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.
There’s a lot going on right now, and I don’t really feel like trying to write some kind of pithy intro for it. All I’ll say is lots of people have been coming together and helping each other in small ways, and I’m choosing to focus on that as I try to stay safe myself.
One of the ways folks are trying to help are by making their games more affordable, or even free, during this time. Check out my top picks below of some great mobile titles that have gone on sale recently:
Games marked with an asterisk(*) denote that the entire developer/publisher’s catalog is discounted, despite the fact that all of their games may not be listed here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a lot of ways, turn-based strategy games are an ideal fit for mobile. Their menu-heavy navigation and slow pace mesh better with touch input than just about any other control scheme.
Unsurprisingly, this means there are a lot of strategy games to choose from on mobile, but not all of them are worth your time (or money). Take, for example, War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. For all its flashy visuals and pedigree, it’s a shameless gacha game that capitalizes on your fondness for Chocobos and older, better games while locking up its strategic depth behind a dizzying amount of monetized systems.
If you’re new to this genre and wondering where to start, I can’t recommend The Battle of Polytopia highly enough. It’s free, matches are short, and it does a great job of teaching you the fundamentals of strategy games without feeling overly complicated.
It’s also one of the most convenient strategy games there is, as it plays well in portrait mode and auto-saves constantly. Once you feel ready, you can also spend as little as $ 0.99 to unlock a new tribe that will also give you the ability to play with others online.
Last week’s release of Call of Duty: Warzone on PC and consoles renewed a lot of people’s interest in the battle royale genre. Once a red-hot game mode a couple years ago, battle royales have maintained their prominence despite finding more competition with other popular genres like autochess and more traditional multiplayer shooters, particularly on mobile.
Flappy Royale is probably the purest, most mobile-friendly battle royale game there is. Yes, it lifts the gameplay from the viral and divisive Flappy Bird, but then throws in a bus for 100 birds to launch out of so they can all compete to see who can fly through the most pipes.
What makes the game so satisfying is how imminently replayable it is. There is practically zero wait time between matches, and the rounds themselves are just a minute or two at the longest. It may not be as shooty as other battle royale games, but that’s what makes it so perfect for mobile.
If you still want a mobile-friendly pick but need guns and opponents to shoot them at, surviv.io is your best bet. It may look a little crude, but the top-down action of this battle royale is fast and surprisingly deep.
This pick behaves almost exactly like other battle royales out there. You spawn on a big battle map, run around looting buildings for weapons and gear, and then run into other players that you get into firefights with. The great thing about surviv.io is that—like Flappy Royale—there is almost no time spent waiting for matches to start.
This list would not be complete without a mention of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The PC release of PUBG in 2017 is what catapulted battle royale games into gaming prominence, and PUBG Mobile takes the original game’s winning formula and tunes it for touch.
As far as conventional battle royales on mobile go, PUBG Mobile is probably the most accessible. The shooting model is tweaked to make shots hit more quickly and initial matches are populated with bots so you can feel good about your performance as you get your bearings in the game.
Although not strictly a battle royale game, Call of Duty Mobile has its own gameplay mode dedicated to the genre, and it’s a pretty darn good one at that. In lieu of having a mobile version of Apex Legends (and it’s only a matter of time before we have one of those), Call of Duty Mobile’s battle royale mode delivers more mobility options and unique character customization than other titles on this list.
My only word of warning about Call of Duty Mobile as a battle royale game is that you can’t just play that mode immediately. There are a lot of multiplayer modes in this game, and you have to play quite a few matches of more traditional shooter match types before you can unlock the ability to play its battle royale mode.
All of the other games on this list make some compromise in bringing the battle royale genre to mobile. If you want a truly console or PC-style experience though—whether it’s because you think your touch screen skills are up to the task or you have a bluetooth controller handy—Fortnite is basically your only option.
The version of Fortnite you download off the App Store is the practically exact same game as the PC and console versions, to the point that you even play against players using these different platforms. Fortnite also features its unique crafting/building mechanic that allows players to construct cover and other structures as they run-and-gun to be the last person standing.
Looking forward to Animal Crossing: New Horizons? We know the feeling. We can't wait to start delivering fish and butterflies to our cute fuzzy friends, despite the fact that at times it can feel more like a vocation than a game.
But what if you're looking for a mobile game to try and ensure you get your cuteness fix in the meantime? Well, there's Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, but we reckon we can do better than that. Which is why we've created this list of the five best games like Animal Crossing for iOS.
The surprise release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ($2.99) on iOS made lots of gamers pretty happy. After all, it’s one of the most celebrated games of all time, and has inspired countless titles that borrow heavily from its trademark mix of combat and traversal.
Before Symphony of the Night came to touch screens though, there were plenty of other games trying to bring a similar experience to folks. See below for our five favorite Castlevania-like experiences on the App Store.
Apple Arcade has been out for a little over a month, and I’m not entirely thrilled with it. It’s definitely an interesting idea, but it leaves a lot to be desired, especially in fulfilling its commitment to letting folks “play anywhere.” Still, at $4.99 a month, it seems like a very reasonable value proposition that is getting better and better as new games get added to the service.
The greatest strength of Apple Arcade is definitely the variety of games given the price. I am now more convinced of that than ever because I went ahead and built out a list of games you could add to your iOS library to mimic the offerings of the service, and it’s not exactly cheap. If you wanted to capture the breadth and depth of offerings that Apple Arcade currently offers users, it would cost you about $400 ($384 more precisely) in total.
The full list of these games is below. Each game is grouped by genre and includes a link to their review (if possible) and store page.
Valentine’s Day was invented by Hallmark to sell people more cards. Ok, now that that’s out of the way, it’s nice to set aside a time of year to celebrate the people you have close connections with. Many people like to do that around this time of year, and that’s pretty cool I think.
Something else that’s cool is how games are increasingly exploring interpersonal relationships. If you’re in the mood for experiencing games that do this well this Valentine’s Day, I’ve hand selected a few mobile games that can give you exactly that. See below:
Spitkiss is a bizarre platformer about beings that can only communicate through emojis and bodily fluid. Strange premise aside though, it’s a really fantastic game that feels perfectly tuned for touch screen controls. Pick this up if you want a mechanically satisfying game or one that explores the nontraditional relationships.
It’s almost Christmas, which means a lot of things, including lots of things going on sale. I’m keeping track of the absolute best games getting price drops this year, and there’s a whole lot of them. Some of these titles even made my game of the year list for 2019, so make sure to pick them up at a discount while you can!
2019 has been one of the weirdest years in mobile gaming yet. With Apple Arcade emerging alongside other game subscription services like GameClub and Playond, it feels a bit like the wild west again. I’m not exactly blown away with any of these services so far, but it’s nice to see folks attempt to create spaces on the App Store for quality games to thrive.
Speaking of quality games, I played quite a few of them this year. By a rough count (I try to keep a list every year), I ended up playing over 350 mobile games in 2019. I wish it was a little harder to cull that huge list down to ten favorites, but it honestly wasn’t. The ten games you see below are my favorite games from 2019 by a country mile.
Is it too early for Black Friday? Yes, absolutely. But does Apple agree? No, apparently not. Tons of games have already been discounted on the App Store, and we'd like to give you a definitive guide on the best deals to grab.
To be clear, we won't be posting EVERY game sale on this page. For a firehose of all deals on games regardless of quality, look elsewhere. What we're listing below is just the deals on games that you definitely should buy if you haven't already.
We’re getting closer and closer to Halloween every day, which means everyone’s gearing up to watch their favorite horror movies, make weekend trips out to pumpkin patches, and do all kinds of other, fun seasonal stuff before this month ends and everyone looks toward Thanksgiving.
If you’re in the midst of all your Halloween activities and you want to take a break with some games that match the spirit, we’ve got good news for you. There’s a bunch of great games on the App Store that can get you in the mood for Halloween, and we’ve compiled a list of the best ones in a handy little list. We've also added a "spookiness rating" (1=not scary, 5=scariest) to each one so you can find the right game for you. Check out the picks below:
Another big-name franchise has come to mobile, and it’s (unsurprisingly) pretty bad. Gears POP! follows in the footsteps of Dr. Mario World and The Elder Scrolls: Blades. All are high-profile mobile releases and all actively engender ill will toward mobile gaming by being somewhat boring knock offs of predatory free-to-play games.
Hopefully, with the launch of Apple Arcade, this will be less of a problem. In the meantime though, there are some games out on mobile that might give you what you want from Gears POP! without subjecting you to its clunky gameplay or intensely haunting Funko Pop aesthetics. See below: