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Parents' Ultimate Guide to Apple Arcade

It's promoted as a family-friendly destination for mobile games, but is this subscription gaming service right for your kids?

When your kid downloads a game, you hope it will keep them engaged and -- with any luck -- learning. Instead, they ask for money every five seconds for in-app purchases or worse and beg for games that don't look age-appropriate. Apple Arcade, Apple's gaming service, takes care of these problems with a low monthly subscription fee, no ads, and a tightly curated offering of mostly high-quality, family-friendly games. And though Arcade has some cool titles you can't play anywhere else, such as Lego Builder's Journey, it lacks many of the popular titles your kid might want to play, such as Minecraft and Animal Crossing. Learn more about Apple Arcade and the key questions to explore before you invest.


What is Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade is a subscription gaming service available through the App Store. Most of its titles, including Crossy Road Castle and Butter Royale, are appropriate for kids -- and are even more fun for families to play together. You can only play Apple Arcade games with a subscription and only on iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TVs running iOS 13 or higher. There are no ads in the games or in-app purchases, and new games are released every week.

How much does an Apple Arcade subscription cost?

Apple Arcade is $4.99 per month, or $49.99 per year after an initial one-month free trial. For the fee, you can play any game you download across iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV devices. In fact, you can add your entire family (up to six people) to your account via Family Sharing so they can play games on Apple Arcade, too. Arcade isn't bundled with other Apple services such as Music or Apple TV+.

How do you get into Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade isn't a separate app. You get into it by tapping the App Store app and then tapping the little joystick icon at the bottom of the screen. This launches you into the Apple Arcade environment, and you can browse without a subscription, much like scrolling through the App Store. You'll find a listing of the just-released games, editors' collections, categories such as Family Games, and more. When you find a game that looks good, tap "Get," and the game downloads and appears as an app on your device. If you haven't already subscribed, you'll be prompted to sign up when you tap the game icon on your device.

How many games are included in Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade launched with about 60 games in 2019. By April 2020, the offerings had grown to more than 100. The company adds new titles every week. You can find a full listing of all the games available to play, listed in order of the date they were added, by scrolling all the way to the bottom of the main Arcade landing page and tapping "See All Games."

Can you play Apple Arcade games on an Android device?

You can't play your Apple Arcade games on Android -- or any other device or console other than your iOS devices, through your Apple Arcade account. However, popular Apple Arcade titles, such as Mosaic, Sayonara Wild Hearts, and Shinsekai: Into the Depths, are available on other platforms, such as Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox One. But if you want to play these games on other platforms, you need to purchase them separately or join those services.

Does Apple Arcade have parental controls?

There are no parental controls within Arcade, but Apple's built-in iOS Screen Time features extend to apps downloaded via Apple Arcade. To enable restrictions, first you have to add your kid to Family Sharing (go to Settings and then tap your name; scroll down to Family Sharing and follow the instructions). Then go to the Settings page and tap Screen Time. You can prevent your kid from downloading games, restrict content by age rating, set time limits on each game, and more. (Learn more about Screen Time.)

How do you play games on Apple Arcade?

To play games on Apple Arcade, you use your mobile device's touchscreen controls (or your Apple TV remote). With games that allow you to use a controller, you can connect your device to an Xbox or PlayStation controller via Bluetooth. You can play games offline, unless you want to play multiplayer, in which case you need Wi-Fi. And, as long as you're signed in, you can access your progress or game saves on any iOS device.

What kind of games are offered in Apple Arcade?

Apple Arcade's offerings run the gamut from puzzle games like A Fold Apart to endless runners like Rayman Mini to tame fighting games like Lego Brawls. And, unlike games with in-app purchases, the game you download is the full game and won't be interrupted with appeals to fork over cash to keep playing. The games are consistently high-quality and appropriate for families, mostly delivering on Apple's original promise to provide the cream of the crop from highly respected game developers. Apple says they hand-pick each game for its originality, creativity, and appeal to players of all ages. But the focus on tight curation means some popular games are absent from the platform. Roblox, Minecraft, and the Angry Birds games, for example, aren't on Apple Arcade.

Do I need a controller to play Apple Arcade games?

All Apple Arcade games are designed so you can use either touchscreen, a controller, or an Apple TV remote. Though you don't need a controller to play Apple Arcade games, some games, such as the hockey sim Ultimate Rivals: The Rink, work a little better with the tactile response a controller provides, instead of tapping and scrolling. Arcade games allow players to mix it up: One kid can be on an iPhone, another on an iPad using a Bluetooth-connected controller, and another on the Apple TV.

Do I need Wi-Fi or data to play Apple Arcade games?

All Apple Arcade games can be played offline. After you download a game, you don't need to use data or have a Wi-Fi connection to play. If you're playing against other people, you'll need a connection, but even multiplayer games such as the Fortnite-like Butter Royale can be played against the game's AI (artificial intelligence).

What happens to games if you cancel your Apple Arcade subscription?

If you stop your Apple Arcade subscription, you can no longer play the games you've downloaded. Games that you've downloaded still appear on your device unless you manually delete them. If you cancel your Arcade subscription and tap an Arcade game you've previously downloaded, you'll be prompted to resubscribe to Arcade to start playing it again.

How do you cancel your Apple Arcade subscription?

The Apple Arcade subscription is managed just like any other subscription service you buy through the App Store. To cancel Apple Arcade, tap the Settings app on your mobile device and tap your profile picture. Next, scroll down to Subscriptions and tap Apple Arcade. Then tap Cancel Subscription. If there's any remaining time left on your subscription, you'll still have access to the games you've downloaded until the monthly term ends.

What makes Apple Arcade different from other gaming streaming services such as Google Stadia and EA Access?

While each service has its pros and cons, the major distinction of Apple Arcade is its "walled garden" experience. Apple vets each title for quality and family-friendliness. This selection process may limit the available number of titles, but it separates Arcade games from the general offerings available in the App Store and distinguishes them from other services.

Jeff Haynes, senior editor, web and video games, contributed to this story.

Caroline Knorr
Caroline is Common Sense Media's former parenting editor. She has many years of editorial and creative marketing writing experience and has held senior-level positions at Walmart.com, Walmart stores, Cnet, and Bay Area Parent magazine. She specializes in translating complex information into bite-sized chunks to help families make informed choices about what their kids watch, play, read, and do.