Apple Arcade made a splash when it first launched, granting access to over 50 games as soon as it became available. Of those titles, the one that seemed to grab most people’s attention was Grindstone, a matching puzzle game from Capy Games.
In order to enjoy Grindstone though, you have to activate an Apple Arcade subscription, which—even now—doesn’t quite feel like a quality value proposition for most people. Luckily, there are some great games on the regular old App Store that share some DNA with Grindstone. I’d even go so far as to say over half the games on this list are better than Grindstone, though I know that’s probably not a statement most folks will agree with.
In any case, check out the picks below. Oh, and click here to check out all the other great lists we’ve been making recently.
The first thing I thought when I first fired up Grindstone was “oh, this is basically just Ticket to Earth.” Both games are puzzle combat games where a protagonist moves around a board of colorful tiles to create combos and complete objectives.
Ticket to Earth takes this concept and makes a dense, meaty experience out of it as opposed to Grindstone’s breezier take. If you want more story, gear, and character customization in your puzzle matching adventure, be sure to pick this game up.
Tavern warriors (or Tavern Guardians) feels a lot like a hybrid between Grindstone and Puzzle Quest. This puzzle-based dungeon-crawler has you choose a hero from one of four fantasy archetypes, and then swap tiles that correspond to items that let you attack, defend, use special abilities, etc. against enemies that appear on the puzzle board.
This pick probably bears the least resemblance to Capy’s Apple Arcade hit, but it still offers up puzzle combat action, and it does so completely free of cost. The only downside is Tavern warriors is ad-supported, and there’s no option to pay to remove them.
In Swap Sword, you control a samurai in a dungeon full of tiles, and your goal is to swap your hero around to find a key and to get to the next dungeon. This game has a bit more of a roguelike feel when compared to the others on this list, but still feels undeniably like Grindstone.
Despite the roguelike influence, Swap Sword is a bit on the simple side compared to other titles on this list, so if you are looking for a lighter experience, this is the one to get.
Spelltower+ is a word game, yes, but it uses the exact same line-drawing mechanic as Grindstone. The only difference is that instead of matching colors, you string together letters to try and make words.
The great thing about Spelltower+ is how it takes this simple concept and builds fun and creative modes around it. Each one feels like its own, distinct game. If you prefer the pen to the sword, Spelltower+ is a worthy pickup.
Another roguelike pick, Starbeard offers a deeply strategic experience while still retaining a core of puzzle-matching combat. You play as an intergalactic gnome that has to protect its planetary gardens, and you do that by matching tiles, unleashing powers, and smashing space bugs as they creep every closer to your precious plants.
This is another pick that doesn’t use the line-drawing match mechanics of Grindstone, but it replaces that with its own unique blend of match-three, turn-based strategy, and tower defense elements. All the while, you still control a character that is literally on the playfield who you maneuver to kill baddies, which makes it enough like Grindstone to take the final spot on this list.