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Apple Arcade: Ranked - Top 25 [Updated 9.15]

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 9th, 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 7/28:

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 9.15]

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. 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.


27. Cat Quest II

[img id="100904" alt=""]

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.


28. Manifold Garden

[img id="102012" alt=""]

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.


29. The Last Campfire

[img id="106643" alt=""]

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.


30. 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.


31. 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.


32. Grindstone

[img id="105975" alt=""]

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.


33. 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.


34. No Way Home*

[img id="102677" alt=""]

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.


35. 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.


36. ShockRods

[img id="102097" alt=""]

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.


37. 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.


38. Spyder

[img id="103997" alt=""]

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.


39. Legend of the Skyfish 2

[img id="104355" alt=""]

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.


40. Winding Worlds

[img id="105006" alt=""]

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.


41. Creaks

[img id="105862" alt=""]

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.


42. Don’t Bug Me!

[img id="101698" alt=""]

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.


43. 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.


44. 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.


45. 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.


46. Sneaky Sasquatch

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

Update: Sneaky Sasquatch has had a bunch of content added to the game since launch. There’s now a story where you can save the park, and its open-world areas are all a bit more fleshed out with side activities to complete. The game now feels kind of like an empty version of Grand Theft Auto, but you’re still a sasquatch. There’s something satisfying about that, but it also wears thin at times.


47. Mini Motorways

[img id="101254" alt=""]

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.


48. The Lullaby of Life

[img id="106135" alt=""]

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.


49. King’s League II

[img id="105976" alt=""]

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.


50. SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit (UPDATE)

[img id="105431" alt=""]

Description:

Spongebob’s arch-nemesis, Plankton, is once again up to no good. With the Krabby Patty formula stolen and his friends all imprisoned, it’s up to you to control Spongebob in this auto-running platformer. Unlike a lot of runners, Patty Pursuit’s levels are non-linear, so the game plays more like a traditional 2D platformer, where you are hunting for collectibles, finding secret paths, and more.

Rank Explanation:

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Spongebob or not, Patty Pursuit is a pretty solid platformer that is good about mixing up its gameplay as you progress. As you complete levels, you rescue characters (e.g. Patrick, Squidward, etc.) each of whom can join you to help you access new areas and give you special abilities. It’s a little annoying that you’ll have to play and replay levels with different characters to gather all of these collectibles, but that’s kind of the only thing that puts a damper on this undersea adventure.

Update: Patty Pursuit remains a perfectly ok auto-running platformer. New levels are nice, but they don't totally elevate or change the experience beyond adding more of it.

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

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

Apple Arcade: Ranked - 51-75 [Updated 9.15]

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 29th, 2020

This is part 3 of our Apple Arcade rankings. Quick navigation to other parts:

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


51. Shinsekai Into the Depths*

[img id="105520" alt=""]

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.


52. Patterned

Description:

In Patterned, you basically put together fancy puzzles. Each level presents you with a repeating background, and you have to slot in shapes that match parts of the background. It’s as simple as that.

Rank Explanation:

Aside from having some really pretty backgrounds, I’m not all that impressed with Patterened. The repeating nature of the images just adds a slight layer of difficulty to what is otherwise a really straightforward puzzle-builder.

Update: Patterned got updated with multiplayer support, but that’s not really the reason for its rise up in the ranks. After spending more time with the game, I have found it to be more pleasant and relaxing than I initially gave it credit for. With the huge number of puzzles it now has, I’m also less concerned about its level of challenge. It’s also cool that the game now has secret patterns you can unlock, which gives a sense of progression and satisfaction as you play.


53. Stranded Sails

[img id="102397" alt=""]

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.


54. Spek.

[img id="101549" alt=""]

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.


55. Ballistic Baseball

[img id="101699" alt=""]

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.


56. UFO on Tape: First Contact

[img id="101782" alt=""]

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.


57. Doomsday Vault

[img id="102678" alt=""]

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.

Update: Doomsday Vault recently added some challenge levels, which don’t add a whole lot to the game. Trying to speed run levels just doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the game’s exploratory vibe. What is important to note though is that the game’s touch controls have also been updated and include some customization options, which make the core game better.


58. Agent Intercept

[img id="101550" alt=""]

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.

Update: Agent Intercept has aged poorly in general, and the addition of a new level type doesn’t really help things. The once-per-day level idea sounded good at first, but there’s just not enough going on in the stages to feel like things you want to revisit all that often. Even the challenges that have been added to the game don’t feel particularly varied or engaging.


59. Marble It Up: Mayhem!*

[img id="101784" alt=""]

Description:

Marble It Up: Mayhem! is a platfomer that puts a lot of emphasis behind momentum and physics. You roll a marble around levels and you need to hop over gaps, gather gems, and reach and exit, while making sure not to roll too fast that you accidentally slide of a ledge or hit a bumper to send your marble flying.

Rank Explanation:

I have never really understood why you’d want to play a platformer where your ability to control things feels muddy and slow, but games like Marble It Up: Mayhem prove there is some kind of audience for these things. Even placing my personal hang-ups aside, I’m not sure Marble It Up is great at what it’s trying to do. Half the time I try to trigger the jump button, it doesn’t seem to work, and the game’s multiplayer mode is a barely functional mess. Not great!

Update: Marble It Up: Mayhem! controls a lot better than it did when I first played it, though its new update makes no mention of tweaks in that department. Its better feel as a platformer is the main reason for it shooting up the rankings. The multiplayer aspects of the game (even the new modes) are not very appealing, especially since online opponents seem to skip and jump around levels in unpredictable ways.


60. Neversong

[img id="104797" alt=""]

Description: Neversong is a strange mishmash of games. It’s a mediation on mental health, but it’s also an action platformer. You play as a boy Peet, who’s girlfriend was stolen away from him, causing him to fall into a coma. After waking, he sets off on a strange and surreal adventure to find his girlfriend while battling bug-like enemies and swinging around environments.

Rank Explanation: I think the odd blending of tones and genre conventions gives Neversong a truly unique flavor, but I’d like it more if the things it implemented felt a little better. The platforming itself is serviceable, but Peet’s hitbox in combat doesn’t feel right, and the swinging mechanics that the game introduces later on don’t work well on touch at all. I want to see where Neversong goes, but I’ll only be enjoying it in small bursts using a controller unless some updates come through to improve the touch experience.


61. Speed Demons

[img id="101609" alt=""][img id="101610" alt=""]

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.

Update: I want Speed Demons to be mobile Burnout, and I think Radiangames does too, and it’s frustratingly close to being that. When everything is going well, the game feels great, but sometimes the its physics and procedural generation get in the way and can make entire races feel completely rigged against you. Unfortunately, the latest update doesn’t do much to solve these problems. While it’s true there is now a respawn button and more leniency around star and level requirements, it’s still frustrating when entire runs get derailed due to things that feel completely out of your control.


62. 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.

Update: The added chapter to Assemble with Care adds one additional puzzle to the game, and it feels as vapid as the rest of the game. Looks nice though.


63. Little Orpheus

[img id="105521" alt=""]

Description:

Who would’ve thought that the creators of Dear Esther, a plodding and cerebral meditation on trauma, would be the same studio to make a game with a pitch like "what if we made Inside but with bright colors and there are cosmonauts and dinosaurs?" This is essentially what Little Orpheus is: A hollow, meandering romp of simple platforming set pieces accompanied by voiceover narration.

Rank Explanation:

Little Orpheus gestures at great ideas and fails to really execute on any of them. It looks great in screenshots, but is really clunky and borderline unplayable using touch. It evokes Inside, but does not have the same clever puzzle design or creativity. It’s supposed to be funny, but it’s voice actors charmingly quip without ever really landing a punchline. To its credit, I was intrigued by the game’s overarching narrative and its general style to see the whole thing through in short order, but I walked away from it being pretty disappointed.


64. Tales of Memo

[img id="101487" alt=""]

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.


65. Takeshi and Hiroshi

[img id="101781" alt=""]

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.


66. EarthNight

[img id="104368" alt=""]

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.


67. Crossy Road Castle

[img id="103534" alt=""]

Description:

The follow up to Crossy Road is a simple platformer who’s main selling point is that up to four players can wander through its micro stages together. Players collect coins while trying to avoid spikes, enemies, and giant bird bosses, all while piloting voxel animals that reflect the iconic styling of Hipster Whale’s breakout mobile hit.

Rank Explanation:

Crossy Road Castle feels like it has so much potential for zany antics, but is mostly just a pretty mild platformer. Players can’t interact with each other in multiplayer, and the levels themselves don’t feel particularly special aside from being pretty small. The game also has a weird structure where you always start the game from the very beginning and play stages in a random order. The levels aren’t procedurally-generated though, so you end up seeing and playing a lot of the same levels repeatedly.

Update: Online multiplayer in Crossy Road Castle makes it a lot more fun than it is on your own. It’s micro-style platforming is still a little hit-or-miss, but it can be fun to barrel through levels with three other players.


68. The Enchanted World

[img id="101488" alt=""]

Description:

Take control of a young fairy who must navigate a environments that have been disrupted by dark forces. You do this by rearranging the environment like a classic sliding block puzzle to create paths, restore waterways, and even attack enemies.

Rank Explanation:

This game is essentially a fancy version of a sliding block puzzle. There are some nuances to the mechanics that definitely change things up, but the core remains a pretty tired puzzle archetype. Although I really like the way The Enchanted World looks, I find it hard to muster too much enthusiasm for each new level I come across.


69. Dodo Peak

Description:

Dodo Peak is a retro-inspired platformer that is much more intense than it appears. You swipe to control a dodo as it hops up and down slopes, gathering baby dodos behind it before finding an exit. All the while, you need to avoid boulders, snakes, spikes, and all kinds of other threats not just to your dodo, but also the little babies following you from behind.

Rank Explanation:

Dodo Peak has some really clever level design, and it wastes no time getting nice and challenging. It would be much higher on this list if not for two particular problems. First are the swipe-based controls, which feel sluggish, plus they cause you to obscure the screen as you’re trying to see what’s going on in a level. Dodo Peak also presents everything at a strange angle that makes it hard to see level features that can block or kill your dodo.


70. ChuChu Rocket! Universe

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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


71. Possessions.

[img id="101489" alt=""]

Description:

Possessions. is a game about rotating dioramas around to solve perspective-shifting puzzles. A picture might be hanging in midair, for example, and you need to slide your camera perspective so that it fills an empty space on the gallery wall of the bedroom. As you complete levels, you’re also treated to mini-cutscenes that tell a small story about the people that inhabit these spaces.

Rank Explanation:

The puzzle mechanics of Possessions. are really neat, but I’d like to see them in a more compelling package. The challenge in this game never really evolves, and only gets harder by adding more objects to fix (and sometimes via a fixed order or logic that is never really explained). The story this game tells is also so vague that it might as well not even be there. It seems like it’s going for something emotional, but there’s not enough detail or information to really tell what is going on, making it just feel like a bunch of filler.


72. Down in Bermuda

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

Update: Down in Bermuda got updated with a new island and a new control scheme, so it felt worth re-evaluating. I think it’s fair to say the controls in the game are much more intuitive, but controlling the game itself—that is to say constantly scrolling, panning, and zooming around environments—still feels clumsy. Also, the new island took me about 10 minutes to complete. It had new puzzles, which was nice, but the hardest part of the game continues to be orb-gathering, which is both dull and arduous.


73. Butter Royale

[img id="105974" alt=""]

Description:

Butter Royale is a food-themed battle royale game where 32 players loot and shoot each other until one player emerges victorious. It’s basically like a super streamlined and pared down version of PUBG or Fortnite.

Rank Explanation:

This game is a little too simplified for my tastes. It’s only got a handful of weapons and the strategy of combat encouters feels severely limited. As a result, Butter Royale feels like a progression treadmill for unlocking skins more than a legitimately fun battle royale in its own right.

Update: I returned to Butter Royale to see how their handling of seasonal content compared to that of other mobile battle royale games, and was not particularly impressed with what I saw. There are of course skins and other cosmetics to unlock, but the road to earn them is so long and the combat so simple that it quickly feels like a pure grind. At least they removed limits on earning rewards though.

Update 2: Butter Royale continues to shorten its progression grind with the introduction of daily and weekly quests that can grant bonus rewards. In returning to it, I found it slightly easier to control and I found myself having some amount of fun with it. That also could have just been because I won, though. There still isn’t anything here that would make me play it before any of our top battle royale picks.


74. CHARRUA SOCCER (UPDATE)

[img id="103313" alt=""]

Description:

Charrua Soccer is an arcade soccer game inspired by retro classics. There are some stats for teams and players, but no progression. You just pick a team and play in a tournament and see what happens.

Rank Explanation:

Somehow, both Apple Arcade soccer games are a huge letdown. Sociable Soccer nails the game length and feel of an arcade soccer game, but is so heavily dependent on grind that it practically feels like a free-to-play title. Charrua Soccer has almost the opposite problem. It feels too fast and loose, and there’s nothing to keep you wanting to come back to it.

Update: A content update to Charrua Soccer gives you more reason to keep playing it. You can now play against St. Patrick’s Day teams to unlock them, and the matches in these challenges have special rules, which is kind of fun. There are definitely other problems that persist in this game, but this update does make it a little better.

Update: Charrua Soccer now has just about everything that Sociable Soccer has, but without gameplay that feels random and no arbitrary grind limits. I'm still not in love with either of these soccer games, but if I'm going to pick one back up, it'll be Charrua Soccer.


75. Sociable Soccer

[img id="101783" alt=""]

Description:

Sociable Soccer is an arcade soccer game where you build a dream team of footballers to try and take down other players’ teams. Along the way, you pick up other players to add to your roster, which you can use to create alternate lineups or feed to your other players to upgrade their stats. The whole thing feels a lot like a gacha game, except you can’t spend any money on it.

Rank Explanation:

I’m very frustrated by Sociable Soccer. It constantly teases you with gestures at good ideas, but they all turn out to be empty. The arcade soccer is so simplistic that it feels kind of random. Collecting and upgrading players is a ridiculously long grind (especially since the game limits how many times you can play matches). Managing your team involves arranging formations of players, and... nothing else. This is to say that Sociable Soccer has set up a bunch of great structures for creating a fun sports game with rpg elements, but said structures aren’t filled with anything satisfying.

Update: Sociable Socceris a much more substantial game with its 2020 update, but still has a pretty hollow core. It now makes for some good and lite arcade fun, but it can still feel like a frustrating grind. Having more people playing online might help, as CPU players can feel unfair at times.

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

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

Apple Arcade: Ranked - 76-100 [Updated 9.15]

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 29th, 2020

This is part 4 of our Apple Arcade rankings. Quick navigation to other parts:

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


76. Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows

[img id="106277" alt=""][img id="106278" alt=""]

Description:

Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows is an idle game where you play as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Your duty is to protect the southern lands from all manner of threats that live in the north, and you do this mostly by sending scout troops beyong the wall, gathering supplies, and making decisions about some of the strange happenings that exist in the Game of Thrones universe.

Rank Explanation:

As it turns out, the day-to-day life of the Night’s Watch isn’t all that exciting, at least not in the world of Tale of Crows. After playing the game incessantly over the weekend, I saw a whole lot of repeated events, and not many of them were all that interesting. The silver lining of this disappointment is that the game is designed for quick check-ins, so it never felt like a huge waste of time. I just wish that there was more to discover whenever I did check in on it.

Update: I continued playing Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows after it launched last week mostly because it was convenient. Unfortunately, the more I play the game, the more I'm disappointed by it. Random events repeat far too often and nothing really feels like it has much consequence. It's just beautiful visuals and some light theming, with almost nothing underneath.


77. Stellar Commanders

Description:

A portrait-mode real-time strategy about planetary annihilation, Stellar Commanders pits two players against each other in a plodding race to see who can control the most territories before destroying the environment. Combat itself operates a lot like Clash Royale’s Elixr-based system, but involves a lot more management of node control, and subverting your opponent’s expectations.

Update: People are still playing this multiplayer game! And it’s kind of fun still! It still kind of feels like a slower, clunkier, and less intuitive Clash Royale, but in return it doesn’t have any terrible monetization, so I guess that’s worth something.

Rank Explanation:

The store page for Stellar Commanders looks rad as hell. There’s helicopers, rockets, and tanks deploying simultaneously all over the planet. Too bad this isn’t really how the game plays, or—if it is—it’s not how things start. Matches in Stellar Commanders move at an odd, lumbering pace, where it never really feels like you’re particularly productive. You can only really do single actions at a time and spend a lot of time just waiting to see what your enemy does to see if you can counter it. To be clear, this can deliver satisfying moments from time to time, but it’s not enough to make it something you’ll want to return to regularly.


78. Rayman Mini

Description:

Rayman Mini is an auto-runner much in the same vein as other Rayman entries on iOS. Rayman has been shrunk, and the only way to undo this spell is by running through levels full of huge bugs, jumping on giant leaves, mushrooms, and other flora to specified exits, apparently. As you work your way through these levels, you can gather collectibles that unlock new costumes for your limbless protagonist.

Rank Explanation:

There’s a whole lot of auto-runners on Apple Arcade, and Rayman Mini decides to be the one that stands out by using popular characters and being weirdly technical. Even in early levels, collecting every little item is a challenge that requires a high degree of level memorization and sharp reflexes. Part of this is by design. Rayman Mini wants you retrying levels until you’ve perfected runs through them. The only problem is that I find it overly difficult to navigate levels due to Rayman Mini’s controls, which feel weirdly imprecise and slow given the demands of the game.


79. LEGO Builder’s Journey

[img id="102399" alt=""]

Description:

It’s a puzzle game built around Lego. Take random pieces scattered about the world to build bridges, create slides, or solve more complex puzzles. Along the way, you’re treated to a light story and some emotive music.

Rank Explanation:

Builder’s Journey has a lot going for it. It’s a puzzle game where you can actually be creative in building things with Lego, which is a really neat idea. It’s also got a great soundtrack. It even has a great narrative setup. But is squanders almost all of these things at every turn. Its puzzles vary wildly in difficulty (and quality), parts of the game cut out the music completely, and the story goes absolutely nowhere. Add to this how the game has really unresponsive controls and an overly minimalist design (why aren’t the people just minifigs?), and I’m just confused and disappointed.


80. Explottens

[img id="101702" alt=""]

Description:

In Explottens, you are a hot shot pilot who also happens to be a cat. The plane bit doesn’t really matter though, because the game itself is basically just a level-based dual-stick shooter where you can move your plane in any direction you want at any time or just hover in mid-air at will.

Rank Explanation:

Explottens feels like a pretty slapped-together game. Your plane doesn’t feel like a plane, there are extreme swings of difficulty between levels, and there’s a currency that appears before entering levels that doesn’t appear to correspond to anything else in the game. As you play more Explottens the odd choices keep stacking up, and none of them feel intentional, nor do they make the game enjoyable.

Update: The developers of Explottens implored me to give the game a second chance, so here I am, and I gotta say the game is better than I initially gave it credit for. I think this has a lot to do with how the game presents itself though. It seems like a linear dual-stick shooter, but in reality the game rewards you for going back to old levels and replaying them so you can invest in upgrading your craft for harder missions. This isn’t really made clear anywhere in the game, which makes it easy to mistake for something it’s not. It’s still a pretty weird shooter that is still loaded with a bunch of strange decisions, but now I can get some enjoyment out of it.

Update: Explottens got an update that added a new environment and some other endgame content. Unfortunately, though, the endgame of Explottens is where the game is at its worst. Your aircraft has a kind of slippery feel to its movement that can make it really difficult to avoid the more difficult patterns of attacks from enemies, which get more complicated the further you get into the game. While I have an appreciation and understanding of Explottens's structure, it doesn't change the poor game-feel.


81. Samurai Jack

[img id="106644" alt=""]

Description:

Samurai Jack’s archnemesis, Aku, has trapped him in a place "between time" where he’ll have to work together with his allies to defeat all manner of dangerous foes. For fans of Samurai Jack, this means a lot of fan service packed into a pretty straightforward action-combat game.

Rank Explanation:

I was initially very excited when booting up Samurai Jackand seeing how much work went in to make the game look and feel like the classic animated series. However, the game itself feels like older licensed games that just kind of stitch together familiar ideas and faces into a game that otherwise doesn’t feel particularly special.


82. Yaga The Roleplaying Folktale

[img id="101767" alt=""]

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.

Update: Yaga has aged poorly. Despite an update that brings a lot of quality of life improvements to it (including an easy mode to make playing it on touch tolerable), the game that hides beneath the stylish veneer is hard to get excited about. The load times are still very much a problem, too.


83. Kings of the Castle

[img id="102886" alt=""]

Description:

Kings of the Castle is a super-colorful first-person platformer about collecting diamonds. Your goal is to parkour all over an environment, collecting these gems so you can pay a dragon to free a prince locked away in a castle.

Rank Explanation

There’s a lot I like about Kings of the Castle’s style and sense of speed, but it just doesn’t feel like a great fit for Apple Arcade. First-person platforming is tough, especially if you’re doing it via a touch screen, and the game’s multiplayer mode is basically nonexistent unless you can round up some real life friends to play with you.

Update: Kings of the Castle got some new daily challenges, but they don’t change the core experience in any meaningful way. The first-person platforming continues to show promise, but ultimately just feels too clunky to control.


84. INMOST

[img id="102013" alt=""]

Description:

INMOST is a platformer with an emotional story driving things along. You play as a variety of characters through various vignettes, and solve puzzles and learn how these seemingly disparate characters are tied together. To set the mood, INMOST also sports a beautifully dark pixel art style.

Rank Explanation:

I’m intrigued by the story of INMOST, but I don’t really enjoy playing it. The platforming is slow and clunky, and a lot of the puzzles rely on trial-and-error. Instead of feeling challenging—which is what I believe INMOST is going for with these decisions—it makes for a pretty boring and repetitive experience.

Update: I went back to IMOST because I thought I had missed something about the game on my first try with it, but I still find it a kind of bumbling and boring experience, mostly because of the really poor and unresponsive touch controls.

Update: INMOSTgot updated with some improved controls, as well as new areas, puzzles, and story bits. None of this saves the experience for me though. I thought the controls brought it down for me, but now I realize the game--despite looking quite nice--is just dreary, dull, and slow.


85. Skate City

Description:

Skate your way through three different cities, whether just to find perfect lines or complete specific challenges. Skate City is kind of a 2D take on the Skate series, where you aren’t doing crazy trick combos or finding collectibles. Instead, the focus is on performing specific tricks and riding smoothly.

Rank Explanation:

Overall I’m not super impressed with Skate City. The controls are not as intuitive as they look. It’s visuals also look kind of clunky. This, plus the fact that Skate City has very little personality to speak of, makes it feel pretty forgettable.


86. Projection: First Light

[img id="102125" alt=""]

Description:

Emulating traditional shadow puppetry aesthetics, Projection: First Light is a puzzle platformer where you guide a young girl named Greta through mysterious, monochromatic environments. The shadowy visuals aren’t just a visual gimmick though. Many of the game’s puzzles require that you manipulate a light following Greta, which can cast shadows and create platforms for you on your journey.

Rank Explanation:

The light manipulation mechanics of Projection: First Light are interesting, but are poorly executed. Shadows that you cast can shift and flicker unpredictably, and it’s almost easier to put yourself in more difficult platforming situations than it is to make things easier for yourself. As a result, it’s hard to recommend Projection: First Light, especially when there’s already a fun platformer with unique aesthetics and mechanics on Apple Arcade (Monomals).


87. Oceanhorn 2

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

Update: The Golden Edition update to Oceanhorn 2 makes it a sleeker package, but the core of the game itself still feels woefully half-baked. This Zelda knock-off has poor pathfinding, frustrating combat, and is generally just a series of boring fetch quests. Doing all of this at 60 frames per second and with some improved quality of life updates is nice and all, but it can’t save the game from feeling clunky and derivative.


88. Ultimate Rivals: The Rink

[img id="102127" alt=""]

Description:

Play hockey using all manner of sports stars, from Drew Brees to Megan Rapinoe, in short, three-on-three matches. Ultimate Rivals: The Rink feels a bit like if NHL Hitz had the sports equivalent of the Super Smash Bros. roster. Each player also has unique skills and abilities, allowing you to create a custom dream team that matches your play style before going head-to-head online.

Rank Explanation:

Ultimate Rivals has a lot of the right concepts down to be a fantastic arcade sports game, but the hockey in it just isn’t terribly exciting. Your players automatically aim for the net and it feels like the game performs some background dice rolls based on your shot power and distance from the net to determine if it goes in or not. As a result, I found a ton of success in the game by just mindlessly shooting at the net as much as possible. I know that part of the appeal of arcade sports games is that they are simple and accessible, but Ultimate Rivals might be a bit too simple for its own good.


89. Hogwash

Description:

Three little piggies are dead set on muddying up a farm, but they have to be smart to make sure they aren’t caught by a farm hand that’s trying to keep the place clean. This is the setup for Hogwash, an asymmetrical multiplayer game where teams of three players try to outsmart one player who is trying to chase down and hogtie all three pesky pigs.

Rank Explanation:

Hogwash is like a family-friendly version of Dead by Daylight, and it’s a decent one of those. Without a horror element though, Hogwash doesn’t feel particularly intense, and therefore a little less rewarding than the game it draws inspiration from. To it’s credit, it seems like there is a decent online community playing Hogwash, but I don’t see a whole lot of promise in its mechanics to make me want to keep playing it.


90. tint.

Description:

tint. is a puzzle game about mixing watercolor paints on a virtual notebook. You paint lines from pools of color in an effort to activate certain colored nodes. The trick is that these nodes might be different colors than your pools, or they might be surrounded by lines of other colors. To circumvent this, you have to be creative in how you have your colors intersect to create new colors while also leaving space for you to activate all notes on a given page.

Rank Explanation:

tint. has a lot of neat ideas, but there are a few things about it that rub me the wrong way. There are arbitrary rules about how many times your paints can be mixed and how to draw your paint lines that make the game feel less like a playful puzzle game and more like a chore. The end result of each puzzle never really ends up looks too artistic either, which feels odd against a backdrop that is so clearly in love with its art-based premise.


91. Beyond a Steel Sky*

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Description:

Beyond a Steel Sky is the long-awaited follow-up to the cult classic adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky. You continue your adventure as Robert Foster, who this time is investigating the disappearance of a child after a violent attack in the game’s opening. Your investigation quickly brings you back to Union City, which has been transformed into a bright, technolocratic metropolis as a result of Foster’s actions in the first game. It is here you spend the majority of your time solving puzzles that involve item combinations, dialogue trees, and hacking.

Rank Explanation:

I really want to like Beyond a Steel Sky more than I do. At times, it can feel like Fallout or Mass Effect, but without all the crunchy stats and shooting, but the game is so laser-focused on being an adventure game such that its open 3D environments feel hollow and distracting. Some puzzle sections in the game also follow bizarre logic or are otherwise poor at communicating how you can or should interact with your environment to progress forward (even when using the in-game hint system). This is all made worse by how buggy the game is. Several puzzles bugged out to the point that I spent hours experimenting on puzzles, only to learn I had done the right thing initially but needed to reload the game for it to actually work properly. It’s unfortunate.


92. Jumper Jon

[img id="102014" alt=""]

Description:

Jumper Jon is an exploration platformer where you only have 30 seconds to make it between checkpoints, or else you die. In this way it feels kind of like a mashup between Castlevania and Minit. You race through puzzle rooms, jumping over obstacles and on enemies as quickly as possible in hopes you can make it to a golden feather that will restore your clock to a fresh 30 seconds. Then, you do it all over again.

Rank Explanation:

I don’t care how creative your platformer is if it doesn’t feel good to play. Such is the case with Jumper Jon. The limited time limit makes you feel like you’re speedrunning a game you’ve never played before, but it ultimately doesn’t feel satisfying because of the floaty controls.

Update: My initial issue with Jumper Jon didn’t have to do with a lack of content, but I hopped back into it hoping that there were some hidden control tweaks in the update that added a new chapter with new areas, abilities, and enemies. Unfortunately, there weren’t and trying to speed your way through platforming sections with your weightless, floaty protagonist continues to be pretty underwhelming.


93. Star Fetched*

[img id="102015" alt=""]

Description:

There’s a lot of genre-mixing going on in Star Fetched. It’s an action platformer, but it also has a good amount of crafting, rpg elements, and even tower defense. The whole concept of the game is you’re a goofy little space explorer looking to save the galaxy from an imminent alien threat.

Rank Explanation:

None of Star Fetched’s component parts feel fully cooked. Come to think of it, the game just doesn’t seem finished. In addition to feeling shallow on all fronts, Star Fetched has a lot of rough edges. Tons of bugs hamper what would already be a pretty middling experience. It has lots of neat ideas, though so it scores above some other games in that regard.


94. Next Stop Nowhere*

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Description:

Night School Studios's contribution to Apple Arcade is a narrative adventure about a space courier who gets wrapped up in an exciting plot after a chance encounter at a watering hole. The game revolves primarily around dialogue and decision-making to help guide the overall story, though there is some light puzzle-solving and spaceship flight sequences where you have more direct control of your character.

Rank Explanation:

I wanted to blaze through Next Stop Nowhere as soon as I fired it up because of its colorful world, clever writing, and tremendous voice acting, but I have decided to put it down for now. The game launched with some pretty annoying technical issues that can make it hard to move your characters, and--more importantly--cause certain lines of dialogue to be cut off from other people chatting. I'm going to wait and see if Next Stop Nowhere gets a little more polish so I can enjoy it in full without these frustrations.

Update: I was very encouraged by the news that Next Stop Nowheregot an update that supposedly fixed a lot of the problems the game launched with, but the game is still unfortunately very, very buggy. Characters talk over each other constantly, subtitles miscue, characters get stuck alternating between animations, and more. I can't wait to play this game, as it seems extremely up my alley, but there's no reason to touch it for now.


95. Fledgling Heroes

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

Update: Updates to the level creator in Fledgling Heroes finally fix the problems it had at launch, plus it lets players share levels with each other. In the time since this happened though, a little game called Levelhead came along and is a much better outlet for level creation and sharing than this game is likely to ever be.


96. BattleSky Brigade: Harpooner

[img id="102099" alt=""][img id="102100" alt=""]

Description:

Launch your bunny pilot into the skies to blast away baddies and collect coins. BattleSky Brigade: Harpooner combines the mechanics of a vertical shooter and a fishing game. As you are launched out on your journey, you want to blast as many things as possible, but when your rope runs out, you cast a net and want to collect as many coins and other currencies as possible. Upon your return, you can use your collectibles to upgrade your ship to take on harder airspaces.

Rank Explanation:

This game feels an awful lot like Ridiculous Fishing, but it is nowhere near as charming or satisfying. The overall game is also slow and poorly explained. BattleSky Brigade: Harpooner feels like a way to waste your time while buying upgrades. It’s certainly not the worst way to do that on Apple Arcade, but nothing about this game comes off as exciting or innovative.


97. Rosie’s Reality

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Description:

Rosie’s Reality is a puzzle game where you need to build pathways for a robot to reach an exit. You can’t just build any old pathway, though. You only get a specific set of special tiles to build your paths, and you need to use these to avoid enemy robots, jump over obstacles, and take advantage of your surroundings to reach your goal.

Rank Explanation:

There are a lot of neat things about Rosie’s Reality, with the blend of AI programming with traversal puzzling being chief among them. Unfortunately though, Rosie’s Reality is obsessed with its own animations, and it makes for a game that moves at a frustratingly slow pace. If this game got updated to make it a little more responsive to player input and less focused on drawing attention to every little movement on screen, Rosie’s Reality could shoot up these charts. Until then, it’ll hang out right here.


98. Punch Planet

Description:

Punch Planet is a six-button fighting game that somewhat closely resembles Street Fighter. In its roster of six fighters, most special moves are executed using quarter circle motions, though there is one charge character who also doubles as a grappler. The whole game also has a cool, cartoony sci-fi aesthetic.

Rank Explanation:

Punch Planet is a very cool, stylish, and fun experience, except it only feels like half a fighting game. It only has two single player modes that are barely distinguishable from each other and no online multiplayer. Once you’ve cleared Arcade mode, there isn’t much to do, especially considering you can’t even change the AI difficulty.


99. A Fold Apart

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Description:

A Fold Apart combines puzzles designed around a "paper folding" mechanic with a story that examines the anxiety and uncertainty of a relationship being put to the test. Each chapter begins with a texting conversation where you can choose from some pre-determined replies. This then transforms into a nightmarish puzzle landscape whenever one person texts something that strikes a nerve. In this part of the game you have to flip and fold your environment to get your character to collect stars in order to press forward.

Rank Explanation:

If I had to think of one word to describe A Fold Apart, it would be immature. The characters in the game have wild overreactions to each other’s messages in a way that feels juvenile. This descriptor also applies to A Fold Apart’s gameplay, which could have used some more time to fully develop. The controls are frustratingly imprecise and slow, and puzzles need a quick undo or restart button. None of A Fold Apart really feels like it fits together the right way.


100. Painty Mob

Description:

Painty Mob is a super bright arcade game about painting characters and then avoiding them as they give chase. It’s bizarre, but colorful, and tries to celebrate that in as many ways as possible.

Rank Explanation:

My main issue with Painty Mob is that it’s super difficult to tell what’s going on in the game. The ultra-bright visuals and frantic gameplay just don’t mesh very well into a particularly readable experience. In a lot of ways, it seems like Painty Mob is going for the Katamari-like zaniness, but that doesn’t work with how punishing and illegible everything is.

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

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

Apple Arcade: Ranked - 101+ [Updated 9.15]

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 29th, 2020

This is part 5 of our Apple Arcade rankings. Quick navigation to other parts:

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


101. Decoherence

Description:

Decoherence is a multiplayer game where you build and program robots to fight alongside your own player character. This turns what would be a one-on-one battle into a dynamic battlefield that challenges you to master both tactical decision-making and sharp reaction times to defeat your opponents. Each match consists of a building and planning phase followed by a real-time battle where players can hop into their own robots to take matters into their own hands.

Rank Explanation:

There’s a lot going on in Decoherence, and I like almost all of it... in theory. In practice, it’s a bit overwhelming. The game’s tutorial is long and explains a lot regarding how the game works, but it also somehow feels like not enough. I’m not sure why I should prefer one kind of bot over another, or what match ups are favorable vs. unfavorable and why. I assume you can learn these things by just playing the game a lot, but there’s not really anyone online to play against. This leaves you with the option to play random matches against AI or Decoherence’s roguelike mode, both of which feel like fallback modes that support a cool multiplayer experience, but not particularly substantive modes in their own right.

Also worth noting that Decoherence is borderline unplayable on phone screens. Menus are borderline unreadable and it’s just hard to control the action on such a small screen.


102. Murder Mystery Machine

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Description:

Murder Mystery Machine is a modern detective mystery game where you investigate crimes by gathering evidence, questioning witnesses, and connecting the dots between a given scenario to determine what happened.

Rank Explanation:

The mystery-solving in this game feels like you’re playing a big guessing game. The evidence you find rarely feels like it actually proves the conclusions you’re drawing, yet Murder Mystery Machine also insists that you gather each little detail of evidence and literally draw connections between them. It’s a weird imbalance that makes for a pretty unsatisfying experience.


103. Towaga: Among Shadows

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Description:

Towaga: Among Shadows is a sequel to Towaga, which is a defense shooter where you stand in place and blast away at shadowy creatures with beams of light. Much like its predecessor, Among Shadows is gorgeously animated and moves at a super smooth frame rate. This sequel also adds a "Flying Mode" which feels a lot like a dual-stick shooter.

Rank Explanation:

Aside from having some nice animation, Towaga: Among Shadows is a pretty hum-drum shooter. It’s also one that makes you grind out a currency to improve your ability to beat certain levels. Even in early stages it feels like it doesn’t matter how good your reflexes are. If you don’t have the stats, you won’t succeed. Not a great look for an action game.


104. Mind Symphony

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Description:

Mind Symphony is a music game with two modes. In the first, you play a Geometry Wars-like shooter that spawns enemies in time with a song you’re listening to in the background. In the other mode, you fly a peaceful, metallic bird through a desert and tap on rings in an effort to match the beat of the song you’re listening to.

Rank Explanation:

I can kind of see how Mind Symphony can be fun using your own music, but the game only works with Apple Music users. If you aren’t a subscriber (like me), you’re stuck with a collection of a dozen songs, and only one of them really convinced me that Mind Symphony does much to make interesting gameplay in response to the music you’re listening to. Also, the shooter mode is the only mode worth playing. The meditation mode is a super simple rhythm game that doesn’t even seem to sync up with songs very well.


105. Stela*

[img id="101669" alt=""]

Description:

Did you play Inside? The developers of Stela sure did. This game is shockingly similar to Playdead’s gorgeous puzzle platformer from 2016. There are a few differences, like you play as a woman, and... well, that’s about the only difference. You still jump around desaturated environments and solving strange puzzles, all while trying to avoid dying too much.

Rank Explanation:

I’m not sure how such a blatant Inside rip-off made it onto Apple Arcade. It’s not even a good imitation, either. The game doesn’t communicate how you can interact with its environment very clearly at all, so most of the time you just end up dying repeatedly wondering what you’re supposed to do. To be fair, this can happen in Inside sometimes, but at least solving puzzles in that game feels rewarding. In Stela, you just walk away frustrated and feeling like you’re being swindled.

After some reader feedback, I gave Stela another shot and came away more pleased with it than I was initially. It still feels like an Inside clone, but it does have some terrific music and creates a more intense atmosphere than I was expecting. That said, in my revisiting of Stela I also encoutered some significant progress-breaking bugs. Luckily those weren’t permanent, and they somehow didn’t stop me from actually enjoying parts of the game more than I did before.


106. Sonic Racing

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

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

Update: It doesn’t really matter how many modes or tracks you add to Sonic Racing. The game’s driving model is just too simple to feel particularly satisfying. In a world where there’s a free-to-play kart racer that feels more robust and satisfying than Sonic Racing, there’s not much reason to play it.


107. Towers of Everland

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Description:

Towers of Everland is a dungeon-crawler in the same vein as Legend of Grimrock, albeit a much more stripped down and procedurally generated affair. You choose a hero from several fantasy archetypes, go on quests to kill enemies and loot towers, and then use your spoils to upgrade your hero and town to take on more difficult quests.

Rank Explanation:

Towers of Everland is so streamlined that it’s pretty boring. The environments are almost completely non-interactive, and any new loot or stat upgrades to your hero don’t really change up the combat. They just make you stronger as your enemies get stronger, so everything ends up feeling static throughout.


108. Hot Lava

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

Update: Unless Klei makes some fundamental changes to how first-person platforming works, I’m not sure Hot Lava is going to be worth your time. The game is most playable with a controller, but even then it’s hard to gauge where your feet are or when you should jump off of platforms. Adding new courses and items might intrigue platformer diehards to sink some more time into this game, but it’s definitely not for everyone.


109. Super Mega Mini Party

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Description:

Super Mega Mini Party is like Mario Party, but without Nintendo characters and weird board game meta-layer on top of it. This is to say it’s a multiplayer mini-game collection where you and up to three other people can compete in challenges like hopping on pogo sticks over lava and passing dynamite around like it’s a hot potato.

Rank Explanation:

I actually think the mini-games in Super Mega Mini Party are actually kind of fun. They control well and are reasonably well thought out to make for some fun multiplayer moments. The only bummer of all this is that you can’t really enjoy it whenever you want. Gathering multiple people to play games together is hard, but it’s especially hard when you ask them to play a mobile game modeled after Mario Party. Of course, you can try to play online with random people, but no one appears to be doing that as far as I can tell. This just leaves you with the option of playing practice mode in single-player, which isn’t much of a party at all.

Update: The update to Super Mega Mini Party adds an interesting matchmaking system where players are supposed to be able to wander an open-world and challenge each other to mini-games. I say "supposed to" because I am yet to see a single person playing this game. Perhaps this is a fun game to play with people, but at this rate I will never know.

Update 2: Revisiting this title again so soon because the updates keep coming. Also, it now seems like people are actually playing the multiplayer so I’ve been able to test my skills against humans. It’s still a mini-game collection, so I’m not sure it’s a great thing to play with random strangers on the internet, but you can if you want, and it seems like some people want to do that.


110. Lego Brawls

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

Update: New maps and items have been added to a game that continues to have a pretty hollow core. Lego Brawls is begging for any amount of added precision to make swinging fish and swords at opposing minifigs feel like it involves any amount of skill or prowess.


111. Scrappers

[img id="104356" alt=""]

Description: In the far-flung future, the Earth is only inhabited by two things: robots and trash. This is the setup for Scrappers, a side-scrolling beat ‘em up where you play as a robotic sanitation worker who needs to fight their way through junkyards while depositing trash into your truck to earn money. You can also do all of this with up to three other people in the game’s co-op mode.

Rank Explanation:

Scrappers is a mound of poor decisions that got bundled up into a colorful package. Beat ‘em ups are rarely ever good; co-op focused games with no matchmaking make for a boring time; and making "picking up trash" your differentiating mechanic is not exactly my idea of fun. Even if you happen to like beat ‘em ups, Scrappers is a tough sell because of how easy it is to exploit the game’s combat system and suck all of the challenge out of it.

Update: The latest patch for Scrappers makes some significant changes. You now have an AI sidekick in single-player sessions who collects and tosses trash automatically and an auto-catch feature to make passing trash a little easier. The game's multiplayer mode also now allows for random matchmaking, but this addition seems to be too little, too late. I've yet to find a single person trying to play Scrappersonline, and I don't blame them. The game itself is still just a mediocre beat 'em up with a mildly interesting mechanic layered on top.


112. Spidersaurs

[img id="102126" alt=""]

Description:

Spidersaurs is a 2D shooter that tries to stir up lots of 80s and 90s nostalgia. Its "Saturday Morning Cartoon" style combines with throwback gameplay that has you running and gunning to take down dinosaur/spider hybrids.

Rank Explanation:

For as cool as Spidersaurs looks, it controls horribly. It seems to be going for a Contra-like experience, but it’s impossible to control using touch and is functional, but sluggish, on controller.


113. The Get Out Kids

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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


114. The Mosaic

[img id="101769" alt=""]

Description:

The Mosaic is a narrative adventure set in a future society where a single corporation has seemingly taken over the world. You play as an employee of this corporation who (surprise!) doesn’t seem to enjoy his job. Over the course of the game, you’ll play through this worker’s commute, which gets routinely interrupted by strange visions and dream sequences.

Rank Explanation:

There’s something really compelling about The Mosaic’s balancing of the surreal and mundane, but it all ends up feeling like a missed opportunity. Playing the game is pretty boring, not to mention super clunky to control, and by the end of the game, it’s not really clear what The Mosaic is trying to say. The surface-level critiques of modern society that are presented at the beginning of the game persist throughout the experience, but nothing that happens over the course of the story dive much deeper than that. By the end of the game it doesn’t feel like you’re reached a satisfying conclusion, and there’s nothing about the mechanics, visuals, or storytelling that make the trek feel particularly worthwhile.


115. Pac-Man Party Royale

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Description:

In Pac-Man Party Royale, four players all chomp pellets on a single Pac-Man stage, with the ultimate goal of being the last player standing. Players can knock each other out by eating each other after picking up power pellets, knocking opponents into ghosts, or staying alive the longest as a glitched-out ring reduces the playable area. The first player to hit three wins takes the match.

Rank Explanation:

Pac-Man Party Royale isn’t Pac-Man Vs., nor is it Pac-Man Battle Royale, and both of those are better multiplayer Pac-Man games than Party Royale. It also doesn’t help that this game has a terrible online setup where players can essentially only play with friends using lobby codes, as opposed to offering any kind of matchmaking for folks to play online with random players. Overall it’s a pretty disappointing Pac-Man game, and a generally weak offering for Apple Arcade.

Update: It won’t matter how many new powers get added to PAC-MAN Party Royale until the game actually supports online matchmaking. Even then, the sluggish movement of your Pac-Man still makes it feel like a third-rate title.


116. Frogger in Toy Town

[img id="101552" alt=""]

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.

Update: The simple mode for Frogger in Toy Town makes it much more playable, as the game’s physics engine is wildly unpredictable and makes it impossible to play the game well with any consistency. This update doesn’t fix the physics though, so you still will be frustratingly blocked from rescuing frogs or hit by things you couldn’t possibly dodge, but at least now you won’t get as punished for it.


117. 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.

Update: ATONE’s precipitous fall is due to some pretty significant technical issues. In returning to the game I’ve experienced regular hard crashes that make it hard to recommend. When I have been able to play the game in a crash-free stretch, the rhythm game aspects also now feel off, with the note paths and music not quite syncing up in the way that they should. Hopefully all of this gets fixed up soon.


118. Red Reign

[img id="101768" alt=""]

Description:

Red Reign is a real-time strategy game that borrows the concept of lane-based combat from MOBAs like Arena of Valor. The concept is simple: two players race to build units and upgrade their base to eventually send an army (or armies) down lanes that are large enough to destroy their opponent’s base.

Rank Explanation:

I don’t have a problem with Red Reign’s core mechanics, but it seems heavily biased toward anyone looking to maximize their actions per minute. There are so many little actions you can (and should) do to gain advantages over your opponent that if you don’t train yourself to do them, your opponent will be able to beat you every single time. In this way, Red Reign feels like a throwback strategy title, but it’s also so streamlined to the point that you it doesn’t feel worth diving deep into. Perhaps if it had less of a focus on multiplayer and had more robust single-player offering, it would be higher on this list.


119. Various Daylife*

Description:

Do your job. Buy your food. Go to sleep. Colonize the land. These are all the main directives of Various Daylife, a role-playing game that seems very caught up in simulating routine activity. Players create their own character, choose one of 20 classes, and start grinding away, all in the name of colonizing and mysterious new land.

Rank Explanation:

There’s a ton of things in Various Daylife that rub me the wrong way. First and foremost is the way it talks about colonization in 2019 like it’s part of the natural order and is somehow good. Aside from that, the game seems built around being pretty boring and repetitive, and is designed similarly. Huge chunks of screen real estate are just an empty void, and there are lengthy load times in between just about everything that you do. I will say that there is some interesting combat design happening in Various Daylife, but all of the repetitive, slow, and problematic crap you have to dig through to see it is not worth it.

Update: Various Daylife got updated with some nice quality of life features, but remains an absolute snoozefest. It just feels like an upgrade treadmill that leads to nowhere.


120. Nightmare Farm

Description:

Nightmare Farm is an idle game about growing crops to earn hearts that allow you to grow different plants and entertain your dog. If this doesn’t sound nightmarish, that’s because it isn’t. Aside from having a slight Burton-esque bent to its cartoon aesthetic, Nightmare Farm is mostly a colorful and cute game where you tap on things to help you build more things.

Rank Explanation:

For an idle game, Nightmare Farm takes far too long to boot up. First you get the Apple Arcade screen, then the developer logo, then a menu that you tap to hit a load screen, and then you can do your maintenance tasks. This can result in play sessions that last shorter than the boot sequence. Beyond this, Nightmare Farm seems totally serviceable as an idle game, but I don’t know why you’d pay for Apple Arcade to play this when there are so many idle game options out there that provide superior experiences for less money.


121. Discolored

[img id="101785" alt=""]

Description:

Discolored is a first-person puzzle adventure where you’re trying to restore color to a monochromatic environment. You do this by activating certain color prisms, though the game is very mum about what these prisms are about, who you are, or why you’re doing any of this. As a result, it’s up to you and your magical viewfinder to figure out what parts of the environment you can manipulate and which items you can combine to slowly bring colors back into the world.

Rank Explanation:

This game is too minimalist for its own good. Everything, including puzzle solutions feel like things that you happen upon by chance as opposed to anything logical that you might be putting together based on context. To make matters worse, your character moves as slow as molasses, so most of the game consists of you sluggishly sliding between objects randomly tapping on them and waiting for something to happen.


122. Way of the Turtle*

[img id="103728" alt=""]

Description:

Way of the Turtle is a very conventional platformer starring two turtles. These turtles may walk automatically, but you choose when they jump or when they use their different shell powers that they accumulate over the course of the game.

Rank Explanation:

There’s nothing wrong with Way of the Turtle’s concept per se, but it also doesn’t feel all that special. It’s just very expected. This is the kind of game that may be satisfying at times, but is rarely surprising.

It’s also worth noting that Way of the Turtle bugged out a few times loading into the game on a couple occasions, and I had to restart it to get it working properly again.

After Way of the Turtle got a new content update, so I decided to give it another shot, and it wasn’t pretty. For whatever reason, Way of the Turtle had not saved any of my previous progress when I came back to it. It also decided that each time I came back to the game it would keep my progress (good), but always start me back at the beginning of the game map some reason (not good). This, plus the fact that Way of the Turtle has a confusingly poor frame rate on iPad drove me away from the game faster than it did when I first tried it.


123. Redout: Space Assault

[img id="103777" alt=""]

Description:

You like Starfox? Well, Redout: Space Assault is kind of like that, which is to say it’s an on-rails space shooter. Your ship fires automatically and follows a set path, but you have to fine-tune the maneuvering of your ship to shoot at enemies, avoid obstacles, and shake heat-seeking missiles off your tail.

Rank Explanation:

Redout: Space Assault scores poorly because of how generic it is. There’s almost nothing about the game that makes it special. Even the graphics, which I guess arguably are technically "good," don’t really read as impressive, nor do they enhance the experience all that much.

Update: The more I play Redout, the less I get it. It’s like if someone wanted to jam space sim-style missions into a Starfox game, but then couldn’t decide which control style would work best for that design so they gave up. Certain sections of the game feel undertested and easy to break while others almost impossibly challenging. I guess the silver lining is that the missions are short? My personal silver lining is there are a lot of other, better games on Apple Arcade I could be playing.


124. Big Time Sports

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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


125. Word Laces

Description:

Word Laces gives you a picture and a bunch of letters below it. From there, you’re supposed to figure out the words you should spell using the letters given based on the picture. As you get further into Word Laces, you start having to solve puzzles with multiple words and more complicated answers.

Rank Explanation:

I generally like word games, but Word Laces is really not for me. Guessing words based on pictures is a novel idea, but it’s really easy to have different associations with pictures than those of the game designers. There are no penalties for forming words incorrectly or misspelling things, which I guess keeps it from being frustrating, but it also removes all the stakes. As a result, Word Laces doesn’t really feel like a game so much as just "a thing to do," and there are enough other things to do on Apple Arcade that I’d prefer to spend my time elsewhere.


126. Lifeslide

[img id="101606" alt=""]

Description:

Lifeslide is a game about being a paper airplane. You glide around, picking up "parts" and "time" which help you upgrade your plane and continue flying respectively.

Rank Explanation:

This is one of those games that really wants you to tilt your phone to control something. Perhaps it’s better if you play it that way, but I refuse to do that. Instead, I changed Lifeslide’s controls to touch and experienced what is a pretty dull flying game. If someone hops in the comments here as the Lifeslide defender, I might give it a chance using tilt controls, but until then, no thanks.


127. Lifelike

[img id="101700" alt=""]

Description:

Lifelike is an abstract game about flocking particles. You move an orb of light around flatly colored backgrounds until you reach spheres of particles that you move into to activate. From there, the particles move with you until you wander into a new set of particles. If that sounds weird, then I’m describing it well. Lifelike is weird.

Rank Explanation:

I’m not opposed to abstract games, but I literally fell asleep playing Lifelike. In piloting my little light around, I felt like I was wandering aimlessly to no end or purpose, waiting for something to happen, and what happened was I got bored. While this game is certainly pretty, there’s just precious little to Lifelike that makes it worth checking out.


128. Loud House: Outta Control

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Description:

Remember Flight Control? Well, Loud House: Outta Control is basically the same game, but it features locations and characters from Nickelodeon’s animated series, The Loud House. Characters wander onto the screen and you have to draw walking paths for them to reach specific objectives while making sure no one runs into each other. It’s a basic concept that can get complicated quickly.

Rank Explanation:

I have no familiarity with The Loud House, but I used to play a ton of Flight Control, and Outta Control feels like a bad knock-off version of a classic. Although this game tries to mix up the action with different kinds of levels, Outta Control feels weirdly imprecise for a game where you literally draw lines for characters to walk along. Even if you don’t have any intersecting paths, characters still seem quite easy to have run into each other, which immediately ends the level you’re on, leaving you no option but to try it again from the very beginning. It’s pretty frustrating and unimaginative from top to bottom.


129. Things That Go Bump

Description:

Imagine a fighting game where you have to build your character as you play. That’s kind of what Things That Go Bump is going for. You control a spirit that possesses household objects to build a body of sorts that you then use to battle other spirits doing the same thing. You do this in either a single-player wave-based "Horde Mode" or online up against up to three other players.

Rank Explanation:

There’s not a whole lot to Things That Go Bump’s combat, and it seems like a lot of other people agree. The online multiplayer for this game is a ghost town, leaving you only with the option to play the Horde Mode, which isn’t a whole lot of fun, either.


130. Operator 41

[img id="102124" alt=""]

Description:

Operator 41 is a stealth action game where each level involves moving your spy past guards to reach a telephone. Your character and guards move in real-time, so you need to time your movements carefully and take advantage of distractions to avoid getting caught.

Rank Explanation:

Operator 41’s stealth mechanics are not particularly innovative and the game itself exudes zero personality. You could play this game, but there’s nothing about it that makes you want to do so.


131. 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.

Update: It doesn’t seem like anyone is playing this game anymore, so it’s hard to have much to say about the new characters that have been added to the game or maintain much enthusiasm for it.


132. Secret Oops

[img id="103315" alt=""][img id="103316" alt=""]

Description:

This is essentially a spy-themed Lemmings game. Your special agent infiltrates buildings by blindly walking straight ahead toward his goals, and you have to look out for him by tapping cameras to shut them off, open doors for him, and reveal evidence for him to gather. Secret Oops is also largely designed around augmented reality, where you can move your phone or tablet around to get a better view of your agents actions and the obstacles that lay ahead.

Rank Explanation:

The idea of playing a game where I have to physically move my phone around to get a better view of the action is completely unappealing. Secret Oops gives you the option to play in a non-AR mode, but it’s virtually impossible to see and tap the things you need to tap while playing this way. Even if the game was more playable outside of the AR mode, Secret Oops would still feel pretty generic and unimpressive.

Update: Secret Oops needs to fix its non-AR mode before I’ll revisit it again. New levels, mechanics, etc. don’t mean much if it’s still asking me to play by goofily moving my phone around just to be able to see what’s happening.


133. Beyond Blue*

[img id="104467" alt=""]

Description:

Beyond Blue is an undersea adventure where you play as a diver named Mirai performing research and scanning wildlife activities in the ocean depths. While on dives, you explore a rich ecosystem full of marine life and between missions you have calls with other members of your research team and even family members, which is how the game tells most of its story.

Rank Explanation:

I’m intrigued by Beyond Blue, but it has so many technical problems and mobile unfriendly design choices that there’s really no reason to play it right now. In my time with the game, I played each of the first two dives twice and sat through the same interstitial conversation four times. The game is super buggy and can hard lock on you, and—even when things are working properly, the checkpointing is so bad that it’s really easy to lose progress.


134. Fallen Knight

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Description:

There’s not a whole lot I can say about Fallen Knight. It’s an action platformer. You run, you jump, you swing your sword at things. It’s about as simple as that.

Rank Explanation:

Part of the reason I can’t say much to describe Fallen Knight is because its controls feel so broken. The virtual buttons for the game don’t trigger until you release your finger from the screen. This isn’t so much the case if you play with a controller, but Fallen Knight’s timing windows are clearly tuned for touch. As a result, you have two extremely awkward methods for controlling this game, to the point that Fallen Knight is basically unplayable.

And that's it for all our rankings! Check back in as we add new titles and update old ones, or see below to jump to another page:

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