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Gaming

Apple Arcade is quietly one of the best things to ever happen to mobile gaming

As mobile phones have evolved from indestructible, Nokia-shaped bricks to pocket-sized powerful pieces of magic, mobile games have come of age with them. Playing the likes of Temple Run or Fruit Ninja used to be a fun way to pass time on the commute to school or work, before sneaking off to play Bloons Tower Defense on your lunch break. Navigating the App Store is now a chore to work your way through a myriad of mid-games, most of which use annoying pop-up ads or invasive monetization tactics. It is what it is.

Do you have a classic FF itch? Fantasian – from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his studio Mistwalker – will do the trick.

All that in mind, there are still quite a few games on the App Store worth checking out, and launching apple arcade took a big step in 2019 in compiling the best of the best. For a small subscription fee (£5 a month), Apple Arcade gives me access to a separate section of the App Store, a section of ad-free games – many of them of impeccable quality – and a number of titles that I was pleasantly surprised to see.

You can also play these games on your Apple TV, or with a real controller you have lying around. Mobile gaming is no longer limited to these devices, but simply acts as a tool to help people create their own gaming experiences; while ignoring the many gacha clones, mobile gaming is something more of us should be excited about. Apple Arcade is an important step in reshaping the image of mobile games.


A player in a diaroma environment in Fantasian
Seriously, check out Fantasian..

It’s a shame that good games are once again locked behind a subscription service, but – as a side note – don’t feel like you have to commit. There is a one month free trial to see which games are itching, and many of them can be purchased separately from the App Store afterwards. This means if you find that you can’t place like Survive Z or Sayonara wild hearts down but don’t feel like paying a monthly subscription fee for them, you can just buy them from the App Store and have access to them forever.

Rather than seeing Apple Arcade as just another subscription to add to a long list of services alongside Netflix, Amazon Prime, PS+, Game Pass, HBO Max, and more, I think of it as a temporary means of discovering new games. And oh boy, I’ve discovered (and rediscovered!) so many great mobile games

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Sayonara Wild Hearts is just one of the essential games on Apple Arcade.

From the ever-expanding library of Apple Arcade games, quality is rarely compromised in favor of a monetization strategy, and these games are truly a joy to experience. In the catalog you’ll find rejuvenated versions of timeless classics (there’s a reason why I Run Temple and Fruit Ninja earlier). Still, you’ll also find games from other platforms that are easily accessible from your phone or iPad, such as Goat Simulator+, Dead Cells+even Football Manager 2023 Touch. Some of these have obviously been tweaked to better support the mobile platform, as you’d expect, but they’re still full-fledged experiences!

In addition to familiar names, there are a dozen Apple Arcade originals that are simply a joy to dive into. After getting burned out on big games, I spent the Christmas season playing Apple Arcade (or Civilization 6) while trying to find the next niche title to revive me from my couch and lure me back to my PC. With Apple Arcade hosting so many different indie titles, it was exciting to move from one game to the next, almost not knowing what mobile-sized adventure I would find myself in. Mutation let me garden while unraveling the stories of local townspeople, Sayonara wild hearts made me ride and dance rhythmically, NUTS had me engaged in squirrel surveillance in the midst of a mysterious plot.


In What the Golf, a golfer is flung across the golf course in an ice cube
What the Gulf? is exactly the kind of lite-sport mayhem you’d expect from Everybody’s Golf (back in the day).

I spent time with games I’d probably drop by on Steam or the Nintendo Switch store just because I could access them for free (or at least, what felt like a minimum price considering how much I was playing). Apple Arcade not only makes big names accessible to those who don’t necessarily have access to consoles or a PC yet, but it also shines a light on smaller, more whimsical titles. I never got around to playing puzzle sim with wildlife, NUTSor engaged in the chaos of What the Gulf? without having signed in to Apple Arcade. Okay, maybe I played What the Gulf? At some point, but still.

After my brief period of burnout, Apple Arcade definitely helped me find a love for games again, without often feeling like I was playing a game. That’s the beauty and the curse of mobile gaming; it feels effortless, meaning you could easily spend hours and hours feeding the Apple Arcade vampire too. At a time when searching the App Store for a decent mobile game feels endless and fruitless, Apple Arcade curates some of the most interesting titles available. Sure, it’s all in Apple’s favor, but I can’t deny that I feel like I’ve benefited from the service too. Right? Right!?


If you’re still not sure which games to try first, I’ve also put together a list of the best Apple Arcade games for you to try!

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