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Home / Features / Apple Arcade: everything you need to know

Apple Arcade: everything you need to know

How much Apple Arcade costs, what hardware you need, and the best games you can expect to play

Apple Arcade Sonic the Hedgehog

Apple Arcade was revealed way back in 2019. At which point many people yelped “Games?”, followed by “Apple?”, and then collapsed into fits of coughing and laughter until they expired. Which is a shame for them, because Apple Arcade has turned out to be a real gem.

But what hardware do you need? Are you forced by Tim Cook to use the Siri Remote when playing on an Apple TV? How many games do you get? How much does it all cost? And aren’t mobile games all rubbish anyway? For all of the answers, read on…

What hardware does Apple Arcade require?

Probably don’t try and play on all of these at once, mind.

Apple Arcade works on all Apple devices. Well, not HomePods. That would be silly. You’ll therefore need a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. These will need to be running at least iOS/iPadOS/tvOS 13 or macOS Catalina, as relevant. But, as ever, the most recent OS is usually the best one.

Some games are more demanding than others. So it’s possible older hardware will struggle with more advanced titles. But even if you’re lumbered with a steam-powered iPhone, Apple Arcade has loads of older classics to delve into.

What you won’t need: a permanent internet connection. Although some games do require you to be online – for example, during live multiplayer battles – Apple Arcade isn’t a streaming service. Games are downloaded to your device from the App Store (they live in the Arcade tab), and most can be played entirely offline, while you’re hiding in a hedge, trying to finish just one more level of Sonic Dream Team when you should be sorting out the garden.

However, when you do sneak back inside and get online, progress is uploaded to iCloud, letting you pick up on another device wherever you most recently left off.

Do you need a controller for Apple Arcade?

Apple stunned the world with its new iPhone Invisible. But it made playing games tricky.

Yes and no. Hilariously/terrifyingly, Apple Arcade initially demanded all games work as-is with every device. Which for Apple TV meant mandating support for the old Siri Remote. That… wasn’t good. Apple’s since relaxed a bit – as much as Apple can.

What this means is, broadly speaking, you’ll be fine with just an iPhone or an iPad, although certain games will liberally sprinkle virtual buttons across your display like confetti. With an Apple TV, you now need a controller most of the time. The Mac is a mixed bag, but a keyboard and mouse is typically a poor substitute for a gamepad.

Fortunately, Apple supports a range of controllers. If you’ve PlayStation or Xbox ones kicking around, they’ll connect to a Mac, Apple TV or iPad with no trouble – as will MFi controllers like the SteelSeries Nimbus+. Got an iPhone? A svelte and pocketable Backbone One will transform it into a handheld, and the GameSir G8 Galileo provides an alternative that has a larger gamepad-style grip.

How much does Apple Arcade cost?

You won’t need to steal Sonic’s gold rings to pay for Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade is a subscription service. It started out at a fiver a month, which was quite the bargain. At the time of writing, Apple has hiked the price to $6.99/£6.99 per month, which still represents solid value for what you get. If you subscribe to any Apple One tier, Apple Arcade is included.

It’s worth noting that the standard subscription allows you to share Apple Arcade with up to five family members – as do relevant Apple One tiers. And you get a free trial when buying many Apple devices.

If you’re still on the fence, bear in mind Apple Arcade won’t cost you anything extra – unlike much mobile fare, this service’s games have no adverts and no in-app purchases whatsoever.

What games can you play on Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade: best played alongside cute Sasquatches. Or something.

If you’re of the opinion mobile games aren’t ‘real games’, well, you’re wrong. But also, Apple Arcade won’t do much to change your mind. Many of its games are immediate fare, providing bite-sized blasts of entertainment. That said, the service does also include a range of deeper dives, including Football Manager 2024, Mutazione, Beyond a Steel Sky, Oceanhorn 2 and Stardew Valley.

In its early days, Apple Arcade was big on exclusives – at least to mobile. This isn’t so much the case today, not least because Apple added loads of ‘+’ games – ad-free and IAP-free versions of highly regarded existing App Store titles. That said, there are still some big games you won’t find on Android.

Also be mindful that as with any service of this type, games do come and go. However, the more thoughtful developers subsequently rerelease their games as standalone purchases and let you migrate your progress across – A Monster’s Expedition being a good example. So if a favourite does abruptly vanish, don’t lose hope that it’ll be gone forever.

But which of the current games should you try first? For that, check out The best Apple Arcade games to give you an instant gaming hit. Or, you know, download all 200+ games and randomly try them at speed until your thumbs scream. Your choice.

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.