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Best premium Android games 2022

Muse Dash Hero
Muse Dash Hero (Image credit: Rachel Mogan / Android Central)

There's something refreshing and low-stress about playing mobile games that aren't designed solely to get you to spend a boatload of cash on in-app purchases. Honestly, I can say a lot for spending a couple of dollars upfront to get an entire game that you can enjoy from beginning to end without sitting through ads, being hounded to buy coins or gems, having to open crates, card packs, or whatever.

I'll spare you the soapbox rant. Instead, we've gone through the Play Store and picked out a few games that cost a bit upfront but are worth every penny. So here are the best Android games without those pesky IAPs!

The Banner Saga

The Banner Saga is a character-driven tactical RPG set in a Norse-like setting. Your choices truly matter in this game and its sequels. It feels a bit like a Norse version of Fire Emblem — at least, that's the vibe I got when I was playing.

I adore the art style, from the character design to the breathtaking vistas. This isn't "baby's first tactical RPG," either. It's pretty intense and requires every ounce of strategy you have. It earns the "tactical" moniker. But, again, your choices matter, from how you approach battles to how you interact with the cast of characters.

I highly recommend both The Banner Saga and The Banner Saga 2. Yes, they're $10 each, but if you're a fan of tactical RPGs, then you should give them a try. However, even if you've never played a tactical RPG before, The Banner Saga is a great place to start. The story is moving, the characters are excellently written, and the game itself is gorgeous.

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The Banner Saga

Embark on an epic journey in The Banner Saga, a Norse-inspired fantasy adventure. Save your people and engage in the tactical combat that will require your best strategies.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Castlevania Symphony Of The Night

(Image credit: Source: Google Play Store)

You could have knocked me over with a feather when this game dropped on the Play Store out of the blue and with no fanfare. However, Symphony of the Night is a classic game from the 90s and, along with Super Metroid, defined a whole genre dubbed "Metroidvanias," which we still see today.

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 hop in.

This version of Symphony of the Night is excellent and well worth the few dollars it costs. I love seeing old classics ported to modern systems to let younger gamers (or those who never had the chance to experience them in the games' heydays) try them out. If you want a good platformer, Symphony of the Night is a must for your Play library.

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

There's a lot of hubbub around the mobile release of Symphony of the Night for good reason. A lot more people can now experience this fantastic game in its revised glory.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Dead Cells

Dead Cells is one of the best indie games of the last decade. This rogue-like Metroidvania with Souls elements is truly a gaming masterpiece, and it finally came to Android with an excellent port. Everything about this game works so well together that it's hard to find true fault with it. I guess some might dislike the intense challenge, but that's subjective.

There's the choice between Bluetooth controllers (the best way to play) and excellent touchscreen controls. The port is excellently done. I haven't encountered any issues, hiccups, or bugs in many hours of play. The art style, including player and enemy designs, is something you can write home about.

Being a rogue-like, death is permanent. If you fail, you'll start over in your cell and be forced to begin anew. Things won't be the same when you head back out, though, so you have to be prepared for each run. There's a lot of different loot to make other builds, but if you die, you lose everything. Don't let that deter you, though.

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Dead Cells

The amazing Dead Cells has come to Android, and it's fantastic. This is one of the best games available on the Play Store right now.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Evoland 1 & 2

Evoland is one of those premium games for Android that you just won't be able to put down. The first Evoland (opens in new tab) was created as 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. However, 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 $3. However, let it be known that Play Pass subscribers can get both games for free!

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Evoland I & II

If you're keen to learn what the Evoland franchise is all about, the best place to start is with the first game, a short but satisfying experience for any RPG fan.

Buy Evoland 1 from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Buy Evoland 2 from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Final Fantasy VIII

Talk about a premium game. Final Fantasy VIII is pushing the upper edges of premium mobile gaming at a whopping $21. But in its defense, you get a whole lot of game for that kind of dough. A massive JRPG (the main story alone will take you close to 40+ hours to complete), Final Fantasy VIII is a divisive entry in the long line of Final Fantasy games. It breaks dramatically with the standard JRPG format in a couple of big ways, so keep an open mind when you're approaching this unique title.

FFVIII follows protagonist Squall and his motley crew on an epic quest across time and space to save the world. So your typical Final Fantasy plot, more or less. What makes FFVIII special is that it takes some novel turns with its character development, and the story is ultimately truly bananas. For me, it's not a true Final Fantasy game if the end game isn't completely insane and VIII really delivers on that front.

This particular JRPG isn't for everyone, but if you're bored of the standard JRPG mechanics, give Final Fantasy VIII a try! It's bound to surprise you.

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Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII is wild in almost every way. The story is wild, the gameplay is wild, and the vibe is wild. If you're bored of other JRPGs, give this unique JRPG a try.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Grimvalor

Grimvalor is a side-scrolling action RPG that features tight controls, excellent movement abilities, an interesting albeit familiar story, and pretty graphics. You need to be tactical about how you approach enemies and level up your character. There's plenty to explore, too, with secrets hidden throughout the map. Think Castlevania meets Dark Souls, and you've got a pretty good picture of Grimvalor.

It does have a soft paywall, meaning that you can try out the game for free and then pay to unlock the rest if you've enjoyed what you've played. You start with very simplistic controls — three buttons for jump, attack, and dash — and the game layers on new ways to attack as you progress and level up your character.

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Grimvalor

Grimvalor fills that action RPG itch while being a fun platformer. Enjoy the excellent combat and exploration. You even get a trial demo before purchasing.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Grand Theft Auto franchise

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 quite a few great GTA titles for you to choose from, and you really can't go wrong with any of them. You've got Liberty City Stories (opens in new tab), Vice City (opens in new tab), GTA III (opens in new tab), and Chinatown Wars (opens in new tab) 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 without any in-app purchase schemes in place. What with Rockstar milking GTA Online for all it's worth with microtransactions on console and PC, it's totally worth it to go back and revisit these classic games on your phone. There's 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.

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Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

There are many GTA titles to choose from in the Play Store, but we'll recommend Vice City here because let's face it, the 80s are still totally back, baby. 

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

JYDGE

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. I prefer the predecessor to this, Neon Chrome, but I have to admit that the developers really hit their stride 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 on cybernetic upgrades. Frankly, 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.

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JYDGE

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 many ways to upgrade your weapons as you dole out justice with your Gavel.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Monument Valley 1 & 2

Monument Valley 1 and 2 are practically ubiquitous in the mobile gaming scene by now. With over two hundred and thirty thousand reviews, with an average of a whopping 4.8 stars, Monument Valley is doing something very right, and it's not hard to see the appeal of these gorgeous puzzlers.

Boasting a stunning geometric art style, lovely color palettes, and whimsical architectural designs, Monument Valley is as good for firing up your creativity as it is for challenging your critical thinking skills. Your goal in the first entry is to guide a silent princess, Ida, through maze-like, mysterious monuments while also staying one step ahead of the Crow People. The second game is similar but features a mother-daughter duo for you to assist as they continue to explore the mysteries of this seemingly impossible realm.

At $4 and $5, respectively, Monument Valley 1 and 2 are equally considered must-haves for every mobile gamer. These are the kinds of games that must be seen and experienced to be believed, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

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Monument Valley 1 & 2

Considered to be one of the best puzzle games around, Monument Valley forces you to think outside of the box to reach your goal.

Buy Monument Valley 1 from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Buy Monument Valley 2 from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Muse Dash

There are two rhythm games in this world that consistently keep me coming back for more: Cytus II and, more recently, Muse Dash. The short and sweet rundown is that Muse Dash absolutely rules. I love Muse Dash so much, I own it on both mobile and PC. A 2D side-scrolling rhythm game with simple two-tap controls (your left and right thumbs respectively), Muse Dash features gorgeous, bouncy graphics, cute characters to unlock, and loads of amazing songs.

Progression is fast and you're likely to level up every few songs, which in turn unlocks more songs. The various difficulty levels help ease you into things before you start trying to tackle the truly punishing difficulties. The learning curve can be STEEP at times, but with practice all things are possible. 

A couple of warnings, some of Muse Dash's risque content may not suitable for young audiences and the mobile version's audio may be a little off at times. Thankfully, the option to manually offset audio effects to match them up better is built right in, but it can still be a tad annoying at times.

Also, Muse Dash is a beast at 1.62 GB before you purchase any of the DLC tracks. The base game will cost you $2.99 (there's a small discount for Play Pass subscribers), but the additional DLC purchases are what makes this game truly premium. You can wind up spending quite a chunk of change if you want to unlock every song pack, but diehard rhythm fans will probably happily fork over the cash for more of this excellent game.

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Muse Dash

All the EDM rhythm gaming you could ever want with simple two-tap controls and adorable characters. What more could you want?

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Oxenfree

A group of brave teens roll up on an island outside of town for typical teen weekend shenanigans. But what they'll soon find out is that Edwards Island, a decommissioned military outpost, is hiding more secrets than they could have ever imagined. This text-based adventure game, Oxenfree, puts you in charge of Alex, and her decisions during the narrative affect her friends, the world around her, and the ending.

A point-and-click adventure with some light exploration aspects, Oxenfree is the perfect game to play on a dark and scary night. It's moody, atmospheric, and just the right amount of creepy. It even got me to jump a few times while playing and builds some excellent tension through its character interactions and backstory. 

It also has great replay value, as most players will tell you that you have to play through the game twice to truly uncover the real mystery hiding at the center of the game.

Oxenfree is premium priced for premium quality at just $4.99, which is a steal considering how memorable this one is. It's getting a sequel for good reason, and now that I've played the first one, I cannot wait for the second one to come out.

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Oxenfree

A narrative-driven adventure game, Oxenfree follows a group of teens trapped on one seriously haunted island. Stick together and choose your path carefully to make it to dawn.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is one of the most celebrated indie gaming releases in recent years, and the entire game has been optimized to play on Android. If you've never heard of or played Stardew Valley before, it's 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 undoubtedly 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 level up your character's skills with different tools by going fishing or foraging in the woods. You can also 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 accomplish and monster-infested mines to explore.

It lacks the multiplayer of the PC version, but it's such a good port that I doubt most of you will notice. And, of course, there are no ads or in-app purchases to distract you from the game.

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Stardew Valley

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.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

You had to know that this was coming. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, better known as KOTOR, is considered by many to be one of the best RPGs ever made and certainly one of the better Star Wars games. I definitely prefer the sequel, KOTOR 2, but that's neither here nor there (don't yell at me).

Casual Star Wars fans may not be familiar with the Old Republic timeline. It's set thousands of years before the prequel trilogy of films. It represented a stronger conflict between the Jedi and Sith, shirking George Lucas's black and white morality. The story of KOTOR is very well-written and is sure to delight any Star Wars fan.

Despite the game's age, I don't want to spoil anything for you. The port is exceptionally well-done, with excellent touchscreen controls, a revamped mobile-friendly UI (the old UI hasn't aged well), gamepad support, and achievements, Do yourself a favor and pick this up!

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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

KOTOR is a classic RPG and considered one of the best of all time — it's now reimagined for mobile. It's well worth the asking price to get a fantastic story and excellent gameplay.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Thumper: Pocket Edition

Say you like rhythm games and psychedelic experiences, but have you ever tried combining the two? Doing so gets you Thumper, a game hailed as "rhythm violence" by its developers. It combines skull-pounding beats with an aggressive track to navigate and strange, often Eldtrich-inspired, visuals.

You're a space beetle, hurtling forward, trying to destroy a floating head. It sounds weird, especially when you lump in the quasi-horror elements and the blind trust in your reflexes to see you through to the end. However, Thumper is firing on all cylinders, and it's practically a euphoric experience.

We can't forget about the soundtrack. It's awesome. It's worth experiencing the game for it alone. There are nine levels for you to enjoy, plus a new game+ mode that increases the challenge and speed. The developers do warn that wireless headphones add significant audio latency, so use your phone's or tablet's speakers or wired headphones if you can.

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Thumper: Pocket Edition

Hurtle forward at blistering speed as you take on the role of a space beetle. Enjoy the gorgeous design, excellent soundtrack, and addicting gameplay while you're at it.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Vampire: The Masquerade - Night Road

Vampire: The Masquerade - Night Road is a text adventure told in second-person. You have many choices to make, all of which affect the game in different ways. The writing is excellent, and this game is quite large. If you don't like reading, then you're out of luck with this game. It's a solo tabletop session as you read through the story and make choices.

The developer says this game contains 650,000 words, which is staggeringly huge. You can try out the game for free with ads, or you can pay 10 bucks to unlock the full experience (which includes the conclusion). You also have to fork over a single dollar if you want to play as a Tremere or Caitiff.

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Vampire: The Masquerade - Night Road

This epic text-based adventure/RPG is perfect for fans of Vampire: The Masquerade, who are anxiously awaiting the release of Bloodlines 2. Each choice you make will have some impact in Night Road, and there's tons of replayability, too.

Buy from: Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Better mobile gaming IS possible

I recommend great games to friends, family, and strangers all the time, but as soon as I mention that a game costs a couple bucks, the all-too-common reaction is a "Thanks, but no thanks", which is a crying shame. The majority of the games on this list cost less than a fast food combo meal, which begs the question, "Why not spend a couple dollars for a vastly superior experience?"

Sure, everybody loves getting stuff for free, but when it comes to mobile gaming, we know that free is never truly free (except in a few very rare exceptions). And personally, I would much rather fork over some cash to be able to play top-tier games without any ads or in-app purchases. 

Does that make me crazy? I would argue that it makes me the sanest person in the room. 

Rachel Mogan
Mobile Games Writer

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. 

With contributions from