Subscription-Free Alternatives to Apple’s ‘Best of 2020’ Apps
Games of the year (non-Apple Arcade)
Apple listed out a whopping four games of the year for 2020, and they should be pretty familiar if you’ve been paying attention to what’s dropped this year. For once, I’m at a loss of which I should recommend as Lifehacker’s top pick (of Apple’s top picks), because I’m having to decide between these four contenders:
Apple split these games up by platform, and all but Disco Elysium can all be played on your iPhone or iPad, at least. I’ve played Disco Elysium, and if you want the weirdest experience possible in an isometric role-playing game, you have to play it. Here’s looking at you, old-school Baldur’s Gate/Planescape: Torment fans, or modern-day Pillars of Eternity/Torment: Tides of Numenera fans. Though Disco Elysium isn’t full of orcs and elves, it’s an experience that almost defies explanation. You can do so very, very much with the options you’re presented as part of the game’s narrative structure, that I don’t want to spoil a single second of what awaits you. Just enjoy this spoiler-free trailer:
If you’re a big fan of Breath of the Wild-like action-adventure games, then Genshin Impact is an easy install. It’s free to play, but it offers an impressive amount of gorgeous gameplay until you start feeling that tug to spend real-world money. In fact, you don’t have to spend anything at all to have a great experience, and I’d encourage you to resist pulling the trigger as long as possible; it’s a slippery slope.
That all said, Genshin Impact is an easy pick for mobile game of the year. It was already a frontrunner, and then Google picked it, so with Apple sealing the deal, I think it’s fair to say this is a must-have for your iPhone or iPad.
Though I went with Gwent when going through Google’s list of best Android apps of 2020, that doesn’t mean that the digital CCG Legends of Runeterra is shoddy. I don’t have much experience with it, but I strongly suggest giving it a whirl if you fall into one of two camps:
- You’re a Hearthstone player that’s sick of Blizzard’s new reward track for the “free” to play game.
- You’ve never played a digital CCG before and you’re curious what the fuss is all about.
The gist of the game is easy to learn: You draw a hand of cards, and have an increasing pool of power you draw from to play each turn. Using a combination of spells, creatures, and other shenanigans, your goal is to reduce your enemy’s life total from 20 to zero. The strategy of the game comes from how the cards interact and the mechanisms you’ll use to attack, prevent damage, and build towards victory—which you can customize yourself by creating your own decks to play with, once you’re good enough.
It’s possible to have a pretty great time in the game without spending a single dollar, so long as you take advantage of all the free-to-play bonuses for expanding the pool of cards you can use to create decks. And that’s pretty much it. If you need more of a helping hand, though, there are plenty of great tutorials you can use to familiarize yourself with Legends of Runeterra’s style: