We're rounding up some of our favorite strategy games on Android for the deep thinkers out there. These are more than just simple puzzles games — these require careful planning and forethought to emerge victoriously. You'll find some great replay value in games like these as well since the same strategy won't always work twice.
Strategy gamers, pop on your thinking caps and get downloading these outstanding Android games. And if you're looking for our favorite games in other genres, we have those, too.
Running a whole country is hard, but it helps when you're a dictator and can run everything just how you like it. This is Tropico in a nutshell, a game where you step into the role of El Presidente of your own Caribbean island paradise and lead your country and its people into the glorious future.
You're put in charge of managing all aspects of life and society on the island, building new roads and structures, training your citizens with schools and military bases, managing the economy by building farms and industries while setting workers' wages and negotiating export deals with other nations. That's not to mention managing the politics of the island, keeping people happy by improving the quality of life and quelling protests before they turn into full-blown rebellions.
There's a lot of strategy involved here, as you need to be sure that the structures you build are properly staffed, which might require building better schools or bringing in specialized foreign workers. You'll also get regular updates from your advisors about issues brewing around the island that often require you to choose between a benevolent approach or a more hardline response to show who's in charge.
The scope of the game is absolutely overwhelming, which is why you'll want to start with the tutorial that guides you through menu navigation and how to control the floating camera with touchscreen controls. The camera controls, in particular, take some time getting used to, but everything else is laid out sensibly enough for mobile devices so that you should gain a firm grasp of everything by the end of your first campaign.
There are 15 campaign islands to complete that give you specific goals to complete, but there's also a sandbox mode that just lets you take charge and rule your country however you see fit. This premium title includes no in-app purchases or ads and is an especially great title for fans of construction simulators.
Mindustry is a true hidden gem among the crowded tower defense games in the Google Play Store. Rather than holding your hand through preset levels, the game offers a complete and open sandbox philosophy where you're given the tools required to build up your defenses before waves of enemies give them a test. The intimidating and challenging gameplay is more robust than most mobile strategy games, and best of all, it's a free download with no ads or in-app purchases.
There's a lot of logistical thinking required to find success in Mindustry. Not only do you need to concern yourself with mining resources to build up your defenses, but you also need to maintain and protect your supply lines — conveyor belts that deliver your mined resources from the drill to your core base and defense turrets. The learning curve is quite steep when you're just starting out, but once you get a handle on the basics and start unlocking new technologies on the tech tree, Mindustry starts to open up.
The solo mode is a great place to start and practice your own strategies, but only scratches the surface of all that Mindustry has to offer. There are multiplayer modes available for custom servers or local play over LAN with the host able to fine-tune settings to tweak almost every aspect of the game. You can also create your own custom maps with the included map editor. It's an amazing game that's continued to develop and grow over the past four years while remaining free for Android gamers.
The Escapists 2: Pocket Breakout
Of all the strategy games that appear on this list, The Escapists 2 offers the player the most freedom for strategizing an epic prison escape. If you played and enjoyed The Escapists you're sure to love the sequel which has been better designed from the start for mobile with enhanced touch controls and multiplayer features added for the sequel.
Once again, The Escapists 2 is all about the thrill of a perfectly planned prison break. There are multiple ways to break out of each prison that require you to steal supplies to craft items, earn money which can then be used to bribe guards, or just craft weapons to cause a straight-up prison riot. In your downtime, you can train your prisoner in the library or gym so that you can outsmart and outrun your captors, but you'll have to be sure to keep up with the daily prison routines to avoid suspicion.
There are five prisons to escape from — starting in a basic jail and ramping up to challenging maximum security facilities — and you're able to scheme and play with friends over local multiplayer which is one of the coolest new features added to the franchise.
Holedown is a frantic puzzle game that mixes in a healthy dose of strategy. The game has you mining to the core of celestial bodies — starting with an asteroid and working your way up to the Sun — using bouncing miner balls that ricochet off of colored blocks. Each brick has a number that represents the number of hits needed to destroy it. You can let gravity do most of the work by destroying a block supporting other blocks and some are bolded in place and must be destroyed.
It's easy to pick up and play this game, but that's when the strategy comes in. 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 are spent 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.
If you're a fan of physics-based puzzle games and are looking for a new obsession, Holedown is well worth your money!
Civilization Revolution 2
Based on arguably the best strategy franchise of all time, Civilization Revolution 2 is a simplified version of Sid Meier's epic turn-based game based on world domination.
In Revolution 2, you play as an infamous world leader as you try and build an empire by increasing production, building out armies, and conquering your enemies. There are four ways to win each match: dominate your opponents by capturing their capitals, get an economic win by collecting 20,000 gold and building the World Bank, acquire 20 converted cities, wonders, or great people and build the United Nations for a cultural win, or be the first to launch a ship into space for a science win.
It lacks some of the polish of the latest Civilization games and has been optimized for mobile, but since it's a paid game you also won't have to deal with ads slowing down the flow of the game or greedy in-app purchases.
The Battle for Polytopia
If you're a fan of the Civilization franchise, you just have to check out The Battle for Polytopia. This indie game features polygon tribes battling for control of the battle arena. The game features simple turn-based gameplay that's quick and easy to pick up and play. Each turn, you collect stars based on the number and size of the cities you control, which you can spend on upgrading your tribe's technology tree, building troops, or collecting resources. You must be wise with how you spend your resources and position your troops on your turn.
There are multiple ways to play. For solo play, you can create a custom game that either ends after 30 turns or until only one tribe remains. There's also the rarely seen pass-and-play multiplayer option, which lets you set up a custom game among friends and even keep them saved so you can play the same game over time. If you aren't able to play in person with friends, the AI offers a pretty decent challenge with difficulty levels ranging from easy to "crazy". There are four tribes available to you when you download the game, with six others available via in-app purchases.
XCOM: Enemy Within
XCOM is a celebrated turn-based strategy franchise that tasks you with stopping aliens from invading earth. As an XCOM commander, you're tasked with controlling your team of troops as they set off on missions to take out aliens.
XCOM: Enemy Within is an expansion for the game XCOM: Enemy Unknown and adds a new array of abilities, upgrades, and weapons to help you counter the alien threats. It's been out for several years now but still holds up as one of the best strategy game experiences for Android. Each turn, you can control your troops and move them into position around the mission map to counter the advancing aliens. After completing missions, you'll head back to the XCOM HQ where you'll be able to upgrade your troops and unlock new abilities based on your success in the field.
XCOM: Enemy Within is a full game that's available for $10 from the Google Play Store.
Mushroom Wars 2
Mushroom Wars 2 is an award-winning real-time strategy game that has you controlling tiny armies of mushroom soldiers in online or offline battles. Available on Android, this game features beautiful graphics and gameplay that's easy to learn but challenging to master.
Your goal is total domination, which requires you to move your troops across the map, taking over strategic mushroom huts and other structures while defending against advances from your enemy. There are four Mushroom tribes to choose from with a full campaign episode available for each, but the real action begins with the online multiplayer. You'll need to keep your wits about you as you balance your troop levels, build morale, and use special skills to dominate your opponents.
Fire Emblem: Heroes
Fire Emblem: Heroes represents Nintendo's first foray into developing games for Android (ignoring the Miimoto app) and is the eighth title in the popular strategy-RPG franchise to be released on North American shores.
Heroes brings all of your favorite Fire Emblem characters together for a brand new story that pits the noble Askran Kingdom against the power-hungry Emblian Empire, which wishes to rule all worlds. You play the role of a mighty summoner who has the power to bring Fire Emblem's best heroes together to help defend the kingdom. Battle takes place in arenas where you must strategically move your Heroes around to attack and defend against your opponents.
Play through the Story Mode to unlock new game modes, including Special Maps, Arena Duels, and the Training Tower. Arena Duel is the multiplayer aspect of the game that will keep you busy beyond the single-player campaign.
You can read our full review for more.
Pandemic: The Board Game
This mobile version of the popular strategic board game of the same name that provides a real challenge whether you're playing alone or with friends. Your goal: Try to cure four contagious diseases from spreading and taking over the world.
You select your characters at the start of the game, with each character performing specific roles to help eradicate the diseases. Which characters you pick will have a big effect on your team's ultimate success. This is a pass-and-play game to play with friends, and you'll all have to work together and use your teams strategically if you want to win. There's an in-app purchase available for expansions, which improves the replayability of this addictive and challenging game.
And plus, it's quite apt given the worldwide crisis.
Vainglory is the complete package, featuring all the frantic MOBA action fans of the genre have come to expect — jump into a quick match with random teammates and opponents, create your party of friends and take on all comers, or chill offline and practice your strategies against bots. There are five hero classes, featuring a total of 25 unique heroes to unlock, upgrade, and take into battle. The touch controls are smooth and easy to pick up, so you'll be able to jump right into the heat of battle instantly. As you fight your way down the lane, there's a significant upgrade system that branches out, allowing you to react and counter your enemies more effectively.
If you're new to the MOBA genre, no worries! After introducing you to the gameplay fundamentals on first launch, Vainglory also features the Academy, an extensive tutorial section that will help you bolster your skills and abilities in the game. There's also a ton of things to unlock, live events to participate in, and a bustling online community on Twitch. Jump in!
Hearthstone is a free, turn-based card game that follows a familiar formula: players summon creature cards and cast spell cards based on the Warcraft universe to defeat online opponents.
Every one of the nine heroes has their own unique special ability as well as a sizeable batch of collectible and craftable cards. Casual online games, ranked matches, wacky weekly Tavern Brawls, and grueling Arena games appeal to varying levels of commitment, as you build your deck and your best strategies.
Hearthstone is without a doubt the king of free card games on Android. It's been around long enough to have a ton of content for newer players to discover, although there's a lot of in-app purchases for unlocking new card expansions.
If you played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, then you should already be at least somewhat familiar with Gwent. This game started off as a mini-game within The Witcher and kind of blew up from there. Featuring spectacular card art, it had a simple premise like many of these card games do. For many of us, it added several more hours to an already massive game.
Developer CD Projekt Red broke Gwent out into its own spinoff, complete with improved card art and expanded decks. And then, after quite a while, they brought it to Android and boy was I excited. It's a massive download, but I think it's well worth it. I'm not usually a fan of card games like Hearthstone, but I really enjoy Gwent.
Being free, it does contain microtransactions, but like other games that do it well, I've gone through many hours of Gwent on my phone without spending a cent. If you enjoy the world of The Witcher, whether you've read the books, played the games, or watched the Netflix show, then you'll find something to like in Gwent.
Legends of Runeterra
Rounding out our card games for this list is Legends of Runeterra, Riot Games' answer to Hearthstone. Featuring heroes from the League of Legends universe, Legends of Runeterra functions similarly to Hearthstone and Gwent. It's by no means revolutionary, but people looking to get away from the Warcraft universe into another fantasy realm should consider this one.
I'll be honest, I never played League of Legends (LoL). It never appealed to me, so I had no idea what was going on when I launched Runeterra. Even so, the tutorial is thorough enough for you to feel like you've got a grasp on how to play. Even though they're scripted events, it still feels nice when you outwit the AI.
Legends of Runeterra is also free, complete with microtransactions. Riot doesn't have the most favorable reputation out there, but Legends of Runterra shows plenty of promise as a potential Hearthstone competitor.
Star Command is a sci-fi strategy game with a retro pixel art style. Players take command of a spaceship that vaguely looks like it could have been pulled out of a Star Trek movie, and recruit a crew, upgrade facilities, and embark on intergalactic adventures that usually end in a firefight with grotesque aliens.
Battles rage between ships with different mini-games for each weapon system, or against boarding parties, where you need to move crew members into position, put out fires, and make sure your people don't get sucked out into the cold void of space when there's a hull breach. Over time, your crew increases in skills, enabling them to man the ship's various stations with increasing effectiveness.
If you're looking for a fun, light-hearted single-player experience with great writing and a lot of long-term progression, Star Command is where it's at.
Bad North is one of those unique games that comes along every so often and wows us all. The developers describe it as a real-time tactics roguelite, which suits it quite well. It's a challenging game, make no mistake, and even the win state isn't all that happy.
See, you're trying to defend on your island home from a host of Norse invaders. They'll come at you fast and brutal, ensuring that you're kept on the edge of your seat as you fight just to survive. All of this pairs nicely with the cutesy art style. It's a pretty game that lulls you into a false sense of security.
Bad North is a premium game, meaning you pay once and you're done. It's a low cost to entry, too, and you'll get plenty of enjoyment out of it. Go ahead and give it a shot, see if you can survive the Viking onslaught.
ROME: Total War
Conquer the ancient world in ROME: Total War. This game features massive turn-based battles, 19 factions to choose from, and touchscreen-optimized controls. Your goal is to conquer everything, whether you're Roman, Egyptian, Macedonian, or what have you.
There's more than just winning in the cruel, gruesome game of war; you also need to see to your civilization's political, economic, and religious affairs. There's actually three ROME: Total War games on the Play Store, so be sure to check out the Barbarian Invasion and Alexander variants if you like this one.
Ported by the excellent team over at Feral Interactive, ROME: Total War features many hours of a campaign, plus plenty of replayability.
Bloons TD 6
Bloons TD is a well-known and well-loved tower defense series that's been around for a while. You play as a bunch of monkeys defending your lands, using a variety of towers and upgrades to do so. You have 21 to choose from, all of which include three upgrade paths for you to choose from.
You also get offline play, additional difficulties, and a whole lot of fun. You have to pay five bucks up front and then deal with optional IAPs for faster and/or extra unlocks, none of which are necessary to make the game playable. While I would prefer that these weren't added to a premium title, at least the game itself isn't hindered if you don't fork over extra cash.
Card Thief is a nice hybrid between a card game and a strategy game. Stealth is the name of the game; you play a thief who must sneak their way through a deck of cards collecting treasure while avoiding detection. You can use equipment cards to assist you in your thieving ways, too, but don't get too cocky or you'll run out of sneak points and get caught.
You'll do things like extinguish torches, pickpocket guards, and other dastardly shenanigans. Card Thief features daily challenges and deep strategies, and a nice progression system that lets you upgrade equipment cards as you pull off heists. There's a bit of steep learning curve involved here, but it's a rewarding game for fans of strategy card games.
Hello Neighbor is a stealth horror puzzle/strategy game. Basically, you're a snoopy neighbor who's spying on a fellow neighborhood resident. Said person is up to something and you're determined to find out what he's hiding in his basement. You'll be breaking into his house over and over, but he learns your patterns each time and sets up defenses to counter you. So you'll have to come up with a new strategy by circumventing what he's established.
This game will run you a pretty penny, but I think it's worth it if you want a strategy/puzzle game with horror elements. It's definitely a weird premise, I'll admit, but I think it's pretty fun. It's free to install and try, but then you'll be asked to fork over the $15 to unlock the full experience.
Chess by AI Factory Limited
Chess is a timeless classic and AI Factory Limited's version is our favorite app-based version. It's simple enough to draw in all kinds of players, yet it still has plenty of features to keep people of all skill levels interested and invested.
There are two versions: free ad-supported and paid, ad-free (with some additional features like five extra boards). AI Factory Limited has made a name for itself recreating classic board games for Android and we've featured it on some of our other lists.
You have 12 levels of play (from Novice to Expert) and a choice between Casual and Pro modes. There's a built-in tutor, insight into the CPU thought process, stats, achievements, leaderboards, and ELO ratings. That's not even everything included here, but if you want chess on your Android device, this is the one we recommend.
Heroes of Flatlandia
Turn-based games have captured the hearts of many throughout the decades and it's a paradigm that's perfect for a strategy game. Such is the tale with Heroes of Flatlandia, where you choose your hero, raise your army, and face off against your enemies in fierce battles.
You get to choose between eight different heroes and utilize 30 different unit types across four races. The game looks great, even if it might not have enough hardcore strategy for some fans of the genre. Still, it's a fun time with tactics for a couple of bucks. There's also local multiplayer if you're interested in that.
Updated December 2020: Added Chess by AI Factory Limited and Heroes of Flatlandia to our list!