20 Apple TV games you should absolutely play

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

appletv games update

Game on!

You may not have a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch in your house, but if you have the current-gen Apple TV hooked up to your screen, then you really do have a game console ready and waiting to entertain. Just as the Apple TV runs an array of apps, it also offers a pretty sizable selection of games—some of which are even free.

Some of these might be games that you already enjoy on your iPhone or iPad, but they’re either just as good or even better blown up on your TV. Most will also be free downloads on Apple TV if you own the iOS version. In any case, whether you’re already familiar with them or not, these are our picks for the 20 best Apple TV games you can play today. Grab your Siri Remote and get your game on. 

(Note: Nearly all of these games are playable with the Siri Remote, but some may require a special peripheral or a dedicated gamepad (as noted), or are improved by a gamepad. If you’re looking for an Apple TV-compatible gamepad, then 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
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
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 game will convince you to buy a gamepad, it might be this one.

 

appletv guitarherolive

Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live has the priciest buy-in of any game on this list, given that it requires a flippin’ plastic guitar to play—but since that physical peripheral can be had for about $20 to $25 these days, and it unlocks the entire game in the process, we can definitely get onboard with that. 

You might’ve played the iconic original entries, but Guitar Hero Live shakes things up with a new six-button layout, not to mention live video backdrops that really try to sell the illusion that you’re dominating (or falling apart) on the big stage. And the GHTV mode gives you a wealth of additional songs to play along with. It’s a lot of fun, and if you enjoy music games, it’s worth the expense and hassle of tracking down the now-discontinued bundle.

appletv hiddenfolks
Adriaan de Jongh

Hidden Folks

Where’s Waldo? is the obvious inspiration here, but Hidden Folks ($4) takes the hide-and-seek premise in its own pleasurable tonal direction. As in those classic books, you’re given a list of people and things to find in each densely-populated image, which might span a suburban neighborhood or a large forest/campsite area.

And while the black and white, doodle-esque drawings might look simple, they’re actually full of life: they’re delightfully animated, plus there are little puzzles and pop culture references, along with great sound cues throughout. The play-at-your-own-pace design is perfect for the Apple TV and Siri Remote, making this an ideal game to enjoy while lounging on the couch.

Lara Croft Go
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

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
Electronic Arts

Real Racing 3

Even 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.

appletv rungunjumpgun
IDG

RunGunJumpGun

Some of the best Apple TV games are ideal for casual fun, but as you might surmise from the title, RunGunJumpGun ($3) is not that game. In fact, it might be one of the toughest games available on the App Store, but it offers up the kind of challenge worth savoring—and the promise of incredible satisfaction when you do prevail.

This indie gem looks and plays like an old-school 2D game, but your character sprints on his own—and he’s armed with a powerful gun used not only to zap threats ahead, but also vault him into the air when he shoots at the ground. You’ll use it to safely zip through hazard-packed stages that only get zanier and more densely layered in time. It can be incredibly hard, but truly, RunGunJumpGun is a blast.

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.

appletv skyforcereloaded
Infinite Dreams

Sky Force Reloaded

We had a lot of fun playing Sky Force Reloaded (free) on iPhone, and it’s just as impressive on your TV. This arcade-style vertical shooter finds you commanding a powerful aircraft as you blast planes out of the sky, take out tanks on the ground, and try to topple gargantuan boss ships at the end of each stage.

It’s a super streamlined game with auto-firing weapons, so the Siri Remote is a pretty ideal fit: you’ll just slide your thumb to move the ship around as needed. Sky Force Reloaded still looks like a dream when blown up on your television, and the free-to-play model is pretty friendly, even if it can make things repetitive in time. Did we mention that it’s free, though?

appletv games sonic2

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Your Apple TV can take you on a flashback to 25 years ago, when the Sega Genesis battled it out with the Super Nintendo for 16-bit console supremacy—that’s because Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($3) is available from the App Store, along with its predecessor. Sonic 2 looks exactly like you might remember, but it’s actually better: it’s been remastered in widescreen and has smoother animation. 

Of course, that’s just icing on the cake here. Sonic 2 is considered by many to be the blue blur’s best retro adventure, as you control him and Tails across an array of alluring zones while running like mad and bashing baddies. Using the Siri Remote admittedly feels a little fumbly, but it’ll do the trick. And if you have a gamepad, then it’s absolutely perfect.

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
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 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.