Google has an Apple Arcade rival and nobody knows about it

Google Play Pass doesn't get the same attention as Xbox Game Pass or Apple Arcade, but it's good value for family gaming fun

Google Play Pass
(Image credit: Google)

If you've ever read one of those nostalgia articles – 11 things that were fun in the 1990s, the best phones before the iPhone, 7 actors who used to have moustaches but don't have moustaches any more, that kind of thing – you've probably had an "ooh, I'd forgotten about that!" reaction to at least some of the items. I felt much the same this morning reading about Google Play Pass on Wired.com (opens in new tab): ooh! I'd forgotten about that!

Google Play Pass is the closest Android rival to Apple Arcade – the £4.99 a month play-everything bundle Apple offers to Mac, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users – except this one is for Android phones and Android tablets. Like Apple Arcade it's £4.99 a month, ad-free and you can share your subscription with up to five other family members. 

If you're looking for a blockbuster rival to Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus, this isn't it (and don't forget, you can stream games to your Android device using Cloud Gaming). But if you want a good selection of mobile games with an emphasis on family-friendly fun – and without the often age-inappropriate ads that blight many freemium titles – then it's worth exploring.

What games can you play on Google Play Pass?

The selection is really rather good. There's the two Monument Valley games, which I absolutely love – the first one made me cry at the end – and the critically acclaimed Limbo. You can play Star Wars: KOTOR, Sonic The Hedgehog Classic and for younger players, the fun and funny Chuchel. Other options include Cut The Rope, various Layton mysteries and Kingdom Rush titles, Stardew Valley, and a few apps too, including the Toca Mini apps that delighted my kids when they were younger. 

Whether this is the right service for you really depends on whether the games here are the ones you or your family want to play: if there's only a few, then there's no point subscribing for games that won't be played, and just buying the ones you want works out much cheaper. But it's not a bad price for what's on offer.

Clearly, this isn't a selection that'll please hardcore gamers, but then it's not designed for them. It's best suited to parents like me who want their kids to be able to game without encountering horrible things or spending all their pocket money on Fortnite V-bucks. The only downside is the same as you have with any other subscription service: you don't own the titles you play; you're just renting them.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).