There are hundreds of thousands of apps on the Google Play Store, and many are games. In fact, games are so popular that it's the first tab you see when you open the app.
If you're looking for the best games available on the Google Play Store, you've come to the right place. To make it easy to find, we've divided this list into eight categories, which you can find in a handy jumplist that will take you directly to the page of your choice.
Whether you're new to 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, these are the best Android games you can find right now.
We update this list whenever a new game comes out worthy of being added to this list, so you'll always know about the latest and greatest games. It was last updated on December 23, 2021_ with Piffle.
The Best Action Games
Often defined by what they're not, action games can take many forms. Between rhythm, runners, arcade shooters, and heaven knows what else, the fun never has to stop with these action-packed games!
Watch out, world, there's a new mobile rhythm game in town, and it's got something that much of the competition doesn't have: fully licensed, contemporary, and classic hits from across decades of modern music. All your favorite 80s hits? They've got 'em. Early 2000s emo classics? You know they've got those in spades. Absolute bops from artists like Doja Cat, Sia, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, and even Lynrd Skynrd? Yup, the gang's all here.
Beatstar features a massive music roster across genres and sets them to Guitar-Hero-style rhythm gameplay. Notes fall from the top of the screen on a register, and you tap and slide to the beat. Perfect hits will increase your score, and total misses can send you totally packing. There's a nice range of difficulty here so that Beatstar can appeal to casual and hardcore players alike.
The downside is that Beatstar's monetization is pretty unforgiving. Once you start to surpass about Level 2 in the rankings, this free-to-play title quickly becomes an awful grind to unlock new songs—unless you're willing to pay, of course. This probably won't be an issue to casual players who play a couple of songs a day, but dedicated players may find the free version too restrictive in the long run.
All told, Beatstar is a beautifully produced rhythm game with excellent gameplay and hundreds of licensed songs that virtually anyone can enjoy. It's a superb game, and it could easily stay on your phone for a very long time if you've got the beat.
Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!
Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! brings one of the most beloved faces of early console gaming to mobile. Less platformer and more endless runner, On the Run! is a perfect time-suck thanks to its quick levels and simple crafting loop. Play as Crash and Coco as they once again take on Dr. Neo Cortex's army of mutants!
Run your way through levels using side-steps, slides, jumps, and spins to avoid obstacles and gain wumpa fruit and items needed for crafting. Collection runs are potentially endless and are your main opportunity to stockpile items you'll need to prepare nitro-infused bombs and serums that you'll need for Battle Runs. There are minions and bosses sprinkled throughout the game, and you'll continue to unlock new areas and enemies as you progress.
The most annoying part of On the Run! is the bevy of microtransactions, but what else would you expect from the makers of Candy Crush Saga? The IAPs are easy enough to ignore, though, and you can make plenty of progress without ever spending a dime. As an added help, you can choose to watch an ad after a run and double your rewards. This is limited per day, though, so use your ad wisely.
Cytus II is a fabulous mobile rhythm game. Rhythm games typically don't take much explanation to understand, and by and large, Cytus II falls into that category as well. Taking on the role of various talented DJs, you'll play through their respective charts, gaining experience and unlocking more charts along the way. There are four difficulty settings for each track, starting at easy and going all the way up to "glitch." Using only your thumbs, your task is to hit notes, crescendos, and sequences in time to the beat. Of course, the amount of notes you miss or nail contributes to your score, and you get a grade at the end of each attempt at a song. But, as I said, it's not a complicated premise.
Where Cytus II excels, though, is in the quality and variety of its music, its excellent touchscreen controls, its rad style, and in how there's an interesting story tucked into the margins around the gameplay. I won't give too much away, but you'll see central mystery unraveling around a handful of main characters that tie into the broader setting of the fascinating future that is Cytus.
There are tons of extra song packs and additional DJs that you can purchase (or they're all free if you have Play Pass). Unfortunately, they can also wrack up quite a hefty price tag, so watch those microtransactions carefully. The later difficulty levels are very challenging, but the game eases you into things with the easy and lower level hard modes. Mastering a track feels fantastic, and I've already spent weeks obsessed with this engaging game. The base version is only $1.99, so give it a try!
Do you miss the 80s? Buddy, you and me both. The films, the video games, the fashions?! I'll take all of that back, please and thank you. Enter Huntdown, a wonderfully, painfully 80s-styled action platformer for mobile. Taking place in an apocalyptic future where society has broken down, and rival gangs vie for control against each other and the corporations that have replaced government, Huntdown lets you take control of 3 optional protagonists: Anna Conda, John Sawyer, and Mow Man, each of whom has their own special weapons like kunai or throwing axes.
Hired by a shadowy figure known as Wolfmother, you're tasked with clearing out some of the most heinous gang leaders in the city by any means necessary. Along the way, you'll pick up gobs of fun weapons, ranging from submachine guns to pistols, and all the way to electric guitars, to blast and smash your way through the hordes. Packed with graffiti, mohawks, motorcycles, and bathed in a perpetual neon glow, it's hard not to get sucked into the atmosphere Huntdown lays down.
The first two levels are free (with no ads, by the way) as a demo, and after that, it's $8.99 to unlock the entire game. There are 20 levels of delightful mayhem in Story Mode, which you can follow up with a neverending Arcade Mode to see how high you can drive your score. This excellent, high-quality game is well worth that nine bucks, and I would highly recommend it to all lovers of action games.
Implosion: Never Lose Hope
Developed by the team behind Cytus II and Deemo, there are some high expectations attached to Implosion: Never Lose Hope, and I'm delighted to report that this game delivers. Intuitive touchscreen controls and a great UI make this native mobile title a joy to play on its home turf. A virtual joystick controls your movement, and virtual buttons control your combat actions in a system that is easy to understand. It's still more fun to fine-tune if you're willing to put a little more finesse into it beyond simple button-mashing.
The story is typical sci-fi fare and nothing amazing, but the good graphics, fun gameplay, and fully voice-acted cast make this a ride well-worth taking. The first few levels are free to play as a demo, and after that, the full game can be unlocked for a scant $1.99. That's a serious steal for a game as high quality as this. If high octane action is what you're looking for, then your search ends with Implosion: Never Lose Hope.
My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge
My Friend Pedro: Ripe for Revenge is a brand new mobile installment in the My Friend Pedro series. After the success of the original My Friend Pedro on PC and consoles a few years ago, it's a delight to see the devs bringing their particular brand of frantic action to Android.
You play as an unnamed, masked man armed with a couple of guns and some serious parkour skills. For reasons unknown, you're helping a floating, talking banana recover his kidnapped family from a variety of gangs and ne'er-do-wells through sheer brute force. The control scheme in Ripe for Revenge is fascinating—rather than walk or run, your only movement options are jumps and a short horizontal dash. The goal here is to constantly be in motion to build momentum and get the drop on enemies before reacting.
Flow and movement are big draws in this game, with its action described as a "gun ballet." You tap on enemies to shoot at them, but there's a bit of strategy built-in, thanks to the fact that enemies will fire at you on individual timers. Taking out the enemies about to act first is your top priority since you have only three health, no shields, and no way to regain life throughout levels.
Ripe for Revenge feels pretty great to play and delivers on the entertainment factor, but it may be frustrating for some players. Environmental hazards can be tricky to maneuver, and the level of challenge is occasionally quite challenging. That said, Ripe for Revenge is free-to-play, so you can try it before you buy. If you choose to purchase the full game for $2.99, you unlock an extra mode and the ability to restart your progress at level checkpoints rather than going straight back to level 1 when you die.
Thumper: Pocket Edition
Another excellent game that made its way to Android, Thumper: Pocket Edition, is one of the weirdest gaming experiences you can have on your phone. It's a rhythm game, or "rhythm violence," as the developers call it, filled with intense speed and grueling boss battles.
Thumper also contains elements of fear, a constant sense of impending dread, as you hurtle forward and trust in your reflexes. However, with the incredible soundtrack pounding in your ears, Thumper is sure to give a euphoria unlike any other. Despite the creepy and sometimes eldritch set pieces, Thumper's premise is simple: you're a space beetle trying to destroy a floating head.
There are nine levels for you to enjoy, a new game+ mode that increases the challenge and speed, and the original soundtrack I mentioned. It's $5 well-spent, complete with a constant and smooth framerate. However, the developers warn that wireless headphones add significant audio latency, so use your phone's or tablet's speakers or wired headphones if you can.
The Best Adventure Games
Adventure games, not unlike Action Games, are often defined by what they're not and can be a bit of a catch-all for games that cross genres or that simply don't fall into any other very well. Adventure games tend to have a lot of overlap with other genres, especially puzzlers, platformers, and action games, but ultimately they must do the one thing they expressly set out to accomplish—take the player on an adventure! So these are our top choices for adventure games on Android devices.
If you've ever wanted to play a Studio Ghibli game on mobile, then Forgotten Anne was meant for you. This RPG puzzle-adventure game stands a cut above the rest in the indie landscape, featuring a fully orchestrated soundtrack, beautifully hand-drawn environments, stellar animations, and great voice acting.
Forgotton Anne tells the story of, you guessed it, Anne. A young woman dwelling in a world of forgotten things brought to life, Anne must make her way through a city in chaos to quell a rebel outbreak. You'll use a mysterious life-giving force called Arca to control the flow of energy to solve puzzles and platform your way through a dreary town of eternal rain.
The platforming segments can be a little frustrating, but it's worth the temporary pain to watch this emotional story unfold. Clocking in at a solid one to two hours of gameplay, this game is best played over a handful of dedicated sessions to get the most out of its atmospheric experience.
There are no ads or in-app purchases in Forgotton Anne, but if you want to play the whole game, you'll need to pay $6.99 once the free demo section ends. However, Forgotton Anne was recently added to Play Pass so that subscribers can pick it up for free!
The classics are classics for good reason, and there are some setups to stories that will just never get old. A group of teens on a spooky island getting up to paranormal shenanigans is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about, and Oxenfree delivers in spades. We follow our plucky protagonist Alex as she and her friends spend the night on Edwards Island, a decommissioned former military outpost.
As I'm sure you can imagine, no misty island used for military purposes can be a good thing, and Edwards Island has some serious secrets lurking in its depths. After accidentally opening up a portal to the unknown in the island's caves, Alex and her friends must now survive the night and make it off the island to save themselves. The spooky atmosphere is excellent, the story is totally engaging, and the dialogue mechanics add a lot of replay value to this stellar little title.
Oxenfree is getting a sequel next year, which tells you how much folks loved the first game. You can expect to spend at least 2 to 3 hours in your first playthrough, and a second one is strongly recommended for reasons I can't detail here because of spoilers. However, if spooks and sci-fi wildness is your jam, then Oxenfree should be high on your list of next games to play.
Back when Pokémon Go first launched in 2016, I jumped right on the bandwagon along with millions of others. Since then, we've seen the format copied by other brands hoping to cash in on the mobile AR gaming craze that Niantic has perfected, but nothing has come close to matching Pokémon Go's cultural impact or staying power. To this day, I still frequently come across Pokémon Go players out in the wild catching and grinding to level up and evolve their Pokémon, and that's impressive.
Even though I've stopped playing the game personally, the community appears as strong as ever. The game developers constantly add new content and gameplay features supported by in-game and real-life events for players to participate in.
For example, last December, Niantic finally added a PvP battling system that added the ability to battle against friends, which they teased in the game's early trailers. This summer, the latest in-game event involved Team Rocket Grunts popping up all over the place and challenging you to battle against their Shadow Pokémon — which can also be caught using Raid Balls.
It's just nice to see this phenomenal game continue to grow and expand, and that's why we've re-added it to our list of the best games for Android. Pokémon Go is one of those rare games that is entirely free to play as long as you're willing to put in the physical work, with in-app purchases if you need a little boost along the way. Despite challenges from other brands trying to cash in on this unique mobile gaming genre, its source material feels the most authentic. It continues to outpace the competition in terms of gameplay variety, scope, and popularity.
For the best Pokémon Go coverage on the internet, hit up our friends over at iMore for the latest news, tips, tricks, and other great guides to help you out on your Pokémon Go journey.
The text-based adventure doesn't get nearly enough love in the mobile gaming space, which is a crying shame since there are so many good ones available. Case in point, Unmaze. An exceptionally stylized take on the myth of the ancient Greek labyrinth, Unmaze casts you in the role of a young woman tasked with guiding her brother and boyfriend out of a perilous maze.
One of the more interesting things about Unmaze is that it mechanically incorporates your phone's camera into manipulating light and dark within the game. Focus on the dark and you help your brother, but focus on the light and you help your boyfriend. You can't help both at the same time and one will become more and more lost the longer you leave them alone.
The game touches on some heavier philosophical themes and will likely appeal to gamers looking for an introspective, haunting experience. The first chapter is free as a demo, while unlocking the full game runs a paltry $3.99. It's well worth the cost for such an immersive, gripping narrative.
The Best Platformers
A very generic category, even more so than RPGs, platformers are generally 2D, but "platformer" just tells you how the game plays. There are action RPG platformers, Metroidvania, and so on. It's a classic style of game for a reason, and it translates extremely well to mobile.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Coming out of left field, Konami's classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night launched on mobile in early March to the joy and surprise of many. I purchased it immediately, and you can read my thoughts on it here. It's one of the best $3 I've ever spent in the Play Store. Despite having a massive backlog of other games to get to, I spent a fair chunk of time reliving my childhood.
Besides just the charm and nostalgia, Symphony of the Night plays excellently on Android. The touchscreen controls are fine and certainly workable, but I found the game best played with a controller. The team behind the port did a great job translating a very old game to a new platform and, while I had some gripes with them, the touchscreen controls let anyone join. Otherwise, any gamepad that works with Android should do just fine here (I used the Xbox One controller). Those of you with high refresh rate displays may notice some weirdness with the game, and the developers advise using 60Hz — though they only specifically mention the Pixel 4 and Smooth Display.
Symphony of the Night is a classic, having helped define a whole new game genre that we still see today. You follow Alucard, the son of Dracula, as he looks for the missing Richter. Wander the mysterious and dangerous castle as you find new abilities, unlock shortcuts, and become more powerful. You can also play as Richter (until you meet a certain character) and Maria by entering their names when starting a new save. Add that to the achievement system, and you have a bunch of content to work through. Seriously, this is $3 well-spent.
All we need now is Super Metroid on Android. Come on, Nintendo.
Coming back to the last decade, we have a game that took some of the core concepts from Symphony of the Night and put its own spin on it. Meet Dandara, a beautiful and incredibly engaging Metroidvania. As you might expect from the genre, there's plenty of solitary exploration as you work to make our heroine more powerful for the trials ahead.
Dandara tells the story of a woman who fights to stave off her world's impending collapse. Travel throughout it, meet interesting characters, and survive against the challenges that await you. Defy gravity as you explore a unique world and discover its mysteries. It's a fantastic game.
It just got a free expansion called the Trials of Fear which adds a new boss, areas, and power-ups. It's a lot of game for $6 and worth it if you like Metroidvania.
I've been looking forward to this release since the news first dropped. Dead Cells is one of my favorite indie games to come out in recent years, and it's now available on Android. A brutally challenging roguelike Metroidvania, Dead Cells is an amalgam of several different types of games, and it's glorious.
The Android port is excellent with tight controls (though they take some getting used to). Best of all, if you don't like the touch controls, there's controller support. Of course, it's the same experience as on any other platform, and there's not much else to say, but that's a good thing. Dead Cells is worth every penny.
Dead Cells features permadeath, but don't let that deter you. You'll need to learn your enemies' patterns to best them in crazy combat. The combat itself is varied, and there are tons of different builds to suit every player. Dead Cells is a pricey premium title for a mobile game, but it's worth every cent, as I said above.
Stepping away from Metroidvania, we have Grimvalor, an action RPG platformer. This is my go-to game right now because of its addicting gameplay and interesting premise. Combat is slick, movement is excellent, and it just works so well. Seriously, I play this game all the time when I'm out and about.
You need to be tactical about approaching enemies and level your character. There's plenty to explore, too, with secrets hidden throughout the map. I enjoy the combat, and it feels so good and satisfying, especially when you dodge just right and your character does an awesome flip.
You get the first act for free, after which you need to fork over $7 for the full game. I like this tactic; it lets you experience the game as it is, and then you have the choice to pay to continue. So go ahead and give it a try to see if you like it.
Gris is an emotional journey through a young girl's personal trauma. It's a calming game meant to make you feel something, whether that's through the gameplay itself, the incredible art design, or the wonderful soundtrack. Combine all of those, and you get one powerful experience.
The story isn't told through text, dialogue, or cutscenes. Instead, you're left to ponder and to figure out what's going on using your own viewpoint; everyone gets something different out of Gris. Almost everything about this game is a masterpiece, even down to the animations. You'll be solving some simple puzzles, tackling some platforming, and other challenges to guide Gris through her journey.
There isn't any combat or death in this game. It's a $5 well-spent and one I highly recommend to anyone looking for an evocative experience. As I said, everyone gets something different out of this game. I personally was blown away by the art and music — your experience will be completely different than mine.
Human: Fall Flat
Sometimes, you just need a little whimsy in your life. Such is the case with Human: Fall Flat, a hilarious physics puzzle platformer! You play as a wobbly humanoid as you explore 12 levels filled with challenging puzzles. You can go it alone, with friends, or strangers.
The draw of Human: Fall Flat is that you can grab just about anything. You can climb anything, throw anything, carry anything as you move forward in a manner that we'll loosely call "straight." While you may be aiming for the goal, your companions may instead be plotting some nefarious mayhem to sow chaos. Whatever the outcome, it's a really fun time.
Human: Fall Flat is a one-time purchase with no ads or microtransactions. It's wonderfully fun and worth the $5, especially if you join up with others.
If you're looking for a fun and yet incredibly creepy platformer, then Limbo is a must. This shadowy game will give you the heebie-jeebies more than once. With such wonderful quirks, Limbo is delightfully weird. If you've played it before, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
The art style alone is worth picking up the game for. It's something we've seen other indie games try to replicate, but like other trendsetters, Limbo is in a league of its own. The shadowy and minimalist aesthetic is beautiful and really lends to the otherwordly feeling you get from the game (thus the name Limbo).
The story is also minimalistic, where you play the role of a nameless boy caught on the edge of hell. Arachnophobes, beware! The boy seeks his lost sister, but the journey is the fun part. Limbo is desolate, with few friendly human characters. It's really quite the experience. You can try out a free demo before you purchase, which I advise doing.
Of all the games I played in 2019, Oddmar stands out as one of my absolute favorites in part because it's absolutely gorgeous from its opening sequence through its beautifully animated levels that show a depth of detail you rarely see in a mobile game. I'm also somewhat biased because I absolutely adore well-crafted indie platformers, but Oddmar still stands out for having a great protagonist and excellent story to tell.
You play as Oddmar, an exiled Viking who never quite lived up to his warrior ancestor who is granted special powers by a magical fairy. The timing is just right, as Oddmar has an opportunity to redeem himself by going on a journey of redemption.
Overall, the level design is pretty linear but never feels stale thanks to the good variety of enemies to bounce off of and the unique obstacles and some quick puzzles to solve to progress. On top of all that, Oddmar also comes across these hallucination-like Valhalla challenges that are mixed into most levels. These challenge you with a quick-scrolling bonus level that adds some really nice gameplay variety.
Touchscreen controls for platforming games are notoriously difficult to get right on mobile, but then a game like Oddmar comes along and shows the industry just how it's done. Everything feels just right, with the left side of the screen controlling your horizontal movement and the right side dedicated to jumping, attacking, ground-pounding, and dash attacks.
You're able to play the first section of the game for free with the rest of the game unlocked with a one-time in-app payment of $5 — well worth it for one of the best games you'll play on your phone.
Swordigo is, by now, considered a very old game in mobile years. Debuting all the way back in 2012, can a game that's nearly a decade old still hold up to the test of time on modern devices and in the eyes of modern gamers? When it comes to Swordigo, the answer is yes. If you can look past the dated graphics, you'll find a well-designed metroidvania that was meant to be a love-letter to adventure games of the past, like The Legend of Zelda.
A straightforward side-scrolling platformer, Swordigo takes you through a magical realm on a quest to avenge your slain master and stop a mysterious evil. Along the way, you'll explore villages, dungeons, caves and more as you pick up new items and upgrade your swordsman by leveling up. There are small enemies to take on and great big bosses to take down, too. In spite of its age, Swordigo manages to maintain its relevance thanks to its solid framerate, fluid gameplay, and timeless adventuring aspects.
To date, Swordigo does not have controller support, but the on-screen virtual controls do an excellent job on their own in terms of responsiveness and ease of use. As an added bonus, the controls are completely customizable, from where your health and experience meters go to where you place your navigation controls. Did I mention that this charming title is free? If you're feeling a little nostalgic for the good ol' days of gaming, give Swordigo a shot!
If the 2D platformers don't do it for you, might I interest you in a 3D one? Suzy Cube is a fun adventure that spans many levels, each one a new challenge to master. With gamepad support, Suzy Cube promises many hours of platforming fun. Locate power-ups and master the levels to recover your castle's stolen gold.
It reminds me of the 3D Mario games in spirit, though I had trouble getting used to the touchscreen controls. Moving to a controller, however, made me enjoy this game a whole lot more. While this sort of thing doesn't capture my attention for too long, I had fun. It's certainly a light-hearted adventure.
The Best Puzzle Games
Perfect for when you want to kill some time, puzzle games are a dime a dozen on the Play Store, and some of them are even good. Some make you think or work to get your mind around their core concepts. Puzzle games keep you interested and entertained by forcing you to pay attention, even it's just something as simple as noticing which color is coming next. It's not hard to see why they're so popular with many mobile gamers.
Bridge Constructor Portal
Bridge Constructor Portal is, in my opinion, the best of the series. Not only do you get the excellent gameplay that the games are known for, but you get some quirky crossover stuff from Valve's classic Portal. You need to contend with the laws of physics, yes, but also some "goodies" from the Aperture Science Enrichment Center. It's a hoot.
The gist of the game remains the same: build structures capable of carrying a vehicle from Point A to Point B. Sounds easy, but there's really a lot of strategy. Also, you'll have to deal with things like portals, repulsion and propulsion gels, cubes, and an assortment of other Portal-themed stuff.
GLaDOS is even here! I'm telling you if you loved Portal like a lot of us did, and you like physics-based puzzles, you'll love this game. It plays great on tablets, and there's also gamepad support. It's just a downright good game, and it's worth every penny.
Published by the fine folks at Noodlecake Games, Chameleon Run is an auto-runner that tests your reaction time in ways that may hurt your brain a bit.
The name of the game is speed as you jump and dash across colored platforms. You have special jump skills and the ability to change color, and you've got to make it through each course, but you're only allowed to touch objects that match your color. Seem easy enough? Well, think again!
As pretty as the game looks when it's running at full frame rate, the real joy comes from the precise input on the two-touch controls. If you time a color switch just when you touch the platform, you get a quick dash boost. Jump controls are equally precise and allow you to nail tricky double jumps with ease. Each level is designed to be non-linear, meaning there are multiple paths to take to make it to the finish. However, there are also three special objectives to complete for each level which will keep you coming back for more.
Overall, the game is pretty short, but it's designed to be one of those games that's ideal for speedrunning — although there's already some stiff competition out there. I feel like the game is missing one knock-out feature — a course editor that allows players to upload their own levels. Or simply more levels, perhaps with platforms of even more different colors to swap between. Still, for $2, it's one hell of a fun game.
Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins
Developed by the fine folks behind the Simulacra series, Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins falls into that same special category of gaming known as the "found phone" genre. The Lonely Assassins drops you straight into the action, placing a lost phone into your capable hands and connecting you with Petronella Osgood, who acts as your partner and guide through the ensuing mystery.
By using the phone you've inherited from a now missing man named Lawrence, you'll have to dig deep through his emails, chats, photos, and phone records to find out what happened to him and uncover the secrets behind a decades-old mystery in the process. The game's puzzling aspect isn't exactly complex, but putting the pieces together still gives you a satisfying A-Ha! feeling when you've managed to tie the loose threads together.
Although The Lonely Assassins features characters and villains from Doctor Who, this is a standalone experience and can be played without having any prior knowledge of the series. I personally don't even like Doctor Who, and I still enjoyed this game! The biggest complaint I can make is that it was pretty short at just 1-2 hours of play time. But for $2.99, it's a reasonable price for a high-quality, fun game that doesn't have any ads or in-app purchases.
Donut County is a physics-based puzzle game where you play as a hole in the ground. Your goal is to swallow everything in the level, growing larger as you do so. Sure, you start small, but you'll eventually sink entire buildings as you wreak havoc on the residents of Donut County.
The writing is witty, and despite the pickle, they're in, most of the characters are surprisingly upbeat. The story slowly unravels as you go through the levels, and there are puzzles in most of them. They're not brain-bustingly difficult puzzles to solve, but they're fun nonetheless.
All in all, the game is a joy to play and experience. I love the art style and the soundtrack, too. Donut County's only real downside is that it's quite short. Even so, you can play through again and again, which is what I've been doing. It's money well-spent, so have fun with it!
It's hard to find a fun puzzle game that doesn't try to sell you on power-ups or extra lives or something.
That's just one of the reasons why Holedown was a standout game in 2018. Holedown will have you strategically blasting through to the core of celestial bodies — starting with asteroids and working your way up to the Sun — using the classic gaming formula of bouncing balls off blocks. Each brick has a number representing the number of hits needed to destroy it, or you can destroy a supporting block clear out everything above it.
This is a pick-up-and-play game that's an easy concept to grasp, but you quickly learn there's an amount of strategy and skill involved. All the bricks are curved, allowing you to set up tricky bank shots to clear out massive sections of blocks in one go. This will become quite important as the screen move up one row after every shot. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, it's game over.
Along the way, you will collect crystals that you spend on upgrades that give you more balls per shot and more shots per round. These upgrades are crucial to completing the later planets and let the earlier levels become more of a mindless distraction for your subway commute. All told, it won't take you too long to max out all your stats in Holedown, but that's mostly because it's so hard to stop playing this game once you start.
If you're a fan of physics-based puzzle games and are looking for a new obsession, Holedown is well worth your money!
I Love Hue
You know those videos floating around the internet that are compilations of things that are strangely satisfying? Crayons in a factory wrapped and stacked, fruit being cut into perfect cubes, and glass bottles toppling in perfect synchronization? Well, I Love Hue, developed by Zut Games, is practically guaranteed to give you that same feeling.
The premise of I Love Hue couldn't be more simple. Drag and drop tiles on a jumbled color spectrum, rearranging them until the gradient is chromatically correct. Puzzles are grouped by difficulty starting with Beginner and rising to "Visionary." The variety in this entrancing game comes from the changes in which tiles are fixed on any given spectrum. Are only the four corners locked in place? Or maybe every other tile is locked this time?
You might think that having tiles already fixed in place would make the game too easy, but I Love Hue manages to create a surprising amount of challenge through its fascinating color combos. What color do fuchsia pink and neon yellow make when they meet in the middle? I certainly don't know, but I'm about to find out! You're also working on trying and beating the world average of "moves used" as you solve each puzzle. You won't really get anything if you beat the average (your reward for beating puzzles is a heart), but you'll feel like a genius all the same when the victory screen pops up and assures you that you're a ~radiant moon beam~.
Backed up by a wonderfully relaxing soundtrack, I Love Hue wields its minimalism with an expert hand, crafting scrambled rainbows that are sometimes surprisingly difficult to smooth out. This deceptively simple pick-up-and-play puzzler will keep you coming back time and time again, you beautiful ray of light!
Monument Valley 1 & 2
Yep, I'm cheating again, but only because I adore both of these games so much. I'd be hard-pressed to say which is my favorite: the original or the one that expanded upon the core concepts? Since I can't decide, you get both of them here.
Odds are, you've at least heard of Monument Valley before. It's popular for a reason with its timeless gameplay, beautiful art design (that's frequently copied), and minimalist story. Rearrange the fantastical architecture, enjoy the surrealism and ambiance, and immerse yourself in guiding the silent princess to her goal. In the sequel, do more of the same, but on a larger scale.
I don't find that's much more to say. If you're a fan of puzzles and you haven't tried out Monument Valley, then I highly recommend that you do so.
A glib, irreverent blend of adventure and puzzle game, Overboard! puts you into the stylish shoes of a socialite on a mission. Your job? Kill your husband and get away with it. It's the night before your ship is scheduled to arrive in the US and you've just killed your husband by—you guessed it—pushing him overboard. You wake up the next morning, delighted with yourself for finally pulling the proverbial trigger, but naturally other passengers and crew on the ship are starting to ask questions about your suddenly missing husband. So, now what?
Laid out as an interactive visual novel, you'll need to convince the other passengers that you didn't commit the crime. You can do that in a number of ways, which you'll uncover as you inevitably fail and go back to try again. The interesting thing about Overboard! is that you go into each new attempt with all of the knowledge you gained last time, so using different combinations of tactics is the real key to victory. Each "run" could take as little as 30-45 minutes depending on what you choose to do differently or the same as last time, so this is a great game to play for an hour a day or blast through in one giant session.
This premium title is actually a port of the original Nintendo Switch version, but the visual style translates incredibly well to mobile. Overboard! is a little pricey at $6.49, but it's a steal in my book considering how high quality the overall experience is.
Piffle is stupidly cute and endearing in the silliest ways. An arcade block-breaking puzzler, you play as a little character in a kitty onesie blasting through hundreds of levels of blocks on your quest to stop the villanous Doc Block. Blocks have number values needed to break them so you have to throw enough piffles at them to clear them. For lack of any better vocabulary to describe them, piffles are fluffy cat heads with great aerodynamics and bounce.
Controls couldn't be easier, you just drag your finger around the screen to aim your stream of piffles and then release the beasts! Geometry is a key component of success; you want maximum bounce to pull off the sickest combos. As you progress, you can earn power-ups to help you through levels and can even craft your own piffles. Best of all, Piffle is free-to-play and monetizes through ads that are gloriously non-intrusive and in-app purchases that you don't need to progress. It's games like this that make me wish for a Dev Tip Jar.
The Room: Old Sins
The Room: Old Sins is the latest epic puzzle game from Fireproof Games and the 4th in the award-winning 'The Room' puzzle game series. You are exploring the home of an ambitious engineer who has gone missing when you find a rather peculiar dollhouse in the attic.
Using a sophisticated eyepiece, you're able to explore different rooms in the dollhouse that are filled with incredibly sophisticated puzzle boxes and contraptions. There's something bizarre going on here, so maybe if you can solve all the puzzles, you'll figure out what happened to the missing engineer and his wife.
If you've never played a game from "The Room" series before, just get ready for one of the more engrossing games you'll ever play on a mobile phone. The graphics and audio come together to create a wonderfully creepy vibe as you carefully inspect intricate objects and unlock secrets to help you on your journey.
If you want to catch up with the other games, you can snag The Room, The Room Two, and The Room 3 at discounted prices.
Transmission is a wonderful puzzle game that is calming while still being complex and difficult at times. It's almost always installed on my phone at any given moment for when I'm bored somewhere and want something to fill the brief window I might have.
The goal of Transmission is to create various networks that get increasingly more involved as you go along. It's beautiful in its simplicity, both in its art style and its overall premise. Each puzzle is a visual representation of a network. You start with a basic one, and your goal is to make connections. The different puzzles will challenge you to make these connections in different ways and configurations, including avoiding obstacles.
The other awesome thing about Transmission is that it is 100% free without any gimmicks, just good ol' logic puzzle fun to get you through a tough or boring day. The visuals are gorgeous, and the music is amazing. This is a game you have to try.
I am probably very biased toward Unit 404 for a specific, and probably stupid, reason. It has a very cute robot in it and I am a sucker for cute robots. Reminiscent of Portal in its aesthetic and Metroid with its disquieting ambient techno soundtrack, Unit 404 is a fantastic puzzle platformer with great graphics and challenging gameplay.
The premise is almost painfully simple — you have to help your robot get from point A to point B in each level. The challenge, then, comes from learning how to maneuver your robot, who walks forward when tapped until it runs into a wall or a gap in the floor. Your robot can jump down but not up, so moving the environment around your little pal to create a usable path to victory is where you'll likely run into some real brain-draining moments. Some of the puzzles are surprisingly difficult and I've already found myself stuck now and again trying to wrap my mind around certain levels.
One aspect of the game that I find particularly pleasing is the physics attached to your little robot pal. Its little movements are just so dang cute and the way it will briefly sway backward when a platform moves underneath it gives it that extra touch that sends this game from good to great for me. Sometimes it's the little things in life, ya know?
Unit 404 is $2.99 or free to Play Pass subscribers. With over 70 levels to challenge your brain, this is a perfect addition to any puzzle-junky's virtual library.
I love finding the quirky indie titles that always manage to fall into the Google Play Store cracks, not receiving the promotion and attention that they rightfully deserve. Vectronom falls into that category, delivering a captivating experience that merges level design and music to create a puzzle platformer that you play as much with your ears as you do with your fingertips.
Vectronom is, at times, a psychedelic experience given the flashing colors and thumping electronic soundtrack designed to entrance you as you play. Each level changes to the beat of the music, and the game grades you on how well your cube's movement follows the rhythm. The game was previously released on Steam and for the Nintendo Switch, and while the game no doubt controls way better with a keyboard or controller D-pad, I've had no issues with the touch screen controls that rely on swipes and taps.
As straightforward as the concept is here, you will be challenged by the complexity of the levels as you progress through the game. There are currently 31 levels available to play through, each with its own theme introducing new traps to dodge and level mechanics to master. The indie developers behind the game hope to continue to build out the game's content by taking music submitted by users and designing new levels around those tracks. While the game does incentivize you to revisit levels and try and beat them clean in one try or better sync your moves to the beat of the music, I'd absolutely love to see a community build around Vectronom that delivers more puzzles that are perfect for mobile play.
The Best Racing Games
Racing games are pretty self-explanatory. Drive some kind of vehicle (or character) and beat the computer or other players to the finish line. Simple enough. There are some great options in the Play Store since this is another genre that translates well to mobile.
Asphalt 9: Legends
Asphalt, a long-standing mobile racing title, hit its 9th iteration, if you can believe it. Considered one of the go-to racing games, Asphalt does a great job pushing modern phones with its repertoire of jaw-dropping hypercars. The ultimate goal is to become a street racing legend, so hopefully, you've got the adrenaline addiction to see yourself through to that end. You'll be limited only by the freemium mechanics at play that encourages you to spend more.
It does feature gorgeous graphics, awesome driving sequences, and other eye candy. Asphalt 9 is quite the looker, especially if you have a great display on your phone. There's also plenty of cars to choose from, and you can customize them, too! There are races against AI and other players to keep you interested and entertained.
It's also free to play, and it contains microtransactions. It's what you'd expect, all told, and no one should be surprised. Still, Asphalt 9 is fine in bursts.
Data Wing is a fun, simple racing adventure with a story, gorgeous Tron-inspired visuals, and a simple premise. It's basically perfect for any '80s/retrowave fan, myself included, but I think anyone can get a lot of fun out of it. That soundtrack is pretty great, too.
The story focuses on navigating your data wing through different racing courses at the behest of the Mother, an AI who doesn't seem quite right. Your main purpose in "life" is to ferry data from one point to the next, and you're highly disposable. It's not exactly the most uplifting story, but it'll do.
Touch controls are on point, and the levels are awesome to look at. You'll probably finish Data Wing pretty quick, but it's enjoyable to go back and do it all over again. There's a high replay value here. Data Wing is, frankly, awesome and absolutely worth picking up. Best of all, it's completely free with no ads or IAPs in sight. So race away and try out this game.
Taking things a bit further than Asphalt 9 is GRID Autosport. A console port was done by the fantastic folks at Feral Interactive (well known in the Linux gaming community), Grid features jaw-dropping graphics, intense driving gameplay, and amazing thrills.
A high entry cost, perhaps, but it's a buy once and done deal. You even get all of the DLCs included. For your $10, you'll have access to 100 cars and 100 maps with multiple control and difficulty options to suit your play style. It's a graphically intense game, and Feral only supports a few phones. If it's not available to you in the Play Store, your phone probably can't handle it.
Grid is meant for racing game enthusiasts, especially those tired of the freemium tactics, like those you'd find in Asphalt 9. There's something to be said for a high initial price tag.
Mario Kart Tour
No list of racing games would be complete without Mario Kart Tour, for better or for worse. A household name when it comes to racing games, Mario Kart is the long-standing king of the genre. When it finally came to mobile not too long ago, there was much joy. Some of Nintendo's mobile practices later soured that, but that's for another time.
There's not too much to say about Tour other than it's Mario Kart. Race with your favorite character in maps inspired by real-world cities and earn new drivers, karts, and badges. It is free to play with microtransactions, though.
Rally Fury: Extreme Racing
Rally Fury: Extreme Racing has been kickin' around for years, so you may be surprised to learn that it just got a new update to version 1.77 on March 5, 2021. Often overshadowed by the flashier giants of mobile racing games (Asphalt, GRID Autosport, and CSR Racing, to name a few), this fun, under-the-radar racer is a perfect choice to add to the arsenal of racing game enthusiasts.
In Rally Fury, you'll balance steering, acceleration, braking, drifting, and boosting to win. You have the option to choose between touch screen and motion controls, which can be changed at any time from the menu. Unlike some newer racers, Rally Fury doesn't subscribe to the one-touch racing model, a major pro! I mainly used touch screen controls and found them simple and intuitive after a little practice and some finesse.
The soundtrack is energetic; the tracks have a good amount of variety. Remember, you can go offroad in this game nudge nudge, wink wink and the audio effects have a really nice tactile feel. You really feel it when you smash into the barriers.
There aren't really any egregious complaints that I can levy against Rally Fury, but it does have a couple of small issues. There aren't many cars to unlock, and the customization is a little lacking compared to some of the other titans of the genre. However, another win for Rally Fury is that although it contains IAPs, you won't need them to win. You can stockpile a good amount of cash just by racing, so purchasing and upgrading your cars without spending your real money isn't a total slog-fest.
Rally Fury is free-to-play and only $1 for the premium, ad-free version, so it's a killer deal for an entertaining racer!
Riptide GP: Renegade
Say you like racing games, but cars and cartoon characters aren't your thing. Then maybe you'll find Riptide GP: Renegade to your liking. Where it differs from other racing games is that you're on futuristic, high-speed hydro jets. Instead of a road or something similar, the waterways are your track. Sign me up.
In Renegade, you've been ousted from the Riptide GP league and instead have to make your living illegally racing. Power through city waterways, flooded ruins, and more, all while avoiding cops. You'll unlock new vehicles the longer you play, plus new customization options. Take on fun bosses and build your crew.
There are also online eight-man multiplayer races for you to put your skills to the test. You can engage in leaderboard activities, too, and even local split-screen. It's a lot of game for $3, and it's great for all fans of racing games.
I'm a bit biased here, but I grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog. So when I saw Sonic Forces, I was immediately intrigued. While I never quite got into Team Sonic Racing or Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, I was interested in Forces because it takes the anthropomorphized animals out of go-karts and onto their own two feet.
While it's ridiculous to see Big the Cat keep up with Shadow, it's still a fun game that lets you play your favorite character (once you unlock them) and race other people. There's more to it than just racing, though. Much like you'd find in Mario Kart, you can offset your opponents with traps, dodge the ones they leave for you, all while you try to make it to the finish line first.
The whole cast of characters is here, but most have to be unlocked first. This is where I tell you that the game is free to play but features microtransactions to unlock new characters and abilities. It's sad to see Sonic monetized like this, but I enjoy the core gameplay.
The best RPGs
Though mobile doesn't have the impressive backlog and history of RPGs that PC and consoles do, there are still quite a few notably good ones that you can play right on your phone. Some are classics ported over to the touchscreen, while others are unique to this platform. These are time sinks, make no mistake, and are well worth the entry cost.
If you liked Diablo II, then there's a clone on Android for you. AnimA is an action RPG hack-n-slash that evokes many memories of Diablo, right down to the font. It features the classic isometric camera angle, loot, and dark fantasy setting.
I just started playing this week, but I'm already hooked; this suggestion came from our own Daniel Bader, and I jumped on it immediately. This is a free-to-play game with microtransactions, but it seems to be similar to Path of Exile, where they're not in your face, and you can play through the game on your own terms.
I love ARPGs, so AnimA is right up my alley. It helps me get in that fix when I'm away from my PC (and thus Grim Dawn). Give it a try and see if you like it; you have nothing to lose.
Atom is a CRPG reminiscent of classics like Fallout and Fallout 2. It's set in the post-apocalyptic Soviet wasteland, and it sets out to tell an interesting and meaningful story through excellent quests and dialogue. It's a bit of a slow game, but I found this to be more to my liking than constant action. Slowing down to consider your choices is a good thing in my book.
You have the freedom to craft your character how you choose, a hallmark of a good RPG. This is just a good game and worth picking up, especially if you loved the classics in the 90s and early 00s. There's a really long runtime (an advertised 60+ hours of content) and a ton of build diversity to make follow-up playthroughs just as fun.
Combat is turn-based and involves some good strategies. The writing is witty, and the setting is harsh yet inviting, leading me to enjoy my time with Atom thus far. It comes at a premium price, but that also means no shady monetization nonsense.
Battle Chasers: Night War
BattleChasers: NightWar is an award-winning JRPG that offers one of the most complete mobile RPG experiences you'll play — and that's complete in the sense that there are no in-app purchases or paid DLC to worry about. Hallelujah!
Everything about this game is polished and complete, and it starts with a robust overworld that's filled with hidden dungeons to explore, epic bosses to take down, and other surprises along the way.
The turn-based combat is inspired by all the favorites you remember from the JRPG genre and is a real treat even for a casual fan like myself. Along with the dense and sprawling world to explore that's teeming with enemies to do battle with, there are also deep crafting elements as well for upgrading your team's weapons, armors, and magical jewelry. An RPG is only as good as its story and characters, and given that this game is based on a graphic novel of the same name, we're given fully developed characters and a compelling story.
The narrative focuses on a young girl, Gully, as she takes up the quest to find her long-lost father, Aramus. He was a hero to the local village who never returned after setting off into the Grey Line, a near-impenetrable wall of mist that borders their homeland of which nothing has returned from once entering. Aramus had left behind a set of magical gauntlets rumored to grant untold powers to the wearer. Gully must learn to wield her father's gauntlets as she embarks on her own epic adventure past the Grey Line to uncover the truth behind her father's final mission.
Gully is joined by a supporting cast that includes Knowlan, the wise old mage who always travels with Calibretto, an ancient war golem built for battle that developed his own sentience and emotions but who can still kick ass to defend his friends.
There's Garrison, a paladin who was friends with Aramus and feels compelled to protect Gully along her journey, and lastly, Red Monika, a rogue outlaw who manages to toe the line between good and evil. This game is definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of either BattleChasers or simply looking for a new JRPG to dive into.
Death Road to Canada
Death Road to Canada is a $10 game — I want to open with that just to get the sticker shock out of the way before I talk about how awesome this freaking game is.
Facing a zombie apocalypse, you must lead a scrappy squad of somewhat interesting characters on a deadly mission to the relative safety of Canada. Along the way, you'll need to explore and loot places for supplies while also managing your team's health and morale.
Everything in Death Road to Canada is randomly generated, making every play-through unique in this dynamic road trip, action RPG. You can randomly generate your character and buddy or custom design your starting characters with different attributes to help them stay alive. Still, you probably don't want to get too attached unless you're a perfect shot.
The controls admittedly take some getting used to, and there's a pretty steep learning curve as you learn which weapons are most effective and which times it's better to fight or run. And you will die, early and often, although that's part of the fun of a zombie apocalypse, right?
There's a ridiculous amount of depth in this game, including 10 different game modes to unlock. The price might seem a little steep, but if you're a fan of rogue-like zombie games, it's well worth the investment!
Evoland 1 & 2
Yes, I know I'm cheating here, but both Evoland titles are such excellent games that I had to include them in one entry. Other than classic RPGs, the Evolands account for the most time I've put into mobile games. They each take you through the history of gaming, expanding and evolving as you go through them. It's a unique way to present an action-adventure, for sure.
There's plenty of humor, easter eggs, and general references to the great games of the past that helped define this entertainment medium. You'll go from 2D monochrome to 3D real-time combat as you progress, unlocking new gaming technologies that change how you play. You'll be hard-pressed to find something as unique as these.
For $0.99 and $3.99, respectively, Evoland and Evoland 2 should definitely be a part of your library if you: 1. want something to pour a ton of time into, and 2. love video games as an art form and want to play something that appreciates its roots.
Genshin Impact sort of came out of nowhere. It takes obvious cues from Breath of the Wild with an "anime" twist. A Chinese studio developed the game, and it's already very popular. The best part is that it supports cross-save so that you can play on your PC, pick up your phone, and play where you left off. The PS4 doesn't support cross-save, however.
Genshin Impact is an action RPG with fantastic elemental combat and a fun party system. You'll need to switch characters often to have the best outcomes in battle. The open world is beautiful and filled with things to do, resources to find, and monsters to slay.
I'd say the biggest downfall of Genshin Impact is monetization. It uses gacha mechanics to get you to spend more on additional characters, new weapons, and the like. But I get it; there's a lot of money to be made on popular games.
You have plenty of opportunities to level up your stats, of course. This game is a big deal right now, and I'm just scratching the surface here. Give it a try on your phone or computer (or PS4, but you don't get cross-save) and see what you think. I was blown away.
Sky: Children of the Light
We don't often see staggered releases between Android and iOS these days, but Sky: Children of the Light took almost a year to arrive on the former. Good thing, too, because it's an entertaining game. It's worth installing if nothing else, but to enjoy the gorgeous art style, beautiful world, and relaxing adventure.
It's difficult to describe Sky, but I'll try to be concise. After some time with the game, it's obvious that the focus is on exploration and socializing. Your goal is to find lost stars and guide them home to their constellations; they teach you new things in return. There is no combat in Sky, so anyone can feel free to hop in and enjoy without any stress. It's a very relaxing game with plenty to do for completionists and plenty to see for casual gamers.
Sky's biggest draw is its art style, world design, and gameplay, all of which are simply stunning. Your character possesses a winged cape, sort of thing that you use to fly, glide, and get to places your simple jump can't. The set pieces on display here are second to none on Android and evoke such a feeling of awe that I almost forgot to grab screenshots. It has a few different graphical options, too, but I chose to run it at 60fps to make sure what I saw moved as smoothly as possible.
Overall, I'd say the biggest fault with Sky is that it's very taxing on your phone. My OnePlus 6 heated up like crazy, and my Pixel 4 XL wasn't much better off. There are also microtransactions to buy Candles, which are key in-game items. There's also an in-game currency called Hearts, which is how you buy cosmetics for your character. I've put in a few hours already, and I haven't spent a cent, so they're not necessary or in your face whatsoever.
From the ever strange but brilliant mind of Yoko Taro, of Drakengard and NieR fame, comes SINoALICE, a mobile RPG with a dark fairytale spin. Published by Square Enix, SINoALICE is a mobile gotcha game, similar to Fire Emblem Heroes, with gorgeous art and lots to collect. This being an RPG, there are different classes, weapons, armors, and items that each character can equip, and some they cannot if their class doesn't match up.
The music is absolutely top-notch. The haunting tones will remind you of NieR Automata (if you played it), and that's because it's the same composer! Seriously, I just love sitting at the main menu and listening to the soundtrack. I really haven't done that since the original Halo way back in the OG Xbox days.
Combat is an intense sprint. I like to think of them as time trials, where you have to think on the fly. You don't get to pause to strategize, but you'll improve as you go along. Having good reflexes is helpful, too. Again, like Fire Emblem, there's a system of elemental and weapon weaknesses that you have to play too.
Each character is well-known from fairytales, like Alice, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. Those characters each have their own stories that you progress through, with the goal being to revive the author of each character's story.
Of course, this being a free-to-play game published by Square Enix, there are copious amounts of microtransactions for in-game currency to go around. They're not as in your face as other games on this list, but you've been warned.
Oh, and there's a NieR Automata cross-over event coming up and a RepliCant one coming later this year.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
I had trouble picking just one classic RPG for this list since we have several to choose from. Ultimately, I went with Knights of the Old Republic, better known as KOTOR, for this list. For one, Star Wars is a hugely popular franchise, and I think this is a game worth playing if you enjoy that universe. Created by BioWare in its heyday, KOTOR is a fantastic story.
Going beyond that, I fear I'll get into spoilers, so I'll leave it at that. KOTOR is considered one of the best RPGs of all time, and I would be hard-pressed to disagree. Ported to Android thanks to the folks at Aspyr, KOTOR has new life on mobile, and though it might be a costly price to entry, it's worth every penny. From the story to the combat, this and its sequel are definitely the best Star Wars games ever made.
There's gamepad support, achievements, and a revamped UI designed specifically for touchscreens. It's an excellent port, and I haven't encountered any bugs in the years I've played this. If you like Star Wars, do yourself a favor and check out KOTOR.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II
And then there were two. Coming as a surprise from the folks over at Aspyr is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. This is my personal favorite Star Wars game of all time and one of my favorite RPGs ever. It's an incredible game with tons of depth, awesome storytelling, and good old-fashioned Star Wars action.
This game has been around for a long time, and it looks like it, but trust me, the number of hours you'll pour into this game will make you forget about the dated graphics. It's got a slow start as you get used to how the game functions, and you won't be getting your first lightsaber any time soon, but there's still plenty of weapons (plus Force powers) to use against your foes. You can follow the Light or the Dark or try to straddle the two, and your decisions have lasting consequences.
All told, this game is not only a classic, but it's a good Android port, too. It retains the look of the PC version, but it feels better optimized for mobile. There are also graphics settings. $15 is pretty steep for a mobile game, but this is a must-play if you love Star Wars.
Ticket to Earth
Ticket to Earth is a unique blend of a tile-matching puzzle game smashed together with turn-based strategy elements. This story-rich RPG puts you in the shoes of four different characters as they battle their way through a space colony in turmoil. The plot unfolds through comic-book style cutscenes, informing us that New Providence is on the brink of collapse as societal inequality runs wild and thousands of people desperately vie for coveted tickets aboard the starship that can take them back to Earth.
The thrilling story is a big draw of Ticket to Earth, but the gameplay is great in its own right. Combat takes place on a grid of colored tiles, each color of which corresponds to your character's ability. You move around the board by drawing lines along a single given color, but your line can be as long as your tiles can conceivably link to each other, including diagonals. As you walk across tiles, you charge up your abilities and try to position yourself strategically on the board in relation to your enemies.
The gameplay can be fairly challenging, but you can even make it harder to try and complete bonus objectives in each encounter. There's also a broad array of abilities you can unlock and passive skills that you can use to create character load-outs to suit your own playstyle. Ticket to Earth is $4.99 on Google Play, but it's completely free if you have Play Pass. With the potential to clock 20+ hours in the game, this relatively small price tag is totally worth it for such a good experience.
Titan Quest originally came out back in 2006 and helped fill the long void left by Diablo II before III came out. It's an isometric ARPG with tons of loot, monsters to kill, and beautiful vistas to see. And while there's still a community around it over on PC, thanks to THQ Nordic's Titan Quest Anniversary Edition, Android users can experience this gem of gaming courtesy of a port from a few years ago.
You are a nameless hero, freshly landed on the shores of Helos in Greece, a village currently besieged by wild beasts and monsters from fairytales and folklore. Once you save the village, you set off searching for the famed Leonidas, and I'll leave the rest for you to discover. Spoiler: you're going to see a lot of the ancient world.
This game is many hours long, action-packed, and full of loot to find. Within a couple of hours of starting, you'll have a hero powerful enough to slay anything in your way, all while looking completely awesome. Titan Quest features a dual specialty build system, meaning that you can combine any two of the disciplines to create your own demi-god. If loot is half the fun of Titan Quest, the other is definitely finding the build to suit your playstyle.
I'd say that this port of Titan Quest has two major downsides. It's not a part of the Anniversary Edition for starters and so lacks all of the new content (extra specialties and expansions) and quality of life improvements. Secondly, there's no controller support, and the touch controls can feel a bit wonky at points. Still, it's a mostly good port of one of my favorite games of all time, and it definitely deserves a spot in this list.
Sometimes, your opinion just doesn't line up with everyone else's, and that's fine at times. Such is the case here with V4; It is a game I really enjoy, but it has a ton of angry 1-star reviews in the Play Store at the time of writing. I've dumped almost 10 hours into this game at this point, and I disagree with a lot of the disparagement since most of it seems to be due to technical launch issues, like server and character creation problems.
Published by Nexon, I was on guard and somewhat suspicious going into V4. I ended up pleasantly surprised. V4 is a dark fantasy MMO with beautiful art, nice graphics, a decent character creator, 6 classes to choose from, and your choice between auto-play (a la idle clickers) or manual play, like a traditional MMO. However, the voice acting and dialogue are pretty cringe, and I don't enjoy most of the sound effects. My Gunslinger's dual pistols and rifle should be booming, not sounding like they're slapping the enemies, for example.
Otherwise, it's your typical MMO fare. You have a character level that determines your stats, levels for additional stats that you can sacrifice gear to increase, and various daily missions and feats to complete. There are different mounts for you to show off and assorted pets that offer extra bonuses like XP boosts.
I wouldn't say V4 is groundbreaking as an MMO, but I quite like it for being mobile and free-to-play. With it having just launched, some teething issues are to be expected. Some players have reported (via 1-star reviews) login issues, full servers, and problems getting the character creator to spin up. In my playtime, I never had a single issue.
Vampire: The Masquerade — Night Road
Fans of the World of Darkness IP Vampire: The Masquerade have a lot to be excited for. While we patiently await Bloodlines 2, we have something to tide us over. Called Night Road, this game is a 100% text-based RPG where your choices matter. It also helps that the writing is awesome, and the game itself is huge at 650,000 words (give or take).
In Night Road, you play as a vampire courier that drives through the American Southwest delivering goods and messages to vampire higher-ups. Not only are vampire hunters after you, but you have to contend with the dawn as you make your way to your destination. Ultimately, however, you define your character as you see fit.
Considering the size of the game and the multitude of choices you can make, Night Road is an excellent text-based adventure and one that's fun to play through a few times to see how different choices affect the narrative. You can start off playing for free, but at a certain point, you'll need to fork over $10 to finish the game. You can also pay $1 to remove ads.
Wayward Souls has been around for a while, but boy, is it a great game. It's either a rogue-like with ARPG elements, or it's an ARPG with rogue-like elements. Both are equally valid, I think, though I tend to fall in the former camp. However, what's actually important is that Wayward Souls is a wonderful game and an absolute must for any fan of rogue-likes and/or ARPGs.
You find yourself in a strange tower, and you're given a choice: do you play as the mage, the rogue, or the warrior? The goal is to reach each level's exit, but that can often be extremely difficult or super easy, depending on your luck of the draw and your skill. Every level is procedurally generated, so your loot, layout, and enemy placement will differ each time.
This game is challenging, don't get me wrong, but I think the difficulty is done quite well. You don't have to deal with finicky touchscreen controls — quite the opposite, really — and the game teaches you the basics. Due to the procedural generation, there can't be quite a sharp increase in challenge, but you'll be alright.
The Best Shooters
Like shooting stuff? Then this category is just for you. From first-person immersion to third-person top-down, these games are filled with action and bullets. What else do I need to say?
Call of Duty Mobile
There was a ton of hype surrounding Call of Duty Mobile throughout the beta and ahead of its global launch. To the credit of Activision and TiMi Studios (a subsidiary of Tencent Games), the game is phenomenal and was rightfully selected as one of the best mobile games released in 2019 — and it just continues to get better in 2021. It's now offering an outstanding new 20 vs. 20 Battle Royale mode called Warfare in the latest update.
A huge reason why the game plays so well can be credited to Tencent Games. It owns the mobile shooter space with PUBG Mobile, another game that's featured on this list, and fans of that game will recognize the familiar user interface and surprising gameplay performance that's been perfectly optimized for mobile. CoD Mobile makes use of the many iconic multiplayer maps from the Call of Duty franchise and really does a great job translating the fast-paced action that makes the game, so fun to play on other platforms.
Call of Duty Mobile features the core team deathmatch modes that Call of Duty is known for, along with the Battle Royale mode introduced in the main franchise with CoD: Black Ops 4. They could have easily just stuck with the team deathmatch and still had a great game on their hands, but the inclusion of a 100-player battle royale (along with the fan-favorite zombie mode) just adds more value to the total package.
I've been playing CoD Mobile since the beta, and it has been one of my go-to games whenever I've got a couple of minutes to kill. Because the game is so damn popular, it's super quick to jump into a match, whether you want to play with casuals or go up against more veteran players in a ranked match.
Because it's a free-to-play game, there are the usual trappings, including in-app purchases for buying in-game currency, which can then be spent on battle crates filled with random rewards, and a tiered progression path with premium subscriptions available to net more rewards. Considering the console or PC versions of Call of Duty will set you back at least $60 upfront, along with all the eventual paid DLC and inevitable microtransactions for cosmetic upgrades, the mobile version ends up feels superior in terms of up-front value. You don't need to bust out your credit card to thoroughly enjoy this game — which is a big reason why Call of Duty Mobile demands the top spot on our list.
Doom & Doom II
That's right; it's the grandaddy of the first-person shooter, and it's an awesome and equally as powerful sequel. Both of these games more than deserve a spot on this list not only for their timelessness but because the Android ports are really quite good. Bethesda has fixed many early issues, including removing the Bethesda.net account requirement and tweaking the touchscreen controls, and now I can heartily recommend both games. I still suggest using a controller if you can, however.
Doom is almost 30 years old, and boy, it's withstood the test of time. Like other 90s classics, Doom and Doom II were true passion projects, games that pushed the technological envelope at the time. While not technically impressive today — Doom can run on a pregnancy test — they maintain their charm, character, and near-flawless gameplay.
Top all of this off with an update that brought support for 16:9 resolutions and 90-120 frames per second, and you got yourself a very fine duology of shooters. Though others in this section push what possible on mobile today, Doom and Doom II just chug along, providing joyful nostalgia to those of us who played them in our younger years or giving younger gamers a chance to experience video game history.
Infinity Ops is a sci-fi multiplayer shooter that is, well... it's really awesome. I've played this game for hours, and I love every minute of it. It's like if you took Bright Memory, Halo, and Destiny PvP and mashed it together with some Titanfall 2 thrown in for good measure.
So if that sounds interesting to you, then I highly suggest you check out Infinity Ops. There are classes to choose from, guns to earn and/or buy, and even maps with varying gravity levels to shake things up. The robust social features are great for people who appreciate that sort of thing. There are even clans!
Infinity Ops is free-to-play, with microtransactions going toward new weapons and gear. So yeah, it's got the usual freemium nonsense, but the game itself is solid. Did I mention that it has jetpacks and giant mechs?
JYDGE is a gritty and violent top-down twin-stick shooter that is an absolute blast to play. You are the JYDGE, a cybernetic enforcement officer who uses his Gavel (see: BIG freaking gun) to dole out RoboCop-style justice.
Each level features different challenges that are required to progress but never feel like a slogging chore. Confiscating illegal cash along the way, you're able to upgrade JYDGE and his gavel with a deep selection of accessories. In that way, JYDGE retains the rogue-like element from its predecessor Neon Chrome by encouraging you to replay levels with different upgrade combinations until you complete all the challenges.
With a game that has you replay levels repeatedly, a game must find that mix of great gameplay with an interesting soundtrack that isn't super annoying or repetitive — and JYDGE absolutely delivers.
Check out my full review if you need more convincing.
It's incredible how well PUBG Mobile plays on Android. What started as a massive 100-player battle royale game has continued to grow and evolve into the all-time best action shooter game for mobile. Drop into massive maps loaded with weapons, ammo, tactical gear, and vehicles in classic battle royale modes. You drop in as a solo player or as part of a team and must use all your best skills to take down your opponents until you're the last man standing.
It's not unheard of for a popular PC or console release to find its way to Android, but you'll be surprised at how well PUBG plays on a smartphone. It's the best game available for Android despite some of the more frustrating aspects of how the coolest loot is hidden in exploitive loot boxes that simply should not exist. Nonetheless, the game is free to play and accessible for so many gamers.
I like to play with maxed-out graphics, but the game also lets you scale back the graphical detail so you can enjoy smooth gameplay even playing on an older device. If you've got a newer device, crank those settings to the max and enjoy one of the best-looking mobile games I've played in a long while. Got an older phone with limited specs, but still want to get in the game? Check out PUBG Mobile Lite, specifically designed to take up less space on your phone and run smoothly on phones with less RAM.
PUBG Mobile somehow delivers all the epic moments you'd expect the PC game scaled down perfectly for mobile devices. They've truly embraced the success by continuing to add new EvoGround game modes, including a dedicated zombie Battle Royale mode, multiple team deathmatch modes, explosive new vehicular assault RageGear modes, and Payload mode, which introduced helicopters, miniguns, and a rocket launcher. Get your squad together, and I'll see you on the battleground!
Tesla vs Lovecraft
Tesla vs. Lovecraft is the latest game from Finnish developers 10tons Ltd, and it's a real treat. The game pits Nikola Tesla and his hi-tech inventions against a vengeful H.P. Lovecraft who has unleashed endless waves of nightmarish monsters that will quickly swarm around you unless you fight back.
This is an incredibly polished game that twin-stick controls for moving and shooting. The campaign gradually increases in difficulty, with well over 200 enemies spawning on screen at one time if you aren't fast with your trigger finger. Fortunately, there are power-ups and perks aplenty which are accessible in a rogue-like fashion. You collect XP as you slay monsters and get a new perk every time you level up. Power-ups and weapons randomly spawn on the map, and you'll also want to collect the six pieces required to build Tesla's mech, which can cut down any horde in short order.
The touchscreen controls feel comfortable, and the game also offers great support for Bluetooth controllers, which is always fantastic to see in a premium game. There's a ton of content built into the base game, along with some DLC available that offers new monsters, weapons, and much more. Don't be worry; the game feels polished without needing to shell out more money, but once you've finally made it through everything that Tesla vs. Lovecraft has to offer, you might be glad there's a little bit more to explore.
The Best Sims
Much like the puzzle and platformer games, sim defines a wide variety of titles. The gist is that you're simulating something, be you, god or farmer. For the most part, these types of games are as relaxing and enjoyable as time-wasters or time-sinks.
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp
Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is a miniaturized and simplified version of its older siblings. You play as a campsite manager, and your job is to design the best possible campsite to attract adorable animal campers. A mix of open-area combined with fixed "amenities," like a pool, a treehouse, or even an entire castle, make up your campsite's customizable spaces. The open area allows you to place furniture and other decorations to your liking, all of which have different types associated with them.
Amenities, items, and even campers—also known as Villagers in other AC titles—can be Cute, Sporty, Cool, and many other types. These types dictate what items and amenities campers will like at your campsite. Fulfilling their requests is how you forge a greater friendship with them and, in turn, unlock bigger and better items and amenities. Most of your daily play-time will be spent doing typical Animal Crossing things like fishing, bug-catching, and collecting fruit to fulfill camper requests.
Like any good sim game, Pocket Game is a vicious but delightful cycle—get more campers, to get more materials, to get more amenities to get more campers! Unfortunately, there are a few caveats to consider here. Pocket Camp certainly isn't the worst offender when it comes to microtransactions, but it does give the player ample opportunity to make in-app purchases in the form of buying Fortune Cookies (loot boxes with a chance of giving you rare, themed items) and in-game cash that you can spend to jump the line and make progress on certain objectives more quickly.
That being said, you can still make tons of progress in Pocket Camp without ever spending a dime of your own money. The only end goal of Pocket Camp is to pack your campsite with your favorite villagers and then customize the heck out of it. This game is a perfect casual time-suck and a great choice for resource management junkies.
Ever wanted to play god? Godus offers you that chance, giving you power over the very earth itself. You have worshippers who will praise your benevolent name as you teach them how to improve their civilization. Of course, you can also be a terrible god, and sometimes you'll have to be.
Watch as the world evolves around you, and you continue to shape it to your whim. Use your godly powers to create structures for your humans, send loving or destructive miracles, and sculpt things to your personal liking. It's quite the addicting game once you figure out the gameplay.
Godus is free to play, but it contains in-app purchases for Gems.
Graveyard Keeper is a cemetery management sim that you can easily sink hours into while enjoying the dark humor of the rather grim subject matter. You may think a game that has you play the role of a town's gravedigger would be depressing and drab, but Graveyard Keeper's bright and colorful art style coupled with the open world and deep crafting mechanics keep things really interesting. You're also rewarded for cutting corners and getting creative. For example, you can start selling ground-up dead bodies to the local butcher, host witch-burning parties, or try and poison some local townsfolk to drive in more business.
That's the difference between a premium mobile title like Graveyard Keeper and most other free-to-play mobile sim games — collecting resources isn't time-restricted for hours, and you're able to craft anything you need in the game just by foraging, completing quests, and maintaining your graveyard. You'll enjoy the extended play of exploring dungeons and completing quests to find rare supplies and other treasures.
As you can see from the trailer, this game is absolutely gorgeous with a concise and detailed art style and beautiful animations. Because this is a direct port of a PC/console game, you should prepare to sink many many hours into this game, including just figuring out the different menus and controls as you work out how to be the best Graveyard Keeper you can be!
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Another classic game brought to us on Android, Grand Theft Auto (GTA): San Andreas, is just what you would expect. It's an open-world sandbox, where you're free to do what you want. Unlike later GTA games in specific cities, San Andreas spans an entire state in three cities. Suffice to say, there's a lot of game here.
You play as Carl Johnson as he returns to Los Santos to save his failing family and friends. Upon your return, you're framed for murder, and you have to escape "justice" and take back the streets. All in all, it's a fun game, and Rockstar says you can expect 70 hours of gameplay. That's crazy.
70 hours of gameplay for $7 is even crazier. The GTA experience is pretty well-known by now, so you probably know what you can expect.
Minecraft is one of those cultural phenomenons. Utterly recognizable even by many non-gamers, Minecraft built a reputation based on simplistic yet complex gameplay, a unique visual style, and endless replayability. Though many years old at this point, it's a game that's still going strong, and it's an obvious addition to this list.
Feature-rich and fully supported, the Android version of Minecraft is as complete as any other. It sports full cross-play with Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows 10, and iOS. It also gets the latest updates so that you can enjoy everything your friends on other platforms can. Controllers are also an available option. And with over 3 million reviews on the Play Store alone, with an average of 4.5 stars, Minecraft is definitely a worthy purchase.
You can unleash your creativity in Creative Mode or go hardcore in Survival Mode, where you're forced to delve deep for resources to craft protections for yourself. Minecraft truly is a mind-boggling game in its scope and execution. At $7, it feels a bit on the pricey side for an Android game, but our resident Minecraft expert assures me that it's so worth it.
My Time at Porita
Life sims already feel like a crowded room with titanic titles like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing in the mix, but My Time at Portia does a surprisingly good job of making itself stand out through its mix of gameplay elements and visual style. After creating your own avatar, your character sets off to Portia to inherit a workshop that their absent father left for them. From there, My Time at Portia becomes an interesting mix of collecting, crafting, relationship building, exploring, and fighting.
The hack-n-slash combat took my by surprise, mostly in how prevalent and fun it was. There's never a shortage of things to do in Portia; townsfolk will ask you to complete commissions for them using your workshop, which will earn you an income to purchase more upgrades, like expanding your workshop, starting a farm, raising livestock, and more. The gameplay loop is very addictive and you can easily wind up spending hours in the game without feeling like any time has passed at all.
The big downside to Portia is that it unfortunately suffers from some performance issues. Lag and frame-drops are rampant in sections of the game where a lot is happening and it can become pretty annoying over time. There are also some minor bugs here and there, but nothing game-breaking that I've encountered yet. It's also worth noting that the dev team continue to pump out patches and bug fixes, so the support is still alive and well for continuing to improve the mobile experience. All this to say, My Time at Portia isn't a perfect game, but it can be very fun when it's working properly.
One of the best things about sim games is that they can be unusually relaxing. Sometimes, they can also be cute, and there's not a whole lot cuter than penguins. So what happens when you combine something super chill and those adorable flightless birds? You get Penguin Isle.
This is one of those idle games meant to be ultimately relaxing while keeping you just slightly busy creating the perfect habitats for your penguins. The music is super easy-going and fantastic to listen to while you mindlessly play. You can collect a nice variety of penguins (and other arctic animals) as you build out your habitats for them.
Everything about this game is just to chillax. The animations are super fun to watch, I love the music, and the sound of the waves and the mindlessness lets you enjoy the adorable penguins. The art design is great, too, and it's super satisfying to build everything out.
If you've never heard of or played Stardew Valley before, it's basically a farming simulator built atop a robust 16-bit open-ended RPG that lets you play and develop your character and farm as you choose. The story begins with your character's arrival in Pelican Town, where you have decided to take over your grandfather's simple family farm.
What makes Stardew Valley such a joy to play is the freedom granted to the player to make the game your own. If you focus on building up your farm, the game is mostly about crop and resource management, which will certainly scratch a certain itch for mobile gamers given how popular that genre of RPG is on mobile — but with Stardew Valley, there's so much more for the player to explore.
Between planting and harvesting your fields, you can work to level up your character's skills with different tools by going fishing or foraging in the woods, head to town to socialize, and build relationships with the townsfolk (and even get married, if you choose), or go off on a more traditional combat-based RPG adventure complete with quests to complete and monster-infested mines to explore.
Whispers of a Machine
If you played games from the '90s, then you'll probably remember the old point-and-click adventures. Some stand out after all these years, like Beneath a Steel Sky, Myst, and many others. However, since the mobile gaming revolution, we've seen fewer point-and-clicks than I initially thought we would. After all, the touchscreen is as perfect a medium for this type of game as a mouse is.
So that's why I'm happy to present Whispers of a Machine, a point-and-click Nordic noir adventure. If you like low-scale cyberpunk and detective mysteries all in a convenient mobile package, then Whispers of a Machine was made for you. It features a gripping murder mystery to solve, interesting characters to meet, an awesome protagonist, and beautiful art to enjoy. This is a game that will keep you clasped within its claws for a long time.
It's also available on PC if you'd rather go really old school with the point-and-click stuff, but I actually prefer the mobile version. It's definitely a time investment, but it's well worth the money, even for just the setting alone. It just oozes futurism and discusses the impacts of AI technology. It's quite the treat.
The Best Sports Games
The true heyday of sports games on Android has long gone. Most nowadays aren't worth your time. However, a few shining examples stand out amongst the crowd, even if they include the usual freemium nonsense.
Australian Open Game
This is the best tennis game I've found for Android. Developed by Big Ant Studios for Tennis Australia to help promote the Australian Open, this free title delivers a surprisingly robust number of gameplay options. You can play a quick match, beat the AO tournament to unlock the other Grand Slam events, or play career mode with your customized player.
The default controls automatically position your player to return shots with swipes used to perform different techniques, but there are also settings for more advanced controls. But the better your timing, the better your shot will be. Difficulty increases as you go on, which is typical of tournament-style games.
eFootball PES 2020
Konami's celebrated football (soccer) franchise is back for 2020 with enhanced dribble controls and options for local and real-time online matches against friends or strangers. It's all part of the developer's focus on taking this mobile soccer game into the eSports realm with competitive online play that's responsive and rewarding.
Of course, there's more. The Inspire system lets you, well, inspire and/or influence how your teammates play, adding new levels of complexity. All of this focus on a quality gaming experience is meant to provide you with a game that tailors itself to you and your playstyle. I'd say the biggest downside with eFootball PES 2020 is that it's another freemium sports game.
Madden NFL Mobile Football
Though it may not be the most lovable example, Madden is the hallmark football game series, even on Android. The mobile version is free to play, but it contains every bit of freemium garbage that EA could throw at it. We're talking loot boxes, ads, microtransactions, and the like.
Unfortunately, there's not much else when it comes to football on Android. This is the only way to play as or with your favorite players and teams. For your time, you get competitive play, dynamic football seasons, and new strategies to build your gameplay style around. There's also a co-op mode for you to help out your friends in their seasons or for them to help you.
MLB Nine Innings 2020
MLB Nine Innings saw a 2020 refresh over the 2019 version. If you're into baseball, this is the game for you (on Android, anyway). It features all 30 MLB teams with 1,700 players and an updated roster for all the 2019 season players. You can expect full 3D graphics and smooth gameplay for the best experience.
There's also an option for one-handed controls to make playing on your phone even easier. Not only is there autoplay, but you can choose to play offense or defense, whichever suits your preference. You can go against other players across the world in the Ranked Battle, Clutch Hits, and Club Battle modes. Or stick to the League Mode, whichever appeals to you. MLB Nine Innings 2020 is free with in-app purchases.
NBA 2K20 is a rare premium sports title for Android that doesn't rely on microtransactions and loot crates, which automatically makes it a great game, in my opinion. The graphics and presentation are top-notch and compare nicely to the console versions.
NBA 2K20 offers multiple game modes, such as the MyCareer Run story mode, the new Run The Streets, and expanded NBA Stories for reliving some of the greatest moments in NBA History. You can also take on a GM's role and manage a team, including scouting and rosters. There's also online multiplayer through LAN or Google Play Games for 5-on-5 matches. You even get a new soundtrack and full support for Bluetooth controllers.
One of the best mobile football games you've likely never heard of, Retro Bowl is an 8-bit styled game with easy-to-grasp gameplay and enough extra content to keep players coming back for more. To control your offense, you hold and pull back on the touchscreen to change the angle and power of a pass, or tap your running back to run the ball; the AI controls your defense. Beyond the simple, solid gameplay, it's the franchise mode that has really ignited the passion of sports games fans.
You start out as the coach to a randomly assigned team, and must earn a transfer to your favorite team by gaining enough victories across several seasons. The management side to franchise mode is shockingly fleshed out, as you build your roster, hire offensive and defensive coordinators, meet with your players, hold press interviews, and keep fans happy. You'll also need to manage your salary and available coins (the in-game currency for drafting and signing new players) and even budget for stadium upgrades.
All of those tasks barely scratch the surface of what Retro Bowl has to offer, which is why many die-hard fans of the genre consider it the best mobile football game around. Retro Bowl's first four games are free, after which you'll need to fork over a meager $0.99 to keep playing for as many seasons as you want. That's a pretty great value.
The Best Strategy Games
Similar to puzzle games, strategy games require your attention and willpower to succeed. Whether managing a kingdom or battling seemingly impossible odds, strategy games can certainly push you. Approach cautiously, and you'll be just fine.
To say that Among Us has exploded in popularity recently would be underselling the game. I see tons of memes that originated from it and many people looking for others who also play. It's a cute, fun, and interesting multiplayer game that supports 5-10 players where not everyone is as they seem.
Your group is meant to complete various space-y tasks, but amongst you is an imposter hell-bent on killing everyone. He or she will use sabotage things to sow chaos and throw you off. This chaos can mask the murders and/or create alibis for the imposter.
To win in Among Us depends on if you're a regular crewmate or the imposter. All you need to do for the former is complete the tasks at hand or figure out the imposter and vote them off the ship. If you're the imposter, you need to kill everyone undetected successfully. Among Us is a ton of fun to play, though the very deceptive nature might strain some friendships!
Bad North: Jotunn Edition
Bad North is a real-time roguelike strategy game where you're protecting your little island kingdom from the Norse horde. All of that to say, it's a fresh challenge each time you pick it up, and man, is it a fun game. I'm not usually one for this type of thing, but I love Bad North on PC, and it's an excellent addition to the Play Store.
These evil Vikings will come at you fast, and they'll hit you hard. The AI is really clever, too, so it will often sneak by your defenses. The Vikings will burn and pillage and get more advanced the more successful you are. Just wait until the long-range Norsemen appear. The goal is to survive each encounter, ensuring that each troop unit's commander lives to see another battle. Squads who are completely wiped out are dead for the rest of the campaign.
Bad North is a fantastic game, and it looks great, too, with its minimalist, cutesy art style. I think it's well worth the $5 to get in because it's practically endless fun since things are changed up each time you play. It's a one-time upfront cost with no additional ads or microtransactions, just good, old-fashioned fun.
Card Thief is all about stealth and pulling off heists. You play a thief who must sneak their way through a deck of cards, collecting treasure all while avoiding detection. You can use equipment cards to assist you in your thieving ways, too. Just don't get too cocky, or you'll run out of sneak points and get caught!
You'll do things like extinguish torches, pickpocket guards, and other dastardly shenanigans as you sneak your way along. It's an easy game to pick up and learn, and each round takes only a couple of minutes to complete. It plays similarly to Solitaire if you're looking for something to compare it to.
Card Thief features daily challenges and deep strategies and a nice progression system that lets you upgrade equipment cards as you pull off heists. There's a bit of a steep learning curve involved here, but it's a rewarding game for fans of strategy card games.
Chess by AI Factory Limited
Chess is a timeless classic, and there are several different options on the Play Store if you're looking to play. The best, in my opinion, is AI Factory Limited's offering. Simply dubbed Chess, this app lets you play chess your way against the AI with different difficulty and challenge modes.
It uses the Treebeard chess engine, which some say feels more "human" in its style and strategy. Regardless, Chess looks simple on the surface, but it actually contains a ton of features. There's a built-in tutor, insight into the CPU thought process, stats, achievements, leaderboards, and an ELO rating. That's not even all that this app has to offer.
Similar chess apps are almost as awesome, such as Chess.com's offering, but AI Factory Limited really nailed it with Chess. I like it for its deceptive simplicity, giving users a lot for their time and/or money. There are two versions: an ad-supported free one and a $2 premium variant, linked below. I also encourage you to check out AI Factory Limited's impressive library of digitized board games, which we have featured in some of our other lists.
There are some truly ridiculous games in this world, but few can top the hilarity of Exploding Kittens. Just the name alone makes me chuckle. It's an over-the-top multiplayer card game with some fun art and plenty of laughs for you and your friends. What else do you need?
Okay, fine. Exploding Kittens is all about luck. You and the other players draw cards until someone, hopefully not you, draws the Exploding Kitten card. From that point on, that player's time is limited until he or she can Defuse the angry feline. Defuse cards come in various distractions; regardless, you don't want the kitten to blow up because that'll knock you out of the game.
Otherwise, you're just playing on borrowed time. It's a great time and fun for the whole family — I love Cards Against Humanity, but it isn't exactly the most kid-friendly game out there. Exploding Kittens is a mere $2 purchase, and it's yours for good. You can also play online with strangers.
Gwent has been around for a few years now. First starting as a mini-game in the incredible masterpiece The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Gwent became a favorite pastime for many players. CD Projekt Red eventually spun Gwent out into its own thing, complete with some nice visual overhauls and online matchmaking. And now it's available on Android. Although it's a substantial download from the Play Store, boy, howdy is it worth it.
Card games could technically be classed as their own thing, but one could also argue that most of them involve a lot of strategy. Gwent is one such example, requiring you to pay attention to your cards, their abilities, their placement on the game mat, and your score. That's not to mention keeping in mind what your opponent is doing and what they've played. All told, Gwent has a lot going on and requires your utmost attention.
Here's how it works. You go against another player using your chosen deck, from which you draw cards at the beginning of a round. You have the option to redraw up to three cards. Each match consists of three rounds, and the player who wins two of them is the victor. Success is determined by having the highest score, which comes from the point values assigned to each card in play. Some cards also have unique abilities that can help you or hinder your opponent. And sometimes, victory requires you to throw a round to be ready for the next one. There's a lot more to it than that, but the nuance is simply too much for this list.
This is one of those great free-to-play games that I highly recommend you try out. There are microtransactions, sure, but CD Projekt Red has built enough of a good reputation with the gaming community that I don't think many people mind. Overall, it's an excellent and very addicting game. The Android version also has cross-play with iOS and PC players, greatly expanding the pool of people against whom you can play.
Ah, Hearthstone. It's a massively popular card game, partly because it's free to get started and partly because it taps into Blizzard's beloved Warcraft universe. Hearthstone pits you against another player in 1v1 combat, where your goal is to knock down their health pool to 0 before they do the same to you. With all of the expansions, there's a lot of variety and deck build diversity to be had.
Casual online games, ranked matches, wacky weekly Tavern Brawls, and grueling Arena games appeal to varying levels of player commitment as you build your deck and your best strategies.
Hearthstone is without a doubt the king of free card games on Android, going head-to-head with Legends of Runeterra and Gwent. It's been around long enough to have a ton of content for newer players to discover, although many in-app purchases are unlocking new card expansions. Even so, it's a fun game for players of all skill levels and worth the time to play.
Legends of Runeterra
Legends of Runeterra is to League of Legends like Hearthstone is to Warcraft. It's another turn-based card game based on a wildly popular universe. Though I've never played League of Legends myself, I can understand and appreciate the excitement behind this game's launch.
Like its Warcraft and Witcher counterparts, Legends of Runeterra centers around your deck. Defeating your opponent requires you to whittle down their main health pool while defending your own. It's quite simple and isn't a best-two-out-of-three situation like Gwent. Each player gets an attack turn while the opposing person gets a chance to defend themselves as best they can. Each card has its own attack and health stat, and many have special abilities. There are also spell cards with varying speed levels (some are instant, others take a turn or two). These can be healing spells, barrier spells, and so on.
Cards break down into offense, defense, and support. The latter buffs nearby allies with barrier boosts to health, attack, etc. You have a mana system that determines what cards you can play. It builds up with each turn, and some cards take several mana units to play.
Even if you're not into League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra is a nice break from Hearthstone while still feeling familiar. The tutorial introduces the game well, so give it like half an hour, and you'll be good to go.
Half sim, half real-time strategy, Majesty is one of my favorite time-waster games. You're in charge of a small kingdom, and it's up to you to keep it safe, explore for resources, manage an economy, and deal with all of the other weirdness. Majesty is an eclectic game, to be sure, but it's also quite fun.
Of course, you can't talk about Majesty and forget about The Nothern Expansion. It's a bit extra, but it adds a new location and new problems to contend with, including dragons. You have more heroes, more resources, and changeable weather, too. For an extra $3, it's a nice expansion, especially if you like Majesty.
They're no Starcraft, but Majesty and The Northern Expansion are both great for killing time on the metro/bus while you wait at the doctor's office, or what have you. Enjoy its fun gameplay and watch the hours fly by.
Tower defense games are a dime a dozen in the Play Store, but few offer the depth and strategy on display with Mindustry. It's a sandbox-style game that is straight-up intimidating when you first start since it gives you all the tools you need for success but makes it entirely up to you to use them most efficiently and strategically.
Not only do you need to concern yourself with mining resources to build up your defenses, but you also need to maintain and protect your supply lines — conveyor belts that deliver your mined resources from the drill to your core base and defense turrets. It took me the entire tutorial to handle the build controls and core game mechanics and another hour of playing the game before I started unlocking new technologies on the tech tree. It wasn't long until I started developing some rudimentary strategies that worked for a while. Still, soon the AI enemies figured my tactics, managed to bypass my defenses, and absolutely wrecked my base.
The solo mode only scratches the surface of everything that Mindustry has to offer. You can set up a multiplayer game with custom servers or over a local area network, create your own map with the included map editor, or create a custom game with the player given full control over pretty much every aspect of the game. Best of all, you get this in a free-to-play game with no ads.
Living in the Washington, D.C. area, I'm quite familiar with the metro system here — it's frankly one of the best ways to get in and out of the city in my experience (especially since you can avoid the parking nightmare). So when I discovered Mini Metro in the Play Store, I grabbed it and had a lot of fun with it.
The basic premise is to design a metro system for a growing city by creating lines and stations. The goal is to keep going as long as you can with your limited resources. It's quite fun, and each playthrough is a new approach. You have to strategize on how you want your system to function. Can you improve a line you already created and make it more efficient?
This is another one of those time-waster strategy games that are quite fun, funnily enough, while riding the metro. It's only a buck, too.
Reigns: Her Majesty
In Reigns, you play as the monarch of the land and make decisions that affect four aspects of the kingdom: the church, the people, the army, and the royal wealth. Your goal is to keep all four in balance — if any meter fills to the max or is entirely depleted, your reign is over… and a new reign begins!
The sequel plays nearly identically to the first game, except when you play as the Queen instead of the King, complete with new characters to interact with and multiple branching storylines to discover. The gameplay is as easy as swiping left or right on cards, and if it's anything like the first game, there's a ton of great easter eggs to find along the way!
I would hate to spoil anything for this new game, but if you played the first one and are afraid that it's going to be too similar, I can assure you there are plenty of new mechanics to make this still one of the best games on Google Play.
XCOM: Enemy Within
XCOM achieved legendary status with its in-depth gameplay, challenge, and interesting style. That same spirit arrived on Android somehow back with Enemy Within, the sequel to Enemy Unknown, which adds to the iconic formula. There are new soldiers, maps, enemies, abilities, and more for you to try out.
Once again, you're defending earth from aliens, and victory is not guaranteed. You have to build the right squad for the circumstances as you head into turn-based combat. New threats will challenge your tactics and your skills, pushing you to work hard for success.
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