From the arcade cabinet to the home entertainment system to the palm of everyone’s hand, the video game industry is no stranger to reinvention. After all, its entire model rewards boundless innovation. On top of that, it’s safe to say that Apple has played a crucial part in shaping the industry as we know it today.

The prevalence of iPhone games reconfigured the industry’s controls and reshaped the face of video games for better or worse. The iPhone sneakily put a portable gaming console in everyone’s pocket. The market responded by creating a new genre of casual, lo-fi, uber-addictive games to scratch the smartphone gamer’s itch.

Today, the mobile gaming industry is valued at $70.3 billion and projected to reach $180 billion in revenues in 2021. Apple knew what they were doing with the OG iPhone, which gives credence to their latest video game venture, Apple Arcade.

What is Apple Arcade?

Launched on September 19, 2019, Apple Arcade is Apple’s answer to subscription-based gaming services like Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now. The sole difference is that you don’t need a PC or video game console.

After a one-month free trial, an Apple Arcade subscription costs just $4.99 a month. A subscription grants subscribers instant access to over 100 unique mobile games. Apple promises that the games list is set to grow with monthly updates and some impressive exclusive games.

What’s more, Apple Arcade promises no ads, no ad-tracking, and no additional in-game purchases required to enjoy its ever-growing list of games. This is a refreshing take for anyone familiar with the current microtransaction-heavy business model prevalent in mobile games.

How Does It Work?

So, how does Apple Arcade actually work?

Apple Arcade grants its users access to a vast library of games. These games — which can be enjoyed offline — cannot be purchased through the App Store. Better yet, one subscription can be shared with up to six family members with Family Sharing.

The App Store has already been updated to include a dedicated Apple Arcade tab, which acts as a landing page for all things Apple Arcade. Once you subscribe, you’ll be able to navigate the tab, download the games you want, and enjoy them on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV!

As of this writing, there is no dedicated gaming controller for Apple Arcade. However, some games are compatible with the PlayStation DualShock 4 and Xbox One wireless controllers.

For now, users can enjoy the full Apple Arcade experience without the need for additional peripherals. Their device’s touch screen controls, MacBook keyboard, or Apple TV remote should be more than enough to get most users started.

The Games

Sure, the price is right, but the games are the real prize. As such, Apple has partnered with some of the most prominent game developers in the entire industry to bolster Apple Arcade’s library.

Most notable are the following games:

  • Chu Chu Rocket! Universe: After 20 years, there will be a new entry in Sega’s beloved puzzle franchise. Guide your mouse-like ChuChus to safety in over 100 new levels.
  • Exit the Gungeon: A spin-off to Dodge Roll’s popular Enter the Gungeon, this title flips the script. Instead of traversing through a dungeon, Exit the Gungeon focuses on mixing bullet hell shooters with tight 2D platforming.
  • Sayonara Wild Hearts: From Simogo – the developers behind acclaimed mobile games Device 6 and Year Walk – this game is a surprising blend between a rhythm and racing game. The combination of stunning graphics, energetic soundtrack, and unique gameplay has made it one of the most promising games in the Apple Arcade library.

While these games may be the most notable, there’s more. A lot more. Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, Square Enix, Konami, and Lego have all thrown their hat in on developing games for Apple Arcade.

Of the fast-growing list of Apple Arcade exclusives, there are a couple of games that deserve a more comprehensive breakdown.

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm

In 2013, Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas was an oddity on the mobile scene. While a lot of mobile games ripped off other more established titles, Oceanhorn took a stab at a genre that wasn’t really suited to the mobile platform — the action-adventure genre. Although it was clearly a homage to Nintendo’s popular Legend of Zelda series, it earned a lot of critical acclaim due to its ambitious nature.

The team at Cornfox & Brothers isn’t resting on their laurels with Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm. This Apple Arcade exclusive sequel is a major step forward for this budding franchise.

Plot-wise, Oceanhorn 2 takes place in the past — 2000 years in the past to be exact. Despite the setting, the game’s visuals are far from dated though. Oceanhorn 2’s graphics are on par with what is offered on consoles. This huge graphical upgrade stands out on the mobile market.

This action-adventure, Zelda-style RPG features dozens of side-quests, tons of new puzzles, and impressive boss fights that will keep you coming back for more. So. if you’re thinking about subscribing to Apple Arcade or you already pulled the trigger on your free trial, you definitely have to check out this groundbreaking game.

Where Cards Fall

The Los Angeles Times called Apple Arcade’s Where Cards Fall a must-play and it’s hard to disagree.

For starters, the narrative-driven, card-based puzzler is absolutely gorgeous. The visuals feature a dark and moody undertone that serves to fully immerse you in the game’s gripping story.

The gameplay mechanics are clever in their simplicity. The main mechanic requires the player to build houses of cards to create pathways for the main character. Eventually, these pathways help create a fully realized world.

Where Cards Fall is easily one of the most impressive puzzlers available on Apple Arcade right now. If you’re into brain-testing puzzles and coming-of-age stories, do yourself a favor and download Where Cards Fall immediately.