On September 19, 2019, Apple launched Apple Arcade, a $5-a-month subscription service dedicated to bringing top-tier, bullshit-free mobile games to iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV. One year later the service has more than 130 mostly great games with more arriving on a semi-weekly basis, and I’ve never once considered canceling.
When Apple Arcade launched with a 71-strong roster that included some of the coolest games we’ve seen from developers like Capybara (Grindstone), Capcom (Shinsekai: Into the Depths), Versus Evil (Cardpocalypse), and Ustwo Games (Assemble with Care), it was a great deal. New Sonic the Hedgehog, Chu Chu Rocket, and Frogger games were icing on the cake. Getting instant access to a horde of quality, microtransaction-free games was pretty damn awesome. I checked back a month and eight new games later to see if the awesome held up. It did.
A year later, checking Apple Arcade for new games has become part of my Friday morning routine. There are more than 130 games included in the subscription service now, which averages out to about one new game a week, so I’m surprised by new releases on a fairly regular basis. Just this past Friday a new game from WayForward Technologies called Marble Knights popped up. That’s one of my favorite developers, and I had no idea the game was coming. In my profession getting surprised by games is a very rare occurrence. I’d almost pay a fiver a month just to have that experience.
What’s great about surprise games on Apple Arcade is no matter what pops up I can expect a certain degree of quality. I might not like Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows, a Devolver Digital adventure game released last month, but I know the game works, I know it’s relatively bug-free, and I know no one is going to ask me to pay a few extra bucks for a rare Jon Snow or additional dragon eggs. SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit is a 2D side-scrolling platformer mainly aimed at fans of the show, but it’s a damn fine 2D side-scrolling SpongeBob platformer.
The games I do like, I like a whole lot. One of my favorite releases of the past year is World’s End Club, a new adventure game from Zero Escape series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi and Danganronpa writer Kazutaka Kodaka. To think that a brand-new experience crafted by these two amazing creators just popped up on a Friday morning, ready to play. It’s unreal.
Along with a regular influx of Apple Arcade exclusives, games have started showing up on Apple Arcade on the same day as they do on consoles and PC. Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time, which I love, came out on consoles and Apple Arcade the same day. So did delightful platforming puzzler The Last Campfire from Hello Games. One of my favorite new puzzle games, Draknek’s utterly charming A Monster’s Expedition Through Puzzling Exhibitions, hit Steam and Apple Arcade simultaneously.
All of these new games regularly being added are nice, but the older games are updating regularly as well. Barely a week goes by when some developer doesn’t add new levels, modes, or features to their Apple Arcade stuff. This weekend Snowman added an entire new city to Skate City, one of the services’ launch games. Action-adventure game Hot Lava just updated with an augmented-reality mode that uses the iPad Pro’s LIDAR feature to map players’ homes, filling them with virtual lava.
My favorite thing about Apple Arcade is that all of these games are available instantly at no additional charge. It seems unfair that console players have to pay $40 for the new Samurai Jack game when I can almost play it free on my iPad or Apple TV. But hey, I pay a whole five bucks a month for the privilege, and it feels good. It’s not shopping at the App Store. It’s a trip to the library, where the books are all at least pretty good and none of them are checked out. It’s a good deal, that could be even better this fall, when Apple Arcade joins the lineup of Apple’s new bundled subscription service, Apple One. The lowest tier bundles Apple TV+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage together for $15 a month.
If you’ve never touched Apple Arcade, Apple is still offering a one-month free trial. If you have touched it and let it lapse, consider hopping back in and seeing all the cool stuff that’s been added since last year. I still think it’s totally worth it.