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

Patch Notes:

Patch notes have been removed and have been replaced with (NEW) designation for the games most recently added or updated on this list.

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 just about everything else because it’s the most original and mobile-friendly game on Apple Arcade. There may be other card games out there, but none are as colorful, quirky, and challenging as Card of Darkness.


2. 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 quests while you’re stuck in a magical bubble. What ensues is a series of charming adventures that consist of things like getting your sister to her date at “Makeout Temple” and gathering clams for your buddy Chazazz to give his grandma for a 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. I just can’t say enough about Guildings. It’s certainly a must play.


3. 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 designetales d 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.


4. 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.


5. 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.


6. 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.


7. 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.


8. 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.


9. Monomals

Description:

Monomals is a cute and bright platformer about a fishing competition between animal DJs who are all hoping to catch creatures to help them make their music. The platforming involves piloting a fishing lure underwater through waters full of dangerous fish and other hazards.

Rank Explanation:

This game just has incredible style. It’s colorful, gorgeous, and joyous at every turn. Monomals also happens to be a pretty clever platformer that finds ways to challenge you without ever feeling particularly punishing. As you catch fish in the game, you unlock tools for a music creation mode, which is a fine-but-superfluous addition to addition to the game.


10. Steven Universe: 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.


11. Spelldrifter

Description:

Spelldrifter mashes up collectible card game mechanics with those of a turn-based tactical rpg. You build a party, customize their decks, and then take three heroes into missions where you battle in close quarters. As you play, you start to unravel a story about how fate has tied your adventurers together.

Rank Explanation:

The first thing I’ll say about Spelldrifter is its tone kind of sucks. It reeks of lame baditude, but you can reduce most of this by simply playing the game on mute. Despite this issue, Spelldrifter has enough variety, mechanics, and depth to make it a really engaging and fun experience nonetheless. There’s tons of cool synergies and combos to play around with, and using that in a tactics-based environment feels really novel in a way that a lot of other Apple Arcade games don’t.


12. 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. 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.

The final thing to note about Tangle Tower is how elegantly designed it is to work on mobile. Having full dialogue that is pause-able, indicators that let you know what you’ve already done, and suggestions of where to go once you get a break in the case all make it easy to jump in and out of this murder mystery without ever feeling like you’ll lose momentum.


13. 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.


14. 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.


15. 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.


16. Cardpocalypse

Description:

Everyone at Jess’s new school is obsessed with a new card game, and she manages to get it banned on her first day. Cardpocalypse tells the story of Jess’s journey through the game of Mega Mutant Power Pets and how it shapes her childhood. Along the way you build your own decks of the card game and play it yourself in hopes of being an unstoppable opponent.

Rank Explanation:

Cardpocalypse has a way of capturing the fervor young children can have for games. There’s a surprising amount of story dividing up the collectible card game action of Cardpocalypse, and frankly, it makes the game way more interesting than it would be otherwise. The card game is competent, but the way its contexualized within the overarching story makes it worth playing.


17. 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.


18. Hexaflip

Description:

Hexaflip is an action puzzle game where you flip a hexagon through environments to reach an exit. It’s got simple controls, but it creates challenge by adding some time pressure to each level.

Rank Explanation:

This game just feels really nice to play. It moves at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, looks nice, and provides great haptic feedback every time you flip your hexagon. Levels are also nice and bite-sized, making it a great title for a quick burst of Apple Arcade action.


19. Shantae and the Seven Sirens

Description:

Shantae and the Seven Sirens is a colorful and beautifully animated platformer that feels a lot like a Castlevania game. Shantae and her friends arrive on an island for a half-genie celebration, when all of them get kidnapped (except for Shantae, of course). To rescue the half-genies, you must pilot Shantae across different parts of the island to find magic powers that let you explore new locations. All along the way, island wildlife and other enemies stand in your path, and you have to decide how best to deal with them using your hair-whipping skills, magical abilities, or otherwise just avoiding them.

Rank Explanation:

I really dig the straightforward and old-school style of Shantae and the Seven Sirens. It’s also just a gorgeous game. There definitely aren’t many surprises with a game like this, but Shantae manages to execute so well on creating a Castlevania-type game that it’s also hard not to have a good time with it.


20. The Bradwell Conspiracy

Description:

An accident has happened at the newly opened Bradwell Museum, and somehow everyone was able to evacuate except for you. In this desolate first-person adventure game, you solve a bunch of environmental puzzles while winding your way through this museum which leads you to the discovery (shocker!) that everything isn’t quite what it appears to be.

Rank Explanation:

I didn’t really know anything going into The Bradwell Conspiracy, and I think that’s the best way to approach it. It’s much more of a puzzle game than I was anticipating, and a pretty creative one at that. It doesn’t always execute on its ideas as elegantly as it should, but The Bradwell Conspiracy gets high marks for trying a bunch of new ideas and doing right by a good number of them.


21. Manifold Garden

Description:

Manifold Garden is a mind-bending puzzler where you can adhere to any surface or fall infinitely off of cliffs as you explore an unsettling, non-euclidean environment. It’s very minimal in its presentation, but that’s part of what makes the game so mesmerizing.

Rank Explanation:

Every time I complete a puzzle in Manifold Garden, I’m in awe. For a game that gives you an amazing amount of freedom, it’s impressive how the game keeps coming up with ways to block your path. Sometimes the challenges here are so tough that I wander aimlessly for a while (not great for a mobile game!), but in dedicated play sessions, Manifold Garden is an immersive treat.


22. 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.


23. 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.


24. 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.


25. 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.


26. ATONE: Heart of the Elder Tree

Description:

ATONE is a wild mishmash of game mechanics. It’s part adventure game, there’s tons of environmental puzzles, and it also has combat that plays like a hardcore rhythm game. This disparate pieces are all tied together with a story steeped in Norse mythology.

Rank Explanation:

ATONE’s strangeness works both for and against it, but it’s mostly a good thing. The game itself is beautiful and fascinatingly odd. It’s puzzles and rhythm-based combat are also pretty brilliant and satisfying. There are just some things like character movement, game dialogue, and some unclear pathfinding that can sprinkle tiny blemishes on what is otherwise a bizarre gem.


27. 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.


28. No Way Home*

Description:

This is a sci-fi exploration-based action adventure game where you play as a human that has just woken up after drifting through space for nine million years. Lost in an alien galaxy, you take on missions, upgrade your ship, and try to discover a way back home.

Rank Explanation:

No Way Home is a game that borrows mechanics from a few different popular genres. It’s exploration-heavy like Castlevania, has a crafting system like a survival game, and features dual-stick shooter combat. All of these disparate parts are pretty cool, but they don’t gel together as well as they could. As a result, No Way Home feels a bit disjointed and aimless compared to other games on Apple Arcade.


29. Speed Demons

Description:

Speed Demons is technically an auto-runner, I guess, but it feels more like a racing game because it involves cars. Race your way down winding roads across a variety of event types, most of which ultimately want you to drive fast and keep others from doing that better than you. To enhance the experience, Speed Demons relies heavily on an high frame rate and a propulsive soundtrack.

Rank Explanation:

When you’re in the zone in Speed Demons, it feels incredible. This involves the convergence of a lot of moving parts, though. You yourself have to be in the right mental (and physical) space to concentrate on the game. Then, the soundtrack needs to land on the right tune (thankfully, you can control this relatively easily). Finally—and most crucially—the game actually needs to be running at 60 frames per second or higher, which is sometimes a struggle. If any of these ingredients aren’t just right, the magic of Speed Demons doesn’t quite work. Fortunately, it works most of the time.


30. Don’t Bug Me!

Description:

Don’t Bug Me! is a sort of off-kilter tower defense game where you play as an astronaut defending mission-critical space hardware. This game merges the basic tenets of tower defense with resource management, real-time strategy, and light shooter elements.

Rank Explanation:

This is very much one of those games that is more than the sum of its parts. Don’t Bug Me! isn’t especially challenging, or long, or deep, but it does what it does well, and presents everything in a pleasing and colorful low-poly style. It’s just a nice and inviting experience that feels well-scoped for a service jam-packed with long games fighting tooth-and-nail for your attention.


31. 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.


32. 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.


33. 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.


34. 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.


35. Shinsekai Into the Depths*

Description:

This game is sort of like an undersea Castlevania-type game. You wander the ocean depths in a scuba suit, defending yourself from all sorts of deep sea creatures, all while trying to discover why there’s a sudden influx of ice that has started flash freezing the waters around your home.

Rank Explanation:

There’s a slowness and murkiness to Shinsekai that takes some getting used to, but once you do, the game is pretty intriguing. There’s a lot of systems to balance as you float about and discover mineral deposits you can use to upgrade your suit to travel to new depths.

There are defintely some weird and unpolished things going on with this game, but it’s also such a confidently weird take on a well worn genre that it’s hard to put down.


36. 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.


37. ShockRods

Description:

This is a car combat game, but it moves and plays like a typical third-person shooter. You compete in classic multiplayer shooter modes like capture the flag and team deathmatch, but you control a car that can go from moving forward to strafing sideways no problem. As you play, you can unlock new cars to customize your automotive avatar.

Rank Explanation:

ShockRods feels like an old shooter, but in all the right ways. It’s not trying to make too much sense, and prioritizes gameplay that feels good to make you want to keep playing it. I can’t say this game is too fun on a phone using touch, but using an iPad and a controller it’s a fun throwback multiplayer game.


38. Yaga The Roleplaying Folktale

Description:

Much like its full name suggests, Yaga is an action-rpg steeped in folklore. In it, you play as a one-armed blacksmith who is cursed with bad luck. The tsar of the kingdom sends you out on a quest a variety of quests in hopes to break a curse laid upon him by Baba Yaga. When you aren’t simply wandering through areas and fighting baddies, you can take on quests and make dialog choices that shape your blacksmith’s personality and impact the narrative. This, plus a ton of Slavic influence, are the things that differentiate Yaga from other action-rpgs.

Rank Explanation:

Yaga is a fascinating mishmash of things. Slavic folklore, Mass Effect-esque dialogue wheels, action combat, and rhyming couplets all play a part to make this game undeniably distinct. The only problem is, I’m not sure the blending of these component parts ends up making something cohesive.

It’s also worth nothing that Yaga feels borderline unplayable without a controller, but you won’t realize this until you’re in a combat encounter. Fights require a level of finesse that the game’s touch controls simply cannot provide. There’s also some really horrendous load times in Yaga that really kill your momentum.


39. Stranded Sails

Description:

In Stranded Sails, you and your crew have been shipwrecked on an island, and it’s up to you to gather all the survivors and... well... survive. This plodding game feeds you a laundry list of crafting objectives that lead you all around the island, teaching you how to farm, build, fish, and more, most of which serve as ways to let you keep exploring more across the island.

Rank Explanation:

This seems like the kind of game you’d want to put behind a subscription. A slow-burning survival/crafting game can make sure you always have something to do. The only problem is Stranded Sails is a little too slow. It takes a long time to do just about anything in the game, and all the while you need to be managing your stamina and trying to get things done before the sun goes down. Sometimes, this is just fine, but there are also other mobile crafting games that do everything Stranded Sails does but better, and those you don’t need to pay for monthly.


40. Spek.

Description:

Everything is a matter of perspective in Spek. Quite literally the game is about manipulating your viewing angle to allow a dot to collect fragments so you can advance to the next level. Its minimal style and puzzle design also gives it a little bit of an Echochrome vibe.

Rank Explanation:

Spek. is quite a solid puzzler and certainly stands above Possessions., another Apple Arcade entry about moving the game camera to solve puzzles. As abstract as it can be, though, there are times when your perspective shifts don’t work out the way you expect them to, or the game doesn’t explain them well. Sometimes, this leads to pleasant discoveries. Other times, it can be a little maddening.


41. Ballistic Baseball

Description:

Remember when sports games weren’t hyper-realistic simulations? Remember when they were just cartoony approximations that didn’t take themselves too seriously? That’s the whole deal with Ballistic Baseball. This multiplayer baseball game has players take turns across three innings trying to outwit each other through pitching mind games and quick-reaction hits to bring in runs. The player who sneaks in more runs than their opponent wins. Simple as that.

Rank Explanation:

I don’t like Gameloft. They routinely make gorgeous knock-offs of console and PC games and load them up with in-app purchases in the process. So imagine my surprise when they put out a game on Apple Arcade and it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable multiplayer baseball game. Sure, it’s definitely still derivative (It’s basically a gussied up version of Bottom of the 9th), but it feels nice to play an arcade baseball game, especially since there’s plenty of online competition to enjoy.


42. Agent Intercept

Description:

Agent Intercept is a cross between a racing game and a puzzle game. You play as a secret agent who is chasing all sorts of villains all over the world. In your chase, you need to drive fast, but you also get points for drifting, hitting jumps, and taking down henchmen. The ultimate goal of any level is to get the best score on the leaderboards, which change out every day when a new level becomes available.

Rank Explanation:

This game gets a lot of bonus points just based on its style alone. The super spy theming of Agent Intercept is so spot on and makes playing it feel really cool. Its “one challenge per day” structure also feels like a perfect dose for this kind of game. I just wish the driving felt a little better. The controls just give you a slider to move your vehicle from left to right, which doesn’t always feel the most responsive.


43. 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.


44. UFO on Tape: First Contact

Description:

UFO on Tape: First Contact is a game about taking pictures. These pictures are mostly of alien spacecraft, but they can be of all kinds of other things, too. In fact, every level in UFO on Tape has specific shots it’s looking for you to capture, some of which are just interesting signs or of the surrounding nature. Once you capture enough of these specific shots well enough, you earn enough money to move on to the next level.

Rank Explanation:

UFO on Tape kind of feels like Pokemon Snap, but it’s main failing is that you spend a lot of your time looking at boring spaceships instead of cute monsters. The photography gameplay is interesting and entertaining to a point, but it wears thin quickly, especially since you have to play levels through multiple times to get good enough shots to progress to the next scene.


45. Doomsday Vault*

Description:

Doomsday Vault is set in a bleak future where the Earth’s environment has collapsed. You play as a seemingly lone adventurer who is exploring the planet’s abandoned infrastructure in order to rescue some of the last remaining plant life so that you can hopefully restore the natural order. The resulting game is an exploration-focused puzzle platformer that challenges you to find hidden collectibles while managing your enviro-suit’s power.

Rank Explanation:

I love the concept, look, and puzzle design of Doomsday Vault a lot. There’s just something really satisfying about exploring every nook and cranny of these post-apocalyptic settings. My problem with it though is that the controls and UI are both pretty lousy. When I go to my dome to check on plants, there’s no apparent way to return to playing the game, and wandering through levels is needlessly clunky regardless of whether you’re playing with touch or a controller.


46. Tales of Memo

Description:

What starts as a simple memory game quickly evolves into a frenetic twitch-based puzzle experience. Tales of Memo is more or less about just finding matching numbers from opening random chests, but you need to use these matches strategically to take down enemies and advance to the next level.

Rank Explanation:

The first level or two of Tales of Memo are dumbed down to the point that it’s hard to tell what the game is supposed to be. Then, there are a couple more levels where finding matches is dead simple. It’s not until you push through all of this to find what is actually a pretty solid game build around the mechanics of basic memory games. It’s kind of impressive, though ultimately boils down to speed and a little bit of luck to pass stages.


47. Takeshi and Hiroshi

Description:

Takeshi is a 14-year-old who also happens to be an amateur game designer. When his little brother, Hiroshi, gets sick, Takeshi decides to make a game for him. The only problem is, the game isn’t finished, so Takeshi has to go in and direct the action to try and make sure his little brother has a fun time. Playing Takeshi and Hiroshi consists of watching animated cutscenes and then choosing waves of enemies for Hiroshi to fight. Your ultimate goal is to create a satisfying challenge that doesn’t over or underwhelm Hiroshi.

Rank Explanation:

Takeshi and Hiroshi is absolutely adorable to watch, but dreadfully boring to play. To put it plainly, the game Takeshi made for his brother isn’t particularly interesting or good. Even the meta system where you have to manage Hiroshi’s stress and thrill levels fails to add dimension to the flavorless rpg placeholder used as the bond between these two brothers. Although there’s some great animation work and cute storytelling going on in Takeshi and Hiroshi, it doesn’t always feel worth the sloggy gameplay.


48. EarthNight

Description:

EarthNight is a strange auto-runner. You play as two of Earth’s last remaining fighters who are defending the planet from dragons. At the start of each run, you dive out of a spaceship and skydive toward Earth, and each dragon you land on becomes a auto-runner level that ends with you trying to kill said dragon by stabbing it in the head a bunch. Along the way, you gather tons of little collectibles, which you can use to purchase upgrades or unlock new items to help you get further in the game.

Rank Explanation:

There’s something so distinct about EarthNight’s style that I really love. Sure, it’s an auto-runner, but it has a lot of personality and specific ideas about how its game works. I don’t love how repetitive it is, but there is something cool about playing a few runs every once in a while, which allows it to it to sit higher on this list than it would otherwise.


49. Frogger in Toy Town

Description:

Frogger in Toy Town takes the basic tenets of the classic Frogger arcade game and turns it into a sort of collection-based physics platformer. You control a frog and wander through various household environments, avoiding things like toy cars and pens as you climb over toy blocks and books to rescue baby frogs and collect jelly beans.

Rank Explanation:

The physics aspect of Frogger in Toy Town make this game both an interesting and frustrating experience. On the one hand, it’s neat to experience what it’s like to disrupt the classic Frogger experience by suddenly being able to block cars from moving by moving a block into the road to stop them. On the other, it can feel like you’re constantly fighting tons of variables in Frogger in Toy Town just to do simple tasks like jump up on top of something. This can lead to a lot of times where you die or miss an objective, and it doesn’t really feel like there’s a whole lot you could have done differently to prevent that from happening. When everything’s working as intended though, Frogger in Toy Town is a fun new take on classic Frogger.


50. 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.

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