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All played out from Apple Arcade’s free trial? Then try these gems and get sucked back in again
Apple Arcade recently turned one and continues to grow. Yet despite being home to about 140 games, the service still only costs $5/£5 per month. And even if you’re not paying for Apple Arcade individually, you might soon have it anyway, because it’s part of Apple One.
This round-up picks our favorite titles that joined Apple Arcade this year, long after its debut. If you tried the free trial, but haven’t dipped in since, these are great titles you’ll be missing out on. And if you’ve yet to check out Apple Arcade but plan to sign up for Apple One, this selection will quickly get you to some of the best games Apple Arcade has to offer.
How to play Apple Arcade
Apple Arcade games are found in the Arcade section of the App Store. They are not streamed — you download them, which means they can be played without an internet connection (with the exception of a few online multiplayer titles). Progress syncs between all your Apple devices via iCloud.
Although all Apple Arcade games are playable on the touchscreen, some have controls geared toward traditional games controllers. If you end up very frequently playing such titles on Apple Arcade, invest in a physical controller — the best options are the DualShock ($60/£45) for iPad/Apple TV/Mac or the Razer Kishi ($100/£100) for iPhone.
Dungeon crawlers, where you hack your way through hordes of foes to reach an exit, tend to take themselves too seriously. Not Slash Quest! This game kicks off with its star looking after some sheep before chancing across a talking sword that urges you on a magical quest to save the Queendom.
With controls that amount to ‘rotate’ and ’run’, hero Shep dodders along, crashing into scenery. Even when you gain a modicum of control, this colorful, breezy adventure never ceases to raise a smile across its 12 varied levels, packed full of challenges, side quests, and massive bosses to battle.
A Monster’s Expedition
You might remember A Good Snowman, one of the finest puzzle games to grace Apple devices. A Monster’s Expedition finds the titular protagonist moving on from icy climes, instead exploring a world of tiny islands packed with trees and ‘human museum’ exhibits.
Monsters, it seems, have an interest — and decidedly unique take — on what makes humans tick. But also, they’re not fussed about trees, using them to make impromptu bridges between islands. Playing the monster, the trick is in knowing in which direction to fell the trees and where to roll them. It’s adorable stuff, and the game’s open-world nature means you can always head elsewhere if your monster gets stuck.
The Last Campfire
There’s a message of hope in this dazzling adventure. It begins with Ember, a creature who gets lost in a ‘place between places.’ Said locale’s inhabitants are The Folorn, downcast individuals in need of help.
By offering guidance and fixing problems, the next step on your own journey becomes clear. In explore mode, progress is geared towards discovery, but normal mode adds puzzles — lots and lots of puzzles.
When whisked away to geometric challenges shrouded in darkness, the game almost resembles Monument Valley, albeit without the Escher architecture. But this beautiful, moving experience is richer and deeper than that — a unique heartfelt tale that’s worth Apple Arcade’s entry fee on its own.
Described as a ‘world wiggling’ puzzler, Winding Worlds starts off with protagonist Willow finding a magical necklace and then abruptly finding herself transported to strange planetoids, all under the guidance of the mysterious cosmic Wurm.
You interact by swiping vertically to walk around each little world, and horizontally to manipulate it in some way — or occasionally using both gestures to arrange pieces of a bespoke puzzle. It’s a short tale — an hour or two and you’ll have seen everything it has to offer — but its charm, smarts and tactile nature make that a couple of hours well spent.
The creators of this game, Amanita Design, are best known for brain-smashing old-school point-and-tap puzzle adventures. Creaks, though, demands as much from your arcade sensibilities as your brainpower.
The game features a man who unwisely descends a massive ladder into the unknown, and finds himself in a world of deadly monsters. You must figure out how to get past these creatures, by manipulating them to do your bidding and luring them into the light. Constantly tense and featuring Amanita Design’s trademark visual flair, Creaks is a top-notch blend of puzzling and action.
In 1962, NASA had its sights set on the moon. Little Orpheus suggests the USSR headed the other way, digging deep into the Earth. The good news: there’s a lot down there. The bad news: it’s packed full of terrifying monsters and dangerous tribes.
The action plays out like Limbo, with you running rightward, making precision leaps, hiding from monsters, and occasionally manipulating the scenery to help you on your way. All this is backed with a grin-inducing soundtrack featuring the hero’s debrief. Early on, he’s asked: “You hid in an egg?” He replies that he did. “I’m glad to hear your military training was not wasted,” snarks the interrogator.
Legend of the Skyfish 2
We’re in Zelda territory here, in a top-down role-playing adventure with quite a lot of swordplay. You’re part of the Red Hook guardians, tasked with protecting the realm from evil. Only most of you have been wiped out, and so it’s quest time to find out what’s going on.
Beyond your sword, you’re armed with a ‘combat fishing pole,’ used to abruptly drag enemies closer, and to leap between islands. Along with a dodge and roll mechanic, these powers make for fast, exciting battles, while the visuals are a treat for your eyes during Skyfish’s quieter moments.
Crossy Road Castle
Bar the blocky characters, this Crossy Road title has little in common with its Frogger-inspired predecessor. Instead, it’s a side-on platformer, with you having to make your way to each level’s exit without getting horribly killed.
Two things set Crossy Road Castle apart from its contemporaries: pace and multiplayer. This is a fast game, giving you mere moments to grasp each challenge and figure out what you’re going to do. And if you’ve friends who’d like to join a local multiplayer match, the chaos is ramped up substantially as you all try to dart through each stage and reach the exit — while dressed up in very silly hats.
Sure, a certain Marvel character might have the arachnid-based superhero market cornered. But Spyder is surely the number-one spider-oriented clandestine operator on your screen.
Like a tiny eight-legged James Bond, Spyder scuttles across surfaces, using gadgets to slice through panels, flip switches and leap between objects like, well, a spider.
At first, the game disorients. Being spider-like, you can walk on any surface, and the camera has a tendency to lurch all over the place. But tread more carefully and you’ll soon get to grips with a game that lets you take on spying from a very different perspective.
No Way Home
Seemingly, Apple Arcade mandates that every game needs a story. That would seem an odd decision for a twin-stick shooter, but it works in No Way Home.
Your captain finds herself stranded in uncharted space, left only with her tiny craft and an annoying robot companion. She wants to get home, but that means finding someone who can point the way, and earning enough cash to do so.
Cue: lots of odd jobs, most of which involve heading somewhere and blowing up bad guys. The smart script, gentle difficulty curve and a procedural universe that semi-randomizes every game ensures you’ll have a blast with this one.