In case you missed it, I am on a quest to rank every Apple Arcade game there is.

Over a year into the Apple Arcade experiment, I’m adjusting my approach to these rankings to make it a bit less cumbersome to update and read. For the most part, this means the number of updates on previously released games will decrease, and the text below each entry will be kept to a brief-yet-accurate justification for its positioning.

This has less to do with the pace of Apple Arcade releases and more to do with the fact that the general quality of games on the service simply isn’t what it should be. In the time that one release comes to the service, multiple high quality games hit the App Store that you don’t have to pay monthly upkeep for. Unless something drastic changes with the service, my opinion on it probably won’t change much. With the most recent update bringing older established titles to the service, Arcade is certainly the strongest it has ever been, but additional shakeups like this will need to keep happening to finally sell me on the service.

Anyway, on with the ranking updates:

Game ranking updates for 7/14:


1. Fantasian

Description:

Step into a world threatened by a robotic infestation and malevolent god. Fantasian places you in the shoes of Leo, a mysterious hero who has lost all of his memories and finds himself serving a larger purpose as he tries to rediscover who he is.

Rank Explanation:

I'm almost annoyed at how good Fantasian is. In a lot of ways, it's a very conventional JRPG, but it is also bursting with remarkable details and innovations that serve it especially well on mobile. The annoying thing about all this is that I can so easily imagine an App Store full of games like this, but for now I guess I'll have to settle with this one existing on a subscription service.


2. Good Sudoku+

Description:

Good Sudoku is a Sudoku puzzle app, but it's also so much more than that. It's a teaching tool that goes out of its way to try and make you better at solving these little number puzzles, no matter whether you've played Sudoku for years or are approaching it for the first time.

Rank Explanation:

Since it's initial release on the App Store, Good Sudoku has never left my phone, and for good reason. It's always a pleasant experience to boot up Zach Gage's love letter to Sudoku and complete the daily puzzle or chip away at the game's thousands of pre-made challenges. This is thanks mostly too the handy tools and warm aesthetic baked into this special game's core.


3. Card of Darkness

Description:

Zach Gage has been making great mobile games for a while now, and Card of Darkness is one of his best yet. It’s a card-based puzzle game where you fight through dungeons by picking up piles cards to create a path to an exit. Each pile of cards can contain weapons, enemies, potions, or spells, and you have to be careful about the order in which you pick up cards if you want to survive.

Rank Explanation:

Card of Darkness has all of the hallmarks of a fantastic mobile game. It’s a simple, creative concept placed in a hyper-polished and convenient package that you can enjoy for minutes or hours at a time. It also helps that every level seems to contain some new card that completely changes how you want to approach dungeons.


4. Guildlings

Description:

Guildlings is a colorful rpg from the folks that made Threes! way back when. You play as Coda, a young girl who comes across an ancient phone with magical powers that turns you into a Guildmaster. As Guildmaster, you enlist the help of your friends to help you go on charming adventures that consist of things like getting your sister to her date at "Makeout Temple" and gathering clams for a grandma’s clam boil.

Rank Explanation:

I don’t think I’ve played an rpg that feels so perfect for mobile before. Not only does Guildlings play beautifully in a convenient portrait mode, but it also manages to feel like a grand adventure in the way lots of other mobile rpgs don’t. On top of this, Guildings is loaded with ground-breaking systems that make it feel unlike any game I’ve ever played. Everything about it feels like a warm hug, thanks mostly to the game’s focus on interpersonal relationships, plus its ultra charming visuals and writing.


5. A Monster's Expedition

Description:

You are a monster who finds themselves on a journey across tiny islands. To cross over to each new island, you need to push and roll trees to create bridges across the water. Along the way, your monster comes across museum exhibits to learn more about the world they are in.

Rank Explanation:

A Monster's Expedition's puzzle design takes a super simple idea and iterates on it both to create unique challenges and an even flow throughout the game. Just as you feel like you're reaching a point where pushing and rolling trees is getting tired, the game introduces a new mechanic or possibility that wasn't there before. This sense of pacing--along with overall immaculate design--makes A Monster's Expeditionan absolute joy to play.


6. Overland

Description:

Overland is like if you took Death Road to Canada and XCOM and smashed them together. It’s a bite-sized tactics game about scavenging and surviving your way across a United States that has been overrun with hostile alien creatures. It’s also a run-based game and hard, so you’ll die a lot and have to restart in hopes of faring better on your next try.

Rank Explanation:

I can’t think of many other tactics games that are so carefully designed to feel like a console experience while also keeping mobile play in mind. It’s run-based nature also ensures high replayability.

Although Overland has a fantastic checkpointing system, it’s not quite optimized to make pick-up-and-play sessions as quick and convenient as they could be.


7. Necrobarista

Description:

Necrobarista is an interactive fiction game about a cafe that also serves as the gateway between the living and the dead. Its story focuses primarily around the former and current owners of the cafe, serving up charming slice of life interactions while also musing on mortality and existentialism. Most of the game involves simply tapping to advance scenes of dialogue, though it occasionally takes breaks to let you wander the cafe space in first-person.

Rank Explanation:

Necrobarista far from a perfect game, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it nonetheless. Despite some technical issues and its ability to routinely make my iPad Pro get distressingly warm, I found the world-building and character moments in Necrobarista to be extremely compelling. There is definitely a laundry list of complaints you can weigh against this game, but its style and substance manage to overshadow its lack of polish.


8. Roundguard

Description:

Roundguard mixes elements of roguelikes and dungeon-crawlers with Peggle: You know, the packinco puzzle game. Players choose a hero who they then launch at pots of gold, potions, and—of course—enemies. Instead of having a limited number of balls per level, players need to manage their hit points, which lower when bouncing off of enemies or hitting spikes instead of a cushion at the bottom of a level.

Rank Explanation:

It may sound like a bit of an odd combination, but Roundguard is super fun. It’s the exact kind of game that Apple Arcade needs more of: A casual game that’s both endlessly replayable and deceptively deep. Since its release, Roundguard has added new classes, modes, and gear to a game that already had a solid mount of replayability and variety. This ongoing support is exactly what this game should have as it ages on a subscription service. Every time I come back to it there is something cool and new to do, and it encourages me to experiment or see if any of the new tools can further help me with previous strategies I've used.


9. Mutazione

Description:

Mutazione is an adventure game of sorts, but it relies much more on interpersonal relationships than puzzles. You play as a 15-year-old named Kai who has been sent to a small island town to care for your ailing grandfather. The twist is that everyone on this island just so happens to be a mutant. As you tend to your grandfather, you also get to know the inhabitants of this small town, primarily through speaking with them.

Rank Explanation:

I find Mutazione to be one of the best-looking titles on Apple Arcade. Something about its art direction really speaks to me. And as it turns out, creating a beautiful world that is fun to look at makes moving through it and engaging with all of its inhabitants that much more interesting. There’s also just some great writing and character work happening in Mutazione that make it one of the most compelling narrative offerings on the service.


10. Over the Alps

Description:

Discover the sights of the Swiss Alps as you weave a tale of mystery in a choose-your-own-adventure-style 1940s spy thriller. You play as an English agent who must constantly evade the authorities on a branching adventure that can takes you all over the picturesque countryside.

Rank Explanation:

Over the Alps is an impressively detailed narrative adventure. You spend most of the game just choosing dialogue options or actions from a preset list, but all of this is incredibly engaging because your choices influence both the story and inform how you should make future decisions so as not to blow your cover. It’s also really well written and every scene in Over the Alps looks like a vintage travel poster.


11. Clap Hanz Golf

Description:

Clap Hanz Golf is somewhat of a throwback arcade golf game, with its main "twist" being that golfers compete in teams. You start with a humble trio of competitors, but quickly face-off against new challengers to grow your ranks while playing increasingly tricky courses and competing in accuracy or distance challenges.

Rank Explanation:

This is exactly what I want from an arcade golf game. It's silly, but still requires patience and skill to do well. The team-based gimmick is fun and keeps you from relying on any particular character too much, and there's plenty of to do every time you boot the game up. What the Golf is fun and all, but it's not really a golf game, and Clap Hanz Golf continues to feel more than happy and capable to fill that void. The latest update adds online tournaments, which are fun ways to test your skills against other players. The top tier of the leaderboard almost certainly has cheaters on it, but it's fun to try and self-improve in the ranks each week regardless.


12. Unleash the Light

Description:

Steven Universe: Unleash the Light is Grumpyface’s followup to their previous Steven Universe title, Attack the Light. It’s an rpg featuring the characters and lore of Cartoon Network’s beloved Steven Universe series, and it heavily streamlines a lot of rpg mechanics into a small, mobile-ready package.

Rank Explanation:

I don’t know anything about Steven Universe, but this game is charming as heck. It feels like a Mario and Luigi rpg, but with characters that have more personality. It’s also really smartly designed so that it feels like you’re on an epic adventure, even though you’re playing through brief levels that are stitched together.


13. Game Dev Story+

Description:

Manage your own game development studio in Kairosoft's now-classic mobile management sim. In Game Dev Story+, you hire coders, artists, producers and more while picking out what you think might be the best game concepts for different consoles as they come out. If you know what you're doing (and have a little luck), you can create some of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed games on the market.

Rank Explanation:

Game Dev Story+ is one of the best mobile management games there is still, so it's a welcome addition to Apple Arcade. It's very much a game about "making numbers go up" but it's so dang good at it while serving up charming visuals and writing. If you haven't played Game Dev Story yet and you have a subscription, bump this toward the top of your list.


14. The Oregon Trail

Description:

Gameloft went and made a reinterpretation of the old Oregon Trail games that you played back on the Apple II. You form a traveling party and wander westward in your hopes of reaching Oregon, a promised land of prosperity. The going isn't easy, though, and you have to manage your wagon's condition and stock so that your group can make it between stops without getting sick, injured, or otherwise stranded.

Rank Explanation:

This is actually a really great version of The Oregon Trail. In mobile form, it divides the trip into mini-adventures and saves between points of interest that you have some hand in choosing. It's still a game where you mostly wait to see what the trail procedurally throws at your people, but it's good fun nonetheless.


15. Sping

Description:

Sping is an abstract puzzle platformer built around a swinging mechanic. You control a little ball that falls through levels if not for you tapping and holding on the screen to make it grapple and swing around specific anchor points. The goal of each level is to gather as many coins as possible before reaching the exit, and doing so without hitting and obstacles.

Rank Explanation:

There's such delight in the simple feeling of swinging that SMG Studio created here. The game feels simple, but it doesn't take long for Sping to really throw you for a loop with its clever level design. Between the creative challenges and it's incredible look and feel, Sping is among the very best that Apple Arcade has to offer.


16. Monument Valley+

Description:

Explore the abandoned monuments of a once great people as a princess rediscovering her past. Monument Valley is the striking debut puzzle adventure from ustwo games that uses the power of perspective to warp and shift its levels and your traversal through them.

Rank Explanation:

Having played ustwo's recent output and finding it mostly pretty boring, I started wondering to myself if I ever really liked any of their games. Diving back into their debut is a shocking reminder of just how good this studio can be. Monument Valley holds up beautifully and contains the most inspired work that ustwo games has ever put out.


17. Dear Reader

Description:

Most word games are about creating meaning from jumbles of letters. Dear Reader instead gives players excerpts from classic novels and creates many different kinds of challenges where you restore the texts to their original forms. It’s a simple concept, but Dear Reader constantly finds new ways to puzzle you with prose.

Rank Explanation:

I’m a proud English major, so when I first booted Dear Reader, I was skeptical. Although its initial puzzles are simple "fill in the blank" challenges that just so happen to be using prose from Pride and Prejudice, the game evolves to present over 20 different kinds of word play across tons of different titles that you can engage with on your own terms. If you want to play at a leisurely pace, great, but you can also turn things up a notch with speed reading difficulty settings and a daily challenge that gets harder over the course of a week.


18. The Room Two+

Description:

The Room series has spawned a wave of puzzle room games on mobile and elsewhere, and this second entry in the series serves up more of the physical puzzle-box style puzzles that made the first game stand out. The Room Two+ has you wandering between bizarre rooms full of strange machinery that you must unlock to follow a trail of notes left behind by a mysterious scientist.

Rank Explanation:

I'm still a relative The Room neophyte, having only really played Old Sins all the way through. By comparison The Room Two+ feels very much like an earlier game in the series. Rooms are less intuitive and the puzzles themselves have simpler solutions while being a bit harder to parse via pure observation. Luckily, the game still has its amazing hint system and is otherwise immaculately designed.


19. Outlanders

Description:

Outlanders is a small-scale city builder where you manage a small community of rural villagers and attempt to reach goals set by their village leaders. You build small houses, harvest mushrooms, chop wood, etc. but things never get too developed. You need to manage the simple tools here and the available people in your village to do things like produce specific amounts of food or rebuild after a disaster.

Rank Explanation:

Calling Outlanders a city-builder is actually a kind of a misnomer. Although you do manage the building up of your community, the core experience is more like a puzzle game than anything else, with level that set specific, time-based goals. An update to the game brought along a sandbox mode that let’s you go off and build whatever you want, which is definitely the preferable way to play.


20. Tangle Tower

Description:

In Tangle Tower, you play as a pair of detectives, Grimoire and Sally, who are investigating a murder at Tangle Tower, an elaborate and mysterious mansion co-owned by two families. During your investigation, you interview the various family members, inspect rooms for clues, and solve puzzles to reveal new information and push the case forward.

Rank Explanation:

Tangle Tower scores lots of points for its animation work and voice acting molded around a mobile-first design. Characters are bursting with personality and charm. The game also has clever puzzle design mechanics that prevent you from getting stuck without needing hints. That being said though, it can sometimes feel like Tangle Tower pushes you down paths of deduction that you—the player—haven’t put together independently, which can be a little disappointing sometimes.


21. Jenny LeClue - Detectivu

Description:

The world’s greatest detective lives in Arthurton. She’s also a child, and her name is Jenny LeClue. In Jenny LeClue - Detectivu feels a lot like an homage to traditional point-and-click adventure games, but it modernizes a lot of the genre’s mechanics to make things like pixel-hunting feel a lot more like being a real detective.

Rank Explanation:

This game is charming as all get out. It’s also remarkably clever, colorful, and smart. All the ways Jenny LeClue twists conventional adventure game mechanics makes for an experience that requires much less trial-and-error while still feeling like a satisfying challenge. This is definitely a top-tier adventure game.


22. Bleak Sword

Description:

Bleak Sword challenges you with combat encounters that are encased in little monochromatic diorama scenes. There’s a story here, but the main focus is: Enter arena, kill enemies, get loot, level up, and repeat.

Rank Explanation:

It’s really hard to get action-based combat right on touchscreens, but Bleak Sword kind of nails it (and in portrait mode no less!). The controls are simple and responsive without feeling limiting. If you want micro doses of really stylish-yet-minimal action combat, this is the way to go. Every time I boot up Bleak Sword, I grow more and more enamored with it. I can't think of another action game in portrait mode that strikes as good a balance between depth and accessibility. This game rules.


23. WHAT THE GOLF?

Description:

Imagine an arcade golf game with Katamari Damacy-like sensibilities. That’s What the Golf? It’s a bunch of physics puzzles that are purportedly about hitting a golf ball into a hole, but very rarely is that actually what’s going on.

Rank Explanation:

What the Golf? is a game of surprises. As a pure puzzle game, it’s not all that challenging, but every level brings a new layer of humor and absurdity that makes you want to keep playing to see where it goes. There isn’t much reason to come back to it once you’ve seen it’s tricks though. As new levels come to What the Golf?, its rank will rise again. The daily challenges from a previous update were non-fun recycled levels, but the novelty of 50 completely new levels in the latest update has renewed my interest in this jokey non-golf game.


24. Exit the Gungeon

Description:

Exit the Gungeon is an action roguelite that has elements of bullet hell shooters. You ride elevators and clear floors of enemies that are shooting at you constantly. A couple twists are that 1) bullets can’t hurt you as long as you are airborne (or rolling) and 2) your gun transforms to have different properties every few seconds. It’s a wild, hectic time.

Rank Explanation:

I have a hard time imagining another action-oriented game charting higher on this list. Exit the Gungeon is simply fantastic. It’s endlessly replayable, humorous, and devilishly difficult (without feeling unfair). While it is definitely best played using a controller, Exit the Gungeon changes its mechanics for touch play in a way that makes a manageable (though a bit less enjoyable) experience.


25. Neo Cab

Description:

Neo Cab is a narrative adventure game where you work nights as a cab driver in the cyberpunk metropolis that is Los Ojos. As you drive around, you pick up all sorts of interesting characters and chat with them. While you do this, you need to balance your car’s charge, your driver rating, and try to solve an overarching mystery.

Rank Explanation:

There’s a lot of things I really like about Neo Cab’s look and storytelling, but there’s also a lot of things that make it a pretty poor mobile experience. The game has a great vibe and sharp writing, but there are way too few checkpoints in the game and it’s just a tad too easy to miss dialogue.

The list continues here, or see below to jump to another page:

1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100 | 101-125 | 126-150 | 151+

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