Best Apple Arcade games: 29 titles you need to play
The 29 Apple Arcade games that inject new life into mobile gaming.
We wouldn’t say mobile gaming has become a cesspit of mindless time-wasters and pay-to-win monetisation, but it sometimes appears to be heading that way.
Thank Jobs for Apple Arcade. Apple Arcade offers unlimited access to a hundred or so mobile games for the monthly price of a pint of beer. It still only costs £4.99 a month, yet the game roster has ballooned in size over the ensuing years.
UPDATE: We've added 10 titles to our list of must-play Apple Arcade smash hits. From the quick-fire arcade fun of Crossy Road+ to the cosy idyll of Japanese Rural Life Adventure, we think there's something for just about everyone here. Check out our new picks, and don't forget to upvote your favourites.
These aren’t just any mobile games either. These are premium, crafted experiences from some of the most talented names in the industry. Some of them debuted on Apple Arcade, while others are essentially polished-up and fleshed-out examples of pre-existing mobile games.
There’s a one-month free trial available to all iOS users, and a three-month trial for anyone who buys a new Apple gadget, so we’d recommend just diving in. But if you’d like some tips on where to start with Apple Arcade, check out these 29 beauts.
Already tried some? Upvote your favourites so we can hunt down the internet’s ultimate Apple Arcade game.
Additional reporting: John McCann
Best Apple Arcade games
1. What the Golf?Play now at Apple Arcade
Put all thoughts of actual golf - sensible, staid, exclusive sport that it is - out of your mind. Because that’s precisely what the makers of What the Golf? did.
This madcap game retains golf’s vague central premise of hitting something into something, and plays around with literally all of the specifics. The ball gets swapped out for people, objects, animals and concepts, while your target is only occasionally something as boring as a hole. Utter madness.
2. GrindstonePlay now at Apple Arcade
Mobile gamers have been matching up coloured baubles since before the iPhone was even a thing. Grindstone breathes new life into this casual puzzler sub-genre with lashings of visceral cartoon combat. Taking control of a jobbing barbarian, you must draw out elaborate attack paths and slice your way through assorted critters using an ingenious chaining system.
The idea is to build up sufficient momentum to take out brutes and crack open treasure chests. Grindstone is about so much more than match-three.
3. Mini MotorwaysPlay now at Apple Arcade
We wouldn’t say Mini Motorways makes the practice of city traffic management thrilling, exactly. But that’s nothing to do with the unpromising subject material and everything to do with developer Dinosaur Polo Club’s hypnotic presentation.
Linking up houses and shopping centres with motorways and bridges is a curiously calming experience - at least until the traffic congests like a cholesterol-filled artery and everything falls apart. Who knew that urban planning would make for such an intoxicating puzzle game?
4. Oceanhorn 2Play now at Apple Arcade
The original Oceanhorn became something of a smartphone darling. It brought a distinctly Zelda-like adventure to mobile. Where that game took inspiration from Nintendo’s early top-down adventures, however, Oceanhorn 2 goes full on three dimensional.
This rich adventure is every inch the console experience, with a vast fantasy world to explore, tight sword-based combat, and the kind of advanced controls that make you thankful it’s so easy to hook up a PS4 or Xbox One controller to your iOS device.
5. Cypher 007Play now at Apple Arcade
Fancy yourself a superspy? It’s time to prove it. Cypher 007 game puts you in Bond’s shoes as you carry out missions, uncover secrets, upgrade equipment and earn rewards. We love the top-down playstyle, which places you at the heart of this action-adventure game. You even get to listen to the iconic intro music. The moody levels, variety of weapons and gadgets straight out of Q Labs, and the mix of stealth and problem solving will have you hooked in no time.
6. Sneaky SasquatchPlay now at Apple Arcade
Fancy yourself as a bit of a sneaky sasquatch? You do? Us too! Luckily, that is exactly what this Apple Arcade game is all about. You’re a sasquatch living in the woods, and with the help of your animal friends you’re tasked with exploring the area, scaring campers, stealing food and keeping out of arm's reach of the park ranger. How far will you dare to venture? It depends on how sneaky you’re willing to be.
7. Football Manager 2023 TouchPlay now at Apple Arcade
For those in on the cult of Football Manager this is practically the full FM experience, only streamlined for easy play on an iPad. For those who aren’t yet true believers, prepare to lose hundreds, if not thousands, of hours to this game, and quite possibly a few cherished relationships. It’s the latest version of the world’s pre-eminent football management simulator, and it lets you run any professional football club in the world (within reason), taking care of transfers, tactics, training, player morale, and even press interactions.
8. Easy Come Easy GolfPlay now at Apple Arcade
Don’t let the rubbish title and ostensibly naff presentation put you off. Easy Come Easy Golf is a superb golf game made by an absolute master of the format. Japanese developer Clap Hanz is responsible for the legendary Everybody’s Golf series on PlayStation, and Easy Come Easy Golf very much follows the same playbook. Simple, flexible arcade controls belie the depth of the game’s physics-based systems, engrossing tournaments, and varied course design. Throw in online matches, and you have yourself a complete casual golf experience on your iPhone.
9. Skate CityPlay now at Apple Arcade
An absolutely stunning skating Apple Arcade game, Skate City sees you glide through iconic locations around the world (including Venice Beach, Miami, Barcelona and Tokyo) performing tricks and completing challenges. From simple tricks to knocking over cans, and even outrunning the police, the chilled soundtrack, beautiful visuals and simple controls make this a joy to play. So sit back, crank up the volume, and enjoy - and suddenly an hour will have gone by.
10. Japanese Rural Life AdventurePlay now at Apple Arcade
It’s time to start a new life in rural Japan. If you want something to wind down with, the gentle soundtrack and calming storyline of this Apple Arcade game are perfect. You’re tasked with setting up a rural life, from renovating an old house to farming the land, fishing and much more. We love idly playing this on a lazy Sunday, relaxing on the couch after a big roast dinner. Now, how much is a ticket to Japan?
11. FantasianPlay now at Apple Arcade
As a fully-fledged JRPG made especially for iPhone by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the father of the Final Fantasy series, you might expect Fantasian to be content with playing the hits. However, Sakaguchi has been extremely bold with his sprawling mobile adventure, utilising a stunning art style that involved the creation of 150 real life dioramas. It leads to the feeling that this fantasy world has actually been handcrafted. The gameplay itself hews closer to its source material, with turn-based battles, an amnesiac hero, and an epic soundtrack from Final Fantasy mainstay Nobuo Uematsu.
12. World of DemonsPlay now at Apple Arcade
Few would have predicted that cult Japanese game developer PlatinumGames (NieR:Automata, Bayonetta) would craft an original game for Apple’s subscription service, but that’s precisely what World of Demons offers. As is the developer’s wont, it takes the form of a third person hack-and-slash action game. Set in a painterly fantasy world inspired by Japanese folklore, you must guide your samurai warrior into battle with twisted yokai, dodging, slashing, and laying down destructive combos across a series of fluid combat sequences.
13. Alba: A Wildlife AdventurePlay now at Apple Arcade
A charming narrative adventure from the studio behind Monument Valley, Alba follows a young girl (the titular Alba) as she visits her grandparents on a verdant Mediterranean island. Use Alba’s camera to snap and log the island’s varied wildlife as you bid to stop the construction of an ugly hotel by securing signatures on a petition. Unlike other ecologically themed games on Apple Arcade, there’s a freewheeling exploratory vibe to Alba as you’re given free reign to stomp around its compact but open environment. It’s a real summer vacation of a game.
14. Angry Birds ReloadedPlay now at Apple Arcade
Time apparently doesn’t heal all, as these internationally-known birds are still absolutely furious. Angry Birds Reloaded takes you back to the original premise - an avian flock who are more than a little peeved at their piggy foe. With no micro-transactions or pesky ads in sight, you can lock-in on the bird-flinging frenzy which awaits. While the premise is simple, we’ve struggled to get three stars on every level - let us know if you’re more successful.
15. Crossy Road+Play now at Apple Arcade
A modern take on the arcade classic Frogger, Crossy Road+ has you hopping animals across roads, water and train tracks, collecting coins and avoiding being squished or drowning. There are numerous animals to unlock, and with constant daily challenges and rewards there is always a new target to hit. The fate of the animals are in your hands, so don’t let them down… apart from when the challenge is to have them hit by traffic. Ouch.
16. NBA 2K24 Arcade EditionPlay now at Apple Arcade
Know your swish from your slam dunk, and your backboard from your box out? Take to the court with the official NBA baseball game and show off your skills. With two distinct control types (casual and pro) 2K24 Arcade is accessible to those new to the game, but also offers the complexity for seasoned vets. We love the licensed teams, players and arenas, various game modes (including a career option) and the fast-paced, slam-dunking action.
17. Warped Kart RacersPlay now at Apple Arcade
If you’re a fan of a game featuring a certain Italian plumber in a go kart, but want characters that are a bit more grown up, this is the Apple Arcade game for you. Featuring the well-known characters from American Dad, Family Guy, King of the Hill and Solar Opposites, there’s a wealth of karts, power-ups, weapons, maps and modes to play. Probably shouldn’t let the kids play this one though…
18. Simon’s Cat - Story TimePlay now at Apple Arcade
If you’re not aware of the hilarious Simon’s Cat cartoon series, then we thoroughly recommend checking it out - and then immediately downloading this Apple Arcade game. Part tile matcher, part renovation storyline, you’ll love the adorable animations, charming story, and increasingly challenging brain-teasing puzzles. There’s a variety of power-ups to unlock, trophies to collect, and with over four thousand levels to play you’ll want to get started right away. Just make sure you keep your neighbour, Mr Potts, happy.
19. Lego BrawlsPlay now at Apple Arcade
We’re big Lego fans here at Shortlist, and the brick-based firm’s take on video games are always an enjoyable, funny experience. If you want a team fighting game with a twist, Lego Brawls is for you. Step into the plastic legs of a minifigure of your choosing and battle your way through a wide variety of platform levels, against increasingly difficult teams of enemies. There’s a ton of minifigures to unlock, powerups to collect and character customisations to be had.
20. What The Car?Play now at Apple Arcade
What The Car? is the latest effort from the team behind the wonderful What The Golf?, and it does similarly insane things with the racing genre. The basic premise seems perfectly sane. You race your little car from starting line to chequered flag as quickly as possible. What happens in between those two points is gleefully unhinged, as your car grows legs, dons a rocket pack, sprouts springs, and plenty more besides. Basically, everything that could happen to a car happens here, and plenty more that probably couldn’t.
21. Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!Play now at Apple Arcade
Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! is a bit of a curio. It started out life as a cult Nintendo 3DS game from none other than Game Freak, maker of the legendary Pokémon series. This weirdly compelling game combines classic solitaire mechanics with a horse-racing simulator. Success on the board means corresponding success on the track, as your ride becomes energised by a strong sequential clearance. Pocket Card Jockey is a deeply strange experience, and one that requires some time to master, but it’s utterly adorable with it.
22. Shovel Knight DigBuy now at Apple Arcade
This roguelite action-platformer might take its lead character and core spade-bouncing mechanic from the Shovel Knight console game, but it’s made by the mobile game geniuses at Nitrome, so you just know you’re in for a finely crafted treat. Dive into procedurally generated vertical dungeons, digging out gems, whacking enemies with your shovel, and upgrading your abilities. While each run is ostensibly a fresh start, you’ll find ways to start out stronger and thus inch further with every attempt. Hook up a Bluetooth controller, and get ready to jump in.
23. Jetpack Joyride 2Play now at Apple Arcade
This eagerly anticipated sequel to one of the early App Store gaming greats doesn’t disappoint. Hero Barry Steakfries returns for another slice of side-scrolling auto-running action, with all new mechanics, weapons, and high-res graphics. Jetpack Joyride 2 also marks a departure from the original in offering distinct levels, which adds a newfound sense of purpose to proceedings. There are even hulking bosses to tackle this time around, building up to a definite end point.
24. Gibbon: Beyond the TreesPlay now at Apple Arcade
This beautiful, beguiling platformer casts you as a trio of colourful apes, swinging through the trees of their rapidly depleting jungle home. There’s a glorious sense of momentum to the game’s movement system, as you time your inputs to pick up pace through burning forests and grubby cities. It’s only a very short experience, but that makes Gibbon: Beyond the Trees perfectly suited to Apple Arcade’s subscription model. Besides, the game’s stunning visuals and ecologically-focused story will stick with you long after the closing credits.
25. Card of DarknessPlay now at Apple Arcade
Made by a veritable indie game supergroup, Card of Darkness oozes talent from every pixel. What might have been a fairly dry experience is jazzed up no end by wonderfully expressive artwork from the creator of Adventure Time Pendleton Ward. And its developer also made mobile smash Ridiculous Fishing.
Card of Darkness is a roguelike card battler that sees you flipping cards on a grid to forge a path to the level exit. Getting in your way are a range of randomly assorted enemies and good old fashioned human greed, as you battle the urge to follow that treasure-laden side-path.
26. Bleak SwordPlay now at Apple Arcade
An awful lot of the games on Apple Arcade benefit from iOS 13’s adoption of Bluetooth controllers. But Bleak Sword manages to make what is a fairly demanding sword combat game positively sing on touchscreens.
At the heart of this is an ingenious tap-and-swipe system that lets you unleash precision attacks and parries with virtually none of the usual sloppy errors. Which is a good thing really, because Bleak Sword does not mess around. It is punishingly difficult.
27. Sayonara Wild HeartsPlay now at Apple Arcade
Sayonara Wild Hearts smooshes together autorunner and rhythm action elements to form a glorious pop music-soaked sugar rush of a game. Guide your fabulously fashionable hero through undulating cosmic highways, collecting hearts and hitting screen prompts in time to a suitably eclectic soundtrack.
It’s all so overwhelmingly cool you’ll want to play the game in brief bursts. On an Apple Arcade bursting at the seams with visually arresting games, Sayonara Wild Hearts is the sharpest dresser of them all.
28. Painty MobPlay now at Apple Arcade
If it wore a darker shade of clothing and furrowed its brow, Painty Mob could have been one of the most brutal action games of the initial Apple Arcade roster. As things stand, it’s one of the most joyful and uplifting.
This arena-based crowd control game has you running around semi-open environments, detonating your area-of-effect paint bomb weapon to force back swarms of angry opponents. All the while an assault of colourful cuteness threatens to distract you from the deceptively tactical job at hand.
29. Hot LavaPlay now at Apple Arcade
The childhood game of Hot Lava is rendered in gleefully literal form in Klei’s competitive time trial platformer, which sees you jumping from jungle jim to rock to trampoline across a series of fiendish obstacle courses.
Fluid, weighty first-person movement is the key to Hot Lava’s success. This system is simultaneously intuitive and nuanced, requiring you to preserve momentum and hit your marks. All the while the game’s precarious environments reward creative path-finding and intrepid exploration.