Considering how powerful Android phones and tablets are, it’s only natural to use them to play the best Android games. While the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck may be more synonymous with portable gaming, the device you use to call your mom or share memes also packs plenty of great gaming possibilities in it. And we’re not just talking lame Twitch games like “Fruit Ninja” or “Angry Birds”. There’s plenty of fun to be had here across countless genres, including action, puzzle, and even some solid RPGs. Here is a thorough round-up of the best Android games available right now.
How We Picked the Best Android Games
Back when smartphones were new, the audience may have been able to excuse a less than perfect game. But now, the specs inside some smartphones would put the graphics and processing power of some lower-end computers to shame. Nintendo may not admit it, but the guts of a Switch are made with slightly outdated Android phone parts. A game simply can’t be “good enough for Android”, it should be fun enough to want you to close Instagram or Twitter to dive into. Here are some things we considered when picking out the best Android games.
Visuals: Android devices, especially top-of-the-line models like Samsung Galaxy, provide seriously good graphics, whether you use them to stream 4K content on Netflix or play games. Good visuals don’t mean that everything has to look photorealistic. After all, some of the most enchanting visuals out there are in games developed back in the ‘90s. The best Android games do have a definitive and inspired aesthetic presentation, whether they go for polished, glitzy graphics or more charming, retro-ish sprites.
Gameplay: This is perhaps the most paramount thing to look for in a game. It must play well and actually be worth your time. Gameplay is king no matter what platform you’re on or what genre you’re playing. Even a game like “Tetris” can’t be bogged down with extra headaches or roadblocks like messy menus, crappy controls, or laggy response times.
Microtransactions: We would argue that much of the hate that Android games endure all has to do with microtransactions. And the hate is well-deserved. “Games as a service” is the worst thing to happen to gaming since “waggle” motion controls. If a game is “free to play,” it better not put cynical, death-by-a-thousand-cuts pay-as-you-go fees every chance it gets. Games you can buy once and enjoy completely, perhaps with a few pieces of optional downloadable content (DLC) will always be given more consideration than digital money pits.
Controls: Despite what hardcore gamers think, not all games require a 16-button pro gamepad. However, since many games try to replicate the experiences found on PC and consoles, games that require multiple inputs should have full controller support. The controller support also has to be good, when it comes to connectivity and input latency.
Best Android Games: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night”
Why It Made The Cut: One of the best games of all time, now in the palm of your hands, and less expensive than a Big Mac to boot.
— Release Date: March 3, 2020
— Genre: Action
— Price: $2.99
— Content Rating: Teen
— Developer: Konami
— Same great game, but portable
— Includes Sega Saturn version upgrades
— Absolutely needs a gamepad to play
While the “Castlevania” franchise has more or less died a dog’s death, the classics have aged better than the series antagonist, Dracula. Konami is really stingy when it comes to porting this classic, so for many, Android is the easiest place to play this amazing game.
For the rock bottom price of $2.99, you can play one of the best “Metroidvanias” ever made, considering it more or less pioneered the popular subgenre. Playing as Alucard, Dracula’s rebellious son, you must travel to a sprawling castle to take down your pops. Along the way, you gain new abilities, new weapons, and in fact, new capes. Who said slaying monsters, demons, and the undead wasn’t a fashionable enterprise? This port even comes with the ability to play as Maria Renard, which was exclusive to the Sega Saturn version of the game. As it stands, this is also the least expensive version of “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night”, and there are few compromises to be had. The menus look a little clunky, but they’re not altogether impossible to navigate. The on-screen controls are damn near impossible for a game that requires speed and precision, especially when it comes to some boss battles, but that’s nothing a good Bluetooth controller can’t fix.
Best RPG: “Genshin Impact”
Why it Made The Cut: A massive open world with satisfying exploration and RPG mechanics makes this one worth taking a deep dive into.
— Release Date: September 26, 2020
— Genre: RPG
— Price: Free, with in-app purchases
— Content Rating: Teen
— Developer: COGNOSPHERE PTE. LTD
— Incredibly interactive open world
— Inspired element-based combat system
— Great cast of characters
— No controller support
— Less optimized compared to PC version
It’s hard to look at “Genshin Impact” and not immediately think of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”. It almost looks as if they share the same color palette. “Genshin Impact” is a far more slimmed-down adventure, but will certainly scratch your itch for RPG on Android.
Like “Breath of the Wild”, just about every inch of the land of Tevyat is explorable. Swim through rivers, climb mountains, and glide through the skies to reach new hidden areas. Combat is done through a surprisingly deep elemental combat system. Like in “Pokemon”, elements like Hydro, Pyro, and Electro interact with each other much like they do in the real world. Hydro puts out fires caused by Pyro. Electro can charge hydro for some explosive effects. Cryo freezes everything in its path. All of these abilities are used by up to 51 different playable characters, seven of them available totally free. Sadly, all these combat, exploration, and crafting mechanics must be done using touch controls. This works for many casual gamers, but it may leave more seasoned gamers cold. This is especially tragic considering that the PC has full gamepad support as well as other improvements, especially as far as stability goes. Still, it’s a solid RPG, and like “Among Us”, has become less a game and more of a modern gaming phenomenon. With more than 50 million downloads under its belt, there’s no denying the staying power of “Genshin Impact.”
Best Arcade: “Streets of Rage 4”
Why it Made The Cut: Solid, classic beat-em-up action, with charming graphics and addictive fighting mechanics.
— Release Date: May 20, 2022
— Genre: Arcade/Beat-em-up
— Price: $2.99, with in-app purchases
— Content Rating: Teen
— Developer: Playdigious
— Looks new, plays like a 16-bit title
— Great soundtrack
— In-app purchases worth the value
— Occasionally buggy controls
Top-down space shooters may be the first type of game that folks think about when anyone mentions the word “arcade”. But nothing beats the wave of nostalgia you get when playing a great beat-em-up like “Streets of Rage 4”.
The series that began way back on the Sega Genesis in the early ‘90s was long dormant for more than 25 years but was released to critical acclaim in 2020. It’s now available on Android platforms, where it plays as great as it does on consoles. Unlike other beat-em-ups, this game is dense with content, with up to five unlockable characters and 12 levels in the main game to play through. In fact, if you’re not into all the busy, overdone, modern triple-A titles that are common nowadays, rest assured that “Streets of Rage 4” plays just like it did the ‘90s. The game doesn't have sprite graphics, but they are delightfully lo-fi. It looks, plays, and also equally important, sounds like the games you grew up playing with friends. Sadly, the co-op update isn’t available yet, though it will be released at a later date for free. Like many games with on-screen controls, expect occasionally lapsed responses. Using a gamepad may alleviate some of the bugginess with the controls, but not completely.
Best Puzzle: “Baba is You”
Why it Made The Cut: Step aside Professor Layton, puzzles in “Baba is You” will truly stump even the most clever minds.
— Release Date: May 5, 2021
— Genre: Puzzle
— Price: $6.99
— Content Rating: Everyone
— Developer: Hempuli
— Addictive puzzle action
— Great for quick fixes
— No gamepad needed
— On the pricier side
— Occasionally very hard
How does one even describe “Baba is You”, one of the most innovative games in the puzzle genre? In many ways, it must simply be played to understand what all the hubbub is about.
That’s easier said than done, of course. For some reason, “Baba is You” runs a little on the pricier side for an Android port of a game mostly played on consoles and PC. Still, there’s not a penny of microtransactions to be found here, so you don’t have to expect any surprises. Every single one of its levels presents different word tiles that you must interact with to solve puzzles. The problem is that the puzzle itself isn’t always obvious. Forget “Angry Birds” or “Professor Layton” games, these puzzles are absolute brain busters, and will leave you stumped for hours, if not days. And with the latest update, there are now 200 levels to suffer through. Of course, the harder a game is, the more rewarding the endorphin rush when you finally solve a puzzle. Like “Tetris” and any version of Solitaire, this is perfect for playing a few rounds before bed or with your morning espresso instead of a boring old crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Considering you don’t need a gamepad to get the most out of it, it’s even great for long lines at the grocery store or the dentist office waiting room. “Baba is You” is the kind of seriously satisfying distraction that you want from an Android game.
Best Simulation: “Stardew Valley”
Why it Made The Cut: The best farming simulation game of all time, now even more portable and affordable than ever.
— Release Date: Mar 13, 2019
— Genre: Simulation
— Price: $4.99
— Content Rating: Everyone
— Developer: ConcernedApe
— Cozy, low-stakes escapism
— Chocked full of content
— Great value
— Buggy controls
There are games rife with explosions, jump scares, and all manner of intensity that quite frankly, makes them addicting to play. “Stardew Valley” takes a decidedly more wholesome approach, while also being incredibly engrossing and fun as hell.
For those uninitiated in valley living, “Stardew Valley” lets you escape the rat race to live on a farm you just inherited from your uncle. The sprawling space is rife with weeds, rocks, and logs, but with a little TLC, it can become an abundant farm complete with fresh tomato plants and happy cows, chickens, and even truffle pigs. But that’s just the surface of what the game offers. “Farming game” is synonymous with “Harvest Moon,” but the long-running farming sim series has met its match with “Stardew Valley.” This title became an almost instant hit when it landed on PC in 2016, and in years since, it's been ported to all consoles including Android. “Stardew Valley” plays excellently on Android, and considering how little precision is involved, playing with the touch screen isn’t ideal, but it’s totally doable. Like many other Android ports, it’s also the most affordable version of “Stardew Valley”, with relatively few compromises. This game is still receiving regular updates and new content, so farm life never gets dull or boring. Slap a good Android controller into the mix, and you can replicate a console experience pretty easily.
Things to Consider Before Buying Android Games
Bring Realistic Expectations
Has Android gaming come a long way from the era of “Angry Birds” and “Fruit Ninja”? Absolutely. However, the bulk of the games on the Google Play store will still mostly pale in comparison to Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, and in fact, Steam libraries. Android phones may pack serious versatility, but even devices that are great for gaming are still mostly used as phones. Many of the choices made when compiling the best Android games in this roundup weren’t chosen because they were “good for Android” but simply because they are great games. Still, you have to come with an open mind if you want to get the most out of your Android gaming experiences.
Accessories to Make The Most Out of Your Android Gaming
For casual gamers, playing one of the best Android games on their phone or tablet will require nothing more than a full battery and a couple of fingers. That said, you can get the most out of your Android games with two accessories you may already have.
Pro Gamepad: Those looking to replicate the console gaming experience as best as they can will require a gamepad. Luckily, if you own a modern console, you may already have one. We recommend the SCUF Instinct Pro Steel Gray Custom Wireless Performance Controller which works great on Xbox consoles, PC, and even Android. However, you may also use the pro gamepad from your console, so long as it connects via Bluetooth.
Android Phone Stand: Do you own a phone stand? If you don’t, the Yoozon Cell Phone Stand for Desk is the best $10 you’ll ever spend. Not only is it a great way to prop your phone up so you’re not straining your neck downwards, but it’s also great for gaming with a secondary gamepad.
Q: Can I play Android games offline?
It depends. Many Android games can be played offline, but some games require a connection to take advantage of features like auto saving and online play.
Q: Why are some Android games better to play with a controller?
Games typically handle better with a controller because certain genres require speed and precision. Touch controls are less than ideal when it comes to this, especially if you do most of your gaming on a PC or console.
Q: Are there any free Android games without ads?
Yes, there are many free games available on Android without ads and without any microtransactions such as “Stranger Things 3: The Game” and “Pew Pew”.
Q: What is the No 1 Android game in the world?
As of July 25, 2022, the number-one Android game in the world is “GTA V”.
Q: Can I play GTA V on my Android device?
Yes, you can play “GTA V” on an Android device, but expect the experience to be much different than the console versions of the game, including some seriously cynical microtransactions.
Q: Can I play Android games without downloading them?
Yes. Using the “Instant Apps” setting, you can try games on the Google Play store without downloading them to your device.
Final Thoughts on Android Games
Does Android have its killer app when it comes to gaming? Yes, in a way. “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” is greater than it's ever been, considering that it’s now totally portable. “Stardew Valley” is also a fantastic console game that sings on Android, making it one of the best versions of the game, in fact. For easy pick-up-and-play puzzle action, we recommend “Baba is You.”
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.