New on Apple Arcade January 2023: Games for iPhone, iPad and Mac – Polygon

As usual, Apple Arcade subscribers get new releases every Friday, plus a bunch of content updates in January 2023 — and it’s shaping up to be the best month on the service in quite a while.

We’ve got a new version of a cult classic Nintendo 3DS game from the makers of Pokémon, a couple of puzzle games, and a new take on a popular interactive storytelling series, plus content updates for some of the biggest games on the service, including the official Best Game on Apple Arcade, Grindstone.

Jan. 6 — Episode XOXO

Two women regard each other in the street in a flirty manner in this illustration. Text reads “What should I say? Drop a flirty comment, right back at her; keep it neutral; make a sarcastic remark.”

Image: Pocket Gems/Apple

Episode XOXO is a new version of the popular romantic interactive story series Episode: Choose Your Story. Whereas that’s a free-to-play title with thousands of stories available to buy, Episode XOXO brings “a premium, curated, and streamlined Episode experience” to Arcade with five stories at launch, and more to be added in future updates.

Jan. 13 — Illustrated

A jigsaw puzzle begins to reveal a colorful illustration of a forest

Image: Border Leap/Apple

Chill, cozy, pretty puzzle games like Stitch and Patterned go down well with the Apple Arcade audience, and here’s another. Illustrated blends jigsaw and word puzzles as you solve both an illustration and the written story behind it, with the picture coming to full color and life as you get closer to completion. Illustrated features artwork by a diverse range of artists, including a series of Van Gogh puzzles by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

A field of cute horses race around the track in Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!

Image: Game Freak/Apple

The month’s most exciting release is this new version of Pokémon developer Game Freak’s bizarre mashup of horse racing and solitaire. First appearing on Nintendo 3DS a decade ago, Pocket Card Jockey is a compelling mixture of frantic card-clearing, track tactics, role-playing, collection, and breeding, as you both take part in races and develop your stable of adorable, stumpy-legged racehorses.

Jan. 27 — Squiggle Drop

A finger-drawn lever lowers a bridge for a queue of cars in Squiggle Drop

Image: Noodlecake/Apple

A new entry in the classic smartphone genre of touchscreen physics puzzle games, Squiggle Drop asks players to use their creativity to solve physics puzzles by drawing a single shape with their finger.

Content updates

Apple Arcade is almost as focused on keeping your favorite titles updated as it is on new releases, and January will bring patches for some of the most popular titles on the service:

  • Grindstone — new biomes and more levels
  • Angry Birds Reloaded — a sci-fi themed makeover
  • Jetpack Joyride 2 — new story levels
  • Skate City — a new Pro Skate mode
  • Lego Star Wars: Castaways
  • Zookeeper World
  • What the Golf?
  • Subway Surfers Tag
  • Warped Kart Racers

What is Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade is Apple’s subscription service that offers access to more than 200 games. All of them are available on iPhone and iPad, with some also playable on Apple TV and Mac computers. The service includes definitive versions of mobile hits like Jetpack Joyride 2, Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, The Oregon Trail, and Crossy Road, as well as newer games like Fantasian, Mini Motorways, NBA 2K23, What the Golf?, and Wylde Flowers. Apple promises that Apple Arcade games won’t ever have ads or in-game purchases.

How much is Apple Arcade?

It costs $4.99 a month, and it’s also included as part of Apple One, a bundle that bundles it with Apple Music, TV Plus, and iCloud for $16.95 a month for an individual, or $22.95 for a family of five. Apple offers a one-month free trial for Apple Arcade, and users who buy a new Apple device can get three months for free.

Is Apple Arcade worth it?

If you like playing games on your phone but don’t like the ads and in-app purchases that have become synonymous with mobile gaming, then Arcade is worth checking out. It’s relatively cheap, and it’s carefully curated — the included games are of decent quality and cover the whole broad spectrum of mobile gaming, from indie narrative games to casual puzzle games, console-style role-playing games to kids’ titles. It’s perhaps the best gaming subscription service for families, and it feels great to be completely free of microtransactions and ads.

However, it’s worth noting that there is a strong casual-gaming bias to the game catalog, and that Apple has struggled to find truly exciting new exclusives for the service of late. If you’re looking for a steady stream of exciting new releases to justify the subscription fee, you might find it wanting.


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