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Best Apple TV apps and games: 30 must-download apps on Apple TV and Apple TV 4K

Best Apple TV apps and games
(Image credit: Apple )

If you’re all-in on Apple’s ecosystem of hardware and software, the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K are pretty much must-own streaming devices. The way they tie into the App Store is flawless and if you find yourself wanting to use AirPlay over Chromecast, they’re basically the only streaming devices on the market that are going to deliver for you.

But the Apple TV and Apple TV 4K’s biggest advantage is the App Store. 

With thousands of apps and games to pick from the App Store is a labyrinth of content - some of which is way better than others. While Apple does a pretty good job sussing out the good from the bad, finding some of the less popular apps can be a challenge. That’s why we’re here to help.  

We’ve scoured the App Store for the best Apple TV apps and games - from household streaming staples like Netflix and Disney Plus to the more obscure games and apps that are hidden off the beaten path - we’ve found 30 games and apps you absolutely need.

Essential Apple TV apps 

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple TV with Apple TV Plus 

Does it require a subscription? Sort of...

The best place to start your content search on Apple TV is… well, the Apple TV app. Here you’ll find content recommendations from a number of service providers - including Amazon Prime Video, HBO and others that each have their own individual apps that we’ll cover below - as well as Apple’s own service, Apple TV Plus. Speaking of, we recommend at least demoing the service for a week to binge-watch The Morning Show, See and one of our personal favorites, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet. 

(Image credit: Apple)

 2. Apple Music 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

Of course, if you’re looking for some new music to relax with, your best bet is going to be the Apple Music app that comes pre-installed on both the Apple TV and Apple TV 4K. No, unfortunately this one isn’t free either, but like Apple TV Plus it comes with a pretty substantial free trial - three months in this case. Why you’ll fall in love with it is the incredibly well-curated playlist selection, massive music library and some neat extra features like Beats1 Radio. 

(Image credit: Apple)

3. Apple Arcade 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

One of the last essential apps from Apple worth taking a look at as soon as you boot up the Apple TV is Apple Arcade - which is both the name of the app and the name of Apple’s all-you-can-play game service that has over 100 titles, all of which can be downloaded simultaneously. Here’s the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that, again, it’s not free - but the good news is that there’s a free trial and the subscription is good for your entire family and will work on any of your iOS devices, iPad and iPhone included. 

(Image credit: Apple)

 4. YouTube 

Does it require a subscription? No

Tired of subscriptions at this point? We don’t blame you. To mix things up, make sure you download YouTube - probably the most content-rich app on the entire planet. For a new generation of viewers, YouTube has pretty much replaced traditional TV programming - but a big screen still makes clips and shows a better experience. The YouTube app carries over your personal profile from other devices, so it's easy to kick back and enjoy your favorite Youtubers from the comfort of your couch. 

(Image credit: Apple)

 5. Apple Events 

Does it require a subscription? No

Apple Events might not be up everyone’s alley, but if you want to be one of the first to hear about the next Apple TV, iPhone or iPad, it’s absolutely essential to have this one downloaded. The exact dates of Apple’s WWDC developer event changes every year - but this app will always be the best way to watch it.  

Best streaming services 

(Image credit: TechRadar)

6. Netflix 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

If you’re talking about streaming services, you have to talk about Netflix. This may seem like a no-brainer for Netflix subscribers (or anyone who'd like a free trial month), but the app is worth singling out because of how well it works with Apple TV's new Siri-powered search. Just say, "Show me The Walking Dead, season two," and you're instantly given the option to watch any season-two episode on Netflix or iTunes. You’re still going to need an account subscription to use it, but at least the app is available for free. 

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

7. Disney Plus 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

New to Apple TV devices is the Disney Plus app that offers classic Disney animated movies, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and even 20th Century Fox content like The Simpsons. You’ve probably heard of it because of its first hit series, The Mandalorian, which is exclusive to Disney Plus, but it has a few other noteworthy shows and movies that you can’t find anywhere else. You’re still going to need an account subscription to use it, but at least the app is available for free.

(Image credit: Hulu)

8. Hulu 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

Hulu is like Netflix’s younger cousin. Both services have tons of great content and work as a replacement for pricey cable bills, but Hulu goes one step further by providing a live TV option in addition to its cheaper ad-supported version that costs a few bucks per month. Although the ads are a bit annoying, Hulu’s the only place you can watch shows like The Mindy Project, Bob's Burgers, and The Handmaid's Tale, and that alone makes it a pretty tempting choice.  

(Image credit: Apple)

9. Amazon Prime Video 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

Amazon may not get as much airtime as Netflix for its work in streaming video, but its Amazon Prime Video service does have a number of hits that are worth checking out. Recent years have seen a steady supply of exclusive shows, such as Good Omens, The Man in the High Castle and Vikings, and the service also has an impressive selection of movies available, too. It’s definitely worth checking out the catalogue before you subscribe, but if you’re already a Prime subscriber the Amazon Prime Video app is a no-brainer. 

(Image credit: HBO Now)

10. HBO GO / HBO NOW

Does it require a subscription? Yes

We could spend hours highlighting other streaming video apps on Apple TV, but we'll spotlight just one more here, Emmy darling HBO. There are actually two HBO apps: HBO Go, for people who subscribe to the channel through a cable provider, and HBO Now, for those who subscribe directly. Content is the same for both, and either option includes hits like Game of Thrones, Watchmen, Westworld and a whole lot more.

Best sports apps

(Image credit: ESPN)

11. ESPN with ESPN Plus 

Does it require a subscription? Sort of...

If you’re looking to add some sports content to your Apple TV and Apple TV 4K, you should probably start first with the ESPN app. While the Apple TV version of the app itself isn’t as intuitive as the mobile one, it’s still a decent portal to all the ESPN commentators and highlights you’d find on the cable channel. If you want live games, you’ll have to tack on an ESPN Plus subscription, but thankfully that’s just a few dollars more per month. 

(Image credit: WWE)

12. WWE 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

For wrestling fans, the WWE Network is probably the best thing you can download from our list. It’s more or less an all you can stream buffet of wrestling from the last 30 years as well as the most recent PayPerView events like SummerSlam. Not only is there a TON of content to explore, but the app’s layout makes finding new shows and matches super simple. Woo!  

(Image credit: Twitch)

 13. Twitch 

Does it require a subscription? No

For years Apple TV didn’t have a proper Twitch app, leaving esports lovers out in the cold. Thankfully that all changed in 2019 when the world’s most popular video game streaming app finally came to Apple TV. The idea of watching regular gamers play something might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but remember Twitch is also the place you’ll catch all the superstars online when they’re practicing and many, if not all, of the world’s biggest esports matches. 

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

14. Just Dance Now 

Does it require a subscription? Sort of...

You might’ve thought dance games died out with the Wii and Xbox Kinect, but Apple TV has kept them alive and well with Ubisoft’s Just Dance Now that uses the gyroscope-equipped Apple TV controller to track your moves. This free version of the game allows you to up to two songs per day without having to pay any microtransactions, allowing you to get in about 10 minutes of a workout in while grooving to some of today’s most popular music.

(Image credit: BT Sports)

15. BT Sport 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

British Apple TV owners should check out BT Sport to get their fix of the Champions League. Across its channels you'll find every Champions League match live, and BT Sport deals are available as an add-on to a BT TV package as well as an extra to BT broadband. The bad news is that one of those packages is required to watch, but that’s a small price to pay to watch along as one of your favourite teams hoists the UEFA trophy at the end of the season. 

Best educational apps

(Image credit: Apple)

16. Kitchen Stories 

Does it require a subscription? No

The reason Kitchen Stories makes all these best-of lists for Apple TV is because it’s simply beautiful to look at thanks to its minimalistic design and HD how-to videos. The videos are set to autoplay by default meaning one recipe seamlessly cascades into the next and before long you’ve watched videos on how to cook a poached egg and make brioche for a half-hour. Also, we have to say, the bossanova background music is a big plus.

(Image credit: MasterClass)

17. MasterClass 

Does it require a subscription? Yes

What if you could learn how to cook from Gordon Ramsay, or learn to write from Stephen King? That’s what Master Class promises - real classes taught by some of the world’s most preeminent chefs, authors, thinkers and business leaders. Admittedly the classes themselves are relatively expensive, but if you compare it to the cost of a semester’s tuition you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much info each of these classes have in them.

(Image credit: Apple)

18. TED 

Does it require a subscription? No

The TED app is like your college lectures simplified down to their most essential bits and presented in a way that doesn’t put you to sleep. TED speakers take on some of the biggest issues facing humanity in the modern world with expert precision, unbelievable wit and, most times, a healthy dose of humor. It’s the kind of app that you can leave on in the background while you’re cooking or cleaning and tune in periodically to catch some uplifting news or find an actionable item you can use to make the world a better place.

(Image credit: Cheddar)

19. Cheddar 

Does it require a subscription? No

While there’s no shortage of traditional news networks on Apple TV, Cheddar is part of a new wave of internet-focused news. That means Cheddar is a bit more tuned in than traditional cable networks to what’s happening in the tech and business space while keeping high production values and quality research. We still use CNN, NBC and CBS News for the hard-hitting stuff, but Cheddar is a solid alternative for tech enthusiasts like us. 

(Image credit: Calm)

20. Calm

Does it require a subscription? No

OK, Calm isn't exactly an education app, but it does teach you a thing or two about yourself by prompting you to meditate everyday. With guided meditations that teach you to breathe and relaxation exercises that reduce anxiety calm is a great app that's totally worth taking time out for. 

Best Apple TV games

(Image credit: Apple)

21. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas 

How much does it cost? ‎$7.99 /‎ £7.99 / AU$12.99

Oceanhorn is about as close as you'll get to a Legend of Zelda game outside of traditional game consoles, with puzzles, actions, and locations that are very reminiscent of Nintendo's classic franchise. (The intro alone makes it clear the developers are big fans of the series' Super NES standout A Link to the Past.) The graphics are fantastic, and present a world that promises to stay with you well beyond the end of your adventure.  

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

22. Rayman Adventures 

How much does it cost? It's free

The Apple TV version of the side-scrolling Rayman series is just as beautiful as its console cousins, and offers more control than typical auto-running iOS platformers: you can swipe left or right on the remote's touchpad to change direction at any time. There's lots of fun to be had even without in-app purchases, thanks to an abundance of goals per level, countless collectibles, and endless charm.

(Image credit: Apple)

23. Transistor 

How much does it cost? ‎$4.99

Like many of the games on this list, Transistor offers amazing visuals with a unique artistic style. Both the world and story strike a dark, noir-cyberpunk tone, with interesting characters and mysteries to unravel. The action incorporates RPG-style strategy, and can be controlled via the touchpad on the new Apple TV remote or a MFi gamepad. Buy the game on Apple TV and you'll get it for iPhone and iPad too, with your save carried across all platforms via the cloud. 

(Image credit: Gameloft)

24. Asphalt 8: Airborne

How much does it cost? It's free

If you’re looking for a Need for Speed arcade racer that puts the Apple TV to the test, look no further than the Asphalt series of games from Gameloft. This freemium racer has all the pizzazz of big budget AAA games, but parsed out in bite size chunks that can be completed in a few minutes. The game looks great on Apple TV and is well worth the free download. 

(Image credit: Apple)

25. Crossy Road 

How much does it cost? It's free

Crossy Road takes the endless runner franchise and adds a dash of Frogger and a whole lot of stylized cartoonish flair to it. This freemium game puts you in charge of a chicken (or unicorn, duck, crab, whale, phone box, game designer, Loch Ness Monster, etc…) and tasks you with the simple task of crossing the street without getting killed. The catch here is that the street is more like a super highway and sometimes involves high speed trains and it never really ends. Still, it’s fun to see how far you can get before you meet your inevitable demise. 

Best Apple Arcade games on Apple TV

Oceanhorn 2

(Image credit: Cornfox & Brothers Ltd)

26. Oceanhorn 2 

How much does it cost? It's free with an Apple Arcade subscription

If the original Oceanhorn is like A Link to the Past, Oceanhorn 2 is its Breath of the Wild older brother. The sequel to one of the Apple TV’s best games opens up the world a bit more, allowing you to stretch your legs and the Apple TV’s graphical capabilities for a beautifully wild ride. Want more of that Zelda feel? Use an Xbox One, PS4 or MFi controller to really give it that premium console quality.

(Image credit: Apple)

27. Crossy Road Castle 

How much does it cost? It's free with an Apple Arcade subscription

The latest and greatest game to enter Apple Arcade's stable of titles is Crossy Road Castle, a lighthearted multiplayer platformer in a procedurally generated castle. The game is similar in spirit to the original Crossy Road in that it's mostly about getting as far as you can while having a laugh rather than reaching the end of the castle. The multiplayer component allows up to four players cooperate locally, which definitely adds to the hilarity of it all.  

(Image credit: Apple)

28. Butter Royale 

How much does it cost? It's free with an Apple Arcade subscription

If you've got little ones, you've no doubt heard of Fortnite - the biggest battle royale game on the planet that pits 100 players against one another in a big open arena. That game is great for gamers of a certain age, but for little ones, even Fortnite might be a bit too much. For that crowd there's Butter Royale, a food-based battle royale game that swaps sub-machine guns for croissant launches and ketchup bottles. This one keeps all the core tenets of what makes battle royale games great but puts it in a PG-rated package for everyone to enjoy. 

(Image credit: Apple/Bandai Namco)

29. Pac-Man Party Royale 

How much does it cost? It's free with an Apple Arcade subscription

Speaking of battle royale games, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Pac-Man Party Royale - a battle mode take on an arcade classic that’s really good multiplayer. The goal is simply to be the last Pac-Person standing by eating competing players ala Super Pellet or pushing them into ghosts. It’s an ingenious twist on an old-school classic. 

Sayonara Wild Hearts

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

30. Sayonara Wild Hearts 

How much does it cost? It's free with an Apple Arcade subscription

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a rhythm action game that takes cues from Rez and blends them with a pop album instead of techno tracks. You blaze along a 3D track, grabbing collectables to up your score and, periodically, pressing various parts of the screen for QTE boss battles. The visuals are absolutely beautiful and the music is some of the best in any mobile game. Sure you can play this one on your phone, but this game is really made for a controller.

Editor's note: Chris Slate also contributed to this article.