Not everyone wants to commit hours of their day to playing games on their phones. That's why casual games exist! These games have proven wildly successful, championed by iconic mobile games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga. They're designed to be played on the go and at your own pace — as laid back or competitive as you want.
Most casual games are free, offering in-app purchases and some ads. Some may cost you a dollar or two, but they're worth it. We've collected some of our favorites from the past, along with some newer games that are great to keep on your phone for a little gaming break during your day.
Super Mario Run
Everyone's favorite turtle-stomping plumber is back on Android in Super Mario Run. While Super Mario Run might be a bit of a disappointment for those of us dreaming of a full-fledged Mario game on a non-Nintendo handheld device, it's a great casual game that's sure to be a hit with Mario fans young and old.
Most of the Mario mechanics you know and love from the classic side-scrolling games of the past is here: you're running your way through eight different worlds made up of three levels and a boss battle as you try and rescue Princess Peach from the scaly claws of King Bowser. But rather than giving you full control over Mario, he's automatically running to the left and you control his jumps. It's a game that's designed to be played with one hand while you're riding the subway, which is the goal of most casual games.
The game is free to download and play the first world, but then you'll need to pay $9.99 to unlock the full game.
Super Mario Run is a very casual take on Nintendo's iconic platforming plumber. This is a Mario game you can play with one hand with ease during your transit commute.
Alto's Odyssey is a simple endless runner game that has you dashing down desert dunes, wall riding rock formations, and exploring ancient ruins. However, the gorgeous sound design, soothing soundtrack, and shifting color palettes will keep you coming back for more adventure.
As much as I love Alto's Adventure, it was important to me that Odyssey offered enough new content to justify itself. Fortunately, there's a ton to unpack and discover for hardcore fans and anyone who's coming into the franchise fresh. The main game mode is back with plenty of goals to go after each run and characters and features to unlock, and the fan-favorite zen mode is also included here for those times where you just want to kick back and relax.
This mobile masterpiece is a casual and rewarding endless runner that will have you boarding across sand dunes, grinding across jungle temples, and bouncing off hot air balloons.
The Battle of Polytopia
If you love in-depth strategy games like Civilization 5, but don't typically have 10 hours to burn playing through a full campaign, you should check out The Battle of Polytopia. It's a casual strategy game that borrows heavily from the Civilization franchise but offers a fresh take on the genre for Android.
Upgrade your technology tree, explore new lands, and decimate your enemies in solo and multiplayer modes that are great for quick pick-up-and-play or lengthier gaming sessions. Everything is wrapped in colorful poly graphics and it's surprisingly robust for a free-to-play title.
Casual games and strategy games don't typically cross over, but then there's The Battle of Polytopia. This is a surprisingly robust strategy game that you can play on the go.
Reigns: Her Majesty
Reigns: Her Majesty is the sequel to the Reigns, the first game to win Google's Best Indie Game award in 2018. Once again you're tasked with ruling over a kingdom, but this time as the matriarch with some mystical twists thrown in.
The aim is to live as long as you can. When you die, you take up the role of your successor and the new reign begins (get it?). Featuring a great mix of mystery and gallows humor, this game is filled with fun surprises to discover the longer you play. Well worth the price of admission, this is a game you play by swiping cards left or right — but be prepared to get addicted to its simplistic gameplay and engaging storytelling.
How long can you rule over a kingdom before you're overthrown by a violent mob of peasants? Long live the Queen in Reigns: Her Majesty.
Like all the best puzzle games, Two Dots is simple to learn, difficult to master, and highly addictive. This is the sequel to the wildly popular Dots game, and the objective remains the same: connect as many dots of the same color as you can.
The sequel brings new skills to the table, along with 900+ levels to work through. Once you've completed the first 10 levels, which act as a tutorial, Two Dots offers a linear adventure of sorts in Treasure Hunt, and you unlock a new mode called Expedition once you reach level 35.
This is one of the most casual and relaxing puzzle games ever developed for mobile. Connect the colors while you enjoy a bit of an adventure.
Unwind in your downtime by breaking virtual glass in Smash Hit. No consequences, only loads of points when you shatter the glass obstacles in your path in beautifully designed game levels.
The music and audio effects change as you progress through the game's stages, over 50 of which are available in the free download. An optional in-app purchase gives you premium perks, such as the ability to save and access checkpoints, new game modes, and access cloud saves across all of your devices. If you have a Samsung Gear VR, you'll want to check out Smash Hit VR, too. Less casual, but a super cool VR experience to say the least!
Smash Hit is a beautiful game that's both fun and challenging. It's a mesmerizing experience that's also quite casual that you can pick up and play at any time.
If you often find yourself mindlessly doodling, Blek is a game designed with you in mind. The multiple award-winning game takes doodles to an artistic level as you find patterns and draw your way to more challenging levels.
The concept is simple and hooks you in right away. Use your doodling skills to draw a continuous line that collects all of the colored balls in a pattern. Succeed and your doodle becomes its own piece of art; make a mistake and you try again. Blek is easy enough to play on your downtime, yet challenging enough to busy your mind. With full support for the S-pen, this is a must-own for Samsung Galaxy Note owners.
Blek is casual enough to play on your downtime, yet challenging enough to busy your mind.
Piano Tiles 2
Building on the popularity of the original Piano Tiles game, Piano Tiles 2 lets you play along with the band to classical music and modern pop songs. Use your fingertips to tap the black keys as they scroll down your screen to the music.
Play in friendly battle of the bands-style competitions against your Facebook friends or other music lovers from around the world. In-app purchases unlock additional songs. A tremendously popular game with a beautiful built-in soundtrack? That's an absolute must-have.
Piano Tiles 2 is a casual music rhythm game that's been enjoyed by millions of people. Keep to the beat and only tap the black keys — and don't forget your headphones!
Candy Crush Saga
The Candy Crush franchise is the most popular casual puzzler for phones. In the latest twist on the Candy Crush game, you match three of the same candy on the game board to create, spread, or clear away jelly. Your nemesis is the Jelly Queen and you can battle her alone or test your skills against your friends.
The game has added new candies you'll wish you could buy and eat in real life. If you're connected to Facebook you'll have access to a leaderboard that shows you how well you're doing and who your biggest competition is. There are over 100 levels of sweet, silly fun to be had, and the games are as short or as in-depth as you want them to be.
Candy Crush Saga is one of those deceivingly simple games that starts out casual and fun but be warned. It's also one of the most addictive mobile games ever devised.
Fruit Ninja Free
Enter the world of Fruitasia, where your Sensei is waiting for you with fruit fight missions. All you need to know to get started with Fruit Ninja is to slice the fruit, not the bombs; once you master that, you'll be slicing and dicing like an old pro in no time.
As your game improves, you can upgrade your blade and join new Dojos. Learn how to handle bananas and multi-slice pomegranates, not to mention the rare 10 fruit Great Wave. It all sounds funny and a little on the ridiculous side, but it's also all for fun and distraction; that's the perfect casual game.
Fruit Ninja is a quintessential mobile game that's still delivering a casual good time for gamers of all ages in 2020.
Angry Birds 2
The Angry Birds franchise is one of those iconic smartphone games that has reached heights that even the developers couldn't have envisioned when the first game landed on mobile over seven years ago. What started as a simple game pitting upset birds battling the green pigs that stole their eggs has spawned several spin-offs and sequels — and even a freaking Angry Birds movie!
If you've never played it before, here's the skinny. Every bird comes with a unique skill, designed to ruin the evil pigs and restore order. You fling the birds at obstacles, power up their skills with features like a Birdquake (hint: it's exactly what it sounds like), or make a one-time purchase of the Mighty Eagle and show those pigs who the real bosses are. It's loads of addictive fun for gamers of any age or skill level. Angry Birds 2 is the sequel, which adds more birds, more powerups, and more fun!
Angry Birds just celebrated its 10th anniversary which is pretty incredible for a game about flinging birds at pigs. The sequel is free-to-play as always.
Words With Friends 2
Fancy yourself a wordsmith? If so, get on board with Words With Friends, the Scrabble-based game you play at your own pace, whether it's one word an hour or one word per day. Just check your gameboard whenever you have a few free moments and play tiles to earn points and climb the real-time leaderboard.
The in-app chat feature lets you converse with your friends as you play, so you can send them an innocent taunt or gentle reminder that you're waiting for them to take a turn, or you can congratulate them on a complex play. You'll also be able to access your game from your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone, so your game can just keep on going.
The sequel for a game called Words with Friends ironically offers a new way to play the game all by yourself, along with a new lightning round mode that offers competitive team play.
Battlelands Royale is a made-for-mobile battle royale game that combines cartoony graphics and a top-down perspective with a simple last-man-standing gameplay format that works well. This game offers a fairly unique take on the battle royale formula that is absolutely for casual gaming sessions since each match takes only a few minutes to complete.
Just like PUBG or Fortnite, you parachute down onto a map with a bunch of other players — 32 total players in this case — and must scavenge for weapons, ammo, and armor while staying in the safety circle and eliminating your enemies. You can go it alone or play in Duos, depending on what you prefer. There's plenty of variety to keep each match interesting. Of course, there are microtransactions for things like cosmetics and emotes, but that's quite typical for an app like this. Even so, Battlelands Royale is quite the fun game.
This battle royale was made specifically for mobile. Games last only a few minutes each and are great for casual play.
The basic premise of Mini Metro 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 has you take 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 or is creating a new one the best option?
I enjoy this game for some casual strategy/puzzle action. This is another one of those time-waster strategy games that is quite fun, funnily enough, while riding the metro. It's only a buck, too.
You're the metro engineer and it's your job to design a system for your growing city. Use your limited resources wisely and try to make things as efficient as they can be.
Call of Duty: Mobile
Call of Duty Mobile features the core team deathmatch modes the main game is known for along with the battle royale mode that was introduced in the main franchise with Black Ops 4. The developers could have easily just stuck with the team deathmatch and still had a great game on their hands, but the inclusion of the 100-player battle royale (along with the fan-favorite zombie mode) just adds more value to the total package.
However, you may be asking yourself, why this is on a casual games list if it's an FPS? That's because this game is easy to pick up anywhere you are and play a quick match. Due to its popularity, the wait queues aren't long at all (even for controller users), matches rarely last more than 5-6 minutes, and there's a large skill ceiling so you have plenty of room to improve. Obviously, the other modes like the battle royale aren't as quick, but Team Deathmatch and Frontline are great for a quick play.
Call of Duty: Mobile is a surprisingly complete version CoD for phones that's entirely free to play. Some of its modes are perfect for casual play.
Transmission is completely free without any hooks, caveats, or anything else we're used to these days. It's just a good puzzler that challenges the mind, teaches you new concepts (unless you're a network engineer), and vibes relaxation.
Transmission focuses on making connections to enable communication over a network. Each level is a different network, composed of six types overall, and the game gently rises in difficulty until you're creating some truly epic connections. You can get hours and hours out of Transmission, which is incredible given that there are no IAPs or ads in sight. And the soundtrack is so good.
Transmission is absolutely worth checking out because of how chill it is. I can't think of a better game for this list.
Transmission is an incredible puzzle game about connecting different networks. It's beautiful, addicting, and incredibly fun.
Data Wing is another incredibly enjoyable game that's 100% free with no nonsense. It's a racing adventure bathed in neon and it looks fantastic. It also has a great soundtrack and excellent gameplay. You pilot a triangle around a track, ferrying bits of data as you go.
It's a racing game at its heart, but it feels like so much more. There's a fun story behind Data Wings that's reminiscent of of the original Tron. This is quite apt given the visual style of the game. Touch controls are on point, too, and the levels are awesome to look at. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.
Another excellent freebie, Data Wing is a gorgeous racing adventure that takes obvious cues from Tron's neonscape. It's a brilliant little game and worth playing.
Chessplode is chess with explosions! It drastically changes the way you'll play chess. If you're bad at chess (or don't know how to play), you actually might be at an advantage over someone who's more skilled. When you capture a piece, the whole row and column go boom, except if there's a king in the way. In that case, the move will turn into a regular capture.
This game changes up the whole chess paradigm to the point where it's almost unrecognizable from the original game. Even the boards can be weird (even user-generated). The game also throws different challenges at you, multiplayer, and that level generator I just mentioned. It's a blast of a game and perfect for chess noobs or veterans alike. It does, however, contains IAPs to add undos (with infinite undos being a one-time purchase of $1.99).
Chessplode completely changes the way traditional chess is played and I think it's for the better. It does come with some IAPs, but they're not that bad.
AI Factory Limited games
AI Factory Limited pushes out the traditional games a lot of us grew up on — chess, checkers, backgammon, and so on — but it does so in great ways. AI's chess, for example, is my go-to chess game on Android, and I've had it installed on my phone for many years. I'm featuring their library here because, frankly, the games are so good that's it hard to pick just one.
Each of these games is perfect for the casual gamer. You can also pick up some card games, sudoku, tic-tac-toe, and more. If you like the classic stuff, AI Factory Limited has you covered. Most, if not all, of the games have free versions available, or you can pay a couple of dollars to unlock the ad-free versions if you so choose.
If you're looking for classic board games, then look no further than AI Factory Limited's library. With both free and paid versions available of classics like chess, checkers, backgammon, and more, you're bound to stay entertained.
Update September 2020: Added Transmission, Data Wing, Chessplode, and AI Factory Limited's library to our list!
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