There's something refreshing and low-stress about playing mobile games not entirely designed to get you to spend on in-app purchases. Spending a couple of dollars upfront to get an entire game that you can actually enjoy from beginning to end without sitting through ads, being hounded to buy coins or gems, or having to open crates, card packs or whatever — simply having fewer distractions makes your gaming experience better.
Here are the best Android games without those pesky IAPs!
- Stardew Valley
- Reigns: Her Majesty
- The Room series
- Suzy Cube
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Mini Metro
- Roller Coaster Tycoon Classic
- Evoland 1 and 2
Stardew Valley is one of the most celebrated indie gaming releases in recent years, and the full game has been optimized to play on Android.
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.
The only thing missing from the Steam versions of this game are the multiplayer options and mods, but the core game is so solid that and the price is so good that it barely matters. And, of course, there are no ads or in-app purchases to distract you from the game.
One of the most celebrated RPGs of the last decade has been optimized for mobile and is a must-play for gamers of all ages.
Grab your favorite pair of headphones because Vectronom is all about how well you can move along to the beat of the music.
Vectronom is a rhythm-based puzzle game that will entrance you with its psychedelic flashing colors and thumping electronic soundtrack. Each level is broken into platforming sections where platforms flash on and off to patterns linked to the flow of the music. The game eases you into understanding the concept before ramping up the complexity and challenge.
If you're not a fan of flashing colors or have color vision deficiency AKA color blindness, you'll be happy to know that Vectronom offers plenty of different color profiles in the game options. There's also EQ controls for the music so you can really crank that bass up. 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, the swipes and taps work really well with the game letting you tweak the input margin if you feel like the touch screen controls are too loose or too tight.
There are currently 31 levels available to play through, each with their 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 which are perfect for mobile play.
Vectronom is a very trippy rhythm-based puzzle game that requires you to stick to the beat to make it through levels with increasingly complex patterns.
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 is a standout game in 2019. 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 that represents the number of hits needed to destroy it, or you can destroying 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 which 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 but also 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!
Holedown is a clever take on the ball and brick genre where you launch balls to excavate down to the core of asteroids, planets and stars. It offers simple gameplay while delivering an endless challenge mode.
Grab your gun boots and jump down the well in Downwell. This retro-styled roguelike game is extremely challenging, featuring a pretty steep learning curve as you learn how to defeat the enemies and figure out which weapon upgrades work best for your play style (Hint: it's the Noppy).
Since your character is falling, enemies and shops come from the bottom-up, so you need to be strategic in your freefall do you don't accidentally land on an enemy and lose a heart. There are several different 'styles' you unlock through repeated play, which give you certain numbers of hearts at the start, changes the way end of level upgrades work, and slightly alters the way your sprite falls down the well.
The goal is to survive as you fall deeper and deeper down the well. There are no in-app purchases, save points, or continues, so when you die you must start at the entrance of the well again.
Downwell is a tough-as-nails retro rogue-like game where you strap on a pair of gun boots and blast away enemies as you fall further down the well. How far can you make it?
Fowlst is a retro-styled action-arcade game that's easy to play but hard to master. You play as a loot-seeking owl that has somehow gotten itself stuck in Hell's underground labyrinth. Every time you play is its own unique challenge because each chamber is randomly generated and filled with demons and other deadly traps to deftly dodge.
Controls are dead simple. You tap on either side of the screen to flap your wings in that direction, and you've got to keep flapping to fly. You automatically kill demons with your razor-sharp talons by crashing into them, but they shoot back at you so you'll have to dodge their attacks while you set up a swooping attack.
Enemies drop loot in the form of money sacks along with power-ups which you can trigger with a quick swipe up anywhere on the screen. You'll want to collect as much loot as possible as you can spend them on valuable upgrades that will increase your health, give you magnetic powers for collecting loot, and also give you more attacks like egg bombs and homing rockets that shoot out your butt.
There are no ads or in-app purchases for the game.
Smash your way through demons as an owl that's been trapped in hell. Collect loot and upgrade your bird with egg bombs and heat-seeking rockets to help you on your hellish journey.
The best premium Android games page 2
Reigns: Her Majesty
If you've always dreamt of being king for a day, you'll definitely want to check out Reigns or the regal sequel Reigns: Her Majesty. Both are stylish games with simple gameplay mechanics and razor-sharp wit, wherein you try to keep your kingdom running smoothly by interacting with advisors, citizens, witches and other characters in your kingdom. It's best described as one of those 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, except instead of flipping to some page, you simply swipe left or right.
Each decision you make has an effect on four resources you must manage: religion, citizens, the army and your kingdom's treasury. Balancing these resources is key, as if any meter maxes out or reaches zero, your reign is over. But the game doesn't end — instead, you become your successor and try to last longer in your reign than the king or queen before you.
It's the perfect pick-up-and-play game for killing some time, and you'll enjoy the dark humor found throughout.
Step into the role of regal leader of your own and parlay with your advisors and send out royal decrees just by swiping left or right. Just be sure not to let things get out of hand or it's your head on the chopping block.
The Room series
The Room franchise represents some of the absolute best puzzle experiences you can play on Android. In each game, you have to solve a series of three-dimensional puzzles set up by the mysterious Craftsman.
The latest game in the series is The Room: Old Sins ($4.99), but if you're fresh to the series you may want to start with the first games which are reasonably priced:
The entire series is rightly celebrated as some of the best mobile games of all time, so you can be sure that you're in for something special here. These games are engrossing and require your full attention to complete the complex puzzles.
The Room series offers some of the most beautiful gaming experiences on mobile. Solve intricate puzzles and unlock the secrets hidden within these mysterious contraptions.
Suzy Cube is hands down the best 3D platformer available on Android (outside of using emulators). It features surprisingly tight touchscreen controls that let you jump and dash through over 40 levels, each filled with challenging platforming and secret areas to discover.
There's some repetition — each world ends with a near-identical boss battle with slight variations — but Suzy Cube does a good job of never feeling stale. There are no in-app purchases at all, as all the bonus content is unlocked using stars found throughout each level. That means you'll be replaying levels to collect all the stars and set new speedrunning times.
Check out Suzy Cube if you've been dying for a great 3D platformer to play on your smartphone.
Suzy Cube is a brilliant 3D platformer that plays really well on any mobile device. If the Google Play Store was ever looking for its own mascot ala Mario, Suzy Cube would certainly fit the bill.
If you're a console or PC fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, then why not extend your fandom to Android?
Rockstar Games has five great GTA titles for you to choose from and you really can't go wrong with any of them. My absolute favorite is the expansive San Andreas, but you've also got Liberty City Stories, Vice City, GTA III, and Chinatown Wars available for all your shoot-'em-up, blow-'em-up, car-stealing desires on mobile!
The price here isn't so bad, considering you get the full game with no dumb in-app purchases schemes in place. What with Rockstar milking GTA Online for all that it's worth with microtransactions on console and PC, it is totally worth it to go back and revisit these classic games on your phone. There's crucial support for Bluetooth controls and best of all the games will load much faster than your PlayStation 2 ever could back in the day.
If you want full Grand Theft Auto games right on your phone, hit up the Google Play Store and enjoy.
Rockstar Games has ported four of the classic GTA games to Android, but here I'll recommend San Andreas because it's the best of the bunch. Play as CJ and explore one of the biggest maps in the GTA franchise.
Oddmar is a brilliant action-adventure platformer that will raise your expectations for what mobile games should look like. This game is absolutely gorgeous playing like a comic book come to life, and the story is told via cinematics that you'll actually care to watch because they were produced so well.
Set in a mystical world filled with Vikings, goblins, fairies, and trolls, you play as Oddmar, a misfit Viking who doesn't quite fit in with his fellow villagers and is not yet worthy of a place in Valhalla. This all changes after a chance encounter with a fairy who grants Oddmar special powers to help him on an unspecified journey — all from eating a mushroom power-up. The new powers gives Oddmar the ability to jump, dash and attack enemies as he reluctantly sets off on an adventure of a lifetime.
Oddmar was developed by the team behind Leo's Fortune, another gorgeous award-winning mobile platformer, and they've got another hit on their hands here. Controls for platforming games like this are notoriously difficult to get right on mobile, but things feel pretty natural with the left side of the screen controlling your horizontal movement and the right side dedicated to controlling jumps, attacks, ground pounds, and dashes.
Android users can download and check out the first five levels for free before the $5 paywall pops up to unlock the rest of the game. This is great because you get enough of a taste of this game to determine whether it's a good fit for you, and then you can support a great indie developer putting out top-notch games for mobile.
Oddmar is a beautiful game that plays like a living comic book. You can play through the first chapter for free and then, once you've fallen in love with it, unlock the rest of the game for $5.
The best premium Android games page 3
Mini Metro is a pure joy to play — a puzzle game based around building subway routes across an expanding city where the in-game music is set to the movement of the subway cars.
Just check out the trailer to get a sense of the flow of this game. It's a perfect game to play on your commute, and the newly-added Challenge mode will give you a reason to check in and play a quick game every day.
There are no in-app purchases or ads to distract from the simple design and addictive gameplay. Check out my full review for a more in-depth look at how great this game is.
Mini Metro is one of the most chill games you will ever play. Build the most efficient subway system that gets people where they need to go.
RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic
The RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise on mobile offers two perfect examples of game development philosophy. There's RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch which is free and features nice graphics but an unnecessary card collecting system and premium in-game currencies, and then there's RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic, a direct port of the '90s PC game that plays just as you remember complete with 95 park challenges and the only in-app purchases are for the sequels and expansions.
I spent a lot of time playing this game as a kid, and if you did too, this game will be a good dose of nostalgia. The in-game menus could have been improved given how small some of the text and buttons are and this is a game that would especially shine on a Galaxy Note with an S Pen, but I had no major issues building coasters and managing my park finances on the 5-inch screen of my Google Pixel. This is as pure a port as you'll find which means there are no in-app purchases (beyond expansion packs), delayed build times or any other free-to-play mechanics to deal with.
However, you do have to pay for this game — six bucks, which might seem steep for a port of an older PC game. But if you're an RCT fan, or interested in finding out what the hype is all about, it's well worth the money. Check out my full review if you need more convincing.
Don't waste your time with the free-to-play RollerCoaster Tycoon games. This is a complete version of the classic game that we all remember from our childhood.
Evoland 1 and 2
Evoland is one of those premium games for Android that you just won't be able to put down. The first Evoland was created as part of a game jam and was a nostalgic nod to the evolution of the RPG genre, with the sequel expanding both the depth of the story and the variety of video game and pop culture references.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Evoland game for Android and was only disappointed by how short it was. That's not the case with Evoland 2, which features well over 20 hours of gameplay.
Both games are great, but if I had to recommend just one, it would have to be the first Evoland which you can get for just $4.99.
If you're keen to learn what the Evoland franchise is all about, the best place to start is with the first game which is a short but very satisfying experience for any RPG fan.
Kudos to the game developers at 10tons Ltd out of Finland, for they have mastered the art of the twin-stick top-down shooter for Android with JYDGE.
In a futuristic world where violent cyberpunk gangs are a real problem (and the letter "U" has inexplicably been replaced with "Y") you play as the JYDGE, a cybernetic enforcement officer who uses his Gavel (see: big freaking gun) to dole out justice.
Each level features different challenges you'll need to complete to progress through the game. In that way, this game has a bit of a rogue-like element to it where you may keep replaying levels with different upgrade combinations until you complete all the medals. There's a deep upgrading system here that thankfully wasn't developed around in-app purchases. Instead, the game rewards you for completing goals, replaying levels, and ransacking enemy hideouts for loot that you can spend towards cybernetic upgrades
Frankly, about the only thing not to like about this game is the weird fixation on replacing "U" with "Y" in the title and throughout the game.
JYDGE is straight-up one of the most badass shooter games you'll find in the Google Play Store. This is a twin-stick top-down shooter that features a ton of ways to upgrade your weapons as you dole out justice with your Gavel.
Teslagrad is an indie game you may not have heard of, but it's an absolute must-play for any platforming or puzzle game fans. The game is set in the fictional city of Teslagrad, which is apart of the Kingdom of Elektropia. You play a young boy who is chased by the King's guards into the ancient Tesla Tower in the middle of town. It's there that you start to discover the long lost Teslamancer technology used by wizards to control electromagnetism in various ways. You'll be tasked with solving platforming puzzles as you go about your adventure which includes some epic boss battles.
Featuring hand-made graphics and very unique art style, Teslagrad is one of those games that needs to be experienced first hand, ideally on a device with a big and bright screen. I've been playing it on the Razer Phone and it looks absolutely gorgeous with the enhanced refresh rate and all. The animations are superfluid and the game has an uninterrupted flow to it with no ads or menus popping up as you play. I've only been playing it for a couple of hours since its launch and I can already tell it's one of the top premium games released for Android in 2018.
The touch controls are a bit unforgiving at times, and there aren't any options for tweaking the controls. My only gripe so far is that the floating directional pad can sometimes result in you accidentally running the wrong way right into a deadly trap. Fortunately, the game also supports Bluetooth controllers which is always a nice touch and is also compatible with the NVIDIA Shield TV and Android TV for a more traditional gaming experience.
Teslagrad is one of the most unique puzzle-platformer games I've had the privilege of playing on mobile. You'll love the super-fluid animations and compelling story, as long as you can master the occasionally tricky touch controls.
Which are your favorites?
In spite of all the money that can be made through micro-transactions, there are still so many great games out there with no in-app purchases. Let us know which ones you love missed our cut in the comments below!
Updated November 2019: Added Vectronom to our list!
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