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Home / Features / Why I want Apple Arcade to include classic arcade games – and why that’ll never happen

Why I want Apple Arcade to include classic arcade games – and why that’ll never happen

An arcade without the classics? For Apple, it seems like gaming began in 2008

Apple Arcade on iPhone with retro-gaming characters exploding from the screen

A whopping 20 new games rocked up on Apple Arcade last week. That brings the grand total of games on the service to, I dunno, loads. More than 20, definitely. And there were already plenty of good ones.

Yes, I know. You prefer ‘proper’ games. You consider most games on a phone like poo on a shoe. Something to wrinkle your nose at, hold at arm’s length, and toss into a ravine. And Apple doesn’t get games either! Apple execs probably don’t even realise they can provide pleasure beyond the warm, tingly feeling they get when using high-end games to show off the power of new devices at Apple events, right?

Personally, I think that’s tosh. (Apart from the bit about the execs.) Apple Arcade has its faults. Apple has made baffling decisions along the way. But the service offers solid value for a fiver a month. It’s ad-free and In App Purchase (IAP)-free, which means it’s child-safe – and safe from me wanting to lob my iPad into the sea due to being irritated by yet another stupid ad in a mobile game.

What The Car? What the heck?

Get ready

Mostly, though, there’s just a lot of decent stuff on there that differentiates Apple Arcade from AAA fare. It won’t replace Xbox Game Pass, but I already have Xbox Game Pass. The service, though, has games that neatly fit into odd moments. And there are loads of classic mobile titles in Apple Arcade, from Limbo to Osmos. And one of the new games, What The Car?, is a really stupid racer, where the car gets constantly changing features, “such as legs, wings, and even the common cold”. I mean, come on. If you hate the idea of trying even that one, you’re not so much a gamer as someone who hates fun.

That said, I’m halfway through this week’s column and haven’t yet had a good moan. So I’ll start now: I want an arcade in Apple Arcade – as in, classic arcade games. I’d always hoped Apple might sneak one in. When I’d heard it unveiled ‘classics’, my heart skipped a beat, until I realised they were old iPhone games. I’d been hoping for something much older.

Apple, of course, treats emulation like the aforementioned poo-on-shoe, and so that route’s out. Open emulators that sneak on to the App Store are mercilessly crushed. Closed emulators are limited and their creators eventually get bored. Retrogaming service Antstream could offer a solution regarding accessing classic games on Apple kit. But Apple’s App Store rules regarding streaming games services are so ludicrous as to be a kind of satire any self-respecting writer would instantly lob into the trash rather than foist on the public at large. (If you’re unaware, Apple states streaming services are fine if each individual game is its own app. Now imagine the same demands were placed on Spotify or Netflix for music and telly. Yeah.)

Bubble Bobble is not on Apple Arcade. Bah.

Game over

But I’m old. I love classic games. And it strikes me Apple Arcade would be a perfect place to house them. Sort a cracking arcade game emulator, with bezels and flashy CRT effects, fab touchscreen controls, and ace physical controller options, and set about encouraging owners of the best classic titles to sign up to Apple Arcade.

Instantly, the App Store would move beyond featuring a handful of the usual retro suspects – Pac-ManSpace InvadersR-Type – and be the place for instant access to beautifully realised takes on the best classic titles in gaming history. So you’d have the best new mobile titles, the best older titles from the App Store’s lifetime, and the best games from the medium’s formative years – all in one place. 

If that sounds too good to be true, it is. After all, those games are pre-iPhone, and so Apple’s not interested. And those Apple execs won’t get that tingly feeling from Bubble Bobble using one per cent of an iPhone 15 Ultra’s power either. No attempts to set Baron Von Blubba on them will change that.

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.