Professional and/or competitive shooter games are fast becoming a sustainable industry trend for mobile gaming. Both game development and smartphone hardware reaching the point where phones can absolutely deliver top-notch gaming experiences — even for first-person shooters.
This still probably sounds like crazy talk to traditional PC gamers but the fact is mobile shooters have cut out a nice niche within the pro-gaming community — franchises such as PUBG Mobile and Guns of Boom have competitive esports leagues that can be advantageous to people who love to stream or try playing for cash in a tournament. Just like other online games for console or PC, mobile games reward teams who can practice and train together — or you can just jump into the game and have some fun on your phone.
And if you're looking for something a bit less violent, check out our favorite Android games of 2020!
Call of Duty: Mobile
Call of Duty is one of the most popular selling game franchises of all time, so it was only a matter of time before a proper mobile version of the game was released by publisher Activision. CoD Mobile offers several ways to jump into multiplayer action with friends or strangers. Each multiplayer match type is 5-on-5 and the parameters are slightly different depending on the mode you choose:
- Team Deathmatch is pretty standard fare with random respawn points and each team racing to get to 50 kills (40 if you're playing a ranked match)
- Frontline is similar to Team Deathmatch except each team's respawn point is fixed on either side of the map.
- Domination adds in capture points that each team must secure and hold to earn points. The first team to reach the score limit wins.
- Search and Destroy is a tactical mode with no respawns that is played over several rounds. One team is tasked with destroying an objective while the other team plays defense.
All those modes are available to play in unranked matches, while only Team Deathmatch is available to start for ranked matches. Ranked Domination and Search and Destroy modes are only unlocked as you move up the rankings ladder.
If that wasn't enough, there's also a 100-player Battle Royale mode that you can play in first-person or third-person view in solo, duo, or 4-person team modes. Battle Royale mode also introduces a class system that gives your player a special ability to assist your team on the battlefield. Finally, there's Warfare mode, a 20v20 match on the Battle Royale map with respawns that straight up kicks ass and leads to an all-out war as both teams race to reach 150 kills first.
Call of Duty: Mobile is another free-to-play game that is buoyed by a Battle Pass system that encourages you to buy in-app currency to spend on a premium battle pass for more rewards or even more cash on cosmetic skins for your character and weapons. The good news is that you don't need to pay any attention to the in-app purchases to enjoy the game, but they're there for those who care.
It's incredible how well PUBG Mobile plays on Android. The main attraction is the massive PvP Battle Royale mode that pits 100 players against each other on a massive island loaded with weapons, ammo, tactical gear, and vehicles. 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.
Tencent Games continues to add new content to the game every couple of months with new maps or different arcade modes added over the years to add a depth of gameplay that is unlike other free-to-play games. Of course, there's a tiered progression ladder with a free game pass and a premium one that offers more cosmetic rewards. Every six to eight weeks, the game pass resets to introduce a new season that typically introduces new premium cosmetics rewards to unlock and collect.
For players looking for a more competitive experience, you can join or custom-create a clan where you can team up and practice your tactical strategies. Due to its global popularity, PUBG Mobile has developed a bustling eSports community. Think you've got the goods? You can try out for a competitive team and start competing in privately-run tournaments, and then assemble your best squad and enter the PUBG Mobile Club Open.
PUBG Mobile manages to deliver a deep, well-rounded and varied gaming experience with graphics, controls, and game performance scaled down perfectly for play on mobile devices. There's just so much to enjoy here without having to participate in the in-game economy or premium game passes. In fact, I've almost given up playing the core Battle Royale mode because some of the Team Deathmatch and zombie modes are so dang fun to play all on their own.
Critical Ops is one of the best first-person shooters available for Android. It offers three game modes to choose from: bomb defusing, team deathmatch, and gun game where you cycle through different weapons every time you kill an opponent. Boasting over one million active daily players, you'll always be able to jump into a match with little to no wait time.
It's kind of got that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare vibe to it, mixed with a healthy dose of CounterStrike to create a best-of-both-worlds scenario that offers great graphics and really solid controls. It's free to play with in-app purchases available, but you can only buy skins for your guns and the developers have assured players that this game will never be pay-to-win.
I appreciate the simplified menus and how quickly you can jump into a match here. The action is always fast-paced and intense, making Critical Ops one of my go-to shooters when I've got a couple of minutes to kill.
Modern Strike Online
Not interested in anything other than the thrill of online multiplayer? Modern Strike Online offers just that: a pure online FPS experience packed with features and game modes we've come to expect from the genre. Once you've leveled up some, you unlock all seven available game modes, which include the standard fare you'd expect — free-for-all, team deathmatch, seek and destroy, and a hardcore mode.
In-game currency can be bought via in-app purchases or earned via daily rewards, crates and generally kicking ass. Spend your gold and credits on new weapons, armor, and accessories for your character. There's a decent amount of customization available for kitting, with over 30 types of weapons available to rent or buy.
It's as complete an FPS as you'll find on Android. You'll want to head into the settings first to customize your controls and screen layout and tweak the graphics quality to optimize gameplay on your device. By default, your gun will auto-fire as soon as an enemy enters your crosshairs — you can switch this off in the settings, but it's a pretty handy feature to have when you're already using your thumbs to move and look around. Yes, there's the occasional in-game ad and constant pressure to invest real cash, as is the case with most mobile games these days, but it's not terribly invasive and there's plenty of fun and loot to be had relying on the free crates and daily rewards.
Guns of Boom
Guns of Boom is a bright and colorful cartoony first-person shooter that doesn't take itself too seriously while still delivering one of the purest competitive online shooter games for Android. The game gets all the basics right that you want from a good FPS — quick and responsive controls that are customizable, well-designed maps and weapons that allow for adaptive gameplay, and a healthy community of players.
Matches are 4v4 deathmatches which take place in vibrant and colorful maps that allow for a mix of rush assaults, close-quarters combat, and long-range sniping. One of Guns of Boom's biggest strengths is how easy it is to load up the app and jump right into the game. Alternatively, you can spend time in the menus connecting with friends or organizing with a clan, or dive into the Arsenal to buy and upgrade new weapons and health kits using in-game cash and gold.
To that end, Guns of Boom may give you the feeling that it's pay-to-win and that might be the case once you get up to around Level 30 with the hardcore players who've maybe invested $100 or more into the game. But the game is super generous with cash and powerups if you're diligent about completing all your daily challenges
For those who prefer third-person view over first-person, there's Battle Prime: a methodical multiplayer shooter that offers a refreshing change of pace from the other games on this list.
Battle Prime features eight Prime Agents to unlock and play as, each with their own super-powered abilities that aim to give you an edge against your opponents on the battlefield. The graphics are top-notch and while there's only a handful of maps and game modes to play (which are randomly selected for you every time you play), the core gameplay manages to feel fresh.
There's a great amount of team play and strategy involved here, as the map relays the position of enemies in the sight of your teammates, marking them with a red triangle. This allows you to rush in to offer support for a teammate and can allow you to sneak around and flank enemies — just keep in mind that the other team can do the same right back at you.
The only downside is that Battle Prime offers a premium subscription to unlock more characters, and the cost is incredibly steep. Subscriptions range from $5 a week to the long-term 6-month subscription, yours for just under $80. Those are steep prices to pay but might be worth the investment if Battle Prime ends up being your favorite shooter.
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 over and over again, 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 our full review if you need more convincing.
Hitman: Sniper finds you, Agent 47, stationed with a sniper rifle outside an estate filled with rich people, bodyguards, and a certain high-priority target. Your job is to take your time, plan a course of action, and begin removing enemies any way you see fit (as long as it's through a scope). Each mission has different objectives you can complete for extra money, which you can then spend on weapon upgrades and new sniper rifles. If you're especially proud of a mission, use the Share Replay function to share gameplay footage with your friends.
This game has nice graphics and great mechanics: you must lead enemies who are on the move and must account for their sometimes unforeseen actions. They will not shoot back but will take cover and move around the map attempting to help your prime target escape. Controls are easy and responsive, meaning you won't have too much trouble lining up the shot. The music is great, especially when you miss a couple of shots and set off some alarms, and the voice acting is also above par for mobile games. Get your heart beating with this great shooter, and enjoy no ads or in-app purchases.
This 5v5 top-down shooter is simply a blast to play with a real-time physics engine that makes every match unique and offers you multiple ways you to go about attacking your enemy.
Developed by Finnish-Russian studio Panzerdog, Tacticool takes a ruthless approach to 5v5 tactical multiplayer by letting the battle unfold however players want on a destructible battlefield built with real-time physics and vehicles available to drive at your leisure. Delivered in three-minute matches, Tacticool does a great job of delivering fast and frantic action that gives the player more freedom in the game than most shooter games I've playtested for Android.
Now, for all the praise Tacticool deserves for its unmatched gameplay, the game is not without usual warts found on free-to-play titles. The weapon upgrade system heavily rewards those who spend real money in the game — and it's not too long before you'll start playing against some players who have clearly invested some cash. It's not that anyone I've come across has bought enough upgrades to become godlike, but it certainly takes a heck of a lot more cunning and strategy to take out a paid player.
Modern Combat 5: eSports FPS
Originally released as Modern Combat 5 Blackout, this trend-setting first-person shooter for Android has been re-branded to take advantage of the eSports movement. Now, I'd love to be proven wrong but I'm pretty sure it's never going to take off as a prominent eSports game. Having said that, it's still a solid mobile FPS with dazzling graphics and options to play through the solo campaign or take it online — and you can get an edge on your competition with a proper controller in your hand.
It's clear that this game was trying to rub some shine off of the Call of Duty franchise when it was first released. Now that Call of Duty has a proper release, gamers might feel like there's less incentive to play this legacy mobile shooter, but if you've never checked out Modern Combat 5, it's still well worth your time.
Overkill 3 is a third-person shooter that guides you through the level, also known as being on rails. Your job is to aim and shoot bad guys. Sounds easy? Overkill lets you choose a difficulty before each boss fight, meaning your recent disposal of entry-position bad guys has no bearing on what is to come.
Choose a loadout from the armory before each mission and unlock new weapons and gear as you progress through the game. You must collect stars by completing specific objectives during each mission — the stars are used to unlock more missions. A tally at the end of each level keeps track of your progress, so you'll never be unsure of where you stand.
Graphics are not as great as other shooters, but Overkill 3 features a co-op mode that lets you team up with a friend or random player to crush the enemy. Ads are few and far between, but there are many in-app purchases.
Unkilled is another very polished first-person shooter that fully supports Bluetooth controllers and offers over 150 missions in the single-player campaign, along with multiple online multiplayer modes to choose from. For online play, you get to choose your preferred character class, and then upgrade your skills and weapon load-outs with points you collect as you play.
You're best off using the Bluetooth controller as it gives you a distinct advantage against the AI zombies as well as your online opponents. Simply sync your controller with your phone and it'll automatically work when you load up the game.
Dead Trigger 2
Dead Trigger 2 continues to be the quintessential zombie-shooting experience on mobile. The graphics are amazing, though the game hardly takes itself seriously — there are lots of tongue-in-cheek references and over-the-top baddies to mow down. This version is a little different in that players now have their own hideout and a crew that can build stuff for them.
The controls have also been streamlined for touch; all you have to do is move the crosshairs over a zombie, and if you're in range, you'll automatically start shooting. There are tons of missions to enjoy, and the in-app purchases have been scaled back with the removal of the premium currency — now you can buy and build everything yourself without spending a cent.
Dead Plague is an outstanding top-down shooter that absolutely deserves a place on this list for its brilliant graphics, frantic gameplay, and support for online co-op play. You play as a member of a strike team that's been dropped on an island where a zombie plague has broken out. You must fight your way through the swarms of zombies to find the DNA samples that are humanity's only hope of finding a cure.
There's a nice variety of enemies to battle, including some epic boss battles, along with a full arsenal of weapons to choose from. With tight dual-stick digital controls and an engaging campaign that you can play alone or online with friends, Dead Plague stands out as one of the best shooters for Android.
One of the most popular games in the world came out for Android a while ago and, after a brief stint on the Play Store, it became the center of a legal battle. Luckily, it's still available outside of Google's storefront if you want to play it. Samsung users can install the Epic Games app directly from the Galaxy Store. If you have another Android device, you can grab the file directly from Epic, which will be linked below. You will then need to sideload the Epic Games app in order to play it.
Fortnite pits you and 99 other players against each other with the goal to be the last individual or team standing. The map is huge, but it slowly shrinks over time to force people closer together. Conflict, mayhem, and death ensue as you are put between a rock and a hard place (sometimes literally) to survive. This is the full version of the game, too, not a mobile spin-off, so you get access to all updates and goodies when they happen. You can then make progress on your battle pass wherever you are.
Besides being popular due to its low (read: free) cost to entry and ease of accessibility for all kinds of players, Fortnite is infamous for its microtransactions. This game popularized the battle pass system, a split between a free (and much less rewarding) tier and a paid tier of progression throughout a given season. There's also cosmetics to buy, so you won't run out of ways to give Epic more money. Love it or hate it, Fortnite is a juggernaut and should be at least respected on that basis alone.
Long-time mobile gamers will recognize the N.O.V.A. name. It pushed the boundaries of what a mobile FPS could be back in its day and it turned into a pretty good series. Well, now the OG is back with N.O.V.A. Legacy, a game inspired by the first episode.
Legacy features a full campaign, multiplayer, weapon crafting, and more. It's definitely good for killing a few hours and the controls are pretty decent, I'd say. I like it for the nostalgia, even if there are better shooters on this list. Of course, Legacy is a Gameloft game, so it's supported by in-app purchases.
Infinity Ops is the only game on this list that meaningfully pulled me away from CoD Mobile. This multiplayer shooter is more than just its awesome sci-fi aesthetic. There are a few different classes to choose from, each with their abilities and strengths.
The robust social features are great for people who appreciate that sort of thing. There are even clans! Infinity Ops contains a wide variety of weapons to choose from, depending on how you like to play. Each environment is different, too, some with differing levels of gravity to add a new element to the game flow.
While playing Infinity Ops, it felt like Bright Memory meets Destiny 2 PvP (minus the space wizard, god-slayer stuff), so if that sounds interesting to you, then I highly suggest you check out Infinity Ops. It's free-to-play, with microtransactions going toward new weapons and gear. Did I mention that the game has jetpacks and giant mechs??
Shadowgun War Games
I highly doubt we'll ever see an Overwatch Mobile, but that hasn't stopped other developers from giving the idea a shot. Meet Shadowgun War Games, a hero 5v5 PvP first-person shooter. And you know what? It's actually really fun.
The main highlight of Shadowgun War Games is the roster of heroes, each with their own abilities, counters, strengths, and weaknesses. As you might expect, there are plenty of cosmetics for each character, but that's what you'd expect in a free-to-play FPS.
You can choose between Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch. The game also features text and voice chat to make team communications easier (or more annoying, depending on the luck of your draw). Developer Madfinger is committed to updating the game regularly with balance patches, new heroes, events, and of course, cosmetics. Overall though, I like Shadowgun War Games, even though I dropped off the hero shooter bandwagon a long time ago.
Sky Force Reloaded
Sky Force has had some ups and downs in its time, but Reloaded is the best it's been despite being a few years old. It offers a lot of progression to keep you busy and gorgeous visuals to make sure you stay interested. Controls are super smooth and gameplay waxes and wanes so you're not constantly on edge.
If you've never played a bullet hell game, then Sky Force Reloaded is a great place to start. Bullet hells are basically what the name suggests: a hellish storm of bullets and other projectiles on screen that you have to navigate through to survive. Sky Force Reloaded doesn't offer a truly hardcore bullet hell experience — it's more of a shoot-'em-up (shmup) — but I think it's a good way for newbies to get their feet wet.
That's not to say that you can't enjoy Sky Force Reloaded if you're a battle-hardened bullet hell or shmup veteran. It has a lot of nuance and it requires plenty of skill. There's a lot of mastery involved and everyone can find a lot to enjoy.
Bullet Hell Monday
If you tried Sky Force Reloaded and liked the chaos, then the next step is to try a real bullet hell. I give you the Bullet Hell Monday trilogy, a trio of absolutely fantastic games that are just plain awesome. You can lose hours upon hours in this trilogy, gaining more and more skill through a trial by fire.
Beyond bullet hell fans, this trilogy can appeal to nostalgia fans with its arcade-y look and feel. From the bright colors to the epic soundtrack and simple controls, Bullet Hell Monday is the throwback you've been looking for. These games practically redefine chaos, pushing you to achieve that perfect score.
All three games are free with ads, although you can opt out of the ads at the cost of losing some in-game points. You can also purchase multiple upgrade paths outside of earning them in-game. So, despite some iffy monetization, all three Bullet Hell Mondays are worth it if you need more bullet hell in your life and, let's face it, a lot of us do.
Dead Effect 2
Dead Effect 2 is a gruesome first-person shooter set in a dark, gritty, and somewhat horrifying nightmare. It features some RPG-lite mechanics (including character personality), controller support, plenty of weapon and implant upgrades to chase, a long campaign with side missions, and more.
This game isn't for the faint of heart, with you shooting or cutting your enemies into gory pieces. As such, player discretion is advised. That being said, Dead Effect 2 is a high-quality game that looks fantastic. And there's even a katana! There's also some freemium nonsense, like grinding to upgrade your weapons. Still, it's a fun shooter.
Afterpulse is a competitive third-person shooter and a worthy challenger to Call of Duty: Mobile's crown. It looks good, plays well, and has plenty of weapon options to choose from. The developers are constantly working to improve the game and add features that the community wants, too.
There are a variety of game modes, maps, weapons, and optimization options. If you feel like spending some real-world cash, you can buy skins if you'd like. Afterpulse isn't lacking in the skin department.
Update December 2020: Added Dead Effect 2 and Afterpulse to our list!