SLIDESHOW

15 Apple TV games you should absolutely play

Just updated, our picks for the most enticing games on Apple's set-top box.

transistor lead
Game on!

It has been more than a year since the current-gen Apple TV launched, bringing with it the ability to download and play games on your television—like a tiny, Apple-made game console. With millions of the little boxes in people’s homes now, we’ve seen a steady stream of top games make the leap from iOS and dedicated consoles over to the Apple TV.

Did you just get an Apple TV, or have you just not explored its gaming offerings? We’ll happily point you in the right direction: these are our 15 top favorites available in the App Store right now, and they’re all worth checking out if you want some quick and colorful fun on your TV. And in most cases, if you already have the game on an iOS device, you’ll get it free on Apple TV.

Note: Most of these games are playable with the Siri Remote, while some require or are improved by a dedicated gamepad—and we have recommendations there, too.

Alto’s Adventure
Alto’s Adventure

Alto’s Adventure ($3) is one of the most beautiful iPhone games we’ve played on our iPhones and iPads, and—no surprise here—it’s also one of the most beautiful games you can play on your Apple TV. Its gorgeous, minimal artwork, which features flat environments, stark colors, and smooth animations, all holds up rather well on a living room flat screen.

Better yet, this tap-centric game is a perfect fit for the Siri Remote. As you zip down the slopes, you need only click to jump and hold the button down to perform backflips, so there’s little complexity to try to sort out. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a bit of winter spirit without having to change out of your jammies or leave the couch.

Chameleon Run
Credit: Noodlecake Studios
Chameleon Run

Chameleon Run ($2) is one awesome—but also very difficult—2D platform game. It’s like a hyper-speed version of Mario, albeit with a twist: to make it to the end of the level, you can only step on platforms that are the same color as your hero (pink or yellow). Land on anything else and your character detonates on the spot.

Luckily, you can swap colors on the fly with the tap of a button, and Chameleon Run keeps its controls simple with one button used to jump and another for changing color. However, the challenges built around those controls are downright devious in spots, as you must rapidly switch colors while navigating up and around moving obstacles. Clearing a tough stage is immensely satisfying, though.

crossy road
Crossy Road

After all the hours we’ve poured into Crossy Road (free) on iPhone—all the hard-fought leaderboard battles and close calls with speeding cars—switching platforms is tricky. It’s such an intimate experience on a touchscreen: You tap and it happens right there. Here, you’re clicking the Apple TV remote and the television is a few feet away. It’s strange. It’s different

But then we realize: We’re totally overthinking this. Also, it’s free and still super fun, so you should definitely grab Crossy Road on Apple TV, even if you already got your fill on iOS. The big, bright, blocky graphics look nice on your TV, plus there’s a unique perk: A two-player mode, which you can’t find on a touch device.

Framed
Credit: Loveshack Entertainment
Framed

Framed ($5) is one of the cleverest original games on the App Store, as it builds a puzzle-solving experience around comic book panels that correspond with each other. You must help a shadowy man (and later a woman, too) evade capture by getting to an exit on each screen, and you’ll do so by rearranging the panels to create the correct series of events.

You’ll learn how it all works through trial and error, but then the game throws in curveballs—like panels that can be rotated, or others that the hero can run through multiple times to get to the end. The stylish noir aesthetic is really slick, and the Siri Remote controls are pretty easy to learn, as you’ll simply use the touchpad to drag and drop the comic panels.

galaxy on fire
Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising

The Galaxy on Fire series has kept iOS space shooter fans entertained over the years, but for the Apple TV release, Fishlabs decided to do something different. Well, not that different: It’s still a slick, 3D space shooter in which you’ll zip around and blast enemy ships to bits. But rather than port an existing game, Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising ($6) is an Apple TV exclusive.

And while games of this sort can be complex on consoles, Manticore Rising is designed around the Siri Remote with an auto-firing ship, which means you get a reasonably full-fledged experience without needing a gamepad. It looks gorgeous, and if you are a series fan, the game’s events set up the long-awaited Galaxy on Fire 3: Manticore for iPhone and iPad.

geometry wars 3
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved ($10) is a delightful return for the arcade-style blaster, and while the focus remains on surviving in a confined space while shooting geometric foes in all directions, this entry adds a whole lot more. It has 100-plus individual levels to play, with new 3D stages and boss characters to defeat, plus time-evaporating arcade modes like the clever, weaponless Pacifism.

We raved about the iOS version and its sharp touch controls—but as someone who has logged dozens of hours into the Xbox entries (including this one), I can assure you that it’s best enjoyed with a dual-analog gamepad. The Siri Remote makes aiming feel imprecise, so if any early game will convince you to buy a gamepad, it’s this one. 

Lara Croft Go
Credit: Square Enix
Lara Croft Go

The kind of big-budget, high-impact Tomb Raider adventure experience we know from consoles and computers just wouldn’t translate well to the Siri Remote (or touch controls in general)—but Lara Croft Go ($5) makes a lot of sense. Moving over from iOS, this attractive spinoff takes the iconic heroine and tosses her into environmental puzzles inspired by the bigger games.

You’ll move one space at a time in each level, overcoming or outsmarting enemies while figuring out how to safely reach the exit, and the game smartly layers in new mechanics over time. It’s also a gorgeous-looking game, given a lush, cel-shaded aesthetic that will really shine on your TV screen. And if you dig Lara Croft Go, sister games Hitman Go and Deus Ex Go are also now on Apple TV.

Minecraft: Apple TV Edition
Credit: Mojang
Minecraft: Apple TV Edition

Now that Apple allows developers to require a gamepad, the Apple TV finally has the killer app needed to make it a proper game console: Minecraft. Mojang and Microsoft’s open-ended block-building game is a sensation, notching more more than 100 million downloads across platforms, and you can play it on your big screen with Minecraft: Apple TV Edition ($20).

It’s pricey compared to most other Apple TV games, but that’s the price you’ll pay on Mac or other consoles. Besides, this is a game you could pour countless hours into. The survival mode has you fend for yourself as you mine resources and craft tools amidst monsters, while a freeform creative mode gives you the power to shape your own structures and dream up other cool scenarios.

oceanhorn
Oceanhorn

We could someday get a proper Legend of Zelda game on Apple devices, now that Nintendo is making iOS games—but until then, Oceanhorn ($9) is one of your best bets on the Apple TV. It’s a universal app—so if you have the iOS version, you’re all set on TV—and it delivers an action role-playing experience clearly informed by Nintendo’s classic series, albeit with a slightly different flavor to it. 

You’ll battle across islands and through dungeons, as well as sail the seas in your tiny boat, all with gorgeous graphics—running at 1080p and 60 frames per second—and music from a couple legends of Japanese game development (Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito). It’s more comfortable to play with a gamepad, and feels more like a classic console adventure in that mode, but it’s still plenty playable with the Siri Remote.

octodad
Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Octodad: Dadliest Catch ($5) features one of the most wonderfully bizarre premises in gaming: You play an octopus posing in suburbia as a human father, with a human wife and human kids. It’s as charmingly weird as it sounds. 

And that informs the gameplay, as the intentionally awkward controls—you’re an octopus trying to act like a human, remember—make keeping up the illusion a hilarious, fumbly task. Octodad comes over from consoles and Mac/PC, and a gamepad provides more control than the Siri Remote, as it’s easier to move and interact with objects. That said, getting around is meant to feel cumbersome and silly, and the Siri Remote only amplifies that sensation. It’s hilarious either way.

Real Racing 3
Credit: Electronic Arts
Real Racing 3

Almost four years later, Real Racing 3 (free) is still one of the absolute best racing games available on iOS—and that’s definitely true for Apple TV, as well. Using only the Siri Remote for steering, you’ll get an immersive in-car driving experience that runs well and looks nice on a large TV, and the game is utterly packed with an array of content.

Real Racing 3 includes more than 140 licensed cars from top makers, along with 17 different real-world locations and thousands of different events to tackle—including NASCAR and Formula E races. It’s a freemium game, so there are light annoyances in the form of timers and in-game purchase prompts, but there’s also plenty of free racing goodness within.

sketchparty
SketchParty TV

SketchParty TV ($6) was already an Apple TV favorite via AirPlay mirroring, but now with a native (and universal) app right on the new model, it’s easier than ever to get this party game going. All you need are a couple of iOS devices and this Pictionary-esque guessing game can get underway. The person on each team with the iPhone or iPad must draw the prompted item, and everyone else must guess the object based on what’s seen on your TV. 

It’s a familiar game and premise, but it’s done well on the Apple TV, and SketchParty offers up a lot of fun for families and friends alike. There’s a free version with limited word lists, while the paid release has a wider array of prompts and even the ability to add custom terms.

spaceteam
Spaceteam

Spaceteam (free) delivers hilarious multiplayer fun—just as it has on iOS the last couple years. You’ll need at least one other player on a nearby iPhone or iPad, and then you’ll work together to keep your ship hurtling through space. You’ll do so by telling each other which button to press or dial to turn, each with an absurd command: Turn the Spring-Loaded Irritant to 3! Press the Synthcage! 

Before long, the game devolves into frantic yelling at each other as you try to memorize which commands are on your screen’s control panel. But then the game ditches words and uses symbols, your ship catches fire, and panels start changing positions. The more chaotic and zany Spaceteam becomes, the more fun it is. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a blast on Apple TV.

Tiny Wings TV
Credit: Andreas Illiger
Tiny Wings TV

Tiny Wings is one of the all-time beloved iOS games, and nearly five years after its original iPhone debut, this colorful addiction is finally playable on your TV with Tiny Wings TV ($2). It’s a standalone purchase, so even if you have the iPhone or iPad versions, you’ll need to buy it again—but the game is such a delight that it’s well worth experiencing again.

As ever, your task is to help a flightless bird gain air by sliding him down slopes and then launching him into the sky, attempting to maintain momentum as you soar ahead to bumpy new islands. Reaching the farthest possible distance is the main goal, and online leaderboards turn it into a competition with friends. Tiny Wings remains massively charming, even when blown up for your TV.

transistor
Transistor

Eager for a meaty, large-scale game you can dig into on your new Apple TV—ideally with a gamepad in tow? Point your eyes (and wallet) at Transistor ($10), then. This action-role-player comes from the makers of the brilliant Bastion, and similarly features an unconventional approach to storytelling, a stunning and interesting world, and interesting gameplay twists. 

Last year, we explained why Transistor was such an essential iOS pick. But a game this rich and rewarding—not to mention superbly presented, both visually and aurally—can really shine in the living room setting. It’s been smartly adapted for the Siri Remote, but if you’ve got a gamepad handy, it makes for a smoother play experience.