App marketplate: Another year is quickly drawing to a close, and for mobile enthusiasts, that means another one of Apple's annual "Best Apps" lists to gander at. These lists are put together by a team of expert app curators whose job is to draw attention to what they feel are the most noteworthy, entertaining, or otherwise useful apps on the App Store. So, what does 2021's list look like? Let's find out!
As usual, 15 apps and games won the "App Store Awards" this year, representing a collection of apps that have allowed users to pursue their personal passions, discover creative outlets, and "connect with new people and experiences," according to Apple. Whether or not that's just marketing speak, or a true reflection of the apps the company selected this year is up to you to decide.
iPhone App of the Year: Toca Life World by Toca Boca
Have you ever wished you could go back to being a kid -- the days when you'd waste hours playing with toys, action figures, and dolls, making up stories for them using nothing more than your imagination? If so, Toca Life World might just be from you. Released in 2018, this game combines all of the other Toca Life games into one centralized app, allowing players to create their own characters, dress them up, and drag them around in various colorful (and interactive) environments. Think of Toca Life World as a collection of virtual dollhouses, with homes and characters that you can design yourself.
iPad App of the Year: LumaFusion by LumaTouch
The iPad might not be the first device that comes to mind when you think of video editing powerhouses, but the LumaFusion app aims to dispel those thoughts. To use creator LumaTouch's own words, LumaFusion is a "powerful multitrack video editor" designed to help you tell "compelling video stories," regardless of your level of expertise. It has 6 video and audio tracks, dozens of built-in royalty-free music, video, and background resources, as well as a large community of fellow creators primed and ready to help you learn the apps ins and outs.
Mac App of the Year: Craft by Luki Labs Limited
If you want to upgrade your note-taking to the next level, look no further than Craft. It's a hub for all things creative: with it, you can organize documents, pictures, videos, and more, all with an accessible, highly-customizable interface. You can create lively, richly-detailed notes and pages that can be nested within each other. You can use markdown to better format your workspace and even invite others to collaborate with you in real-time.
iPhone Game of the Year: League of Legends: Wild Rift by Riot Games
If you were to go back ten years and tell a hardcore League of Legends player that they could someday play their favorite, highly-complex MOBA on mobile with no compromises, they'd probably think you were crazy. And yet, that's precisely what League of Legends: Wild Rift is -- a faithful mobile port of one of the most popular MOBAs in the world. It controls and plays beautifully, and the character models actually surpass the quality of their PC counterparts since many have been remade just for Wild Rift. Select your champion, party up with your friends, and delve into the Rift!
iPad Game of the Year: Marvel Future Revolution by Netmarble
If PC games aren't your thing, but you still want an experience similar to Marvel's Avengers, mobile ARPG Marvel Future Revolution could fit the bill. Built on Unreal Engine, the game promises AAA-quality graphics, a fluid combat system, and the ability to play as (and customize) your favorite Marvel heroes. Options include Star-Lord, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Spiderman, and more. Future Revolution gets regular updates and features co-op functionality for those that want to play with their pals.
Mac Game of the Year: Myst by Cyan
The original Myst was a classic, point-and-click adventure puzzle title first released in 1993. The game was set on a mysterious, abandoned island with a bizarre mix of old-fashioned, castle-like structures and more modern-looking machinery. Recently, it got a full remake for PC and Mac, with free WASD movement, first-person camera controls, and hugely-improved visuals. Judging by its place on this list, it seems the long-since-solved mysteries of a nearly three-decade-old game still hold a certain allure for modern gamers, and that's definitely not a bad thing.
Apple TV App of the Year: DAZN
There's not much to say about this app: it's good, (sometimes) clean sports streaming fun, with both live and on-demand viewing options. While it is a boxing-heavy service, you'll still find content from a variety of sports organizations, including the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL, among others. DAZN has a "Free to Watch" section that doesn't require your credit card details to access, and unlike other pay-per-view streaming services, it only charges you a monthly fee for access to its entire library of content. Binge to your heart's content.
Apple TV Game of the Year: Space Marshals 3 by Pixelbite
Space Marshals 3 is a great pick for anyone who loves tactical combat but wants to avoid the turn-based formula of something like the Xcom series. Instead of using action and movement points to navigate, you move freely about the game's various environments, and both take cover and shoot in real-time. There's also a pretty robust stealth system that allows you to quietly take down enemies using hand-to-hand strikes, silenced weapon shots. Alternatively, you can distract enemies away from your critical path, or hack turrets to turn them against their owners.
Apple Watch App of the Year: Carrot Weather by Grailr
While it's tempting to write Carrot off as just another weather app, it has a little bit more going on under the hood than it might seem at first glance. For starters, Carrot boasts an incredibly detailed interface, with information on not just the weather and temperature but also the UV index of the area you're in, the local humidity, and much more. Second, you can optionally choose from one of five "personalities" for the app, each of which will throw different quips and one-liners (ranging from "professional" to "profanity-laden") at you depending on the climate at any given time. Finally, Carrot promises to be a more privacy-conscious alternative to traditional weather apps, with developer Grailr claiming it will never sell your information to third parties.
Apple Arcade Game of the Year: Fantasian by Mistwalker Corporation
Developed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Fantasian seeks to bring the beauty of long-form JRPGs to Apple's subscription-based Arcade platform, available across all of the company's various devices (including Macs, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs). Instead of featuring traditional, 3D (or 2D) rendered backgrounds, Sakaguchi hand-crafted a whopping 160 real-world dioramas and used them as backdrops for Fantasia. You'll explore these environments throughout a 60+ hour adventure, which tasks you with helping an amnesiac named Leo recover his memories in a mysterious universe known as the "Machine Realm." Along the way, you'll meet new party members who can join you in your quest and assist you in combat.
Trend of the Year: Connection
In addition to its standard annual list of games and apps, which we've shown you above, Apple likes to pick a "Trend of the Year." For the company, this means identifying a movement that has had a "lasting impact on people's lives," and selecting games and apps that have contributed to that movement. They are as follows:
Among Us by Innersloth
While we might argue that Among Us' gameplay is better suited for a trend based around competition and screwing over your buddies -- all in good fun, of course -- Apple feels differently. According to the company, Among Us' mix of cooperation and competition has "cultivated community" through short, rapid-fire matches that force users to actually communicate with one another, even if those communications inevitably involve more than a little lying.
With a Trend of the Year like "Connection," it's no surprise to see a (kind of) dating app make its way onto Apple's Best Apps list. The company's editorial team felt Bumble's unique, "women make the first move" approach to date-finding, as well as its Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz features, help to foster "women-powered conversations" and make it easier than ever to find romance, friendship, or even business partners.
Canva is a helpful design tool that makes composing attractive 2D projects, whether they be e-books, promotional materials, or website banners, easier than ever. Apple didn't really specify how Canva fits into the "Connection" category, but since the platform does allow you to collaborate with friends and co-workers on designs, we suppose it's a sensible fit regardless.
EatOkra by Anthony and Janique Edwards
According to its official website, EatOkra's mission is to connect foodies to Black restaurants; a goal it seeks to accomplish by running a "user-driven guide" filled with over 11,000 such locations. From a user's perspective, it works pretty similarly to something like Yelp. You enter your address, select a style of food that you're in the mood for (such as Caribbean, African, or Vegetarian), and watch as the website compiles an extensive list of Black-owned eateries for you to peruse. It lists the restaurant's contact information, any reviews it may have received to date, and its hours of operation. Pretty handy!
Peanut is an app designed to help women connect with each other throughout "all stages" of womanhood. With it, you'll be able to match and chat with others that might be going through the same struggles as you, be they menopause, pregnancy, or fertility-related. You can also join groups that share common interests, join "live audio conversations" hosted by experts (in what, we're not quite sure), and ask questions of the community using Peanut's "Share" feature.