These are the best Apple Arcade games you can play right now

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This spunky little guy is the star of Spyder, one of the best Apple Arcade games.
This spunky little guy is the star of Spyder, one of the best games on Apple Arcade.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

There’s never been a better time to try Apple Arcade, the subscription gaming service that serves up unlimited access to more than 100 iPhone, iPad and Apple TV titles for only $4.99 a month.

With exclusive games — and a total lack of the annoying ads and in-app purchases that mar many “free” iOS games — it offers some real advantages. But it wouldn’t  be a bargain if there were no fun games. Fortunately, there are plenty. Here are some of the best you’ll find on Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade is outstanding for players … and parents

Apple’s gaming service is inexpensive but not free. In reality, there’s no such thing as a free game. Fortnite is called a free-to-play title, yet it earned Epic Games $1.8 billion in 2019. That’s because it’s full of in-app purchases. And it’s not just Fortnite. The top-grossing iOS games are all “free.”

Apple Arcade doesn’t play that game. Period. Full stop. It bans in-app purchases, loot boxes, and other moneymaking systems. Advertising within games is also forbidden.

When playing a title from this service, you’ll never be nagged to buy outfits, weapons or vehicles. Or the gems, power crystals or gold you need to keep going in a “free” game. Parents can rest assured their kids won nag them to buy any of these items for Apple Arcade games.

Thanks to the economic havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic, money is tight for a lot of people right now. But $4.99 a month isn’t too much, especially since that’s the maximum you’ll spend for unlimited access to all Apple Arcade games. There are no hidden costs.

Best of Apple Arcade

There are so many titles in Apple’s gaming service that it can be hard to know where to start. Apple Arcade currently houses more than 100 offerings, and new games debut almost every week.

Here are some of Cult of Mac‘s favorite Apple Arcade games. Take them as a jumping-off point. (And once you play them, explore the other Apple Arcade games — and let us know if you find any new favorites.)

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm

Best Apple Arcade games: In Oceanhorn 2, it's you and your robot buddy against the world. Actually, mostly it's just you
In Oceanhorn 2, it’s you and your robot buddy against the world. Actually, mostly it’s just you.
Screenshot: Cornfox & Brothers

Fans of traditional role-playing games should head straight to Oceanhorn 2 from Cornfox & Bros. Fight monsters, tackle bosses, explore levels to finish quests … it delivers everything you expect from an RPG. Except there are no nagging messages to buy power crystals or more-powerful weapons.

Of course, Oceanhorn 2 is playable on an iPhone touchscreen, but many Apple Arcade games also can be played with an Xbox or PS4 controller. MFi controllers are supported, too.

(Don’t miss the full Cult of Mac review of Oceanhorn 2.)

What the Golf?

What the Golf? by Fun Plus doesn't often have much to do with golf.
Why use a golf ball when you have an office chair instead?
Photo: Fun Plus/Apple

What the Golf? by Fun Plus calls itself “golf for people who hate golf.” It’s a silly, physics-based parody of a game your dad might play. Just don’t mistake this for a golf simulator. Unlike those, this is actually fun!

Sometimes you’ll shoot a golf ball, but other times you’re throwing cars, eggs, soccer balls or even houses. There are levels that act like Portal or Guitar Hero. With What the Golf?, you just never know.

Spyder

Spyder on Apple Arcade is a high-tech adventure.
Crawl through a spy-on-the-wall adventure in Spyder on Apple Arcade.
Photo: Sumo Digital

Spyder features a tiny robot spider on a spy mission to save the great big world. The goal is to solve puzzles — how can an itty-bitty machine operate human-size objects without getting caught?

The graphics in this game are outstanding. They really bring the small world inhabited by the robot to life. For extra fun, it’s all about sabotage. You’re breaking things more than building.

Mini Motorways

Mini Motorways is one of the best games on Apple Arcade. The goal of is to draw the roads that drive the city
The goal of Mini Motorways is to draw the roads that drive the city.
Photo: Dinosaur Polo Club/Apple

Mini Motorways from Dinosaur Polo Club is somewhat reminiscent of the classic SimCity. In the new Apple Arcade game, players build a road network to create a bustling metropolis. You can even take on the job of keeping traffic flowing in Los Angeles, Beijing, Moscow and other landmark cities.

It’s not a game for the little ones. But it’s surprisingly fun to build a city in Mini Motorways
.

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Piloting a motorcycle though a city is just part of the fun in Sayonara Wild Hearts
Piloting a motorcycle though a city is just part of the fun in Sayonara Wild Hearts.
Screenshot: Annapurna

Apple seems to love Sayonara Wild Hearts — you’ll see it in ads for the 2020 iPhone SE. That’s not surprising, since the game is both visually striking and fun. Play involves zooming through a world of bright colors with music urging you along, all the while picking up crystals to rack up your score.

(Read the full Cult of Mac review of Sayonara Wild Hearts.)

Butter Royale

Best Apple Arcade games: Butter Royale is a Fortnite-like food fight that's safe for little kids to play.
Apple Arcade’s Butter Royale is a Fortnite-like food fight.
Photo: Mighty Bear Games/Apple

Kids too small for Fortnite can try Butter Royale instead. Rather than a desperate struggle for survival, this offering from Mighty Bear Games is a food fight. But the two combat games still have much in common.

In both games, players drop into an arena to battle with or against their friends. But in Butter Royale, they wield weapons like the Breadzooka that make squishy food noises rather than explosions.

Crossy Road Castle

Long-awaited Crossy Road sequel Crossy Road Castle is now on Apple Arcade
Crossy Road Castle puts players through an endless castle run.
Photo: Hipster Whale

Crossy Road became a huge hit, and the highly anticipated sequel came to Apple Arcade in February. Crossy Road Castle keeps the original’s Frogger vibe, but it sends players through an endless tower, not over a road. It proves especially fun with multiple players, each on their own controller.