Apple Arcade Keeps the Joy of Gaming Alive When You Just Don’t Have the Time

6 Sep

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I’ll admit, I’ve been subscribed to Apple Arcade since the service launched almost two years ago and until recently, I haven’t really played it all that much. It’s definitely been the part of my Apple One subscription that I’ve used the least outside of playing a few random games here and there and quickly forgetting about them soon afterwards. Lately; however, I’ve found myself using the service a lot more - and not only using it, but greatly enjoying it.

I love video games, but I’m not sure if I’d consider myself to be a gamer as such. I have friends and family members who will sink loads of time into one single game and then move on to the next and others who love huge, sprawling games that can take 100+ hours to finish. I’ve always been slightly different in that, I like games that I can pick up and play and dip into for however long I want, without feeling like I need to make a huge commitment. Of course, there are the odd exceptions. Recently I bought the Last of Us Part 2 and got so immersed in it that I played it non-stop until I’d finished the story. I was a huge fan of the original game and had been anticipating the release of part two for a long time. Outside of that, I’d usually opt for games that don’t require quite so much of an investment like annual sports titles and party games and this has been the case even more so as I’ve gotten older.

I bought myself a PlayStation 5 late last year and as impressive as it is, I’ve barely touched it outside of the initial ‘shiny new toy’ first couple of weeks phase. It’s not that I’ve not wanted to game, but I’ve struggled to find titles that I want to play, but that also don’t require a daunting amount of play time. I picked up Ghosts of Tsushima after so many recommendations from friends, reading great reviews and falling in love with the art style of the game. After sinking a few hours in, the huge scope of the game really hit me, but with work and other life commitments, I was barely finding any time to properly set aside to actually play it and when I did, it just didn’t feel like fun anymore. It felt like a daunting slog. Even the annual sports titles that I previously loved such as the NBA 2K series are now so geared towards competitive online gaming and the grind of levelling up a character to be able to play with others. The problem is that the whole process requires you to dedicate almost every minute of your free time to make any sort of progress and unless you are a teenager with no commitments or a professional YouTube gamer, who has the time for that?

Instead, I found myself drifting back towards the Nintendo Switch. I had recently picked up Mario Golf and absolutely fell in love with it. My wife also got into it and when our friends would visit, they would play too. As fun as a good solo game can be, it’s always fun when you can involve other people as well. It was the most fun we’d had playing games in ages and I’m still a huge fan of couch multiplayer games, despite the massive rise in online gaming over the years. Another part of what made it so fun was how accessible it was. We could play a quick game or sink lots of time into it if we wanted to and I didn’t have to worry about falling behind or a whole community of online gamers getting much better at it than me if I didn’t play it for a while. I could jump into a quick game after work and still have time to get other things done.

As much as I love Nintendo Switch games for their accessibility and the pick-up-and-play factor, they aren’t exactly cheap - especially the first party titles.

This is where Apple Arcade comes in.

Apple Arcade is accessed from within the App Store.

Even though I don’t have a whole lot of time to play, I still love video games and I wanted to find more to play that brought that fun element that the Switch does so well. Apple massively expanded it’s Arcade library a few months ago and there are now over 200 games available on the service. I thought I’d finally take some time to properly browse the library and see if I could find some new things to play. After only a few days, I was kicking myself for not giving it a proper chance much sooner.

Mini Motorways is equal parts relaxing and stressful. It’s utterly addictive.

Lots of choice with no extra costs

Diehard console and PC gamers will probably be quick to dismiss the service. Sure, it doesn’t offer blockbuster AAA titles or boast next-generation graphics, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that I’ve been looking for to help me get my gaming fix. With over 200 titles now available, there is plenty there to keep me going for a long time. I’ve enjoyed browsing the categories and trying out lots of different titles and knowing that, for 5 bucks or part of an existing Apple One subscription, I can play everything there free of ads or ‘in-app purchases’ is another added bonus. There’s no extra cost involved whatsoever for as many of the 200+ games as I want.

SongPop Party is a fantastic party game with vast amounts of content to unlock.

Pick-up-and-play fun

As someone who finds it hard to fit in time for gaming, I’ve actually found myself gaming more and more since using the service. On my lunch break from work, I might fit in a few games of Wurdweb or maybe a game of Three’s whilst on the train. I even took a break whilst writing this article to play a few quick games of ChuChu Rocket with a friend. I’ve also got a family game of the utterly fantastic SongPop Party lined up for this weekend and I’ve lost several hours to Mini Motorways and Patterned, when I want to still game, but unwind at the end of the day. I’ve gotten several friends and family members hooked on several games too and we’ve been trying to beat each other’s high scores and having some spirited discussion in the group chat over the last couple of weeks. It’s been the most fun I’ve had gaming in some time and it never feels like a grind.

Patterned is one of the best ways to relax.

From my iPhone to the big screen.

Being able to take games seamlessly from my phone or iPad on to the bigger screen via my Apple TV and play with one of my existing PlayStation controllers is also a killer feature that I have completely taken for granted until now. The fact that I didn’t have to purchase a separate controller to play on the TV only reinforced Apple Arcade’s value for money. Some games like Hot Lava, Ocean Horn and The Oregon Trail just look absolutely gorgeous on the big screen and need to be experienced there. I’m looking forward to more games in the future that really take advantage of being able to play on a TV.

Currently Playing

There‘s so much to choose from on Apple Arcade and I’m slowly trying to work my way through all of the titles on my playlist. Here’s a few of the games currently in my rotation, all of which I‘d highly recommend.


Quite simply, Patterned is one of the most relaxing games I’ve ever played. The game presents players with a huge library of repeating patterns, which are then presented in black and white with the aim of filling in each piece to complete a full-screen, beautiful colour version. Think jigsaw puzzles meet colouring books and you’ve got Patterned. The soundtrack is wonderful and it looks excellent on Apple TV and also plays brilliantly with the Apple Pencil on iPad Pro. I have spent hours on this game and it’s ideal for winding down at night.


This addictive and super-charming word puzzler topped Apple Arcade charts on release and with good reason. It’s sort of a cross between scrabble and crossword puzzles with cute little characters roaming around on screen. Players select words from a list and try to connect them to other words on screen in order to unlock new words to use and complete the board. This is another relaxing game, but one that will certainly unleash your competitive side as you try and top the leaderboards.

SongPop Party

I previously thought that music-based videogames peaked with the likes of Rock Band and Guitar Hero and then I discovered this gem. SongPop Party is a fast-paced, competitive music trivia game in which players try to be the first to guess songs from a small sample. There are vast amounts of different categlories to unlock and truly something for every musical taste. A must for when you have friends or family over or even for hosting a virtual get together too. This game provided endless fun and will be one you’ll want to keep going back to.


I both absolutely love and kind of hate this game at the same time. I love it because it’s so easy to pick up and play, the soundtrack is brilliant and it’s a game that has also grabbed the attention of my friends and family too and has us all competing with each other. I hate it because, well, it’s just near impossible to put down and I’ve lost hours of my life to it so far as I continue to try (and fall) to beat ScreenTimes’ own Jonathan Reed’s high score of 9,708.

Mini Motorways

From the makers of Mini Metro, this game tasks players with building a network of roads to create a busy city. As traffic increases, you’ll have to quickly redesign roads and add new ones on the fly to keep everything moving. There’s lots of cities to choose from and it’s one almost certain to elevate your stress levels as you try to avoid your city completely shutting down. It’s brilliant fun and another one that’s best enjoyed on an iPad with Apple Pencil. Just be sure to have a nice relaxing game on hand to help calm you down afterwards!


An atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful puzzle adventure that contains some of the most stunning animation that I’ve ever seen in a game. In Creaks, you explore a creepy mansion and try to navigate various puzzles as you uncover its various secrets. At times, the art style reminded me of the classic works of Raymond Briggs and I was truly blown away but how gorgeous it was. Apple Arcase advises that it’s best enjoyed with a controller and headphones and I couldn’t agree more. This game was made for AirPods Max.


A great example of a quick game that can be played anytime, anywhere and enjoyed by just about anyone. This is wordsearch meets strategy and the game is bursting with lots of different modes to choose from. Waiting for the new daily challenges to unlock has become a bit of a thing in our household. A perfect mobile game. Brew yourself a fresh pot of coffee and spend your Sunday afternoons with this one.


One of the more unique games on the service, Lifeslide sees you take control as a paper aeroplane as you go on a metaphorical journey through seven stages of life. There’s quite a bit of skill involved to navigate the various stages of the game and there’s also a great ‘Zen‘ mode for endless flight, which is highly relaxing.

ChuChu Rocket! Universe

Sega Dreamcast fans will know ChuChu Rocket all too well. I still remember when it was first released back on the classic, but ill-fated console and wondering why it wasn’t hugely popular. I’m so happy to see the series back on Apple Arcade, where it plays better than ever. Players must guide the ChuChus to safety in over 100 colourful and creative levels and there’s an excellent multiplayer mode too where you can challenge your friends or other players from around the world.

Hot Lava

One of the original Apple Arcade titles, Hot Lava is a fast-paced first person action game that tasks players with running and jumping through increasingly detailed levels whilst trying not to touch the floor - which is made of lava, as you can probably already guess. This is another one that’s best enjoyed on Apple TV with a controller.

Hot Lava is great on the big screen.

In Conclusion

Maybe it’s just what happens more as you get older and your free time becomes more of a rarity, but having a huge choice of so many great games to play that don’t require a mammoth number of hours to get into has been so refreshing. Apple Arcade has also just helped make gaming fun again and there really is something for everyone and games for every mood. Not having to spend lots of money on games that I might end up not having time to play and that end up gathering dust on my shelf has been a nice change. Rather than trying to carve out some time to sink another half hour into an 80 hour game, I’ve been able to spend that time just diving right into whatever game I want on Apple Arcade and actually enjoying myself. Obviously those big blockbuster titles still have their place, but if you’re looking for pure pick-up-and-play fun, Apple Arcade is the perfect place to game when you simply don’t have time to game.

What do you think of Apple Arcade? What are some of your favourite games? Do you have a high score in Threes!+ that you’d like to share with us? Get in touch over on Twitter @screentimesnet and let us know!

James Lees
James has been a fan of Apple for as long as he can remember. He is a film & TV obsessive and has also written for several publications such as BBC Good Food Magazine. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland and can usually be found drinking copious amounts of coffee, watching Apple TV+ and talking about it with anyone who will listen.