70 best Android games

7-19-2021

The best Android games turn your phone or tablet into a portal to amazing digital worlds. During these crazy times, we know we’re spending more and more time on our phones, especially as they’re our main tool for keeping up with friends and family (if you haven’t downloaded it yet, the Houseparty app can help you organise large virtual gatherings). But there will also be times in the coming months where you just want to slump on your sofa and relax with one of the best Android games. That’s where this list comes in.

The Google Play Store houses plenty of awful games and shameless rip-offs, but there’s an ever-increasing number of games that genuinely deserve your time. If you know where to look, you’ll find fiendish puzzlers, satisfying platformers, and RPGs that can easily eat 100 hours of your time. We’ve sifted through them all to come up with this list of gems. Here are the 75 best Android games you can play right now.

70. Framed

Framed is a film noir comic book, and you are the author. Or at least, you’re re-arranging the on-screen panels to help your character, framed for a murder, escape the police. Each sequence begins paused, giving you time to assess, rejig the order of the story, and hit play. You might be doing something as simple as lighting a cigarette – or you might be deciding the best route for your character to sneak through back streets, evading the cops’ torches.

Like the best puzzle games, Framed introduces concepts slowly, and then ramps up the difficulty, stretching the limits of your mechanical mastery. Soon you’ll be tilting and rotating panels – to create new paths through alleyways, say – or quickly moving panels during the action to reveal new routes as your character runs. You’ll never be stuck for too long, but the solutions still feel clever, which keeps Framed moving along at an action movie pace.

It looks stylish, and sounds it too, thanks to a jazzy soundtrack. Framed 2 is even more polished, and introduces new ways to solve puzzles, but we’d advise playing the original first to get used to the concept.

69. Pixel Dungeon

Pixel Dungeon looks like a pure and simple roguelike, but once you’re a few floors into its underground dungeons, you’ll release just how deep and complex a game it is. The premise is uncomplicated enough: as a Warrior, Mage, Rogue or Huntress, your goal is to strike deep into the earth to find an amulet, searching for stairs on each floor you encounter. You’ll defeat ghouls and rats, open chests, buy items from shops, cast spells, find hidden doors and face a boss once every five floors. But by experimenting, you’ll constantly discover new, unexpected mechanics. You can find seeds, for example, which you can grow into trap-like plants. You can jump into chasms to reach lower floors, at the cost of hit points. If you burst into flames from using an unidentified item, finding water will quench the fire. 

With each new run, your items and potions are reset, and many start with unidentified properties. These might be good – healing or invisibility – or bad, such as vertigo of paralysis. You can identify them with rare scrolls, or, if you’re feeling brave, you can just try them out and hope for the best. These risk-reward trade-offs are what make Pixel Dungeon so compelling. Do you loot an enemy’s corpse for treasure, and risk it turning into a powerful wraith? Do you try and open that chest, which might actually be a monster in disguise? If you can get over the difficulty, and accept the fact that there’s a heavy dollop of luck at play, you’ll find Pixel Dungeon to be one of the most involved roguelikes around. Yes, you can play it on PC, but mobile is its original, spiritual home.

68. Dota Underlords

We’ve resisted putting an autochess game on this list up until now, but it’s grown so popular that we can resist no longer. All games in the genre follow roughly the same structure: you purchase heroes from a random starting selection, plop them on an 8v8 grid, and watch them face off against your opponents. It’s not as simple as it sounds, and compiling the best squad round-to-round requires plenty of tactics. Dota Underlords is the most polished game in the genre, courtesy of the fact it’s made by Dota 2 developer Valve, so expect shiny visuals and a (relatively) streamlined UI.

It’s still in Early Access, so expect balancing mistakes, but Valve is updating it regularly, and it’s improving over time. It’s therefore the ideal route into the genre, and if you can’t get enough of it, you could branch out to Auto Chess, another viable option.

67. To The Moon

To The Moon’s limited interactivity means it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but there are few games with a more intricate, emotional story. In the future, humans have developed the technology to change their own memories, travelling inside each other’s minds to twist their perception of the past. An old man wants you to make him think he was an astronaut, and from that bizarre premise a touching tale unfolds.

You travel backwards through his mind, starting with the most recent memories, down to his childhood. It’s a story in reverse, basically, which is difficult to get right, but To The Moon manages to do it, and things you see early on will take on far greater significance when you delve deeper. It’s an affecting tale of love, loss and family: don’t be surprised if you need to dry your eyes.

66. Another Eden

Finally: a fully-fledged JRPG that doesn’t throw microtransactions in your face. Another Eden is written by Masato Kato of Chrono Trigger fame, and it’s essentially a spiritual successor to that 1995 SNES classic, with a lengthy story involving a young boy travelling through time to save the world. Kato and fellow creator Yasunori Mitsuda, the Chrono Trigger composer, wanted this to feel like a traditional JRPG with no mobile game trappings, and it shows: free-to-play distractions never get in the way of its narrative or accessible turn-based combat.

If you want to level up your characters to the max and expand your party,then you’ll end up grinding a lot, or paying real money. But it’s perfectly possible to beat the game — and experience the story — with only free characters, and your party naturally expands over time. The four-direction exploration is simple, but it suits the mobile interface, and you’ll never feel short-changed. And besides, it’s free, so why not give it a shot?

65. Chrono Trigger

Speaking of Masato Kato, here’s the game that made him famous. Chrono Trigger was a mess when it initially hit Android back in 2012, with dodgy sound, shoddy visuals and a whole host of bugs. Over the years, Square Enix slowly upgraded it to a point where, now, it’s not just playable, but enjoyable. Sure, it’s still not the definitive version of the game, and the controls can sometimes feel a bit off, but it’s a chance to carry one of the all-time greats around with you all the time, ready to dip into when you have a spare 15 minutes.

You play Crono, a boy trapped in a time travel loop with a girl called Marle. The pair have been sent back 400 years by a freak tech accident, and Marle is mistaken for her ancestor, the current queen. We don’t want to say more than that, because Crono and Marle’s twisting journey is what makes Chrono Trigger so special: expect plenty of surprises and revelations that turn the tale on its head. The simple combat translates well to touchscreens, and the revamped graphics look better than ever.

64. Exploding Kittens

It’s not what you think. No lovable furballs were harmed in the making of Exploding Kittens, a physical card game now brought to phones in a digital adaptation that, thanks to some cute animations and funny sound effects, is arguably the best way to play. The premise of Exploding Kittens is simple: players take turns to play action cards (skip a turn, steal a card from another player), and at the end of their go, they draw a card. If that card is an Exploding Kitten, they…well…explode, and they’re out of the game. That’s unless they have a defuse card, which lets them stave off danger and secretly insert the Exploding Kitten back into the deck at a point of their choosing.

It’s not a tactical game, by any means, but there are sneaky ways to reduce your chances of exploding (a See The Future card will let you peek at the top three cards, for instance), and when you’re down to the last half of the deck, you’ll be sweating. The Android app will let you play with friends in person (we’d prefer using the physical cards in that case), but more importantly, it will let you play online, either with friends or strangers. Now, you never have to wait for your next feline fix. Boom!

63. Rusty Lake Hotel

A sick, twisted point-and-click that asks you to kill humanoid animals, slice them up and serve them as tasty meals to the other creatures staying at the Rusty Lake Hotel. Its dark sense of humor makes it easier to stomach: for example, knocking off the rabbit, who is also a magician, involves a botched swords-through-a-box trick, and every lavish meal is set to a soundtrack of smooth jazz.

The puzzles aren’t half clever, too: devilish and varied, you’ll be re-arranging cards, making poisonous concoctions and conducting a Punch and Judy show. The murders are complex and multi-staged, requiring you to think several steps ahead. When you find the solution, you’ll feel like an evil genius. 

If you like it, make sure you check out the other two Rusty Lake games: Paradise and Roots, which are both bigger than this one. And if you want something a bit more personal and grounded, try The White Door.

62. UnCiv

A completely free, open-source recreation of one of the greatest strategy games ever made — Civilization 5 — without a single advert. What’s the catch? Well, it doesn’t look as good as the real thing: it’s a low detail recreation of Civ 5’s Strategic View, which means no fancy unit models or pretty landscapes. The UI is a bit ropey, too, but that’s a small price to pay for a game this good. 

It gives you everything you need to guide a new civilzation from birth to glory, whether by force or by peace. Civ 5 is one of the best in the long-running series because of how many ways you can engineer your rise to power (we prefer diplomacy to the sword), along with plenty of unique factions, leaders and units. This is your chance to play it free, and on-the-go. Don’t miss out.

61. Battle Chasers: Nightwar

We have a theory that Android JRPGs tend to fare better when they’re ports of existing games, rather than built for mobile from the ground up (which often leads to simplification and microtransactions). Battle Chasers: Nightwar, a port, lends credence to that theory – it’s a lengthy, complex, party-based RPG that shines in combat, where your squad’s long list of attacks and abilities respond to each other in creative ways. 

One character might ignite an enemy, causing another to perform a critical attack, causing a third to heal the whole party. It’s in finding these synergies – along with beautiful art, solid voice acting and easy-to-understand touch controls – that Battle Chasers: Nightwar shines just as brightly as it did on PC and consoles.

60. Holedown

You know those bouncing ball games you’ve seen loads of annoying, in-your-face ads for? Well, Holedown is like those games, only better: polished, free of microtransactions, and dripping with personality, from the trippy soundtrack to the little worm that lives at the bottom of your screen, admiring your work. You must clear your screen of blocks, and you do that by taking aim and firing bouncing balls in a stream. Initially, they’ll follow each other, but as they hit and burst blocks they’ll ricochet at unexpected angles, colliding with other blocks with a brilliant ‘plop’ sound effect.

It’s made by grapefrukt games, who also made rymdkapsel (which appears much higher up this list), so you know it’s good. There’s nothing deep about it: it’s just a well-made, polished puzzler that’s hard to stop playing, and ideal for playing in short spurts.

59. inbento

A minimalistic, slick puzzler about a momma cat preparing bento boxes for her kitten’s lunch. Each box is a grid, and each piece of food – rice, lemon, fish – takes up a single square. You must rearrange the boxes to match the instructions in your recipe book using the command blocks at the bottom of the screen: some will swap squares, others push ingredients up or down one place, and some let you remove food from the box to put back elsewhere.

It’s simple, but the puzzles are tough enough to make you think. Sometimes you’ll need to perform several moves in exactly the right order to match the recipe – and then, with a loving paw, you place the lid on, ready to make the next meal. Cute, right?

58. Final Fantasy 15: Pocket Edition

If you’re cynical, you might think Final Fantasy 15’s mobile version is an attempt to wring evermore money from one of Square Enix’s best-loved games. And perhaps you’d be right – but at least the developer has gone to the effort of changing it almost wholesale for the small screen, rather than being content with a lazy port. The Pocket Edition, which goes for a completely different art style (it’s still gorgeous, as you can see in the trailer above), condenses Prince Noctis’s 50-hour journey into a dozen or less. Inevitably, you miss out on some story beats and side characters, but the main plot points are there, as it, most importantly, the camaraderie that develops between Noctis and his companions during a road trip, where he must drive between the burial sites of ancient kings and obtain their power to defeat the Empire, which has attacked his homeland. 

Every element of the game has been tweaked for touchscreens: a lot of the movement happens automatically, but when you get full control, the camera is isometric, which makes it easier to direct your characters around. Combat, too, is pretty hands off, but you still have to intervene to dodge, heal and co-ordinate special attacks at the right moment. If you’ve been put off by the enormous scope of Final Fantasy 15, then this is the perfect route in – and if you’re a long-time fan looking for one more excuse to relive Noctis’s journey, this is it.

57. Choice of Robots

More an interactive sci-fi novel than a game, but this is our list, damnit, so it makes the cut. It’s one of the most ambitious gamebooks you could ever hope to read: 300,000 words of sprawling prose covering the life and times of your character – a graduate robot designer – and the robot you create at the beginning of the book. The choices come thick and fast, starting with the characteristics of your robot, and they don’t let up until the very last word. Your decisions affect the 30-year story, which sees you through graduation, love, fame, and, if you want it, war between robots and humanity.

The UI looks messy, and there are no pictures to speak of, which makes it seem intimidating. But once your eyes get used to it, it’s easy to navigate, and the bars down the left-hand side of the screen track your relationships, making it easy to see the impact of your choices. Not every story arc hits all the right notes, but the novelty of guiding the narrative never wears off.

56. Limbo

One of the original darlings of the Xbox Live Arcade, platformer LIMBO remains a tense, atmospheric and irresistibly dark game. The visuals and sound design still create a sense of foreboding, even on a small screen, and with headphones in it’s genuinely unnerving.

Its hostile world of bear traps and giant spiders is oppressive and unwelcoming, which makes it easy to get inside the head of the scared young boy you’re controlling. Touchscreen isn’t the ideal control scheme to solve some of its puzzles, but the interactions are fairly simple, and working out the solutions remains satisfying enough to keep you rolling towards its finale, the meaning of which is still being debated to this day.

55. Hitman Go

As long as you’re not expecting a fully-fledged assassin sim, Hitman GO will delight. It’s a stylish puzzle game where you slide Agent 47 around tiny levels that look like they belong on an expensive tabletop: enemies are figurines with circular bases, and when you stab one in the back — knocking into them like a bishop would a knight — they wobble and topple, and are whisked from the board. 

It doesn’t have many mechanics, but levels can get tricky. Guards move every time you do, so you have to learn their patterns before plotting a silent route. Simply completing a level never feels tough, but earning extra stars for doing it in the least possible number of moves, or for collecting optional briefcases of intel, will appeal to the perfectionist in you. It’s not as good as Lara Croft GO, which you’ll see later in this list, but it’s a sleek, pop-up version of Hitman.

54. Marching Order 

Marching Order does just one thing, and does it flawlessly. As a marching band of rhinos, ducks, lions and elephants stomp across your screen tooting their instruments, you’re presented with a set of rules, and you have to re-order the band so that all the rules are fulfilled. Perhaps a rhino wants to stand directly in front of a duck. Perhaps a parrot wants to stand between two animals with fur. Perhaps an elephant wants to be somewhere behind the clarinet. And so on. It’s a series of logic puzzles, basically, dressed up in adorable outfits.

The puzzles keep getting harder as you progress, adding more band members and rules. Despite the cute animals and catchy music, some of them are real headscratchers, especially if you want to finish in the fewest possible moves to net a bonus. If you’re feeling sadistic you can play hard mode, which gives you a 60-second timer for each puzzle. Good luck.

53. Simon Tatham’s Puzzles

If the only games you want on your phone are easily-understood puzzles to play whenever you have a spare minute, then Simon Tatham’s Puzzles is pretty much the only app you’ll ever need. It’s a completely free collection of 39 different games from Sudoku to Signpost, where you align arrows to point towards a goal. Every puzzle is generated on-demand and you can set both the size of your grids and their difficulty, effectively creating an infinite number of puzzles to play. 

We love its simplicity, the controls always work, and you can even use NFC to beam a puzzle to your friend’s phone. Put down your crossword and pick this up. 

52. Call of Duty: Mobile

A fully-fledged Call of Duty multiplayer game with flexible controls and a huge number of modes. Maps are plucked from the franchise’s greatest hits — Nuketown is back, baby — and Battle Royale is consistently fun, with helicopters to fly and plenty of airdrops to claim. 

The touchscreen shooting works surprisingly well, and after an hour you’ll be hitting headshots with no trouble. Online connection is consistently good, and there’s always enough players online to fill lobbies. When one round finishes, the next starts almost instantly, and the only reason to quit is to attach the new scope you unlocked for your sniper. 

51. Love You to Bits

Intergalactic explorer Kosmo has seen his robot girlfriend blown to bits in front of his eyes, and he won’t rest until he’s gathered her body parts from outer space and bolted her back together. It’s a cute premise for an adorable point-and-click with a lot of heart, and although the puzzles can feel a little random, the wonderful animations and colorful levels will keep you tapping on.

Each level is short and sweet, so it’s ideal to play in five-minute burst. It’s not afraid to take risks, either: the third level in the entire game is set on a small planet that you can walk around the entire circumference of, experiencing all four seasons in 30 seconds. Don’t worry too much about solving the puzzles — just click on everything you see and enjoy the surprising interactions. Eventually, you’ll find the solution.

50. Vignettes

Vignettes makes you feel like a child again. Its puzzles are a series of objects to be poked, tapped and rotated until they morph into something else entirely. An hourglass transforms from blue to purple when you tilt—and then, when you stand it on its end, it turns into a jewelled chalice, which then becomes a bird cage with butterflies flitting inside.

Each puzzle can be solved in seconds, so the joy comes more from finding unexpected interactions, like tapping on a doll so that it opens to reveal a key. The sound is wonderful, too, and reacts to what you see on-screen: a band will start up when you discover a trumpet, for example. 

If you want, you can rush through it in half an hour. But it’s the kind of game you can prod at for hours, not caring about making it to the end, and it has enough secrets that you’ll want to play through more than once.

49. Meteorfall: Journeys

Meteorfall: Journeys is one of the most welcoming card games on Android. You don’t need to worry about complex deck-building—you just pick an adventurer, find monsters and swipe left or right on a card to either use or discard it. Swiping right on an attack card deals damage, while swiping left will recover stamina needed for further attacks, for example.

That doesn’t mean its always easy. Before you meet a monster you can decide whether to fight them or avoid them entirely—steering clear will save your life, but you’ll lose the chance to win XP, and levelling up gets you new cards. It’ll push you into tight corners, and you’ll agonise over these decisions. 

Its short fights and continuous stream of encounters means it’s a card game you can play in ten-minute spurts, which is rare. But once you start running through events it’s hard to tear yourself away: you’ll go straight from fighting a Filthy Gobloid to considering a trade with a well-dressed demon, and levelling up to build the deck you want is an addictive loop.  

48. Oddmar

Mobile platformers are notoriously difficult to get right. Touchscreens simply weren’t designed for precise jumps, and controlling big leaps on a small screen always feel slippery. Somehow, Oddmar nails is. You control a cartoon Viking bouncing and smashing his way through colorful levels, finding hidden gold and solving physics-based puzzles as he goes. It looks brilliant, the animations are smooth and, most importantly, the controls feel tight. It’s a AAA console-quality platformer in your pocket. 

It’s made in part by the team behind Leo’s Fortune, another brilliant Android game—this is essentially more of the same, but with a Nordic theme and an extra layer of polish. You can play with a controller, but trust us, the touchscreen controls are shockingly good. The first chapter is free, too, so you have no excuses.

47. PUBG Mobile

The accessible Fortnite is the Android battle royale king, but PUBG isn’t far behind. It’s a more realistic, slower-paced take on the genre, and the mobile version manages to pack nearly all the bells and whistles of the PC original onto your touchscreen.

The UI looks messy, the pages of paid-for loot can feel overwhelming and you’ll run into occasional bugs, but you’ll forget about all that when you manage to pull of a headshot from 400 feet, accounting for bullet drop. Longer round times and the large map lets you think more tactically about your loot and positioning, while the need for patience makes victories feel—at least for us—more satisfying than in Fortnite.

46. Hearthstone

Hearthstone, like all the best card games, is quick to learn but seriously tricky to master. It arms you with the heroes of World of Warcraft and pits you against devious enemies: you’ll need to grapple with spells, creatures, weaponry, bonus decks, Tavern Brawls… before you know it, you’re down the Hearthstone rabbit hole. It’s the kind of game that you could play all day, every day and still learn something from each fight, picking up inventive strategies and counters from your opponents. That intricacy lends itself to competitive play – there’s a good reason that the game has set the eSports world alight. 

The mobile version offers everything the PC one does, and the touchscreen controls feel natural. It’s not for everybody, and some players have abandoned it in favour of other card games, but hey, it’s free. Play a few matches and see if it clicks: if it does, then it’ll be the start of a long, beautiful relationship.

45. Raiders of the North Sea

Board game adaptations are hard to get right on mobile, but Raiders of the North Sea nails it. The source material helps: Raiders is a simple, elegant board game where each turn consists of placing a worker on a given building, performing that building’s action (such as getting armor for the armory) and then picking up a previously placed worker. Eventually, you’ll have amassed a well-resourced crew of Vikings ready to raid nearby settlements. 

The art looks stunning on an Android phone, and brings to life the physical game with flowing rivers and soaring birds. It also feels like Raiders was made for touchscreen, and that arguably makes it better, not to mention cheaper, than the PC version. Asynchronous multiplayer and an extra campaign mean that it’s – whisper it – almost as good as the physical edition. 

44. A Good Snowman

An oldie, but a goodie. In A Good Snowman, your only goal is to make snowballs of three different sizes—small, medium and large—by rolling them around in piles of the white stuff and stacking them on top of each other, like you did when you were a kid. It sounds simple, but the puzzles are smart and gradually get more difficult, with more snowmen to build in each garden and more possible ways to fail. 

You can hug the decorated snowmen after you’ve built them, which would melt even the coldest heart. It came to PC first, but the effortless touch-and-drag controls, which let you preview a move before you commit, make mobile the best place to play it.

43. Hoplite

A wonderfully-addictive roguelike with a design as spartan as its main character: as a armor-clad warrior, you must clear hex-based maps to reach the stairs, which will take you deeper and deeper into a demon-infested world. It’s turn-based, and your move set is small but powerful: you can leap, throw your spear, or stab enemies, and each is triggered by a defined set of events (to stab an enemy, you must stand next to them and then move to an adjacent tile, for example). Enemies, from wizards to archers, have their own moveset with defined rules, and it’s your job to figure out how they interact and plot the best part forward.

It’s therefore part puzzle game, part turn-based strategy and part rogue-like RPG – on each randomly-generated floor you can upgrade your character, eventually adding new abilities. It’s a delicious combination, and the easily understood makes it fun to ruminate over each turn, working out what the most efficient move is. It reminds us, in that way, of Into The Breach, and that’s high praise indeed.

42. Plants vs Zombies

It’s spawned endless sequels, clones and even a series of first person shooters, but the original PopCap game is tower defence at its purest. If you’ve been in an undead-proof vault for the last ten years, then you might not be aware that the zombie apocalypse is upon us, and there’s nothing to defend us from their gnashing teeth and gaping wounds except…plants. Yep, flowers and vegetables are our last hope. What begins with a front yard barricade of Peashooters and Sunflowers slowly becomes an impenetrable force guarded by giant Wall-nuts. Flora turrets launch flaming projectiles and melons knock the heads off of your lurching enemies. The undead don’t stand a chance.

41. Rush Rally 3

Mobile racers are usually throwaway arcade games or sims laden with microtransactions, but Rush Rally 3 is neither. It’s simply the best racer on the Google Play Store: varied tracks, a real learning curve, a full campaign, and plenty of control options, including both touch and tilt steering. Whether your playing from inside the cockpit or with a birds-eye view it looks polished, and sliding your rally car around a muddy corner feels every bit as good as it does on a console.

The campaign is the focal point, and you’ll tour the world taking on tough tracks against the clock. But you can also race against the AI, or even against your friends: it has real-time multiplayer as well as a ghost mode that lets you take on the world’s best. Move over, GRID Autosport: there’s a new Android racer in pole position (and it’s half the price).

40. The House of Da Vinci

The brilliance of The Room games — which you’ll read about in this list’s top five — have inspired other developers to create detailed, tactile puzzle games in which the player moves from scene to scene, manipulating the environment. The House of Da Vinci is the pick of the bunch: you can expect 10 hours of twisting dials, turning cogs, flipping switches and combining ornate objects in its Renaissance world, each challenge trickier than the last.

It looks and sounds excellent, and the story, which follows the work of the enigmatic Leonardo Da Vinci, pulls you in from the start with sharp writing and an urgent pace. Some of the items you find are fiddly, but the pay-off of solving its clever, mechanical puzzles is always worth it.

39. Mushroom 11

Mushroom 11 is quietly one of the best puzzle-platformers of the past 10 years. It came to PC first, but mobile feels like its natural home thanks to its tactile movement system. You move a gooey blob by destroying bits of it: smear one side of it with your thumb and the blob will change shape, the material you’ve arreased appearing on the other side, propelling you forward.

It’s intuitive, and the puzzles are clever. In one, you split your blob in half, sending one part to weigh down a power button while the other half slips through a door that’s just opened. In another, you morph your blob into a ramp to send a rolling bale of hay across a gap, slithering across after it. 

Developer Untame knows exactly how and when to vary the pace—some puzzles require you to stop and think, while in others there’s no time for planning because you have to quickly transform your blob to stick a tricky landing, or avoid explosives shot out of a menacing, spiked wheel. It never stops surprising you for its full five hours, and you’ll want to go back and play it again to see if there were other ways you could’ve passed each challenge.

38. Pocket City

A flexible city builder that’s powerful enough to let you build the town of your dreams but still easy to pick up and understand. The touch controls are simple and intuitive, and it never bogs you down with needless icons and menus, only presenting you with what you need to know at any given moment. Buildings and services unlock quickly, so you always have a new toy to play with, and once you get a picture in your mind about what you want to build it’s dangerously hard to rip yourself away. It’s like the mobile version of Sim City that EA never gave us. 

37. Cultist Simulator

A deep, addictive card game about setting up your own cult, sacrificial rituals and all. Through tight writing—no more than a sentence or two at a time—Cultist Simulator brings its twisted version of 1920s London to life, sucking you further into its world with every fresh start.

It’s a complex game that doesn’t really explain itself, but learning how it works is part of its appeal. Starting with just one card, you quickly work your way up to dozens, and you get better by experimenting with their interactions. Placing ‘Health’ in ‘Work’ slot will set you up for a day of manual labour—doing the same with ‘Passion’ will make you paint, for example.

Soon, you’ll be using these systems to send your followers on assassination missions, or enter a dream world that brings you ever-closer to immortality. It’s full of lore snippets to flesh out your journey, and the number of variables, which include pesky detectives trying to stop your progress, means that Cultist Simulator feels different every time you play it. 

36. Lara Croft GO

 The best GO game Square Enix has made, Lara Croft asks you to raid perilous ruins for ancient artefacts. Just like Hitman GO, you swipe to move as you make your way through levels. Unlike Hitman, you’re avoiding turn-based traps and whirling sword blades, and you’re also scaling cliffs from the start. That verticality makes it feel more varied, which is why this ranks higher than Agent 47’s efforts. 

Tombs look luscious, particularly when the sun leaks in through cracks in a wall, and the puzzles constantly introduce new mechanics to make it feel fresh. It’s the perfect portable Tomb Raider experience.

35. Layton: Curious Village

It used to be that Curious Village was the only one of the much-loved Professor Layton puzzle games available on Android, but last year Diabolical Box (aka Pandora’s Box) made its way to the Play Store too. This is still the place to start: it’s the first in the series, one of the best in terms of its puzzles, and a HD remaster to boot. Curious Village’s cutesy anime presentation and simple premise – Professor Layton and his young assistant must solve a mystery in a quirky town – belies the complexity of the puzzles ahead. 

Everyone you meet in St. Mystere has a brain teaser to solve, and they’re all individually crafted. You’ll complete logic puzzles and word games, spatial challenges and riddles, and when you’re done with one you’re only 30 seconds from the next. 

The puzzles are not so difficult that you’ll be scratching your head for hours, but they’re challenging enough that it feels satisfying to figure them out without using the hint system, which is always there if you get into trouble. It’s a polished, fun puzzle game that everyone, mobile gamer or not, will enjoy. Play it, then try Diabolical Box.

34. Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies

Objection? Overruled. This visual novel about being the legendary lawyer Phoenix Wright is worth the hefty price tag thanks to its funny dialogue, constant plot twists and smooth touch controls. 

You won’t find a single boring character on show, from your enthusiastic underlings to the compulsive liars on the witness stand. Piecing together the evidence for each case is never difficult, but you still feel smart when you draw out a key contradiction, and watching Wright deliver his rambunctious soliloquies—complete with flashy animations—never gets old. The story is over-the-top and silly, but that’s all part of the charm.Advertisement

Originally a 3DS game, the touch controls work perfectly for the mobile port, and selecting the evidence you want to scrutinise is easy. If you play it and want more, Capcom has a few other Ace Attorney games available, and all of them are worth a whirl.

33. Desert Golfing

A lonely, meditative golf game without microtransactions or opponents: it’s just you, your ball, and endless miles of sand. 

What makes Desert Golfing so addictive is how it never kicks you out of its world. From the minute you boot up the app you’re in the desert, and as soon as you’ve finished one hole the camera pans to the right to reveal the next flag. You can’t restart, so your only option is to embrace any mistakes your make, watching your total shot count tick up as you plod from hole to hole.

Golf is a notoriously frustrating sport, and golf games on mobile are usually no different. But Desert Golf doesn’t care about your score, and the feeling that nobody else is watching makes it a soothing space to spend half an hour.

32. You Must Build a Boat

You Must Build a Boat starts you out in a dinky dinghy with only a skeleton and a zombie as your crewmates – but eventually, you’ll be the captain of your own magnificent cruiser. It’s the sequel to 10000000 (another game worth playing), and like its predecessor, it’s a frantic match-three puzzler that has you shifting entire rows and columns instead of individual tiles. 

You can’t afford to take it slow, because your explorer is ploughing through a simplistic 2D dungeon at the top of the screen, and you’ll have to quickly line up combos to help him persevere against a wide variety of monsters that you can later recruit to your ship’s crew, or dodge traps that fly in from the right of the screen. Advertisement

Unlike in 10000000, you can queue up your next move before your current one finishes, which makes it feel far smoother, and your objectives – such as finding a particular item – take on more significance. Each one gives you better rewards but hampers you in some way, making traps harder to avoid, for example. It’s little tweaks like this that make it the perfect sequel: it’s everything that we loved about 10000000, but bigger, brighter, and more involved.

31. Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick made classic adventure games The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion – so you know it’s going to be good. You’ll spend most of your time with agents Ray and Reyes uncovering an increasingly bizarre mystery in a small town, but in total you’ll control five characters, including a potty-mouthed clown who lives alone in disused circus. The writing is smart, but the puzzles are smarter: some are devilishly hard requiring multiple character switches and several objects to solve, but when the solution pops into your head you’ll feel like a genius. Its relatively open world means you’ll always have another challenge to tackle if you get stuck. 

30. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a corker: one of the best games of 2019, in fact. But Knights of the Old Republic, in our mind, is still the best Star Wars game ever made. This is Bioware at its storytelling peak  a vast world crammed with side quests and fascinating characters to meet, pulled together by a main questline that’s worthy of the franchise’s name. You could easily sink 35 hours into your first playthrough and still feel like you need a second run at it, perhaps with a different character build: a blaster specialist is equally as viable as a Jedi Master. 

If you never played it on PC or console, this is a perfect chance to clear a classic from your gaming backlog. It’s essentially a 1:1 port of the original, so you’re not missing out on any detail, and the early ‘00s 

The reason it’s not higher on this list is the controls, which can be fiddly. They work fine most of the time, but minigames are tough to get to grips with on a touchscreen, and it makes the combat – which already feels clunky, 15 years on – more frustrating. Knights of the Old Republic on Android is still a must-play, but just do it on as big a screen as you can manage. 

29. Samorost 3

A charming puzzler with environments that come alive as you touch them. You control a gnome travelling through space to find the origin of a magical flute, but the fun in Samorost 3 isn’t figuring out how to progress in your journey—it’s in tapping on everything you see, just to find out what happens. 

Tap on termites to make them sing in harmony. Tap on a branch to interrupt a monkey’s natural hot tub in the canopy of a forest. Tap on some ghostly mushrooms sprouting from a bush to make them play musical notes. Tap, tap, tap. 

It looks and sounds beautiful, from its bouncy music to the sound of your footsteps. The solutions to puzzles are occasionally obscure but each challenge is unique, whether you’re arranging cards to help stickman catch their prey or pulling on levers to move platforms between stony outcrops. 

28. Lumino City

Even if Lumino City’s world was completely devoid of interaction, it’d still be worth downloading. Everything you see in the game is hand-made out of paper, card, miniature lights, and motors—and the results are unforgettable. Every scene is a masterpiece, every building a marvel, and we go wide-eyed every time we boot it up.

But on top of that stunning setting is a charming puzzle game in which you poke at gorgeous machines to make them work. The story follows Lumi’s attempts to rescue her kidnapped grandfather, from whom she’s conveniently inherited a handbook to every mechanism in the city. If you ever get stuck, you can always find a relevant page to help you out. It’s therefore never frustrating, and the puzzles never distract from the gorgeous backdrop.

27. Sorcery! 

An RPG based on Steven Jackson’s brilliant choose-your-own-adventure books, developed by inkle, the team behind the 80 Days. It’s a mouth-watering recipe for good writing, and Sorcery! delivers as brilliant a story as you’d hope—and more.

You move around a hand-drawn map, encountering friend and foe, casting spells and slipping into combat when necessary. But it’s the words that make Sorcery! so engrossing—in two sentences, it will paint a picture of the town that lays just beyond the hill ahead, and that impacts the choices you make when you make it into the town itself.

Those choices come thick and fast: every 30 seconds you’ll be asked to decide whether to fight or flee, greet or ignore, pick a bright red flower or leave it alone. You always have three or four options in dialogue, each of which will open up a new line of inquiry. It allows you to create a story that’s entirely your own—and best of all, you can transfer your character and all their choices onto the sequel, Sorcery 2!.

26. XCOM: Enemy Within

If you didn’t know that XCOM: Enemy Within was a mobile port, you’d never guess. It’s a turn-based strategy game that plays like it was made for touchscreen, and it’s easy to move around your virtual soldiers, telling them to attack Earth’s alien invaders with a few quick taps. 

Some of the maps are scaled down and the visuals aren’t as sharp as on PC or consoles, but the depth of the tactical combat remains. The soldier customisation, and the impact that one squad member can have on a fight, will make you fond of specific characters, right up until they’re horribly murdered by a swarm of sectoids. It’s cruel, but you won’t be able to stop playing.

Enemy Within is the expanded version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with new weapons, aliens, and abilities. Basically, it’s the best version of XCOM, and now you can play it in your pocket. It works well on both tablets and larger mobiles. 

25. Downwell

A busy roguelike platformer about constantly falling down a well, stomping on enemies and firing customisable gun boots. You’re in constant fear of dying to one of many on-screen obstacles, but Downwell always wants you to go faster—the more enemies you beat in a combo, the more gems you’ll earn to spend on items at a shop.

At the end of every level you gain an upgrade, of which there are 20. They range from a drone that shoots bullets to a rocket jump that gives you more height when you fire your boots, and the way they interact means that your build changes as you progress. Add in different characters, colour palettes, ammo types for your boots and procedurally-generated levels and you have a platformer that just gets better with every run. 

24. Data Wing

Data Wing’s looks are deceiving. You might think, from screenshots or video, that it’s just another arcade racer. But while turning and drifting feel slick—you gain speed by grazing the outside of the tracks—it’s the brilliant writing that sets it apart. You control a Data Wing, a carrier of information from one point to the next inside a computer, and the bulk of the story comes from your interactions with an all-commanding AI called Mother. We don’t want to give anything away, but suffice to say it’s more complex than it first seems, and has plenty of twists and turns. Play it without reading spoilers.  

23. Thumper 

Thumper is a gnarled nightmare in rhythm game form. It’s a thrashing trip into hell that never wants you to sit comfortably, and beats you over the head with doom until you plead it to stop. You control a metal beetle screaming along a track, jumping over obstacles and skidding around corners in time to the beat. One mistimed tap can end your lift.

What makes Thumper so unique is not its flawless touch controls, but its oppressive atmosphere. The music rumbles and screeches, tentacles flail in the background and red eyes stare at you from the abyss. It wants you to know that you’re not welcome, and every beaten level comes with a wave of white-knuckle relief. 

It’s on PC, PS4, Switch and VR headsets, but the one-button controls make it a perfect fit for your mobile or tablet. 

22. Machinarium

Machinarium, from decorated developer Amanita Design, is one of the best point-and-clicks of our generation, and its move to touchscreen is flawless: controls are responsive and the mobile interface is easy to understand. Its grungy, unforgiving world is beautifully drawn, and all the rusting metal and whirring contraptions create an immediate sense of place. Just by looking at this harsh environments you’ll start to feel for your little robot protagonist, lost in a wasteland and searching for his lady-robot love. It’s a tricky puzzle game, but a clever two-tier hint system is on hand to help you out.

21. Super Hexagon

Super Hexagon is one of those games that picks a simply concept — navigate a cursor through a rotating tunnel of shapes — and executes it impeccably. Each shape has a gap in it somewhere, and by moving your cursor into that gap you’ll avoid annihilation, and be free to continue enjoying the rockin’ techno soundtrack. It starts slow, but quickly becomes manic: the screen shifts and tilts, colors flash, and shapes fly at you faster and faster until you’re dead. It’s impossible to resist having just one more go. Okay, maybe two.

20. Fortnite

You might think of console and PC as Fortnite’s natural homes, but millions of people play it on mobile: every time you login you’re instantly matched with 99 other players, all of whom want to murder you. The controls aren’t as smooth as a controller or a mouse, but you can still be accurate, and before long you’ll be placing walls and stairs with a tap. The on-screen sound cues, which tell you the direction of nearby footsteps, are a masterstroke, and should be in every touchscreen shooter. 

This is definitely a game that favours higher-end phones, but it’s free to see how well it runs on your device. It might take you a while to get a victory royale when you’re still getting used to the controls, but when you finally do it, when you finally outmanoeuvre your opponent in that tense 1v1 finale, it will all feel worth it.

19. Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

It’s not the fully-fledged handheld Animal Crossing Switch game we’re all waiting for, but Pocket Camp is a genuinely pleasant slice of fun. Fishing, bug hunts, picking fruit, and even designing your own camper van are all relaxing ways to pass the time until the next major release, and sectioning every activity into its own space is a good fit for short touchscreen play sessions. 

Everything is gentle, there are no constant reminders to invest any of your real money on a Nook-related loan, and you can even visit your friends’ campsites. Log in every day, potter around for a bit, and grow your camp until, eventually, it feels like a virtual home away from home.

18. Reigns: Her Majesty

If you ruled the realm, would you be a fair queen, or a tyrant whose sole purpose is to bend the will of the people to her corrupt power? It’s time to find out. If you haven’t tried Reigns —  the King equivalent — for size, think Tinder meets a text adventure. You swipe left and right to make decisions about how you govern. Icons at the top of the screen keep you up to date on your standing with the church, army, and the people: don’t forget to keep an eye on them, because a few wrong moves will get the peasants all riled up. It has a lot of surprises up its royal sleeve, and the writing is consistently funny, if you’re into dark humor and beheadings. 

17. Pokémon Go

Our childhood fantasy come true, Pokémon Go places the little creatures all over the real world and asks you to catch ‘em all. It’s evolved, so to speak, in a big way since its initial release, and you can find five generations of Pokémon just by stepping out your front door. The time of day and weather affects what ‘mon will spawn, and Gym battles, raids, TM upgrades and special evolution items give you something new to try every day. Being a Pokémon master is the best excuse you’ll ever find to walk down to the shops. 

16. Alphabear: Words Across Time

Alphabear was an adorable puzzle game about placing tiles on a board to make words, clearing new space for your army of bears to occupy. Letters gradually revealed themselves, and the sooner you used them in a word, the higher your score. Its bears were cute and its mechanics deceptively smart. The sequel, Alphabear: Words Across Time, is more of the same—albeit it with a few new features that make it better than the original.

In addition to stats and bonuses, each bear now has a temperament, be they happy or grumpy. Using bears with the same temperaments gives you bonuses, adding an extra layer of strategy. You can even send them to Bear School to level them up as a group, and new customisation options will let you deck them out in delightful outfits.

The backgrounds for each board pop more than before, and it even has a new built-in dictionary to teach you the meanings of every word. If you liked Alphabear, you’ll love Words Across Time—but first-timers will get a kick out of it, too.

15. Gorogoa

An enchanting puzzle game about arranging hand-illustrated tiles so that they line up, revealing a new angle on the scene in front of you. It follows the journey of a young boy carrying a blue offering bowl, and you’re acting as his guide, manipulating images to offer him a path through a mysterious world. 

The way the tiles, sometimes seemingly unrelated, line up and interact is magical to watch. Tapping on a mountain logo on a bowl will zoom into its snowy top, showing a man with a walking stick trying to reach the summit. A gap in the clouds will fit perfectly with a shape in another tile, and you can overlay them to create one coherent image. 

Piecing the puzzles together is never frustrating, and even wrong solutions will lead to some wonderful moments. The scenarios it conjures are surprising to the end, and you’ll want to play it through a second time to fully get to grips with its moving story.

14. Threes!

Threes has the cutest numbers you’ve ever seen, and it’s your job to pair them up. But only if they’re multiples of three, mind: you swipe a board of numbers to double up threes, sixes and twenty fours against the ‘walls’ of the screen. You’ll need to think about the whole board whenever you swipe, because one rogue move can transform the round into a sea of misery. It’s adorable as well as tricky, and every tile has a little smiley face underneath it — they even turn to face adjacent matching numbers. D’aww.    

13. Triple Town

Clearly, there’s something about the number three that creates brilliant mobile games (see Threes! above). In Triple Town, three pieces of grass make a bush, three bushes make a tree, three trees make a hut, three huts make a red house, and so on, With some careful planning you can craft bustling cities on its colourful, teensy maps. As you build you’ll have to avoid bears — three bears are a nightmare — and some even dress up as ninjas. They look sweet, but they can spell curtains for your town. Just keep building. 

12. Florence

An emotional 45 minutes of interactive fiction about the love life of 25-year-old Florence Yeoh. The beautifully-drawn vignettes evoke different feelings through their colours – black and white for the monotony of a work commute, intense reds during arguments – and their music, which soars in all the right places.Advertisement

During each chapter, you tap and drag on the screen to complete simple tasks, such as brushing your teeth. You’ll also piece together speech bubbles in conversations with your boyfriend, Krish, like a mini jigsaw puzzle, and they get easier as the pair grow more comfortable together. 

It’s short, but every minute feels deliberate. No word or sound effect is out of place, and they all add up to a deeply personal love story that’s more touching than most good books or films. 

11. Her Story

Her Story, from Telling Lies developer Sam Barlow, is a murder mystery that unfolds in entirely the wrong order. It’s a series of police interviews with a young woman that have been chunked up and filed away in a database, and you choose which video to watch next by searching for keywords. 

Each clip is a potential new clue that will guide you on your search, and eventually, you’ll build up a picture of what happened. Because you won’t have watched every video it’ll be very much your version of events, distorted by your own assumptions, which makes it feel deeply personal. It’s one of the best PC games of the past five years, and the Android version is thankfully complete and uncut. Just play it, and hope that Telling Lies comes to the Google Play store someday.

10. Oxenfree

Do you like the 80s, smart-talking teenagers, and mysterious islands where alternate dimensions might be a thing? Then this atmospheric adventure will be right up your misty street as a group of teens uncover a creepy supernatural surprise when they go away for the weekend. Complete with incredible moody synth soundtrack, Oxenfree is full of brilliant dialogue, memorable characters, and plenty of different ways for the action to unfold as you explore. Will everyone get off the island the next day? That’s kind of up to you, dude.  

9. Rymdkapsel 

Genre: Space sim
Price: £2.99/$3.99

Exploring uncharted space is nearly always stressful, as anyone that’s watched a Ridley Scott film will attest to. But somehow, Rymdkapsel makes battling alien invaders a zen journey. You manage an ever-growing population as they research imposing monoliths across the galaxy: you’ll grow plants, build kitchens for food, manage weaponry and mine resources, all the while bolting colourful Tetris-style shapes onto your space station to create the perfect layout. Once the relaxing electronic soundtrack keeps gets you in the zone, and you’ll never want to leave.

8. Minecraft

If you played Minecraft’s Android version years ago and dismissed it, then it’s time to return. It’s no longer a shadow of the main game: 2017’s Better Together update brought it in line with the Windows 10 version, and it receives all the same updates. You can even play it alongside your friends on PC or iPhone. 

Mojang has put a lot of time into making the controls intuitive, which means nothing comes between you and Minecraft’s world of infinite possibilities. You can break any block and build any structure without worrying about tapping in the wrong space, and creating gigantic structures – King’s Landing from Game of Thrones, say – is now a genuine option.

7. Mini Metro

If you’ve ever thought you could design a better underground system than Transport For London, it’s your time to put your money where your overcrowded station is. Mini Metro is a beautifully minimalistic exercise in complete godlike commuter control. Stations pop up and all you have to do is connect them to each other in a way that keeps everyone moving but of course it’s not that simple. The real life city recreations have rivers that need bridges and tunnels, trains need new carriages and stations need upgrades to become true transport hubs. Don’t worry, there’s a zen mode for when the stress gets too much. 

6. Stardew Valley

If you’ve ever been baffled by the London Underground, New York City Subway or the Paris Métro, then this is your chance to prove you can design something less confusing. Mini Metro is a beautifully minimalistic exercise in godlike commuter control. Stations pop up, and all you have to do is connect them to each other in a way that keeps everyone moving. But as transport planners have always found, it’s not quite that simple. The real-life city recreations have rivers that need bridges and tunnels. Trains need new carriage, and stations need upgrades to become true transport hubs. You need to manage it all. Don’t worry: there’s a zen mode for when the stress gets too much.

5. Alto’s Odyssey

Alto’s Adventure was the best endless runner on Android—until the sequel came along. Odyssey swaps Alto’s snowboard for a sandboard and sends you swooping over dunes and into canyons, performing jumps, tricks and grinds as you pick up speed. 

The scenery is stunning, and the weather changes from perfect sunshine to flashes of lightning as you zoom past temples and desert city skylines. It’s all set to a soothing soundtrack of flutes that keep you relaxed, even when you crash, and the procedurally-generated levels make every run feel fresh. Whether you played the original or not, this is a must-own.

4. Hidden Folks

A stylish monochrome version of Where’s Wally/Waldo crammed with happiness and charm. Each big, dense levels has a long list of cartoon collectibles, and lots of moving parts to poke. You can unfurl tents, slide open doors, flick switches to start conveyor belts, or shake trees to make bananas fall to the ground, and everything is accompanied by a mouth-made sound effect guaranteed to make you smile (the ‘Bing’ of a correct spot is imprinted on our brain forever). Hidden Folks is a simple delight that will keep you busy for hours.  

3. Monument Valley 2 

A beautiful puzzler about shifting perspectives. As silent protagonist Ro, you move across a world of impossible shapes, prodding and pulling at the environment to make it move, creating new pathways. Each level is an optical illusion to wrap your head around, and it’s satisfying to work out how you’ll click its staircases, blocks and bridges into exactly the right place.

What sets Monument Valley 2 apart is how well it’s presented. The wistful, sometimes haunting soundtrack rises and falls in all the right places, and each on-screen action is accompanied by its own perfect sound effect. Every stage is a work of art, and the curved spires of its other-worldly towers are set against an ever-changing colour palette.  

Quite simply, you owe it to yourself to play this game—and if you haven’t tried the original yet, make sure you do that too.

2. The Room Series 

If it were just a standalone game, The Room would’ve made this list: it’s a creepy, atmospheric mystery with clever puzzles. But the series has gotten better with every new entry, and now there are four, all of which are worth playing. Every single screen has things to touch and tap—keys to find, levers to pull, eerie shapes to peer at and secrets to uncover, and it all unfolds with a sense of theatre that few other Android games manage. 

The level design is exquisite. Nothing feels out of place or wasted, and puzzles are wonderfully tactile, with whirring contraptions that spin, slide and snap into place. No two puzzles feel the same, remarkable given how many are packed into each game, and developer Fireproof consistently hits the difficulty sweet spot: you’ll rarely be stuck for too long, but you’ll still feel like a genius when you reach the end.

1. 80 Days 

Developer Inkle is renowned for its writing chops—see Sorcery! at number 30—and 80 Days is its magnum opus. You play a valet to explorer Phileas Fogg, and it’s your job to plot a route around a wondrous world, which blends reality and sci-fi to create a unique setting. Amphibious trains dive into the English Channel, and bustling markets float in the sky.

You’ll have to manage your finances closely and keep an eye on Fogg’s fragile health, but this isn’t a game where you worry about failing. It’s about the journey: the cities you’ll see, the memorable people you’ll meet, the trouble you’ll get into. The interplay between Fogg and Passepartout is endearing, and every line of dialogue has been honed until it’s razor sharp.

You could play 80 days hundreds of times and still stumble across new stories. It’s available on PC, but the mobile version is still the best fit for its simple interface. If you only play one Android game this year, make it this one.