Google Play Pass vs. Apple Arcade: What's the difference and which is better?

Play Pass Hero
Play Pass Hero (Image credit: Android Central)

Google Play Pass

Google Play Pass logo

If you consistently play a lot of mobile games, Google Play Pass is a great way to get your hands on a massive library of games and apps for just $5 a month. The service includes some top tier games, but also includes a bevvy of filler games/apps that most people wouldn't consider value-adds.

Google Play Pass

Gaming Powerhouse

Massive library of 800+ apps and games
Lower annual fee
No ads or in-app purchases
New games added monthly
Includes a lot of filler
No native listing of all included apps and games

Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade Icon

Apple Arcade originally included only exclusives on its platform, but has since expanded its library to include more classic titles. The higher annual fee can make this a less attractive option for players who have both device options available to them, but the high calibre of available games makes Arcade a worthy contender.

Apple Arcade

Exclusive Paradise

Lots of exclusive games made just for Arcade
No ads or in-app purchases
Compatible across Apple devices
New games added weekly
Doesn't include apps
Smaller library of games with 180+
Higher annual fee

Apple and Google clearly looked at the success of Sony's PS Plus and Microsoft's Game Pass subscriptions and said, "We'd like some of that, please". Enter the two mobile gaming subscription services, Google Play Pass and Apple Arcade. These two services share some common ground, with both being paid subscription services that give access to hundreds of games (and apps in Google's case) for a monthly or annual fee that can include up to five family members.

Both services are $4.99 per month, so for most people, the choice between the two services comes down to the simple question of which devices you use. If you use Android, you're going with Play Pass and if you're team Apple, then you're going with Arcade. For the folks that actually own and use both platforms though, there are a couple of notable differences between these two options.

Google Play Pass vs. Apple Arcade: Let's break it down

In terms of sheer volume, Play Pass is the clear winner with 800+ games and apps included. However, this is both a pro and a con. The good news is that you have a ton of variety to choose from and I myself have found some incredible games that I never would have bought on my own were they not included in the subscription, like Ticket to Earth. The bad news is that there's also a ton of filler to sift through. I counted nine Solitaire games alone and I think we can all agree that you just don't need that many versions of Solitaire. Additionally, most of the apps included are ones that I would never want or need, like currency converters and weather apps, so I exclusively use Play Pass for games.

Arcade boasts more exclusive titles and a more curated, less bloated library.

Apple Arcade, on the other hand, has a smaller library of games at 180+, but boasts that many of these games are exclusives that you won't be able to find anywhere else like Fantasian, Crossy Road Castle, What the Golf?, and more. Arcade doesn't suffer the filler problem to the extent that Play Pass does, which is a definite point in its favor. Not every game is going to be a ground-breaker, even if it is an exclusive, but in general, the quality of games offered by Arcade is solid.

As far as cost goes, the big difference between the two services comes down to the annual subscription and your own personal usage patterns. Weighing in at $50 per year, Apple Arcade is a whopping $20 more expensive than Play Pass's $30 annual fee. Considering Arcade's smaller library of games, that's a hard pill to swallow for power players like me.

Cost-wise, Play Pass is the clear winner at $30 per year versus Arcade's $50 per year fee.

Both services include a free trial month, so there's no harm in giving either of these competitors a try. Be warned though, games obtained on Play Pass will revert to their paid versions if you unsubscribe, but your save data will be preserved if you want to take it back up again. If you were playing a free game on Play Pass and unsubscribe, it will simply go back to including ads and in-app purchases. Games acquired through Apple Arcade will become unplayable if you unsubscribe from the service and you'll have to resubscribe to continue playing games that you downloaded using Arcade.

In short, if you only play the odd mobile game here and there each year, frankly neither of these services is for you. But if you're like me and you play many games every month, then subscription services like these are a godsend.

Source: Google Play and Apple

Arcade is steadily building up its offerings, but I would want to see a more robust library of games (at least 300+) and a more competitive annual fee before I could be persuaded to change my vote. It might also be nice, but not really necessary, if Apple expanded Arcade to include even just a handful of premium apps as part of the service. Maybe a great photo editor to maximize the gains on those sweet cameras?

You could definitely say that I'm biased, but for my vote, I would choose Play Pass as the better service by virtue of its lower annual fee, significantly larger library of games, and slightly more forgiving cancellation policy. Yes, there's plenty of garbage to filter out in Play Pass, but there are also many high quality games to be had in there. Dead Cells, Stardew Valley, Cytus II, all four of the Sorcery! games, Grimvalor, Limbo, and so much more are all available on Play Pass and easily justify the cost of the annual subscription for me.

Rachel Mogan
Mobile Games Writer

A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.