The first 10 Apple TV games you should play

Our picks for the most enticing day-one games on Apple's new set-top box.

transistor lead

Apple's own console

The new Apple TV looks pretty similar to the previous version, and does most of the same things—but now it’s a game console, too. With the App Store included, now you can download a bunch of games, including iOS favorites and ports from the Mac and dedicated home consoles. And in many cases, if you already bought a game for the iPhone and iPad and it’s compatible with Apple TV, you’ll have it there free of charge. 

Navigating this new world of Apple gaming brings along a learning curve: There’s the simple touch-and-tilt Siri Remote, which is great for some games but so-so for others, plus support for MFi gamepads and the SteelSeries Nimbus. We’re still digging into all this stuff ourselves, but if you’ve just brought home a new Apple TV, these are the games we think you ought to try first.

altos adventure

Alto's Adventure

Alto’s Adventure ($3) is one of the most beautiful iPhone games we’ve played all year. And—no surprise here—it’s also one of the most beautiful games you can play on your Apple TV. Its gorgeous, minimal artwork featuring 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. And with winter on the horizon, we’re eager to revisit this early-year favorite.



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. 

Back in August, 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, and it should be one of the absolute best Apple TV games to grab right away.



Badland ($5) on iPhone and iPad? Pretty great! Badland on Apple TV? Believe it or not, it’s still pretty great. Frogmind’s distinctive side-scroller gives you a little, flapping creature to guide through shadowy terrain—but then things start falling and exploding, and as you pick up items, your little creature becomes a much larger one, or an even smaller one… or a dozen of them, all controlled together. And new twists come regularly. 

What makes Badland work so well on Apple TV, on first blush, is its inherent simplicity: Holding down the touchpad button makes you flap and ascend, and letting go makes you dip and fall. It’s that easy to control, and that translates well to the Siri Remote. Badland also supports gamepads, however, and while the level editor didn’t make the jump from iOS, you can access the 20,000-plus user-created levels.


Beat Sports

Unlike many of the games on this list, Beat Sports ($10) wasn’t previously found on touch devices—it’s an Apple TV exclusive, which helps explain the price tag. And there’s a serious pedigree here: It’s developed by Harmonix, the studio behind console favorites like Rock Band and Dance Central, along with several other music games. Plus, it has songs from the guy behind rhythm classic PaRappa the Rapper. Sold!

In action, Beat Sports put a rhythmic twist on sports mini-games, making you match the beat when swatting at a virtual tennis ball or swinging at a baseball. We might recommend you get the Siri Remote wrist strap before getting too wild—let’s not repeat Wii mistakes—but in any case, this ought to be a fun one for the family.

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, know that the game’s events set up next year’s Galaxy on Fire 3: Manticore for iOS.

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.


Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Just released on iOS this week alongside its Apple TV debut, 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, so a gamepad might produce the best experience here. Then again, getting around is meant to feel cumbersome and silly, and the Siri Remote only seems to amplify that sensation.



We may still someday get a proper Legend of Zelda game on Apple devices, but until then, Oceanhorn ($9) is one of your best early 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 probably most comfortable with a gamepad, but it works with the Siri Remote too.

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. Controlling it with one thumb on the Siri Remote feel imprecise in our early testing, and if any early Apple TV might convince you to invest in a controller, it’s this one.


Lumino City

We’ve seen games that look like they’re made of physical materials, but have you ever played a video game with worlds built from real paper? Lumino City ($5) was, and it’s a marvelous sight. The developers constructed papercraft sets for the stages and captured them in the game, and they’re put to wonderful use in a charming adventure game with plenty of visual panache. 

The touchpad acts almost like it would on a laptop: You have a pointer that you’ll swipe around the screen to highlight and interact with items, which lets you navigate the flat worlds and engage with puzzles. So far, that control system feels a little slow on the Siri Remote, but spending a little extra time soaking in this inventive world doesn’t seem like a bad thing.