Read on for our picks for the best mobile games available on iOS and Android.
The best mobile games can look like just about anything. A social deception game about a suspicious crew on an alien spaceship. The latest entry in the biggest strategy series in the world. A serious single-player story about love and loss. A game where you, for some reason, must build a boat.
A decade ago, smart money said that mobile games would replace consoles as gamers increasingly turned to their phones for convenient fun. But, it’s 2022, and Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo are all still going strong. Paradoxically, the mobile market has never been bigger, with millions of players using their phones to play a wide variety of games, including portable versions of the most popular multiplayer games in the world, like Call of Duty, Fortnite, Genshin Impact, and PUBG.
However, none of those games are on this list. Instead, we’ve tried to pick games that are easy to pick up and get into and can be played skillfully without the use of a controller. Because who wants to carry an Xbox One controller with them on the bus? Read on for our picks for the 26 best mobile games available on iOS and/or Android, listed in alphabetical order, including our July 2022 addition of Into the Breach.
If you do prefer gaming on mobile with a controller, make sure to check out our roundup of the best phone controllers. If you have an Apple Arcade subscription, we’ve rounded up the 12 best Apple Arcade games right now.
Among Us is easy to understand–it’s social deception in space!–but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to fool your friends. As a round begins, each innocent player has tasks that they must accomplish, while impostors have no tasks but must attempt to appear innocent. All the while, each impostor is concocting a plan to kill their fellow crewmates without being seen. When a body is discovered, everyone gets together to decide who they should chuck out an airlock. Pray it isn’t you. Despite releasing in 2018, Among Us was one of 2020’s biggest hits, buoyed by a worldwide pandemic that kept us separated. The game was so popular that congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar streamed it on Twitch and Epic borrowed from it in Fortnite’s recently added “Impostors” mode. If you’re interested in checking it out, the game is free on iOS and Android and just five bucks on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
The long-running strategy series has typically been associated with the PC. But, with solid touch controls, Civilization VI on iOS and Android is an effective port that allows you to hold the fate of the world in your hands… or in your pocket. Firaxis tested the waters first with an iPad version, but now you can play the critically acclaimed 4X game on basically any up-to-date iOS or Android device. If you’ve never played the series before, the pitch is simple: You choose a nation to guide through the ages, playing as its ruler. Traits vary from nation to nation and leader to leader. As you play, you will do the things that nations throughout history have done: build cities and get into wars. But your playstyle, and the resources you’re given determine what characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages your nation will take on as you play. It’s a compulsively playable turn-based strategy game (with a great, soaring soundtrack), and it works great with a touch interface. See our Civilization VI review.
Before it made 2019 Apple Arcade standout Sayonara Wild Hearts, a gorgeous playable pop album, developer Simogo created Device 6, a gorgeous playable noir novel. This stylish text adventure casts players as Anna, a woman with amnesia attempting to puzzle out who she is and why she has awakened to find herself on a mysterious island. All of this plays out in text, but Device 6 has a ridiculously great presentation that manages to make the written word visually engaging, as text moves around the screen to create a sense of space. For example, words might arrange themselves diagonally downward to suggest that our protagonist is descending a flight of stairs or the page might flip upside down entirely. Pair that with a moody jazz soundtrack and a graphical style that takes the look of a typical novel or eReader and plays with the player’s expectations of how text should behave, and you’ve got a smart, sticky puzzler that demands to be played and, ultimately, solved.
This devilishly smart roguelike does what it says on the tin: It’s a game where you play as a little guy trying to stay alive while descending ever deeper into a well. The game has a simple aesthetic (it’s black, and white, and red all over) that belies an incredibly elegant design. As Mark Brown of Game Maker’s Toolkit said in his excellent video on the game, Downwell embodies the Shigeru Miyamoto quote: “A good idea is something that does not solve just one single problem, but rather can solve multiple problems at once.” In Downwell, that means that the gun boots you use to shoot enemies are also your primary means of slowing and controlling your descent and clearing a path through destructible obstacles. That’s just one example of the economy design on display in Downwell. If that all sounds a little too theoretical, let us just say: The touch controls feel great and intuitive and it’s compulsively playable enough that I’ve had it on my phone, on and off, for the past five years. See our Downwell review.
A gorgeous game about love, loss, and letting go, Florence is a romantic drama that communicates its story with very few words. Instead of spoken language, Florence relies on touch-based mechanics and simple puzzles to wordlessly express the joy of falling in and out of love. With a beautiful hand-drawn aesthetic and a lovely, melancholy soundtrack by composer Kevin Penkin, it is surprisingly emotional to experience the story of protagonist Florence Yeoh as she falls in love with a musician named Krish. Their relationship plays out in small, smart mini-games, as when you must fit puzzle pieces together to suggest a conversation, or choose where to place objects around an apartment after the couple moves in together. Though the game can be completed in one 45-minute play session, Florence manages to pack a wallop in that short amount of time.
The Go games (Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go, Deus Ex Go)
The Go games
The Go series of mobile games take characters from publisher Square Enix’s Western stable (Agent 47 from Hitman, Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, and Adam Jensen from Deus Ex) and shrinks them down to the size of board game miniatures. These compelling mobile games place our heroes in bite-sized levels and transcribe the basics of each series to the world of a turn-based puzzle game. For example, as in his PC and console outings, Agent 47 has coins at his disposal which he can use to distract guards. But, in Hitman Go, this move must be done with laser-like precision to ensure that the guard can’t make it back to his post before you slip by. The Go games are an excellent experiment in distillation–in digging down to the core of an experience and managing to maintain that essence while translating it into a different genre. Each level is small enough that you can (theoretically) complete one or more during a bus ride, but these mind bending puzzles may well stump you for much longer than that. See our Deus Ex Go review.
According to the Good Sudoku website, designers Zach Gage and Jake Schlesinger had one goal when designing the AI for their take on the familiar Japanese logic game: “to help you learn and love this classic game.” To that end, the game features a robust hint system, clearly presented difficulty levels and the ability to practice the techniques required for each difficulty level individually, as well as smart tweaks designed to eliminate the distracting small tasks that take your attention off the important thing: playing sudoku. And there’s lots of sudoku to play–the game features more than 70,000 sudoku puzzles. Plus, if you feel confident in your skills, Good Sudoku features global leaderboards so you can see how you stack up to players around the world. Maybe most impressive, Good Sudoku lets you load in outside sudoku puzzles and play them in the game, and the hint system can even offer help.
With a Cartoon Network-inspired aesthetic, Grindstone is immediately visually appealing. But, it’s the viscerally violent puzzle gameplay that keeps players coming back. (I don’t know how many times I’ve heard game critics say that they kept paying for an Apple Arcade subscription just so they could keep playing Grindstone. There are plenty of other good ones, though!). Players take control of a barbarian warrior named George who must venture into monster-infested mines and slay beasts for loot. The monsters in question are color-coded and arrayed on a Candy Crush-style board. Once our barbarian friend starts slicing and dicing, he can only attack monsters of the same color. Unless, that is, he hits a gemstone, which allows him to switch to another color and commence slaying the creeps all over again. When he does, they explode in a burst of colorful guts. This is the match-3 puzzler basically as you know it, but the puyo puyos and candies have been swapped out for gory pinatas. Grindstone is one of the best Apple Arcade games.
Blizzard’s collectible card game is remarkably fun, even if you have zero interest in the Warcraft universe in which it’s set. With 10 hero classes, which can each use their own distinct cards, Hearthstone is a deep and compulsively playable digital card game that also manages to feel quite cozy at the same time. Though the game is free-to-play, you can spend money on additional cards to expand and improve your deck. Whether you opt to spend money or play with what comes for free, Hearthstone is a terrific collectible card game. See our Hearthstone review.
Touch circles to win! That may seem like an odd proposition, but Hundreds makes it endlessly compelling. This is an intriguing puzzle game where each circle on screen is worth a numerical value which increases or decreases depending on its size. When you touch the circle, it grows and the number grows with it. Your goal is to get the total of all the circles’ numbers to equal 100. But, crucially, the circles cannot overlap and, if they do, you have to start the puzzle over from the beginning. Keeping with the theme, there are 100 levels to play through. When you complete them all, an endless mode unlocks, because infinite is better than 100; that’s just math.
One of the best indie games ever made, Playdead’s Inside is a masterpiece of cinematic horror that works just as well on a phone as it does on a PS4. As the game begins, a small boy runs out of a dark thicket and begins a trek that will take him through a shadowy forest, a dystopian cityscape, a flooded cave network, and a sprawling underground laboratory. As you progress, you’ll run, jump, and solve puzzles. If it sounds like we’re being a little cagey it’s because we are. Inside is a darkly surprising game and the less you know going in, the better.
See our Inside review.
Into the Breach
Into the Breach
Into the Breach has been one of the best strategy games ever since its debut on PC and then Nintendo Switch. Despite what might initially appear to be a fairly strict set of restrictions–you have just three units that can perform one move and one action per turn, and levels are set on an 8×8 grid–there’s actually an incredible amount of depth as you begin to learn how to leverage your limited number of tools. Enemies telegraph their upcoming actions, meaning you spend your time knowing what’s about to happen and working to avert disaster. You don’t just beat up or directly attack kaiju with your mechs; you manipulate their positioning to cause them to miss their targets, attack one another, block income units from spawning, and generally undermine their intentions. It’s a deeply satisfying game, and the mobile release–which came via Netflix alongside the Advanced Edition update that made the game even better–works extremely well. The turn-based and contemplative nature of the action makes it a natural fit on mobile, where you can jump in and out at will. But don’t be surprised if you’re hooked for hours at a time. See our Into the Breach: Advanced Edition review. — Chris Pereira
Mom Hid My Game
Mom Hid My Game
A hidden object game with a comical twist, Mom Hid My Game casts players as a character in a predicament that may be familiar: Their mom wants them to stop playing so many video games and has hidden their handheld console from them. In each new level, players need to figure out how to get their console back while carefully avoiding mom. This starts out fairly simple–you need to use a stepladder to climb up and retrieve your console from above a window–but quickly turns absurd. In one level, you need to jam a branch between a crocodile’s jaws to retrieve the console from its mouth. In another, an old man is sitting on a blanket, and you need to keep refilling an old man’s water glass until he gets up to pee, revealing the game beneath the sheet. It’s a fun puzzler with a distinctly strange sense of humor, and a great way to spend a few hours.
Monument Valley 2
Monument Valley 2
A sequel to the similarly excellent 2014 game Monument Valley, Monument Valley 2 sees the return of the isometric, M.C. Escher-inspired puzzle gameplay that made the original game so wildly popular. The goal is to guide protagonist Ro and her daughter through a series of levels by shifting perspective and/or moving the level to create new pathways. With a simple, yet striking, art style and an increased focus on story, Monument Valley 2 improves on the first game, offering plenty of fun for new and returning players.
A ridiculously simple and fun idea, Ridiculous Fishing takes players on a fishing trip with way more fish (and WAY more guns) than you would typically associate with the quiet sport. Here, fishing plays out in three phases. First, you guide your line as deep into the water as possible, avoiding fish as long as you can. Second, you reel the line back up, avoiding jellyfish, but attempting to hook as many other fish as possible on the way to the surface. Then, finally, you fling the fish into the air and shoot them, attempting to keep them airborne with an ever-expanding arsenal of guns. This fish is bananas.
An incredibly popular series of hidden object games, Fireproof Games’ series includes five entries: The Room, The Room Two, The Room Three, The Room 4: Old Sins, and The Room VR: A Dark Matter. All but the last are available on iOS, Android, and PC. The Room series plays a lot like Myst, but it’s significantly darker, placing you inside ornate, haunted spaces, and tasking you with interacting with objects around each room until you manage to make something happen.
A space station building god game where each section of the space station is a Tetris block, Rymdkapsel is an utterly unique RTS. It isn’t long–you can blast through everything on offer here in a few hours–but, by borrowing from Tetris and the RTS genre, Rymdkapsel becomes unlike anything else you’ve played. All puzzle game and RTS fans should check this one out.
A solitaire game for the (s)ages, Sage Solitaire (created by Good Sudoku developer Zach Gage) combines the pick-up-and-play nature of solitaire with some ideas from poker. There have been plenty of good solitaire games lately, including The Solitaire Conspiracy and the solitaire minigame in Telling Liesbut Sage Solitaire is a brilliant take on the card game that feels distinct from the rest and which, most importantly, you can take on the go.
Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire
The deck-building roguelike that kicked off the deck-building roguelike trend, Slay the Spire is a turn-based game where you need to make your way through a tower using cards as your only weapons. As you go, you gain new cards for your deck, whic opens up more options as you progress. But, because it’s a roguelike, the deck resets each game, so you can’t take cards with you. However, some progression does carry over. For example, classes are permanently available once they’re unlocked. Since Slay the Spire first entered early access back in 2017, plenty of games have come along which build on its style, including Monster Train, Nowhere Prophet, The Legend of Bum-Bo, Griftlands, Dicey Dungeons, and more.
See our Slay the Spire review.
Song of Bloom
Song of Bloom
A short game that packs a narrative punch, Song of Bloom has a gorgeous aesthetic and intriguing puzzles to think through. With a subtle story, Song of Bloom rewards careful attention, but its beautiful art style is immediately impressive. The game’s puzzles aim to provide a reflection of the narrator’s emotions, making Song of Bloom a unique and impactful take on the puzzle genre.
Also developed by Zach Gage, of Good Sudoku and Sage Solitaire fame, Spelltower+ is a word game where you draw a line through adjacent letters to form words. So, if “D” is next to “O” you can spell “Do,” and if those letters are next to “E” and “S,” you can spell “Does,” and so on. With 11 total modes, the current version of this game is significantly more feature rich than the original 2011 release. For example, in Tower Mode, when letters are played, they disappear from the board, and more letters from above fall down to fill a portion of the space they left behind. But, in Puzzle Mode, the board shifts up each turn, so you have to make sure there are no tiles too close to the top of the screen. However you choose to play, Spelltower+ is a brain teasing word puzzler that rewards time invested handsomely. Spelltower+ is an Apple Arcade game, but you can play the original version for free on iOS and Android.
For a game where you play as a geometric shape, Super Hexagon is significantly more fun and frantic than it sounds. Created by Terry Cavanaugh (the developer behind VVVVVV and, more recently, Dicey Dungeons), Super Hexagon is a game that relies on reflexes and a willingness to get in step with its pulsing electronic beat. Your task is simple: rotate a hexagon so that, as walls close in around it, the shape is always facing in the direction of the gap in the wall. It’s incredibly fast and tense and well worth spending $2.99 to pick it up on iOS.
Three is the amount of moves ahead Threes requires you to think. This portable puzzler is easy to understand but tough to master. Play occurs on a four-by-four board (not unlike the grid in Candy Crush) and requires players to smoosh matching numbered cards together to produce a card of double the value. As play continues, cards move in from the sides, filling up the board and making it increasingly hard to continue playing. But keep at it and you might just net yourself a place on the worldwide leaderboard. Like the best mobile games, Threes is easy to play for five minutes during your commute and equally easy to lose hours to.
To the Moon
To the Moon
A story-heavy adventure game with a throwback art style reminiscent of SNES RPGs like Chrono Trigger, To the Moon is a poignant narrative game about two doctors who grant dying patients the opportunity to alter their memories so they can change the life they lived without leaving their deathbeds. This emotional story is light on gameplay and heavy on narrative, telling the story of one dying man whose dream was to visit the moon. Our doctor protagonists must enter the man’s mind, Psychonauts-style, to change his memories. To the Moon is short (about four hours in length), but its focused story reaps emotional dividends.
See our To the Moon review.
What the Golf?
What the Golf?
In this wildly inventive golf game, golf is just an excuse for developer Triband to cook up some ridiculously cool levels. Golf but Portal, golf but Angry Birds, golf but Superhot–What the Golf borrows the aesthetics of popular games, using iconic mechanics to put an interesting spin (pun intended) on 18 holes. But What the Golf’s creativity goes beyond homage; it really feels like Triband threw every idea at the wall and most of it stuck. There’s a level where you play as a divot. There’s a level where the game’s golf mechanics get applied to soccer. There’s a level where you have to steer a speeding rocket to the flag. In What the Golf, anything can be golf, and that’s the magic. What the Golf? is an Apple Arcade game.
See our What the Golf review.
You Must Build a Boat
You Must Build a Boat
You Must Build a Boat might sound like a survival game where you need to collect wood and iron to craft a seafaring vessel, but it’s actually a puzzle game where you guide a dude through a dungeon by matching tiles on a 6-by-8 grid. Line up three keys to open a treasure chest. Line up three swords to attack a monster. You Must Build a Boat’s action plays out on two planes, with the little fella running from left-to-right on the top third of the screen while the bottom two-thirds are devoted to puzzling. You can also capture monsters along the way.
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