Apple Arcade is mobile gaming without all the BS

Entering into the busiest video game season of the year, we didn’t exactly need Apple Arcade, nor did we really want it, given Apple’s mediocre stewardship of video games for the past decade. What a shock, then, that Apple Arcade is one of the best gaming launches we can remember, and that we can recommend it without making any apologies or exceptions for the stuff no one likes about mobile games. This thing is great.

The Apple Arcade service is an all-you-can-play offering of more than 70 new games that is available starting today for $5 a month, with a one-month free trial. It runs on iPhones and iPads now and will soon also work on iMacs and other devices including Apple TV.

Because of the way the games are being offered, there’s no need for the developers to include any of the aggravations typical of modern gaming. There are no timers designed to stop you from playing the game you’re enjoying unless you pay extra. There are no ads. There are no energy meters, and no microtransactions.

There are, simply, none of the manipulative systems that have contaminated nearly all of mobile gaming. Just imagine playing a puzzle game and not having to wait an hour for a timer to tick down before you can play the next level. Imagine playing a strategy game where you aren’t offered the chance to pay more to speed up the suspiciously slow building times. Imagine not being screwed with while you play mobile games. What a concept!

Freed of that, there is instead what will possibly prove to be one of the best gaming launch lineups in history. We say probably, because the biggest problem of covering Apple Arcade’s launch is the sheer amount of games, that all hit at once. The roster included about 50 new games when we started digging into a beta of the service earlier this week. It has grown to 70 today, and Apple says it will soon expand past 100. We therefore haven’t even had time to play all the games, let alone get very far into many of them.

What we have played has generally been impressive. The average quality of game here is high. Many of these games are from top developers, whose lack of recent output is explained by the surprise appearance of their games here. There’s a story-based game about fixing gadgets from the makers of Monument Valley, a game about cars and roads from the brilliant makers of the railway game Mini Metro, and a terrific underwater riff on Metroid from Capcom.

There are fun new word games, exciting sidescrollers, and challenging strategy games. There are original and exclusive games and multi-platform entries like Mutazione, Sayonara Wild Hearts and Overland. There’s a new Frogger, a new Sonic Racing, and a new Chu Chu Rocket. And there’s a game about being a Sasquatch who steals camper’s lunches.

Nowhere in this lineup is anything especially provocative or edgy, an early warning that Apple’s already restrictive approach to allowing games with politically-charged subject matter on the App Store will be at play here in a service where they have even more say-so in what is being offered. After all, Arcade is hand-curated and funded by Apple.

Apple Arcade nevertheless seems like a good thing at the moment. Its subscription model presents an opportunity for developers to give people who play on their phones and tablets more games that are great and fun and not compromised by gameplay that nickel-and-dimes the player.

The service is a no-brainer for anyone with a good enough device to at least test it for its free trial month. It does, we found, apply some not so subtle pressure to upgrade to newer devices or ones with more storage. After all, there are just so many games to download and play.

In the past few days, we’ve tried as many games on Arcade as we can. We still need to try more. So, with apologies to the makers of Jenny LeClue, the Pinball Wizard, Hexaflip and so many more.