Prelude: 2017 was a strong year for Apple TV game releases, and of course September 2017 saw a hardware upgrade with the Apple TV 4K.
Faster, smoother, bigger, better.
As Xander Davis – head of studio Astrogun – told ATVG in our December 2017 interview, “…there’s actually little difference with what you can do on an Apple TV versus a PS4, except for horsepower (and the gap is closing), at this point.”
But that was the end of the year, and there was plenty going on in 2017 right from the get-go. Studios may not have been making money from releasing games on the Apple TV platform, but there was plenty of activity.
The Trials franchise from Redlynx kicked things off in January, and the team continues to support the game on ATV today with regular updates (a holiday update dropped recently).
One of my 2D platforming games of the year – Le Parker – came along, with pixelised macarons I wanted to reach out and gobble, coupled with beautiful, exacting gameplay. Speaking of platformers, Leo’s Fortune turned up later in the year to offer up some competition, and wow, what a looker (and player).
January really did get things off to a good start, as Oceanhorn 2 was announced, with Cornfox telling ATVG straight away it was aiming for ATV. Two and a half years later, here it is as a flagship Apple Arcade title.
I won’t go through every release of the year, but scrolling back through the stories it feels like ATV gamers had a good run.
Last night I retrospectively chose Halfbrick’s Dan The Man as 2016’s Apple TV Game of the Year, and so why not do the same tonight for 2017?
I don’t even have to think about it – Space Marshals 2. With games like Pixelbite’s ATV offering I was convinced that the platform had a future. The studio gave the strategic top-down shooter such great support as well, with multiple updates, and a fantastic DLC addition arriving in November of that same year – Ava’s Storyline.
On the downside, Gameloft stopped supporting Modern Combat 5 early in the year, meaning Apple TV gamers really had no options at all for first-person shooters, until December, when Astrogun launched Apple TV’s first ever platform exclusive – VAST.
Xander Davis in his interview with ATVG was excited about the prospect of launching on such a new platform that showed so much promise, yet at the same time lamented the lack of support Apple was giving the hardware as a place to game. That really summed up the Apple TV story for that first couple of years, really until the announcement of Apple Arcade in March 2019.
Another disappointment, although exciting at the time, was the announcement from Thatgamecompany that Sky would hit ATV before any other platforms, and yet here we are wrapping up 2019, and Sky has released elsewhere but with no news on the ATV version. Highs and lows, swings and roundabouts.
November saw Gameloft throw a little love at Modern Combat 5 with an update, giving us false hope about ongoing support for the title, which quickly dried up not long after.
The year ended on some more positive notes though, with Legendo starting to tease Draugablíkk: Serpents in the Mist, ATVG discovered RPG classic The Bard’s Tale was available on the platform, Inside dropped in December, and a free bonus mission arrived in yet another Space Marshals 2 update.
Throughout the year, titles were released by a couple of big supporters of the platform – Vector Unit and Mooff Games (now trading as Four Fats), and we hope to see more from them in the future. Maybe some Apple Arcade titles? We know that Vector Unit had plans to release Beach Buggy Racing 2 for ATV in 2019, but the studio’s site now says TBD, so 2020 on Apple Arcade perhaps?
2017 was a fascinating chapter in the evolution of the little black box, as we started to really see what kind of potential there was for high quality titles. All that was left was for studios to find a way to make it viable to release on the system.
Through it all, ATVG kept cranking out words, readers read them, and the world kept turning.
Check out the original 2017 list over the page.
Original Story from 2017: Wow, that time of year again huh? It seems like only yesterday that I posted this message introducing ATVG to the world, and then, before I knew it, I was celebrating it’s first birthday. Had fun, time flew.
Gaming is the great escape that truly offers something for everyone. A flavour for all tastes. And for those of you who’ve acquired a taste for the somewhat obscure little parallel universe that is gaming on Apple TV, you’ve come to the right place.
A lot has happened in the world of Apple TV gaming between the bookends of that first post and this one. Missives from the Bunker have been issued, new salutations have been coined (safe planes and good whisky), we’ve Frankensteined, and even shot Zombirds. Someone had to, they weren’t going to shoot themselves.
More recently, Apple TV even landed itself a platform exclusive – an anime-inspired sci-fi FPS titled VAST. ATVG interviewed its maker Xander Davis, and the result was a deep, fascinating dive. We highly recommend you read Parts One and Two.
If you’ve just discovered the site and you’re wanting a quick introduction, or a regular in need of a recap, a great place to start is right here: ATVG’s Top Ten most-clicked articles of 2017. This time of year everyone tries to make sense of what the hell just happened, and that article coupled with the one you’re reading right now is ATVG’s efforts to put 2017 into some sort of focus.
A Best of list is always an opinion, and yours may vary. If it does, hit ATVG up on the social feeds found in the banner on top of your screen, and share yours. And speaking of social feeds, if you’re digging what ATVG is doing, feel welcome to spread the word. Like, Share, RT, post links on Reddit, hire skywriters, you know the deal. In short, tell your friends.
Right then, let’s do this. Here is a link to last years Best of list to get you primed.
When you’re good and ready, read on to check out this year’s.
Thanks so much for stopping by.
The Best Platform Game
Inside is a must-have on any gaming platform. You can play it on Apple TV with a Siri Remote, but we’d recommend a controller in order to feel most at home. Once you start playing it however, be prepared to feel decidedly uncomfortable.
Inside is equal parts disturbing, mysterious, and beautiful.
In ATVG’s recent post following Inside’s Apple TV release we wrote, “This is horror, pure and simple. Nightmare images depict truckloads of victims being secreted away by armed guards, piles of slaughtered pigs, emaciated prisoners, and no doubt worse to come. Via Apple TV on a plus-size flatscreen, with surround sound and an otherwise darkened room, this is night-time gaming at its mysterious, intriguing best.”
You can download and play through Inside’s first section for free, unlocking the rest with an in-app-purchase.
Super Phantom Cat 2 (Veewo Games)
Super Phantom Cat 2 is sitting somewhere within ATVG’s pile of unfinished shame this year. We really enjoyed it in our early impressions piece, and really need to get back to it, as there is lot to love.
On the surface it’s a straight-forward 2D platform game, with left, right, and jump mechanics, but it adds some lovely twists with collectible characters that bring unique abilities, loads of challenge levels, and vibrant artwork.
Yuri is a wonderfully warming and endearing little platformer. The character art and physics-based gameplay come together in a wistful, dreamlike experience.
The Best Racing/Sports Game
Trials Frontier (RedLynx)
Trials Frontier could easily have sat in the 2D platform category, but given its speed-running nature, and of course the bikes, here it is sitting happily in the racing/sports category. I still jump into Trials Frontier on Apple TV every now and then for a quick blast, and it’s regularly receiving content updates with new bikes and events.
Here’s what ATVG said in our post from back in February:
“Boiled down to its essential elements, Redlynx’s Trials series is a 2.5D physics platformer with a focus on speed running. While it’s a common enough genre, the franchise has garnered fame and hardcore gaming credibility due to the precision demanded from players, made possible thanks to the developer’s meticulous application of balance. Balance across the controls, the momentum of the avatars, the ability to redistribute weight to achieve the impossible, difficulty versus playability, and the balance within level design that mixes fun with challenge. This week the series hit Apple TV and after spending a few hours with it, I can’t wait to spend some more.”
F1 2016 (Codemasters)
It hasn’t been a big year for racers on Apple TV, with Real Racing 3 still sitting at the top of the pile, but it was great to see the addition of F1 2016 to the platform to add some variety.
We’re still quietly hoping that Feral Interactive will come through with the goods and port GRID Autosport to Apple TV.
The Best Puzzle/Adventure Game
Red’s Kingdom (Cobra Mobile)
We summed up our review of Red’s Kingdom by saying, “Red’s Kingdom’s simple puzzle mechanics are elevated to a rich, full video game experience thanks to lovingly crafted visuals, characters and story.”
The simple mechanic of navigating Red through the game’s cleverly conceived obstacles, was dressed in a rich environment that felt complete. With just the Siri Remote in hand, Red’s Kingdom feels like a lost classic that’s been remastered for the Apple TV console.
New content has been added throughout the year via updates, and newcomers will have a lot of Red’s Kingdom to explore.
Framed 2 (Loveshack Entertainment)
Framed 2 refined Loveshack’s wonderfully original premise, making for a tighter, more logical puzzle experience, while adding a few new mechanics and twists to keep things fresh.
Swim Out (Lozange Lab)
In our preview piece, we noted a simple premise that French studio “Lozange Lab has executed with such a stylish aesthetic and care that the complete package ends up being more than the sum of its parts.”
This is an elegant puzzle experience to enjoy in the comfort of your recliner, with the Siri Remote being all that’s needed to execute your solutions.
ATVG took the opportunity to get a sneak preview of Swim Out prior to its release, and we’re glad we did.
Burly Men At Sea (Brain&Brain)
Burly Men At Sea falls more into the Adventure side of this category than the puzzle side. Old-school point-and-click meets storybook charm, as these bearded adventurers took ATVG to some very strange places.
Absurdity, wonder, and Nordic folklore combine to remind us that gaming isn’t just about shooting aliens in the face.
Machinarium (Amanita Design)
In our article announcing Machinarium’s release we called it an “aptitude test from the twilight zone,” and it’s hard to think of a better description.
Studio Amanita Design are true artists, creating games that feel like they operate on a deeper, surreal level, speaking an alien language we’ve forgotten yet instinctually recognise.
We had a love/hate relationship with Forma.8, but can still confidently recommend it as a title worthy of your Apple TV’s hard drive space.
While its puzzles could do with being a little more intuitive, and it desperately needs a decent map, MixedBag have still managed to pack into this release an engrossing adventure.
The sound and art combine to draw you into your drone’s lonely exploration of an alien landscape, uncovering mysterious technology along the way.
The Best Arcade/Shooter
Space Marshals 2 (Pixelbite)
If we were to pick a Game Of The Year, which we’re aren’t, Space Marshals 2 would be at the top end of the shortlist. It felt like Pixelbite took Apple TV seriously as a gaming console when it ported its twin-stick shooter to the platform in March.
Space Marshals 2 feels feature-complete, controls wonderfully, has a sense of humour, and brings plenty of replay value due to its mixture of stealth and action gameplay that gives players the freedom to choose.
A whole new storyline was added a while back, via the Ava Storyline DLC. Adding a new playable character, and some nice twists to the gameplay, the Ava Storyline fleshed out the story of the original campaign, although if you think too hard about it, it will melt your brain.
A vertical shooter in which players can tag different ships with varying abilities in and out of the gameplay struck us as a unique entry to the genre. ATVG had an arcade blast with Xenoraid.
From our review:
“Xenoraid from 10tons isn’t just a vertical shooter with a fresh coat of paint. It introduces a killer hook to hang it’s game on, but doesn’t forget that a killer hook is nothing without excellent gameplay, which it also brings to the party.”
Quantum Revenge (Realtech VR)
Quantum Revenge got off to a somewhat shaky start, hampered at first by game-breaking bugs. Studio Realtech VR doubled down, tinkering feverishly under the hood, eventually resulting in a buttery smooth twin-stick shooter with upgradeable mechs, giant boss fights, and a killer soundtrack.
Quantum Revenge just this week received a free update adding a story mode to give players the right sort of motivation before wading in and unloading on aliens.
Subdivision Infinity (Mistfly Games)
There’s some quality 3D space shooters on the Apple TV platform, with Galaxy On Fire: Manticore Rising, and Stellar Wanderer being a couple of great options.
Subdivision Infinity has a forgettable name, but makes up for it with solid gameplay.
ATVG’s thoughts in a nutshell:
“Mistfly Games have crafted in Subdivision Infinity a 3D space combat adventure with a satisfying variety of missions, visceral arcade space action, and high production values that add up to an easy recommendation for your Apple TV.”
Smash Club: Streets of Shmeenis (Mooff Games)
The Apple TV platform at the moment is very much an arcade lover’s and retro enthusiast’s playground, with Smash Club reinforcing that scene thanks to its Double Dragon homage.
But this is Double Dragon multiplied by stacks of collectible characters, and imbued with Mooff Games’ brand of cartoon fun.
In a nutshell?
“In Smash Club: Streets of Shmeenis, the 2D side-scrolling brawlers of yesteryear come to Apple TV with an unpredictable variety and sense of fun typical of Mooff Games. Can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Sky Force Reloaded (Infinite Dreams)
Blowing Sky Force Reloaded up onto your lounge room flatscreen is an arcade joy. Another one that’s languishing on ATVG’s pile of shame, we’ve underplayed this gem.
Infinite Dreams has brought its vertically scrolling shooter series to Apple TV clearly treating it as a full console experience. Everything about it right down to its menu interface works as you would expect it to, rather than being a sloppy, shoe-horned version of its iOS counterpart.
ATVG gave it a mention in our Bunker post here, but Sky Force Reloaded definitely deserves a longer look, and some more words at some point in the future.
The Best RPG
The Bard’s Tale (inXile Entertainment)
It feels a bit strange to be picking a game that originally released in 2004 on the PlayStation 2 as the best RPG for 2017 on Apple TV.
It says a lot about the under-representation of the genre on the platform.
Having said that, The Bard’s Tale released on Apple TV in October of this year, so it fits the bill, and remains a classic in every sense. If you haven’t already, you’re in for a treat.
Kingdom: New Lands (Noio, Licorice)
It’s hard to find a genre to fit Kingdom: New Lands neatly into. A hybrid of tower defence mechanics, RPG elements, and strategy, Kingdom defies the limitations of labels, and begs to be discovered.
Just this week Skull Island – the game’s sixth island – was added in an update just in time for the holidays. Which is great because ATVG has struggled to get off the game’s first island, but it’s been a lot of fun trying.
We covered Kingdom in this roundup right here, and look forward to some more quality time with this excellent title.
Golf Story for the Apple TV? Hell yeah.
Why does this weird mash-up work so well? I think the Illuminati is quietly working on adding elements of golf to every game genre. It must be how they unwind.
Runic Rampage (Electrocosmos)
Top-down action-RPGs are yet another under-represented genre, and it was great to see Electrocosmos bring its bloody axe-wielding dwarves to our screens.
The Best FPS (First-Person-Shooter) Game
Astrogun decided to go all in on the Apple TV platform, bringing its big, anime-inspired space opera to a platform that’s much in-need of some large, console-worthy adventures.
Can’t wait to see where this adventure takes players.
The purchase of Episode One – The Star On No Map – will net you the upcoming episodes of The Frozen Star campaign at no extra cost.
Here’s our release article, and head back up to the intro for the links to ATVG’s interview with Astrogun’s fearless leader – Xander Davis.
Morphite (Crescent Moon Games, Blowfish Studios)
“Morphite’s first-person sci-fi adventuring manages to feel at once old and new, bringing recognisable elements from giants of the past, while still managing to forge an identity and signature all of its own.”
Radiation City (Atypical Games)
In our post following the release of Radiation City, we wrote, “Boasting a “huge open world area” to explore, all the staples of the survival game genre are present and accounted for – there’s scavenging for resources, crafting of gear and weapons, vehicle repair, and the use of campsites to pass safely through the night.”
Radiation City adds another welcome title to the Apple TV platform that qualifies as big, console gaming. The more the merrier.
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.