New Apple games for your iPhone, iPad and Mac

(CNN) – We’ve had access to console-quality games on Apple devices for years, but they often come with limitations. Our iPhones can render immersive worlds that rival those of dedicated gaming systems, but swiping on a touchscreen rarely feels as good as using a controller. And while the latest Mac computers have enough graphics power to act as true gaming PCs, they don’t have the games library to match.

Fortunately, things appear to be moving in the right direction on both fronts. I recently had the opportunity to play some of the biggest video games coming to iOS, Apple TV and Mac this year – including a new Call of Duty title and the sequel to the hugely popular Genshin Impact – while also sitting down with their developers for a deeper dive. My big snack? 2023 looks like a great time to be an Apple gamer.

PHOTO: Mike Andronico/CNN

When Call of Duty Mobile launched in 2019, it successfully brought the mega-popular franchise’s gripping, suspenseful multiplayer shootouts to the small screen with surprisingly intuitive touch controls and near-console-like graphics. And now that Call of Duty Warzone – a Last Man Standing spin on the classic formula – has taken the world by storm, it’s also getting a dedicated mobile version, offering an even more impressive approach to making the shooter genre work on a phone.

For the uninitiated, Warzone is basically Call of Duty with a Fortnite twist. Up to 120 players (either alone or in three-person squads) descend on an ever-shrinking battlefield, searching for weapons while fighting to be the last player or crew standing. The mobile version I played retains the same core gameplay, weapons, characters, and arenas you’ll find on console and PC, but with controls designed from the ground up for phone screens.

As someone who’s played Call of Duty Mobile, the new Warzone adaptation felt familiar, with simple, customizable controls that can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. For example, you can press a single button to aim at your enemy while your weapon fires automatically, or sprint across the battlefield with a quick tap instead of having to hold down a button. Warzone takes this even further with a series of automated controls that have allowed me, for example, to leap over a barricade simply by running towards it, or traverse an entire staircase with a single tap of the screen. It all felt smooth and eliminated much of the clunkiness that can come with trying to perform complex action game maneuvers on a touchscreen.

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“Some areas of Verdansk have skyscrapers and stuff, so you might not want to manually control your husband up and down the stairs,” said Chris Plummer, Activision’s senior vice president and co-head of mobile. “These are just quality of life improvements, and we did that because there are a lot of mechanics. So if this is your first time trying, and we want people to invite their friends and invite people who may not have already done so [played] previously, these automations were a big thing that we focused on.”

These automations really helped me focus on the goal of the game: staying alive in heated firefights. Taking out an entire squad of enemies – as the last member of my team survived no less – was a thrill, and I never had to think too hard or perform any awkward on-screen maneuvers to take out the enemy. As with Call of Duty: Mobile, you can dial in exactly how much in-game automation and assistance you want, and there will also be Bluetooth controller support for those wanting a more traditional experience.

Activision’s latest bite-sized Call of Duty game looked great and ran at a smooth 120 frames per second on an iPhone 14 Pro Max – Apple’s current top-end phone – although it’s been optimized to run well on recent iPhone generations to run. I did notice the handset getting warm during my gaming time, and more worryingly, the game would completely crash towards the end of an intense game. Activision was quick to point out that we were playing pre-release software, so hopefully those bugs will be ironed out to avoid accidental trips to the Gulag.

Warzone Mobile looks and plays well, but perhaps the most exciting thing about the game is the way it works in tandem with the rest of the Call of Duty franchise. You can use the same account for Warzone Mobile, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Warzone 2.0, meaning you’ll progress and unlock new weapons and perks with your Battle Pass whether you’re playing on your phone, console, or your PC. Warzone Mobile also allows iOS and Android users to play together, so your Green Bubble friends aren’t left out of the action.

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Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile is slated for release later this year as a free-to-play game, and you can pre-register now to get started on iOS and Android as early as possible. I was very impressed with the game’s smooth approach to touch controls – especially as someone who reaches for a gamepad like the Backbone One at every opportunity – and look forward to spending more time on the battlefield.

If Call of Duty: Warzone Mobile exemplifies how great iOS games can feel, Honkai: Star Rail is a prime example of how great they can look. Honkai: Star Rail, an upcoming RPG from the makers of the hugely popular Genshin Impact, makes it look like a living animated film – one for you to freely explore in a galaxy of beautiful interstellar locations.

Star Rail trades Genshin Impact’s real-time action for turn-based combat (think Pokémon or classic Final Fantasy), and while that might sound less exciting, it’s anything but once you see it in motion. Each of your characters’ attacks are beautifully animated, which makes activating the game’s groundbreaking ultimate moves all the more satisfying. Again, it felt more like watching a cartoon than ordering a bunch of cartoon characters to beat up a robot. It doesn’t hurt that I played the game on the latest iPad Pro, which allowed the vibrant sci-fi worlds to really pop, while each cinematic attack sequence played at an impressive 120fps. But you don’t have to buy a $1,000 tablet to enjoy this game – developer HoYoverse noted that it’s optimized for the latest iPads and iPhones.

Honkai: Star Rail will be released later this year for iOS, Android, and PC, and you’ll be able to keep your progress across all three platforms. You can now pre-register for the free-to-play game.

PHOTO: Mike Andronico/CNN

One of my favorite games of 2021, The Medium is a unique psychological horror game that has you traversing both the real and spirit worlds – sometimes on the same screen – to solve puzzles and defeat demons. The game’s ability to render two different worlds simultaneously made it a great tech showcase for next-gen consoles and souped-up PCs, and now that it’s coming to the Mac, it should do the same for Apple’s latest arsenal of blazing-fast computers.


I demoed The Medium on a new Mac Mini M2, and it looked just as good on my fully loaded home PC as I remembered – mind you, one with a high-end Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card. The game’s moody cinematic action ran at an immersive 4K resolution and what looked like at least 60 frames per second (meaning it was nice and smooth), and while I did notice the occasional stutter as we got into dual-reality gameplay, it held up it still performs impressively well in cutscenes and intense split-screen action sequences alike. While developer Bloober Team couldn’t give any specific performance numbers, the company did note that the game has been tested on both M1 and M2 Macs and should run well even on the basic 2020 MacBook Air. That’s partly due to Apple’s Metal technology, which uses software smarts to optimize games for Mac devices on the fly.

While The Medium was a great accomplishment in my short hands-on time, I’m far more excited about what its arrival means for the future of Mac gaming overall. I’ve long criticized the lack of big blockbuster games on Apple’s computers, but the recent port of Resident Evil Village – which is running like a dream – as well as upcoming Mac versions of big games like No Man’s Sky and The Medium seem to indicate that developers are starting to take the Mac a little more seriously. That could be a very good thing for people who want to enjoy the best that PC gaming has to offer without breaking the bank on a separate Windows computer.

The Medium is coming to the Mac App Store this summer and you can play it on Mac Mini, iMac, Mac Studio and MacBook. I can’t wait to get scared all over again, this time with the power of Apple Silicon behind every Jumpscare.