Gaming with Second Screen apps

You might have mixed feelings about constantly checking your phone or tablet while watching a TV show or enjoying a movie, but gamers the world over keep their devices nearby no matter what. It doesn't matter if you are Team Xbox, PlayStation all the way, faithful to the Miiverse, or a member of the PC Gaming Master Race — Android has a place in your gaming setup. Second Screen apps for gaming have become a huge deal over the last year, especially when Microsoft and Sony went as far as releasing fantastic mobile apps for controlling their consoles.

Since most games require a constant focus and usually put a premium on occupying both hands, the purpose of Second Screen apps for gaming varies wildly by game. The one thing they all have in common, however, is the desire to keep you connected to your game even when you aren't playing.

No clue what a Second Screen app is? Check out the beginning of our series here.

PlayStation App

The first place every console gamer should stop for Second Screen goodness is the apps associated with the actual console. The PlayStation App and Xbox SmartGlass are fantastic experiences for getting more out of the actual console. Sending and receiving messages, launching apps, checking out recorded clips from your previous sessions, and shopping for content are all part of the experience, and the ability to do these things while playing a game can be a big deal. Setting up a party while completing a mission, starting the download for a game your friend has recommended during a raid so it's ready to play when you're finished, and sharing that flawless sidestep headshot while bragging in the lobby while the next match loads are all conveniences afforded by the Second Screen experiences offered by Sony and Microsoft.

Nintendo Second Screen

The biggest platform where third-party developers have been a big deal is with Nintendo's Wii U. While I could write another 10,000 words here about how strangely backwards Nintendo is when it comes to the Internet, we'll stick to apps for this post. There are no official apps for any of Nintendo's properties, even though they offer a great social network (Miiverse) that is basically built for the kind of constant connection offered by a mobile device, to say nothing of the many great games that could benefit from decent Second Screen experiences. Fortunately for Nintendo fans, developers have stepped up a bit. While you can use Miiverse on your web browser, the container in Google Play makes things a little easier to manage. You'll also find apps like SmashDex (opens in new tab) for Super Smash Bros and Configure MK8 (opens in new tab) for Mario Kart 8, which are great for filling in the gaps and helping players put together the best possible characters. It'd still be nice to see some effort from Nintendo on this front, but for the most part third party devs have it under control.

Just about every major game released in the last year has a Second Screen app, either made by the game publisher or by an third party. In some cases, depending on what is provided in the core Second Screen app, you get both. It usually depends on the kind of information available to third-party developers, but in many cases you'll see the two categories of apps serving very different purposes. The best current example of this is Destiny. The Destiny Android app (opens in new tab) is filled with tons of great information, and it looks decent in the process. You can keep an eye on Guardian stats, drill down on your performance in previous encounters, and check in on news from the creators. What you don't see in this app is a schedule of skirmish events, and that's where third party developers have stepped in (opens in new tab). Keeping an app open with a timer for the events in the different areas you are completing objectives in makes all the difference in the world, unless you're a fan of grinding for the sake of grinding.

Xbox SmartGlass

If you've never given Second Screen apps a shot with your game of choice, it's worth a shot. Whether you'd like a crafting table guide (opens in new tab) for your next Minecraft session, a DPS calculator (opens in new tab) to optimize your Diablo 3 character, or you want to keep an eye on your skill tree (opens in new tab) in Borderlands 2, there are Second Screen apps out there for you. There are even Second Screen apps out there that are so feature complete that a second player could sit beside you and play wingman, but we'll save that for another day. For now, go play some games and let us know in the comments which Second Screen gaming app is your favorite.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

  • I think PC Master Race is offensive. I play PC games but would never associate myself with Nazism. All that aside, what apps are available for PC that anyone might recommend? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Everything is offensive, isn't it? What a terribly offensive world we live in. Goodness, you know -- one ought to simply avoid human contact entirely, lest we take the risk of "offending" someone! Mein Gott im himmel! And just so you know, it has nothing to do with associating yourself with Nazis. I'm not sure what to tell you if that's honestly your understanding of the phrase. But if you're determined that it does anyway, allow me to illustrate that you probably "associate" with Nazis (which offends me, greatly, by the way): Do you believe in animal conservation and hunting seasons, to avoid extinction? Nazis set that up! We have hunting seasons and conservation laws, thanks in part to the Nazis. Sehr lecker! Do you support the ban of smoking in restaurants and you're okay with anti-smoking advertising campaigns? Nazis started that, as a major public health initiative! Adolf Hitler detested smokers and Germany viewed smoking as an unhealthy waste of money. Gut gemacht! Ihre Gesundheit! Did you ever listen to, use, or enjoy cassette tapes and magnetic recording? Nazis invented that! They used it to record allied communications, which gave them superior intelligence capabilities. You probably used it to make Pearl Jam and Nirvana supercut tapes in the '90s; but at the end of the day, you were doing it thanks to the Nazis. Klingt gut! Do you think that it's a good initiative to produce low-cost, affordable, and reliable automobiles for the majority of citizens in your country? So did the Nazis! Volkswagen and the VW Beetle were initiatives put forth by The Third Reich so that the citizens could afford the luxury of owning automobiles. Wunderbar! Do you enjoy films with beautiful cinematography? Nazis pioneered elaborate multi-cam shooting and tracking shots (which would later evolve to steadicam and OIS)! Ganz toll! Do you think NASA is cool? Was going to the moon a huge deal? In your personal life, do you find that you depend on satellites? Do you think that space travel is important and interesting? Yes to all? Thank the Nazis! The scientists who worked on the V-2 rocket propulsion system went on to work for NASA and sent us to the moon in the '60s. Sehr interessant! Anyway, I've just proven that you associate with the Nazis, given your own standards. Let me state again: I am quite offended by this. And no, there aren't any good second screen apps for PC games and the Steam app is horrible. Tschüss! -Johannes
  • Awesome reply! Educational too. I'm a member of the PC Master Race. I do believe that the term is derived from the Nazi belief that there is/was a master race. The term was coined to describe PC gamers due to their elitist mentality and constant assertions that a well equipped PC offers a superior gaming experience when compared to a console... Which it does.
    Although it is derived from Nazi doctrine, being a member doesn't mean that you are somehow associated with Nazis. You may be considered an elitist prick, just not necessarily a Nazi.
  • Spoken like a true Nazi. Posted via the Android Central App
  • +1 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Is it ironic that you are systematically eliminating Nazi comments?
  • I came to the comments specifically to find some idiot fuck who would go this route, who would get their panties twisted about such a stupid thing. Relax. Get off your horse. No one cares. Fuck off. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wii U's built in browser (and Miiverse) coupled with the Gamepad is the winner in this realm. You can suspend play anywhere (except during online multiplayer sessions), access the entire internet from the Pad's built in touchscreen, and jump right back into your game where you left off as soon as you're done. And its one hell of a browser for a gaming console. On PS4/XboxOne you're having to reach for an altogether additional device (phone, tablet, pc) to do anything on any of those second screen apps. Posted via the Android Central App
  • on my SmartGlass app, I can send and receive Xbox messages from anywhere. What's the range of those Wii controllers? ( : Posted via the Android Central App
  • You can send and receive messages in Miiverse from any device with a browser too, if you'd like... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I like the ps4 remote play app. It works pretty good. I need to take the time to make the controllers mate to my note 4 while using the app though... anyone have any luck with that? Posted via the Android Central App
  • When I connect to my ps4 using the remote app on my Note 2, it is good. But when I connect the ps4 controller I lose connection and all is gone.
  • That's exactly what happens to me! Hopefully they get it fixed soon! Posted via the Android Central App
  • That would be cool. How far can it go? That would be cool if we could connect to the ps4 in the living room then remote play in the bedroom before you go to sleep. That would be awesome.
  • In the new remote play app (the their party rip, at least) there is an option to connect your controller to the phone, because the app makes your phone seem like a controller and since you can only connect with one controller to one user at a time, once you connect your controller to the ps4 again, the connection with the phone will be terminated immediately. Just get yourself a USB female to micro USB male cable and you're good to go!
  • The third party rip*
    Couldn't edit...
  • Get off the Google's man ...Jesus.