25. Zen Pinball Party
You may already know Zen Pinball by name, and even if you don't, its name makes it pretty obvious what you're getting here. It's classic pinball gameplay, featuring no paid-for tables. Instead, you get 12 of the game's licensed tables all bundled into one, including Trolls, How To Train Your Dragon, and originals like a western-themed table. Pinball has a sort of universal appeal, like Tetris further down this list, and in Apple Arcade, you won't be pressured to insert any extra coins.
24. Ultimate Rivals: The Court
Whenever you play a game traditionally ad-supported but in Apple Arcade instead, it really makes it so much better. Turn-based, party-based RPGs are a dime a dozen in the App Store, but Star Trek Legends is the first of its kind to hit Apple Arcade, meaning it includes all the classic genre elements, like building out and upgrading your crew of heroes, but without any of the timers, paid currencies, or ads getting in the way.
23. The Oregon Trail
For many players of a certain age, The Oregon Trail is the first video game they ever played, and over the years the series has been rebooted more than Batman's cinematic efforts, so it's heartening to find one of the best versions of the game is now available in Apple Arcade. With many of the same strategy and survival elements you remember dressed up in modernity with new story and characterization depth, The Oregon Trail on Apple Arcade is the best way to introduce the game to new players.
22. Next Stop Nowhere
All you really need to know about Next Stop Nowhere is it's the latest game from Night School Studio, the team behind indie hits Oxenfree and Afterparty. While the former offered a Stranger Things-like supernatural story and the latter literally took players on a bar crawl through hell, Next Stop Nowhere returns many of the beloved mechanics Night School is known for but moves them to outer space. It tells the story of two passing strangers who become wrapped up in a solar system-spanning adventure to reunite family and dodge shady criminals and law enforcement along the way. With all the superbly written dialogue and intuitive systems dispensing it all once more as Night School has done before, Next Stop Nowhere makes a strong argument to be your next download.
21. Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows
Genre: Text adventure
Before we played it, there were reasons to be skeptical of this Game of Thrones tie-in. The finale of the HBO show left a bad taste in many mouths and licensed games aren't always a promising sign of quality. But there were reasons for optimism too, like how Tale of Crows is published by Devolver, a surefire eye for talent. Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows proves to be a perfect fit for Apple Arcade. Its idle-like, text-heavy delivery means it can be played on your own terms, or you can turn on notifications to jump back in whenever the story has progressed based on your countless tough decisions. If you've wanted to learn more about The Night's Watch before Jon Snow showed up, this is your chance to live it.
20. Legends of Kingdom Rush
Genre: Turn-based RPG
On paper, there's nothing that Legends of Kingdom Rush seems to do uniquely. Even it's name is a mish-mash of mobile game buzzwords, making it hard to remember. But the cartoon art style and familiar and fast turn-based RPG gameplay manages to overcome the game's rote parts and provide for a very entertaining party-based RPG. With heroes spanning the classic archetypes like a warrior, archer, mage, and more, Legends of Kingdom Rush's familiarity breeds a certain coziness that makes up for its tropes.
19. NBA 2K22
Sports sims on mobile can be an up and down affair, but NBA 2K22 is perhaps the best of them all. On the court, it plays so much like the console game that, with a controller in hand, you'd not miss a beat moving from one to the other. Off the court, MyTeam fans may miss this MTX-heavy mode, as it's not allowed in Apple Arcade, but with a light story mode and Franchise options, it's still a genuine NBA 2K22 experience built for old and new fans to appreciate.
If Solitaire is playing cards alone, Wurdweb is playing Scrabble alone. Players will be given words to place on their board and can do so horizontally or vertically, creating their own crossword from scratch step by step, only instead of facing off against another player for the most points, you're trying to maximize each move's potential to get the highest score while avoiding boxing yourself into a corner you can't get out from.
17. Chameleon Run+
The new App Store Classics section of Apple Arcade has helped anyone late to iOS gaming discover what we've been missing for the last decade, and you can enjoy the same perks, like with Chameleon Run+, without ads. This auto-runner has some of the most enjoyable platforming in the entire service, offering players dozens of levels with irresistible challenges that really make it feel like just beating each level is merely the beginning.
16. Tiny Crossword+
Here's an Apple Arcade cheat code: as of April 2021, when you see the plus sign, it signifies a game that used to contain in-game purchases and ads and now, wonderfully, no longer does. Several were added to the library recently, but Tiny Crossword is one of the best of them. If you love crosswords, this is my favorite on mobile, with challenging but not usually too brainy solutions, making it a great pick for when you're in line for coffee, on your lunch break, or disobeying your doctor's orders and playing on your phone in bed.
A post-apocalyptic road trip from Finji, the studio behind influential endless runner Canabalt and publisher of Night in the Woods. Overland is a turn-based strategy game at its core, where your task is to ensure the survival of a small group of travellers against an array of otherworldly threats. Overland gives you a fair amount of space to define the parameters of your own adventure, leaving you free to decide how to proceed through each and every disastrous scenario that you stumble into. Leveraging your need to search for supplies and navigate routes to safety, with the desire to save other stranded survivors, Overland is a smartly structured strategy game that you'll find yourself coming back to time and time again.
14. Tetris Beat
Tetris is a game as timeless as any, and yet it's been reinvented perhaps more than any. While Tetris has had music-based games before, Tetris Beat offers a new look at the concept with some really great alternate playing modes that should keep all sorts of Tetris players interested. Our favorite is Tap mode, which previews two spots where you might want to place your next block, and then you simply tap the spot where you want it to go. It's like playing Tetris with an AI assistant, all to the beat of cool music. It's a great casual experience.
13. Lego Star Wars Battles
Like turn-based RPGs, the RTS genre makes up a huge portion of the regular App Store offerings, but they can be run into the ground with faulty economies and pay-to-win tactics. Lego Star Wars Battles offers all the thrill of the genre without any paying to win. Deck-building is spread across both the Light and Dark side, so you'll need to maintain both ends of The Force to compete in the game's challenging PvP circuit, but when it all comes together and you do away with an opponent's base for good, it feels so good, you'd think it's a Jedi mind trick.
12. The Pathless
The words "published by Annapurna Interactive" are today's surest sign of a good time. The publisher simply knows how to pick 'em, and The Pathless is no exception. The stylish action, sorta-parkourish game comes from Giant Squid, the team that developed the uber-tranquil Abzu, which was often called Underwater Journey. The Pathless shares some of those same traits too, but it's a much more action-packed game than you might expect if you're browsing the team's bio. As a Hunter, your archer skills are put to the ultimate test in a battle of good and evil that transpires as speedy, semi-open levels where you dash around and solve puzzles. It's equal parts Journey and Vanquish, in a mash-up you maybe never knew you needed.
11. SongPop Party
We first discovered SongPop earlier this year in the App Store, and not long after, SongPop Party came to Apple Arcade, bringing with it the best of this multiplayer music trivia game to one of our favorite gaming subscriptions. Think of it as Name That Tune in a live multiplayer setting, though there are solo modes too if you prefer to test your skills against the AI. The breadth of music and genres in SongPop Party is its best feat, and we've been having a blast defeating our friends all month in the horror movie theme song playlist.
10. Angry Birds Reloaded
Angry Birds was the first real breakout hit of the smartphone gaming era, and more than a decade after its debut, the original has been remastered and slightly updated for a new audience. After just a few minutes, it's clear why this game was such a titan in its day, and if recent spinoffs with their ads and MTX have steered you away, take comfort in this much more welcoming total package. This one still holds up mightily, and if you were too young to catch it years ago, don't miss it any longer.
It's easy enough to forget, but before Capybara Games helped change the landscape of mobile adventure games with Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP in 2011, the studio was known for developing puzzle games. In many ways, then, Grindstone - a smartly conceived and expertly executed game of sword slashing puzzle battles - sees Capy returning to its roots. It's bright, colourful, and difficult to walk away from, which is exactly what you want from a game such as this. Grindstone also comes complete with an intuitive crafting system, a delightful progression structure, and over 150 levels designed to test your capacity for unleashing monster-hit combos and crashing through increasingly challenging stages. Grindstone is designed for commutes, but it'll have your attention whenever you find yourself with a little downtime.
This folklorish 2D tale combines beautiful art, intelligent controls, and a fully voiced, branching story to make one of the platform’s best examples of a role-playing game I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t take itself too seriously with its humorous tone, but when it comes to gameplay, it actually feels robust. That’s so rare in this space that it’s immediately obvious Yaga is different. It’s special. For those most skeptical of whether mobile gaming can scratch a console/PC itch, try Yaga first.
Mutazione is a mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural, a super chill game about raising plants and embarking on spiritual journeys after the end of the world. It's a weird adventure game that's quite unlike anything else in the Apple Arcade library. Its style is its own, a lush, hand-illustrated world full of interesting folks that you'll be desperate to get to know. Plant gardens to create relaxing musical soundscapes, and, when you're ready, embark on a story full of twists and turns. Mutazione is serene, in its own little way.
6. South of the Circle
This list has been receiving updates for a year now, and it takes a lot to break into the top five. The top three have actually never changed. South of the Circle doesn't smash through that invisible wall, but it does manage to round out the top five with a good chance to stay there for a long time. This dramatic adventure game offers Hollywood production disassembled into a point and click game that tells a mature story unlike anything else you can play on Apple Arcade. It's not just one of the best Apple Arcade games, it may be the best mobile-exclusive game we've ever played.
Nobody ever asked for Peggle to be made into a dungeon crawler, but maybe we should've demanded it years ago. As it turns out, that's exactly what Roundguard is, and trust us, it's brilliant. Built with the same mechanics of PopCap's beloved pinballish puzzler but with a level of depth you likely never thought lacking, Roundguard is the Peggle disciple the world deserves. It's on consoles and PC too, but it feels most at home on iOS as the kind of versatile game that is excellent in short bursts or extended sessions in equal measure. If you missed it, check out our Apple Arcade Game of the Month feature for an extended look at what makes Roundguard amazing.
4. Neo Cab
Not that we’re handing out any uber-specific awards in this lineup, but if we were, Neo Cab would win the poignancy award. It tells the story of a rideshare driver in the near-future where automation has nearly taken over the industry once and for all, which is the publicly stated goal of companies like Lyft and Uber today, mind you. As you ride around the neon-lit town, you learn about each passenger, and you learn even more about yourself. The game demands we confront questions about who we will be in the jobless future we’re barreling toward, and it demands we not forget to look out for one another not just when that day comes, but today too. And yes, “uber-specific” was totally an intended pun.
3. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
Most games that want you to feel empowered do so by use of huge guns, magical powers, or a physics-defying double jump, but Alba takes a totally different route. Cast as a young girl with a heart the size of her home island and a smartphone camera, players embark on a Pokemon Snap-like quest to document wildlife, protect the environment, and eventually find themselves imbued with a call to action that is genuinely stirring and sweet in equal measure. Alba is the feel-good game you're looking for, and it'll leave you ready to help change the world when you're through with it.
2. What The Golf?
In a list of 25 games, there’s got to be at least one that we can hardly explain, right? Meet What The Golf? This is that game. If you don’t like golf, don’t worry. It’s just barely a golf game. Really it’s a puzzler that demands you get an object to a goal. Yes, early on that means a golf ball into a hole, but that familiarity quickly vanishes and is replaced by some of the most outlandish and unpredictable level design you’ll see all year, if not all generation. It’s also packed with homages to other games, like Super Mario, Flappy Bird, and so many more. We wouldn’t want to spoil all the fun, so just trust us. Golf fan or not, give it a try.
1. Sayonara Wild Hearts
Simogo made a name for itself as one of the most ambitious and inventive mobile developers, thanks to its work on titles like Year Walk, Device 6, and SPL-T. Unsurprisingly, the studio is back and better than ever; Sayonara Wild Hearts is an interactive music video, a vibrant cacophony of high-octane races and dance-battle action. It's overtly stylish in its design and subtly stunning in its execution of a drama – of breaking your heart at a 100mph. This is a game that is, frankly, out of this world. Sayonara is the sort of game that you'll be able to get through across both ends of your commute, but come back to replay day-after-day. The self-described "pop album video game" isn’t just the best Apple Arcade game. It’s one of the best games of the year. Period.