Apple Arcade is a unique take on the subscription service model. Bringing the month-to-month model to mobile allows Apple to offer mobile games with zero in-app purchases and rich, fully developed games that would feel at home on a console just as easily.
With plenty of exclusives in its line-up and the ability to play games on the go on your phone and then on the large screen of an iPad or Apple TV later with your synced saved games, it really bridges the portability gap, similarly to how the Nintendo Switch works. Since there are so many titles on the service for you to peruse, we have put together a ‘best of’ list to help you decide what to sink your teeth into first:
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Sayonara Wild Hearts is an amazing take on the rhythm game genre, pulling inspiration from some of the genre’s best, and making it its own in a fantastic way. The music fires up from the first level and never lets you go until the credits roll, bringing you along for the ride, bringing you in the midst of the action movie styled scenes. An excellent addition after finishing the game is a seamless mode that lets you experience the entirety of the game’s levels in one seamless ride. It’s extra touches like these that showcases how well Simogo understands the beautiful music and art, treating the game like a physical album worth experiencing in one go than listening to it track by track. However you choose to experience it, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a refreshing surprise to play and a wild ride you certainly don’t want to miss.
Cat Quest II
Following on the success of the original Cat Quest from The GentleBros, Cat Quest II ups the ante with both solo and local couch co-op action RPG adventuring of the cutest kind. Players take up a variety of arms as they quest across the two nations in question working together to progress through the ranks of the evil Lioner and Wolfen, usurpers of cat and dog kingdoms.
As an aRPG, battle takes place in real time on the maps upon which the players traverse to their quest or story destinations. Defeating enemies yields both gold, which can be utilised to upgrade your wares at the blacksmith, or blue experience orbs which is used to level up your heroic duo. Levelling rewards base health and damage capability at set intervals and is awarded in higher quantities from story and side quests rather than the grind of monster slaying.
With a unique, 1-bit art style, Bleak Sword takes you through a manner of increasingly difficult dungeons, with monsters and creatures attacking you at every turn. These closed-room encounters deliver tough challenges, but thankfully you have magic and enough stamina to pull off rolls, parries, and counter-attacks. After finishing the nine chapters of the main game, there’s a devilish arena mode to dive into. Bleak Sword holds a mighty trial within its meek appearance, but patient players will be able to triumph in the end.
With 150 levels in total, Grindstone has a lot to offer. Each level feels dynamic and challenging and the simple act of hacking through hordes of ravenous creatures never gets old. The crunchy sounds as foes are diced into piles of gelatinous cubes combined with Jorj’s manic screams as he delivers blow after blow scratch a carnal itch deep within. Not to say it doesn’t have an excellent soundtrack — it does — but the sound effects sometimes made the bigger impact for me, adding to the enjoyment of racking up killer combos.
Grindstone’s amazingly addictive puzzle gameplay makes the recommendation easy. While levels get progressively harder, the ‘simple to understand’ nature of play and cathartic destruction of mass amounts of foes make it easy to give a level “one more go.” Capybara Games may have created a phenomenon with Critter Crunch back in the early days of the App Store, but they absolutely perfected the crunching of creatures in Grindstone that makes it simply a delight to play, if only to relieve stress after a day of grind at the office.
Card of Darkness
Pendleton Ward’s unique story and Zach Gage’s hand-animated art absolutely defines the feel of Card of Darkness, a card game where you travel through Glinhorn Forest with whatever weapon you can get your hands on, looking to defeat evil and recover the ‘Card of Darkness’, appropriately enough. Each stack of cards on the playing field works similarly to solitaire, and once you pull the top card, you have to run through the rest of the stack, regardless of whether it’s enemies or precious gold, weapons or potions. The card-fighting mechanics are unique, the style’s fantastic and Stemage’s epic soundtrack lights this game on fire.
The moment I began Manifold Garden, I fell in love. The amazing visuals aren’t about the graphical fidelity, per se, but the intricate details of an infinite Mandelbulb-inspired world where you can fall forever, and fall forever in love with the smart puzzles and clever gameplay that reminds me of the best parts of the Portal series. Each area brings something new, whether it’s a new fractal variation or puzzle quandary, and the conclusion to each level results in the level being blown apart into its core geometric shapes, splashed with color and spinning in a soothing, kaleidoscope of beauty.
Monomals is likely the most unique game on this list, but simply because it’s more than just an amazingly tight, colorful, ridiculously fun anti-platformer. It is also a fully functional synthesizer or DAW, which you build upon your instruments and effects as you rescue/capture the Monomals in each level. Your character is a rabbit with ridiculously large headphones named ‘Retro Rabbit’, but your ‘character’ is the fishing line plug you have that takes on many uses as it swims through the water, avoiding obstacles and taking out enemies. Since it’s an audio plug, it’s ultimate goal in each level is to plug into the Monomal and pull it back to the surface, adding it to your audio toolbox. Colorful graphics and fun, swimming-based platforming add so much to one of the smartest, most innovative games I’ve played in years.
Frogger in Toy Town
Frogger is back, but in a new, physics-based game. In one of the craziest cases of round-about imitation, the game plays very similarly to Crossy Road, except for a few key differences. Other than the jumping forward to reach the goal, you’ll lead your frog to knock over ‘alphabet’ wooden blocks blocking your path, avoid obstacles and rescue baby froglets, in order to finish each level and earn stars. Watch out, though, as cars are the least of your worries, with toys and other enemies lurking around every alphabet block. Missions and costumes add additional replay value, but having Frogger in a level-based adventure that actually feels fun to play is a nice change and worthy of a look.
This multiplayer platformer is full of nostalgic references to the era of packed-in toys in breakfast cereals and Saturday morning cartoons. Appropriately enough, Hot Lava is also a direct translation of the game that many of us played when we were younger — and have played since, due to the recent surge of interest over the past couple of years. Gameplay is simple: don’t fall into the lava. This means, however, that you’ll be wall-running, swinging and jumping over makeshift platforms made from anything from couches to stacks of tires. Add asynchronous multiplayer to the mix, and you have an excellent homage to the most memorable children’s game of all time.
Marble It Up: Mayhem!
Marble It Up! is a physics-based platforming game where you guide your marble through forty stages of varying difficulty. Early game tutorials have you starting with simple motion, moving on to camera controls, jumping, and using the physics and power-ups to help you surmount each level.
Levels consist of a starting portal and a goal platform, and although there are some variations to level requirements, getting to the goal is the ultimate task. The largest challenge of the game is figuring how to time the momentum of jumps to ensure that your glassy companion doesn’t go careening off a precarious ledge. Additional gameplay elements such as gems that you have to collect add to the difficulty of what the game really wants you to do: complete the level as fast as humanly possible. You are awarded medals based on your time of completion, the lower the better, as per usual. These times are stored from local players that have played the game on your system or a global leaderboard, where you can compare times and even compete against or watch ghost runs from other players.