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Apple Arcade: Ranked - Top 25 [Updated 8.10]

Posted by Campbell Bird on August 10th, 2020

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

Patch Notes:

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

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

Game ranking updates for 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 8.10]

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 29th, 2020

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

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


26. 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.


27. 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.

Apple Arcade: Ranked - 51-75 [Updated 8.10]

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. 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.


52. 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.


53. 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.


54. 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.

Apple Arcade: Ranked - 76-100 [Updated 8.10]

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. 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.


77. Yaga The Roleplaying Folktale

Description:

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

Rank Explanation:

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

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

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.


78. INMOST (UPDATE)

[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.


79. 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.


80. 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.

Apple Arcade: Ranked - 101+ [Updated 8.10]

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 Towers of Everland

[img id="105091" alt=""]

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.


102. 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.


103. Super Mega Mini Party

[img id="101614" alt=""]

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.


104. 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.