Discovering new games to play on iOS is hard nowadays. We’re at Apple’s mercy every single time we visit the App Store. The games recommended to us when we open the App Store on our devices are curated by Apple, with very little unfiltered games. It’s both a blessing AND a curse as the games recommended to us aren’t always what we really like to play, just what Apple thinks or wants us to play. So, how do you search for new games on iOS?
Your Answer Upfront:
In order to discover new games you need to start with a game on the App Store that you like. Open the game’s page and scroll down to the bottom and tap the “See All” button next to “You Might Also Like”. When Apple recommends a game on the store, the recommendation is driven by how much revenue the game made. By using the “See All” method, the games displayed really are related games. It’s a good way to discover premium games and not fall victim to Apple’s algorithm.
Before we begin, please be aware that we’ve used quite a few images to illustrate the method and to make it as easy as possible to follow it. This thread is image intensive but we’ve chosen to defer image loading until you scroll down, so as to not consume your bandwidth. Best Smartphone Games cares deeply about our readers 😇.
In my last blog post (Why aren’t there more high quality mobile games) I used an analogy that perfectly explains why finding new games is so hard on modern App Stores. Try and picture the App Store as one giant billboard next to a busy highway. The games, in this case, are all advertisements that appear on the billboard.
If you were Apple, which ad would you show? One that makes you $30.000/day or one for a good game that only generated $100 in income?
Well, Apple is a corporation that’s beholden to their shareholders so the games they feature in their lists are all games that help generate the most revenue. That’s the reason why Hero Wars gets the first slot when you open the game tab.
It’s not featured because it’s much better than Astrologaster (a pretty amazing premium game for iOS that we reviewed) or Divinity: Original Sin 2 (an amazing PC/Console quality RPG ported to the iPad) but due to the fact that it’s generating tens of thousands of dollars in revenue. 10 to 30% of which goes to Apple.
Why isn’t Apple’s App Store search good enough?
The search is working as intended. You type in a name and it returns a list of titles that match for said query + 1 or more paid-for slots. The problem with just using the App Store’s search function is that you need to already know what you are searching for.
If you type in RPGs, you’ll only find a handful of games matching your query. It won’t return all games categorized as RPGs.
The same thing occurs when searching for any other genre. And even if you type in a game’s name, there’s no guarantee that game will come up first. It’s usually near the first few entries but not always the first one.
Apple optimizes the App Store for revenue and profit, that means it tries to display games that can monetize the most and, in return, give them the more money. It’s a common practice and Apple isn’t the only one doing it. The same thing happens with Google Play, as demonstrated in our post titled “Why aren’t there more High Quality Mobile Games“.
Why can’t I see all game genres and categories in the App Store?
One way to search for games is by the game genre. If you like shooters or RPGs or Puzzle Games, chances are your feed is going to be crowded with games from all kinds of genre’s, not just the ones you like.
Apple offers you custom categories where it displays games it thinks you would like, based on the type of games you’ve downloaded and played before. But just as with search or our billboard analogies, it’s not always (or even most of the time) the games you would enjoy the most.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you played a ton of Baldur’s Gate on your iPad. You would expect that Apple would recommend you Planescape: Torment or Divinity: Original Sin 2 right?
In reality, Apple is going to recommend you other RPG games and Baldur’s Gate might be in that list, but clearly not close to the top. If Apple has a choice between featuring Hero Wars and Baldur’s Gate, it’s going to choose Hero Wars 90% of the time. Once again, go back to our billboard analogy. It’s maybe categorized as an RPG (if you believe the ads and description) but not really.
A casual player browsing the app store won’t know the difference as he has little to no experience with actual RPGs. And most iPhone users aren’t hardcore gamers. So Apple’s gonna go with the best algorithm for the majority (and their wallets).
How to find new good iPhone or iPad Games?
Our favorite method to find new games we might enjoy is pretty simple, but often overlooked by the grand majority of players. It starts with searching for a game that we enjoyed. Let’s start with Alien: Isolation.
Step 1: We start by searching the App Store for it.
Step 2: We go on the game’s store page.
Step 3: We scroll to the very bottom of the store page.
Step 4: We tap on the “You Might Also Like” category.
Step 5: We select a game that we like from the list. If we go through the list and there’s none we want to get, we select the one most closely to what we’re interested in. In my case, I went with Neverwinter Nights. I already spent hundreds of hours on the game and its modules on my computer but I don’t want to purchase it again on my phone.
Step 6: We scroll to the bottom of the page again, tap see all on the “You Might Also Like” category and repeat the entire process. In my case, I decided to purchase Ember, by 505 games. It has a 1 star review buuuuut it’s a person complaining that the game crashes. I see no other reviews for it (PSA: reviews displayed are only for you language and/or country. 200 000 people could have reviewed the game 5 stars but I only see the 1 from my county who gave it a star. Thank you, Apple!).
And that’s all there is to it. The same process can be performed on the web, by googling for your favorite game + “iOS App Store” and scrolling to the bottom of the game’s page.
Some of you might think this is simple and there’s nothing new. Fair enough, but I keep showing people this method for finding similar, premium games and so far, 90% of them did not know about it.
Hoping this method will end up helping more and more people. It’s one of the last in-store solutions for actually finding games that we, as players, might be interested in. But knowing Apple, they might remove this loophole.
Where To Next?
Thank you for reading this article and I sincerely hope this method is useful to you for discovering new games for your iPhone or iPad. In case you’ve already own or don’t like any of the games you find this way, you can probably head on over to out Review’s section. You’ll find that we often review quite a decent number of games every week and one of them might be your cup of tea.
For example we had a great time playing Merchant, a beautifully crafted, 2D pixel art game where you play as a Merchant in a fantasy world, go on adventures in order to gather materials and craft items and weapons. It’s a Free2Play game that offers the ability to unlock the entire game. It’s basically a premium iPhone from our point of view.
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