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Best Apple Arcade games in 2021

Best games on Apple Arcade
(Image credit: Future)

If ever you needed an excuse to play more games and tuck into Apple Arcade, having to stay at home is a pretty good one!

For those who don’t know, Apple Arcade is a curated subscription service with more than 100 games that you can download and play — all for the cost of just $4.99 a month. The service was originally launched for iPhone and iPad, but is now available on Mac. 

You can either setup a monthly subscription directly through the app store, or save yourself some money and pick up a gift card. Here are the best offers:

I already hear the PC master race sighing and I see the console gamers rolling their eyes at us. It’s easy for many to dismiss Apple Arcade as “that one with the phone games” — or something that doesn’t have “real video games” unlike Xbox Game Pass. And I say to you, that couldn’t be more wrong.

Because, while you can’t fire up Doom Eternal on your M1 MacBook Pro, there are many great single player and multiplayer experiences that make the low-entry price worthwhile. So settle in, pick up your Apple device, and game on.

Here are the best Apple Arcade games you can play right now:

1. Sayonara Wildhearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts

(Image credit: Simogo)

Straight outta Sweden, this is a fascinating award-winning neon-lit rhythm game that takes you on a big visual journey across some of the catchiest songs you will ever hear. 

Much like the best albums, the gameplay passes you by fast, as this unique combination of music and art makes for a provocative experience. But also, much like your favourite LPs, you’ll notice something new with every listen — making this a highly replayable, moving experience.

2. Tetris Beat

Tetris Beat

(Image credit: N3TWORK)

Continuing Apple Arcade's surprisingly impressive library of rhythm games, Tetris Beat pairs the legendary puzzler with an ever-increasing library of bangers to time your tile placements too.

The visuals are varied and attractive, the timing-based gameplay is a great twist on the traditional formula, the spatial audio support for AirPods Pro makes for an atmospheric experience, and with new songs added every month, replayability is excellent.

3. Mini Motorways

Mini Motorways

(Image credit: Dinosaur Polo Club)

Road infrastructure management is a bit of a dry topic. But  developer Dinosaur Polo Club has turned it into an addictively simple-yet-deep strategy gaming that is gorgeous to look at and listen to. 

Daily and weekly challenges keep the replayability up, and when you get into the flow of planning and replanning routes, it can be a hypnotic experience. The only question now is: what form of transport they will get us to manage next? Air travel? Cruise ships? 

4. Thumper: Pocket Edition

Thumper: Pocket Edition

(Image credit: Drool LLC)

I thought it would be a struggle for Apple Arcade to get a rhythm game as good as Sayonara Wildhearts. I've been proven wrong by this absolute gem of a mobile game from Drool LLC.

They call it a rhythm violence game and it sure is a darker experience, equivalent to a drug trip gone bad. You are a space beetle hurtling along levels and reacting to obstacles timed to the beat for maximum points. The fast gameplay is utterly addictive to the point you will spend hours without realising it. Seriously, go and play this right now!

5. Alto's Odyssey: The Lost City

Alto's Odyssey: The Lost City

(Image credit: Built By Snowman)

Alto's Odyssey has mesmerised players in the past with its minimal art style and grasp gameplay. Now, the team at Land and Sea games take you to the desert in a unique visual feast of an endless runner. You'll love the serene style and bask in your own success of nailing tricks with the simplistic controls.

Simply put, if ever you're in a waiting room and need something quick to pull out and play, this is a great option.

6. Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls

Castlevania Grimoire of Souls

(Image credit: Konami)

What else do I need to say that isn't immediately clear from the title and the visual? It's a 2D Castlevania game, available for free on Apple Arcade.

The gothic fantasy series returns for a classic side scrolling action game with a slick visual style and gripping soundtrack, along with that gameplay you know and love from Castlevania.

7. Oceanhorn 2

Oceanhorn 2

(Image credit: Cornfox)

You will never ever get Zelda on Apple Arcade. That much is for certain! But, Oceanhorn 2 comes pretty damn close. This vast RPG adventure pitches you as a young knight exploring the world, fighting enemies and solving puzzles. Provided you get past the tutorial that is far too light for the vast array of actions you can do, but once you've got the hang of it, this is an impressive title.

8. Hitchhiker - a mystery game

Hitchhiker - a mystery game

(Image credit: Mad About Pandas)

One thing you start to learn about Apple Arcade is its strength lies in the vast array of unique single player experiences. Hitchhiker - a mystery game is a prime example of that, as its unique visual and audio feast takes you through a twisting and turning tale of finding out about your own past. 

The premise of talking to people while hitchhiking across the country is so simple, which allows the on-screen characters to really grip you and the minutiae of its atmosphere to keep you hooked until the credits.

9. Wurdweb

Wurdweb

(Image credit: Aran Koling)

Crossword games can get a little samey, but this two-person development team has knocked it out the park. Wurdweb is one of the best word-based mobile games I've ever played.

The simplistic gameplay with increasing complexity drives the sheer addictiveness of the whole experience, which is expanded further by daily challenges that keep it fresh. Seriously, if you need a quick distraction while commute, this is a great choice.

10. Lego Star Wars Battles

Lego Star Wars Battles

(Image credit: Lego)

Think a classic Tower Defense game blended with a broader RTS and you'll get Lego Star Wars Battles. Even to someone who was a little hesitant about this experience, the game is damn good and worth your time!

There are the classic injections of Lego humor added here and there alongside addictive mobile gameplay that is sure to keep anyone entertained on the commute.

11. Reigns: Beyond

Reigns: Beyond

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

My girlfriend saw me playing Reigns and called it “King Tinder,” which perfectly sums up how this works; the beauty of it lies in the simplistic gameplay concealing the sheer depth of the game and your impact upon it. 

Much like Tinder, you simply swipe left and right on a series of decisions, which has an effect on a range of key indicators. With this latest iteration, however, Nerial Limited has thrown all of that royalist stuff out the window and given us a fascinatingly unique sci-fi story to play through. 

The core binary decision gameplay is still going strong with some surprises thrown in there for good measure. Simply put, there’s nothing else around that is quite like this.

12. Fantasian

Fantasian

(Image credit: Mistwalker)

Reading the words "from the creator of Final Fantasy" are usually enough to make anyone pay attention, but Fantasian is an incredible game in its own right as well. 

At its core is a fundamentally classic JRPG inspired by Final Fantasy VI, with deep, tactical, turn-based gameplay and a story with plenty of intrigue and many layers to keep you hooked.

Best of all, this gripping gameplay and story is held together by a simply stunning visual style that blends fluid animation with real-world dioramas (over 150 were built) for a game unlike anything else you've set eyes on before.

13. Solitaire Stories

Solitaire Stories

(Image credit: Red Games)

As the range of experiences on Apple Arcade starts to expand, so does the room for some casual titles that will help pass the time when your partner watches something boring on the TV. 

Enter Solitaire Stories: solitaire with a story mode. While you won't care one iota about the storyline, the levels are taxing and visually varied. You'll have a lot of fun with this one.

14. Lego Builder's Journey

Lego Builder's Journey

(Image credit: LEGO)

Think Monument Valley but with Legos, and you'll get to summing up Builder's Journey. Telling the simple story of a father and son finding their way through a Lego world, this isometric puzzler is all about building paths to navigate across 34 lengthy M.C. Escher-esque stages. 

No spoilers, it's jaw-dropping how much of an emotionally wholesome plot this delivers through such a minimalist design. You’ll come to love the chilled outlook and feel of Builder's Journey and the brain-teasing gameplay will keep you hooked all the way through to the credits.

15. The Pathless

The Pathless

(Image credit: Giant Squid)

You may have seen The Pathless before as a trailer on one of Sony’s PS5 game showcases. It’s a puzzler that is ambitious in scale, paired with a gorgeous orchestral track and a visual style with real personality. 

Giant Squid's beautiful open-world drips with atmosphere as you navigate with grace (thanks to fluid movement mechanics at its core) to come across a whole range of environmental puzzles, packed with lore that adds to the fantasy story. 

Something of this scope proves the bonkers value for money of Apple Arcade, as The Pathless alone is more than worth the price of admission.

16. ChuChu Rocket Universe

ChuChu Rocket Universe

(Image credit: Sega)

Is anyone here old enough to remember the Dreamcast? ChuChu Rocket was not the most graphically intensive game at a time when polygons meant everything in the impending shadow of the PS2 launch — the black box that (spoiler alert) went on to eventually kill Sega’s console aspirations for good. 

But once that passed, people realized just how good of an action puzzler ChuChu Rocket was, and it turns out, guiding ChuChus through mind-bending levels works really well on an iPhone. 

If you want a sense of nostalgia without blowing the dust of your Dreamcast in the attic, or you don’t even know what I’m talking about and just want a good puzzle game, this is a great option to pick up and play.

17. Assemble With Care

Assemble With Care

(Image credit: UsTwo)

In this unique experience, ustwo Games tells the story of Maria — a repairperson extraordinaire who’s paying for a continental journey by fixing things for customers, spanning from old gadgets to items of sentimental value. 

The one-handed touch controls, bright visuals and chill soundtrack make for an easy experience to pick up and play for those of all ages. And each fix reveals a heartwarming undercurrent of wholesomeness. 

Yes, we can see the irony of playing a game all about repairing stuff on a device that is notoriously hard to repair. But that doesn’t stop us from loving the calm methodical gameplay of this charming adventure from the minds behind Monument Valley.

18. Bleak Sword

Bleak Sword

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Think about what would happen if you put the tough-as-nails combat of Dark Souls into a game that shares a lot of graphical inspiration with Undertale, and then stick that game on a touchscreen device. Sounds like hell, right? Well, you’d be wrong. 

With arguably the best combat gameplay system I’ve ever experienced, Bleak Sword is a tense action game consisting of dodging, parrying and slaying a whole slew of monsters in dungeons that drip with gothic 8-bit atmosphere. 

This is a Souls game boiled down to its essentials and made a cinch to play on the go.

19. Mutazione

Mutazione

(Image credit: Akupara Games)

And now, for something completely different. One key benefit of Apple Arcade is the sheer variety of experiences available — and the game Mutazione is a shining example of that. 

To call this an "adventure game" (as so many people have done) misses the point in the same way that calling it a "gardening game" does an injustice to Die Gute Fabrik’s creation. Yes, tending to your garden is at the core of this title, but it's about the experience as a whole. 

From the immersive story and atmosphere that grabs you by the scruff of the neck from your first button press, to the hypnotic gameplay tropes that encourage you to slow down and take in the world. Mutazione is a unique title that you have to try.

20. NUTS

NUTS

(Image credit: Joon, Pol, Muuutsch, Char & Torfi)

Yes, a first-person game where you set up cameras to catch a fleeting glance of a squirrel does sound dull on paper, but stay with me. Under the skin of this relaxing puzzler is a small, but brilliant story of mystery and intrigue, one that brings an “all is not as it seems'' level of creepiness to the affair. 

And I’d be remiss to not shine a spotlight on the incredibly stylised visuals — the art design is striking and makes this a memorable experience on its own merit.

21. Patterned

Patterned

(Image credit: Borderleap)

Did you have a crappy day at work? Usually, there are two gaming remedies. You can either go on a murderous rampage in one of the more violent titles out there, or you can pick a relaxing experience to sink into. 

Patterned is firmly in the latter column, offering the laid-back mental stimulation of jigsaw puzzles to an ever-evolving zen piano soundtrack. The puzzles themselves are visually stunning and there’s something fulfilling about finishing a particularly difficult one and seeing the end result.

22. Overland

Overland

(Image credit: Finji)

Strategy games are tricky to pull off on a touchscreen, but Overland nails this handily with an addictive turn-based system that brings near-chess levels of thinking to a post-apocalyptic road trip.

Whether it’s grabbing more fuel for your car, rescuing a survivor or picking up essential supplies, your journey across America is accompanied by a unique visual style and a difficulty level that will really test you. 

23. Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

(Image credit: E-Line Media)

Think of this as a BAFTA-winning playable episode of Blue Planet with a captivating storyline running throughout. Beyond Blue proves that Apple Arcade is not just for mobile games, as it is an immense visual feast for the eyes across Apple TV and Mac.

Jump into eight untouched ocean locations and discover the unbounded mysteries of these depths. In fact, developers E-Line Media actually partnered with Blue Planet makers BBC Studios and some of the leading ocean experts, to create something that is both educational and jaw-dropping.

24. Monument Valley

Monument Valley

(Image credit: Ustwo games)

If you haven't played Monument Valley before, I envy you. That first peacefully euphoric experience of firing it up and watching this gorgeous, perplexing perspective puzzler unfold before your eyes is a moment that's hard to forget. It is an excellent, meditative, mindful time that refuses to let go of your attention until the credits roll.

And if you have played it before, the fact you get this for free now on Apple Arcade is just as good of a reason as any to play it again.

Jason England

 Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He specializes in finding the best deals to make sure you never pay more than you should for gadgets! Jason takes a particular interest in writing and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.