Apple Arcade vs Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) on iOS: Which is better?

Xbox Game Pass Vs Apple Arcade
Xbox Game Pass Vs Apple Arcade (Image credit: iMore)

While both Xbox Game Pass (XCloud) on iOS and Apple Arcade offer quality game subscription services to help you entertain yourself for hours, they're also very different from each other. To figure out which service is best for you, you'll need to determine what you want out of a gaming subscription.

Apple Arcade vs. Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) on iOS: What's the difference?

Sayonara Wild Hearts and Apple Arcade with a DualShock 4 controller (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

Comparing Apple Arcade and Xbox Game Pass is almost like comparing, well, apples to green oranges. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is more for allowing you to do core Xbox and PC gaming for a monthly fee, with cloud gaming included, while Apple Arcade tends to offer more traditional or casual mobile games. They're both excellent services but satisfy different needs.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Xbox Game PassApple Arcade
AvailabilityBeta (by Invitation only)Open to all
Controller CompatibilityYesYes
MicrotransactionsYes (some games)No

Both services have a large library of games, though at the moment Apple Arcade's is much larger at 180+. That being said, more titles are frequently added to both on a regular basis.

Apple Arcade vs. Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) on iOS: What's the price?

Xbox Game Pass Ios With Xbox Controller Cropped (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Apple Arcade is a bit less expensive per month than Xbox Game Pass Ultimate at $4.99 per month, making it an incredible value. Meanwhile, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs a decent amount more than other game streaming services out there at $14.99 per month. However, Xbox Game Pass users can go for a lower subscription cost if they simply want to play PC games ($9.99 per month) or just console games ($9.99 per month).

Considering how many awesome games you get for the Ultimate subscription, it's really worth buying in. For instance, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives you Xbox Live Gold and EA Play, which respectively let you play online games and grant you access to a huge library of EA games like Jedi: Fallen Order, Sims 4, and Star War Squadrons.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is also really impressive given that it lets you play several games that sell for as much as $70 on their own. In that way it's an amazing deal. You can pick up any game and check it out without having to actually pay the full price for it. And if you decide a game isn't to your liking, you can stop without feeling buyer's remorse.

One of the biggest pluses for using Apple Arcade over simply downloading a game from the app store is that there aren't any ads nor microtransactions for these titles. Now, there aren't any ads on Xbox Game Pass either. However, some games do have in-game purchases. If you're trying to find a gaming service for your kid and don't want to worry about them potentially buying things, Apple Arcade is the safer way to go.

Apple Arcade vs. Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) on iOS: Gaming experience

Apple Arcade Iphones (Image credit: Macintosh)

Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) on iOS is quite a bit more than just mobile gaming. It allows players to access a certain number of AAA Xbox and PC games on their compatible iPhone or iPad devices. That means that while you're at home, you can play Xbox Game Pass games on your Xbox or PC and then while you're on a trip you can continue playing those games from your iPhone or iPad and vice versa. It's incredibly handy. Of course, the big issue right now is access, since it's available in an invitation-only beta.

Apple Arcade, on the other hand, does not give you any access to AAA games. Now, mobile gaming has come a long way in the past decade, so you can experience everything from simple puzzle titles like Tiny Crossword+ to action-adventures like Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm, but it's not quite the same.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate games

Halo Master Chief Red (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Here's a tiny taste of the best games on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (xCloud):

  • Control
  • Monster Hunter World
  • Gears 5
  • Kingdom Hearts 3
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Halo: Master Chief Collection
  • Doom Eternal
  • Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Sea of Thieves
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • The Elder Scrolls Online
  • ARK: Survival Evolved

Apple Arcade games

Oceanhorn 2 (Image credit: Cornfox & Bros.)

This is just a small collection of the best Apple Arcade games:

  • Sayonara Wild Hearts
  • What the Golf?
  • The Oregon Trail
  • Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
  • Cat Quest 2
  • Exit the Gungeon
  • Star Trek Legends
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens
  • NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition
  • Fruit Ninja
  • Sonic Racing
  • The Pinball Wizard
  • Manifold Garden
  • Pac-Man Party Royale
  • The Last Campfire

Apple Arcade vs. Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) on iOS: Controller Compatibility and Touch Controls

Xbox Game Pass With Accessories (Image credit: Microsoft)

Both Apple Arcade and Xbox Game Pass on mobile can pair with controllers to make the gaming experience more convenient. In fact, there are games on both services that require you to use an external controller while others have optional touch controls.

Many of the best game controllers for Apple Arcade are the same as the best controllers for Xbox Game Pass on iOS. My personal favorites for both services are the Xbox One controller, the PS4 controller, and the Razer Kishi, which basically turns your iPhone into a Nintendo Switch with joysticks and buttons on either side of the screen.

Apple Arcade vs. Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) on iOS: Which one should you get?

Apple Arcade game on iPad Air (Image credit: iMore)

This is one of those situations where there isn't a clear winner. However, considering that Apple Arcade is widely available while Xbox Game Pass on iOS currently isn't, the former is the better pick... for now. It allows you to specifically play mobile games that range from casual to more intensive experiences. It doesn't cost that much and it's also a great option to go with if you're trying to find a game subscription for your child that doesn't include microtransactions or ads.

If you think you'll enjoy playing core console games more than mobile games, then the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on iOS is the option for you. It offers a remarkable value letting you play some of the best Xbox and PC games without actually having to purchase them. You can also go for a lower subscription price if you opt for PC games only or Xbox games only. Unfortunately, Xbox Game Pass on iOS is currently in beta and accessible by invitation only. We don't know when it will open up for all, but it will likely be a while still.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.