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25 best Apple Arcade games to make the most of your subscription

(Image credit: Simogo)

 A new month means new Apple Arcade games to check out. The last few months have been pretty kind to the service, and a few games we really enjoyed just barely missed this top 25 list. That speaks to the growing strength of Apple Arcade as a service. This month, there are several shake-ups to our countdown, though the top three has remained intact since day one. It's exciting to experiment with new games each month to see what may one day crack that final tier. This month didn't feature such a game in our minds, but it still had several great new games to play. Here's the latest top 25 best Apple Arcade games list. 

Apple Arcade Game of the Month: Little Orpheus

(Image credit: Chinese Room)

One of my favorite things about Apple Arcade, other than the variety of genres available with subscription, is when a familiar studio brings a new game to the service. That's exactly the case with this month's Apple Arcade Game of the month, Little Orpheus. It comes from The Chinese Room, the team most famous for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. While the latter title is maligned as less than its predecessor, I think both of those PC and console efforts share one thing in common with Apple Arcade's Little Orpheus: they all tell great stories that beg to be seen.

Little Orpheus is a cinematic platformer, with emphasis on the "cinematic." Using vibrant colors, this journey to the center of the earth tells a fantastical story that pops off the screen of any iPhone. The Chinese Room has really made art design a strong focus, and that comes through in every area of the game's roughly two-hour runtime.

In Little Orpheus, you play as Ivan Ivanovitch, a would-be Soviet cosmonaut who instead of reaching for the stars finds himself burrowing into the planet by way of his titular rocket. Three years later, he emerges from the depths and proclaims to have saved the world unbeknownst to its many residents. The game's in media res opening feels like the start of an adventurous Pixar movie, with the art style to match, and this quick and confident introduction is never let down by what unfolds thereafter.

(Image credit: Chinese Room)

The length of the game is ultimately a strength as well. Some mobile games are designed to be played forever, like the ever-addictive Grindstone from Capy. Little Orpheus is a one-off, but that's no knock on it. It carries the presentation of a bingeable series, with eight episodes all available for subscribers, each one taking Ivan deeper into a world we couldn't possibly believe is real. 

In Little Orpheus, the center of the earth is full of superstorms, dinosaurs, and Atlantean civilizations, assuming we can believe Ivan, which is the recurring dilemma of the story. The simplicity of the game's mechanics start and stop with move and jump, but the environments provide some depth by creating familiar platforming puzzles like vines to swing on, crumbling platforms to hurry across, and wind tunnels to carry you higher than you could in your repurposed space boots.

(Image credit: Chinese Room)

One helpful mechanic in the game is how it seems to hold you back from jumping too soon, preventing many would-be restarts. There are still fail states in the game, but they are infrequent thanks to this subtle way the game holds your hand. If I'm playing on the go and only have 20 minutes til my train stop, I appreciate that sort of assist. Little Orpheus is a sight to behold and a story to explore before it's a game to master, so the simplicity is forgivable. 

With his front-flipped hair and penchant for narrowly getting out of messes, Ivan comes off as a sort of sillier Nathan Drake, lacking the confidence of Naughty Dog's hero but still finding his own unique charm. For the whole story, you're not sure whether Ivan is retelling a wild true story or making things up as he goes along, and his Soviet interviewer implies Ivan's reputation is less than sterling. It makes for an enjoyable and decisively family-friendly take on the cinematic platformer which is often dominated by darker tales like Limbo and Little Nightmares.

(Image credit: Chinese Room)

Joining the story and visuals in presenting an especially cinematic mobile game is the audio design. Little Orpheus opens with a recommendation for headphones, and I second that motion. I never played it without them and wouldn't want to. The sound in the game is full of life and nuance, from the ambient creature noises of the earth's core to a sweeping musical score and better-than-you-might-expect voice acting, Little Orpheus is just the latest example of how far mobile gaming has come.

If it's a deep gameplay experience you're looking for, there are far better options in Apple Arcade today. But few clear the cinematic high bar set by Little Orpheus, and for that reason it's an easy recommendation for all subscribers looking for an adventure like no other on the service.

Turn to the next page to find our rundown of the best Apple Arcade games...