In recent times, mobile gaming has not really been an exciting proposition. The biggest releases are glorified slot machines chock full of the worst monetization techniques. Releasing a premium game on mobile is the same as airing a TV show on public access television. Apple knows this, and it has worked with some of the best indie developers and publishers to try to turn the tides. Enter Apple Arcade, a $5 a month subscription service that gives all you can eat access to a huge array of quality titles on all your Apple devices. Looking through the launch lineup, there’s plenty to get excited about. You have the return of old favorites, new sequels in established franchises, and the next games from beloved developers. It’s quite a challenge for someone who wants to play everything, so where do you begin? Surveying what’s available, there are a handful of hidden gems in the Apple Arcade launch games sure to please players of all stripes.
Best Apple Arcade Launch Games | Stunning sequels
Whenever you have a huge pile of media premiering all at once, attention tends to shift towards the familiar. Indeed, Apple Arcade provides several titles that fans may recognize from other platforms. Devolver Digital has Exit the Gungeon, the game that picks up exactly where Enter the Gungeon leaves off. This bullet hell dungeon climber sees the characters from the original taking on more bullet bosses in order to escape. Despite the change in gameplay, Exit captures everything special about the Gungeon and its many explosive inhabitants.
If arcade classics are more your thing, big publishers are bringing back their old quarter munchers in new incarnations. Konami has Frogger in Toy Town, a new entry in the classic top-down platformer that has you navigating your hopping hero through novel Levelord-esque environments. Down the line, Sega will bring back a Dreamcast favorite with a new ChuChu Rocket! The literal cat and mouse game is more centered around a single-player puzzle experience this time, but the novelty of the original is seemingly alive and well in this new entry.
Best Apple Arcade Launch Games | Long-awaited debuts
It’s not just old names coming back from the past. Apple Arcade has also become the home of many long in development indie titles. Anticipation for Overland started back in 2016 when it was the poster child for itch.io’s First Access program. It’s a turn-based survival game from Finji, the developer of Canabalt and publisher of Night in the Woods. Three years after the open development began, the unique procedural strategy game will release on phones as well as PC and consoles. Playing on iPhone isn’t ideal, as you just can’t capture the little details of Finji’s minimal style but if you can check it out, it’s well worth your time.
There’s also Hot Lava, a new game from Klei, the people you might know from Don’t Starve and Griftlands. In a break from most of the rest of its catalog, Hot Lava is a first-person platforming game with racing mechanics and a Saturday morning vibe. Klei originally announced the game back in 2016 and briefly released it into Early Access on Steam back in 2018. The best part about the game’s long gestation is the cartoon trailers the developer trickles out. Drawn in Klei’s signature style, everything comes together in a beautifully over the top fashion.
And of course, there is Sayonara Wild Hearts, which released to rave reviews on other platforms. It’s got a simple control scheme and minimalist art style, meaning that it will probably still transfer its best elements quite well to a mobile screen, if that is where you choose to play it.
Best Apple Arcade Launch Games | Subscription sellers
But those are all the known quantities and big titles. What if you want to play something that’s brand new for Apple Arcade? What exclusive games will have you keeping up your $5 a month? Dead End Job is one of those games. Much like the recently released UnderMine, this top-down roguelike captures a lot of what makes classics like The Binding of Isaac so memorable. It’s got a colorful ’90s Nickelodeon aesthetic to back up the intriguing gameplay, and it’ll probably hook a lot of people on that alone.
From the fine folks at Capy, Grindstone is a puzzle game all about Viking murder. You play as a cartoonishly muscular barbarian trying to string together the most kills in a row from a grid of unwilling victims. Not just a simple match-three game, Grindstone takes advantage of its mobile roots while also feeling like a fully fleshed out murder puzzle. You can customize your character, take advantage of unique mechanics on every screen, and even fight bosses. It’s a welcome return to form after the slight misstep that was Below and worth playing between, say, writing paragraphs about the great games in Apple Arcade, for example.
That’s Apple Arcade on launch day. Considering how shaky Apple is with gaming, it’s an impressive showing that promises to get better as time goes on. Better yet, Apple seems to be open to letting developers release on other platforms outside of the mobile sphere if they so choose. In that way, even if you don’t regularly have access to an Apple device, you still win. Developers get that sweet cheddar, players get great games, and studios live to create more unique passion projects. Here’s hoping that there are even more surprises from this arcade in the weeks and months ahead.