So this is Christmas and other non-Christmas holidays, huh? The lights sure are pretty, the trees smell great, and the cookies are worth the extra 5 pounds. But in between all the family, friends, parties, and merry-making, you're going to need a little breather. So what to do with your precious spare minutes? Play these excellent mobile games, of course.
With traveling and family, it can be tough to lug heavy consoles around or sit down for a hardcore gaming session at your PC. However, mobile games let you get a few rounds in on the sly, and no one has to be the wiser. So whether you're on the waiting list at a restaurant, delayed at the airport, or just tired of hearing Uncle Ted's stories, whip out your phone and play any of the best games for killing time during Christmas and the holidays. It's no surprise that you'll find many of these on our list of best mobile games, but we've got some surprises tucked into the stockings here, too.
Baba Is You
Maybe you haven't heard of Baba Is You, but this indie puzzle darling made serious waves when it debuted in 2019 for Nintendo Switch and PC. This delightful puzzler finally got a mobile port this year and if you haven't given it a try yet, you need to add this to your gaming library. Baba Is You takes minimal puzzling to whole new worlds by defying expectations and redefining victory.
You control your little white bunny-cat creature, Baba, and push it around flat pixelated levels trying to get flags to win each level. But how you get to those flags changes every time, with new rules and win-conditions constantly introduced. I don't want to say too much about this delightful title for fear of giving all the surprises away, but rest assured that Baba Is You is one of the most fun and exciting puzzlers you're likely to play. Each level can be completed in just minutes (or hours if you get stumped), making it a perfect companion for the holidays.
Baba Is You
Bend the rules of the world to your will to attain puzzle victory in Baba Is You for Android.
A rare (at least to me) example of a rhythm game that you play in portrait mode rather than landscape, Beatstar, made a big splash when it landed on mobile devices earlier this year. Unlike many other rhythm games, Beatstar exclusively features officially licensed music from modern musical artists. As a result, the range is truly insane, with contemporary artists like Doja Cat, Lady Gaga, Outkast, and so many more. There are also options to select your preferred musical eras, so you can start with the '80s, '90s, etc., and then continue to unlock more music from there.
The gameplay is simple, with 3 bars descending from the top of the screen that you tap or swipe in time with the beat. It's very easy to get the hang of, but challenging as you progress and unlock more complex difficulty levels.
One of the biggest knocks against Beatstar for me is the fact that the game can only be played online, a potentially serious detriment if you're traveling and don't have easy access to Wi-Fi. This free game's monetization is also pretty unforgiving, particularly for Beatstar's version of loot boxes. Beatstar isn't a perfect game, but it's a fantastic choice for the music-lover on the go who wants to play a few songs at a time and then do something else for a while. Ideal for the holidays!
Fully licensed music from hundreds of popular artists, Beatstar is a killer mobile rhythm game.
Call of Duty Mobile
It barely needs any introduction or justification for being on this list, but Call of Duty Mobile is a rock-solid choice for killing time this holiday season. It's a particularly good selection for the gamer that hates to be away from their rig and needs a steady stream of first-person shooter action to be happy.
COD Mobile is the combat experience you want, fully optimized for mobile devices. Whether it be 5v5 or battle royale, the modes and maps you want to play are all (or almost all) accounted for and at your fingertips. However, if you want to have the best possible experience with the game, you're going to want to pair a Bluetooth controller, which might make things slightly less portable. It's optional, though, so COD mobile is still an awesome choice for mobile holiday gaming.
Call of Duty Mobile
The first-person shooter that won't die continues to forge its legacy in new lands and new hands with Call of Duty Mobile.
An impressively expansive strategy RPG, Crying Suns is one of the more solid Sci-Fi games you can play right now on mobile. Telling its story with pixelated graphics, Crying Suns put you in the shoes of Ellys Idaho (yes, that is indeed a Dune reference, of which Crying Suns has quite a few), a newly birthed clone of a legendary admiral. You've been brought into this world by Kaliban, a super-intelligent AI that needs your help tracking down the cause of a missing transmission.
After teaming up with Kaliban and being given command of the most badass spaceship ever invented, Idaho and crew set off to investigate the missing transmission—finding so much more in the process. Gameplay is solid and translates to mobile very well, taking place over a series of random encounters, ship-to-ship battles, and ground exploration missions as you attempt to reach the center of an empire.
Many foes will stand in your way, supplies are limited, and the threat of death and failure is very real. Crying Suns is nearly rogue-like in that it somewhat expects you to fail a few times before you finally succeed in making it through to the end. Free for Play Pass subscribers or $8.99, Crying Suns is a little on the pricey side, but this high-quality premium game is worth every penny. If you love strategy RPGs, play Crying Suns. You won't regret it!
A strategy RPG drowning in phenomenal Sci-Fi trappings, Crying Suns packs a punch with great gameplay and a gripping narrative.
Cytus II has absolutely everything a rhythm game fan could ever ask for: rock-solid mechanics that are easy to pick up and difficult to master, a lineup of cool DJs — each with their unique musical genre assigned to them — whose stories you can play through, and of course, absolutely stellar soundtracks to play. Cytus II is one of the games that has lived on my phone the longest, and it's not going anywhere any time soon.
The one major detractor to Cytus II is that it's wildly expensive to unlock the full game if you don't have Play Pass. The extra song packs and characters could quickly rack up hundreds of dollars, so if there's one game alone that could make Play Pass worth the monthly subscription price, it's Cytus II.
However, you can still get a ton of value out of the base game just by playing through the main cast. The extra characters and songs are icing on an already tasty cake and aren't necessary to have a great time with Cytus II. The base game is only $1.99, so do yourself a favor and gift yourself this perfect game for Christmas.
Cytus II is, in my opinion, a perfect mobile rhythm game. It's also one of the best cases for Google Play Pass, but even the base game is rock solid.
Games don't have to be complicated to be good, and Donut County is proof enough of that. Another indie darling that made waves after its release, Donut County, is a hilarious physics-based puzzle game about holes. As a trash-loving raccoon remote-controlling a hole, your goal is to suck up as much "trash" in your surroundings as you can. Of course, as more and more things fall into your hole, it gets bigger, but getting some items to fall in may require some creative thinking.
With fun low-poly stylings and some hilarious writing wrapped around this simple premise, Donut County is sure to please even the most persnickety gamer. So give it a try today for $4.99.
A raccoon with a remote-controlled hole that can suck up entire towns. What could possibly go wrong in this hilarious physics puzzler?
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
If you think that Final Fantasy VIII is the last Final Fantasy game you would recommend to other people, I can't say you're entirely wrong. But Final Fantasy VIII being a fascinating, good game, is the hill I'm willing to die on, and I'll do whatever it takes to get more people to give it a chance. Unfortunately, FF8 tends to be divisive for having a barely likable protagonist, a truly buck wild story, and gameplay that deviates from the standard JRPG formula.
But you could easily argue that these exact qualities make this entry in the series so memorable and creative. It takes chances, and it gets a lot right, like its incredible soundtrack, cool visuals, and excellent character development. Plus, once you get the hang of the more unusual aspects of the gameplay, you can begin to craft some potentially game-breaking builds for your party.
The major detractors here are that FF8 does not have controller support, cloud saves, and it's twenty dollars. Those might be dealbreakers for many people, but if you can get past the price tag and the lack of some features, then you're in for a wild ride that only the craziest Final Fantasy game could accomplish. Best of all, Final Fantasy 8 could easily wind up being a 50+ hour game, so if you need to kill some serious time, then this expansive JRPG has you covered.
Final Fantasy VIII Remastered
One of the most polarizing, creative, wild Final Fantasy games, now fully remastered and available in the palm of your hand.
League of Legends: Wild Rift
The King/Queen of MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena) rides again with League of Legends: Wild Rift for mobile. League of Legends has maintained its popularity for over a decade, making a mobile experience all but inevitable for this legendary series. Gracefully making the transition to mobile, Wild Rift features the same 5v5 MOBA gameplay with most of the champions available in the PC version.
There are also nice quality of life features that often don't make it to mobile, like teaming up with friends as a two, three, four, or full five-stack, and playing against bots for players who may need a little practice. So if you're totally unfamiliar with League of Legends, this would be a great place to start.
Wild Rift has its issues, of course, with some players reporting nasty lag, login errors, and bad luck with AFK teammates, but for the most part, the game seems to run well for most players. LOL Wild Rift is free-to-play and monetizes through in-app purchases.
League of Legends: Wild Rift
5v5 MOBA gaming gets a proper mobile adaptation with League of Legends: Wild Rift.
My Time at Portia
My Time at Portia, an expansive life simulator, is a fantastic choice for some relaxed holiday gaming. The setup is pretty standard to how many life-sims: Your customizable avatar has inherited a workshop from their absent father in the town of Portia, and your goal is to build it up to be the best, most efficient, most profitable workshop the world has ever seen.
Once your new life in Portia has begun, your days are filled with hunting, gathering, crafting, and building relationships with your new neighbors. There is no shortage of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in Portia! The gameplay loop is very well done, with a day/night cycle to keep things moving at a nice clip. You can also choose to speed things up by going to bed early, but most days, you'll probably find that you don't have enough time to get everything off your to-do list.
This is the kind of game you look up from hours later and don't know where the time went, so be prepared for some long sessions once you get into a groove. My Time at Portia is premium priced at $7.99; well worth the money for an experience that you could funnel over 100 hours into.
My Time at Portia
A life simulator with charming graphics and no shortage of daily tasks to complete, My Time at Portia is a great way to spend 15 minutes or a few hours.
Yes, it's a Pokémon clone, but Nexomon has some unique tricks up its sleeve to keep the monster-collecting formula interesting. Although not as expansive as the megalithic Pokémon franchise, Nexomon: Extinction (the 2nd game in the series) boasts 381 Nexomon across nine different elemental types. There are, of course, evolutions to discover and new friends to catch around every corner on your way to becoming the best Nexomon trainer around.
Where Nexomon manages to set itself apart is with its humorous, irreverent tone, often poking fun at the tropes that have become so deeply ingrained in similar games. Its story also takes on slightly more grown-up themes, which is a refreshing take for those of us who feel like we've been playing the same story for 20-plus years.
The gameplay is fun and simple, the graphics are actually gorgeous, and the soundtrack is excellent. Nexomon: Extinction is initially free-to-play, with an in-app purchase of $2.99 to unlock the entire game. It's a solid value for a game that will likely take most players 20-30 hours to complete.
A "Pokémon clone" that does just well enough to set itself apart from the monster-catching pack, Nexomon: Extinction is a great way to get your Pokémon fix right at your fingertips.
Nova Island is a brand new contender in the PvP card-battling genre, and boy does it make an impression. Players build decks around one of five trainers who each have a set of specialty cards that ideally synergize with your other cards. So there are flower-power-themed decks, electric decks, magic decks, and more! Each trainer is charming and colorful in their own right, and the devs continue to add new cards and balance changes.
In addition to the 1v1 online competitive play, you can also play a weekly single-player campaign and weekly and daily challenges. Some players, myself included, often find the random element in matches infuriating, but the tides can work in your favor just as much as they can work against you, so it's a forgivable sin.
Considering Nova Island's stunning quality, you may be shocked to learn that the game is entirely free and has no ads. Instead, it monetizes solely through optional cosmetic in-app purchases for your cards. These do not affect gameplay in any way, but they do make your little card friends look even more adorable. Nova Island can be incredibly addictive and is a perfect game to play just one or two rounds at a time.
An ultra-charming 1v1 card battler with a lot of heart, Nova Island is accessible, free, and an all-around great game.
Piffle is a ludicrously adorable block-breaking puzzler from developer Hipster Whale. You control a small ... boy? Girl? It doesn't really matter, but you're a small human in a catsuit, and you make robotic meowing sounds instead of talking. That's not the point, though. The point is that your cat-suited friend can collect piffles, little fluffy cat heads that can then be launched at descending rows of blocks to destroy them.
Blocks have different values and must be hit a certain number of times before they'll break, so geometry and careful aim are necessary for victory. You'll also start to amass an arsenal of power-ups that can make levels easier, but getting a sick combo on your own feels awesome. Piffle is free and monetizes through non-intrusive ads and in-app purchases. It's a fantastic puzzling pocket companion that is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Piffle is an insanely adorable and well-made block-breaking puzzle game that belongs in your pocket right now.
Railways is a charming indie puzzle game featuring toy-like trains circling, crisscrossing, and zigzagging rails. Your goal in each level is to direct your trains to pick up passengers of their matching colors. As you pick up passengers, more will spawn elsewhere, so you have to guide your trains to other rails to get more passengers on board. The challenge comes from keeping all of your trains in optimal motion at the same time to get the maximum number of passengers, all while keeping your trains from crashing into each other or other hazards.
Railways is beautiful in its simplicity and flawless execution. It's a wonderful little game to keep on your phone for any boredom emergency, and you can snag this title for just $0.99 or for free if you're a Play Pass subscriber. A beautifully made indie game that's fun for gamers of all ages; that's Railways!
Guide your trains around the tracks to pick up as many passengers as possible within the time limit. But be careful, you don't want to crash!
Rocket League Sideswipe
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Rocket League? On mobile?? There's no way that's going to work. How would they even do that?" Well, my friend, I have surprising news for you, the makers of Rocket League managed to totally reimagine the game and have gifted Rocket League Sideswipe to the unworthy masses. Of course, it's a different experience from its console and PC older brother. Still, Sideswipe does a shockingly good job keeping the Rocket League vibe we all know and love while optimizing gameplay with a fascinating 2D translation.
The game looks amazing on mobile, with all the sleek panache you would expect from Psyonix. Boosting, jumping, and flipping around like a madman are still staples of the game, all of which are possible through the native touchscreen controls. There are 1v1 and 2v2 matches, and you can indeed play competitively if that's your jam. Did I mention that Sideswipe is free? Yeah, you need to check this game out.
Rocket League Sideswipe
Car soccer that fits in the palm of your hand? Yes, it IS possible, thanks to Rocket League Sideswipe. Merry Christmas, y'all.
Ticket to Earth
Ticket to Earth, a tactical RPG, tells the thrilling story of a space colony on the brink of civil war. Economic disparity has driven society to the edge of collapse. The only chance of a better life is to score a ticket on a superliner that can take citizens back to Earth. But tickets aboard this coveted space cruise are out of reach for all but a precious few — and people will do just about anything to get them.
As conflict flourishes, you'll play through the narratives of a motley cast of characters as they struggle to find better lives in this barren hellscape. The gameplay is excellent and does very well in a mobile UI, the soundtrack is incredible, and the story itself majorly holds up the overall experience.
There are very few complaints that you can lodge against Ticket to Earth, but some players have reported feeling overpowered early in the game, making final battles too easy. Other than that, you'd be hard-pressed to find any significant faults with this carefully crafted experience.
This hidden gem is a steal at $4.99, but it's completely free to Play Pass subscribers. So do yourself a solid and add Ticket to Earth to your gaming library asap.
Ticket to Earth
A space colony on the brink of collapse. A rebellion more dangerous by the minute. Can you make it out alive in this thrilling tactical RPG?
A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.
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