Apple Arcade: Ranked [Updated 10.15]

Posted by Campbell Bird on October 15th, 2019

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

Patch Notes:

October 15:
Added: Mutazione, Dear Reader, Cat Quest II, Neo Cab, King’s League II, Pilgrims, Outlanders, Down in Bermuda, Fledgling Heroes, and Big Time Sports

Rank Changes: What the Golf? (3 to 5), Exit the Gungeon (4 to 6), Jenny LeClue (5 to 7), Sayonara Wild Hearts (6 to 8), Over the Alps (7 to 9), Bleak Sword (8 to 13), Spaceland (9 to 14), Super Impossible Road (10 to 15), Dread Nautical (11 to 16), Dead End Job (12 to 19), Cricket Through the Ages (13 to 20), Grindstone (14 to 21), Hyperbrawl Tournament (15 to 22), Assemble With Care (16 to 23), Sneaky Sasquatch (17 to 25), ChuChu Rocket! Universe (18 to 26), Oceanhorn 2 (19 to 28), Pinball Wizard (20 to 29), Lego Brawls (21 to 31), Sonic Racing (22 to 32), Hot Lava (23 to 33), The Get Out Kids (24 to 34), Where Cards Fall (25 to 12)

October 8:
Added:
Super Impossible Road, Cricket Through the Ages, Hyperbrawl Tournament, ChuChu Rocket! Universe, and Lego Brawls

Rank Changes:Dread Nautical (10 to 11), Dead End Job (11 to 12), Grindstone (12 to 14), Assemble With Care (13 to 16), Sneaky Sasquatch (14 to 17), Oceanhorn 2 (15 to 19), Pinball Wizard (16 to 20), Sonic Racing (17 to 22), Hot Lava (18 to 23), The Get Out Kids (19 to 24), Where Cards Fall (20 to 25)

October 4:
Added: Oceanhorn 2, Exit the Gungeon, Over the Alps, Jenny LeClue - Detectivu, and Pinball Wizard

Rank Changes: Sayonara Wild Hearts (4 to 6), Bleak Sword (5 to 8), Spaceland (6 to 9), Dread Nautical (7 to 10), Dead End Job (8 to 11), Grindstone (9 to 12), Assemble With Care (10 to 13), Sneaky Sasquatch (11 to 14), Sonic Racing (12 to 17), Hot Lava (13 to 18), The Get Out Kids (14 to 19), Where Cards Fall (15 to 20)

September 30:
Added: Dead End Job, Dread Nautical, Assemble With Care, The Get Out Kids, and Spaceland

Rank Changes: Grindstone (6 to 9), What the Golf? (5 to 3), Sayonara Wild Hearts (3 to 4), Bleak Sword (4 to 5), Sneaky Sasquatch (7 to 11), Sonic Racing (8 to 12), Hot Lava (9 to 13), and Where Cards Fall (10 to 15).

September 26:
Added: What the Golf, Sneaky Sasquatch, Sonic Racing, Hot Lava, and Where Cards Fall

Rank Changes: Grindstone (5 to 6)

September 23: First launch of list with titles Card of Darkness, Overland, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Bleak Sword, and Grindstone.

Games marked with an asterisk(*) are games that suffer in rank due to technical problems.

All current rankings are listed below. More titles will be added frequently until the list is complete.



1. 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.

Card of Darkness beats out Overland because it’s a more original and mobile-friendly game. There may be other card games out there, but none are as colorful, quirky, and challenging as Card of Darkness.


2. 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 to make mobile play convenient, it’s not quite as easy to pick up and play anywhere quite like Card of Darkness is. Landscape mode, dark scenes, and technical graphics that can heat up your phone limit your ability to enjoy this game any and everywhere.


3. 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.


4. 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. Most media that tries to celebrate classic literature devolves into saccharine fawning that’s downright embarrassing to witness. Dear Reader definitely doesn’t do this.

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.


5. 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.

What the Golf? is held back slightly by its overworld navigation. Although it has some solid sight gags, it’s mostly just filler between levels. It also has a bug where it doesn’t appear to save your progress if the app is closed off of data. Hopefully that will be fixed soon.

Update 9/30: What the Golf? has been updated to eliminate the progress wiping bugs it had. Now, it's super easy to recommend and thus one of the top Apple Arcade picks.


6. 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.


7. 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.


8. Sayonara Wild Hearts

Description:

Sayonara Wild Hearts is a gorgeous game about arcana, motorcycles, and pop music. At its core, it’s an auto-runner, but it’s packed with so much style and charm that you can’t (and won’t) want to just write it off like that.

Rank Explanation:

I love the everything about the way Sayonara Wild Hearts looks and sounds, to the point I thought it would be number one with a bullet here before Apple Arcade even launched. Then, I played it and found the controls to be a little swimmy in a way that basically guarantees I won’t revisit it. Also, the full effect of this game only works when you have headphones in, which limits your ability to play and enjoy it on the go. Make no mistake though: This game is a must-play.

I can only see myself playing Sayonara Wild Hearts once, making it a great game to play through using the Apple Arcade trial. That one time may be one of the most dazzling experiences I’ve ever had with a game, but it will then fall by the wayside as I return to other fantastic games with higher replay value.


9. 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. That’s right, as an undercover operative, Over the Alps forces you to consider how your actions might attract attention, which is a fun and thematically appropriate way to make your choices matter. Oh yea, it’s also really well written and every scene in Over the Alps looks like a vintage travel poster. The only thing that stinks about the game right now is that you can’t load your game unless you have an active data connection.


10. Cat Quest II

Description:

Cat Quest II is a bigger, bolder version of the fantastic Cat Quest. As the name might suggest, these games are fantasy role-playing games where you play as a cat. You wander what looks like an overworld map in most games, but this operates as the primary view for doing just about everything in the game, including combat. Cat Quest II ups the ante by offering co-op play (where player two is a dog!), a larger world, and more stuff to do, find, and discover.

Rank Explanation:

Cat Quest II is one of those sequels that is just more of the first game. This is by no means a bad thing. Cat Quest was super charming and fun, so I’m glad there’s now more of it to play. It does feel a little odd as a game somewhat designed around co-op, though. You’re always piloting one hero as the other putters around alongside you, and it can get in the way of you being able to see the action, but the experience is otherwise pretty fantastic. Actual co-op play seems impractical though, as it requires connecting two controllers to the same device and sharing a screen together.


11. 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. All the while, 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 auto-advances text by default. Even if you turn this option off, there are times where attempts to close the app can advance text before you’re done reading, and there’s no way to go back and see what you’ve missed.

These might seem like minor complaints, but for a game built around reading dialogue, having to re-read or completely miss certain sections of conversations is pretty irritating. That said, if you reserve Neo Cab for dedicated play sessions, you can minimize these issues and enjoy it quite a bit more.


12. Where Cards Fall

Description:

Where Cards Fall is a mysterious puzzle game that’s difficult to explain. It’s a traversal puzzle game, but you need to move your character from point A to point B by folding and unfolding card structures for him to walk over or around. In between these puzzles, you watch vignettes that unfold a somewhat vague story about the character you’re controlling.

Rank Explanation:

This game currently sits at the bottom of the list because it is very buggy. The game occasionally doesn’t boot up at all. When it does, it’s possible that it will start you over at the beginning of the game. Once these things get cleared up, I could see Where Cards Fall moving a few rungs up the list (because there is some cool stuff going on here), but I don’t want to touch it again until it gets updated, and neither should you.

Update 10/15: Now that Where Cards Fall doesn’t eat your saves, it has jumped up quite a few spots in the rankings. Folding and unfolding houses of cards looks and feels great, plus there’s some ingenious ways the game combines different kinds of houses with other environmental mechanics to create unique puzzles. It could move even further up the ranks if the game’s movement controls didn’t feel so sluggish. Also, the game stitches cutscenes between the puzzles and they’re all pretty uninteresting and/or unintelligble. No matter though, the puzzling here is still great.


13. 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.

Bleak Sword limits its appeal by being so reaction-based, not to mention super hard. Dying also comes with some hefty penalties that might make you want to put it down rather than digging in and mastering it.

Update 10/3: I’m a little bummed to have discovered that Bleak Sword apparently doesn’t keep a local save file. It’s always accessing iCloud, meaning you can’t continue your progress in the game unless you’re connected to data.


14. Spaceland

Description:

Spaceland is a turn-based strategy game about killing aliens with space marines. Despite the tired premise, this game layers a bunch of little mini-systems on its base gameplay to make it feel original.

Rank Explanation:

This kind of feels like what Gears POP! should have been. You have a crew of space marines with different weapons and abilities, and you move them around cover to blast subterranian aliens and close up their emergence holes. It also does a bit more than your standard tactics game with things like an ammo crate system that forces you to move about the map to reload. Although it may look a little plain, there’s actually a lot to like about Spaceland.


15. Super Impossible Road

Description:

Finally, a racing game that encourages cheating. Super Impossible Road has you piloting a futuristic sphere on spiraling tracks suspended in a void with one goal (reach the finish) and no rules. Veering off the track to fall onto a lower, further part of the track isn’t only allowed, it’s encouraged. The result is a racing game with a phenomenal sense of danger and clever risk/reward system.

Rank Explanation:

Super Impossible Road is just such a neat idea for a game. Bouncing off of pieces of track to finish a track in seconds feels phenomenal, but it’s a hefty challenge that can set you really far back if you’re not careful. Luckily, nothing about the game is made harder by playing on touchscreens (though I still prefer it with a controller). As a racing game, Super Impossible Road thrives as a multiplayer title, but it also features a single-player mode that is full of all kinds of neat challenges beyond simply racing.


16. Dread Nautical

Description: When a cruise ship gets invaded by mysterious dark forces, you need to fight for survival. In Dread Nautical, you choose a character to face off in turn-based tactical missions where you explore sections of the cruise ship. All the while, you’re on the hunt for food, new party members, and opportunities to sneak attack otherworldly horrors.

Rank Explanation: I can’t think of a modern game that channels old B-games from the late 90s quite like Dread Nautical does. This is to say the game lacks quite a bit of polish, but mostly in a way that is really endearing. The tactics here aren’t super complicated, and the game itself can test your patience, but something about the game’s weird production values makes it oddly magnetic.


17. King’s League II

Description:

King’s League II is basically the video game equivalent of plate-spinning. You are in charge of a team of fighters who spar in a kind of fighting league. Between fights though, you have to rest all of your fighters, train them, and secure increasing tributes to your team in order to win championships and advance to more challenging leagues. All of this moves along in real-time without a pause button, so you have to exercise sound judgement and manage time efficiently at all times.

Rank Explanation:

Unlike many other Apple Arcade games, King’s League II is almost too good at checkpointing. Time is of the essence in this game, and days fly by and the game auto-saves seemingly every second. When I can muster the focus, this makes for a really engaging, fun, and deep management sim. When I can’t though, I’m just left wishing this game had a pause button.


18. Pilgrims

Description:

We’ve seen a lot of card-based games on mobile, but not really one that tries to emulate adventure games. Pilgrims does exactly this and with all of the charm you can come to expect from Amanita Design releases. In it, you take a charater from location to location and you gather objects and companions who are kept as cards in your inventory. At new locations, you need to pull these cards out to solve light puzzles, witness bizarre hijinks, and play through a brief story.

Rank Explanation:

Pilgrims reduces the trial-and-error of conventional adventure game design down to a small card game that rarely wastes your time. Part of this comes from establishing a game logic that’s pretty easy to follow, but it also helps that Pilgrims rewards players with funny little scenes and collectible cards for trying out cards that don’t specifically solve the puzzle you’re working on.

My only real issue with the game is that it ended rather abruptly. Just when I thought I was clearing the first section of the game, credits started rolling.


19. Dead End Job

Description: Dead End Job is like The Real Ghostbusters with a toned-down Ren and Stimpy aesthetic. You wander through haunted areas, busting ghosts using standard dual-joystick shooter controls. All the while, you’re earning upgrades and money, which can help you take on even more powerful poltergeists. Although it looks like a pretty casual game, Dead End Job can be rather punishing to all but patient and deliberate players.

Rank Explanation: There’s a lot to like about Dead End Job, but its action-oriented nature makes it best suited for controller play only. This limits its appeal on devices meant for on-the-go play. Also, like Grindstone, it’s not that hard to find other, better dual-stick shooters on iOS outside of Apple Arcade.


20. Cricket Through the Ages

Description:

Learn about the history of cricket as you have two astronauts throw space rocks at each other. Cricket Through the Ages is a goofy physics game where wild-armed players “play cricket” by flailing about wildly. There is a competitive aspect to this nonsense, but it’s not the main focus.

Rank Explanation:

Cricket Through the Ages is most enjoyable when things are going out of control on screen. Fortunately, this is often the case, as this game goes out of its way to be completely absurd in the best ways possible. Although I enjoy this game quite a bit, Cricket Through the Ages loses some points for feeling a bit too much like it’s cribbing from Colin Lane’s games. There are also times where the physics buffoonery works against you in frustrating ways.


21. Grindstone

Description:

Capy’s addition to Apple Arcade is a match-three title where you control a barbarian who is slashing through patterns of creeps to meet certain kill goals in order to gather loot that will let you take on even tougher challenges.

Rank Explanation:

Grindstone has a great premise for a mobile game, which is probably why there are already games on the App Store that do what it does, and better. It also doesn’t help that Grindstone has some annoying technical problems that keep it from being as enjoyable as it could be. In particular, the lack of mid-level checkpointing and a bug that can lead to Grindstone failing to load your progress make it worth skipping for now.

Update 9/26: Grindstone has been updated to eliminate some of its peskier bugs, but it still doesn’t feel like much of a value-add to Apple Arcade. Every time I think about booting it, I also think about playing Card of Darkness or Ticket to Earth instead.


22. Hyperbrawl Tournament

Description:

Hyperbrawl Tournament is an arena combat sports game. Two teams of two compete to put a ball in their opponent’s goal by any means necessary. This includes punching, kicking, and even using weaponry like hammers and swords to KO opponents, take control of the ball, and score.

Rank Explanation:

I’d probably rate Hyperbrawl Tournament higher on this list if more people were playing it. The game’s biggest issue right now is it’s basically multiplayer-only and queuing for matches is quite long. Once you’re matched with someone though, Hyperbrawl Tournament is a heck of a good time. There’s a surprising amount of depth here, and it allows for a lot of mind games and tricky high-level play.


23. Assemble With Care

Description: Assemble With Care is a narrative puzzle game about a young girl named Maria who repairs things. As she fixes objects for the people of Bellariva—a town she is just passing through—she learns a lot about them and their lives. The gameplay here mostly consists of poking and prodding at broken objects with virtual tools to get them in working order again. Every time you fix an object, you then get a small dose of story that leads you to the next puzzle.

Rank Explanation: I’m starting to think there’s something I’m missing when I play ustwo games. I love the attention-to-detail in games like Monument Valley and Assemble With Care, but I don’t find the overall experience all that compelling. It probably doesn’t help that Assemble With Care doesn’t really give itself room to develop its ideas. On the plus side, this is an easy title to burn through if you’re using a free trial of Apple Arcade.


24. 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 whole experience is more like a puzzle game than anything else. This is because each level sets specific, time-based goals and there’s no sandbox mode that lets you just build whatever you want.

All of this takes place in a gorgeous world that heats up your phone to worrying temperatures fairly quickly. This, plus its slow pace and poor checkpointing make for a somewhat more disappointing game than it might otherwise be.


25. Sneaky Sasquatch

Description:

Sneaky Sasquatch is a stealth game where you play as a cryptid who steals food from unsuspecting campers for survival. Each day, you wander campsites looking for picnic baskets, grills, and coolers to snatch food out of so you don’t go hungry. All your excess food can also be sold to a friendly bear so you can buy sneaky gear.

Rank Explanation:

It’s a funny concept, but Sneaky Sasquatch feels a little too aimless. You just steal things, eat, sleep, and repeat. Such is the life of a sasquatch, I guess. I was just hoping for a little more. As a stealth-action game, it also doesn’t feel exactly well-suited for mobile play. The developers seem to account for this by making the AI of the people you’re sneaking around pretty dumb, but that makes the stealth element a less satisfying as a result.


26. ChuChu Rocket! Universe

Description:

In ChuChu Rocket! Universe, you have to lead mice to a rocket using arrows you draw on the ground. In this particular entry, there’s a single-player focus full of levels with various puzzles and challenges. Universe still features multiplayer, but it is relegated to a small sub-menu.

Rank Explanation:

I don’t have any nostalgia for the original ChuChu Rocket!, so this game doesn’t do a whole lot for me. It’s a lot like heaps of other puzzle games on the App Store, and features a multiplayer mode that is so fast-paced that I’m not really sure what’s going on at any given moment. Still though, it’s a really well made puzzle game.


27. Down in Bermuda

Description:

Down in Bermuda gives players an isometric view of colorful dioramas that you mostly just tap around in to solve puzzles. It kind of bridges the gap between a hidden object game and adventure game, as some tapping actions revolve around simply spotting certain kinds of objects, where as others require some logic and environmental manipulation.

Rank Explanation:

When I play Down in Bermuda, I’m reminded of titles like GNOG, and Vignettes, though both of those games are more enjoyable. There are some wonky controls in Down in Bermuda that definitely take some getting used to. Also, this game is a little overwhelming with the amount of things it wants you to collect and tap on. Some of these things result in entertaining and clever interactions, but there are other collection objectives that just feel like filler.


28. Oceanhorn 2

Description:

The follow up to Oceanhorn, Oceanhorn 2 is an action adventure game that bears more than a little resemblance to The Legend of Zelda games. You play as a young adventurer with a sword who journeys into dungeons in order to solve puzzles, discover new items, and use those items to help you with the next dungeon.

Rank Explanation:

Oceanhorn 2 might as well be called The Legend of Zelda: Knockoff Edition. If you’re itching for a Zelda-like experience on iOS, this one fits the bill, but it’s not anywhere near as well designed as the real deal. Oceanhorn 2 also seems designed to take great screenshots, but has moments when in motion where it can look kinda janky. The game itself seems fine, but just feels derivative.


29. Pinball Wizard

Description:

You play pinball, but your ball is a wizard, and your table is a tower floor littered with enemies and loot. In Pinball Wizard, your goal is to get as high up a tower as possible without dying. All the while, you collect experience and money that you can spend on upgrades to your wizard between rounds so that you’ll stand a better chance at making it further up the tower on your next play session.

Rank Explanation:

The idea of Pinball Wizard is incredible, but I don’t really love the execution. The pinball physics here feel very weird. Your wizard hugs the wall in an odd way and everything feels slow and sluggish. Also, it’s only playable in landscape mode, which seems odd for a pinball game. It’s fun enough despite these minor gripes, but it’s hard not to feel like Pinball Wizard isn’t fully realizing its potential.


30. Fledgling Heroes*

Description:

Fledging Heroes is an auto-runner where you pilot various birds through different environments. In controlling birds, tapping in this game causes your bird to flap, and—depending on what kind of bird you happen to be controlling—said flap may behave differently. Some levels ask you to complete certain challenges in order to gather feathers (which then unlock new areas), while others are time trials of sorts that grant similar rewards. There’s also endless modes, boss stages, and even a level editor.

Rank Explanation:

If you’re going to release a runner on mobile in 2019, it better be something incredible. This is a genre that’s been done to death on mobile, so it’s hard for me to muster excitement for these games unless there’s some really creative twist involved. Unfortunately, Fledgling Heroes does very little change things up. The one edge it presents is the ability to create your own levels, but my experience in level creation was marred with bugs.


31. Lego Brawls

Description:

If you turned a side-scrolling beat ‘em up into a multiplayer game, you’d end up with something like Lego Brawls. Players make their own minifigures, join a team online, and battle in “territory control”-style competitions. In addition to using their fists, players can pick up items like hot dog guns and rocket ships shaped like fists to take down enemies and capture control points.

Rank Explanation:

There’s some goofiness and charm to Lego Brawls, but none of that comes from actually playing it. Without the appeal of Lego, Brawls is a really lite and floaty multiplayer game that grows stale almost immediately. This game also loses points because it’s basically multiplayer only.


32. Sonic Racing

Description:

It’s a cart racer that has Sonic and all of his compadres in it. Just like Team Sonic Racing, which came out earlier this year on consoles, the twist in this game is that racers play on teams. This means you don’t necessarily have to get in first place to win. As long as your team does better than your opponent’s, you’re the victor.

Rank Explanation:

I’m impressed at the lengths Sega HARDlight went to to make a mobile-friendly racing game, but perhaps they went a bit too far. By default, the game presents itself as something you play in portrait mode with a virtual steering wheel, but you can go so far as to play the game in landscape mode with a controller. Playing in either mode never really ends of feeling that compelling. Using touch, you feel like you don’t have the fidelity you’d like, and playing console-style ends up making it feel like a pretty light and dumbed-down experience.

Another thing to note about Sonic Racing is its multiplayer focus. There really isn’t much to do playing offline, and if a race gets interrupted, that’s tough luck. Something about the whole thing feels like it was an unexpected addition to Apple Arcade, too, because the game is built like a free-to-play game (there are upgradable drivers and items), though they took the part where you might spend money out.


33. Hot Lava

Description:

What if someone turned the old childhood “ground is lava” game and turned it into a video game? That’s what Hot Lava is. It’s a sort of parkour-like platformer where you try to race through levels hopping on objects that somehow aren’t being melted by the lava underneath it.

Rank Explanation:

I’d love to have a platformer on Apple Arcade focused around time trials, provided it wasn’t a first-person game. First-person platforming rarely feels good because it’s always so hard to tell where your feet are. Same is true here with Hot Lava, plus the game defaults to a goofy motion-based control scheme that asks you to wave your phone or tablet around to look. All of this feels better once you change some settings (ideally to play with a controller), but even then, Hot Lava doesn’t feel as good to control as it should.


34. The Get Out Kids

Description: Interactive fiction is a good way to describe The Get Out Kids. It’s a very story-focused adventure game set in the 1980s. What starts as a fun night of mischief between friends becomes something much darker and more sinister, and it’s up to you to figure out what’s going on by tapping your way through diorama-like scenes.

Rank Explanation: Apple Arcade has quite a few adventure puzzlers on its service, and The Get Out Kids is probably the hardest one to recommend. The controls are awkward, the puzzles too simple, and the whole thing moves at a snail’s pace. Aside from an intriguing setup and nice visuals, The Get Out Kids isn’t a particularly strong Apple Arcade title.


35. Big Time Sports

Description:

Big Time Sports is a colorful mini-game collection that where you participate in sporting events like basketball, skiing, and skateboarding by performing quick-time events.

Rank Explanation:

Big Time Sports may feature more sports, but it feels like an also-ran to Cricket Through the Ages. There’s some charm to its visuals, but it lacks the goofiness that mini-game collections traditionally rely on to keep you engaged.

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