This time last year, I revisited ATVG’s 2016, 2017 and 2018 end-of-year roundups – taking a look back on the first three years of Apple TV gaming, with the benefit of a little more perspective. It was a journey worth taking, and if you’re new to this niche gaming console’s world, it’s the best way to get acquainted with what’s on offer.
Here’s some in-case-you-missed-it links for you:
Then of course there was 2019, which saw the birth of Apple Arcade; an event some might argue heralded the true birth of Apple TV gaming.
Have a read:
And now that you’re all caught up, welcome to 2020.
2020 has been an outstanding year for Apple TV gamers who also carry an Apple Arcade subscription. Without a subscription? Not so much.
Aside from a very few notable exceptions – of which I’ve chosen ATVG’s best four over the page – high quality console worthy non-Arcade titles were few and far between on Apple TV in 2020. I still believe they’re on the way, but it seems it will be a slow burn.
The ingredients are nearly all in place; Apple Arcade’s exceptional catalogue, plus PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X controller compatibility (with PS5’s DualSense compatibility rumoured to be not far behind), will continue to slowly draw attention to the platform.
New Apple TV hardware with more horsepower under the hood surely will arrive not too deep into 2021, allowing games closer to triple A status on Apple Arcade. With these arrivals, developers might be a little more inclined to see Apple TV as a viable destination for releases outside of Apple’s subscription service.
2021 will no doubt be another formative year for Apple TV gaming, as every early year in the life of a console this young will no doubt be. With new hardware and the safe bet of a tonne of new games (certainly for Apple Arcade anyway), combined with Apple’s penchant for the occasional unexpected one more thing, and it’s bound to continue being a fun ride.
If you do own an Apple TV 4K and compatible controller, and you want a fast track to turning it into an excellent place to play right now – grab yourself an Apple Arcade subscription and dig in. There’s currently nearly 150 options in Arcade’s roster, many of which deserve to be enjoyed within a console environment (i.e. big screen!).
Over the page I’ve put together the best Apple TV gaming releases of 2020, inclusive of both Arcade and non-Arcade titles. So enough with the preamble, and on with the games.
Best RPG of 2020
Hyper Light Drifter – Heart Machine, Abylight S.L.
When publisher Abylight brought developer Heart Machine’s Hyper Light Drifter to Apple TV earlier this year, Apple TV gamers were given access to a modern classic.
I’ve only scratched the surface of this moody, gorgeous pixel art RPG, but I’ve seen enough to know that I’ll one day be setting aside a solid amount of time to immerse myself in it until it’s done. It’s one of those games that needs to be lived in without any other gaming distractions until the end credits roll.
Accompanied by a stunning retro synth soundtrack, Hyper Light Drifter perfectly balances a sense of mystery, grandeur, action and intimacy. Beautiful work.
Best Racing Game of 2020
Warp Drive (Apple Arcade) – Supergonk Ltd.
Adding a teleporting mechanic to an anti-gravity racer makes perfect sense now that Warp Drive has done it. Once the technology of anti-gravity is unlocked, surely teleportation won’t be too far away. Right? It’s science.
Warp Drive is as buttery smooth as a game in this genre needs to be. On an Apple TV HD it flies by while popping with neon soaked colour. Can’t wait to see where Supergonk takes Warp Drive with future updates – it’s ripe for adding race modes, vehicles, cosmetics and so on.
Welcome to our big flatscreens Warp Drive. Exactly where you belong.
Best 2D Platform Game of 2020
Little Orpheus (Apple Arcade) – The Chinese Room
“The Chinese Room’s production values nail every aspect of Little Orpheus, with the studios walking adventures going sideways for a change to 2D. While the puzzles are not hard, and there’s not much to do but jump, climb, push and pull, it’s the story and unrelenting headlong visual rush that makes this such a compelling addition to the studio’s catalogue. Absolutely beautiful.” – excerpt from ATVG’s article: 5 Apple Arcade Games I’ve Seen The End Of On Apple TV
Best Action/Adventure Game of 2020
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time (Apple Arcade) – Adult Swim
“While Samurai Jack is a very linear action-adventure … the upgrading of skills and equipment adds an element of agency over your quest. There’s no choice as to where to go except forward, but players can certainly choose the style in which they advance.
And when I say style, I mean fighting style. Wade in heavy-handed, light and fast, or attack from range, with an excellently implemented quick select function that allows an easy combination of the above.
It’s great to see a bunch of these major console releases coming simultaneously to Apple TV via Apple Arcade, validating the little black box as a console alternative.
Keep ’em coming Apple.” – excerpt from ATVG’s article: 5 Apple Arcade Games I’ve Seen The End Of On Apple TV
Best Retro Gaming Experience of 2020
The Curse of Issyos – Locomalito, Abylight S.L.
“Everything about The Curse of Issyos is an exacting tribute to the 8-bit era. So much so that on an Apple TV my widescreen is diminished to a 4:2 ratio, and all that’s missing is the timber cabinet around the telly. Those old things were a genuine piece of furniture on which things could be sat, such as ornaments, or my beloved pipe collection which used to stare back at me through the second half of the ’90s while below, Cloud kept the cathode ray tube warm by taking the fight to Shinra.
Gryzor87 has provided the tunes for The Curse of Issyos, with his melodic chips and bit-crushed bleeps completing the 2015 game’s reinvention on Apple devices.
The Curse of Issyos is playable across all sized screens, with iCloud saving taking your progress from iPhone to iPad to Apple TV, but it’s Apple TV that completes the illusion. With a controller in hand, pre-’90s gaming is yours to enjoy in a game you’ve never played.
Will you prefer the sword or the spear? The sword feels a little quicker, but I like the safety of distance the spear provides. And if the situation allows, range attacks via bow and arrow are opportunities you definitely want to take, although sparingly, as arrows are in short supply.” – excerpt from ATVG’s article: The Curse of Issyos – An 8-Bit Classic From A Parallel Universe?
Best Update of 2020
Cat Quest 2 (Apple Arcade) – The Gentlebros.
Following the launch of Apple Arcade, it was hard to stay focused on any one particular game for any length of time, with so many shiny things dangling in front of me. But once that initial novelty wore off, Cat Quest 2 was one of the first Arcade titles I returned to in order to see it through to the end. And I’m so glad I did.
You can read my impressions in 5 Apple Arcade Games I’ve Seen The End Of On Apple TV.
It looks like I’m going to have to circle some days in a calendar at some point to make another return to CQ2’s shores, as two months ago Gentlebros released its huge Mew World update.
So much has been packed in to this new game plus mode.
Known as Mew Game mode in cat-speak, the update allows players to replay CQ2 with challenging modifying rules, such as playing with spells only.
There’s new armour, abilities, enemies, and weapons. The inventory system has had an overhaul, as has the elemental damage system, and a new sprint option allows faster travel over CQ2’s huge landscape.
Throw in a bunch more quality of life tweaks, and this update makes revisiting CQ2 a very enticing option.
It’s great when an already great game that you already have access to, becomes even better at no extra cost.
Best Non-Apple Arcade Game of 2020
Hyper Light Drifter – Heart Machine, Abylight S.L.
An easy winner. There was no better non-Apple Arcade game released this year for Apple TV. Thank you Heart Machine for such a wonderful game, and thank you Abylight for bringing it to the platform.
Non-Apple Arcade Games You Should Also Get:
Space Marshals 3 – Pixelbite
“Burton, Ava and the crew of the Artemis are at it again with their swashbuckling adventures in space. There are communication devices that need fixing, bounties to hunt down, and a villain worthy of a Bond film. Pixelbite’s Space Marshals series is an enduring success on Apple TV, and as I like to say here on ATVG, more of a good thing is a good thing. It’s a series that really should be played on a big flatscreen with a controller, although being a universal purchase your progress will follow you on all your various sized Apple screens.” – excerpt from ATVG’s article: Space Marshals 3: Chapter One – Needs More Cow Bell
Oddmar – Mobge Ltd.
That trailer shows you everything you need to know. Beautiful to look at and to play, Oddmar is a fantastic addition to Apple TV’s already well-stocked roster of excellent 2D platform games. The genre really is well catered for on the little black box.
Interloper – Mathew Purchase
Strap yourself in and blast away. Mathew Purchase’s Interloper was one of those surprise releases for Apple TV that seem to come out of nowhere, and we’re glad they do. The Apple TV platform is nothing if not surprising.
Best Upcoming Game Announcement of 2020
Oceanhorn: Chronos Dungeon (Apple Arcade) – Cornfox & Bros.
Here’s an interesting new category I thought I’d add. Mostly because I just wanted another opportunity to talk about Oceanhorn: Chronos Dungeon again.
Set in Oceanhorn’s universe after the events of the sequel, Chronos Dungeon is pushing a lot of my buttons – a 16-bit retro aesthetic, dungeon crawling, loot collecting, action-adventuring, what’s not to look forward to?
Chronos Dungeon will allow players to team up with three friends and kill time as a Knight, Huntress, Grandmaster, or Mage, or go solo and swap between the classes to access their individual abilities.
And it has Chrono in the title. Enough said.
Best Multiplayer Game of 2020
Best Apple TV Game of 2020
Butter Royale (Apple Arcade) – Mighty Bear Games
Playable against strangers in Solo mode, or against friends who may soon be your enemies by swapping squad codes, Butter Royale offers the most multiplier fun to be had on Apple Arcade’s virtual shelves.
Earlier this week I posted my standalone piece raving about how much I’ve been enjoying Butter Royale since its release in January this year. You can read all about it over there, I won’t waste your time repeating my ramblings over here.
And that folks, is 2020. Almost. Will we see any more surprise releases between now and the App Store’s shutdown on Christmas Eve? There’s still two games sitting in the Coming Soon section of Apple Arcade – Oceanhorn: Chronos Dungeon and miniature diorama RPG maker Wonderbox. I’ve pre-ordered both, so who knows what morning I’ll wake up to find them having stealthily downloaded themselves to my Apple TV.
2021 as noted in my intro, will no doubt bring some very interesting things to the niche corner of the gaming universe that is Apple TV. The Apple TV Gaming Blog will be here throwing words into the void whenever anything interesting happens, so follow along. Mashing the Twitter icon in the top banner and following @ATVGamingblog is the easiest way to keep up.
That’s it for now.
I wish you all safe planes and good whisky.