The iPhone has always been a great place for gamers, but Apple Arcade puts a new spin on things. After a free one-month trial, it costs $5 per month to subscribe, but that fee gives you and your family unrestricted access to a wonderland of great games with no in-app subscriptions or advertisements in sight. The service launched with more than 100 new and exclusive games, alongside a few familiar titles from other platforms, and more are being added all the time. Apple Arcade works on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, but also on Macs and the iPod Touch.
To help you get started, we’ve picked out our favorites, the cream of the crop. These are the best Apple Arcade games you can play right now. You may also want to check out our picks for the best iPhone games.
Lego Builder’s Journey
Select, rotate, move, and insert familiar Lego bricks in the right places to build structures and create paths for your simple character to move through each level. At first glance, you’ll be reminded of Monument Valley because Builder’s Journey has a similarly relaxing feel and high level of polish with soothing soundscapes to match, but for the most part, this puzzle game is simpler. There’s a lovely story here, and the game stays true to Lego’s ethos, giving you complete freedom to spin your diorama and find your own solution to each puzzle. You can take your time experimenting and see what works. For Lego fans, perfect sound effects elevate the brick play and they click into place with a satisfying motion that echoes the feel of physical bricks, making the whole thing instantly accessible and evocative of childhood Lego sessions. If there’s anything wrong here, it’s the relatively short length and limited replay appeal.
This deliciously dark point-and-click adventure game is beautifully made with an incredibly quirky art style and moody music. You have to explore a map, meeting odd characters as you go, and work out how to get the things you need to progress. The local innkeeper wants a cooked fish in exchange for a bottle of booze, for example, but things get an awful lot stranger than that. The animations, sound effects, and voice acting make the testing process — as you try out different objects on different characters — genuinely fun and sometimes hilarious. The controls are simple taps, and objects and characters that join you are denoted by cards and stacked in your inventory at the bottom of the screen; it’s a clever, simple design that works perfectly on an iPhone or iPad. The makers, Amanita Design, were the creative force behind Machinarium and Samorost. Because there are so many possible interactions and 45 achievements to collect, Pilgrims also offers good replay value.
Playing through this M.C. Escher-inspired geometric puzzle world requires you to let go of your preconceptions about shapes and how they fit together. You can shift gravity by tapping near a wall, and each perspective is assigned a different color. There are switches and things to pick up or activate, but working out how to get from point A to point B can be surprisingly tricky. It’s a little unsettling and bewildering at times, because your perspective keeps shifting, opening up new possibilities, but it’s also gentle and devoid of any real threat, so you can experiment and explore at your own pace. Developer William Chyr spent seven years developing this game and it is visually stunning, with engrossing puzzles that demand patience. This is not an experience to rush through, it’s best to take your time, look all around and properly survey your surroundings before picking your path.
Super Mega Mini Party
If you’re looking for some multiplayer fun, then you’ll find eight fast and frenetic mini-games on offer here that support up to four players. You can choose to create a party and invite friends, or join up with strangers online, to compete for mini-game mastery. The games are all very different, but they’re easy to play on an iPhone with touchscreen controls. There’s a game of pass the dynamite, you can try and sink each other with well-placed cannonballs on the high seas, and you can blast into space to try and rescue an astronaut. Many are based on familiar, popular games with simple mechanics, what they have in common is that they make for comical competition. Super Mega Mini Party is at its most fun when you’re playing together with friends in the same room. It’s family-friendly with a cute, cartoon art style and silly sound effects. Developer, Red Games, has promised to add more mini-games and characters soon.
WHAT THE GOLF?
Billed as “Golf for people who hate golf” this clever puzzle game is enormously fun and it confounds your expectations at every turn. At first glance, it appears to be a golf sim, but as soon as you start playing the surprises come thick and fast. The only thing that remains constant is the basic pull back, aim, and release mechanic, which is perfect for touchscreen control. What you’re actually firing across the screen, your view on it, and the obstacles in your way all change from one level to the next. It’s wonderfully well presented, with a lot of witty gags that will make you laugh out loud, and a host of game references and tributes. There are lots of puzzles to beat, some easy, some really tough, but you don’t have to beat everything to progress, so if you’re stumped you can simply move on. While some Apple Arcade games are best enjoyed on an iPad with a game controller, this is a perfect game to play on your iPhone.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Beautifully animated and well-designed, this game immediately draws you in and doesn’t let go. You’ll run, fly, and guide skateboards, motorbikes, and even a deer through a smooth, super stylish, psychedelic, indie-pop dreamscape that pulses along with the music. Ostensibly, you’re guiding a girl with a broken heart as she races through spectacular neon landscapes grabbing heart-shaped shards, avoiding obstacles, and trying to defeat enemies. There’s also Tarot card styling and narration by Queen Latifah. The gameplay is mesmerizing as it challenges you to time your taps and swipes correctly but offers forgiving instant replays if you mess up. Clearly inspired by Rez, this game leans a little more towards style than substance, but it’s so nicely made and such immersive fun that it’s well worth at least one playthrough, which should only take you about an hour, though it’s likely you’ll be back for more.
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
The original Oceanhorn was a fantastic adventure RPG that challenged you to grow from a boy into a legend and this follow-up is bigger and better. There are treasure-filled dungeons to loot, quests to complete, and evil enemies to defeat. Set in Gaia, you’ll play as a noble, young knight tasked with defeating the Warlock Mesmeroth and his evil hordes. Luckily, you have a bit of help, some of the time, in the shape of a samurai robot called Gen and the granddaughter of Arcadia’s leader Archimedes called Trin. The hack-and-slash gameplay is occasionally broken up by a brain-teasing puzzle. With a cute art style and a sense of wonder, this is clearly inspired by Zelda, but that’s no bad thing and it has been thoughtfully designed to provide enough challenge to hook you without ever feeling frustrating.
Chu Chu Rocket Universe
This quirky action puzzler is all about guiding astronaut mice to the rocket that will take them to safety, being careful to avoid obstacles, traps, and cats. The mice have a mind of their own, so you’ll have to plot safe passage carefully and then set them on their way to see if your plan worked out. A series of planets gradually ramps up the difficulty, from flat to 3D environments, with ever-increasing complexity and new mechanics, including teleporters and switches. Keeping your mice alive requires some thoughtful route planning, but you can always try again if things wrong. Whether you remember the original Chu Chu Rocket on Dreamcast or not, this is easy to pick up and proves to be an engaging puzzle game.
You may be more likely to try this out if you are, or were, a skater, but you really don’t need to know an ollie from your elbow to pick it up. Skate around cityscapes in this side-scrolling title, holding on screen to build up speed and swiping in different directions to pull off tricks. Mastering the timing is the tricky part at first, but things get increasingly complex as you progress. Luckily, some solid mechanics, including the need to balance when grinding, make for a relatively gentle challenge and there’s a free-skate mode if you prefer to do your own thing. You’ll start in Los Angeles, but you’ll get to skate in Barcelona and Oslo later on. All look great and combine well with a chilled-out score and weather effects to create an atmospheric feel.
Where Cards Fall
A stunningly beautiful and thoughtful puzzle game, Where Cards Fall is an unmissable Apple Arcade title. Your task is to guide the unnamed protagonist through a series of levels, helping him get from point A to point B, and you can collapse and expand houses of cards to help you do it. Muse a little more on the strange cutscenes in between and you can see that this is a journey through time, as well as space. It’s a dreamy coming-of-age tale that riffs on the importance of memories, but it’s also an engaging spatial puzzler that will have you swiping and pinching to try and unveil the way forward. Naturally, your journey gets trickier and requires more thought the further you progress.
Can you guide an adorable Sasquatch through a large park and ensure that he purloins enough grub to keep him alive without spooking the campers or drawing the angry attention of the park ranger? It’s tougher than it sounds, but you’ll definitely have a lot of fun trying. Luckily there’s a raccoon to guide you, a bear who’ll buy excess food for cash, and all manner of handy gear to buy or loot. The stealth gameplay is really fun and intuitive, the art style is irresistibly cute, and there’s even an overarching plot that slowly unfolds as you rob the place blind. This is wholesome, Yogi Bear-style fun for the whole family and it gets sillier and sillier as it goes on.
You really have to play this puzzle game to get your head around it. Screenshots of the sparse art style simply don’t convey the challenge here as you work your way through a string of colorful puzzles that blend into one another as you solve them by guiding your dot to collect fragments and avoid dangers. It’s a stylish experience that requires you to think in terms of 3D space and objects, even though all you have on screen is 2D representations.
Cat Quest 2
This is a cat-themed, action-fantasy RPG, do you really need to know more? With adorably cute graphics and feline puns aplenty, but a surprisingly deep, classic RPG underneath, Cat Quest 2 is purrfect for a spot of mobile gaming. This time around a doggo accompanies our feline protagonist and you can switch between them or, even better, play co-op with a friend. There are magic powers to acquire, or you can accumulate heavy armor and a dangerous arsenal as you loot dungeons, fight a large array of different monsters, and try to use the environment to your advantage. This is best enjoyed as a co-op experience and it’s a great game for kids and adults alike.
Assemble with Care
Playing as Maria, you have to tap and drag things around the screen to repair them in this refreshingly different puzzle game. You’ll work on cameras and cassette recorders and a handful of other objects — there are 13 in all. The game is somewhat reminiscent of the Room series, but each item you take apart and put back together again reveals something about the owner and it transpires that you’re not just fixing the object itself, but also the owners and their relationships. It’s a soothing game to play with a lovely art style and animation, fitting music and voice acting, and some unexpectedly poignant moments. If you want something relaxing and pleasurable, Assemble With Care will serve you well.
While it’s possible to play some of the best battle royale games on your iPhone — such as Fortnite and PUBG Mobile — Butter Royale is a fun alternative if you’re looking for a quick gaming fix. The mobile-friendly title has rounds that last less than five minutes, making it the perfect title to play while out on the town. You’ll choose between one of 50 different playable characters, before heading out to a sprawling island and doing battle with 31 other combatants. With several different modes and tons of unlockable content, Butter Royale is a fantastic bite-sized mobile game.