25. Reigns: Beyond
Following the massive success of Reigns, the strategy game that puts players in the role of ruling monarchs making the tough choices, there was nowhere to go for the series except taking it to outer space as a punk rock band performing for aliens, right? As silly as that transition may seem, it works! That's because Reigns' addicting gameplay returns to prove that whether by throne or space-guitar, the fast-paced decision-making element is a hit that spans time and space. Just make sure to keep your alien crew happy or else you'll be a few roadies short of a spaceship-loading team.
24. Beyond a Steel Sky
Genre: Point and click adventure
Certain players may want to see Beyond a Steel Sky higher on this list. As the surprise sequel to the 1994 PC game, Beneath a Steel Sky, Beyond seems as impossibly built as it is remarkably realized. With third-person over-the-shoulder puzzling and adventuring, Beyond a Steel Sky presents itself like a Telltale game in a cyberpunk world, which is truly a tantalizing mix to play on the go. Nostalgia would likely help, as I'm without it myself having missed the original due to… being in kindergarten. But regardless, it captured me completely.
23. Where Cards Fall
Alto's Odyssey developer Snowman makes a strong introduction on Apple Arcade with its most ambitious title to date. Where Cards Fall is a beautiful exploration of adolescence, all told through an array of spatial puzzles and serene flashbacks to a life half lived. Where Cards Fall has you building pathways through dreamlike environments with stacks of cards; it's intuitive and imaginative, a game that tests your capacity for strategic thought as much as it does your ability to flow with dynamic puzzles. It's relaxing and challenging in equal measure, the type of game built for those times where you just want to get headphones on and shut yourself out from the noise of the world for a little.
22. Rayman Mini
Maybe Super Mario Run didn’t do it for you, or made you loved it so much that you want more games like it. In either case, you should download Rayman Mini. It’s Ubisoft’s take on the auto-runner genre and it shines thanks to its way of continuing the Ray-naissance that began with Rayman Legends on consoles half a decade ago. Rayman Mini brings back the same UbiArt design (even if the publisher stopped using the name) and packs in a ton of mechanics into what you would think needs to be pretty simple. Dashing, gliding, and somping through levels is seamless, and each level has such a brief runtime, it’s got a ton of time-killer potential for whenever you need to lose a few minutes to gaming.
21. The College Atlas
Recently, Apple started highlighting upcoming Apple Arcade games with a slick looking Coming Soon panel in the app, and before The Collage Atlas arrived and all I could see was its picture, I had no clue what to expect. It looks like someone's sketchbook, which is striking, but what would the game be like, I wondered. Turns out it's a great and totally meditative adventure game that feels designed to put your mind in a state of contentment and rest. Just what we need these days, right?
20. The Last Campfire
"The next game from the team behind No Man's Sky" has some heavy connotations, for better or worse. At launch, NMS was a disappointment to many. Today it's something much grander and successful. But in either light, The Last Campfire had a tough act to follow. So it's a treat to see the team find success once more with the very different The Last Campfire. Developed by just three people on the Hello Games team, this isn't the next great epic from Sean Murray's confounding studio but it manages to celebrate its own unique sense of spectacle.
19. Lego Builder's Journey
Don’t be fooled by the branding; Lego Builder’s Journey is nothing like the Lego games we’ve all worn out of over the last two 15 years. Instead, it’s a smartphone- and tablet-ready puzzler dressed up in natural colors, subtle soundscapes, and a quaint mood. In that way, it’s actually the exact opposite of the Lego games we’re all used to. This 3D puzzle game asks you to complete a scene by guiding a small child-like Lego figure – not a minifig, mind you – to his father who waits elsewhere in the scene. Often that means building bridges and other pathways from loose bricks, and as the game goes on, these answers get more and more difficult. The quiet mood mixes perfectly with the tactile Lego building mechanics to bring you that classic Lego-building zen state.
18. Dear Reader
We think there’s room for two-word puzzle games in this top 25, so long as they’re both noteworthy, and that’s why Dear Reader has cracked the list as well. It’s a more intricate take on wordplay, too, if Word Laces is too simplistic in its approach. Dear Reader gives you pages of famous books like Moby Dick and Pride & Prejudice and moves words to the wrong places, then asks you to clean up the errors like a trusted editor. There’s a lot of sneaky enjoyment to be had in reading these often older texts and trying to decode them, knowing fully well that the prose can often sound confusing at times. It’s not the same as reading the books themselves, of course, as they jump around a lot, but you’d be surprised how much you get out of working through each story’s scrambled plot.
17. A Fold Apart
A Fold Apart is maybe the most tear-jerking of all games in Apple Arcade right now, and that's a quality I appreciate more than most. It also tells a story of long-distance love, which is how my wife and I got our start, but I promise, your partner needn't be 3,000 miles away for you to appreciate the puzzle adventure of A Fold Apart. With customizable characters and a heartfelt story at its center, it's a game that runs as long as a movie and sits with you long after like a sad song. I mean that in the best way.
16. Little Orpheus
Little Orpheus was selected as our August 2020 Apple Arcade Game of the Month because though it doesn't wow you with deep mechanics, everything it sets out to achieve as a cinematic platformer is achieved. From Hollywood-quality sound design to some truly striking visuals, to its lovable characters sharing a story well worth unravelling across its eight episodes, Little Orpheus is a unique submission to the Apple Arcade library. For that reason, it's also one of our favorites.
15. Jenny LeClue
Make way for CSI: Cuteness. Don't be fooled by the adorable illustrated style of this adventure game, it's packed with mystery and mechanics that are worth the price of Apple Arcade admission all on their own. Miss LeClue is a young girl with a taste for investigating, and that means a mix of searching crime scenes, interviewing suspects and witnesses – using Sherlock Holmes-style observations to tease out information – and making deductions. The cosy world of the game is packed with interesting characters, like conspiracy theorist CJ, and there's a knowing humour to the whole thing that will remind you of great adventure games of yore like The Curse of Monkey Island.
14. Crossy Road Castle
We spoke earlier of how Frogger reinvented itself for Apple Arcade in the face of Crossy Road overtaking it on the App Store, but we have to give credit where it's due: now Crossy Road has also reinvented itself for Apple Arcade. Crossy Road Castles is totally unlike the original game, but it keeps the blend of characters of pixel and voxel art. Now it's a platformer, and in our opinion the best on the platform. With procedurally generated dungeons and an addictive scoring system, it's a game that feels fresh and demands more every time you run through a few levels. It's got a sensible difficulty curve too, introducing new mechanics smartly even with its unpredictable levels. Platforming rarely feels this good on touch screens, and it's all thanks to simple and effective controls and just the right floatiness to each unlockable character.
13. Pac-Man Party Royale
It was only a matter of time until battle royale came to Pac-Man, right? Okay, maybe the connective thread isn’t so obvious, but you may be surprised to hear just how well it works. Each round of Pac-Man Party Royale (PCPR) begins on the same kind of level any fan of the series would be used to. The game becomes an endurance race to see who can stay alive the longest. When you’re eliminated by the game’s ghosts, you join their ranks, while surviving pac-people can chase elusive abilities which grant them some clutch powers. Likely by design, it feels a lot like those moments in PUBG or Fortnite when you narrowly beat your opponent to the best weapon in the room. As a match goes on, the glitch (storm) slowly closes in, forcing conflict just like the genre greats. It’s a mash-up we never knew we wanted.
12. 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.
11. Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows
Genre: Text adventure
Before I 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.
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.
9. 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.
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.
I have to admit that every time I see RPG as a mobile game genre, I am skeptical. That’s because I had never found one that feels deep enough to keep me engaged. That was until I found Yaga. 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.
I'm going to hit you with the elevator pitch and you should know in an instant whether this is for you or not: 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. Mutazione is 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.
5. 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 I'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.
3. 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.
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.