This post was originally posted on TECHRADAR TECH NEWS
There are loads of great games available for Android, but how can you pick out the gems from the dross, and amazing touchscreen experiences from botched console ports? With our lists, that’s how!
We cover the best titles on Android right now, including the finest racers, puzzlers, adventure games, arcade titles and more.
We’ve tried these games out, and looked to see where the costs come in – there might be a free sticker added to some of these in the Google Play Store, but sometimes you’ll need an in app purchase (IAP) to get the real benefit – so we’ll make sure you know about that ahead of the download.
Check back every other week for a new game, and click through to the following pages to see the best of the best divided into the genres that best represent what people are playing right now.
Android game of the week: Maze Machina (free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$3.59 IAP)
Maze Machina is an Android game that squeezes complex turn-based strategy into a shoebox-like four-by-four grid, packed with surprises. The premise is that the evil Automatron is testing tiny robot creations in a constantly evolving battlefield. You’re a mouse, desperately trying to survive.
The aim in each round is to grab a key and get to the exit, but every tile on the board imbues whatever’s standing on it with a special power. This might be a bomb to lob, a weapon with which to get all stabby, or the means to encase a foe in a block of ice.
Further complicating matters, every object on the board moves when you swipe. This transforms Maze Machina into a brain-smashing chess-like affair where every decision must be carefully weighed up before proceeding. It’s clever and compelling, and does an awful lot in a tiny space.
The best racing games for Android
Our favorite Android top-down, 3D and retro racers.
Tabletop Racing: World Tour ($5.99/£4.79/AU$8.99)
Table Top Racing: World Tour is a high-speed racer that has you guide tiny cars around circuits made from comparatively massive household objects. It’s like the offspring of Micro Machines and Mario Kart. Races are extremely competitive, and find you fending off crazed opponents by way of cunning maneuvers and unsportsmanlike weapons, in a mad dash to the finish line.
Although there are opportunities to upgrade your vehicle to better compete on tougher tracks, World Tour is devoid of IAP. Instead, it’s your skills that will see you take checkered flags – and end up with enough cash to buy swanky new cars.
With simple but responsive controls, this Android game is a breath of fresh air on a platform where arcade racing is often as much about the depth of your wallet as your skills on the track.
GRID Autosport ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)
GRID Autosport is a racer, but also a challenge to Android gamers complaining they never get premium titles, and that freemium fare comes packed with ads and IAP. This is a full-on ad-free premium AAA hit, transferred intact to your phone (assuming your phone can run it – see the list on the game’s Google Play page).
Even on PC and consoles, GRID Autosport was impressive stuff on its release. Five or so years on, it’s no less astonishing as a mobile title, as you blaze around 100 circuits, battling it out in a huge range of cars.
This is, note, a simulation. It won’t go easy on you, or allow you to smash through walls at top speed and carry on as though nothing’s happened, but driving aids help you master what’s without a doubt the finest premium racing experience on Android.
Repulze exists in a future beyond racers driving cars far too quickly; instead, they’re placed in experimental hovercraft that belt along at insane speeds. Track design’s traditions have also been ditched, flat courses being replaced by roller-coaster-like constructions that throw you around in stomach-churning fashion.
The game’s split into three phases. It begins with time trials that have you pass through specific colored gates, and ends with you taking on AI opponents, occasionally – and unsportingly – blowing them up with weapons.
There’s a sci-fi backstory about synthetic men and corporations, but really this one’s all about speed. At first, the twitchy controls will find you repeatedly smashing into tracksides and wondering if someone should take your hovercraft license away. But master the tracks and controls alike, and Repulze becomes an exhilarating experience as you bomb along toward the finish line.
Rush Rally 3 ($3.99/£3.99/AU$6.99)
Rush Rally 3 brings console-style rally racing to Android. For quick blasts, you can delve into single rally mode, with a co-driver bellowing in your ear; or there’s the grinding metal of rallycross, pitting you against computer cars apparently fueled by aggression. If you’re in it for the long haul, immerse yourself in a full career mode.
None of those options would matter a jot if the racing wasn’t up to much. Fortunately, it’s really good. The game looks the part, with very smart visuals and viewpoints, whether belting around a racing circuit or blazing through a forest.
The controls work well, too, providing a number of setups to accommodate a range of preferences (tilt; virtual buttons) – and skill levels. All in all, it’s enough for the game to get that coveted checkered flag.
Horizon Chase (free + $2.99/£2.79/AU$4.09 IAP)
If you’re fed up with racing games paying more attention to whether the tarmac looks photorealistic rather than how much fun it should be to zoom along at insane speeds, check out Horizon Chase. This tribute to old-school arcade titles is all about the sheer joy of racing, rather than boring realism.
The visuals are vibrant, the soundtrack is jolly and cheesy, and the racing finds you constantly battling your way to the front of an aggressive pack.
If you fondly recall Lotus Turbo Esprit Challenge and Top Gear, don’t miss this one. (Note that Horizon Chase gives you five tracks for free. To unlock the rest, there’s a single £2.29/US$2.99 IAP.)
Need for Speed: Most Wanted ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
Anyone expecting the kind of free-roaming racing from the console versions of this title are going to be miffed, but Need for Speed: Most Wanted is nonetheless one of the finest games of its kind on Android. Yes, the tracks are linear, with only the odd shortcut, but the actual racing bit is superb.
You belt along the seedy streets of a drab, gray city, trying to win events that will boost your ego and reputation alike. Wins swell your coffers, enabling you to buy new vehicles for entering special events.
The game looks gorgeous on Android and has a high-octane soundtrack to urge you onwards. But mostly, this one’s about the controls – a slick combination of responsive tilt and effortless drifting that makes everything feel closer to OutRun 2 than typically sub-optimal mobile racing fare.
Riptide GP: Renegade ($2.99/£2.99/AU$3.99)
The first two Riptide games had you zoom along undulating watery circuits surrounded by gleaming metal towers. Riptide GP: Renegade offers another slice of splashy futuristic racing, but this time finds you immersed in the seedy underbelly of the sport.
As with the previous games, you’re still piloting a hydrofoil, and racing involves not only going very, very fast, but also being a massive show-off at every available opportunity.
If you hit a ramp or wave that hurls you into the air, you’d best fling your ride about or do a handstand, in order to get turbo-boost on landing. Sensible racers get nothing.
The career mode finds you earning cash, upgrading your ride, and probably ignoring the slightly tiresome story bits. The racing, though, is superb – an exhilarating mix of old-school arcade thrills and modern mobile touchscreen smarts.
Mini Motor Racing ($2.99/£3.19/AU$4.49)
Mini Motor Racing is a frenetic top-down racer that finds tiny vehicles darting about claustrophobic circuits that twist and turn in a clear effort to have you repeatedly drive into walls. The cars handle more like remote control cars than real fare, meaning that races are typically tight – and easily lost if you glance away from the screen for just a moment.
There’s a ton of content here – many dozens of races set across a wide range of environments. You zoom through ruins, and scoot about beachside tracks. The AI’s sometimes a bit too aggressive, but with savvy car upgrades, and nitro boost usage when racing, you’ll be taking more than the occasional checkered flag.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit exists in a world where the police seem to think it’s perfectly okay to use their extremely expensive cars to ram fleeing criminals into submission. And when they’re not doing that, they belt along the streets, racing each other to (presumably) decide who pays for the day’s doughnuts.
It’s a fairly simple racer – you’re basically weaving your way through the landscape, smashing into other cars, and triggering the odd trap – but it’s exhilarating, breezy fun that echoes classic racers like Chase H.Q.
And once you’ve had your fill of being one of the nitro-happy fuzz, you can play out a career as the pursued as well, getting stuck into the kind of cop-smashing criminal antics that totally won’t be covered by your car manufacturer’s warranty.
Final Freeway 2R ($0.99/79p/AU$0.99)
Final Freeway 2R is a retro racing game, quite blatantly inspired by Sega’s classic OutRun. You belt along in a red car, tearing up a road where everyone’s rather suspiciously driving in the same direction. Every now and again, you hit a fork, allowing you to select your route. All the while, cheesy music blares out of your device’s speakers.
For old hands, you’ll be in a kind of gaming heaven. And arguably, this game’s better than the one that inspired it, feeling more fluid and nuanced. If you’re used to more realistic fare, give Final Freeway 2R a go – you might find yourself converted by its breezy attitude, colorful visuals, and need for truly insane speed.
Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 ($3.99/£3.99/AU$6.49)
Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 is a racing management game without the boring bits. Rather than sitting you in front of a glorified spreadsheet, the game is a well-balanced mix of accessibility and depth, enabling you to delve into the nitty gritty of teams, sponsors, mechanics, and even livery.
When you’re all set, you get to watch surprisingly tense and exciting top-down racing. (This being surprising because you’re largely watching numbered discs zoom around circuits.) One-off races give you a feel for things, but the real meat is starting from the bottom of the pile in the career mode, with the ultimate aim of becoming a winner.
It’s all streamlined, slick, and mobile-friendly, and a big leap on from the relatively simplistic original Motorsport Manager Mobile.
The best Android adventure games
Our favorite Android point and click games, RPGs, narrative stories, choose your own adventures and room escape games.
Minit is a curious beast – a kind of time-attack RPG adventure. Given that RPGs usually let you roam at leisure, the prospect of a 60-second lifespan might horrify you. And so it goes in your initial tries at Minit, which prove baffling and confusing.
At some point, though, it all begins to make sense. Collected items survive to your next incarnation. You work out pathways to new prizes, and how to cut down your routes by the precious seconds required to perform key actions.
The net result is a game that looks like it has beamed in from 1985, and that will play like a noodly old-school RPG, but that’s in fact perfectly designed for pick-up-and-play on-the-go mobile gaming.
80 Days ($4.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)
Of all the attempts to play with the conventions of novels and story-led gaming on mobile, 80 Days is the most fun. It takes place in an 1872 with a decidedly steampunk twist, but where Phileas Fogg remains the same old braggart. As his trusty valet, you must help Fogg make good on a wager to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. This involves managing/trading belongings and carefully selecting routes.
Mostly, though, interaction comes by way of a pacey, frequently exciting branched narrative, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book on fast-forward.
A late-2015 content update added 150,000 words, two new plots and 30 cities to an adventure that already boasted plenty of replay value — not least when you’ve experienced the joys of underwater trains and colossal mechanical elephants in India, and wonder what other marvels await discovery in this world of wonders.
Her Story ($2.99/£2.69/AU$3.99)
In Her Story, you find yourself facing a creaky computer terminal with software designed by a sadist. It soon becomes clear the so-called L.O.G.I.C. database houses police interviews of a woman charged with murder.
But the tape’s been hacked to bits and is accessible only by keywords; ‘helpfully’, the system only displays five search results at once.
Naturally, these contrivances exist to force you to play detective, eking out clues from video snippets to work out what to search for next, slowly piecing together the mystery in your brain.
A unique and captivating experience, Her Story will keep even the most remotely curious Android gamer gripped until the enigma is solved.
Oceanhorn (free + $5.49/£4.99/AU$6.99 IAP)
There’s more than a hint of Zelda about Oceanhorn, but that’s not a bad thing when it means embarking on one of the finest arcade adventures on mobile.
You awake to find a letter from your father, who it turns out has gone from your life. You’re merely left with his notebook and a necklace. Thanks, Dad!
Being that this is a videogame, you reason it’s time to get questy, exploring the islands of the Uncharted Seas, chatting with folks, stabbing hostile wildlife, uncovering secrets and mysteries, and trying very hard to not get killed.
You get a chapter for free, to test how the game works on your device (its visual clout means fairly powerful Android devices are recommended); a single IAP unlocks the rest. The entire quest takes a dozen hours or so – which will likely be some of the best gaming you’ll experience on Android.
Milkmaid of the Milky Way ($4.49/£3.39/AU$5.99)
Initial moments in point-and-click adventure Milkmaid of the Milky Way are so sedate the game’s in danger of falling over. You play as Ruth, a young woman living on a remote farm in a 1920s Norwegian fjord. She makes dairy products, sold to a town several hours away. Then, without warning, a massive gold spaceship descends, stealing her cows.
Fortunately, Ruth decides she’s having none of that, leaps aboard the spaceship, and finds herself embroiled in a tale of intergalactic struggles. To say much more would spoil things, but we can say that this old-school adventure is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.
The puzzles are logical yet satisfying; the visuals are gorgeous; and the game amusingly provides all of its narrative in rhyme, which is pleasingly quaint and nicely different.
Samorost 3 ($4.99/£3.99/AU$6.49)
Samorost 3 is a love letter to classic point-and-click adventure games. You explore your surroundings, unearth objects, and then figure out where best to use them. Straightforward stuff, then (at least in theory – many puzzles are decidedly cryptic), but what sets Samorost 3 apart is that it’s unrelentingly gorgeous, and full of heart.
The storyline is bonkers, involving a mad monk who used a massive mechanical hydra to smash up a load of planetoids. You, as an ambitious space-obsessed gnome, must figure out how to set things right.
The game is packed with gorgeous details that delight, from the twitch of an insect’s antennae to a scene where the protagonist successfully encourages nearby creatures to sing, and starts fist-punching the air while dancing with glee. Just two magical moments among many in one of the finest examples of adventuring on Android.
Love You To Bits ($3.99/£3.79/AU$5.99)
Love You To Bits is a visually dazzling and relentlessly inventive point-and-click puzzler. It features Kosmo, a space explorer searching for the scattered pieces of his robot girlfriend, bar the lifeless head that’s still in his clutches. Which is a bit icky.
Don’t think about that too much, though, because this game is gorgeous. Through its many varied scenes, it plays fast and loose with pop culture references, challenging you to beat a 2D Monument Valley, sending up Star Wars, and at one point dumping you on a planet of apes.
Now and again, you’ll need to make a leap of logic to complete a task, and puzzles mostly involve picking things up and using them in the right place – hardly the height of innovation. But this game’s so endearing and smartly designed you’d have to be lifeless yourself to fail to love it at least a little.
Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery ($3.99/£3.49/AU$5.49)
Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery is an adventure game that’s about discovery and exploration. It’s a relentlessly beautiful experience, with rich retro-infused artwork and a lush soundtrack. The game encourages you to breathe everything in, take your time, and work at your own pace.
Unlike most adventures, which tend to be obsessed with inventories, Sworcery is mostly concerned with puzzles that are confined to one screen. Solutions are frequently abstract, involving manipulating your environment or even time itself. You may free woodland spirits with musical prowess, or discover a solution requires playing at set points during the lunar calendar.
It might come across as a bit worthy at times, and there are some missteps, such as the awkward, ungainly combat, but Sworcery is evocative and expressive, and full of pay-offs that tend towards the magical, unless you happen to be dead inside.
Minecraft on Android is the hugely popular sandbox PC game based around virtual blocks, right in the palm of your hand. Sort of.
In effect, it’s a stripped-back take on the desktop version, although you still get different ways to play. In creative mode, you explore and can immediately start crafting a virtual world. With survival mode come the added complications of gathering and managing resources during the day – and then battling against enemies during the night.
Although it’s a mite more limited than the full desktop release, Minecraft on Android still gives you plenty to do, and the randomly generated nature of the world provides potentially limitless gaming experiences. It’s certainly more than just a load of blocks.
The Room: Old Sins ($4.99/£4.99/AU$8.49)
The Room: Old Sins finds you investigating the disappearance of an engineer and his wife. The trail leads you to a spooky attic. On getting the lights working, you see a strange dollhouse, which then sucks you inside.
You discover the toy is in fact a full reconstruction of a mansion, with a side order of Lovecraftian horror. Unraveling the mystery at the heart of the game and its impossible world then happens by way of devious, complex, tactile logic puzzles.
Old Sins looks and sounds great, and moving around is swift – there’s none of the dull trudging you find in the likes of Myst. Of course, if you’ve played The Room, The Room Two, and The Room Three, you’ll know all this already. If you haven’t, grab Old Sins immediately – and its predecessors, too. They’re some of the finest games on Android.
The best arcade games for Android
Our favorite Android arcade titles, fighting games, pinball games and retro games.
Dig Dog – Treasure Hunter ($2.99/£2.79/AU$4.59)
Dig Dog – Treasure Hunter is a hectic arcade effort that plays out like Dig Dug or Boulder Dash in fast forward. The titular hound hunts for treasure, and must dig its way through levitating islands. Said islands are, naturally, populated by all manner of monsters, and happen to hang over spike pits.
Figuring out where the prize is, ensuring you’ve always got a route back toward the surface, and keeping baddies at bay, are all part and parcel of the pooch’s day – and it’s a hard life. Even when you master super-fast digging actions, it’s easy to miss a foe, or – after digging a little too far – find yourself rapidly heading towards the spikes.
Still, an easy mode gives you a fighting chance of getting to grips with a game that’s hugely rewarding when mastered, marrying old-school cool with modern app design.
Jumpgrid is the distillation of Pac-Man-style dot-munching, Frogger-like hopping, and manic Super Hexagon twitch gaming. Rather than you tackling mazes, though, each arena is an identical three-by-three grid. At its edges are eight spinning cubes; grab them all and you can dive into the exit that appears at the center. The problem is everything else.
Atop the basic playfield, you see, are whirling slices of geometric death. Shapes march across the screen, or pinwheel around like blocky weapons, ready to blast you to oblivion. Levels transform into a kind of clockwork mayhem, tasking you with spotting patterns within a blink of an eye, avoiding blocky protagonists to emerge victorious.
It’s demanding stuff, but this Android game is also a thrill ride that’s hugely rewarding once mastered – not least when you crack your high score in the compelling endless mode.
Vectronom is at its core a simple game: in minimalist 3D levels, you swipe to get your cube to an exit. The thing is, the entire world is hypnotized by pumping electronic beats, shifting and changing to the rhythm.
You soon realize that although it’s tempting to dart to the next piece of safe ground, you must instead understand the clockwork movement of the platforms – how and when they appear and disappear. You then swipe with the music. It’s like a puzzler’s been merged with a rhythm action title, where success depends on your ability to spot patterns and ‘dance’ your way to victory.
Defeat comes often, but the mix of polish, superb level design, and a kind of sadistic edge, sets Vectronom apart. What should be frustrating becomes grin-inducing. And although it’s quite brief, the experience will stick with you for a long time.
Witcheye has many of the ingredients of a retro platformer – colorful, chunky graphics; patrolling enemies; a difficulty level that can approach ‘punishing’. One thing it doesn’t have is platforming, because instead of leaping about, you control a floating eyeball.
It turns out that a witch is in hot pursuit of the knight who pilfered her stash. Naturally, being a witch, she transforms into a hovering eyeball to chase him down. (Broomsticks, apparently, are so last year.) Controls-wise, this leaves you swiping to move the eyeball and tapping to stop.
Sometimes, you can blaze through levels, avoiding bashing into enemies to dispatch them. But doing so robs you of the satisfaction of finding collectibles, and mastering eyeball movement so you have a shot at taking down bosses in wonderfully realized battles. In all, then, an iPad game that’s a great mix of old and new, ideally optimized for touch.
Solar Explorer: New Dawn ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99)
Solar Explorer: New Dawn finds you guiding a worryingly fragile rocket towards a planet or moon, as it hurtles past rocket-smashing asteroids. Blasts of air from thrusters shift your position, keeping you within the path of approach, lest you take on too much speed.
The viewpoint switches. Now it’s all about slowing down, again avoiding deadly rocks. Survive, and you end up in a modern take on Lunar Lander, gently coaxing your craft to touchdown on the surface of another world. One wrong move can be enough to find it instead sickeningly cartwheeling towards an explosive end.
With shiny visuals, an intense soundtrack and adrenaline-infused gameplay, Solar Explorer is a quick-fix arcade blast that gives your Android phone a much-needed swig of rocket fuel.
Thumper: Pocket Edition ($4.99/£4.59/AU$7.49)
Thumper: Pocket Edition is a bit like Guitar Hero crossed with a roller-coaster, set in some kind of horrific Lovecraftian hell where everything is encased in metal. And if the thought of that breaks your mind, wait until you play the game.
You careen along a track. Keeping your metal bug alive relies on performing gestures and taps at precisely the right moments, in time with an ominous and booming tribal soundtrack. If that wasn’t hard enough (and it really is), bosses sporadically show up, threatening you with their massive teeth and plentiful tentacles.
Thumper isn’t for the faint-hearted, and it’s easy to become frustrated with the sometimes brutal difficulty. But there’s no doubting this is one of the most polished and arresting games of its kind that’s ever come to mobile.
Power Hover (free + IAP)
There’s a great sense of freedom from the second you immerse yourself in the strange and futuristic world of Power Hover. The robot protagonist has been charged with pursuing a thief who’s stolen batteries that power the city.
The droid therefore grabs a hoverboard and scythes across gorgeous minimal landscapes, such as deserts filled with colossal marching automatons, glittering blue oceans, and a dead grey human city.
In lesser hands, Power Hover could have been utterly forgettable. After all, you’re basically tapping left and right to change the direction of a hoverboard, in order to collect batteries and avoid obstacles. But the production values here are stunning.
Power Hover is a visual treat, boasts a fantastic soundtrack, and gives mere hints of a story, enabling your imagination to run wild. Best of all, the floaty controls are perfect; you might fight them at first, but once they click, Power Hover becomes a hugely rewarding experience.
(On Android, Power Hover is a free download; to play beyond the first eight levels requires a one-off IAP.)
At its core, Forget-Me-Not is Pac-Man mixed with Rogue. You scoot about algorithmically generated single-screen mazes, gobbling down flowers, grabbing a key, and then making a break for the exit.
But what makes Forget-Me-Not essential is how alive its tiny dungeons feel. Your enemies don’t just gun for you, but are also out to obliterate each other and, frequently, the walls of the dungeon, reshaping it as you play.
There are tons of superb details to find buried within the game’s many modes, and cheapskates can even get on board with the free version, although that locks much of its content away until you’ve munched enough flowers.
If there was any justice, Forget-Me-Not would have a permanent place at the top of the Google Play charts. It is one of the finest arcade experiences around, not just on Android, but on any platform – old or new.
Captain Cowboy ($0.99/£1.09/AU$1.39)
Coming across like a sandbox-oriented chill-out ‘zen’ take on seminal classic Boulder Dash, Captain Cowboy has your little space-faring hero exploring a massive handcrafted world peppered with walls, hero-squashing boulders, and plenty of bling.
Much like Boulder Dash, Captain Cowboy is mostly about not being crushed by massive rocks – you dig paths through dirt, aiming to strategically use boulders to take out threats rather than your own head. But everything here is played out without stress (due to endless continues) and sometimes in slow motion (when floating through zero-gravity sections of space).
The result feels very different from the title that inspired it, but it’s no less compelling. Tension is replaced by exploration, and single-screen arcade thrills are sacrificed for a longer game. As you dig deeper into Captain Cowboy’s world, there are plenty of things awaiting discovery, and even tackling the next screen of dirt and stones always proves enjoyable.
There’s a distinct sense of minimalism at the heart of Edge, along with a knowing nod to a few arcade classics of old. Bereft of a story, the game simply tasks you with guiding a trundling cube to the end of each blocky level. Along the way, you grab tiny glowing cubes. On reaching the goal, you get graded on your abilities.
This admittedly doesn’t sound like much on paper, but Edge is a superb arcade game. The isometric visuals are sharp, and the head-bobbing soundtrack urges you onwards. The level design is the real star, though, with surprisingly imaginative objectives and hazards hewn from the isometric landscape.
And even when you’ve picked your way to the very end, there’s still those grades to improve by shaving the odd second off of your times.
Pumped BMX 3 ($3.99/£3.49/AU$5.49)
Pumped BMX 3 might initially give you the wrong impression. Colorful visuals and basic controls have it initially come across as a casual take on a BMX trials outing. But pretty rapidly, it bucks any complacency from the saddle and leaves it a shattered mess on the floor.
Whereas Pumped BMX 2 (also recommended) went for a more relaxed take on hurling a BMX into the air with merry abandon, this sequel is all about mastery. Try to wing it and you’ll be crushed, but properly learn course layouts and timings, and you’ll gradually work your way through each level.
That’s rewarding enough, but with confidence you can start peppering your runs with stunts to boost your scores, with routines that would make even seasoned BMX pros break out in hearty applause.
Holedown is an arcade shooter that has you blast strings of balls at numbered blocks. When blocks are hit enough times, they blow up, allowing you to dig deeper. Some blocks hold up others, and should be prioritized – as should grabbing gems that allow you to upgrade your kit (more balls; new levels; a bigger gem bag) when you run out of shots and return to the surface.
The mechanics are nothing new on Android – there are loads of similar ball bouncers. What is new is the sense of personality, polish and fun Holedown brings to this style of game. This is a premium title and a labor of love. There’s still repetition at its core, but Holedown feels hypnotic and encouraging, rather than giving you the feeling that it’s digging into your wallet – in contrast to its freebie contemporaries.
Osmos HD ($2.49/£2.19/AU$3.39)
Osmos HD is a rare arcade game about patience and subtlety. Each unique level has you guide a ‘mote’, which moves by expelling tiny pieces of itself. Initially, it moves within microscopic goop, eating smaller motes, to expand and reign supreme.
At first, other motes don’t fight back, but the game soon immerses you in petri dish warfare, as motes tear whatever amounts to each-other’s faces off. Then there’s the odd curveball, as challenges find you dealing with gravity as planet-like motes orbit deadly floating ‘stars’.
It’s a beautiful, captivating game, with perfect touchscreen controls. And if you can convince a friend to join in, you can battle it out over Wi-Fi across six distinct arenas.
PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX ($1.99/£1.79/AU$3.09)
Since Pac-Man graced arcades in the early 1980s, titles featuring the rotund dot-muncher have typically been split between careful iterations on the original, and mostly duff attempts to shoe-horn the character into other genres. Championship Edition DX is ostensibly the former, although the changes made from the original radically transform the game, making it easily the best Pac-Man to date.
Here, the maze is split in two. Eat all the dots from one half and a special object appears on the other; eat that and the original half’s dots are refilled in a new configuration.
All the while, dozing ghosts you brush past join a spectral conga that follows your every move. The result is an intoxicating speedrun take on a seminal arcade classic, combined with the even more ancient Snake; somehow, this combination ends up being fresh, exciting and essential.
The best endless runners for Android
Our favorite Android games where you hoverboard, jump, sprint, or even pinball to a high score – or a sudden end.
Boson X ($2.99/£1.92/AU$3.66)
Boson X is an endless runner that features scientists sprinting at insane speeds inside particle accelerators in order to generate the high-speed collisions required to discover strange new particles. And if you’re thinking that’s probably not entirely scientifically accurate, that’s true; fortunately, Boson X gets away with this by virtue of being breezy and intoxicating fun.
It comes across like Canabalt in 3D, mixed with Super Hexagon, as you leap between platforms, rotating the collider to ensure you don’t plunge into the void or smack into a wall. From the off, this isn’t exactly easy, but later colliders are truly bonkers – abstract and terrifying contraptions that shift and morph before your very eyes. Brilliant stuff.
People who today play mobile classic Canabalt and consider it lacking due to its simplicity don’t understand what the game is trying to do. Canabalt is all about speed — the thrill of being barely in control, and of affording the player only the simplest controls for survival. ALONE… takes that basic premise and straps a rocket booster to it.
Instead of leaping between buildings, you’re flying through deadly caverns, a single digit nudging your tiny craft up and down. Occasional moments of generosity — warnings about incoming projectiles; your ship surviving minor collisions and slowly regenerating — are offset by the relentlessly demanding pressure of simply staying alive and not slamming into a wall. It’s an intoxicating combination, and one that, unlike most games in this genre, matches Canabalt in being genuinely exciting to play.
Doug Dug ($0.99/83p/AU$1.39)
This one’s all about the bling – and also the not being crushed to death by falling rocks and dirt. Doug Dug riffs off of Mr Driller, Boulder Dash and Dig Dug, the dwarf protagonist digging deep under the earth on an endless quest for shimmering gems. Cave-ins aren’t the only threat, though – the bowels of the earth happen to be home to a surprising array of deadly monsters.
Some can be squashed and smacked with Doug’s spade (goodbye, creepy spider!), but others are made of sterner stuff (TROLL! RUN AWAY!). Endlessly replayable and full of character, Doug Dug’s also surprisingly relaxing – until the dwarf ends up under 150 tonnes of rubble.
One of the most gorgeous games around, FOTONICA at its core echoes one-thumb leapy game Canabalt. The difference is FOTONICA has you move through a surreal and delicate Rez-like 3D vector landscape, holding the screen to gain speed, and only soaring into the air when you lift a finger.
Smartly, FOTONICA offers eight very different and finite challenges, enabling you to learn their various multi-level pathways and seek out bonuses to ramp up your high scores. Get to grips with this dreamlike runner and you can then pit your wits (and thumbs) against three slowly mutating endless zones.
Impossible Road ($1.99/£1.49/AU$2.33)
One of the most exhilarating games on mobile, Impossible Road finds a featureless white ball barreling along a ribbon-like track that twists and turns into the distance. The aim is survival – and the more gates you pass through, the higher your score.
The snag is that Impossible Road is fast, and the track bucks and turns like the unholy marriage of a furious unbroken stallion and a vicious roller-coaster.
Once the physics click, however, you’ll figure out the risks you can take, how best to corner, and what to do when hurled into the air by a surprise bump in the road.
The game also rewards ‘cheats’. Leave the track, hurtle through space for a bit, and rejoin – you’ll get a score for your airborne antics, and no penalty for any gates missed. Don’t spend too long aloft though – a few seconds is enough for your ball to be absorbed into the surrounding nothingness.
Super Hexagon ($2.99/£2.39/AU$3.79)
Super Hexagon is an endless survival game that mercilessly laughs at your incompetence. It begins with a tiny spaceship at the center of the screen, and walls rapidly closing in. All you need to do is move left and right to nip through the gaps.
Unfortunately for you, the walls keep shifting and changing, the screen pulses to the chiptune soundtrack, and the entire experience whirls and jolts like you’re inside a particularly violent washing machine. It seems impossible, but you soon start to recognize patterns in the walls.
String together some deft moves, survive a minute by the skin of your teeth, and you briefly feel like a boss as new arenas are unlocked. And although complacency is wiped from your face the instant you venture near them, Super Hexagon has an intoxicating, compelling nature to offset its mile-long sadistic streak.
Ridiculous Fishing ($2.49/£2.49/AU$3.69)
Ridiculous Fishing is appropriately named, in that it’s – vaguely – about fishing, and it’s certainly ridiculous.
The game begins with you bobbing about in your open-topped boat, casting a line into the inky depths. You then tilt your phone to guide your hook, scooping up fish, and avoiding hazards. When you reel everything in, it’s hurled into the air, whereupon – for some reason – you blast it with a shotgun.
It’s all very silly, and there’s a smart compulsion loop: over time, you buy longer lines, and higher-powered weaponry, and can therefore snag more fish. And the more you shoot, the more cash you make. Clearly, in this world there’s a big market for seafood that has been airborne and almost atomized. As we said: ridiculous!
The best platform games for Android
Our favorite Android platform games, including side-scrolling 2D efforts, exploration games and console-style adventures.
Ordia is a platform game, featuring an underwater critter trying to escape from a hostile world. It plays out vertically, having you fire the blob Angry-Birds-style between hooks and surfaces on which it can cling.
Although primarily a game about precision – not least if you want to grab every collectable on your way up – Ordia feels like a game that just wants you to play. Although later levels are admittedly tricky, the game throughout is peppered with restart points. And although each level offers challenges for more dedicated players, you needn’t complete them in order to progress.
The pace constantly shifts and changes. Some areas are like endearingly silly bouts of pinball; elsewhere, you’ll ping like mad, trying to escape from a vicious predator. Throughout, you’ll revel in one of the most perfectly realized platformers on mobile.
Linn: Path of Orchards ($2.99/£2.79/AU$4.69)
Linn: Path of Orchards messes with the conventions of platform games, in that the platforms refuse to stay still. And the doesn’t mean the odd levitating platform – here, levels are akin to strange clockwork devices, all too keen to hurl you into oblivion.
The ‘clockwork’ bit is very important – each level has a distinct pattern. Figure that out, and you should be able to grab all the bling and reach the exit in a tiny number of moves. The end result therefore ends up somewhere between turn-based puzzler and single-screen plaformer, integrating the best aspects of each, and fusing it with gorgeous visuals.
Not sure? Check out the free version first, although be mindful that it’s infested with ads, which rather detract from the game’s otherwise ethereal nature.
Oddmar (free + $4.99/£3.69/AU$6.49)
Oddmar is a mobile platform game good enough to rub shoulders with console-originated equivalents. It features the titular Oddmar, a buffoonish Viking shunned by his fellows, but when they disappear and he snarfs some magic mushrooms (really), he becomes a hero, out to save his kin.
The basics are as you’d expect – run, jump, grab bling, and try not to get killed – but Oddmar is far from predictable. The visuals are dazzling to the point it often looks like an interactive cartoon; the pacing is frequently shaken up as you battle giant bosses and tackle auto-scrolling maze-like levels; and although traditional controls are available, the gestural defaults are pitch-perfect.
In short, Oddmar sets a new standard for platform games on mobile; and on Android, you even get to play the first few levels for free.
see/saw hints at the troubles ahead for its protagonists in a note from the professor running a series of tests: “Die to succeed.”
The subjects probably shouldn’t have signed up for these trials, frankly, given that they’re sealed in rooms packed with massive spikes and saw blades, and tasked with collecting coins. Black humor abounds when you realize some can only be reached by killing the subject and cunningly hurling their corpse in the appropriate direction.
The controls are superb – two thumbs are all you need – and the game feels perfect as well. So whether you’ll crack all 150 levels is mostly down to your dexterity, and whether your inner vicious streak will figure out how to chop and impale your character in a manner that will – posthumously – allow them to achieve their goal.
Spitkiss is a mashup of arcade shooty larks and platforming action, where you aim to get the bodily fluids of one Spitkiss to another. That might sound a bit grim, but this is actually a sweet-natured game played primarily in cartoonish silhouette.
Even so, your emission, once it’s hurled through the air and gone splat on a platform, starts to gloop downwards. You can then make it leap again, and – several hops later – splatter on your intended love.
Especially on larger screens, Spitkiss works really nicely. The visuals are vibrant, and the basics are easy to grasp. But as you get deeper into the game’s 80 levels, the twists and turns required to win get tougher to pull off – even when you hold down the screen for much-needed Matrix-style slo-mo.
The term ‘masterpiece’ is perhaps bandied about too often in gaming circles, but Limbo undoubtedly deserves such high praise. It features a boy picking his way through a creepy monochrome world, looking for his sister. At its core, Limbo is a fairly simple platform game with a smattering of puzzles, but its stark visuals, eerie ambience, and superb level design transforms it into something else entirely.
You’ll get a chill the first time a chittering figure sneaks off in the distance, and your heart will pump when being chased by a giant arachnid, intent on spearing your tiny frame with one of its colossal spiked legs. That death is never the end — each scene can be played unlimited times until you progress — only adds to Limbo’s disturbing nature.
Leo’s Fortune ($4.99/£4.89/AU$7.49)
The bar’s set so low in modern mobile gaming that the word ‘premium’ has become almost meaningless. But Leo’s Fortune bucks the trend, and truly deserves the term. It’s a somewhat old-school side-on platform game, featuring a gruff furball hunting down the thief who stole his gold (and then, as is always the way, dropped coins at precise, regular intervals along a lengthy, perilous pathway).
The game is visually stunning, from the protagonist’s animation through to the lush, varied backdrops. The game also frequently shakes things up, varying its pace from Sonic-style loops to precise pixel-perfect leaps.
It at times perhaps pushes you a bit too far — late on, we found some sections a bit too finicky and demanding. But you can have as many cracks at a section as you please, and if you master the entire thing, there’s a hardcore speedrun mode that challenges you to complete the entire journey without dying.
Traps n’ Gemstones ($4.99/£3.99/AU$4.99)
Harking back to classic side-on platformers, Traps n’ Gemstones dumps an Indiana Jones wannabe into a massive pyramid, filled with mummies, spiders and traps; from here he must figure out how to steal all the bling, uncover all the secrets, and then finally escape.
Beyond having you leap about, grab diamonds, and keep indigenous explorer-killing critters at bay, Traps n’ Gemstones is keen to have you explore. Work your way deeper into the pyramid and you’ll find objects that when placed somewhere specific open up new pathways.
But although this one’s happy to hurl you back to gaming’s halcyon days, it’s a mite kinder to newcomers than the games that inspired it.
Get killed and you can carry on from where you left off. More of a hardcore player? Death wipes your score, so to doff your fedora in a truly smug manner, you’ll have to complete the entire thing without falling to the game’s difficult challenges.
Hero of the hour Dennis finds himself unicycling naked in this gorgeous platform game best described as flat-out nuts. In iCycle, you dodder left or right, leap over obstacles, and break your fall with a handy umbrella, all the while attempting to grab ice as surreal landscapes collapse and morph around you.
The mission feels like a journey into what might happen if Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam were let loose on game design. One minute, you’re entering a top-hatted gent’s ear to find and kiss a ‘reverse mermaid’ on a levitating bike; the next you’re in a terrifying silhouette funfair that might have burst forth from a fevered mind during a particularly unpleasant nightmare.
Some of the levels are tough, and there’s a bit of grinding to unlock new outfits. But if you want something a bit more creative on your Android, you can’t do much better than iCycle.
Mushroom 11 ($4.99/£4.89/AU$6.49)
Mushroom 11 finds you exploring the decaying ruins of a devastated world. And you do so as a blob of green goo. Movement comes by way of you ‘erasing’ chunks of this creature with a circular ‘brush’. Over time, you learn how this can urge the blob to move in certain ways, or how you can split it in two, so half can flick a switch, while the other half moves onward.
This probably sounds a bit weird – and it is. But Mushroom 11 is perfectly suited to the touchscreen. The tactile way you interact with the protagonist feels just right, and although your surroundings are desolate, they’re also oddly beautiful, augmented by a superb ethereal soundtrack.
There are moments of frustration – the odd difficulty wall. But with regular restart points, and countless ingenious obstacles and puzzles, Mushroom 11 is a strange creature you should immediately squeeze into whatever space exists on your Android device.
The best puzzle games for Android
Our favorite Android logic tests, path-finding games, match puzzlers and brain-teasers.
Path of Giants ($3.99/£3.49/AU$5.99)
Path of Giants is a path-finding puzzler with a decidedly minimalist vibe. This Android game features a trio of explorers, finding their way through icy caverns with sheer sides and terrifying drops. For some reason, the explorers also brought with them precisely no equipment, bar some really warm coats.
To get to higher levels, one explorer must clamber on top of another. Along with cunning use of landscape-moving switches and other contraptions, this technique enables them to make their way to the flying, colored goal squares that whisk them away to the next challenge.
Seasoned puzzlers probably won’t be tested too much, but the experience is nonetheless engaging and rewarding, combining elements of Android favorites Monument Valley and Lara Croft GO into a tasty frozen treat.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes ($9.99/£9.99/AU$12.99)
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes pits you against a bomb designed by someone who’s watched one too many Hollywood movies featuring an over-the-top evil genius. The case is packed with modules, with anything from traditional wires to cut through to full games of Simon. Naturally, there’s also a massive LED countdown timer, because bomb-makers in games and on TV just love those.
The ‘making sure nobody explodes’ bit of this Android game requires help from one or more friends armed with the instructions (PDF or print-out) for defusing the contraption. If you’re playing properly, you can’t see the manual, and they can’t see the screen. This leads to a Spaceteam-style cacophony as you try to explain the cryptic switches and buttons before you, and they attempt to relay how to disable everything. Top stuff – and even more so when you head into VR using Daydream.
Rooms: The Toymaker’s Mansion ($4.99/£4.69/AU$7.99)
Rooms: The Toymaker’s Mansion finds a young girl locked inside a mansion designed by a crazed toymaker. The entire building is a gigantic clockwork contraption, its rooms split into pieces that slide back and forth. Your goal in each room is to find a key and make for the exit.
There’s a masterful elegance about the controls – a tap does everything from moving the piece of room you’re in, to activating special abilities. The puzzles are similarly tightly designed, and each can be completed in a small number of moves.
However, there’s flexibility to allow for experimentation – and even brute-forcing a solution when you get a bit stuck. Coupled with great visuals, Rooms proves an excellent spin on the old sliding puzzle formula, bringing it bang up to date for mobile play.
Bring You Home ($3.49/£3.19/AU$5.49)
Bring You Home is a puzzler with an entire series of classic cartoons at its core. It features accident-prone blue alien Polo and his pet. Said pet is swiftly kidnapped by mysterious hooded types who leap through a portal, so our hero sets off in hot pursuit, trips out of a window, and falls to the ground in deadly fashion.
Fortunately, the world can be endlessly rewound, and events shifted and changed by dragging and rearranging sliding panels that depict different objects. In the first scene, swapping out barrels for a trailer of hay saves Polo’s life and pride – but things get far more complicated later on.
There’s trial and error here, and logic sometimes takes a holiday. But given the superb animation, even failure is fun – to the point you’ll want Polo to mess up several times before you hit upon a solution.
Suzy Cube ($3.99/£3.49/AU$5.49)
Suzy Cube is a platform game, but instead of offering the classic Mario side-on viewpoint enjoyed by everything from leapy one-thumb effort Canabalt to lush console-style classic Oddmar, Suzy Cube has you mostly bounding about in 3D.
It’s not dissimilar to Super Mario 3D Land, with the viewpoint switching as you explore chunky islands, watch from behind as you slide down snowy mountains on your bottom, flip between ‘2.5D’ passages in labyrinthine pyramids, or navigate floating platforms from above.
The controls are solid, and the variety of play styles works well, regularly shaking things up; yet there’s plenty of familiar territory to hook in dedicated platform fans. You’re still looking for an exit, grabbing coins, and jumping on enemy heads – only, as is rare on Android, in 3D.
Photographs – Puzzle Stories ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)
Photographs – Puzzle Stories is a puzzle game about consequences far beyond making the right move in a logic test. Here, a series of five narratives provides the framework for dozens of small puzzles – and while the game punches your brain, it gradually breaks your heart.
This is unusual stuff for a puzzler, but it provides Photographs with added gravitas, and elevates it beyond being yet another ‘mere’ puzzler, despite the familiar nature of its mechanics (aiming/sliding/matching/finding).
It all feels pretty special – more than the sum of its parts. That said, by the time you’ve worked through the first two stories, reached the third, and read “we greeted the settlers with open arms,” you don’t need to have a handle on history to know the ending is going to be tragic.
Snakebird Primer ($7.99/£5.99/AU$10.99)
Snakebird Primer features a bunch of snake-like birds, keen to reach a portal. The tiny snag is they live on tiny floating islands peppered with fruit and spikes. Hit a spike and your bird explodes. Wolf down some fruit and it grows – just like in dusty mobile classic Snake – which, depending on the level you’re playing, may help or hinder.
Old hands might recognize this game as the follow-up to the superb Snakebird (free + $4.71/£3.69/AU$6.44) – although, in reality, it’s more like a less brain-smashing version of that game, designed for mere mortals. This one’s puzzles are simpler, and far less likely to leave you a sobbing wreck in the corner.
Great for kids and casual gamers, then. That said, even though puzzle veterans might blaze through Primer, they’ll still have a blast doing so.
Where Shadows Slumber ($4.99/£4.59/AU$7.49)
Where Shadows Slumber pulls no punches – and that’s literally the case for the protagonist, who early on finds himself horribly assaulted by nasty bipedal animal creatures who want his lamp. It’s a surprising event – not least given that you might initially assume this will be a sedate puzzler along the lines of Monument Valley.
Between the cutscenes, Where Shadows Slumber dials down the unease and engages your brain. You must figure out pathways to exits, often forging them by casting shadows that refashion the very landscape. It’s a clever conceit, and one that never really grows old. Nor does the game’s visual clout, sense of pacing, and ability to surprise with its mix of beauty and darkness.
Gorogoa is a puzzler designed to break your mind. It takes the form of a beautifully illustrated animated picture book, with individual panels telling some sort of story – and yet they don’t appear to be obviously related at a glance.
You must find links between everything to literally move the protagonist through the narrative. Early on, this might just require rearranging some panels, but as you head deeper into the game, you end up laying panels over others, or zooming into and out of scenes.
To say it’s perplexing is putting it mildly. Gorogoa is also frequently deeply weird. Most importantly, though, it’s a marvel: a wonderfully realized, tactile, unique game that makes you feel absurdly smart when you crack its challenges.
Chuchel is an exploratory puzzler that when played comes across like you’re watching a series of a distinctly weird cartoon. The titular protagonist, a ball of fluff, wants nothing more than to get a cherry – but it’s cruelly snatched away the second he gets near. Each single-screen challenge therefore tasks you with finding the convoluted route to Chuchel’s goal.
Packed with the heart, humor, and animated smarts evident in previous Amanita Design games, Chuchel is a joy to watch as you tap hot-spots, make decisions, and watch events play out.
Some canned animations are lengthy, and logic isn’t always prized, which means it can sometimes get tedious to trudge through a section until you nail the precise sequence to finish it. Still, this is more than offset by a game that frequently surprises and delights.
The sort of silly maths game you might’ve played in your head before mobile phones emerged to absorb all our thought processes, Threes! really does take less than 30 seconds to learn.
You bash numbers about until they form multiples of three and disappear. That’s it. There are stacks of free clones available, but if you won’t spare the price of one massive bar of chocolate to pay for a lovely little game like this that’ll amuse you for week, you’re part of the problem and deserve to rot in a freemium hell where it costs 50p to do a wee.
A Good Snowman ($4.99/£3.99/AU$6.99)
It turns out what makes a good snowman is three very precisely rolled balls of snow stacked on top of each other. And that’s the core of this adorable puzzle game, which has more than a few hints of Towers of Hanoi and Sokoban about it as your little monster goes about building icy friends to hug.
What sets A Good Snowman apart from its many puzzle-game contemporaries on Android is a truly premium nature. You feel that the developer went to great efforts to polish every aspect of the production, from the wonderful animation to puzzles that grow in complexity and deviousness, without you really noticing — until you get stuck on a particularly ferocious one several hours in.
Shadowmatic (free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$3.99 IAP)
That game where you cast a shadow on the wall and attempt to make a vaguely recognizable rabbit? That’s Shadowmatic, only instead of your hands, you manipulate all kinds of levitating detritus, spinning and twisting things until you abruptly – and magically – fashion a silhouette resembling anything from a seahorse to an old-school telephone.
The game looks gorgeous, with stunning lighting effects and objects that look genuinely real as they dangle in the air. Mostly though, this is a game about tactility and contemplation – it begs to be explored, and to make use of your digits in a way virtual D-pads could never hope to compete with.
Hidden Folks ($3.49/£2.99/AU$6.49)
Hidden Folks is a hidden object game with a soul. It’s reminiscent of those mass-produced posters where you scour a massive, cluttered scene, trying to find the one person with a silly hat. The difference is that everything here has been made with love and care, from the hand-drawn interactive illustrations to the amusing oral sound effects.
The basics are admittedly much as you’d expect: scour the screen to find specific objects or characters, and move on when complete.
We realize that might not sound like much, but there’s a charm and humor to Hidden Folks that sets it apart from any of its contemporaries. On a larger Android phone or a tablet, this is a particularly relaxing, absorbing game to lose yourself in for a few hours.
Dissembler is a match-three game with a difference. Instead of presenting you with a wall of gems that’s replenished when you make matches, Dissembler levels are akin to modern art – abstract creations comprising colored tiles.
You still swap two elements to try and match three (or more), but here matches vanish. The idea is to end up with a blank canvas. At first, this is easy, but Dissembler soon serves up challenges where you end up isolating tiles unless you’re very careful.
This shifts the game more heavily into strategic puzzling territory – and it’s all the better for it. You’ll feel like the smartest person around on figuring out the precise sequence of moves to clear the later levels. And even when you’ve finished them all, there’s a daily puzzle and endless mode to keep you occupied.
The best shooting games for Android
Our favorite Android FPS titles, twin-stick shooters, scrolling retro shoot ’em ups and artillery games.
Backfire is an old-school arena shooter with a difference. In fact, it has lots of differences, but the main one is pretty big: your little ship fires from its behind. Surrounded by terrifying neon foes, you’re robbed of a twin-stick shooter’s ability to spray bullets everywhere, or even being able to blast laser death in the direction that you’re facing.
At first, you fight the game, your muscle memory slamming up against years of traditional shooty larks. Soon, though, it begins to click. You dart around, making use of a slo-mo effect as you approach enemies that emit hideous guttural growls. You scoop up souls to later upgrade your ship. And then you’re horribly killed by a massive, ferocious boss.
Backfire is far from easy, but persevere and you’ll have many happy hours with this backwards but brilliant shooter.
Hyper Sentinel ($2.49/£1.99/AU$3.49)
Hyper Sentinel finds you zooming back and forth across a giant dreadnought, blowing up its gun turrets, and weaving between the various ships it sends in your general direction with murderous intent.
This is a zippy game – and a vibrant one – which feels and looks rather old-school in nature. That’s perhaps no surprise, as its roots go all the way back to Uridium, a 1986(!) hit on the Commodore 64 home computer.
Fortunately, Hyper Sentinel isn’t as punishing as that old game – although that doesn’t mean you have things easy. There are 60 medals to win across its dozen stages, and hard-as-nails bosses to beat. Depth? Nuance? Well, there’s not much of those things, but who needs them when you’re immersed in a dazzling, pumping bout of pure arcade blasting?
A young boy hurls himself down a massive well, with only his ‘gunboots’ for protection. There are so many questions there (not least: what parent would buy their kid boots that are also guns?), but it sets the scene for a superb arcade shooter with surprising smarts and depth.
At first in Downwell, you’ll probably be tempted to blast everything, but ammo soon runs out. On discovering you reload on landing, you’ll then start to jump about a lot. But further exploration of the game’s mechanics reaps all kinds of rewards, leading to you bounding on monsters, venturing into tunnels to find bonus bling, and getting huge scores once you crack the secrets behind combos.
The game might look like it’s arrived on your Android device from a ZX Spectrum, but this is a thoroughly modern and hugely engaging blaster.
Death Road to Canada ($9.99/£8.99/AU$14.99)
Death Road to Canada is a zombie movie smashed into a classic retro game. Little pixelated heroes dodder about a dystopian world, bashing zombies with whatever comes to hand, looting houses, and trying to not get eaten.
The road trip is staccato in nature. The game constantly tries to derail your rhythm and momentum. In Choose Your Own Adventure-style text bits, the wrong decision may find you savaged by a moose. Elsewhere, intense ‘siege’ challenges dump you in a confined space with zombie hordes, often armed only with a stick. Handy.
These abrupt elements can grate – as can the slightly slippy controls that aren’t always quite tight enough; but otherwise this is an ambitious mash-up of RPG and arcade gaming, with generous dollops of black humor – and BRAIINNZZZ.
ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun ($2.99/£3.19/AU$4.29)
ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun finds a nutcase blasting his way through corridors of extremely angry, heavily armed aliens, while he himself is only armed with a really big gun. That might sound fine, until you realize the gun is also his means of staying aloft.
This means to go higher, he must blast downward, temporarily becoming vulnerable to incoming fire. If he shoots forward, he starts to plummet towards the hard, deadly ground. ATOMIK therefore becomes a manic, high-octane balancing act of finger gymnastics, with the potential to get killed very frequently.
On every death, the game rewinds the level so you can try again, and wallow in your failure to complete challenges that are a mere 20 seconds long without dying dozens of times first. But when you crack one, you really do feel like a boss.
Super Crossfighter ($0.99/89p/AU$1.49)
Super Crossfighter is essentially a neon Space Invaders played at breakneck pace. Your little craft sits at the foot of the screen, darting left and right, blasting the aliens above. But the foes you face aren’t doddering critters from 1970s gaming – they come armed to the teeth, hurling all manner of instant laser death and bullet hell your way.
Fortunately, you’re not wanting for firepower either. Your speedy craft can leap from the bottom to the top of the screen, scooping up gems that can subsequently be used to upgrade the ship in an in-game shop. There’s no IAP, note, for extra cash – this intense blaster is all about the skill you have in your thumbs, and your ability to survive wave after wave of neon-infused shooty action.
Jydge riffs off of Robocop and Judge Dredd, having you control the titular cybernetic law enforcer, eradicating crime in the megacity of Edenbyrg.
The game’s no-nonsense approach is typified by the ‘Gavel’ in this case being a massive gun. Jydge’s approach to dealing with bad guys mostly involves stomping about, shooting enemies, pilfering bling, and rescuing unfortunate hostages caught in the crossfire.
Initially, something about the game’s visuals and approach may make you play as if entering a neon-soaked outing that’s escaped from stealth shooter master and X-Com creator Julian Gollop’s brain, but really Jydge mostly plays out like a frantic twin-stick shooter. Tactics only really enter the equation when you realize you can nip back to earlier missions and tackle them again with new kit or approaches, in order to meet tricky challenges. Either way, it’s ballsy fun.
Implosion – Never Lose Hope (free + $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)
Implosion finds Earth having been given a beating by nasty aliens, leaving humans on the brink of extinction. As this is a videogame, humans have pinned all their hopes on you and your natty battlesuit.
Fortunately, said suit can dish out serious damage. As you stomp about Implosion’s gleaming environments, you blast, slash, and dash your way through hordes of identikit alien drones. Occasional boss battles then shake things up in terms of pacing and challenge. Between levels, you customize your suit, to unlock new combos.
The game’s creators call Implosion a AAA console-style title, and it looks superb and feels the part. Even the complex controls (for a touchscreen game) work well. A sticking point for some might be the price, but you can play six missions for nothing. If you then balk at a one-off IAP for a premium title, don’t subsequently wonder why we can’t have nice things.
The best sports games for Android
Our favorite Android soccer, tennis, golf and management games.
Football Manager 2020 Touch ($19.99/£14.99/AU$30.99)
Football Manager 2020 Touch is the game that says ‘Oh, really?’ when you see your soccer team get obliterated and shout loudly that you could do better. It’s almost ludicrously deep and intricate, giving you control of pretty much every aspect of running a club. You build the team, outline and develop your club’s vision, nurture new talent, and watch through your hands as your team inexplicably forgets how to defend in the 89th minute.
If that all sounds a bit too much, the game does let you offload some of this to an assistant. Alternatively, you can choose from a range of challenges. Want to know how you’d fare if dumped into the middle of a fraught relegation battle, or faced with a team of injured players? It’s all here, in the most comprehensive, richest management title on mobile.
Touchgrind Skate 2 (free + IAP)
You might narrow your eyes at so-called ‘realism’ in mobile sports titles, given that this usually means ‘a game that looks a bit like when you watch telly’. But Touchgrind Skate 2 somehow manages to evoke the feel of skateboarding, your fingers becoming tiny legs that urge the board about the screen.
There’s a lot going on in Touchgrind Skate 2, and the control system is responsive and intricate, enabling you to perform all manner of tricks. It’s not the most immediate of titles – you really need to not only run through the tutorial but fully master and memorize each step before moving on.
Get to grips with your miniature skateboard and you’ll find one of the most fluid and rewarding experiences on mobile. Note that for free you get one park to scoot about in, but others are available via IAP.
Table Tennis Touch ($3.49/£2.99/AU$4.79)
Table Tennis Touch brings the glory of ping pong to your Android device. You can partake in mini-games for training, or a full career mode, where you aim to smack a tiny white ball past the usual eerily floating bats of your opponents.
Visually, the game’s a treat with its gorgeously rendered locations. Most importantly, it feels great, recreating the high-octane nature of the sport, even if you do perhaps eventually get to the point where many matches are won by smashing super-fast shots diagonally across the table.
Even so, when you do get that winning point, at the end of a game where the lead’s shifted back and forth between you and an opponent, the game’s never less than invigorating.
Desert Golfing ($1.99/£1.39/AU$2.29)
Desert Golfing is an almost brutally minimalist take on golf. You start out in a side-on landscape, featuring a ball and a hole. You drag to aim, let go to smack the ball, and hope your aim is true. One or more shots later, the hole becomes the next tee, and a new challenge is presented.
That is basically the entire game. You get a score, although when you’re 50 holes in, it’s hard to know whether the number is meaningful. But the actual playing takes golf to a strangely relaxing and zen place. If you want realism or action, this one’s perhaps not for you; but if you fancy something golf-like to chill out with, Desert Golfing is great.
Kevin Toms Football * Manager ($3.49/£2.99/AU$4.89)
Kevin Toms Football * Manager is what happens when the man who created the original Football Manager game (the one released in 1982 for computers with 16k of RAM) brings the same pick-up-and-play ethos to Android. It’s crude. It’s simplistic. It’s also – as it turns out – an awful lot of fun.
Ultimately, the game mostly involves basic team selection/management, a smattering of tactics, and tense match highlights. It might seem prehistoric to anyone who cut their teeth on modern football management games, but it’s a delight for anyone hankering after immediacy from a management game, rather than something with so much depth it threatens to take over their life.
The best strategy games for Android
Our favorite Android real-time strategy and turn-based games, board games, card games and map-making games.
Bad North: Jotunn Edition ($4.99/£4.59/AU$7.49)
Bad North: Jotunn Edition is a real-time strategy game in a shoebox. Rather than sprawling battles found in the likes of Total War, scraps in Bad North are confined to tiny islands your squads defend from invading Vikings.
As you win battles, with the hordes always just one step behind, you gradually acquire new skills. Squads can become archers or pikemen, the former being useful for ranged attacks, and the latter for keeping enemies at bay during the time it takes infantry to arrive.
Although originally for PC, Bad North comes alive on a touchscreen, as you direct your armies by taps, and spin an island with a finger. The bite-sized battles are great for scratching the RTS itch when you’re on the go – although completing the entire campaign is something that will require plenty of grit and experience.
Tropico puts the classic PC dictator simulator right in your pocket – which, given world events, might be a bit too on the nose these days. Still, if you fancy controlling a Caribbean Island with an iron fist (or, more often, quite a bit of bribery and populism), this is the Android game to go for.
It has quite an open nature, meaning you gradually learn the ropes, and how to get the most from your adoring public. Scant resources must be used carefully – you need to make money, but also keep the population happy and healthy. If they get a bit angry, you must deal with that, too.
Note that the Android system requirements are high, and so you need a powerful device to play. If you’ve got the kit, though, this is a solid mobile take on a classic desktop title.
Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
Rome: Total War – Barbarian Invasion is – like the similarly impressive Rome: Total War – akin to time travel. A classic real-time strategy title, it originally arrived on PC in 2005. Well over a decade later, you can give those barbarians a kicking on Android as you seek to shore up a declining Roman Empire.
Make no mistake, this is a complex game with an awful lot going on. In-game advisors can assist, but before everyone gets a bit stabby, you’ll find yourself immersed in diplomacy, figuring out how to win the world to your favor without bloodshed.
The combat is the prize, though, with you co-ordinating hundreds of troops across colossal battlefields. Daunting? Sure. But if you want full-fat PC-style strategy in your mitts, this is your game.
Kingdom Rush: Vengeance ($4.99/£4.69/AU$7.99)
Kingdom Rush: Vengeance is a tower defense game with a twist. Rather than fending off evil attackers, you are the evil attacker – a wizard out for revenge on those who’ve previously thwarted his cunning plans.
This involves plonking down towers, unleashing special attacks, and directing a gigantic hero in order to wipe out waves of enemies. The logical oddness in you using tower defense to attack foes isn’t addressed; presumably, you advance off-camera once you’re done pummeling the enemy.
Still, this is all good stuff. The animation is superb, with dinky characters darting about. There’s plenty of variety and scope for shaking up tactics. Sadly, there’s also a slice of actual evil in the game hiding some tower and hero types behind IAP, but Vengeance nonetheless ends up a best-in-class title.
Twinfold takes the basic tile-merging mechanic of mobile puzzling classic Threes!, adds a massive dollop of dungeon crawling, and then drops the result into a procedurally generated maze. This mixture shouldn’t work, but it’s fantastic.
As you move, so do golden idols and enemies. Munch idols and they replenish your energy, but merge them and they grow in value – all the better for your XP when they’re finally eaten. But removing both in either case causes the entire maze to be redrawn.
With regularly spawning monsters and the very landscape being upended on a regular basis, Twinfold certainly keeps you on your toes. And although it can grate when the randomness leaves you in a terrible position, the potential for devising strategies – not least when you roll in regularly supplied power-ups – and longevity is immense.
Concrete Jungle ($4.99/£4.79/AU$6.49)
The basics involve the strategic placement of buildings on a grid, with you aiming to rack up enough points to hit a row’s target. At that point, the row vanishes, and more building space scrolls into view.
Much of the strategy lies in clever use of cards, which affect nearby squares – a factory reduces the value of nearby land, for example, but an observatory boosts the local area. You quickly learn plonking down units without much thought messes up your future prospects.
Instead, you must plan in a chess-like manner – even more so when facing off against the computer opponent in brutally difficult head-to-head modes. But while Concrete Jungle is tough, it’s also fair – the more hours you put in, the better your chances. And it’s worth giving this modern classic plenty of your time.
Mini Metro ($4.99/£4.29/AU$7.49)
There’s a disarmingly hypnotic and almost meditative quality to the early stages of Mini Metro. You sit before a blank underground map of a major metropolis, and drag out lines between stations that periodically appear.
Little trains then cart passengers about, automatically routing them to their stop, their very movements building a pleasing plinky plonky generative soundtrack.
As your underground grows, though, so does the tension. You’re forced to choose between upgrades, balance where trains run, and make swift adjustments to your lines. Should a station become overcrowded, your entire network is closed. (So…not very like the real world, then.)
Do well enough and you unlock new cities, with unique challenges. But even failure isn’t frustrating, and nor is the game’s repetitive nature a problem, given that Mini Metro is such a joy to play.
Hitman GO ($4.99/£3.99/AU$6.99)
The original and best of the GO games, Hitman GO should never have worked. It reimagines the console stealth shooter as a dinky clockwork boardgame. Agent 47 scoots about, aiming to literally knock enemies off the board, and then reach and bump off his primary target.
Visually, it’s stunning – oddly adorable, but boasting the kind of clarity that’s essential for a game where a single wrong move could spell disaster. And the puzzles are well designed, too, with distinct objectives that often require multiple solutions to be found.
If you’re a fan of Agent 47’s exploits on consoles, you might be a bit nonplussed by Hitman GO, but despite its diorama stylings, it nonetheless manages to evoke some of the atmosphere and tension from the console titles, while also being entirely suited to mobile play.
Card Thief (free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99 IAP)
If you never thought a solitaire-like card game was an ideal framework for a tense stealth title, you’re probably not alone. But somehow Card Thief cleverly mashes up cards and sneaking about.
The game takes place on a three-by-three grid of cards. For each move, you plan a route to avoid getting duffed up by guards (although pickpocketing them on the way past is fair game, obviously), loot a chest, and make for an exit.
Card Thief is not the easiest game to get into, with its lengthy tutorial and weird spin on cards. But this is a game with plenty of nuance and depth that becomes increasingly rewarding the more you play, gradually unlocking its secrets. It’s well worth the effort.
Freeways is one of those games that doesn’t look like much in stills, but proves ridiculously compelling from the moment you fire it up. In short, it’s all about designing roadways for autonomous vehicles.
It comes across a bit like a mash-up of Mini Metro and Flight Control. You link roads together, often by designing monstrous spaghetti junctions, only you’re armed with tools that make you feel like an urban planner drawing with chunky crayons while wearing boxing gloves.
The game’s crude nature is part of its charm. It’s more about speed and immediacy than precision, a feeling cemented when you realize there’s no undo. When your road system gets jammed, your only option is to start from scratch and try something new.
In truth, the inability to remove even tiny errors can irk, not least when roads don’t connect as you’d expect. Otherwise, Freeways is a blast.
Reigns: Game of Thrones ($3.99/£3.79/AU$5.99)
Reigns: Game of Thrones follows Reigns and Reigns: Her Majesty in marrying kingdom management with swipe-based interaction borrowed from Tinder. Only this time, there’s a massively popular TV show fused to its core.
You plonk your behind on the Iron Throne, as one of several major characters from the TV series, and set about imposing your will on the Seven Kingdoms. As you swipe left and right to make decisions, your fortunes with the people, army, church and bank fluctuate. Fill or deplete any one meter, and your reign will come to an abrupt – and likely bloody – end.
Given the basic interface, Reigns: Game of Thrones has surprising depth. It also has great writing, loads of content to find, and plenty of puzzles to solve, making it ideal mobile gaming fodder.
The best word games for Android
Our favorite Android games that involve anagrams, crosswords and doing clever things with letters.
Typoman Mobile (free + $1.99/£1.89/AU$3.19)
Typoman Mobile starts off with you directing a trundling O in a barren world of silhouettes and shadows. Soon, the disc-like hero gains legs (an H), and arms (Ls), and so can scoot about like a real boy. Of course, this being a videogame, he’s at that point mercilessly pursued and torn to bits by terrifying creatures formed from the letters to DOOM.
If you’re thinking this doesn’t sound like a typical word game, you’re right. Typoman Mobile is a world away from Scrabble, echoing classic Limbo in terms of its stark visuals and puzzle-platforming.
Nonetheless, it remains deeply ensconced in word-game territory through you using letters to complete puzzles that let you progress, some directly manipulating the very environment. It’s certainly a lot more interesting – and ambitious – than yet another set of crosswords.
Word Forward ($2.99/£2.69/AU$4.59)
Word Forward is a word game that plays out on a five-by-five grid – but this is a much more strategic offering than the bulk of its contemporaries.
The aim is to remove every letter from the board. This can be achieved by dragging out snaking pathways to remove entire words, but you also have special tiles to help: swap tokens, a jumbler, and a bomb that obliterates a single awkward tile.
Chess-like thinking is therefore required, and the fact that you’re working with predefined rather than random boards means Word Forward’s puzzles reward repeat attempts. Figure out the path to finishing a grid without using special tiles, and you’ll win a coveted gold star. It’s top stuff if you want a thinky solo word game that offers something new.
Sidewords is a rare word game that isn’t ripping off Scrabble or crosswords. Instead, you get blank grids with words along two edges. You must use at least one letter from each edge to make new words of three or more letters. Each selected letter blasts a line across the grid; where lines meet become solid areas filled with your word. The aim is to fill the grid.
On smaller levels, this is simple, but larger grids can be challenging – especially when you realize a massive word (that on discovery made you feel like a genius) leaves spaces that are impossible to fill. Fortunately, Sidewords encourages experimentation, and so you can remove/replace words at will.
It’s clever and a bit different; and if you tire of the main game, you can fire up mini-game Quads, which marries word-building and Threes!-style sliding tiles. Two for the price of one, then – and both games alone are worth the outlay.
Dropwords 2 ($0.99/69p/AU$1.25)
Dropwords 2 mixes up well-based match games like Bejeweled and word games like Boggle. You’re faced with a grid of letters and must drag out words that snake across the board. When submitting a word, its letters disappear, and new tiles fall into the well to fill the gaps.
As ever in this kind of game, speed is of the essence. But also, you can gain extra seconds by submitting longer words – something that becomes increasingly important as you get deeper into the game.
Smartly, much of the game can be customized, including the board’s theme; and if you want to just chill, rather than be hassled by a relentless game-ending countdown, there are untimed modes too.
Blackbar is fundamentally a game about guessing words. Yet it’s also a chilling commentary on the dangers of a dystopian surveillance society.
The game begins with you receiving letters from a friend who’s started work at the Department of Communication. Anything from them considered controversial or negative is censored – a ‘blackbar’ – which you must correctly guess to continue.
Over the course of a number of communications, the story escalates in a frightening manner, and you find yourself feeling like you’re beating the system (man), despite ultimately just tapping in words to best a basic logic test.
If nothing else, this showcases the power of great storytelling; and filling in Blackbar’s blanks feels a lot more fulfilling than chucking more hours at a run-of-the-mill Scrabble clone.
Letterpress (free or $4.99/£4.59/AU$6.99)
Letterpress merges Boggle-like finding words within a pile of letters with Risk-like land grabs. You and an opponent (an online human or computer players of varying skill levels) take turns to tap out words on the five-by-five grid. Letters you use turn your color – and those you surround cannot be flipped by the other player during their next turn.
Winning therefore isn’t just about big words – not least if its letters are scattered about. Instead, you must carefully protect your territory and gradually eat into your opponent’s land. Battles can become tense and thrilling – not usually concepts associated with a word game. But then Letterpress is no ordinary word game – it’s much better than that.
Supertype is a word game more concerned with the shape of letters than the words they might create. Each hand-designed level finds you staring at a setup of lines, dots, and empty spaces in which to type. Tap out some letters, press the tick mark, and everything starts to move.
The aim is to get the letters you type to the dots. In some cases, the solution may be fairly obvious – for example, placing a lowercase l on each ‘step’ towards an out of reach dot at the top of a staircase, then having a p at the start tip over to set everything in motion. More often, you’ll be scratching your head, experimenting, trying new approaches, and then grinning ear to ear on cracking a solution.
Typeshift (free + IAP)
Typeshift rethinks word searches and crosswords. You get a tactile interface of jumbled letters within draggable columns. Your aim is to change the color of every tile – and tiles only change when they’re part of a word you make in the central row.
The game occasionally heads further into traditional crossword territory, adding clues to the mix, which you must match to the words you find. Either way, it’s a brain-smashing touch-optimized word-game experience.
There are joyful animated and audio touches throughout, too, and everything feels hand-crafted, rather than you being sent endless algorithmically generated puzzles. Naturally, such polish costs money – beyond the free download, you pay for packs of puzzles. But they’re worth every penny.