Entertainment 25 best Apple Arcade games to make the most of your subscription

00:30  30 april  2021
00:30  30 april  2021 Source:   gamesradar.com

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The best Apple Arcade games list just got a whole lot more exciting. That's because Apple Arcade just enjoyed its biggest expansion of new games since the service's inception almost two years ago. A typical month sees a few new games added each month, but April 2021 saw a massive 32 games arrive on the same day, meaning the process of deciding what the best games to play on Apple Arcade got much busier over the last few weeks. But don't worry, we still tackled them all in order to bring you this list of the best Apple Arcade games, including new Arcade Originals, formerly ad-supported games now made ad-less, and more pleasant surprises. From over 180 games now in Apple Arcade, here are our picks for the best Apple Arcade games.

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Best Apple Arcade Games: Game of the Month - SongPop Party

It's been an extremely trying year for everyone, but one can imagine the extroverts of the world have had an especially rough go of things. Without any safe outlet for in-person socialization, their needs were not nearly being met. Me, I love my alone time, so I've really hit my stride in this pandemic, all things considered. But I admit I too love a good party game, which is why, whether you're playing online or, as restrictions relax, play in person, SongPop Party makes for one of my favorite Apple Arcade games and earns this month's Apple Arcade Game of the Month spotlight.

It was only a few weeks ago when I discovered SongPop proper in the App Store. The social trivia Name That Tune-like provides instant fun with a deep library of music to play with, but as I often say, things do seem just a bit user-friendlier in the Apple Arcade space, and SongPop is no different.

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Without ads or microtransactions, players are free to tackle the game's unlock tree exclusively by playing, which obviously is ideal. Each round is played against AI, or in local or online multiplayer. This versatility means you'll always have someone to challenge, and as the pandemic hopefully comes to an end soon, it means your best friends can transition from online play to couch competitions on Smart TVs or even Mac computers if you prefer a bigger screen.

The host selects the options like the music playlist and how many rounds everyone will go as they compete to be declared music trivia champion. Selecting from a wide range of cute avatars, each depicting a sort of genre archetype like the rapper, the punk, the pop star, and more, you'll likely cheer as your digital selves do between each round. That's because no matter what genre you like, SongPop Party has something for you.

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The library runs deep. While it may not always have your favorite totally obscure musical artists to queue up, its list of options really impress the more you play. Leveling up earns you keys, and every few keys can be spent as you wish on whichever music playlists you'd like to unlock for future competitions. While I started out with playlists like 2000s alternative and 2010s top hits, eventually I started to unlock more niche, but more interesting, playlists. Things like TV show themes from particular decades, horror movie themes spanning all eras, and even singular year's worth of top songs.

You'll score more points the faster you guess right, and the game's finely tuned scoring system means every millisecond counts. As it's all displayed on a ticker constantly, things can get really exciting when you're down by a few dozen points, desperate for your rival to slip up and misremember some Gorillaz song. The game also keeps you on your toes by sometimes asking for the artist and sometimes the song, so even if you recognize something right away, you may find yourself screaming to no one, "who sings this?!"

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If you like music at all, SongPop Party certainly has several categories you could compete in, though it's often just as fun playing the underdog role. When my wife would try to coast to victory with the 90s rap playlist and I'd stun her with a win, it would provide that same sort of party game atmosphere we all remember from the pre-covid times. It's a simple, reliable, lighthearted social game.

The matchmaking groups players quickly and the UI is similar enough to the main games in the App Store that anyone else converting to the Apple Arcade version will slip right back into their comfort zone with some minor changes to scoring and a lovely lack of ads to get used to.

Apple Arcade added 32 games in April. Its biggest update since the service's inception. I played them all and loved many of them, but SongPop Party is my favorite of the bunch because it's the sort of social game so many could appreciate, and because playing it is like DJing your own bar trivia. It's exciting, sometimes nostalgic, or just plain groovy to hear songs you love or maybe even forgot about, and if you can show off your music trivia prowess in the process, well that just makes it even more fun.

Turn to the next page to find our rundown of the best Apple Arcade games...

25. Simon's Cat

Genre: Puzzle-adventure

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Some of the best examples of Apple Arcade's brilliance is found in games like Simon's Cat. As a match-three, players are use to pay-to-advance economies and ads popping up after every puzzle or so, but this is Apple Arcade, so those things just aren't permitted. As a result, Simon's Cat is both a fun adventure game and a charming match-three without any of the problems the genre sometimes suffers from.

24. Crossy Road Castle

Genre: Platformer

We spoke earlier of how Frogger reinvented itself for Apple Arcade in the face of Crossy Road overtaking it on the App Store, but we have to give credit where it's due: now Crossy Road has also reinvented itself for Apple Arcade. Crossy Road Castles is totally unlike the original game, but it keeps the blend of characters of pixel and voxel art. Now it's a platformer, and in our opinion the best on the platform. With procedurally generated dungeons and a scoring system, it's a game that feels fresh and demands more every time you run through a few levels. It's got a sensible difficulty curve too, introducing new mechanics smartly even with its unpredictable levels. Platforming rarely feels this good on touch screens, and it's all thanks to simple and effective controls and just the right floatiness to each unlockable character.

23. Cozy Grove

Genre: Adventure

For fans of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Spiritfarer, Cozy Grove, rather appropriately, sits snugly between the two as a quasi-life sim where you help ghosts with their unfinished business on an island featuring thick forests and some painterly visuals. If you fell off Animal Crossing or have already run through its many sibling games like Ooblets and Stardew Valley, Cozy Grove has a chance to be your new favorite obsession. There are many characters to meet and they each have their own stories to share, and with each success, the world is imbued with gorgeous color, adding more reasons to see it through on top of an already lovely world and story.

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22. Survival Z

Genre: Roguelite tower defense

Though its name is admittedly pretty generic, there's nothing bland about Survival Z's gameplay loop of upgrading your character, building up short-term defenses, and taking on hordes of cartoonish zombies. The colors and style immediately make it clear this is a zombie game built for all ages, even as some later levels can get very tough for less experienced players. But take it slow and choose your defenses wisely and you'll see this quick-firing horde mode game packs all of the tactics and flair fans of the genre have so long appreciated.

21. Pac-Man Party Royale

Genre: Action

It was only a matter of time until battle royale came to Pac-Man, right? Okay, maybe the connective thread isn’t so obvious, but you may be surprised to hear just how well it works. Each round of Pac-Man Party Royale (PCPR) begins on the same kind of level any fan of the series would be used to. The game becomes an endurance race to see who can stay alive the longest. When you’re eliminated by the game’s ghosts, you join their ranks, while surviving pac-people can chase elusive abilities which grant them some clutch powers. Likely by design, it feels a lot like those moments in PUBG or Fortnite when you narrowly beat your opponent to the best weapon in the room. As a match goes on, the glitch (storm) slowly closes in, forcing conflict just like the genre greats. It’s a mash-up we never knew we wanted.

20. Wonderbox

Genre: Action-platformer

Wonderbox has been on the Coming Soon section of Apple Arcade for a long time, so it's been delightful to find the final product is as fun as it looked. With an art style that borrows from both voxel games and modern computer-animated movies at once, it's eye-catching right away, and this action-platformer ends up playing a bit like if Zelda was played in a snow globe. Spin its smallish levels around in circles, zooming in and out, to find hidden secrets and puzzle solutions, and once you get through the campaign, you can make it all your own with custom hubs for each player to call home.

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19. Hitchhiker

Genre: Adventure

You know that feeling when you wake up from a strange dream, and you're stuck in that purgatorial space between awake and asleep and you can't quite tell where you are, how long you've been out, maybe even what year it is? Hitchhiker is like that in the best way. It's a super mysterious adventure game that trades any sort of complex gameplay for one wild ride in the passenger's seat of a strangers' cars. There are puzzles to solve, but not the kind you might be used to or expecting. Everything inside the world of Hitchhiker is spacey, confused, reality-bending stuff.  Among a digital shelf of so many unique games in Apple Arcade, there's really nothing else quite like Hitchhiker in the library right now.

18. Populus Run

Genre: Auto-runner

There's a lovely trend emerging over the first few years of Apple Arcade where the platform is becoming a haven for some of the strangest games you'll find in any subscription service. Populus Run is among the very best of those oddballs, giving players an auto-running experience unlike the usually mascot-driven adventures mobile gamers are used to. Dodging donuts and macarons has gone from an effective diet plan to one adorable platformer.

17. Star Trek Legends

Genre: RPG

I've said it before and I'll say it again: whenever you play a game traditionally ad-supported but in Apple Arcade instead, it really makes it so much better. Turn-based, party-based RPGs are a dime a dozen in the App Store, but Star Trek Legends is the first of its kind to hit Apple Arcade, meaning it includes all the classic genre elements, like building out and upgrading your crew of heroes, but without any of the timers, paid currencies, or ads getting in the way. I've not seen a minute of Star Trek in my life, but I'm learning to love the franchise thanks to this great debut.

16. Next Stop Nowhere

Genre: Adventure

All you really need to know about Next Stop Nowhere is it's the latest game from Night School Studio, the team behind indie hits Oxenfree and Afterparty. While the former offered a Stranger Things-like supernatural story and the latter literally took players on a bar crawl through hell, Next Stop Nowhere returns many of the beloved mechanics Night School is known for but moves them to outer space. It tells the story of two passing strangers who become wrapped up in a solar system-spanning adventure to reunite family and dodge shady criminals and law enforcement along the way. With all the superbly written dialogue and intuitive systems dispensing it all once more as Night School has done before, Next Stop Nowhere makes a strong argument to be your next download.

12. Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows

Genre: Text adventure

Before I played it, there were reasons to be skeptical of this Game of Thrones tie-in. The finale of the HBO show left a bad taste in many mouths and licensed games aren't always a promising sign of quality. But there were reasons for optimism too, like how Tale of Crows is published by Devolver, a surefire eye for talent. Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows proves to be a perfect fit for Apple Arcade. Its idle-like, text-heavy delivery means it can be played on your own terms, or you can turn on notifications to jump back in whenever the story has progressed based on your countless tough decisions. If you've wanted to learn more about The Night's Watch before Jon Snow showed up, this is your chance to live it.

14. NBA 2K21

Genre: Sports

Sports sims on mobile can be and up and down affair, but NBA 2K21 is perhaps the best of them all. On the court, it plays so much like the console game that, with a controller in hand, you'd not miss a beat moving from one to the other. Off the court, MyTeam fans may miss this MTX-heavy mode, as it's not allowed in Apple Arcade, but with a light story mode and Franchise options, it's still a genuine NBA 2K21 experience built for old and new fans to appreciate.

13. Tiny Crossword+

Genre: Puzzle

Here's an Apple Arcade cheat code: as of April 2021, when you see the plus sign, it signifies a game that used to contain in-game purchases and ads and now, wonderfully, no longer does. Several were added to the library recently, but Tiny Crossword is one of the best of them. If you love crosswords, this is my favorite on mobile, with challenging but not usually too brainy solutions, making it a great pick for when you're in line for coffee, on your lunch break, or disobeying your doctor's orders and playing on your phone in bed.

12. Overland

Genre: Strategy/Adventure

A post-apocalyptic road trip from Finji, the studio behind influential endless runner Canabalt and publisher of Night in the Woods. Overland is a turn-based strategy game at its core, where your task is to ensure the survival of a small group of travellers against an array of otherworldly threats. Overland gives you a fair amount of space to define the parameters of your own adventure, leaving you free to decide how to proceed through each and every disastrous scenario that you stumble into. Leveraging your need to search for supplies and navigate routes to safety, with the desire to save other stranded survivors, Overland is a smartly structured strategy game that you'll find yourself coming back to time and time again.

11. The Pathless

Genre: Action

The words "published by Annapurna Interactive" are today's surest sign of a good time. The publisher simply knows how to pick 'em, and The Pathless is no exception. The stylish action, sorta-parkourish game comes from Giant Squid, the team that developed the uber-tranquil Abzu, which was often called Underwater Journey. The Pathless shares some of those same traits too, but it's a much more action-packed game than you might expect if you're browsing the team's bio. As a Hunter, your archer skills are put to the ultimate test in a battle of good and evil that transpires as speedy, semi-open levels where you dash around and solve puzzles. It's equal parts Journey and Vanquish, in a mash-up you maybe never knew you needed.

10. SongPop Party

Genre: Trivia

I first discovered SongPop earlier this year in the App Store, and not long after, SongPop Party came to Apple Arcade, bringing with it the best of this multiplayer music trivia game to one of my favorite gaming subscriptions. Think of it as Name That Tune in a live multiplayer setting, though there are solo modes too if you prefer to test your skills against the AI. The breadth of music and genres in SongPop Party is its best feat, and I've been having a blast defeating my wife all month in the horror movie theme song playlist.

9. Grindstone

Genre: Puzzle

It's easy enough to forget, but before Capybara Games helped change the landscape of mobile adventure games with Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP in 2011, the studio was known for developing puzzle games. In many ways, then, Grindstone - a smartly conceived and expertly executed game of sword slashing puzzle battles - sees Capy returning to its roots. It's bright, colourful, and difficult to walk away from, which is exactly what you want from a game such as this. Grindstone also comes complete with an intuitive crafting system, a delightful progression structure, and over 150 levels designed to test your capacity for unleashing monster-hit combos and crashing through increasingly challenging stages. Grindstone is designed for commutes, but it'll have your attention whenever you find yourself with a little downtime.

8. Yaga

Genre: RPG

I have to admit that every time I see RPG as a mobile game genre, I am skeptical. That’s because I had never found one that feels deep enough to keep me engaged. That was until I found Yaga. This folklorish 2D tale combines beautiful art, intelligent controls, and a fully voiced, branching story to make one of the platform’s best examples of a role-playing game I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t take itself too seriously with its humorous tone, but when it comes to gameplay, it actually feels robust. That’s so rare in this space that it’s immediately obvious Yaga is different. It’s special. For those most skeptical of whether mobile gaming can scratch a console/PC itch, try Yaga first.

7. Mutazione

Genre: Adventure

I'm going to hit you with the elevator pitch and you should know in an instant whether this is for you or not: Mutazione is a mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural, a super chill game about raising plants and embarking on spiritual journeys after the end of the world. Mutazione is a weird adventure game that's quite unlike anything else in the Apple Arcade library. Its style is its own, a lush, hand-illustrated world full of interesting folks that you'll be desperate to get to know. Plant gardens to create relaxing musical soundscapes, and, when you're ready, embark on a story full of twists and turns. Mutazione is serene, in its own little way.

6. South of the Circle

Genre: Adventure

This list has been receiving updates for a year now, and it takes a lot to break into the top five. The top three have actually never changed. South of the Circle doesn't smash through that invisible wall, but it does manage to round out the top five with a good chance to stay there for a long time. This dramatic adventure game offers Hollywood production disassembled into a point and click game that tells a mature story unlike anything else you can play on Apple Arcade. It's not just one of the best Apple Arcade games, it may be the best mobile-exclusive game I've ever played.

5. Roundguard

Genre: Dungeon-puzzler

Nobody ever asked for Peggle to be made into a dungeon crawler, but maybe we should've demanded it years ago. As it turns out, that's exactly what Roundguard is, and trust us, it's brilliant. Built with the same mechanics of PopCap's beloved pinballish puzzler but with a level of depth you likely never thought lacking, Roundguard is the Peggle disciple the world deserves. It's on consoles and PC too, but it feels most at home on iOS as the kind of versatile game that is excellent in short bursts or extended sessions in equal measure. If you missed it, check out our Apple Arcade Game of the Month feature for an extended look at what makes Roundguard amazing.

4. Neo Cab

Genre: Adventure

Not that we’re handing out any uber-specific awards in this lineup, but if we were, Neo Cab would win the poignancy award. It tells the story of a rideshare driver in the near-future where automation has nearly taken over the industry once and for all, which is the publicly stated goal of companies like Lyft and Uber today, mind you. As you ride around the neon-lit town, you learn about each passenger, and you learn even more about yourself. The game demands we confront questions about who we will be in the jobless future we’re barreling toward, and it demands we not forget to look out for one another not just when that day comes, but today too. And yes, “uber-specific” was totally an intended pun.

3. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Genre: Adventure

Most games that want you to feel empowered do so by use of huge guns, magical powers, or a physics-defying double jump, but Alba takes a totally different route. Cast as a young girl with a heart the size of her home island and a smartphone camera, players embark on a Pokemon Snap-like quest to document wildlife, protect the environment, and eventually find themselves imbued with a call to action that is genuinely stirring and sweet in equal measure. Alba is the feel-good game you're looking for, and it'll leave you ready to help change the world when you're through with it.

2. What The Golf?

Genre: Puzzle

In a list of 25 games, there’s got to be at least one that we can hardly explain, right? Meet What The Golf? This is that game. If you don’t like golf, don’t worry. It’s just barely a golf game. Really it’s a puzzler that demands you get an object to a goal. Yes, early on that means a golf ball into a hole, but that familiarity quickly vanishes and is replaced by some of the most outlandish and unpredictable level design you’ll see all year, if not all generation. It’s also packed with homages to other games, like Super Mario, Flappy Bird, and so many more. We wouldn’t want to spoil all the fun, so just trust us. Golf fan or not, give it a try.

1. Sayonara Wild Hearts

Genre: Action

Simogo made a name for itself as one of the most ambitious and inventive mobile developers, thanks to its work on titles like Year Walk, Device 6, and SPL-T. Unsurprisingly, the studio is back and better than ever; Sayonara Wild Hearts is an interactive music video, a vibrant cacophony of high-octane races and dance-battle action. It's overtly stylish in its design and subtly stunning in its execution of a drama – of breaking your heart at a 100mph. This is a game that is, frankly, out of this world. Sayonara is the sort of game that you'll be able to get through across both ends of your commute, but come back to replay day-after-day. The self-described "pop album video game" isn’t just the best Apple Arcade game. It’s one of the best games of the year. Period.

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