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By adding iconic titles and traditional favorites, Apple Arcade is now playing a different game
When Apple Arcade first arrived, the premise was a subscription-based games service for iPhone and iPad, with a regularly updated catalog packed full of new titles that were exclusive to mobile. But earlier this year, Apple pivoted, adding dozens of classic mobile games too.
This article outlines what happened, digs into the new Apple Arcade categories and what they mean for the service as a whole, and recommends ten classic titles to try.
Apple Arcade costs $5/£5 per month, or comes included as part of Apple One.
Where can you find the classics on Apple Arcade?
In the App Store’s Arcade tab, Apple arranges its games by various categories and genres. But scroll down to the collections section and you’ll see Timeless Classics and App Store Greats – which is where most classic games are found.
Timeless Classics houses titles that are traditional board and card games like chess and mahjong, or cleverly updated takes, like Zach Gage’s SpellTower (word search meets Tetris).
App Store Greats essentially takes a bunch of titles from the App Store, slaps a + on their name, updates the icon, rips out the IAP/ads, and serves them up as part of the subscription.
Arcade Originals, slightly dubiously, also houses some classic titles. For the most part, they’ve received some spruced-up visuals or extra content – think of them like a movie remaster or a director’s cut.
Why does adding classics matter to Apple Arcade?
We’re obviously not party to Apple’s discussions about Apple Arcade, but we have tracked ongoing public feedback about the service. Quite soon after a positive launch, there were (arguably unfair) grumbles regarding the service’s value proposition. The selection was too small, apparently, and lacked enough recognizable titles.
In bundling classics, Apple rapidly boosts the catalog, a little like how Netflix augments its original programming with much-loved dramas and sitcoms. With Apple Arcade, you also get the benefit of IAP and advertising being stripped from classic games, and the addition of cross-device progress sync.
What’s Apple Arcade’s future?
The question is where this pivot leaves Apple Arcade. Initially, it was a place that brought flashy exclusives to mobile – games you’d later only be able to pick up on Nintendo Switch or a PC. Sometimes, it also offered a playground – a place where game creators could experiment, free from the concerns of having to appeal to a wide market.
Reports in 2020 claimed Apple was concerned about player engagement and retention, however, and so many recent additions have notably tended toward replayable games that work in bite-sized fashion – distinctly mobile fare, rather than trying to put a console or arty games in your hands.
The net result seems more balanced – but less ambitious. How it will stack up over the long term against Microsoft xCloud and other services streaming console titles remains to be seen. For now, though, we reckon if you want a mobile-centric gaming service that offers immediacy and fun, Apple Arcade is a must.
What classic games should you try first?
There are already dozens of classics in Apple Arcade. Here are the ones we think you should start with.
Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City: Explore a desert and find the mysterious lost city in this hypnotic one-thumb endless runner.
Badland+: Traverse and survive a suspiciously deadly horizontally scrolling forest in this fast-paced one-thumb arcade test.
Blek+: Draw living calligraphy that moves and wiggles across the screen, attempting to grab colored circles along the way – but avoid the black holes!
INKS+: Smash paint-filled targets that explode across the canvas in this mash-up of simple pinball tables and modern art.
Leo’s Fortune+: Tackle Sonic-style loops and Mario-oriented precision leaping in a gorgeous platform game that features an endearingly gruff mustachioed hero.
Mini Metro+: Manage a subway by drawing routes across living maps. Gorgeous visuals draw you in, but the range of modes keeps you for the duration.
Monument Valley+: Help princess Ida uncover the secret at the heart of her world of impossible Escher architecture, in this iconic mobile classic.
SpellTower+: Pick words from a grid of letters. When tiles are removed, those above tumble, in what you soon realize is a superb mix of word search and Tetris.
Super Stickman Golf 3+: Get your ball to the hole in this surreal, oddball side-on golf game featuring madcap courses and bonkers power-ups. An absurdist multiplayer race mode adds to the chaos.
Threes+: Merge numbered cards to reach ever higher numbers, in a mobile-first puzzler that was ruthlessly and repeatedly cloned – but never bettered.
Looking for even more Arcade recommendations? Here’s our pick of ten of the best original titles.