After years of waiting, the Apple TV finally has its own App Store, and it’s already populated with a surprisingly large number of worthwhile apps and games. We’ve been testing them and looking to see what’s hot and not for day one Apple TV buyers, including some titles compatible with third-party Apple-authorized game controllers.
Here are 10 of our top early picks, plus some honorable mentions that you may want to grab anyway despite some early issues. There are even several games that support 3DTVs (which are now heavily discounted), a little-known feature of the new Apple TV…
1. Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions Evolved. If you want to show off the gaming potential of your new Apple TV, this is unquestionably the first thing you should download. Featuring the same killer electronica soundtrack and 3D vector graphics as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac versions, Activision’s intense overhead shooter looks awesome on the new Apple TV. Better yet, the game works on both tvOS and iOS devices, so one purchase lets you cross-play, even carrying your saved games over through the cloud. Download it here.
2. Hulu. Although Netflix has the better overall content library right now, Hulu has a better day one Apple TV app, thanks to an interface that actually lets you dig down into its library in a familiar way. Hulu features numerous seasons worth of TV shows from major U.S. television networks, alongside a smaller collection of movies. If you’re looking to start enjoying all-you-can-watch streaming video, this is one of the two best places to start, though individual channel-specific apps (such as NBC, CBS, and FOX) are beginning to pop up with some overlapping content. A free trial is available to see if the service fits your needs. Download the app here.
3. Lumino City. If you prefer your games to be relaxing rather than intense, you’ll be blown away by the presentation of Lumino City by State of Play Games. Dreamy music and a highly original visual style turn a point-and-click adventure into a seemingly living diorama — the developer calls it a “handmade world,” noting that it was made with paper, cards, lights, and motors. Cartoony characters move through photorealistic and semi-realistic backdrops, as you use a circular cursor to guide Lumi through a city to find her kidnapped grandfather. Download it here.
4. Funny Or Die. Conspicuously absent from prior generations of the Apple TV, the Will Ferrell- and Adam McKay-developed collection of comedy videos is sometimes NSFW, but packed with funny content. Consider Zach Galifianakis’s entire Between Two Ferns series for a (brief) binge watch after grabbing this free app. Download it here.
5. Shoot The Zombirds. Perfectly timed for a Halloween debut on the Apple TV, this inexpensive, classic iOS shooter looks surprisingly beautiful on a large screen — and works across iOS and tvOS. You’re a pumpkin-headed archer trying to keep spooky birds from stealing baby pumpkins from a moonlit pumpkin patch, using the touch surface to fire arrows from the bow into as many birds at once as possible. It’s a fun, cheap game; download it here.
6. Netflix. Probably the single-best video content app on the Apple TV, Netflix is worth grabbing because of the sheer quantity of high-quality content amassed (and developed) by the service over the past few years. While the app is a bit underdeveloped on day one, lacking for some of the category search features it really needs, you can make your way through the library using text searches (and, if you’re lucky, Siri searches). Download it here.
7. Rayman Adventures. Staggering production values and all-age-appropriate content make this action-platforming game a must-see for gamers. Controlled simply — Rayman runs automatically, letting you control jumps, punches, and interactions with one button and directional swipes — this adaptation of the classic side-scroller looks and sounds just like a console game. It’ll do until deeper platformers are developed for tvOS; for now, it appears to be an Apple TV exclusive (with other versions apparently coming soon). Download it here.
8. Jetpack Joyride. Halfbrick’s classic one-button fly-and-dodge game has seen excellent updates and support since its release on iOS, and the Apple TV version is even better. Featuring the Back to the Future theme previously added to the iOS game, it starts with a familiar, rousing score that really makes great use of your TV’s speakers, and lets you live out your flying Delorean fantasties. Jetpack Joyride is an ideal introduction to casual gaming for the unfamiliar, and offers tons of fun (including costume and power-up customization) for free. Download it here.
9. YouTube. Visually sparing from an interface standpoint but loaded with free video content, YouTube has come a long way since Steve Jobs introduced it as an early third-party channel for the first-generation Apple TV. Untold quantities of professionally produced video now dominate the site, allowing you to watch everything from SNL skits to in-game videos to press conferences — at this point, accompanied by relatively painless advertising. Download it here.
10. Beat Sports. Debuted alongside the Apple TV, this Harmonix-developed combination of music rhythm gaming and sports is appropriate for all ages, and appears to have been built specifically for tvOS. Featuring music by Masaya Matsuura, one of the geniuses behind Sony’s breakthrough PlayStation rhythm game PaRappa the Rapper, it ably uses the Siri Remote’s motion and touch capabilities, and has the overall look and feel of a full-fledged console game. It’s notably not iOS-compatible, and can currently only be downloaded through the Apple TV, but a free companion app to use your iPhone or iPod touch for multi-player gameplay can be downloaded here.
Honorable Mention: Nanosaur 2: Hatchling. While this aged Mac game isn’t worthy of top 10 status, this 3D flying/shooting title merits a mention because Pangea Software added 3DTV support, spotlighting a little-known capability of the new Apple TV hardware. Nanosaur 2 runs fine on regular HDTVs as well, but supports 3D glasses if your TV does, via a settings screen. An epic soundtrack and smooth graphics help to make up for the regrettable lack of explanation as to how the game controls with the Siri Remote; be prepared for some early frustration trying to figure out how to fly. If you prefer walk-and-jump action, or overhead shooting, look at Pangea’s other titles (Bugdom 2, Otto Matic and Nucleus) instead. You can download Nanosaur 2 here.
Honorable Mention: Asphalt 8: Airborne. Gameloft’s iOS-dominating 3-D driving game may be years old at this point, but it continues to add content and features at an impressive clip. The Apple TV version (thankfully) features Bluetooth controller support (which you may find necessary after trying the Siri Remote), tons of unlockable content, impressive music, and super-fluid 3D graphics. Just be prepared for interminable loading times to grab tracks and new challenges, thanks to Apple’s 200MB initial app download limit. Download it here.
Honorable Mention: Words Galore! People love to find words hidden in a sea of letters. Digitalglen’s Words Galore! provides multiple skill levels ranging from beginner (for kids) to expert, with several different variations including timed and timer-less games. Easier levels stick with themes kids will like (animals), and you can choose between a bright UI or a dark mode that won’t light up your room. Use of the Siri Remote to select hidden words, particularly on diagonals, is a bit of a challenge.
Honorable Mention: 7 Minute TV Workout. Roman Shevtsov’s 7 Minute TV Workout cycles through 12 “scientifically proven exercises,” using the left side of the screen to play 30-second videos of a woman doing jumping jacks, plunges, squats, and other quick workouts, each ending with a brief “rest” before moving on to the next activity. The app includes a Progress Calendar and explanations of each of the exercises, referencing a New York Times article to suggest that the brief workout has positive health benefits, and can be repeated multiple times for a longer exercise cycle. While it’s a very early offering, it shows how the Apple TV with a large HDTV can evolve into a more compelling fitness tool than an iPhone or iPad.
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Check out more of my editorials, How-To guides, and reviews for 9to5Mac here! I’ve covered a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users. I’ve recently discussed how to safely prepare and wipe your iPhone for resale or trade-in, and how to get the best iPhone trade-in price to help buy an iPhone 6s, amongst many other topics.