Apple Arcade: Is It Worth the Price of Admission?

I finally bit the bullet and purchased a new tablet. My last iPad was purchased second hand from a friend in college about a decade ago. Despite the cracked screen, it worked pretty well…until I misplaced it for 6 years and forgot my Apple ID information. Much to my surprise, when setting up the new iPad I discovered I had been given a free 3-month trial for both Apple TV and Apple Arcade. I had been looking forward to some shows on Apple TV, and I was curious about Apple Arcade. Also, I wasn’t about to turn down a free trial, so I decided to give Apple Arcade a whirl.

My first impression while browsing the Apple Arcade store is there seemed to be less games available in the arcade than the regular game store, but the games that were available were more involved. Granted, this might be because I generally only browse the free games, so I can’t attest to how the Apple arcade games stack up against purchased games. Apple’s website boasts that Arcade offers over 200 games, with new games being added weekly. This is the tip of the tip of the iceberg of all games offered in the Apple App Store, around 0.02% of the almost 100,000 games available in the Apple App Store. While I couldn’t track down how many of the games in the Apple App Store were free, just over 92% of all Apple Apps are free, and the average price of a game app is $2.80. Apple Arcade costs $4.99 a month for one user. There is also a Family Sharing option for up to 5 family members, but it’s not explicitly stated if this feature cost more or not.

With such a limited selection of games and so many general games being free to download, you may already be thinking that Apple Arcade is a rip-off. There is one feature that I think makes Apple Arcade worth it, even without getting into the actual games available: no ads or in-game purchases! Oh, how refreshing it is to play a mobile game without having to deal with ads or in-game purchases. It really elevates the mobile gaming experience to the level of other handheld gaming systems. There are several mobile games that have little to no ads, but playing other games feels more like an ad simulator than an actual game. I also despise games that overload you with menu after menu of special items you can purchase for upgrades or skins. I want to play the game, not fund your trip to Hawaii. I have also yet to see any games with energy restrictions, so you can play your favorite game to your hearts content.

Now let’s get to the games themselves. Some of the games offered are exclusive Apple Arcade originals, while others are fan favorites from the general App Store. Apple Arcade also offers versions of classic games like solitaire and mahjong. I do love me some mahjong, so naturally Mahjong Titan+ was one of the first games I downloaded. I’ve tried my fair share of mahjong games through the years, and this one is by far the most enjoyable to play. The tile designs are beautiful, the music is peaceful, and there are over 2,000 different board layouts.

I also sampled Goat Simulator+, Sonic Dash+, Prune+, Cat Quest II, and Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls. Goat Simulator is a goat simulation game (clever naming, right?) that was released on PC in 2014 and has since been expanded to nearly every current gaming system. Goat Simulator is currently going for about $10. Sonic Dash+ is an upgraded version of the 2013 Sonic Dash game available for free for Android and iOS. I tinkered with the free version, but in under 5 minutes I closed the game. It was buggy, and at the first ad break I was done. Likewise, Prune+ is an Apple Arcade version of Prune, which is available on PC and app stores for around $5.00. Cat Quest II is also available on most current gaming systems for around $14.99 or as a bundle with the original Cat Quest for around $30. Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls breaks the trend. While it was originally available on Android and iOS, it was only available in Canada and was since discontinued. Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls is now exclusively available through Apple Arcade.

In addition to the small number of games I’ve briefly checked out, I’m excited to play several more. There is an Oregon Trail game with brand new content made in collaboration with Native American scholars to feature Native American playable characters and stories in recognition of their culture and history. A new Frogger game, Frogger and the Rambling Ruins, is releasing today and looks interesting. I’ve also downloaded Monster Hunter Stories+, Fantasian, BADLAND+, and Beyond a Steel Sky.

At only $4.99 a month, Apple Arcade is more than worth it in my book. Just the ad free unlimited gaming experience is enough to sell me, but with the great selection of games as well, it’s a no-brainer. When my trial is up, I’m definitely keeping my Apple Arcade subscription. Let me know if you’ve tried Apple Arcade and what your favorite games are. Until the next time, stay cool, be you. Bye!

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