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Touchscreen Gaming: Our Top Ten Games On Apple Arcade

by John Rogers

Still: Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (ustwogames; 2020)

The arrival of Apple Arcade is an intriguing avenue for mobile gaming. Based on the “Netflix for games” subscription model pioneered by Xbox’s GamePass, a monthly membership allows you to browse an extensive menu of around 150 games in the Arcade panel of the Apple App Store.

What’s on offer is surprisingly diverse. Whether you want to kill a few minutes at a bus stop or explore a substantial virtual world, there’s a wide array of titles to choose from. Some titles are purpose-designed for touch screen, and best experienced phone in hand; others are only truly playable with a controller, usually paired via Bluetooth. The handy cross-save feature means if you’re running a combination of iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or MacBook, you can pick up where you left off across your devices.

With all that in mind, here’s a rundown of the top ten Apple Arcade games we recommend trying out. (It’s worth noting that Apple Arcade offers a free month-long trial, so you could theoretically play through this selection and then skip out on the ongoing membership, if you just wanna play some free games.)

1. The Pathless

What it is: A pocket-sized open world adventure with slick movement and deep lore

How to play: Best with a controller

Still: 'The Pathless' (Giant Squid / Annapurna Interactive; 2020)

Why you should try it: The Pathless is an entire open world in your pocket. This is a full-fat video game that pushes the capabilities of all but the highest spec Apple devices. The fact that it’s a PS5 launch title tells us it’s a minor miracle that it’s featured here at all, albeit in an optimised (and sometimes chugging) form.

As a masked archer known only as The Hunter, you’ll investigate the five steppes of a mysterious forested island, piecing together the fate of a collapsed civilisation, and curing giant animal gods of a strange polluting madness.

The gameplay brings to mind Breath of the Wild and Shadow of the Colossus, varying between exploration, puzzling and thrilling, climatic boss fights. The jaw-dropping soundtrack, by video game maestro Austin Wintory, is the cherry on the cake.

2. Sayonara Wild Hearts

What it is: An aesthetically pleasing vapourwave arcade game

How to play: Best with a controller

Still: 'Sayonara Wild Hearts' (Simogo; 2019)

Why you should try: The neon dreamworld of Sayonara Wild Hearts is part gamified pop album and part high-speed arcade game. The eye-popping visuals incorporate everything from masque balls and Nordic pop aesthetics to biker girl gangs, tarot cards, retro-futurism and classic racing games.

With a voiceover by Queen Latifah, a flawless soundtrack, and a surprisingly emotional story payoff, Sayonara Wild Hearts is a truly stellar game and flagship title for Apple Arcade. Touch-screen controls don’t do this one justice, so pair up a controller, play on as big a screen as possible, and be sure to blast up the music. Wild hearts never die!

3. Manifold Garden

What it is: First-person psychedelic architecture & puzzles

How to play: Best with a controller