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Apple Arcade: Ranked - Top 25 [Updated 11.10]

Posted by Campbell Bird on November 10th, 2020

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.

UPDATE:As the pace of Apple Arcade has slowed, old games will also be re-evaluated based on reader feedback and content updates. Recently re-evaluated titles will be designated with (UPDATE) next to the title name.

Game ranking updates for 11/10:

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.

Apple Arcade: Ranked - 26-50 [Updated 11.10]

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 29th, 2020

This is part 2 of our Apple Arcade rankings. Quick navigation to other parts:

1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100 | 101+


26. Shantae and the Seven Sirens

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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.


27. The Bradwell Conspiracy

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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.


28. Cat Quest II

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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.

Update: Cat Quest IIis now more replayable thanks to a new game+ mode. The game also got some great quality of life improvements like an increased run speed and better inventory menus. Unfortunatlely though, this update didn’t quite make the game harder, especially since I ran across a bug that made my dog character essentially invulnerable. This, plus a lack of variety throughout the experience weigh down what is otherwise a pretty fun action rpg.


29. Manifold Garden

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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.


30. The Last Campfire

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Description:

In The Last Campfire, you play as a lost traveler named Ember, who is searching for a way home. What you discover in this strange land is other people who have been mysteriously trapped here as well, and by solving puzzles, you can help them move on. Travel between various different locations and complete anything from sliding block puzzles to more standard fetch questing in this mysterious narrative puzzle game.

Rank Explanation:

The Last Campfire is a competent and varied puzzle game that feels almost like what a PC or console version of something like Monument Valley might look like. Environments are more spaced out, and the variety of puzzles expands beyond simple traversal (though that is a big part of this game). I don’t love the way the game controls, particularly how it forces you to make distinct swipes or turns to activate switches once you’ve activated them, and it’s not exactly bursting with new ideas, but The Last Campfireis enjoyable nonetheless.


31. 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.


32. 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: 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.


33. Grindstone

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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.

Update 2: My initial ranking of Grindstone has clearly been at odds with just about everyone it seems, so I took another crack at the game. On this revisit, I had a better time with it, but it’s still really irritating to travel between the inn and new levels, plus the game seems to crash every time I lock my phone. Matching stuff is certainly fun, especially when you line up a huge combo, but that hardly ever feels like something you have much control over.

Update 3: On the third dive into Capy’s matching game, I think the game has calcified its position here. It’s a solid puzzle game, but I never feel compelled to continue playing it.

Update 4: Apple is certainly right about Grindstone in that it is one of the few Arcade titles I keep returning to. I just wish I liked it more. I thought the daily grind was really going to let me turn a corner with Grindstone, but I find it just as dull (though competent) as the rest of the game.


34. The_Otherside

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Description: The_Otherside feels like if someone made Stranger Things into a board game. It’s a retro-styled turn-based game where you control up to four party members in an effort to close otherworldly gates, all while defending themselves from the hellish creatures that come through them.

Rank Explanation: It’s hard not to draw comparisons between The_Otherside and Zombiecide: Tactics and Shotguns. They’re extremely similar digital board games that involve a lot of enemy crowd control, dice-based combat, and environment exploration. All of those elements are pretty well executed here though, and I’m happy to have a new strategic board game added to my library.


35. 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.

Update: More sports makes Cricket Through the Agesa better game. Coming back to it after some time away reminded me just how charming this kooky little game is.


36. No Way Home*

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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.

Update: No Way Home—particularly with its new levels, missions, and quality of life features (e.g. fast travel, waypoint system, etc)—is a much better experience than it was initially, but two huge things continue to hold it back. First is the fact that the game feels terrible using anything but a controller. Secondly, the game still has plenty of bugs that can prevent you from progressing.

Update: The new features added to No Way Home feel like a direct response to Apple's call for more "engagement" from their titles.The arcade modes here are mini-games that hardly feel worth playing unless you like the idea of grinding out currency to unlock skins. Otherwise, though, the game has gotten some fixes to stabilize its core, which is now a pretty fun space shooter.


37. 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.

Update: A new update adds more variety to Dead End Job, and that’s all the game really needs. As more weird weapons and food get thrown into it, the more Dead End Job’s gameplay fits its madcap style.


38. ShockRods

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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.

Update: When scouring the App Store for the best multiplayer shooters, I decided to revisit ShockRods and was pleasantly surprised by it... again! The game just has a kind of grungy, unappealing look that gives way to a solid shooter with an old-school feel. It also helps that the game was updated about a month ago to improve its controls, making it plenty enjoyable even if you don’t have a controller on-hand.


39. 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.

Update: Super Impossible Road’s update adds some cosmetics that quite frankly don’t really change much of the core game. On revisiting this title though, the complete lack of multiplayer opponents makes this game slide a little bit down in ranks. Still a great racing game though.


40. Spyder

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Description: Play as a super-spy who also happens to be a robot spider in this puzzle/platformer. Crawl all over the surfaces of submarines and trains to do things like hack computer terminals, defuse bombs, and vent deadly gas to keep your team one step ahead of the bad guys.

Rank Explanation: Spyder makes a pretty good first impression. It has nice visuals, a creative and fun conceit, and its level designs are actually quite clever. The only thing really holding this game back is its camera controls, which are pretty bad regardless of whether you’re playing via touch or controller. If the camera here improves, I could see Spyder leaping a bit futher up this list.


41. Legend of the Skyfish 2

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Description: Legend of Skyfish 2 is the second game in Mgaia’s Zelda-inspired action/adventure series. You play as a Red Hook Guardian, a kind of warrior armed with a fishing rod that you use to bash enemies and pull yourself around environments to solve light puzzles. This game builds on the first primarily through adding a quest system and a somewhat open, interconnected world.

Rank Explanation: My issue with the first Legend of Skyfish game was that it was too easy, and this is still a problem in Skyfish 2. The whole game is incredibly linear (even the quests are supposed to be done in a specific order) and it feels trivial to blaze through just about everything that stands in your way. Even the puzzles don’t take much thought to complete. The game looks nice though, plus sometimes it feels good to play a game that makes you feel overpowered.

Update: When I saw challenge rooms were added to Legend of the Skyfish 2, I got pretty exicited. Would the game finally provide some obstacles that don’t feel trivial? I tried a few of them out, and it turns out they are technically more difficult, but they feel more tedious than challenging, which is disappointing. The overall game it still fun enough despite being easy.


42. Winding Worlds

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Description:

Do your best to fix everyone’s problems in this surreal, narrative adventure. Winding Worlds has you controlling a character as he leaps between mini-worlds, chatting up the people there, and trying to find ways of solving whatever has gone wrong there.

Rank Explanation:

Winding Worlds is a pretty simple game, but massive props to KO_OP for designing a title that plays beautifully in landscape on iPad and portrait on iPhone. The game itself is pretty short, and its story is a basic parable, but its gameplay is varied enough and the writing is charming enough to make it enjoyable... enough.


43. Creaks

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Description:

Amanita Design’s second release on Apple Arcade is a more standard puzzle adventure than Pilgrims. Creaks has you playing as a young man who is lost in a mysterious world found through a crack in his apartment. The challenges here are ones of traversal, and most of your time is spent figuring out how to manipulate your environment to hit the right switches you need to move forward.

Rank Explanation:

Creaks is best game to hit the service in two months, and even then it’s nothing too fancy. Of course, it has the signature Amanita Design style, but otherwise feels like their take on Inside (a thing quite a number of Apple Arcade games have done for some reason). It’s a totally solid experience that is helped a lot by its audio and visual design, despite feeling a tad derivative.


44. Don’t Bug Me!

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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.


45. Pilgrims

[img id="100906" alt=""][img id="100910" alt=""]

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.


46. The 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 The 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.

Update: I don’t know the particulars of the rebalance to The Pinball Wizard, but the game definitely feels better to play now than when I initially ranked it. It still feels outlandish to play a pinball game in landscape mode, and its physics can behave strangely, but The Pinball Wizard deserves more praise than it initially got on this list.


47. Reigns: Beyond (NEW)

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Description:

Reigns has finally leaped into the future. In Reigns: Beyond, you play as an amnesiac who captains a starship and plays guitar in an intergalactic rock band. Swipe your way through all kinds of sci-fi adventure and make stops to play shows, make money, and grow your following.

Rank Explanation:

Reigns? Are you ok? What happened? You were once a silly, stripped down adventure game and now you’re... a sci-fi Guitar Hero management sim? I don’t say this to sound entirely negative. Reigns: Beyond is mostly fine, but it feels like a game made without confidence in what made the original game great. On a specifically negative note though, I do wish Reigns: Beyond could have lasted at least 30 minutes before serving me repeat cards.


48. Mini Motorways

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Description:

Mini Motorways is the follow up to Mini Metro. Only this time, instead of building public transportation, you are building road ways from houses to buildings with parking lots. Your goal is to create as smooth and quick a flow of traffic as possible, and if too few cars can reach their destination in an appropriate amount of time, you lose.

Rank Explanation:

Mini Motorways is a fine minimalist puzzler, but it doesn’t feel all that different from Mini Metro. On top of that, the games moves dreadfully slowly and has some clunky controls which often result in accidentally building roadways where you don’t mean to.

Update: The updates to Mini Motorways make it vastly more playable than it was at launch. You now have the ability to fast forward time and there are some adjustments to the ways buildings get placed that make the cities you build make a little more sense. There are also some purported balance changes, though those weren't entirely noticeable upon revisiting Mini Motorways. Perhaps that's a good thing, though, since the most striking thing about firing the game up is just how much more enjoyable it is to play now.


49. The Lullaby of Life

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Description:

The Lullaby of Life is a puzzle/exploration game that uses sound mechanics as you pilot a blob around a strange, primordial universe. Most of the game involves floating around environments and gathering the right companions that allow you to play sequences of sounds that unlock the next area.

Rank Explanation:

The environmental puzzles in Lullaby of Life are clever, but game’s style and presentation don’t do a whole lot for me. I’m particularly bothered by the fact that game that seems so preoccupied with music, yet the game itself doesn’t have great music. Even the sound-based puzzles never end up sounding like music making. It’s just a series of sound effects that unlocks your way forward.


50. King’s League II

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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.

Update: There’s nothing new about King’s League II, but I was pulled back to it nevertheless. In concept, I really like the idea of training up a team of fighters to compete in a sports-like league, but the combat doesn’t reach the level of depth I was initially anticipating. I’m still surprised at how great and polished the game looks, but I always leave sessions with it wanting a bit.

Update: I was surprised to see a content update drop for King’s League IIshortly after coming back to it. Tons of things like new character classes and even new campaigns have been added, but I’ve come to find the core problem with the game being the combat. There just isn’t enough control over the action that it feels satisfying. The rest of the game is really polished and appealing though, which makes the game feel more and more like a missed opportunity.

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

1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100 | 101+