Best Apple Arcade Games: Tested And Ranked
Apple Arcade is a subscription service that lets users play dozens of iPad, iPhone, Mac and Apple TV games (more than 100 eventually; currently there are around 70) as often as they like for a set monthly fee. But which ones are worth your time?
We’ve been burning our way through Arcade’s library ever since the launch of iOS 13, and will keep going until we’ve tested and ranked every single one. What follows – our ranking of the best Apple Arcade games – is therefore a work in progress, and will be updated on a regular basis until we’ve played everything.
You can find out more in our guide to Apple Arcade, and our advice on whether it’s worth the subscription fee can be found at Should I get Apple Arcade? And if you’re more interested in the titles available outside that service, read our roundup of the best iPhone and iPad games.
1. What The Golf?
This bizarre and genuinely funny sports sim – “Golf for people who hate golf” – hits a hole in one for relentless ingenuity: the courses feature exploding barrels, cats and runaway cars, and half the time you find yourself playing with a cow or a carpet instead of a ball. As soon as you feel like the makers must have exhausted the possibilities of the format they surprise you yet again.
Age 9+ • Single player only • No controller support • What The Golf? on the App Store
2. Bleak Sword
Devolver’s low-fi action RPG takes the style and atmosphere of Dark Souls and puts it through an 8bit filter. Use quick swipes to dodge monsters and slash them bloodily to pieces: it’s fast, exciting and masses of fun – as well as super-cool to look at.
Age 12+ • Single player only • No controller support • Bleak Sword on the App Store
Here’s Arcade’s take on the Bejeweled/Candy Crush template, and as you’d expect it’s both gorgeous and far more interesting than most of the clones in that space.
Trace a path across matching creatures – accounting for certain complications, such as treasure chests, boss monsters and magic stones that let you transition to a different colour – and then hit Go. Instead of a gentle tinkling of jewels, you’ll be rewarded with a ridiculously gory (albeit cartoonish) animation.
Far easier to pick up than it is to put down, Grindstone also wins the prize for the most addictive Arcade game we’ve yet tried.
Age 12+ • Single player only • No controller support • Grindstone on the App Store
4. Shinsekai Into the Depths
Cast into a stunningly detailed, treacherous underwater world, you will be pursued not only by ice slowly setting in but a swathe of sea creatures ranging from cute to downright terrifying. Blast around with jet packs, mine minerals to convert into oxygen and uncover the secrets of the depths in this gorgeous, vibrant and unique underwater exploration game.
Age 4+ • Single player only • No controller support • Shinsekai Into the Depths on the App Store
Turn-based squad strategy game that strongly recalls the classic board game Space Hulk, only simpler and graphically cuter.
Controlling a handful of heroic space rangers, you’re investigating an alien-riddled abandoned colony, shooting, kicking and grenading your way to various mission goals. Great fun.
Age 12+ • Single player only • Supports hardware controllers • Spaceland on the App Store
6. Card of Darkness
Wonderful to look at (unsurprisingly, since the animator Pendleton Ward of Adventure Time fame was involved), Card of Darkness proves it’s more than a pretty face with an elegant and compelling design with masses of depth.
Age 9+ • Single player only • No controller support • Card of Darkness on the App Store
7. Cricket Through the Ages
This utterly ridiculous ragdoll cricket sim made us laugh constantly. Very silly, and very fun.
Age 4+ • 1-2 players • No controller support • Cricket Through the Ages on the App Store
8. Sneaky Sasquatch
A cheeky stealth game with a hint of Surgeon Simulator, Sneaky Sasquatch is charming and masses of fun. You play as the titular hirsute cryptid and have to tiptoe (and occasionally sprint) around the bins, barbecues and caravans of an unnamed US national park, trying to avoid the prying eyes and ears of the tourists and park rangers who want to stop you getting your hands on their tasty pickernick baskets.
Age 4+ • Single player only • No controller support • Sneaky Sasquatch on the App Store
9. Assemble with Care
This gentle puzzler from Ustwo Games, on a hot streak after producing the two Monument Valley games, is a delight. You play as Maria, an antiques restorer on a working holiday, and get to know the inhabitants of the town of Bellariva as you mend their most treasured objects. The story is occasionally a tiny bit heavy-handed, but it’s also sweet and very beautiful.
Read more in our full Assemble with Care review.
Age 4+ • Single player only • No controller support • Assemble with Care on the App Store
10. The Pinball Wizard
What if the song Pinball Wizard was about an actual… wizard? So, presumably, ran the thought processes of the developers responsible for this adorably silly number, in which you climb a tower whose floors take the form of increasingly difficult pinball tables and your little magic user acts as the projectile.
We love the idea that a game was created on the strength of a single flimsy pun, but Pinball Wizard is a decent offering in its own right: the RPG elements give it replay value and the whole thing is perfectly suited to bite-sized gaming sessions.
Age 4+ • Single player only • Supports hardware controllers • The Pinball Wizard on the App Store
We’ve been having some good times with this turn-based tactical RPG, which is deep, tense and blessed with excellent artwork. But here’s our reservation: the card-playing elements feel like an afterthought.
Deck building is a fashionable (and very rewarding) genre but blending it into an RPG framework is not easy. Spelldrifter waits a fair while, perhaps tellingly, before letting you have any control over your cards, and even then you’re constructing your deck between fights rather than in-game – in other words, it’s more Magic The Gathering than Ascension. The cards themselves look great but they’re mostly just attacks, heals and buffs; you don’t get a lot of the interesting combos and synergies that you get in Dream Quest, for instance.
Also, parents of small children may find that the cock-rock soundtrack reminds them of Blaze and the Monster Machines, which rather undercuts the atmosphere.
Age 12+ • Single player only • No controller support • Spelldrifter on the App Store
Tasteful but slightly antiseptic puzzle game in which you manipulate perspective (hence, presumably, the name) to guide a ball around line-drawn objects. Undeniably cleverly designed, Spek shares Monument Valley’s sense of optical mischief – and relatively gentle difficulty curve – but not its heart.
Bonus points, however, for the interesting AR mode, where the puzzles are projected on to the surfaces of your home, office etc and you reach a solution by physically walking around.
Age 4+ • Single player only • No controller support • Spek on the App Store
13. Shantae and the Seven Sirens
Polished but largely conventional action-platformer in which a half-naked half-genie leaps about the screen killing baddies with her hair and, later, magic. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed, although we found the onscreen controls super-frustrating, frequently hitting jump instead of attack (or vice-versa) at critical moments – and there’s currently no support for hardware controllers.
Age 12+ • Single player only • No controller support • Shantae and the Seven Sirens on the App Store
14. Projection: First Light
This stunning-looking platformer is distinctly reminiscent of Limbo, which is no bad thing; but whereas that game used shadows to conjure an atmosphere of dread, Projection feels more magical.
It’s set in a world of shadow puppets: the key is manipulating the light source to create and transform shadows for moving around the levels. It’s a clever gimmick but it takes a while to get going and the control method – as on Limbo, to be fair – is a little frustrating.
Age 9+ • Single player only • No controller support • Projection: First Light on the App Store
15. Skate City
Attractive and popular skateboard sim from the makers of, and similar to, Alto’s Adventure. Muted, chilled-out visuals and music generate bags of atmosphere and there are lots of special tricks and character customisations to unlock.
We would add, however, that a 2D skating game loses the exploratory aspect of a Tony Hawk: stairs, ramps, rails etc are brought to you in automatic sequence rather than having to be discovered. And real squares (like us) may find that all skateboard moves look pretty much the same when rendered as realistically as they are here.
Age 4+ • Single player only • Supports hardware controllers • Skate City on the App Store
16. Red Reign
A cute-looking real-time strategy game blended from equal parts Kingdom Rush and old-school Warcraft. The visuals are nice but we find the control method a bit fiddly.
Age 9+ • 1-2 players • Supports hardware controllers • Red Reign on the App Store
17. Hot Lava
If you ever played ‘the floor is lava’ as a child – which is maybe more of a US than British thing – then this game will press all sorts of jolly nostalgia buttons in your brain. In this case, of course, there’s no need to use the wonderful power of a child’s imagination because the floor is literally lava, and it’s up to you to navigate around the rooms and levels via furniture, hanging brackets and pipes and so on.
It’s a great idea (and the Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic is lovely), but the first-person 3D perspective makes it difficult to jump accurately. Some may find this frustrating – we clearly need to put in more practice.
Age 4+ • 1-4 players • Supports hardware controllers • Hot Lava on the App Store
18. Dear Reader
Word game in which you work your way through literary classics, rearranging jumbled sentences and tapping on spelling mistakes. Cosmetically lovely, and we so wanted to like this – but it’s ultimately a tiny bit dull.
Age 12+ • Single player only • No controller support • Dear Reader on the App Store
19. Big Time Sports
The oversized sprites are a visual delight, but in gameplay terms this one feels like a filler, largely following the Daley Thompson’s Decathlon tradition of tapping buttons to match timers, or simply as fast as you can. A few events, such as football, are a lot of fun, but most are pretty boring.
Age 4+ • Single player only • No controller support • Big Time Sports on the App Store
20. Frogger in Toy Town
Frogger in Toy Town is the least fun Arcade game we’ve tried so far. How strange that Apple chose it as the showpiece for the service.
Yep, it’s Frogger, only with modern graphics and a few concessions to the gameplay conventions of 2019. It’s not terrible, by any means – we suspect Apple won’t allow any stinkers on to Arcade – and certainly looks nice. But it’s not exactly thrilling.
Most importantly the swipe/tap controls are not responsive enough to induce the sense of ‘jeopardy narrowly escaped’ which was so fundamental to the original’s charm. And we must confess that we were getting mildly bored before we got to the end of the first level.
Age 4+ • Single player only • No controller support • Frogger in Toy Town on the App Store