Apple Arcade brings indies to the touchscreen.
Apple Arcade has fully taken over our thumbs, and with every passing day more titles are being added to the service. What makes the Arcade space so different to the tragically overcrowded App Store we’ve grown used to contending with is Apple’s own hand in curating and supporting the developers featured on its platform. The result is a stock of some of the best and brightest indie games to hit digital store shelves, and holding them all in one place is the 4.99 subscription service right in your pocket. The first month’s free, so get downloading and enjoy the latest indie games right now!
7. Mini Motorways
Mini Motorways gives me everything I need from a Cities Skylines planning session in my pocket. It’s not the sprawling city simulation of yore, of course, but it scratches that same itch – the satisfaction of controlling chaos and adapting to organic growth with building pressure. Sound fun? You know it is.
It’s not the first game from Dinosaur Polo Club to take on that city management structure. But while Mini Metro has you designing subway lines underground, Mini Motorways puts you in charge of the complex road networks of a busy city, and getting it right feels just as satisfying as it ever did.
6. Punch Planet
Punch Planet is like having a modern Street Fighter II in your pocket all the time. A cyberpunk fighter with a gorgeous aesthetic and smooth, satisfying animations and sound effects, this is going to be on your phone for a while. Sector-K have been playing around with this for a while, and it’s currently in Steam Early Access, but Apple Arcade has put it into the hands of the masses for the first time.
Intergalactic espionage, murder, and plenty of fisticuffs all converge on the Planet K-0, where you conveniently find yourself. The resulting storyline is subtle enough to stay out of the way of good fighting gameplay but the lore behind it will evoke a chuckle and provide some excellent context to this already exhilarating thumb twitcher.
5. Where Cards Fall
There’s so much uncertainty in the world of Where Cards Fall that its coming of age undertones shine brightly through its meditative puzzler blanket. Your main objective is to traverse the world around you and manipulate giant playing cards into complex structures in order to uncover your own dream-like memories. Where Cards Fall feels like it was made for Apple Arcade – a game based on touch controls that goes far deeper than your usual tap-happy coffee break fodder. Even the inspiration for one of its main mechanics came from the organisation of photos in older iOS versions.
Everything feels terrifyingly fragile in this world of cards and the result is an incredibly touching game with a lasting experience.
Overland taps into a trope of post-apocalyptic entertainment that is rarely acknowledged – the almost episodic nature of a design fragmented into individual scenarios. As you guide your survivors across dangerous wastelands of modern times gone by, you’ll face a number of these scenarios. Each is presented as a strategic puzzle, but they all come together to tell a nomadic story of the kind of relentless struggle for survival that more linear experiences often fail to convey. Every movement you make, every intersection you come across, and every building you pass becomes a threat.
The game presents randomly generated scenarios for you to fight and think your way through with punishing difficulty. While each scene is perfect for pocket play, it also does a great job of instilling that sense of exhaustion and unease that would be oh-so-present in a non-Hollywood version of the apocalypse.
3. Neo Cab
Neo Cab has been on the radars of indie enthusiasts for a while. The stark colours and moody overtones of the strategic narrative adventure sit well on the smaller screen, and the unique storyline of this world of robots and one lone human driver brings a depth to the iPhone we hadn’t seen before these Apple Arcade indie games.
As you navigate the streets of the future, you’ll quickly learn about the characters you let into your cab. Respond to their dialogue in strategic ways that allow you to both further their stories and ensure your ride score isn’t dragged down. There’s so much more going on under the surface: the constant surveillance, the gig economy, the disappearance of your best friend. This is high-quality interactive fiction with the graphics and music to draw a mainstream audience – a perfect combination for Apple Arcade.
2. Sayonara Wild Hearts
Flick over to the Sayonara Wild Hearts app and any mood is instantly lifted. Whether it’s the jaw-dropping soundtrack, the mesmerising visuals or the empowering speed of every level, this is a game designed to make playing it feel damn good. And that holds true on a touchscreen as well.
You may need a sit down after a few levels, but the whole experience of this heart-collecting dash to save the world from evil in the shoes of a motorbike revving superhero is invigorating. Every level offers a new surprise, a new twist on the formats it has presented before and a new thumping soundtrack to have you zooming across an astral highway to. If you like to play games on your phone before bed, though, this might not be for you.
1. Assemble With Care
The creators of Monument Valley were always going to make an Apple Arcade indie game smash hit, and Assemble With Care looks like just the thing. We surround ourselves with objects. Objects we love and objects we hate, objects we care about and objects we discard – Assemble With Care looks to bring our attention to the millions of objects we pass each day, and the stories each one could tell.
As the owner of an antique shop, you come across more objects than the average passerby does in a day and it’s your job to fix them. And, of course, hear about the stories they hold within them. It’s the kind of human-focused experience that indie games in this vein have often come to stake their name on, and beautifully translated to the touch screen.
The stellar lineup populating Apple Arcade’s shelves this early on in the service certainly bodes well. Apple has obviously invested in the quality of the titles making the subscription, so we’ll have to see just how well this holds up once the monthly renewals start racking up. For what it’s worth, we think Apple Arcade will make waves in the indie scene.
Tabs’ perfect afternoon consists of a cuppa, a biscuit tin, and a good RPG. When she’s not writing, commissioning and editing indie game features, she’s writing for her own blog, Musings Of A Mario Minion.