Whether you’re playing on the latest iPhone 12, an older iPad, or the newest M1 Mac, Apple Arcade offers over 180 games for a single, low monthly fee. I was among the critics at first, wondering why I would pay a monthly fee when plenty of comparable games were available for free, but the biggest selling point of Apple Arcade is the complete lack of microtransactions. With great selections from just about every genre, it can be tough to know where to start, but we here at iMore have tested them out for you. Below you’ll find the best Apple Arcade additions this year, and be sure to check out our best controllers for Apple Arcade to really step up your game!
The Oregon Trail
While many of us, myself included, remember the joy and frustration of trekking the Oregon Trail during computer lab in elementary school, now you can relive the hardships of the trail on your phone. For those unfamiliar with The Oregon Trail, this game is set in 1848, and you lead a party of four settlers in a covered wagon from Missouri to Oregon. First released in 1971 using minimal graphics, the game’s core mechanics remain the same with updated graphics and an attempt at a more culturally respectful look at history, specifically that of the indigenous people who lived in that part of the country.
The Oregon Trail is a challenging game where you must balance your party’s needs with the genuine hardships that ended so many lives during that time. While good resource management is necessary to win, it also requires a fair bit of luck. From dysentery to snake bites, bear attacks, to bandits, you will likely have lost many, many characters, wagons, and oxen by the time you make it to Oregon. However, that’s part of what makes it so rewarding when you finally succeed and get at least one of your settlers across the trail.
Having played and beaten the original as a child more times than I can recall, I was surprised at just how difficult it was to get even part of my party to the finish line – as well as how few of my parties died of dysentery, despite the seemingly constant infections.
Monster Hunter Stories
This creature collecting, RPG adventure originally released for the Nintendo 3DS back in 2017, but has since made its way to Apple Arcade. Unlike the main Monster Hunter franchise, which focuses on players going out and defeating monsters in order to upgrade gear, this game has you playing as a Monster Rider out to raise Monsties from eggs and fight alongside them in turn-based combat.
In some ways, it’s like a more complex version of Pokemon, but with a far more in-depth story. Something bad is making wild monsters more violent and it’s up to you to figure out how to put a stop to it. There are interesting characters and locations to visit along the way. Plus, you can ride every single one of the 81 Monstie you collect in the overworld. They each have unique abilities that might allow them to do things like climb vines, swim, or jump high allowing you to reach new areas.
Of all the games on Apple Arcade, this is one of the most intensive ones available. The story will entertain you for 30+ hours and that’s not counting all of the time you might spend diving into monster dens and looking for the perfect eggs to hatch. If you enjoy this game and happen to have a Nintendo Switch, you can also play the highly-rated sequel: Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
This trilogy brings you the first three games in the Phoenix Wright series. You start off as a young attorney experiencing his first set of cases in court. Shortly after his career takes off, he’s pulled into a plot of intrigue and murder. To prove your clients innocent, you’ll need to investigate various locations for evidence, conduct interviews, and look for any contradictions made by witnesses in the courtroom.
There are multiple stories in each game and they’re divided by chapters making it easy to digest the game in small doses whenever you’re able to play on your iPhone or iPad. This game is actually also available on Nintendo Switch and has an MSRP of $30, so being able to play it free with the Apple Arcade subscription is pretty neat.
Perhaps the best thing about the Ace Attorney Trilogy is that Instead of being a boring law game, each person you meet in this has loads of character and makes dramatic faces to liven up what would be a dull courtroom. You’ll need to ask the right questions, investigate the right areas, and present the right evidence to successfully play as Mr. Wright.
A turn-based JRPG set to the backdrop of unique dioramas, Fantasian comes from none other than Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy. Sakaguchi brought along Nobuo Uematsu to really solidify the feel of a Final Fantasy game with epically beautiful music. If you enjoyed turn-based JRPGs like the first ten or so Final Fantasies, Fantasian will certainly please.
You take on the role of Leo, an amnesiac hero who teams up with Kina, a magical girl literally found in the midst of an enchanted forest, Cheryl, a feisty princess set to inherit the kingdom, and a pair of comedic relief robots. Your world is in turmoil both figuratively with the loss of your memories and in actuality with a machine invasion known as Mechteria. Employing magic, summons, as well as good old-fashioned swordplay, your party will travel across this world fighting monsters and machines alike as you unravel the mystery.
Although many of the themes in Fantasian are quite familiar and the character archetypes have been seen in countless games prior, Fantasian stands out with its unique art style. All of the game’s many settings are actually handcrafted dioramas that give the whole game the feel of a tabletop RPG.
Source: Spry Fox LLC
What do being trapped on a haunted, bear-infested island and the light-hearted fun of games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley have in common? Come to Cozy Grove and find out! While you could purchase Cozy Grove on the Switch or Steam, if you want to play Cozy Grove on mobile, it’s exclusively available in Apple Arcade. This sweet life sim game gives you the role of a Spirit Scout, and your job is to help ghosts find peace so they can move on. All the while, you can decorate the island and collect all sorts of items to personalize your little Spirit Scout.
Source: Spry Fox LLC
As you progress in Cozy Grove, the spirits you help will remember more of their lives, and in turn, the island will expand and change, opening up more ways to interact with this tiny world. The artwork and music are just as relaxing as the gameplay, too, with soothing melodies and warm, hand-drawn style characters and backdrop. As if the concept and surroundings weren’t peaceful enough, Cozy Grove doesn’t take a huge time commitment to feel accomplished. Just half an hour a day is enough to complete your daily goals, but for those who want to put in extra time, there’s always foraging and fishing.
World of Demons
Source: PLATINUMGAMES INC.
A hack-and-slash game set in medieval Japan, World of Demons gives you the role of the samurai Onimaru, tasked with hunting the mythical Oni Shuten Doji and the Yokai he has forced to serve him. Onimaru must battle his way through countless Yokai, enlisting them to help him hunt down and stop Shuten Doji once and for all. Although World of Demons has fairly straightforward gameplay – you tap the sword button to attack and the dodge button to dodge, the added mechanic of Yokai summons makes it more interesting and opens up the game for a lot of different strategies.
Source: PLATINUMGAMES INC.
Where World of Demons really shines, though, is the sumi-e stylized artwork, reminiscent of games like Okami. In fact, many of the crew that worked on Okami moved to PlatinumGames when Clover Studio shuttered. Also, like Okami, World of Demons draws heavily on the mythology of medieval Japan, with each of the over 100 Yokai you encounter being inspired by actual mythological creatures.
That having been said, as is often the case with hack-and-slash mobile games, the gameplay is fairly repetitive. You’ll have experienced most of what World of Demons offers in gameplay by the end of the first chapter. The story and artwork are what drives this game without much in the way of challenging battles.
Star Trek Legends
Source: Tilting Point LLC
A tactical RPG with gacha-style character collecting, Star Trek Legends brings together familiar faces from all across the Star Trek universe to solve the mysteries of the Nexus. You play as the unnamed captain of the USS Artemis, responding to a Federation distress signal coming from inside the Nexus. That distress call was made by Star Trek Discovery’s Micahel Burnham, who was sucked into a golden ribbon of energy, landing her in the Nexus. Shortly after, you add Doctor McCoy from the original series and Lieutenant Worf and Commander Riker to your crew, all having been displaced from their time periods by the Nexus.
Source: Tilting Point LLC
There are many more familiar faces to add to your crew as you attempt to unravel the mystery that pulled all of these characters from their timelines. However, unlike most gacha-based systems, you can only earn your additional characters by playing. As with the rest of Apple Arcade, there are no microtransactions. You cannot just sink a couple hundred dollars into this game so as to unlock all of the possible characters.
Otherwise, Star Trek Legends plays like your standard mobile tactical RPG. You build teams of up to four characters, equip them with gear, level them up, and proceed through the storyline. Different characters have useful skills, such as Dr. McCoy’s healing abilities, to help you in battle against everything from malfunctioning holograms to the Gorn to the Borg. Your teams also aren’t restricted either, with the possibility of adding antagonists like the Borg Queen, Commander Sela, and the infamous Khan Noonien Singh to your team as well.
Simon’s Cat – Story Time
Source: Tactile Games Limited
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of match-three puzzle games out there, many featuring familiar characters and stories. These games all build on the same basic gameplay mechanics: beat puzzles to build your own little world with the addition of fun music and colorful graphics. Like so many before it, Simon’s Cat – Story Time is hardly changing the face of these match-three puzzle games, but that’s why it’s so enjoyable – well, that and unlimited stamina.
For those unfamiliar with Simon’s Cat, this animated web series by British animator Simon Tofield tells stories of Simon and his constantly hungry cat. The series has been running since 2008 and has been featured in books and other games as well. In Simon’s Cat – Story Time, Simon and his cat have emerged from their house in spring and set out to repair and redecorate their garden. It plays out very similarly to Gardenscapes or Homescapes, where each level you beat allows you to add something new to the garden.
Source: Tactile Games Limited
Overall, this game is a great way to relax and, because it’s on Apple Arcade, there are no in-app purchases. You can earn some boosters as you play, but largely, you win on your own skill. Without stamina limits, you can also play as much as you want without having to pay for more tries or having to watch the same half dozen ads over and over again. Plus, Simon’s cat, kitten, and even Chloe all make appearances as you play.
Although there are plenty of free word search and word puzzle apps out there, SpellTower+ is pretty original. At first glance, the board looks like your typical word search, but as soon as you find a word, all the letters you used (and surrounding letters for a high enough score) vanish, letting the rest of the letters drop down. Use up all the letters or run out of words to finish.
SpellTower+ has several modes, such as a Zen mode for more relaxing play or a Blitz mode for those who really want the extra challenge. There are also daily puzzles and leaderboards where you can see how you compare to the global community.
Clap Hanz Golf
Source: Clap Hanz
From the makers of the Everybody’s Golf series, Clap Hanz Golf is the developer’s first title on mobile and is exclusively available through Apple Arcade. Featuring a variety of cartoony and exaggerated characters, each with their own unique abilities, this game is about as far removed from real-life golf as you might imagine – which is why it’s so appealing. Instead of the stuffy, quiet, and frankly boring approach to golf that the pros take, Clap Hanz Golf lets you build a team of goofy characters who you can switch between for each hole and have fun with it.
There is certainly still a competitive aspect to this game, including a Survival Mode and global leaderboards, but nothing about Clap Hanz takes itself too seriously. I will say, though, mobile controls on this game are not great, even on the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s 6.7″ screen. Fortunately, this is one of many games on Apple Arcade that has controller support. I fully recommend using a controller to dive into this wacky golfing world.
What’s your favorite new Apple Arcade game?
Of the 200+ games on Apple Arcade, with more being added every month, there is definitely something for everyone. These are just the best games to come out in the last few months, but if you love a game that didn’t make the list, be sure to let us know in the comments below, and maybe you’ll see it featured next time!
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