What are the best Android games of 2016?
If you're looking for the best new games available in the Google Play Store, you've come to the right place. Whether you're new to the cult of Android and need some fresh, new games to start building out your Google Play library or simply looking for the latest trendy games that are worthy of your time and attention, we'll break it all down for you with recommendations that are sure to ruin your productivity.
Sky Force Reloaded
A true candidate for game of the year, Sky Force Reloaded is the latest entry in the vertical scrolling shoot 'em up series. Following the critically-acclaimed Sky Force 2014, Reloaded features frantic gameplay, dazzling graphics, and a deep upgrade system that will have you coming back and playing for hours.
The story picks up after the events of Sky Force 2014 with General Mantis' daughter picking up the cause of her fallen father. Most stages feature an epic boss battle with her in a massive warship, but first you have to shoot and navigate your way through intense waves of laser-blasting tanks, turrets, and helicopters. New missions are unlocked by collecting medals, which are earned by saving all the humans, destroying all enemies, and staying untouched through a mission.
Once you've collected all four medals, you unlock a harder difficulty — first Hard, then Insane, and finally Nightmare mode — with a new set of medals to collect. This leads to some grinding to collect stars and medals before you can unlock the next mission, but it hardly feels like a chore given how challenging and fun this game is to play.
But don't just take my word for it; here's what AC's fearless leader Phil Nickinson had to say about it.
Sky Force Reloaded is a free download in the Google Play Store, with in-app purchases available.
DOWNLOAD: Sky Force Reloaded (Free, IAPs)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a port of the critically well-received Xbox One and PS4 title from 2015.
It tells the emotional story of two brothers, still reeling from the tragic loss of their mother, who trek out on a quest to save their father who has fallen ill. Working together, they must traverse fantastical lands to collect water from the Tree of Life, the only thing that will cure their father.
You control both brothers at once using two on-screen joysticks — lack of controller support is a major drawback here — and must utilize each brother's size, skills, and demeanor as you interact with NPCs and objects, solving puzzle after puzzle. There are two control options, but by default you must press the center of the touchpad to have the brother interact with an object or NPC. While the controls do take some time to get used to, once you get the hang of things, you're off and running.
The art direction in Brothers is absolutely beautiful and instantly pulls you right into the game's world. Characters interact in a fictional language with no subtitles, so the story is told entirely through the characters actions and emotions — a bold and well-executed story-telling device. The gameplay is pretty linear — there's little chance of you getting lost or stuck and not knowing what to do — but the interesting control scheme makes the somewhat basic puzzles feel much more interesting and satisfying once you complete them.
DOWNLOAD: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Free)
If you're both a fan of Pokemon and the Adult Swim show Rick and Morty, then get ready to fall in love with Pocket Mortys.
Set in the multiverse of the show created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, you play a Rick who's been caught up in the latest craze: Morty training! Yes, the Ricks are at it again, and this time they're collecting and battling over 100 different types of Morty, which run the gamut from the mundane (Moustache Morty, Old Morty, Red Shirt Morty) to the high-concept or absurd (Cronenberg Morty, Mermaid Morty, Evil Rabbit Morty).
If you've never seen the show, all that might sound like gibberish (it kind of is), but at it's core, Pocket Mortys does a great job of porting over the familiar Pokemon-style gameplay of exploring, catching, and battling into the world of Rick and Morty. You're also able to concoct special items by using the game's recipe-based crafting system. This adds to the game's replayability as you work to level up your Mortys and battle to take down the Council of Ricks.
Pocket Mortys is a free download in the Google Play Store, with in-app purchases available but not required.
DOWNLOAD: Pockey Mortys (Free, IAPs)
Simple snake gameplay meets massive multiplayer in this wonderfully addictive casual game that will eat up your free time as you eat up your enemies.
The Snake Game has been a mobile gaming mainstay since the Nokia phones of the 90s, but slither.io updates the format in a big way. Slither.io allows for freeroaming 360 degree movement and a smorgasbord of pellets to eat and grow your snake — and you're never alone. You're dropped into a circular arena with hundreds of other players, all battling for the same pellets.
You start as a tiny snake but quickly grow as you collect pellets. Double-tap and hold to go fast and try to cut off other snakes — if you run into another snake, you explode into energy pellets and must start from scratch.
Don't fret, since the biggest snake can always be taken down by the smallest snake if you get the timing right. Make it into the top 10 and everyone will see your nickname — but everyone will also be gunning to take you down. Manage to get the top score of the day and you get to broadcast a message to all other players.
The controls take some getting used to, but once you're familiarized, you'll be zipping around the arena gobbling up pellets and scaling up until you're the biggest snake in the server.
The developers quietly dropped this game into the app store in late March 2016, and you seriously just have to play it for yourself.
Slither.io is a free download in the Google Play Store.
DOWNLOAD: slither.io (Free)
Ancestor is a really fast-paced game that combines puzzle elements with the action runner genre to create a unique and challenging experience that requires sharp reflexes and quick thinking.
You play as our cloaked hero who must traverse dangerous lands filled with traps and enemies — all with the help of a mysterious orb that shoots lasers. Clear the path ahead by solving quick puzzles and shooting down enemies — including boss battles — as the game adapts to your skills and ups the difficulty as you go.
As you play, you collect currency chips that can be used to buy new cloaks, orbs, and projectiles to customize your experience. You can also buy new inventory via in-app purchases with real money, if you so desire.
Ancestor is a free download in the Google Play Store, with some in-app purchases available.
DOWNLOAD: Ancestor (Free, IAPs)
From the makers of Clash of Clans comes Clash Royale. Battle human opponents in real time via frantic card-based battles where you must take out the enemy's Crown Towers while defending your own.
As you'd expect, this game really relies on the social aspect of joining a clan, which helps you to upgrade both your King Level and your cards so you can dominate your opponents in the arena.
Clash Royale falls into the category of mobile games with time-delayed unlocking of chests and an emphasis on in-app purchases. Fortunately, there's no time restrictions for battling.
While spending exorbitant amounts of money on gems and chests is likely the only way to rise to the top of the global rankings (somebody worked it out that it would take something like seven years of constant playing to unlock and max upgrade every card in the game), the gameplay is so well-designed and balanced that you can have hours of fun playing this in the lower level arenas just playing against similarly-skilled opponents.
Clash Royale is a free download in the Google Play Store, with in-app purchases available.
DOWNLOAD: Clash Royale (Free, IAPs)
This simple top-down space shooter will strike a chord with the nostalgic gamer, especially fans of arcade classics like Galaga or Galaxian. The developers behind Galactic Nemesis have done a good job keeping the retro look and gameplay style intact, while upgrading nearly every other aspect of the game to meet the standards of contemporary mobile gamers.
Controls are dead simple. Tap and drag your finger around the screen to move and shoot at the same time. Power-ups collect along the right side of the screen, so simply tap them when you need a little help.
Blast your way through waves of increasingly tough enemies and collect coins, which can be used to upgrade and buy new ships. Each level is broken into four stages, featuring four waves of enemies.
You get the first world for free but will have to pay $1.99 to unlock 3 other worlds. You'll also get 10 ships to unlock, over 50 in-game challenges, and no ads.
With great pixel art, simple controls, and a winning gameplay formula, you can't go wrong with Galactic Nemesis if you're into classic arcade games.
Galactic Nemesis is a free download in the Google Play Store, with an in-app purchase to unlock the full game with no ads.
DOWNLOAD: Galactic Nemesis (Free, IAPs)
UltraFlow 2 is the perfect minimalist puzzle game for the casual gamer. Made with the Unity game engine, this game has no scores or timers — it's all about the player's dexterity.
Essentially a mashup between air hockey and mini golf, the goal is to bank the ball into the goal, but you only have as many banks as the number on the ball. Go over and KA-BOOM! Fortunately, you get unlimited replays, so you can continue to tweak your strategy until you get it right.
This sequel features 180 free levels and another 180 premium hard levels you can purchase if you don't want the fun to stop. It's a great time-waster that you can open anytime and play right from where you left off. And, thanks to that Unity game engine, the game runs smooth as butter.
Get UltraFlow 2 for free from the Google Play Store, with in-app purchases available for premium upgrades
DOWNLOAD: UltraFlow 2 (Free, IAPs)
Looking for a challenging action platformer with plenty of things to unlock and upgrade? Star Knight fits the bill and more, with beautiful graphics, tough enemies, and well-designed levels that will keep you playing through the multiple worlds.
No jokes, this game pulls no punches. While you're able to upgrade your weapons and unlock powerful skills to help you on your way, the enemies only get tougher and tougher as you progress. In terms of difficulty, it sometimes feels like a 2D side-scrolling version of Dark Souls. There are some parts where one false step means instant death, and each world ends with a seriously tough boss battle.
But instead of being frustrating and discouraging, it only spurns you to play smarter on your next go. With good controls, beautiful imagery, hours of gameplay, and a low price point, Star Knight is a game you shouldn't sleep on.
Star Knight is available in the Google Play Store for $2.99, but is currently on sale for $.99 in celebration of its global release.
DOWNLOAD: Star Knight ($0.99)
The most-funded Kickstarter game in history can now be played right on your phone.
Exploding Kittens is the brainchild of Matthew Inman, the man behind the wildly popular comic site The Oatmeal. The mobile version of the card game features the same iconic art style Inman built his online empire upon and captures the same anxiety-inducing gameplay that the game is famous for.
If you've never played before, it's essentially a card game version of Russian Roulette. There are three types of cards — Attack Cards, Diffuse Cards, and Exploding Kitten cards — and your goal is to avoid drawing an Exploding Kitten card. If you do, you have 10 seconds to play a Diffuse card, which nullifies the threat and allows you to place the Exploding Kitten practically anywhere you want in the deck.
Attack Cards are used to avoid having to draw a card from the draw pile, with extra advantages such as reversing the order of play or forcing another player to draw twice. If you draw an Exploding Kitten card and you don't have a Diffuse Card, the kitten explodes and you're eliminated from the game.
Play with up to five friends in a local match or against strangers online. Either way you play it, with games averaging around five minutes, you're able to get all the fun of the original game in about the same amount of time it would take to set the game up in the first place. Exploding Kittens features playful taunts you can send to your other players and is an absolute blast to play.
Exploding Kittens is available for $1.99 in the Google Play Store, with deck expansions available via in-app purchases.
DOWNLOAD: Exploding Kittens ($1.99, IAPs)
LEGO Jurassic World
Whether you've got a dinosaur-obsessed kid to distract, or you're a big fan of Jurassic Park, LEGO Jurassic World is a fun take on the iconic film franchise and actually includes levels covering all four films.
The game features the same playful cut-scene humor found in other LEGO games based on films. The console versions are still the crème de la crème in terms of graphics, controls, and overall gameplay, but the Android version is jam-packed with things to do, dinosaurs to collect, and characters to unlock. The touchscreen controls can be a bit spotty, but the game supports a wireless controller, which makes the experience infinitely better.
And in case you missed this point, all the films in the franchise are included in one package here, which is a great value at this price point for fans of Jurassic Park.
LEGO Jurassic World is available in the Google Play Store for $4.99
DOWNLOAD: LEGO Jurassic World ($4.99)
MechCom 2 - 3D RTS
The real time strategy (RTS) genre has typically been dominated by PCs, but MechCom 2 proves that the format can be successfully brought over to mobile gaming.
Based on Warzone 2100, MechCom 2 puts you in the boots of a military commander of one of three corporations warring over control of the planetary assets on Tiberius. Mine valuable minerals, build up your base, and build a customizable army of Mechs to defend and attack in this nod to classic RTS games. Your goal is complete domination, accomplished by strategically maneuvering your mechs through the map and capturing rally points and mineral deposits as you wipe your opponents off the map.
There's a lack of multiplayer which is somewhat disappointing, but the gameplay is so tight and the computer AI is so strong that it's not a deal-breaker. And despite the lack of mouse and keyboard, the touch controls are quite serviceable once you get the hang of them — you're able to easily command large groups of mechs when it's time to rush the enemy.
MechCom 2 is available in the Google Play Store for $0.99, with no ads or in-app purchases.
DOWNLOAD: MechCom 2 ($0.99)
This beautiful, minimalist platformer was developed with the Unity engine and plays like a dream. You control a glowing square that needs to make its way through a maze and collect light crystals to avoid your square fading to darkness.
You control your square with Flappy Bird-esque controls, requiring you to tap left or right of the square to jump. Light crystals will always appear in the darkness, but you're only be able to see the walls of the maze based on your square's brightness. Things get complicated as your light fades, often leaving you blindly racing towards the next light crystal.
As you progress, the game gradually ups the difficulty by punishing you for touching the walls or forcing you to contend with black holes.
The creators continue to update the game, including a soccer mode that requires you to juggle one light crystal through the entire maze. There's even settings for turning ads on or off or choosing which style of ad you'd prefer to see — a thoughtful addition from the game's developer. And there's no app permissions!
Fading Light is available as a free download in the Google Play Store,
DOWNLOAD: Fading Light (Free)
Beautiful visuals, intuitive controls, and endless playability.
It's no wonder why this indie game from Noodlecake Studios won so many awards as an iOS game in 2015. Finally ported to Android in February 2016, you'll definitely want to check it out.
You play as Alto, a snowboarding llama farmer who must race down the mountain to collect runaways. This endless side scroller features smooth gameplay and simple controls: tap to jump, tap and hold to do a backflip. Landing tricks — backflips and grinds across buildings and bunting lines — gives you a speed boost to help blast past obstacles. Collect coins and spend them on upgrading power ups that will assist you on your next adventure.
Alto's Adventure includes objectives, which are challenging but fun and greatly enhance the replayability. Overall, it's a fairly relaxing gaming experience, with tight physics and a great sense of speed.
Alto's Adventure is available for free in the Google Play Store, with some in-app purchases available.
DOWNLOAD: Alto's Adventure (Free, IAPs)
Longing for the days of hanging out with friends and playing fun multiplayer games around the same TV? AirConsole bridges the gap from those nostalgic memories by turning your phone into a controller you use to play a bunch of multiplayer games you can play in any browser window.
AirConsole has been around since November 2015, but they've recently launched support for Android TV, so that's why it deserves a spot on this list. AirConsole features a growing number of independently developed multiplayer games (of admittedly varying degrees of fun or playability) and is the perfect thing to throw on when hanging out with a few friends or at a massive house party, since some games support up to 15 players.
All you have to do to get in on the fun is download the app on your phone, go to airconsole.com on your web browser, and pair your phone with what you see on your computer, tablet, or Android TV. Then it's a matter of picking a game for everyone to play — from party classics like karaoke and a fill-in-the-blanks card game (think Cards Against Humanity), to party mini-games, quirky experimental games, and more. It works with Android and iOS devices, so everyone can get in on the fun.
There's a good amount of variety here already — with more expected to come — and while the games themselves might not be the "best," the concept itself is so strong that we can't wait to see what developers can do with it.
AIrConsole is a free download in the Google Play Store for Android Phones.
DOWNLOAD: AirConsole Controller for Android (Free)
AirConsole for Android TV is a free download in the Google Play Store for Android TV-enabled devices.
DOWNLOAD: AirConsole Controller for Android TV (Free)