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The best Apple Arcade games for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV – 2019

Apple Arcade
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When Apple Arcade landed, it did so with a mammoth 71 games – and that was just the start. It’s overwhelming – almost too much of a good thing. That’s why we’ve spent time working through every Apple Arcade game, so you can immediately delve into the very best that the service has to offer.

Our list includes a wide range of titles, from high-octane brawlers to relaxing, thoughtful experiences. In each case, we not only outline why you should play a game, but also how.

So whether you’re settling down with your iPhone, or fancy firing up your Apple TV with a connected gamepad, there are superb premium gaming experiences waiting for you.

Sayonara Wild Hearts

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Genre: Rhythm action
Best played with:
Apple TV/iPad with controller

Described as a pop-album video game, Sayonara Wild Hearts finds The Fool, a heartbroken woman, charged by all-powerful beings with bringing balance back to the universe. As if she didn’t already have enough to deal with.

The game plays out as a rhythm action game. You blaze along in 3D, scooping up collectables by getting yourself into the right lane at the optimum moment. Given the manner in which the lush visuals arrest the eyes, it’s easy to be dazzled and crash through levels at first. Also, the touchscreen controls are sub-optimal. This game is really made for a controller.

When better placed to move The Fool around, though, you can learn a level’s choreography, and get fully into the zone. The effect is wonderful – akin to Guitar Hero smashed into Rez, but also its own thing. Finish the game and you unlock a superb bonus, where you can take in the entire intoxicating experience from beginning to end, soaking ears and mind alike in the full album.

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Assemble with Care

(Image credit: ustwo games)

Assemble with Care

Genre: Narrative puzzler
Best played with: iPhone

As much short story as puzzle game, Assemble with Care finds globe-trotting restorer whizz Maria passing through the sunny town of Bellariva. At each stage of her journey, she meets an inhabitant who asks her to fix something precious.

Your job is to manipulate these on-screen items, take them to bits, figure out what’s wrong, and put them back together again. Which probably sounds terrifying, but this game’s intuitive, smartly conceived interface will make you think you, too, can repair an ancient watch or slide projector. (TechRadar hint: probably don’t try this at home.) It’ll also make you realize that relationships often need fixing more than mere objects.

For a short game – you’ll be done in an hour – it packs quite the emotional wallop. One to be savored, then, and a title that really highlights the benefit of Apple Arcade’s try-anything subscription model.

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Grindstone

(Image credit: Capybara Games Inc)

Grindstone

Genre: Match puzzler
Best played with: iPhone

Creeps are everywhere in Grindstone Mountain, and so it’s time to clean the place up – and nothing cleans things up better than a massive sword. (And then quite a lot of water to get rid of all of the creep blood, but whatever.) Only this isn’t a hack-and-slash brawler, but a surprisingly thinky puzzler.

You enter each screen with a set number of creeps to dispatch. Tap out a path through creeps of a single color, and then let rip. (If you once loved Dungeon Raid, Grindstone may scratch that particular itch.) Over time, new features appear, like treasure chests and deadlier adversaries, and you can counter with upgradable kit and sheer brainpower.

There’s a whiff of freemium in the lives and weapons system – as if the title was quickly adjusted prior to appearing on Apple Arcade. But even that grumble doesn’t knock one of the best match puzzlers on iPhone.

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Sneaky Sasquatch

(Image credit: RAC7 Games)

Sneaky Sasquatch

Genre: Arcade/stealth
Best played with: Any system

For reasons unknown, a sasquatch’s existence is tolerated in a massive campsite. Why, we’ve no idea, given that the hairy critter is quite the thief, pilfering food from unwary guests, before wolfing it down at a nearby table.

You play the sasquatch, in a game that manages to simultaneously echo Yogi Bear and stealth titles. One minute, you’ll have a duck ask you to steal back a suspiciously human-sized hat from an RV; the next, you’ll be tip-toeing past campers, dressed as a bush.

This entire game could so easily have been a gimmick, but Sneaky Sasquatch is brilliantly designed. The controls are tight; the animation is wonderful; and the game slowly expands in a smart way that keeps you hooked. Stick around long enough, and the hairy hero may even be able to play some golf, or do some go-karting. Just stay away from that mean old ranger!

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Super Impossible Road

(Image credit: Rogue Games)

Super Impossible Road

Genre: Racing
Best played with: iPhone

At some point in the future, humanity gets a bit bored with having people race on tarmac. Instead, they’re dumped inside metal balls and hurled along terrifying roller-coaster tracks that twist and whirl through space.

Initially, your aim is merely to keep on the impossible road – either for as long as you can, or in the time gate mode until the clock runs down. But then there are the races, whereupon one other cunning tactic comes into play: cheating.

In Super Impossible Road, you can leap off of the track and rejoin later, sneakily getting ahead of your opponents. Only if you miss, you’ll end up back at a restart point, with a bruised ego and ground to make up.

This one’s tricky to master, but a dizzying thrill-ride once it clicks. And multiple modes, tracks, and vehicles should keep you playing for the long term.

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What the Golf

(Image credit: The Label)

What The Golf?

Genre: Sports-ish
Best played with: Any system

What the Golf? gets weird very quickly indeed. Initially, it looks every inch the cartoon golfing experience, of the kind that littered the App Store in its early days. Only when you swing, it’s the golfer who ends up hurtling through the air.

The game barely lets up from this initial surprise, chucking all kinds of craziness at you with merry abandon. Some holes have you pick your way through bombs. Others have the ball sling itself around a side-on landscape like Spider-Man. Then there are takes that echo racing games, or have you attempting to pilot a missile to the green.

It’s so relentlessly bonkers you’ll even be glad of the more sedate in-between bits, which find you pinging a ball around a maze to find your next challenge. Not one for purists, then, but all the better for it – unless you hate fun games packed full of imagination.

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Card of Darkness

(Image credit: Zach Gage)

Card of Darkness

Genre: Strategy
Best played with: iPhone

From the mind of the guy who reinvented on iPhone everything from pool to crosswords, and the illustrator of Adventure Time, comes this epic quest smashed into the framework of a card game.

Each challenge has you staring at piles of cards, knowing that beneath any one of them could be a stack of gold, a weapon, or a fearsome monster. Your aim is to forge a path through the cards to the exit, but once a pile’s disturbed, you must use every card within.

There’s a lot going on here, and pretty soon your head will be swimming with all the many critters and their varied powers and effects. But stick with it, and take your time, and you’ll unearth one of the very finest mobile strategy games around (along, obviously, with a massive bitey spider that’ll take your face off).

Card of Darkness

Oceanhorn 2

(Image credit: Cornfox & Brothers Ltd)

Oceanhorn 2

Genre: Action-adventure
Best played with: Apple TV/iPad with controller

We’re going to use the Z word: Oceanhorn 2 is the closest you’ll get to Zelda on Apple Arcade, short of Nintendo doing an about-face and abandoning its strategy of hideous freemium mobile titles.

As in the original Oceanhorn, you’re again a young knight with the fate of the world in their hands. (No pressure.) In typical RPG fare, this means you must comb varied locations, scrap with plentiful enemies, complete missions, and solve the odd puzzle.

On-boarding is poor – the game oddly assumes you’ll know how to perform certain actions, and won’t tell you how. But it looks great, and once you get to grips with the controls, you’ll forgive those early blips. The title also shines on the big screen, feeling like proper console fare. Whether you consider that a compliment perhaps depends on your gaming tastes, but there’s no doubting Oceanhorn 2 is quite the achievement.

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Exit the Gungeon

(Image credit: Devolver)

Exit the Gungeon

Genre: Shoot ’em up
Best played with: Touchscreen

There’s a smattering of a story here about a ‘Gungeon’ falling to bits, and you needing to escape. But, really, this is full-on high-octane bullet-hell shooty larks, with you leaping about in confined spaces, blowing everything away, and trying very hard to not get shot.

This game is tough. The pace brings to mind  Super Crate Box, as does the weapons system that finds your firearm regularly mutating. Typically, the better you are, the more powerful the weapon you’ll end up with. In short, be rubbish, and you’ll die.

Actually, you’ll die anyway – a lot at first. But you’ll gradually lengthen your runs, and give bosses a serious kicking. Not quite feeling it? Try switching control methods – there’s the full-speed high-octane take with a controller, but go touch-only and everything slows down while you leap, like the game’s merged with The Matrix.

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Mutazione

(Image credit: Die Gute Fabrik)

Mutazione

Genre: Adventure
Best played with: Touchscreen

One hundred years ago, a meteor struck a holiday resort in the tropics. Those few that survived showed strange mutations, rescuers took flight, and everyone left behind then tried to transform the island into a paradise. Now as teenager Kai, you travel for the first time to the island to visit a dying relative.

This is every inch the exploratory adventure. It’s heavy on conversation – and just poking around. Although next steps are heavily signposted in a journal, Mutazione is often at its most rewarding when you just live life, learning how the island functions.

The slow pace may irk those who like to fast-forward through games. And a gardening element at the heart of the production may well prove to be the last straw. But should you want a relaxing, engaging, stimulating handheld experience, full of heart and character, you, too, should make the journey to Mutazione.

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Bleak Sword

(Image credit: Devolver)

Bleak Sword

Genre: Brawler
Best played with: iPhone

Fire up the likes of Dark Souls on a PlayStation 4, and you can stomp about a beautifully rendered environment, hacking to bits all manner of adversaries with your medieval-era weapons. Bleak Sword is to a great extent the same game – albeit stripped back for mobile play, and with visuals that appear to have escaped from a 1980s PC.

Protagonist and enemies alike are stylized pixelated stickmen, but the controls are all modern gestures. It quickly becomes second nature to roll, parry, and hack to pieces anything that comes your way, from giant forest critters to enemies with unfeasibly large swords.

Curiously, Bleak Sword doesn’t work nearly as well with a controller. It really pays to spend a little time learning the touchscreen controls on an iPhone, and marveling at how such a game can work so well when you’re pawing at glass instead of having your mitts wrapped around a gamepad.

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Shinsekai Into the Depths

(Image credit: Capcom)

Shinsekai Into the Depths

Genre: Platform
Best played with: Any system

Instead of global warming leading to Mad Max, this Capcom platform game finds mankind living in a world of ice. Humanity’s tried to escape the cold by heading below the ocean waves, but that territory is now also beginning to freeze. As terrifyingly large chunks of ice rapidly encroach on your home, your lone aquanaut must venture forth, in a bid for survival.

Right from the off, this game feels unique and tantalizing. Whether you’re using slightly slippy touchscreen gestures or a gamepad, it’s fun to blast your aquanaut around, slash at underwater horrors, and prospect for resources.

There’s a temptation to continue zooming about, killing anything that moves; but Shinsekai’s world is full of peril, from fearsome underwater creatures to the mundane – yet no less dangerous – threat of running out of oxygen. The title therefore quickly resolves itself as a tense, electrifying balancing act as you head further into its unexplored depths.

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