Games! That was what got us excited when we heard the new Apple TV would have third-party apps. It’d be like a console, only tiny, and with an Apple logo stamped on top. Hurrah!
Only when we reviewed the thing, we discovered the Siri Remote was sub-optimal for such activities. Fortunately, the best devs wrestled it into submission, resulting in a selection of superb games.
Our list combines titles designed for immediacy and fun with those offering a bit more depth. And, by the way, we’ve actually sat and tested all of these (and a whole bunch of others that didn’t make the grade), so you can be confident 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 we've listed right away, use the search.
The best shooting game for Apple TV: Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved (S$17, universal)
With the Siri Remote only having one directional controller, Geometry Wars transforms from twin-stick shooter to avoid ’em up, with the game handling targeting and shooting. We thought it would be rubbish, but it isn’t — it’s just different, requiring new tactics in order to blast your way through hordes of neon foes.
Phoenix HD (free, universal)
There’s something oddly meditative as you glide about the screen in this shiny, projectile-laden bullet-hell shooter. As you might expect, Phoenix HD is about SHOOTING ALL THE THINGS, and trying very hard not to get shot yourself, mostly by weaving deftly between patterns of bullets hurled your way. But Phoenix HD’s procedural generation makes every game different, and there are some great touches, such as colour fading from the screen when you’re about to die and could do with scooping up some ship-repairing space dust.
View Phoenix HD in iTunes Preview
Chillaxian (S$3, universal)
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.
Galaxy on Fire — Manticore Rising (S$9, Apple TV only)
You’re in at the deep end in Manticore Rising, which initially finds you floating through the debris of an obliterated space fleet. Aliens are inbound and your side’s accountants have written you off as a lost cause. So you must dogfight for your life across gorgeously rendered stages.
This is also a game where piloting your ship using the Siri Remote feels more natural and fluid than using a gamepad. Yeah, we’re as surprised as you are.
Sky Force Anniversary (S$8, Apple TV only)
Ten years after Sky Force first flew, it’s soared on to Apple TV. Like on mobile, it’s a visually stunning overhead shooter, marrying old-school sensibilities, a smidgeon of bullet-hell, and an upgrade and achievements system that rewards repeat play. Unlike on mobile, all the freemium silliness is gone (replaced by a single payment), and you get two-player co-op to make use of your widescreen display.