16 Of The Best Apple Arcade Games To Play Right Now
Highlights From The Apple Arcade
iOS 13 is now available, which means Apple Arcade is officially live. Alongside the launch comes a huge flood of games--there are dozens of options to download if you subscribe to the service or take advantage of the one-month free trial that is available on the App Store. You may feel overwhelmed and have trouble even knowing where to start.
To help you get acquainted with what Apple Arcade has to offer, we've rounded up some of the best games that we've played in the service so far for you below. This includes a number of games we tried out at a pre-launch event, and we're continuing to expand it even further now that we have full access to the whole catalog.
For more on our coverage from the recent Apple Keynote, including the specs on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, the 7th gen iPad, and a full rundown of every Apple Arcade game we saw, be sure to check out our full roundup of news.
Sayonara Wild Hearts | Simogo
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a wildly stylish rhythm action game starring a young woman who has to piece together her broken heart. It sounds like a run of the mill concept, but as you'll come to find out when playing, the fate of the universe, unfortunately, hangs in the balance. To accomplish this task, she'll don a mask and ride through a city on her motorcycle, collecting heart fragments and reconnecting with the confident and chic person within. During the game's standout combat scenes, you need to time dodges and attacks with the beat of the song and the flow of the stage, which gives each mission a particular vibe and feel that sets it apart from the others. Coming from developer and publisher Annapurna Interactive--which recently put out Telling Lies and Outer Wilds--Sayonara Wild Hearts has a lot of charm and style to back its trek through the city and beyond. It's got a particular cadence to it that got me tapping my feet while timing my attacks, which has me excited to see what's in store for the later parts of the game. -- Alessandro Fillari
Assemble With Care | UsTwo Games
The latest game from the creators of Monument Valley is certainly different than their aforementioned hit. Assemble with Care is a tightly paced narrative game with small repair minigames thrown into each chapter, entrusting you with the restoration of anything from sentimental family heirlooms to broken retro video game systems. Repairing each object is a simple 3D puzzle that has you replacing burnt out circuit boards or using glue to stick pieces of a sculpture back together, but the real hook is in what each item means to the character it belongs to. Assemble with Care isn't so much about fixing inanimate objects as it is about repairing fractured relationships, and its brief hour or so runtime features some poignant character moments and well-voiced dialogue that tell emotional stories of dealing with loss, balancing sibling relationships and confronting deep rooted guilt. It's a moving narrative adventure that is best played in a single sitting, and will likely stick with you long afterwards. -- Alessandro Barbosa
Sneaky Sasquatch | RAC7 Games
In Sneaky Sasquatch, you'll play Big Foot, who's on the lookout for a tasty meal and peaceful living within the forest. Though unlike the creature of legend that we know, this version of the Sasquatch is quite mellow and only has a taste for human food. To satisfy his craving, he'll need to sneak past the ever-watchful Park Ranger and stuff his backpack full of food swiped from distracted visitors. It has some clever uses of the touch controls, where you'll dump the contents of your bag and drag the food into the Sasquatch's mouth. It starts out simple enough, like sneaking up to a park table when visitors aren't looking, but things escalate to the point where the Sasquatch will drive a car to reach other areas of the park. Soon enough, he'll even want to engage in other human activities like golf. It's essentially the antics of a Yogi Bear cartoon within the framework of a stealth-action game, which made for a surprisingly delightful time. -- Alessandro Fillari
Spek | RAC7 Games
The best way to describe Spek is that it's a minimalist puzzle game by way of M.C. Esher. In a similar vein to 2008's PS3 puzzle game Echocrome, it's all about your perspective and how you manipulate the level's camera to reveal each stage's solution. The goal is to connect a circle moving along an outline with different squares situated on different shapes and objects. To do that, you'll need to shift the angle of your point of view. At one particular angle, you'll see three separate blocks, but at another, those three objects become one with a connected outline. It starts relatively simple, but as you progress, the challenge significantly ramps up. Spek also includes a set of ten augmented reality levels, which overlays the different stages onto video pulled from your iPad or iPhone camera. These AR levels mostly the same as the standard stages, but the new perspective ends up adding another layer of challenge to an already tricky game. I was impressed with the functionality of Spek, and the growing tech powering AR is certainly something I'm keen to see more of in the future. -- Alessandro Fillari
Chu-Chu Rocket Universe! | Sega
This year, the original Chu Chu Rocket celebrates its twentieth anniversary. First released on the Sega Dreamcast, it was an odd puzzle party game where you had to guide a cluster of ChuChus to a goal on an elaborately designed map. The game garnered a cult following since its debut, and it's now gotten a true sequel in the form of Chu Chu Rocket Universe! In the new game, the ChuChus explore space in their rocketship, taking them to different worlds that feature unique stages. Just like the original, you'll guide a set of ChuChus to the goal on the map. However, Universe presents a new challenge in the form of 3D stages. While the original always took place on flat 2D maps, the stages in Universe are on planets that have curvature. In some cases, you'll guide ChuChus on a path that wraps around a moon. This new style ended up requiring me to be more careful with charting the ChuChu's path, as the different perspective can create some unexpected roadblocks. The same focus on planning and charting the course your ChuChus take are still present, but the added challenge in the upcoming game turned out to be a fun twist on the gameplay from the original. -- Alessandro Fillari
Shinsekai: Into The Depths | Capcom
In one of the more surprising announcements from the Apple Keynote, Capcom has a new IP in store for the iPhone and iPad with Shinsekai: Into The Depths. According to Capcom producer Peter Fabiano, the game was created by a reasonably small team who wanted to experiment on a different kind of game for mobile. As an action game set in the deep ocean, you'll use your speargun and high-powered diving suit to explore the depths. During this expedition, you'll face off against some massive undersea creatures. It plays similarly to a twin-stick shooter, allowing you to aim and move simultaneously freely. It was quite intuitive to pick up for the first time, which isn't that surprising given Capcom's pedigree for action games. I even had a fun time facing off against one of the game's early boss battles, a giant eel that burrows its way into the walls of the undersea caverns, which required me with using the diver's suit thruster to evade it attacks to get a clear shot at it. Featuring a larger world to explore with some hints of a familiar Metroidvania design, Shinsekai is shaping up to be one of the more action-driven games for the Apple Arcade lineup.
For more on the making of Shinseki: Into The Depths, head over to CNET for an exclusive interview with the developers at Capcom about the development of their new IP. -- Alessandro Fillari
Frogger In Toy Town | Konami
Along with Chu Chu Rocket Universe, Frogger in Toy Town is another relaunch of a well-loved game that's coming to the Apple Arcade. Just like in the classic coin-op game, you'll guide a resourceful frog through heaps of heavy traffic and other pitfalls on his way to safety. However, in the new game, it takes a far more exaggerated approach. Instead of the frog contending with the outside world, you'll guide them through a children's playset that's littered with wind-up cars, towering toy blocks, and a baby that plays rough with its toys. I was immediately able to jump right in as gameplay in Toy Town sticks very closely to the original. I even took well to the touch controls. With that said, it still presents some unexpected twists to the classic hop-forward gameplay. Along with rescuing stranded frogs across the long stretch to the exit, you'll also be able to use special power-ups that can blow open the pathways forward or defeat certain enemies roaming about. It was enjoyable getting to dive into a new Frogger game, which seems a lot more lenient now that Frogger can take multiple hits. The twist with Toy Town does add an added charm, and I can see myself diving into various levels, trying to rescue every lost frog on the various toy-sets. -- Alessandro Fillari
Where The Cards Fall | Snowman
Where The Cards Fall can be best described as a game about coming to terms with not only your surroundings but the person you've become as well. As a puzzle-adventure game staring a young protagonist, you'll explore several locations that seem set within a living memory of the past. While exploring these bizarre locales, you'll conjure up and manipulate a set of cards to create platforms to overcome roadblocks, which represent something more profound for the protagonist.
In an exclusive feature with CNET, game designer Sam Rosenthal spoke the making of this long-gestating passion project, and how Radiohead's "House of Cards" served as the basis for the game's emotional core.
"I really was taken by the metaphor, but I took it very literally. I was a freshman in college," he said. "I started to picture all of these fragile lives inside of houses of cards, and I thought that was an image that just seemed right for exploring in a video game."
For more on Where The Cards Fall, and why the developers chose Apple Arcade for its launch, check out CNET's exclusive on the making of the game. -- Alessandro Fillari
Pilgrims | Amanita Design
Developed by the team behind the critically acclaimed Machinarium, Pilgrims retains the same etchy style of its predecessor, but the similarities end there. This is an adventure game tuned for replaying, letting you discover multiple routes and endings to a fairly brief adventure through experimentation with items and companions you discover along the way. Completing Pilgrims the first time is easy enough by following some straightforward solutions to where you need to use items and which companions you'll need to progress. Unlocking its more ridiculous moments requires the type of obscure experimentation that older adventure games thrived on, striking a good balance between an approachable opening and challenging subsequent playthroughs. Achievements in the form of cards suggest to you scenarios you might be missing, and I didn't even manage to unlock a quarter of them after my first two full runs. It's well worth playing Pilgrims multiple times to inject your days with its humorous punchlines,character interactions, and story beats. -- Alessandro Barbosa
The Enchanted World | Noodlecake Studios
The Enchanted World is a new narrative-driven puzzle game focusing on the adventures of a fairy trying to restore a world taken over by evil forces. It blends a tile-sliding mechanic with a high-fantasy setting, allowing the protagonist to use her complex powers to rearrange the road ahead of her, opening up pathways to new areas. The game features a lot of interesting elements that pull on classic fairy tale stories, yet it also draws from the real-life experiences that the developers had in their childhood.
According to the developers at Noodlecake Studios, The Enchanted World is about inspiring optimism and hope in the face of harsh circumstances. In an exclusive interview with CNET, the developers spoke about living in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War during the 90s, putting them in direct contact with the reality of war.
"Because there was no running water, we needed to go to a well. [My Parents] made going to a well to get water in a canister like an adventure," said designer Amar Zubcevic. "We were going to complete this quest. They were trying to make everything like a little game for us, so we could cope with the horrific things that were happening around us."
According to the developers, they feel it's important for games to tackle some challenging topics. With that said, they still want games to retain an element of fun whimsy, which The Enchanted World is all about. For more on The Enchanted World, check out CNET's exclusive on the making of the game. -- Alessandro Fillari
What the Golf | Triband
What The Golf starts out like a fairly standard golf game before quickly going off the rails--in the best way possible. After a pair of quick holes which play out as you'd imagine, the next has you unexpectedly sending the player character, rather than the ball, toward the hole. Things only get increasingly silly and ridiculous from there, with each new hole offering some new wrinkle, whether in terms of what you're tasked with getting to the hole or the manner in which the level is laid out. To share many specifics would be to spoil the surprise that makes What the Golf such a joy to play, but suffice it to say this is less a golf game than a hilarious platformer in which your goal is (usually) to get an object to the hole. Through the early stages, What the Golf has remained consistently inventive and hilarious, eliciting outright laughter from me on a frequent basis. You needn't have any interest in golf to enjoy this one. -- Chris Pereira
Overland | Finji
Overland is a turn-based tactical strategy game that is defined by its minimalism and super-high stakes. Set in a mysterious post-apocalypse America, you need to guide a small band of survivors on a road trip across America to presumably, get to safe haven. It's both a beautiful and difficult journey, filled with life-or-death obstacles right from the get-go, and Overland's roguelike structure means you will see dozens, if not hundreds, of ordinary people (and dogs, all of them good) perish in fraught situations. But the compact maps and pared-down options make every movement feel dangerous, which make the small victories feel all the more rewarding, more motivating. Overland is filled with bite-sized doses of relief that feed you with the encouragement you need to continue helping these poor folk on the off chance that maybe this time, you might make it all the way. -- Edmond Tran
Bleak Sword | more8bit
Mobile games aren't generally known for executing precise inputs well, especially when it comes to on-screen touch controls, but Bleak Sword is proof that the interface can work especially well with the right care. This 8-bit-like action game throws you into deadly combat arenas, requiring dexterous attacks, parries and rolls to survive an onslaught of enemies with varying attack patterns. Swipes in any direction roll you to safety, while brief holds on the screen followed by swipes sends you attacking in any direction. Timely blocks and opportunistic counter-attacks are woven into this simple foundation, with a stamina meter managing it all down to a tee. Throw in some Dark Souls inspired penalties for death and some light equipment management, and you've got a great combat fix for your next brief commute. -- Alessandro Barbosa
Dear Reader | Local No. 12
Word puzzlers are common on mobile devices, but many of them revolve around rearranging letters to form words, Scrabble-style. Dear Reader has you rearranging entire phrases of famous literature, beginning with Pride & Prejudice. Though it begins easily enough, swiping snippets of text around a book excerpt in the only ways that make logical sense, it starts to get trickier as the selections grow less clear. A passing familiarity with the classics might help with the broad strokes. Even if you slept through your high school English classes you can navigate the puzzles, rely on the in-game hints if you get stuck, and come out of the whole experience feeling a little smarter. Or at least like you’ve read the Wikipedia summary.
MiniMotorways | Dinosaur Polo Club
The studio behind the puzzler Mini Metro takes its gamified urban planning to the next logical step: highways and byways. MiniMotorways is a spiritual successor to the studio’s 2015 hit, but the curvature and flexibility of roads give it a much more organic feeling than Mini Metro’s criss-crossing railways. Instead, you’re connecting houses with points of interest, wiping roads clean to improve efficiency, and planning the placement of traffic easement tools like stoplights. It’s a simple hook that’s easy to understand, hard to put down, and it even has its own night mode setting for your bedtime gaming sessions.
Pinball Wizard | Frosty Pop
Swapping out a ball for a robed spellcaster but keeping the principles of pinball intact, Pinball Wizard is a great time sink with small, palatable levels and a rogue-like structure wrapping them all together. You ricochet the wizard towards crates containing health and coins (the latter of which can be used between runs to purchase various upgrades) and enemies ready to rip you apart. Outside of tapping the sides of the screen to activate the bumpers, you can redirect your wizard mid-travel with a slow-motion dash, letting you pinpoint your movements when the much more loose movement from your bumpers isn't quite enough. The dash, and other moves you'll use to conquer each new challenging floor of the tower, require energy to use, which prevents you from completely circumventing using the bumpers entirely. It's charming through and through though with a great gameplay loop that makes each run feel rewarding, making it an enjoyable game to kill some time with on a daily commute. -- Alessandro Barbosa