5 great Apple Arcade games that are actually a good fit for your phone
Woah, there is a lot of quality here.
Apple Arcade launched last week and say what you will about the platform itself, there are actually a ton of great games here from Annapurna’s Sayonara Wild Hearts to Finji’s Overland. That said, Apple Arcade technically launched, but it’s actually only available on iPhones running iOS 13 right now.
Yes, Apple’s game streaming platform marketed as a way to play games on every Apple platform you own from Apple TV to desktop computers only works on phones right now. So while I’d love to play Exit the Gungeon, I really don’t want to play it on my phone. The same goes for lots of the Apple Arcade titles: They’re great games, but I would much rather have a controller in my hand for them.
So what is a good fit for iPhones while still being an excellent game? I’m glad you asked. I haven’t played all of Apple Arcade’s titles yet (there are over 100 already), but I combed through a bunch and I picked out three of the best to get you started. Be warned, however: These are all excellent games and any one of them could become the one game you play on your phone from now on.
Grindstone is how I know Apple intentionally kept the full roster of their games secret, knowing social media would blow up on launch day once the whole list came out. Grindstone is a puzzle game by Capybara Games, one of my all-time favorite studios and the authors of great games like Below and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.
Grindstone follows in the footsteps of mobile classic (oh god it’s been long enough that there are classic titles on mobile) Puzzle Craft, a game about drawing long paths through disparate tiles to harvest resources and clear the level. The similarities end there, however, because in Grindstone you’re slicing through hordes of little goblin-like creatures in between you and the top of a mountain.
The title is instantly familiar, immediately satisfying, and it’s completely turn-based, so it’s easy to play while distracted, standing in line, or any of the other circumstances where you’re playing phone games.
Card of Darkness
I’ll play everything Zach Gage works on, let’s be real. How do you get more on board, starting from that and then learning that Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward is on board? Oh, also it’s a roguelike with cards. Jesus, just put all of my kryptonite in one place.
In Card of Darkness, you’re trying to get from the bottom of the screen to one specific column at the top. The top card of each space adjacent to one you’ve cleared is revealed and those cards can be monsters, weapons, health recovery, gold, and more. You take one card at a time, one turn at a time. Do you want to fight that monster now or wait until you find a weapon? Oh, that gold looks tempting, but there are a few more cards underneath, who knows what’s lurking there, and you can’t leave a stack partially picked from once you start clearing it.
Card of Darkness is a compelling, cute, bizarre, and challenging puzzle game on Apple Arcade that will keep you mentally on your toes and itching for just one more level.
Did you play Mini Metro, the puzzle game by Dinosaur Polo Club about dynamically building a city’s subway system in real time? If you haven’t, it’s extremely good, blending soothing audio, clean graphic design, and puzzle mechanics that oscillate between pleasantly calming and maddeningly stressful. It’s also perfectly suited to touch screens, as you drag your routes from one station to another to get passengers to and from their destination of choice.
Mini Motorways is the follow-up to Mini Metro and it is both fresh and somehow just as good. It sucks you in immediately, gradually introducing you to new mechanics right as you need them. Before you know it, half an hour is gone and you feel like both a brilliant and horrible city planner. It’s great.
What the Golf
Okay, so What the Golf starts as a golfing game on Apple Arcade. You drag back and release to hit the ball. A couple of holes in, you drag back and release and instead of the ball going anywhere you go flying. It only gets more and more absurd from there, which is why I’m using gifs instead of a screenshot for this one.
Yes, in one hole you’re launching a house. Others are in 2D and parody everything from Donkey Kong to Flappy Bird. It’s wild. I don’t want to spoil any of it, so I think you should just dive in on this one.
What the Golf plays perfectly on phones. It’s hilarious and playful and I think you’re going to love it.
Have you ever wished that literary classics were actually puzzle games? Actually, me neither, but honestly people don’t know what they want until they’re looking at it. Enter Dear Reader by Local No. 12, a puzzle game that has you piecing together literature with linguistic puzzles.
Sometimes the puzzles are simple like the one above, sometimes they’re much more challenging. Sometimes you’re filling in words and sometimes you’re trying to rearrange phrases so they make sense. If you like literature, word games, and puzzles, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Don’t forget to play regularly, because new books come out each week!
What’s next for Apple Arcade?
There is a ton of great stuff on Apple Arcade, but lots of it is stuff I want to play on a bigger screen or with a controller. Once that update happens – sometime in the ambiguous “coming soon” window – you can bet you’ll hear about the best new things to play here first.
Full disclosure: Jake is friends with one or more people from several of these teams. Zach was one of his research subjects during his PhD program and he roomed with the Dinosaur Polo Club folks during GDC 2019.
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