What are the best games on Apple Watch?
The Apple Watch doesn't seem obviously suited to gaming, thanks to its small screen and necessarily one-handed control method. (Admittedly, those things didn't hold back the Game & Watch.) But with Apple's enormous user base buying the watch in large numbers, the stage is set for canny games developers to swoop in and make a killing.
Games devs will need to work with the limitations of the hardware and come up with something innovative and fun, but there are plenty of companies with the experience and skills to do this. After all, many of the best games on iOS are ones that embrace its compact, bite-sized nature and touchscreen controls: it's hard to imagine Super Hexagon and Ridiculous Fishing being made in a world of consoles.
Below, we look at the best games on the Apple Watch currently available, and discuss our wishlist of games from other platforms that we hope will make the transition to Apple Watch soon. If you've got any suggestions of your own, add them to the comments on this article.
Best Apple Watch games: Lifeline...
Lifeline offers an interesting take with regards to gaming on the Apple Watch. While many other Apple Watch games try to replicate a traditional gaming experience, Lifeline utilises push notifications that take you through a story shaped by your own decisions. Players speak to an astronaut, Taylor, a member of a crew that crash-landed on an alien moon. He suspects that he is the last surviving member, and the only person he has been able to contact is you. Together, you make decisions that will help Taylor stay alive (or not, as the case may be).
The other interesting feature of Lifeline is that it happens in real time. If Taylor says it’ll take him an hour to reach the shipwreck, it’ll take an hour in real life. Just go about your day, and you’ll receive a notification (or communication alert if you’re using your imagination) once he has arrived. It’s a very interesting game to play, and can be played on the Apple Watch, iPhone or iPad.
Those that can’t get enough will be happy to know that the developers of the game recently launched the paid-for sequel, Lifeline 2, where players meet Arika, a woman trying to avenge her family while saving the human race at the same time.
Free | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Trivia Crack
Trivia Crack is a great time for the Apple Watch if you’ve got a few minutes’ spare and want to test your general knowledge. Simply open the app on your watch and you’ve got access to hundreds of trivia questions, selected by spinning a wheel of fortune-esque spinner wheel. Categories include geography, entertainment, science and art, and the game will pair you up with a random opponent from across the world where you can battle it out (we’re beating our opponent 3-0 at the time of writing).
You can also set up your own trivia questions using the iPhone app, making the game more personal to you and your friends. While it won’t keep you entertained for hours on end, it’s a cool free app that’ll waste 5-10 minutes when you’ve got a spare moment.
Free | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Nuggetz
Nuggetz is a fun reaction-based game for the Apple Watch, based upon the Stroop effect. The rules of the game are pretty simple; name the colour of the word that is written, not the word itself. So if the writing is blue but it reads yellow, the answer is blue. Although it sounds simple, add pressure to the mix and it becomes pretty challenging – especially as your score gets higher. Once you get one wrong, the game is over!
Nuggetz runs natively thanks to watchOS 2, which means you don’t need to be connected to your iPhone or have an active internet connection to play the game. As with Trivia Crack, it’s a fairly simple game to play that’ll keep you entertained for 5-10 minutes when you’ve got a bit of spare time, and requires little effort to play.
Free | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Sonic Dash 2
Sonic Dash 2 is the sequel to the hugely popular endless runner, Sonic Dash. The second game in the series brought with it a number of improvement, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. Although the game itself isn’t available for the Apple Watch, it does offer an interesting Apple Watch companion app that allows players to access new prizes when they play the game on their iPhone.
Using the suite of built-in sensors on the Apple Watch, gamers can earn in-game prizes simply by running and walking. Once you’ve covered a certain distance (this distance isn’t specified in-app) you’ll receive prizes that can be redeemed and used when playing Sonic Dash 2 on your iOS device.
Free | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Tamagotchi Classic
Tamagotchi Classic is, as you’ve probably guessed, the digital pet we all knew and loved back in the 90s, only now it lives on your iPhone and Apple Watch instead of a cheap, plastic egg. Just like with the original, you’re able to give your Tamagotchi food, clean their droppings and play with them but unlike with the original, you’ll receive a notification on your Apple Watch whenever they require anything. Hopefully that’ll help them survive more than a few days!
The app allows you to look after your Tamogotchi on both your wrist and iPhone, whichever is easier for you. It’s worth noting that the iOS app offers two modes – ‘Toy Mode’, which displays the original Tamagotchi on-screen for you use (along with its e-ink display), as well as an ‘App Mode’ that’s fully touchscreen-enabled and offers a 21st century look at the Tamogotchi, with vibrant colours and a fully-featured design.
£2.99 | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Twisty Colour
Twisty Colour is a game for the Apple Watch that utilises the digital crown for control, which is possible thanks to watchOS 2. The idea of using the digital crown instead of touchscreen input on the Apple Watch is a great idea, as the screen is small and tapping it will often obstruct your view of the screen – not ideal for gaming.
Twisty Colour is simple to play, but fairly addictive. You’ll find coloured bullets headed towards the Twister in the middle of the screen, and all you need to do is rotate the Twister to match the colour of the incoming bullets. You start with three lives, and each time you mis-match a colour to the incoming bullet, you’ll lose a life. Simple, but extremely effective. It’s worth noting that while it’s available on the iPhone App Store, you can only play the game on the Apple Watch.
£0.79 | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Rules!
The look of Rules! is gorgeous: tastefully artistic, while somehow remaining colourful and, yes, cute. The idea behind the app is to get your daily brain workout whenever you’ve got a few minutes’ spare, and is comprised of 10 different stages. Your progress is recorded daily and you can find detailed statistics via the iOS app. Despite the against-the-clock element, this feels like it could be a restful mind-stretcher rather than a stressful brain-buster, and the bite-sized micro-puzzle format is perfect for a watch.
£2.29 | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Best Fiends
A free-to-play, IAP-dependent puzzler in the style of Candy Crush, Best Fiends isn't the sort of iPhone game we pay-snobs tend to go for, but they're crowd-pleasers. Gamers find themselves exploring the lands of Minutia, trying to find treasure and avoid dangerous obstacles with turn-based gameplay (on the watch anyway). Unlock rewards that can be used in the Best Fiends app for your iPhone to upgrade your characters, discover new powers and defeat your enemies, the Slugs.
Free | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Watch This Homerun
Sports are one thing - we look at a possible golfing port later on - but team sports games aren't an obvious fit for micro-screen wearables. We've all experienced the difficulties of passing to an offscreen teammate in Pro Evolution Soccer, even on a living-room flatscreen, there's generally a lot going on at once, and matches take a long time to complete.
Eyes Wide Games tackles this challenge by focusing on a small and match-critical part of a (typically three-hour-long) game of baseball. As the firm's CEO puts it, "We're distilling the complete baseball experience down to its greatest hits in a form players can enjoy in just 10-15 seconds on the go."
You're the batter (batsman?), the match is at stake, and you have to tap at the let point to knock it out of the park. Could work, and the graphics have a neat cartoonish vividness. Wouldn't it be great if you could actually swing at an imaginary pitch and have the Apple Watch detect the movement, though? Just think of the silliness you'd witness on the bus.
Best Apple Watch games: Snappy Word
The word puzzle broken down into its subatomic component parts, Snappy Word couldn't be much simpler: you get four letters and then happily tap them to make words. You have to make as many words as possible (hopefully non-rude, despite the four-letter setup) in 30 seconds.
The minimalist aesthetic is great, and this feels like the puzzle game that Jony Ive would design. Except that Snappy Word is free, and will contain adverts. Ugh, adverts on a wearable - welcome to the future. (For more musing on that topic, see an old column of mine: Why wearable tech needs Apple's unique philosophy.)
Free | Right Pedal Studios
Best Apple Watch games: Runeblade
Runeblade is a game tailored for Apple Watch, according to its developers, and was coined as being the “first fantasy adventure on a smartwatch” when it launched back in April 2015. Designed for glance-based gameplay, it works using push notifications with custom actions. The gamw offers a horde of mythological monsters and bosses, enchanted runes, spells, magical artefacts and more, which should be exciting for any RPG fan. We’re really interested in Runeblade because it's a proper RPG, or something approaching it at least.
Free | View on the App Store
Best Apple Watch games: Spy_Watch
We'll end with this promising sell from the studio that brought you the entertainingly bad-taste dexterity challenge Surgeon Simulator. And while details remain thin on the ground, we love the sound of it.
It's all based on real-time notifications. The idea is that your agent, off somewhere having dangerous spy-themed adventures in the field, periodically calls in for guidance, and these calls are relayed to you in the form of notifications. You need to respond to the options available on your Apple Watch and tell him or her what to do; but the killer part is that if you (the real-life you, not the in-game spymaster) haven't got time to deal with it right now - at the orthodontist, your brother's wedding or your daughter's ballet recital - then the agent will be forced to choose for themselves, with (one imagines) perilous consequences.
We like games that force themselves into your non-gaming life like a virus, as long as they're not trying to grab your cash while doing so. And since we're told this will be a paid-for/premium game, that shouldn't happen in this case.
An interesting, and potentially fun, concept. Here's a video to give you some vague idea of what to expect.
£1.49 | View Spy_Watch on the App Store
Although this Apple Watch game isn't actually out yet, it's definitely worth a mention here. Being developed by Square Enix, Cosmos Rings will apparently be the "world's first RPG" exclusive to the Apple Watch - although we are fairly sure there are other RPGs available. Anyway, title aside, the game will apparently use the Apple Watch's pedometer to control the game, although little more is known beyond that. There are a couple of screenshots below courtesy of Gamer:
No solid release date has yet been announced, but Square Enix has confirmed that it'll be out worldwide this summer.
Best Apple Watch games: Macworld's Apple Watch games wishlist
Those are the 10 confirmed Apple Watch launch games that we're most looking forward to. But now we can stretch our imaginations a little. What games from other platforms would suit the Apple Watch? Here's our wishlist:
One of the most obvious genres of game to try on a miniature screen is the one-button platform game, and Mr Jump is the current star in that realm. I think its ultra-minimal, 8bit-style graphics would still make sense on the Apple Watch, and the controls would work just as well.
(On the simple one-button games front, see also: Tiny Wings, Jetpack Joyride, Ski Safari and Alto's Adventure - although it would be a crying shame for the beautiful graphics of the latter game to be crushed into a tiny screen.)
Knights of Pen & Paper
We spoke about RPGs earlier, so here's one we loved on iOS - and one that has the simplicity we need for play on a wearable. KoP&P is also legitimately funny, and everything about it is pocket-sized. It wouldn't take miracles to get it down to wrist-sized.
The classic everlasting time-waster, Desert Golfing is an Angry Birds/Scorched Tanks-style trajectory-guessing physics puzzle take on the world's most boring sport. (Just kidding, sorry golf fans.) The levels go on - apparently - forever, although a few in the high two-thousands and onwards are virtually impossible. And it's incredibly addictive.
In any case, the smallness of the action, the simplicity of the controls, make us feel like it would work on a watch. And of course, any time spent not playing Desert Golfing is time wasted, so the more surfaces that the game can appear on, the better.
One area I'd love to see the Apple Watch app developers focus on is multiplayer - a bunch of people, running a mixture of iPads, iPhones and Apple Watches, all playing asymmetric roles in the same game. And one game that cries out for this approach is Spaceteam.
Spacrteam is a brilliantly funny and manic multiplayer game in which each person's screen offers a variety of nonsensical controls, and then spits out commands that need to be fulfilled quickly to stop a spaceship from crashing. The killer element is that most of the commands you're given apply to controls on other people's screens, which means you spend the whole game yelling things like 'Set sprocket to 12!' at each other.
Obviously the Apple Watch player's screen has less room for graphical gubbins than the rest of the team, but it would be possible to work around this. He could even be the ship's captain, only issuing commands.