowmatic in iTunes Preview (£3.99, universal)
Does Not Commute TV
Within tiny little towns, people go about their business in tiny little cars. The not-so-tiny snag: their routes overlap. With a few vehicles, avoiding a crash is easy enough. With a dozen cars already erratically driving about the place, not so much, especially when you’ve a strict time limit to get everyone where they need to be.
View Does not Commute TV in iTunes Preview (£2.99, Apple TV only)
You wouldn’t expect something like Where’s Wally to work on the telly, but Hidden Folks is a gem on the Apple TV. Each level tasks you with finding various objects and folks lurking within interactive hand-drawn landscapes. Poke anything and it’ll likely respond with an amusing mouth-originated sound effect.
Oddly, the bigger the display, the more Hidden Folks takes hold. And with multiple zoom levels and tight control by way of the Siri Remote, it’s a great lean-back time-waster for Apple TV. Well, until you can’t find the last critter and spend hours with your nose pressed up against the screen.
View Hidden Folks in iTunes Preview (£2.99, universal)