The best Apple Arcade games
These are the best Apple Arcade games we’ve played so far.
Ever since the iPhone 11 released, I’ve been grinding through the expansive list of games on offer. Not since the Nintendo Switch released have I spent an unhealthy amount of time burning the midnight oil under the intense glow of a handheld device. After some significant time with almost every title currently on offer, I’ve come up with a list of the best Apple Arcade games that keep me coming back for more.
Despite dabbling with every single game Apple Arcade has to offer, Grindstone is the one title that keeps pulling me back in. Coffee runs, lunch breaks and important work meetings have all been top-and-tailed with a quick bash on Grindstone.
Every time I recommend it, people are quick to judge the colour-matching gameplay because, often, their only experience is with games like Bejeweled or Peggle, or worse, some of the insidious gambling-adjacent free-to-play games littering the App Store in Google Play. But developer Capy has managed to take the often sinister aspects of the genre and use them as a force for good by nixing any and all free-to-play elements (such is the Apple Arcade credo) and giving Grindstone some personality; something you just don’t see in the genre.
Rounds of Grindstone are short, sharp and cartoonishly brutal. You play as Jorj, a sword-wielding Viking who traverses a dangerous icy mountain like a pinball of death and destruction. Using simple swipe controls, you must chain together as many critter murders as possible. As a colour-matching game, you can only jump from say one blue critter to another blue critter. That is until you string together enough kills (10 or above) to spawn a grindstone, which allows you to jump from one colour to another, opening the gates for sheer annihilation. Once a few grindstones have dropped, there’s almost no stopping Jorg from clearing out entire levels with one fell swoop. However, the perpetual critter culling (understandably) angers the horde and as you progress through each level, the critters are given the chance to fight back.
For example, if you land next to an angered enemy, Jorg can lose a heart (he has three in total). Get hit three times and you will lose all your loot and precious grindstones.
Grindstone actually gives you the option to leave peacefully with all your gear intact early on in each level but this is a game about guts and glory and the risk of losing it all makes painting the mountain red all the sweeter. As you progress, you face tougher enemies that, for example, require you to chain 10 smaller enemies before confronting them. Thankfully, the game also rewards you with blueprints to build extra gear, such as a shield or bow and arrow, to help with your quest.
If you’re currently climbing the mountain of games Apple Arcade dropped on day one, do yourself a favour and give Grindstone a gander. You won’t be disappointed and you WILL. NOT. STOP.
More games from Capy
- Super Time Force Ultra (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows and Mac)
- Below (Xbox One – Available on Game Pass, PC)
- Collaboration// Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP (Switch, Android, iOS, Windows and Mac)
Best Quick Fix
Pilgrims is a point-and-click (or point-and-touch?) adventure game from the wonderfully weird team at Amanita Design (Machinarium). In Pilgrims, the player serves as a guiding hand for a small group of troubled travellers, all with their own skills to offer (at a price). My first run of Pilgrims was a short one; it took me no more than 2 hours to reach the end goal and despite the short runtime, I was completely satisfied with my brief visit to Amanita’s wonderfully illustrated world. But before the credits rolled, it became apparent I had but skimmed the surface of this incredibly rich adventure.
The world of Pilgrims might seem small, and the laundry list of objectives quite short, but there are loads of ways you can tackle each puzzle to reach the end goal. Thanks to the charming characters, and the game’s zen-like pace, you’ll want to jump back in and try a different path almost immediately.
It’s the kind of game that makes you smile from ear to ear and a delightful way to spend 30 to 40 minutes before dozing off.
More games from Amanita Design
- Chuchel (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
- Machinarium (Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows, Mac)
- Samorost 3 (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)
3. Assemble With Care
Few games really get you fixing for some, well, fixing.
Assemble With Care is a hand-illustrated adventure/puzzle game from the folks who brought you Monument Valley. You play as Maria, a travelled antique restorer who arrives in the fictional beachside town of Bellariva and almost immediately begins repairing the inhabitants’ dusty antiques and their broken hearts.
Props to Ustwo games for building a compelling lead character and world around a very simple core mechanic but what I really can’t get enough of is the nuts and bolts of Assemble With Care; the tranquil puzzle-solving.
If you take some time each day to unwind with something like Headspace, I strongly recommend tinkering with Assemble with Care’s puzzles when you need to decompress. Assembled with Care’s puzzles aren’t designed to give you any grief. Each chapter presents you with a new broken item to fix; be it a retro gaming handheld, a neon sign, or a portable radio, each item is laid out flat with all the tools you need to get the job done. Simple actions, like unscrewing a panel and pulling an object apart piece by piece is incredibly satisfying.
If you’ve got an itch for pulling things apart but don’t have the patience or dexterity to put them back together.
Every time I play Assemble With Care, the disassembled DualShock 4 under my television weeps.
More from ustwo games
- Monument Valley (iOS and Android)
- Monument Valley 2 (iOS and Android)
Best adventure/horror game
Inmost is the game that most took me by surprise on Apple Arcade. The App Store and Google Play are littered with indie horror adventures that try and capture the same grim and terrifying tone of indie classic Lone Survivor but none have been able to quite marry lo-fi pixel art and bone-shaking horror like developer Jasper Byrne did (the exception being the recent Darkwood). Inmost does. It’s one of the most polished indie horror games I’ve ever played. It just feels so good to play. Each character handles differently but is limited to directional commands and a single action button. Simple actions, like running and climbing ledges are incredibly smooth.
I had absolutely no expectations when I started Inmost and it’s quickly shot to the top of my mobile must-plays.
Coming from a small two-man Lithuanian studio via indie publisher Chucklefish Games (Stardew Valley, Wargroove) Inmost casts the player as three separate playable characters from different times (and worlds) all with different playstyles, controls and puzzle-solving mechanics.
The world of Inmost is teeming with supernatural beasties; from dangerous slime to possessed corpses and towering, Lovecraftian goliaths; it’s a full-blown supernatural horror. Behind all that, there’s a tender and tragic story about grief. Some of the best moments of Inmost came completely out of the blue. One that stuck with me was a sombre walk in the shoes of a frail old man while an unknown voice waxes poetic. This early scene was all I needed and Inmost had me hook line and sinker.
More from Chucklefish Games
- Stardew Valley (iOS, Android, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac)
- Wargroove (Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows)
- Risk of Rain (Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac)
5. Sayonara Wild Hearts
Sayonara Wild Hearts’ quickly became the gem of Apple Arcade thanks to its neon palette and developer clout. It’s not exclusive to Apple Arcade but there’s no doubt in my mind it’s the reason many have and will sign up for the free trial.
SWH has been described as a visual pop album about a history of heartbreak. Many have joked that’s it’s the Taylor Swift album of indie games but in reality its more akin to a K-Pop music video. It’s also narrated by Queen Latifah, as if that’s not reason enough to give it a whirl.
The game wastes no time throwing your into the action. From the main menu, the needle drops and the tunes don’t stop coming until the credits roll. Each level/song is themed differently; influencing not only the soundtrack but the world and challenges Simogo throws at you.
Speaking of challenges, there’s not a lot to be found here. Like Assemble with Care, Sayonara Wild Hearts has been designed to be enjoyed peacefully. It does throw a new interesting challenge at you every few levels but at most you’ll fumble a handful of times and even then the game will ask if you’d like to fast-forward a little if you’re having trouble .
The most basic description of Sayonara is an on-rails endless runner with rhythm elements such timing your actions in sync with the soundtrack. You’d think that’d be a perfect fit for touch controls but it’s not as simple as swiping left and right to change lanes; sometimes you need a little extra dexterity that’s tough to nail with touch. I’d recommend playing this one with a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One control if you’ve got one handy.
More games from Simogo
- Device 6 (iOS)
- Year Walk (iOS, Windows, Mac)
- Beat Sneak Bandit (iOS)
6. What The Golf?
It’s been a great couple of years for weirdo golf games. Desert Golfing hit Android and iOS way back in 2014, and when the Switch launched back in 2017, we were blessed with the wonderfully Aussie Golf Story.
Indie golf games are usually driven by one core principle: golf = boring, whacking things with a stick = fun.
What The Golf? features a series of increasingly absurd courses where the golf ball target can be just about anything. One course you might be using a cat as target practice and in the next you might be actual using the flogging the poor kitty cat across the green.
Each level is like a Kinder Surprise; if the surprise was developer Triband’s next insane twist on the basics of golf.
More whacky golf games
- Golf Story (Switch)
- Desert Golfing (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac)
7. Bleak Sword
Here’s one for all the die-hard fans of the deadly Dark Souls series. Bleak Sword from more8bit and Devolver Digital is a crushing parry to all the naysayers who believe mobile games are strictly a casual affair. Designed to play on the go, there are certainly casual elements to Bleak Sword, such as short, sharp battles and a mobile-friendly control scheme but the difficulty is anything but casual.
Controls seem simple at first: tap to parry, swipe to dodge roll, and use both in tandem to attack in any direction, as well has holding down one finger to charge attacks. If you’re not feeling the touch controls, you can connect a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controller and play that way. It might make gameplay a little easier but truth be told, the developers have done a cracker job translating this short list of commands to touch.
Each round sets the bloody battle on a small dioramic level; a small slice of Bleak Sword’s monochrome fantasy world. Level and character models are super lo-fi 8-bit renditions of menacing forests, knights, ghouls, skeletons etc. Standard fantasy fare. Despite its blocky presentation, enemies move across the small map fluidly and their animations are detailed enough to signpost incoming attacks (which you’ll need to learn for each new enemy type).
What I appreciate about Bleak Sword is that it really doesn’t waste any of your time; it’s quick to get to the combat and when you do fall, it’s 100% your own fault.
Warm up those digits and download Bleak Sword. Just make sure you’ve got a good protective case before you enter a world of pain.
More Devolver Digital on mobile
- Reigns (iOS, Android, Switch, Windows and Mac)
- Exit the Gungeon (Apple Arcade)
- Downwell (iOS, Android, Switch, PlayStation 4, PC and Max)
8. Rayman Mini
When I first saw Rayman Mini on Apple Arcade, I glazed over it, thinking it was Rayman Adventures or Jungle Run (the two existing Ubi Rayman games on the App Store). When I heard Rayman Mini was an entirely new adventure for Apple Arcade, I had to check it out.
True to form, it’s an absolute delight. If you’ve played any UbiArts Rayman title in the past, the world and gameplay of Mini isn’t going to come as a surprise to you. Same as the other mobile titles, this is an auto-runner where you’re tasked with tapping the screen to jump, vault and glide throughout Rayman’s musically charged challenges.
That said, there is a small difference in Mini’s level design. The game’s introduction shows that Rayman’s been shrunk down in size by a wicked wizard. The advantage of lil Rayman’s predicament by creating courses and obstacles out of life’s small wonders; things like spiderwebs, bouncy vegetation and the like. To be completely honest though, Rayman’s lush green world’s are already so fantastical, it took me a while to realise that the setting was different from previous titles.
More mobile games from UbiArts
- Valiant Hearts: The Great War (iOS, Android, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
- Rayman Adventures (iOS, Android)
How to play Apple Arcade games
If you’re tempted by the titles on this list, you’re going to need some kind of Apple device to play them on. The obvious choice is the latest iPhone 11 but any iPhone, iPod Touch, Apple Tv or iPad running iOS 13, iPad OS or TVOS 13 can access Apple Arcade’s 1-month free trial via the App Store.
Apple Arcade is also coming to MacBooks and iMacs via the Cataline update.
In iOS 13, there’s a dedicated tab for Apple Arcade as the bottom of the screen so it’s super easy to access the library of games included in your subscription.
Once your free months runs dry, Apple will charge you $7.99 per month to keep playing the games you’ve downloaded via Apple Arcade.
Most popular iPhone 11 plans
If you are considering upgrading your iPhone to make the most out of Apple Arcade, these are the most popular iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro plans according to WhistleOut’s mobile plan comparison engine.