Arcade Idle Explained: What Makes this Genre so Popular? 

What are arcade idle games? How do they work? Why are they all over mobile gaming top charts? Read and find out.

As a type of hybrid-casual game, arcade idle games are one of the hottest trends in the mobile gaming industry.

This genre skyrocketed quickly after appearing on the market, growing by 2050% in just over a year.

Almost two years later, it doesn’t show signs of stopping. 

If you didn’t have the chance to research the arcade idle genre, don’t worry — we’ve done the hard work for you. In this article, we’ll answer all the questions you might have about this popular type of mobile game. 

Defining the Arcade Idle (Sub)Genre

You know what arcade games are. The same goes for idle games.

But, not so sure what the terms “arcade idle” or “idle arcade” stand for?

Let’s start by clearing that out.

The arcade idle genre combines some characteristics of idle and adventure arcade genres. Here, the developers’ main goal is to create games with hyper-casual simplicity, but with higher engagement.

From the idle genre, these games borrowed the progression system.

In idle games, players can progress with little or no input. When players abandon idle games and return, they are welcomed back by offline rewards. This motivates players to keep coming back to the game, continue playing, and earn more resources. 

From arcade games, this genre borrowed simplicity and intuitive gameplay.

In these games, developers try to eliminate all potentially complex features. Everything from game controls to mechanics and design is simple and appealing to a wide audience.

Impressive Numbers

The first arcade idle games were published in late 2020 by Homa Games, and they quickly turned out to be successful.

It didn’t take long for other publishers to notice this.

Soon after, studios like SayGames, Supersonic Studios, and Supercent started developing arcade idle games and reaching the top charts. 

Let’s take a look at how this genre grew in terms of numbers, according to a report by Homa Games and SensorTower: 

  • From Q4 2020 to Q1 2022, the number of downloads has risen by 2050%
  • India, Russia, Vietnam, China, and Brazil were the top five countries by idle arcade download growth in Q2 2022. In China, the world’s biggest gaming market, the genre skyrocketed, growing by 14500% in that period 
  • The top 20 games in this genre show impressive day 1 retention — ranging from 48% to 52%

Top Arcade Idle Games of 2023

Wondering which idle arcade titles dominated the global download charts in 2023? 

Here are the top downloaded games of this genre, along with the number of downloads they accumulated last year (Source: AppMagic):

  1. My Perfect Hotel (50M+)
  2. Burger Please! (50M+)
  3. My Mini Mart (20M+)
  4. Bus Arrival (20M+)
  5. Farm Land (20M+)
  6. Aquarium Land (20M+)
  7. Alien Invasion (20M+)
  8. Outlets Rush (20M+)
  9. Pizza Ready (20M+)
  10. Craft Commander (10M+)

Arcade Idle Metrics 

arcade idle metrics
Arcade idle metrics. Data source: Homa Games

Arcade idle games showcase impressive retention and engagement metrics. According to Homa Games, the games from this genre have an average:

  • CPI of 40 cents
  • Day 0 playtime of 25 minutes
  • Day 1 retention rate of 35%

These numbers tell us a lot about the nature of these games. 

The cost of acquiring an arcade idle player falls somewhere between hyper-casual ($0.31) and casual games ($0.98).

Even though acquiring new players isn’t extremely cheap, these games make up for it through their strong engagement systems.

The arcade idle Day 0 playtime of 25 minutes is significantly higher than that of hyper-casual games, which average around 10 minutes (Azur Games). As players spend more time playing these games, it creates additional monetization opportunities, resulting in higher LTVs and overall game revenues.

How exactly do these relatively simple games get to such great numbers?

Continue reading to find out.

Arcade Idle Games: Feature Overview

Wondering how to recognize an arcade idle game?

Look for a game with simple characters, joystick controls, and features like resource stacking, expansion, and upgrading.


Tutorials and mechanics. Image 1: My Mini Mart. Image 2: Pizza Ready

Players don’t need lengthy tutorials to figure out how to play arcade idle games.

This should be clear in a matter of seconds.

This is the main factor taken from the arcade genre, which originates from the coin-op machines in arcade places. You put the coin in, learn how to play in 5 seconds, and you’re right in the middle of the action.

To achieve this effect, these games need to be based on simple, enjoyable mechanics.

In most cases, the games from this genre rely on joystick controls and the stacking mechanic. As players progress through these games, they discover their more complex layers, such as upgrading, exploration, or expansion features

All these features blend together, creating an engaging and satisfying experience that keeps players in the game for a while. 


When someone mentions idle games, your mind instantly goes to mining and digging? This is because, in the past, most idle games were based on these themes.

Today, idle games are much more diverse.

Most idle arcade developers decide on popular and familiar themes, some of which work better than others. 

These are the top five arcade idle genre themes by downloads, according to Sensor Tower and Homa Games:

  • Farming
  • Sandbox 
  • Battle creatures 
  • Cooking
  • Mining/Digging

Most games in this genre work on similar mechanics, but their themes make them more or less attractive. For this reason, it’s important to approach theme selection carefully, keeping an eye on market trends and observing your surroundings. 

Generally, it’s recommended to pick out themes people find familiar, interesting, and exciting at the same time. 

For example, themes of the biggest idle arcade hits in 2023 were hotel management (My Perfect Hotel) and burger shop management (Burger Please).


arcade idle gameplay graphics
Image 1: Farm Land. Image 2: My Mini Mart. Image 3: Outlets Rush

Idle arcade games aren’t known for their breath-taking graphics.

These games look and feel simple. 

To get this effect, developers create a simple character (jelly man or stick man) and put it in a simplistic environment.

Another way you can recognize arcade idle games is by the camera angle they are using — a slightly tilted top view. Thanks to this angle, the players get a wide view of the map and the in-game environment.

Nevertheless, it’s noticeable that newer games in this genre have superior graphics to the older ones, leaning towards the graphic style of casual games. 

Goals & Progression

When players start playing an arcade idle game, they should immediately feel the need to play it for hours.

The player’s goal in this kind of game is to collect resources and manage them to expand their belongings. They can always see exactly how much it takes them to achieve their next small goal (e.g. how much wheat to harvest or how many burgers to serve).

But what keeps them interested for hours?

Adding depth to the game.

To do this, developers introduce long-term goals for players to strive for. For example, to uncover hidden areas of the map, or increase the characters’ power.

Naturally, the goals of the game depend on its progression system. Some common idle arcade progression systems include: 

  • Map exploration system
  • Character upgrade system
  • Level-based system
  • Growth/expansion system


Monetization is strongly linked to player progression.

In arcade idle, it’s all about speeding things up.

When playing these games, players should always strive to explore, upgrade, or access something. Developers take advantage of this by including different monetization options that help players achieve their goals faster.

In-app Ads

In most idle arcade games, you’ll find a blend of interstitial ads, banner ads, and rewarded video ads.

in-app ads in idle arcade games
Examples of in-app ad placements. Image 1: Outlets Rush. Image 2: Moon Pioneer

The most important ad format for this genre is rewarded video. In arcade idle games, rewarded video ads allow players to speed up their progress without paying for anything. For example, by hiring new employees, upgrading their speed, capacity, inventory, etc. 

Oftentimes, they also feature permanent boosters that give players a taste of IAP offers that provide the same thing —  but permanent.

Interstitial ads also appear in the majority of arcade idle games. Since these games usually don’t have natural gameplay transitions, these ads often come off as intrusive. To prevent this, some developers announce upcoming ads. For example, Voodoo does this by signaling a “halftime” or a “lunch break”.

On top of this, most games in this genre feature banner ads. These ads are hardly noticeable, don’t interfere with gameplay, but bring some extra revenue to the table.

In-app Purchases 

Besides different ad formats, idle arcade titles also make money through in-app purchases. 

In most of these games, you’ll find in-game shops that feature different currency offers, permanent boosters, and different bundles. 

However, players of these games are more likely to pay for something else — ad removal. 

ad removal packs outlets rush and my perfect hotel
Examples of ad removal packs. Image 1: Outlets Rush. Image 2: My Perfect Hotel

Since arcade idle games typically display a lot of interstitial ads, many players are willing to pay to remove them. Ad removal packs are the best-selling offers in many idle arcade games, including hits like My Perfect Hotel and Outlets Rush. 

Just like these games are hybrid, so are their monetization strategies. Idle arcade developers aim to profit from their hyper-casual appeal and high engagement and retention rates.

Arcade Idle Games Overview

Arcade idle games come in many shapes and sizes.

Here are examples of four different games with their main features — and screenshots!

Craft Island by Homa Games

craft island screenshots
Craft Island screenshots

Craft Island was one of the first idle arcade games to appear on the market. In this game, players need to build their own islands using wood. By chopping down trees, they earn the resources needed to build things like houses, bridges, or tool rooms and uncover new areas of the island. The players’ main goal in this game is to constantly produce resources and discover new worlds.

Downloads: 20M+

Core mechanic: Stacking

Progression: Expansion

Monetization: Interstitial ads + rewarded video ads + banner ads + IAPs + subscription

My Perfect Hotel by SayGames

my perfect hotel arcade idle screenshots
My Perfect Hotel screenshots

My Perfect Hotel is the only arcade idle game that got over 100 million lifetime downloads. In this game, players are in charge of managing a hotel and upgrading different aspects like staff, property, and services. Over time, players continuously unlock new features, expanding their hotel and visualizing their progress. 

Downloads: 100M+

Core mechanic: Idle clicker

Progression: Expansion 

Monetization: Interstitial ads + rewarded video ads + banner ads + IAPs + subscription

Burger Please by Supercent

burger please screenshots
Burger Please screenshots

Released in February 2023, Burger Please rapidly became a hit. In this game, players run a burger shop, managing every aspect of it, from staffing to expansion. As they progress through the game, they constantly upgrade their skills and resources (e.g. hiring additional workers, upgrading shop inventory). In the long run, players can expand their business empire, opening more burger shop franchises across the map. 

Downloads: 50M+

Core mechanic: Stacking

Progression: Expansion 

Monetization: Interstitial ads + rewarded video ads + banner ads + IAPs + subscription

Moon Pioneer by Voodoo

moon pioneer screenshots
Moon Pioneer screenshots

In Moon Pioneer, players need to explore distant planets and make use of their natural resources. For example, by collecting oil, they can build new structures and produce energy. Once they are finished with their tasks with one land (e.g. the Moon) they quickly proceed to the next one (e.g. Mars), reaching a new level. 

Downloads: 10M+

Core mechanic: Stacking

Progression: Level-based system

Monetization: Interstitial ads + banner ads + IAPs + subscription

What Does the Future Hold for Arcade Idle?

As the arcade idle genre continues to grow, we can expect it to evolve further. 

For example, right now, the majority of idle arcade titles are based on the stacking mechanic. It’s possible that, in the future, developers will innovate by mixing idle features with some other popular mechanics (e.g. merging or matching).

We can also anticipate steady profits in this genre. 

According to AppMagic, arcade idle revenues grew year-over-year, with notable spikes in the summer of 2022 and the beginning of 2023.

In 2024 and beyond, we can expect games in this genre to maintain or even increase their profitability. 

Even if their popularity wanes, their monetization systems will likely become stronger. As time passes, developers continuously learn about what works in this genre and fine-tune their monetization strategies to maximize LTVs. 

In a Nutshell…

Four years after appearing on the market, idle arcade games are still one of the hottest trends in the mobile games industry. Thanks to their combination of simplicity and depth, they are fun, yet manage to keep players invested for a long time. 

At MAF, we keep a close eye on all things mobile gaming. Subscribe to our newsletter to always stay on top of industry trends!

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