Correction: The fourth–gen Apple TV was of course released 2015 not 2016. Time to start fact checking myself (I’ll blame it on too much jazz, whisky, and a long day at work. My apologies dear readers). The story below has been corrected accordingly.
Prelude: In a very real way, 2019 feels like the year that Apple TV as a platform for gaming came of age.
Apple Arcade has absolutely been the most significant event in the platform’s three-and-a-bit year history, bringing over 100 quality titles to a console that up until the launch of the gaming subscription in September, was having a very slow year for releases.
With more players finally starting to discover and explore this relatively new country of gaming, ATVG thought that now was a perfect time to do something a little special. For the rest of the week I’ll showcase the last three year’s Best of lists, in an effort to shine a light on the dark path a few of us trod in order to get to the light.
After a look back, with a preamble such as this before each to highlight each year’s most significant events, we’ll get to this coming weekend, at which point I’ll post 2019’s Best of. That’ll be a tough one. A lot of games have hit Apple TV in 2019, 103 of them since September with the launch of Apple Arcade, arriving late in the year to rearrange the furniture.
But for now let’s go back to 2016. The beginning.
When Tim Cook announced the fourth-generation Apple TV at WWDC 2015 with its gaming capability, I knew straight away watching the event that a new platform had arrived. I also suspected that it would be a slow burn, but a captivating journey. I wanted in on this niche.
How often does one get to follow a gaming platform from inception, watching it evolve. Three years on, I can say it’s been nothing short of fascinating.
I didn’t actually end up picking a Game of the Year until 2018, but if I had my time again, I’d pick Dan The Man for year one – 2016 – in a heartbeat.
The bulk of the games in this 2016 list were launch titles, and after setting up my brand new fourth-gen Apple TV and pairing my Steel Series Nimbus, Dan The Man and Real Racing 3 were some of the first games I downloaded.
Playing Dan The Man with a controller in-hand confirmed that a path had opened up for this new gaming platform, and knowing how much fun I had with Halfbrick’s title, I was confident I’d embarked on a journey worth taking. And here we are.
I’d like to thank all the developers who shared their games, their time, and their insights with me over the last three years, and of course for taking chances on releasing games for this platform that really looked like it was going nowhere fast.
Thanks also to the readers, for your emails, your shares, likes, RTs, and of course for your valuable time spent reading these silly ramblings of mine. Much appreciated.
Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few of the games from this list along the wsy, with Gameloft no longer supporting Modern Combat 5, and also Minecraft and Geometry Wars 3 leaving the platform. They were fun while they lasted.
Gameloft is of course back on Apple TV with its Apple Arcade title Ballistic Baseball. So, welcome back Gameloft. It’s stories like these that shape a platform and give it history, with games coming and going, rising and falling.
We’re certainly in a different place now then we were three years ago.
Ready to jump in the time machine? Excellent. Let’s go.
Original Story from 2016: Putting together the list below has caused me to make a decision: I’m no longer calling Apple TV a ‘microconsole.’ With the quality of games on the fledgling platform it seems like a superfluous label that takes away from what’s on offer.
‘Console’ is just fine from now on.
Sure, it’s a different level of gaming to PS4, Xbox One, and high end PC gaming, but if you have a fourth-generation Apple TV in your lounge room and you love gaming, then throw some money towards a compatible controller and you’ll soon discover some excellent titles that you can’t play on big screens elsewhere. And some that you can, which is why I’m dispensing with the ‘micro.’
For more on who The Apple TV Gaming Blog is, and why it’s here, mash this link.
To find out what the best games are for your Apple TV, read on.
The Best Racers
Real Racing 3 (Firemonkeys)
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve written something along the lines of “the closest you’ll get to a console racer on iOS,” in various Grab It Magazine articles. But there’s no longer any need for the preamble, because on Apple TV Real Racing 3 is, quite literally, a console racer.
With great visuals, authentic car sounds, tonnes of cars, tracks, and events, racing fans should make this their first download after setting up a new Apple TV and pairing their MFi controller. The user-interface loses a little friendliness in the translation from touchscreen to controller, but it’s a small niggle once you realise what you have on your big screen and stereo for zero dollars in.
Asphalt 8 (Gameloft)
This is the racer you’ll download if you want pure arcade fun. Insane stunts and crashes, ridiculous air, and one-more-go-gameplay.
Riptide GP: Renegade (Vector Unit)
Vector Unit’s jet ski racer has some wonderfully realistic physics modelling under the hood, forcing you to really learn how to steer these things. Awarded a Best of 2016 award from Apple, it’s easy to understand why once you’ve fired it up and gotten your feet wet.
AG Drive (ZORG Entertainment)
The next best thing to Wipeout on Apple TV. Slick, anti-gravity racing.
The Best Platformers
Dan The Man (Halfbrick)
Halfbrick’s Dan The Man is an excellent 2D action-platformer that respects the genre with its style and humour, rather than exploiting it for the sake of a nostalgic cash-in. A must-have Apple TV title.
Check out ATVG’s review for the full run-down.
Rayman Adventures (Ubisoft)
A polished and typically beautiful looking outing for Ubisoft’s platforming mascot.
Tons of Bullets (FredBear Games)
Challenging but rewarding pixel art goodness.
Eye-candy colours and level design with a modern polish that makes it playable far beyond nostalgia. Published by SEGA, and developed by PICOMY, Heroki feels like a remastered classic.
Sonic CD (SEGA)
It’s Sonic The Hedgehog, and it’s still brilliant. Don’t worry, it’s just as playable as it always was.
The Best Action/RPG/Dungeon Crawling Games
Transistor (Supergiant Games)
The followup from the makers of Bastion, Transistor is an engrossing mashup of sci-fi, tactical batting, and RPG elements with an engaging melancholic atmosphere. Big, deep action-adventures with a gripping storyline are thin on the ground on Apple TV so far, and Transistor is a great ambassador for the genre. Did I mention the talking sword?
Dungeon Time (Mooff Games)
Mooff Games’s outings have a cartoonish charm that always suck me in. At first the movement feels a little sluggish for this top down RPG/shooter, but once you acquire a taste for it, it’s a very more-ish little game. Now if only Mooff would port Blackmoor to the big screen. Please?
Oceanhorn (Cornfox and Bros.)
Did someone say Zelda? Cornfox and Bros. has always worn its influences on its sleeve with Oceanhorn, being the first to admit that this beautiful puzzle/adventure was inspired by the Nintendo classic. And what’s even better is that there’s a sequel on the way. Let’s hope Oceanhorn 2 makes its way to Apple TV as well.
Dungeon Hunter 5 (Gameloft)
If you read my review on Grab It Magazine you’ll be wondering why I’m even mentioning this title. But there’s something about the addition of a 60 inch screen and a controller that add so much value to the bite-size missions of this Diablo-like. Sure, the free-to-play currencies are still a minefield to navigate, but for lack of any other options at the moment on Apple TV, I’m having a lot of fun with this.
The Best Sports Games
Pixel Cup Soccer 16 (Batovi Games)
In my review on Grab It Magazine I wrote, “…great content gives players some nice bang for their buck, with 18 different stadiums modelled on real life counterparts, differing weather conditions, and a bunch of teams and tournaments both real and fictional. There are some great winks to those who know their football, such as the inclusion of a team called Tika Taka FC. Inclusivity is also celebrated with a Women’s World Cup, and a Rainbow FC team playable in the Pixel Tournament. Kudos to Batovi for these commendable touches.”
Batovi’s pixel art love letter to football is a great balancing act of arcade fun and skill.
Tennis Champs Returns (Uprising Games)
This remake of the Amiga classic is similar to Pixel Cup Soccer 16 in that you’ll be fooled by the retro aesthetic into thinking it’s all arcade and no depth. There’s a surprising amount of shots to play and skill to be found if you scratch beneath the surface here.
The Best Arcade Games and Shooters
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved (Lucid Games)
No storyline, just old-school point and shoot for no reason at all. Neon, techno, frantic, reflex gaming at its best. Get this right now arcade shooter fans. It’s strange how these sorts of shooters are perfect to chill out with, despite their visual craziness.
Atomic Super Lander (bitWeird)
The sum of Atomic Super Lander’s parts add up to an urgent, arcade gameplay loop of retro goodness. Check out ATVG’s full review right here. There is a lot of silly fun to be had.
Toon Shooters 2: The Freelancers (Mooff Games)
More excellence from Mooff Games, this time with a side scrolling shoot-em-up. Lots of collectible ships, upgrades, power-ups, and boss fights inspired by sci-fi classics. Mooff Games have knocked it out of the park. Again.
Galaxy on Fire – Manticore Rising (Deep Silver FISHLABS)
Flying around in space and shooting aliens just never gets old, and this prologue to Galaxy on Fire 3 is a great example of why. Now we just need GoF3 for Apple TV as well.
Modern Combat 5: Blackout
If you’re after an FPS (first-person-shooter) for your Apple TV this is it. Gameloft’s iOS franchise translates very nicely to the big screen, and helps you forget the ‘micro’ in microconsole.
The Best Sandbox Game
It’s Minecraft. So, yeah.
If you’re new to The Apple TV Gaming Blog (ATVG), or just new to Apple TV gaming in general, or both, then the best place to get acquainted is our Best Apple TV Games of 2020 article. You’ll find a great collection of games to play, and a bunch of useful links to our previous site content. Welcome aboard. Enjoy the ride.