Apple Arcade four months later: Why it's replaced Nintendo Switch for mobile gameplay

Apple Arcade on iPhone XS Max
Apple Arcade on iPhone XS Max (Image credit: iMore)

Mobile gaming has always been a bit of a mixed bag. While the idea of having access to thousands of games on my iPhone through the App Store has always appealed to me, finding quality games that were worth my time and money was incredible hard. Not to mention the free-to-play model is so prominent in mobile developing that playing a game you really love can eventually become frustrating to play unless you decided to consistently spend money. The good news is, this has all changed with the release of Apple Arcade.

When Apple Arcade launched in September 2019, I immediately fell in love with the service and it made gaming on my iPhone a truly enjoyable experience.

Apple delivered on its promise

When Apple Arcade was first announced in March last year, the promise was very clear — no ads, no in-app purchases, and no always-on DRM. For one monthly (or yearly if you so choose) subscription fee, you would get access to the entire Apple Arcade catalog on all your Apple devices. Plus, you'll never have to worry about paying for anything in the game or be forced to stay connected to a Wi-Fi network to play — simply download the game you want and play it.

"Downloading a new game from the Apple Arcade tab was not only exciting but a little addictive"

When the service finally launched in September, Apple delivered. The service started with approximately 80 titles (now it has over 100), and each title was precisely as advertised. A complete gaming experience without annoying pop-up ads, the need to pay for anything in-game, and not a single game needed you to be continuously connected to Wi-Fi — I was like a kid in a candy store.

Suddenly, downloading a new game from the Apple Arcade tab was not only exciting but a little addictive. I quickly downloaded a bunch of titles without the fear of getting invested in a game that would lock my progress behind some sort of in-game currency that would cause me to have to dish out real money. Trying new games became a hobby as I would eagerly dive into a new world knowing that I could expect a fleshed-out experience. The days of having to scour the App Store to find a game that looks good is over, and there's no way I want to go back to that reality.

Play what you want, when you want, and how you want

iPad Pro with DualShock 4 controller

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

The last time a company gave me this much excitement about gaming-on-the-go was when Nintendo released the Switch a few years ago. I used to love taking my Switch on the bus or long road trips because it was a way to play some of my favorite games when I was away from the comfort of my living room; however, since the launch of Apple Arcade, my Nintendo Switch has rarely come out of its dock.

While Apple Arcade is a service instead of a gaming console, it really embraced a lot of the same mentality that Nintendo had with the Switch, which is giving you the ability to play when and how you want. Commuting on the bus? I pull out my iPhone and start playing Where Cards Fall. Taking a break from writing in a coffee shop? I'll whip out my MacBook Air and play a little bit of Sayonara Wild Hearts. Even when I'm chilling at home, it's so easy to boot up my Apple TV and lose myself in Oceanhorn 2. The versatility as well as the variety that Apple Arcade offers ensure that I'm perfectly happy to leave my Switch at home and just pick a game from the vast catalog.

I'm by no means saying that the Nintendo Switch is bad — I still play mine a lot. It's just when I think about taking it around with me, I just can't justify it anymore when there are 100+ games sitting right there in my pocket just waiting to be discovered.

Quality games are key

Apple Arcade on iPod touch (Image credit: iMore)

Regardless of how portable a gaming system or service may or may not be the quality of the games are going to matter. Of course, Apple Arcade doesn't offer the same experience as a console, and if you're looking for top-tier graphics, likely you aren't turning to your phone for gaming fix — though the visuals on some Apple Arcade games are pretty stellar. But when it comes to gameplay, Apple Arcade has many titles that are so good.

I've tried roughly 25-30 games on Apple Arcade to date, and not one of those titles has disappointed me. Some titles are less fun than others, but that just comes down to personal preference more than anything else. Every title I have tried has been a complete experience that has been well designed and well-executed. Whether it's a minimalist puzzle game that makes you think, an atmospheric story game that transports you to another world, or an action-packed, fast-paced game that gets the adrenaline pumping — every time I pick up an Apple Arcade game, I'm pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the experience ends up being.

Plus, lots of Apple Arcade titles work with MFi controllers or even the PlayStation DualShock 4 and Wireless controller — this goes a long way for quite a few titles on Apple Arcade by making them play more comfortably. The good news is you can completely ignore this, you don't need a controller to play any of the titles at all — your digits will work just fine.

Apple Arcade is a shining achievement

There are no two ways about it — Apple Arcade is a fantastic service that I feel makes it's $5 a month price tag well worth it. With over 100 games to choose from, all of which you can download, delete, and re-download to your heart's content, there truly is something for everyone.

Mobile gaming no longer means you have to search the App Store with a fine-tooth comb looking at reviews and trying to piece together whether a game is worth your money or not. You no longer have to spend real money on a bunch of in-app purchases that block your progress if you don't buy them. Apple Arcade has provided a consistency that the mobile gaming landscape has never seen before.

I don't think Apple Arcade gets the credit it deserves. Personally, it's my favorite new Apple product that has come out in recent years, and if you give it a chance, you just might feel that way too.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.