Apple Arcade is finally here, delivering a huge buffet of great games that you can play on iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TV for just $5 a month. However, with more than 64 games already available on the service at launch and many more to come — Apple is promising more than 100 games by this fall — figuring out what to play first can be overwhelming.
That’s why we’ve picked our favorites so far to let you know which titles are worth jumping into. Whether you’re in the mood for quick-fix arcade action, brain-twisting puzzles or surreal indie adventures, here are the best Apple Arcade games so far.
Remember playing “the floor is lava” as a kid? Hot Lava is that, but brought to life as an addictive first-person platformer in which the floor is quite literally lava. You’ll need to master running, jumping, swinging, bouncing on trampolines and wall-climbing in order to avoid hitting the ground, and all of it feels great. With leaderboards and real-time multiplayer, Hot Lava is the perfect game for taking on your friends -- or racing to beat their best scores.
Spidersaurs is a Contra-like 2D shooter in which you fight spiders that are also dinosaurs. Not sold yet? This fluid sidescroller features a gorgeous art style that channels classic cartoons, a ton of unlockable weapons, and no shortage of intense Spidersaur bosses that would be terrifying if they weren’t so darn cool-looking.
Assemble with Care
Created by the team behind Monument Valley, Assemble with Care is a soothing narrative puzzle game that casts you as Maria, a woman who fixes stuff for a living. As you adventure through the town of Bellaria and fix cassette players, cameras and all types of other gadgets by solving 3D puzzles, you’ll unravel a story that reveals the town’s residents themselves are the ones that need fixing. With a serene, ‘80s inspired soundtrack and a unique approach to storytelling, Assemble with Care is proof that even puzzle games can be moving.
Up for a challenge? Bleak Sword condenses Dark Souls-style combat into a bite-sized mobile experience, as you’ll slash, parry and roll your way around enemies throughout 9 chapters of action. The game blends minimalist and modern art styles to striking effect, with stick-figure pixel characters that battle in bleak 3D dioramas.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a game that needs to be seen and heard as much as it needs to be played. Dubbed a “pop album video game,” Wild Hearts blends Temple Run-style running with basic rhythm challenges, all set to an irresistible electronic soundtrack and wrapped in captivating neon fantasy visuals. It’s not the most difficult game on Arcade, but it’s a perfect way to escape into some great sights and sounds for a few minutes — or hours.
Most fighting games on iOS are simple swipe-based affairs, but Punch Planet is the real deal. This futuristic brawler packs a deep combat system that combines Street Fighter-style controls with unique mechanics for countering and mixing up your opponent. Come for the cool sci-fi-noir art style, stay for the competitive depth, and play with a controller if you can.
If you’re looking for pure, arcade-style adrenaline, Agent Intercept will scratch that itch. Cast as a super spy, you’ll drive around freeways in a souped-up car that can knock enemies off the road, shoot missiles and even transform into a boat. With rich, sun-soaked graphics and no shortage of challenges to tackle, Agent Intercept is one of the best pick-up-and-play experiences on Arcade so far.
What the Golf?
What the Golf starts out like any other iOS golf game, as you whack a ball into a hole. Soon after, you’re flinging your golfer around the course, and not long after that, you’re carefully flicking the golf club itself from one end of a debris-ridden field to another. This is the weirdest golf game I’ve ever played, and it’s awesome. What the Golf? Is more of a physics-based puzzler than it is a sports title, and one of Arcade’s standout launch games.
Card of Darkness
Created by renowned indie developer Zach Gage, Card of Darkness is a challenging dungeon crawler hidden inside of an accessible card game. You’ll pick up cards that let you use weapons, gain money, recover health and destroy obstacles. Doing so in the wrong order will quickly lead to death. It’s as difficult as it is endlessly addicting, and is made all the more irresistible by its stunning hand-drawn art style.
Neo Cab is a narrative adventure game in which you play as one of the last remaining rideshare drivers in a world overrun by automation. Every ride you take on turns into an interactive conversation that challenges you to make your customers happy and keep up your star rating while dealing with your own emotions as protagonist Lina’s story continues to unravel. With its unique premise, branching narratives and striking neon-soaked visual style, Neo Cab is one of the coolest indie games available on any platform right now.
Towaga: Among Shadows
Another great pick for folks in need of a quick fix of action, Towaga: Among Shadows is a satisfying 2D shoot-em-up that has you defend against waves of enemies using bursts of light and a variety of powerful spells. The game’s 70-plus levels and variety of modes will test your twitch reflexes for a long time, and its beautiful animation looks like it was ripped out of your favorite Toonami cartoons.
Spek is a minimalist, M.C. Escher-eqsue puzzle game that has you guide dots to their destination by finding the right perspective on a series of objects. The game’s relaxing, engrossing soundtrack evolves as you progress, while the puzzles become more advanced and colorful. If you want a good brain teaser to relax on the couch with, Spek is one of the best on Arcade so far.
There aren’t enough great skateboarding games out there, but Skate City is definitely one of them. This chill skateboarding simulator lets you pull off tricks with simple touch and gamepad controls, though there’s plenty of room for advanced players to put together slick combos. With a laid-back lo-fi soundtrack, plenty of challenges to tackle and a relaxed endless skate mode, Skate City will satisfy all levels of players looking to get their kickflip on.
Shinsekai: Into the Depths
One of the meatiest, console-esque games on Arcade, Capcom’s Shinsekai: Into the Depths is a rich 2D adventure in which you’ll explore a mysterious underwater world filled with secrets to discover and bosses to conquer. Shinsekai’s detailed, distinct visuals and enrapturing audio design -- which includes sound effects that were recorded underwater -- make for one of the most unique, AAA-style games on Arcade so far.
Mobile word puzzle games are a dime a dozen, but Dear Reader finds away to stand out from the pack. This literary puzzler tasks you with unscrambling phrases from famous books, including Pride & Prejudice and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Bookworms will especially love this one, though anyone who enjoys a good word puzzle should have a blast, too.
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.