May 22, 2017 at 2:18 p.m. PST
Apple TV offers remarkable gaming capabilities rivaling dedicated game consoles. This article highlights the best free games for Apple TV.
The newest Apple TV runs the tvOS operating system and features the App Store. There are already thousands of apps with new ones added every day. Since tvOS is based on iOS, it’s relatively easy for developers to port iPhone and iPad apps to Apple TV. A lot of your favorite iPhone apps are already available on Apple TV.
Siri Remote Is an Excellent Game Controller for Racing Games
The Siri Remote for Apple TV provides an intuitive method of user interaction. Its Touch surface makes it easy to control Apple TV. Simply glide your finger across the Touch surface to navigate menus and even play games. The Siri Remote’s accelerometer is another feature enabling responsive gaming. Tilting the remote can steer a vehicle much more intuitively than a joystick or directional pad.
Apple TV Hardware and tvOS Provide Excellent Gaming Capabilities
Apple TV’s hardware makes for an excellent gaming platform. The 64-bit A8 processor is capable of providing fluid and responsive game play at the highest graphics settings. In fact, games such as Asphalt 8 and Riptide GP: Renegade are actually better on Apple TV than on dedicated game consoles. With its Metal API, graphics code is executed directly on the hardware with impressive results. Apple TV isn’t just a streaming media player. It’s actually an excellent game console.
Between the hardware, Siri Remote and efficient operating system, Apple TV is a surprisingly powerful gaming machine. Unfortunately, with lackluster sales, developers haven’t been attracted to the platform. This is likely to change over time. Since developers can reuse a lot of iOS code for tvOS apps, I expect the number of apps to grow rapidly. As it stands, Apple TV already has a decent selection of games, many of which are free. You can actually enjoy hours of entertainment without spending a dime.
Many Free Games in the tvOS App Store
The games highlighted in this article are all free. They can all be played using the Siri Remote. After all, if you have to buy a game controller to play a game, it isn’t really free. I have played all of these games. I don’t go by the top charts or Editor’s Choice designation to determine which are best. Some chart-topping games are actually not worth playing.
Developers typically make money from free games with in-app purchases. This doesn’t mean that a game is completely hobbled without spending money. Many of the games in this article can be enjoyed without cost. In-app purchases are usually a shortcut to progress in a game. For example, you can often purchase better vehicles in a racing game by spending money. You can also earn credits to buy these virtual vehicles by simply playing the game. I’ve actually succumbed to a few in-app purchases, but they’re hardly necessary. The casual gamer can enjoy hours of fun without investing in in-app purchases.
Asphalt 8: Airborne for Apple TV
Asphalt 8: Airborne is one of the most amazing games I have played on any system. It should be one of the first apps you install on Apple TV. Although the initial download has a small footprint, the app is quite sizable. Expect to spend some time downloading assets the first time you use this app and after some updates. Apple limits the size of apps in the App Store, so elaborate games tend to download a lot of data when launched for the first time.
There are a lot of racing games for Apple TV. Asphalt 8: Airborne isn’t realistic, however, it’s loads of fun. The physics are somewhat realistic. If you oversteer, you will lose control. Your car is steered by tilting the Siri remote like a steering wheel. It’s remarkably intuitive, responsive and addictive, but not realistic. That’s actually the fun part. Your car has a nitro booster which is charged by doing stunts on ramps.
Asphalt 8: Airborne vehicles are based on real cars. For example, you can drive cars “manufactured” by Dodge, Audi, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari and others. Each car offers different capabilities and can be upgraded by earning or buying credits in the game. Players can buy new cars with in-app purchases or by earning credits. The game starts you off with enough dough to buy a Dodge Viper. You’re matched with cars and drivers of comparable quality and experience.
Online multiplayer gaming is one of the best features of this game. It’s just so much more satisfying to race against real opponents. Asphalt 8 has a demolition derby aspect to it, but it is very forgiving. If you crash and destroy your car, you continue the race in a new car. Crashing will only set you back in the race. I have crashed many times, yet come in first place at the end, because other drivers crash too. The game can actually be quite aggressive at times. There are some players who will even slow down to wait for someone to crash into, and repeat their assault. That’s the downside of playing against real people. Of course, you can compete against automated opponents, if you desire.
This is a remarkably popular game. With over 200 million players, you won’t have to wait long for an online race. It is, by far, the best game I have played on Apple TV. It’s also absolutely free. I did end up buying some tokens when they were on sale, but I haven’t used many of them. Tokens can be used to buy power ups or activate a temporary double-credit bonus. I also purchased one of the inexpensive car packs. These purchases weren’t necessary, but I really enjoy this game. Anyone can get hours of enjoyment from this game for free.
Air Wings for Apple TV
Indie developer Pangea Software has created one of the most enjoyable games on Apple TV. Air Wings is cute aerial combat suitable for all ages. Instead of engaging in dogfights with F-series and MiG jets, Air Wings craft are cute. Players fly paper airplanes, model planes and even a flying squirrel. Spit wads, paper clips, rubber bands and other projectiles comprise the arsenal. If you’re concerned about violent video games, Air Wings is one of the safest options.
Exceptional graphics and smooth animation are the hallmarks of Air Wings. The game really shows off the awesome power of Apple TV. You won’t find anything like this on a console, as Pangea only makes games for Apple devices. That said, you won’t find anything even close to Air Wings on a game console. The graphics are stunning and game play is remarkably smooth and responsive. Players control aircraft simply by tilting the Siri Remote. This is one a few Apple TV games that I keep coming back to.
Air Wings offers online multiplayer gaming, however, there aren’t a lot of players. It’s often difficult to join a match. If you do manage to find one, be advised that the players are extremely good. I’ve been playing this game for over a year and I still get annihilated in every match. I think I have shot down maybe three opponents in my career. There’s a training mode to help new players get acquainted with the game. I only wish the training mode opponents would shoot back. The only problem with this game is that training mode is too easy and multiplayer mode is too hard.
Like most free games, Air Wings offers optional in-app purchases. I actually went for the $5.99 Everything Bundle, which gives you every aircraft and access to all battlefields. You can still get a lot of enjoyment from Air Wings without making a single in-app purchase. This is my second favorite game on Apple TV.
Real Racing 3 for Apple TV
There are a lot of free racing games on Apple TV, because players are easily tempted to make in-app purchases. If you have a modicum of self-control, you can play these games for free. If you really enjoy a game, a few in-app purchases can enhance the experience. That said, developers can make a lot of money from impulsive customers.
Real Racing 3 is yet another racing game which is free, but offers tempting in-app purchases. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of this game, but I know people love it. It’s just a little too realistic for my tastes. The graphics are amazing and game play is responsive. Like any decent racing game, players tilt the Siri Remote to steer. It’s just a bit too slow and realistic for me. Unlike Asphalt 8: Airborne, Real Racing 3 just doesn’t get my adrenaline pumping.
Despite my preferences, people love Real Racing 3. It gets rave reviews and has won numerous awards. It offers innovative multiplayer game play, with a Time Shifted Multiplayer Mode, which virtualizes real opponents. It’s a cool game, but it comes with some annoyances. For example, when you upgrade your car, you either have to wait or pay for the upgrade to complete. It’s a bit too realistic. You have to complete several training races before you can race real opponents. If you just want to have fun, Asphalt 8 is a better option. Real Racing 3 is the better game for racing aficionados. You can even control acceleration and gear shifting with Real Racing 3. It really lives up to its name.
Angry Birds Go! for Apple TV
Yet another racing game, Angry Birds Go! is perhaps the least realistic of the bunch. Set in the Angry Birds universe, the game offers cute characters, silly vehicles and fantastic race courses. I actually played this game a lot on my iPad years ago, and it was my favorite game for a long time. Turning off the music really helped me enjoy the game. Although the game is a bit infantile, it can be quite challenging. Let’s face it, the typical road racing game isn’t going to have race courses like this.
The best thing about Angry Birds Go! is that each level is completely different and features novel vehicles. For example, the Air level features partially airborne racing with flying vehicles. You can skid across ice and snow on the Sub Zero level. Angry Birds Go! is like a cartoonish fantasy racing game. It’s the polar opposite of Real Racing 3. It’s kid friendly, yet wickedly fun for adults.
My only qualm with the game is that it is a condensed version of the iOS title. The actual races are much shorter and the action is slower-paced. It’s missing some levels that are offered on the iOS version. I’m not sure why they did this, but I prefer to play this game on my iPad.
This is another game where I went for an in-app purchase. I bought the coin doubler, which gives players twice the number of coins after each race. This made the game much more fun, as I was able to upgrade vehicles much faster.
Variety is the best thing about Angry Birds Go! It’s hard to get bored with this game when there are so many race courses and vehicles. They all differ so much. I got a little addicted to this game, as I kept on wanting to see the next level. I just wish the tvOS version was as good as its iOS counterpart.
Crossy Road for Apple TV
Featured at an Apple Keynote event, Crossy Road is a low resolution game similar to Frogger. It’s a pun on the old “why did the chicken cross the road” joke. Although this game is nothing amazing, it managed to go viral and propel the developer, Hipster Whale, into the stratosphere. It’s a decent game, but they won the Silicon Valley sweepstakes.
Similar to Frogger, the objective of Crossy Road is to move the chicken across lanes of traffic without getting hit. Players collect coins en route to the other side of the road. Whatever you do, don’t stand still, or else you will be attacked by a hawk.
Crossy Roads can offer a few hours of quality entertainment. It can also be a great party game. It’s not complicated. There’s virtually no learning curve. It’s a fun game, but you probably won’t end up getting addicted to it. Like the developer’s name implies, there is a hipster element to it. The 8-bit graphics game trend seems to be going the way of the beard and man-bun.
Modern Combat 5: Blackout for Apple TV
GameLoft, developer of Asphalt 8 and other titles, seems to offer some of the best free Apple TV games. Their business model is simple — give people excellent free games and maybe they will make some in-app purchases. It’s a recipe for success, because it opens the app up to a much larger audience. After buying some really bad games, I’m weary of spending money on a game up front. Even some of the most highly rated Editor’s Choice games are total garbage. If the developer won’t let you at least try the game for free, it’s probably garbage. There are a few exceptions.
Modern Combat 5 is a complicated game and it’s not well suited for the Siri Remote. Although you don’t need a game controller to play this game, it makes life easier. That said, you can get a lot of enjoyment out of MC5 without shelling out money for a controller. With a little practice and finesse, you can easily navigate the terrifying world of Modern Combat 5. After several minutes, I got the hang of the controls. Eventually, the controls become quite intuitive. Players can also enable automated assistance, such as auto-firing and auto-crouching.
If you enjoy games that are like blockbuster action movies, MC5 is great choice. This first person shooter game takes you along an elaborate plot line involving global warfare. It’s not just about violence. Players must solve problems in order to proceed in the game. There are a lot of games like this for consoles and PCs, but this is one of a few for Apple TV.
Modern Combat 5 is very complicated and has a steep learning curve. You can really spend hours on this game without spending a dime. The game uses a vast amount of assets, so expect to wait up to 30 minutes before playing it for the first time. You’ll find that it is well worth the wait.
Dungeon Hunter 5 for Apple TV
Similar to Modern Combat 5, Dungeon Hunter 5 is another high quality GameLoft title. If you’re a fan of Ultima or World of Warcraft, Dungeon Hunter is right up your alley. Although much simpler than most fantasy adventure role-playing games, Dungeon Hunter can provide hours of free entertainment.
Much like MC5, Dungeon Hunter features fairly complicated controls for the Siri Remote. You’ll need to memorize the controls and practice a bit before you get the hang of it. Unlike its GameLoft counterpart, Dungeon Hunter is a third person, top-level view game. The developer isn’t reusing the same game engine on this one. The graphics and buttery smooth animation are amazing. It’s hard to believe this is a free game!
Although more streamlined, Dungeon Hunter is a fully featured role-playing game. You can embark on a solo campaign or play with up to three other players in co-op mode. There are over 900 pieces of armor and weaponry that can be acquired. Hundreds of spells can be cast. All of this is free, with the option to purchase gems for faster progress in the game. Dungeon Hunter even features daily and weekly events, ensuring that you won’t get bored with this game.
As with MC5, Dungeon Hunter uses a lot of extra assets. It may take up to half an hour before you can play the game for the first time. It’s well worth the wait!
Minion Rush for Apple TV
Part of the Despicable Me franchise, Minion Rush for Apple TV brings these adorable characters to a new, interactive level. It’s another GameLoft title. It’s worth mentioning that I have no affiliation with the developer. It just happens that they offer some of the best free games for Apple TV.
Unlike other GameLoft titles, Minion Rush is simple and seems to be designed for children. Its basic controls don’t offer a wide range of operation. On the first level, players guide a Minion through an obstacle course, collecting bananas. Players can move the Minion across three horizontal positions, as it runs automatically. Ducking and jumping are also required to dodge obstacles.
This is a relatively new game and I haven’t been able to spend much time playing it. That said, I like what I see, but it’s not really my kind of game. It’s a great game if you’re a fan of the Despicable Me franchise. The graphics are excellent and, as with all GameLoft titles, it’s a high quality app.
The best thing about Minion Rush is that it is well-suited for the Siri Remote. The controls are simple, however, the game isn’t that easy. It’s a great game for children and can easily provide hours of free entertainment.
Jetpack Joyride for Apple TV
Simple is sometimes a good thing. There are myriad auto-runner games for Apple TV. These games thrust the player through each level, with simple user controls. While this may sound easy, auto-runners usually get very complicated and challenging. They’re a great test of reflexes and reaction time. From the developer of Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride is another simple, yet elegant, pleasure.
Jetpack Joyride features ridiculously simple controls. Players only need to tap the Touch surface to propel their vehicle upward. This may seem easy, but it’s ridiculously challenging. The game is constantly changing, with new levels, vehicles and obstacles. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so fun.
My only problem with the game is that it is buggy in some areas. For example, I went into the store and was unable to exit. I had to quit the app and launch it again. On my first attempt using the game, it couldn’t connect to their servers. Upon launching the app again, it worked. This is an indie game, but they could probably invest a few more resources in quality assurance. That said, it’s free, fun and worth putting up with a few defects.
Many More Free Games for Apple TV
Writing this article was very difficult, because there are so many great free games for Apple TV. It’s kind of like choosing which puppy to adopt, because they’re all so adorable. I’ve been using the new Apple TV for almost two years now, so the reviews come mostly from experience. I can honestly say that, even though it is a new device, Apple TV already has an impressive selection of games.
Not every Apple TV game is a slam dunk. There are some really terrible games that, for whatever reason, get the Editor’s Choice designation. Some of these games are not free. I made a few mistakes, and although apps are inexpensive, it adds up. Apple TV owners should be cautious about buying apps. After all, the best games are so good that people want to spend money on them. That’s how it should work. I find bad paid apps to be far more annoying than great apps with in-app purchases. For whatever reason, some bad apps always manage to game the system.
This article barely scratches the surface of free Apple TV games. I had to make some hard decisions in order to prevent this article from becoming a book. If you own an Apple TV already, just browse the App Store for the best free games. If you don’t own an Apple TV, rest assured that there are plenty of great apps and games. You can also check out “Apple TV tvOS Apps” which shows every app available on Apple TV, including the top 10 free and paid apps.
Sure, Apple TV isn’t an Xbox or PlayStation, but I also think it’s unfair to claim that it’s only for casual gamers. Most of the GameLoft titles are available on game consoles. I’ve checked them out on other platforms, and honestly, they are better on Apple TV. Apple TV offers some impressive hardware and runs a ridiculously efficient operating system. This is true of most Apple products. This is why comparing specs just doesn’t make sense. It’s the overall user experience that matters. Apple TV really does have the potential to be a great gaming console and some of the best games are absolutely free.