There are loads of round-ups of the best Android games on the web, so what makes ours different? Well, for a start, we’ve included not only the most recent trending titles, but also our favourite games of all time – the ones we routinely go back to, despite them being released several years ago. These games never get old. (Also see: Best Android apps.)
We also recognise that sometimes you have to put your hand in your pocket if you want something truly special, so while the majority of the Android games in our list are free, there are a couple of paid-for games, too.
On the subject of payment, you should be aware that even free games usually contain paid-for elements – extra coins or customisation options, for example. If anyone other than you – perhaps a child – is going to be playing games on your phone then it’s worth checking they won’t be able to purchase any of these extras without your permission.
Launch the Google Play app and tap the three vertical lines at the top left of the window. Choose Settings, then scroll down to Require authentication for purchases and ensure this is set to ‘For all purchases through Google Play on this device’.
Also in this Settings menu you’ll find an option to Auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only, because some games are huge and can kill your data allowance. When downloading a large game from the Play store you should get a notification warning you and recommending that you turn on Wi-Fi.
Anyway, on to the fun stuff. (Feel free to add your own top picks in the comments.)
No best Android games list is complete without the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. True, it has lost some of its popularity since it debuted – to more excitement than we have ever seen for an Android game – in summer 2016, but there are still some die-hard players out there, and thanks to continuous updates Niantic and The Pokémon Company have managed to keep things fairly fresh.
This is an augmented-reality game, loved by anyone who has ever loved Pokémon (so that’s most kids – and most big kids) or anyone who is likely to get sucked into the hype of the latest trend. It will also appeal to competitive types, who can attempt to find the most, best and most powerful Pokémon, then compete to win gyms (found at real-world places such as landmarks, shopping centres and train stations).
Pokémon are caught by throwing PokéBalls at them, which can be collected from PokéStops in the nearby area. Pokémon Go really encourages kids to get up and walk about – more so if they want to hatch their eggs – and some of the places they find Pokémon can be fascinating. Pikachu sitting on the bathroom toilet? Quite possible.
A new batch of Pokémon was recently released into the wild, which gave some respite to long-time Pokémon Go players who had already ‘caught them all’. And now legendaries are coming, too.
Another Android game that will appeal to small- and big kids alike is Minecraft Pocket Edition, the mobile version of the Minecraft game played on PCs, laptops and consoles. It’s not free, but £2.99 is a fair trade for the hours it will keep you or the kids entertained.
If you’ve never heard of Minecraft, crawl out from under whichever rock you’re hiding. Minecraft is a construction sim with endless possibilities – if you can think of something you can build it. So it’s not just fun, it’s also creative and educational. Awesome.
If you’re into gaming then you have to try Super Mario Run. It’s the first Super Mario game for mobile ever released by Nintendo, and has now made its way to Android after being an App Store exclusive since December 2016.
Super Mario Run is, as the name suggests, a runner game. There’s one-touch gameplay and simple mechanics, but if you’ve ever played Super Mario before you’ll know exactly what you’re doing. You need to jump over gaps and obstacles, collect coins and avoid enemies as you attempt to make your way to the end of the level.
There are three modes, with World Tour the one you’re most likely to recognise. Each world is split into three conventional levels and then a Bowzer’s Castle boss level.
Toad Rally is a second mode in which you try to beat the performance of other players, while Kingdom Builder lets you spend your ill-gotten gains from the other two modes on creating your kingdom. You can add buildings and decorative elements, and basically anything that will impress the toads enough to have them move in. The more toads you have, the more stuff you can unlock.
The SIMs Mobile is coming soon to Android, and it is going to be AMAZING, much closer to the PC and Mac game than we’ve ever seen before.
(It’s worth pointing out that there is a way to get The SIMs Mobile now, but we’d recommend waiting for the final release in the UK.)
Until it arrives you do have a few SIMs options. They’re not half as good as what we’re expecting from The SIMs Mobile, but they will allow you to get your SIMs fix. In the meantime we’d recommend The SIMs Freeplay, since if nothing else it won’t cost you a penny.
If you’ve never played The SIMs before, in essence you get to play God. You build and decorate homes, customise characters and experience every stage of their lives and everything that goes with that. You make the story whatever you want it to be.
Of all the footie games available for Android right now, Football Manager Mobile is the most popular. You can manage any club in 15 countries, taking charge of everything from who plays each game to tactics and transfers.
New for the 2017 game are the ability to control leagues in Poland and Turkey, an improved user interface, the ability to search for and hire your own talent scouts, new transfer options and enhanced squad control.
If you’re an Android fan you’ll be more than aware of Nokia’s recent comeback to the market. But more exciting than its new Android phones was the return of its 17-year-old Nokia 3310, upgraded somewhat for life in 2017. It’s a cheap, virtually unbreakable phone, but what really got people excited was the return of Snake.
If you’d rather keep your decent Android phone but really want to play Snake, know that Slither.io is a bit like Snake but so much better. It works in much the same way, but instead of walls you dodge other players’ snakes as your own snake becomes longer and longer.
Here’s another one that’s popular partly because it harks back to our youth. Crossy Road is just like Frogger, except you’re not a frog. In fact you’re pretty much anything but a frog.
The concept is the same: you have to get across the road unscathed, with cars, trucks, boats, animals, dinasours and anything else that could basically end your life doing their best to mow you down.
It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s one of the most addictive games we’ve played – you will get across the road if it’s the last thing you do.
Okay, so this is by far the most expensive Android game on our list, but the recently released Layton’s Mystery Journey will be a surefire hit with fans of the Nintendo 3DS Professor Layton puzzle game series.
The Professor himself doesn’t star here, but you play his daughter Katrielle Layton in her search to find him in central London. As you’d expect there is a huge number of puzzles to complete, with additional mini-games and daily puzzles too.
There are maths problems, brainteasers, word games, optical illusions, sliding block games and more – it’s a great workout for your brain.
Jetpack Joyride is one of our all-time favourite Android games, on phone or tablet. It’s a few years old now, but it never gets tired.
You play Barry Steakfries, and you ride your jetpack through an endless world collecting coins (with which you can buy new jetpacks, clothing and other bonuses), dodging missiles and zappers, and riding vehicles to see how far you can get.
You can ride on the back of a dragon or a bird, defy gravity in a special suit, teleport across the screen, zoom off on a motorbike or crush nearby scientists (those poor, innocent scientists) with Lil Stomper. There’s a boat, too, though that’s paid for.
Achievements and challenges keep things interesting, whether they involve high-fiving a number of scientists, traveling a certain distance without touching the ceiling or floor, or dicing with death ducking in and out of the path of oncoming missiles.
Words With Friends is Scrabble but with a social element, allowing you to play against your friends, random players or the computer. This one is largely targeted at the competitive among you, offering all manner of stats on why you’re a wordsmith legend that you can flash about.
The need to wait for your opponent to make their move makes Words With Friends tedious at times for impatient types, and not something you can easily pick up and play whenever you have a spare five minutes. But finding that killer seven-letter word on a triple-word score makes it worth the wait.
Words With Friends is one of those games people just know how to play, so little explanation is necessary. And it gives the grey matter a workout, so it gets our vote.
A tower-defence game loved by all, there are a few versions of Plants vs Zombies to download but all will keep you equally entertained.
You play multiple levels in multiple worlds, each concluding with a boss level and each a slight variation on the same basic theme but with new zombies to attack and new plants at your disposal.
In essence you must build an army of plants, with various types offering a different attack mechanism, whether that’s shooting peas or exploding in the face of the baddies, or just doing their best to stop them getting through. If you make it to the end of the level with no zombies passing you by, you move on to the next.
The Dumb Ways to Die series is simple and addictive, with great artwork and fun characters that look a bit like Mr Men. Each has a propensity to dicing with death, and it’s your job to keep them alive.
As you might guess from the title, some of the ways these characters nearly meet their maker is pretty dumb. For each live you save you get 100 points and move on to the next mini-game, with an ever-increasing level of difficulty.
This is console gaming for your smartphone (or tablet), and it’s surprisingly easy to play on a touchscreen. The San Andreas mobile game is full of all the fun things you get to do in the console titles – and not just jacking cars. You can shoot guns, fly planes, recruit gang members, pretty much anything that constitutes being up to no good.
San Andreas is based on the story of Carl Johnson, living in a city rife with gangs, drugs and corruption. His family and friends have hit rock bottom, with his mother murdered, his family in pieces, and his friends following totally the wrong path. Framed for homicide, Johnson is forced to take control.
There’s more than 70 hours of gameplay here, which should just about make up for the fiver you have to pay out to download it.
If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead you’re probably going to love this (although to be fair there are actual Walking Dead games from Telltale as well). A free MMORPG zombie shoot ‘em up, Last Day on Earth is set in 2027 and sees you doing your best to survive as long as possible in a world filled with enemies following a deadly plague virus pandemic.
You can hone your strategy and survival skills, and create ever deadlier weapons as you traipse through abandoned military bases and survivor camps searching for new resources. Team up with other players, but be careful who you trust.
No Android games round-up is complete without a proper racer, and Asphalt 8 is one of the better known titles. You can drive some seriously sexy cars around 40 tracks covering everything from the Nevada Desert to Tokyo, and pull off some amazing stunts from barrel rolls to 360-degree jumps.
There are more than 190 cars to race, including the Lamborghini Veneno, Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 911.
It’s another driving game, but a wee bit different to Asphalt.
Hill Climb Racing involves you driving your 4×4 up hills, across bridges, down hills and then up more hills. Along the way you collect coins to upgrade your vehicle and fuel, with extra vehicles to unlock.
Drive too slowly and you’ll run out of petrol; drive too quickly and you’ll inevitably flip over the vehicle and snap the poor hillbilly’s neck. At that point it’s game over and you start over again. Endless fun.
If you’ve had your fill of puzzle games, endless runners, shoot ‘em ups and racing games, how about a spot of dogfighting, old chap?
War Wings from MiniClip lets you compete against players worldwide as you take to the skies to bring down your enemies or simply mess around performing stunts. It’s an awful lot of fun.
Now in its third edition, Super Stickman Golf is better than ever and a must for golf fans with loads of achievements to be won. There are new courses, new power-ups, new game modes, and a new spin mode. With 20 courses to play alone or with your friends, Super Stickman Golf 3 really lets you get your swing on.
Set up your shot angle and power and do your best to get a hole in one. You’ll keep playing until it comes naturally.
It’s my list and I’m sticking Bejeweled Blitz on it, okay?
Bejeweled is a classic match-three puzzler, but with daily challenges, leaderboards, boost items, special gems and more. You get 60 seconds to remove as many gems as possible from the board, with extra bonuses given for doing so at speed or matching more than three gems.
It’s easy to pick up and play whenever you get a spare minute, and its simplicity makes it an incredibly addictive timewaster. Integration with Facebook means you can compete against your friends, too.
You’d be forgiven for thinking people had forgotten about Candy Crush, which has to be one of the biggest and most popular mobile games of all time. Introduced by King in 2012, the developer reportedly made $493m in a three-month period, with more than 93 million players. But even today, it remains the second-highest grossing app on Google Play.
Candy Crush Saga is a match-three puzzler, very similar to Bejeweled Blitz in our list before it. The difference here is you play through hundreds of levels rather than standalone one-minute games, each more complicated than the first. Some are timed, others require you to hit a minimum score, and Candy Crush Saga keeps mixing things up to keep you entertained.
The abiity to view where on the level map your Facebook friends sit is a major push, spurring you on to do better and get ahead.
Clash of Clans is another oldie that has stood the test of time. In essence you need to build a village that includes all the things required by your warring tribe, such as a town hall, a gold mine and an army camp.
You keep on upgrading your village and unlocking more building types, which eventually allows you to take over the Clan Castle, upgrade your barracks and forge allegiances with other players.
That’s when you can start to think about entering battle, but while the first few fights are easy the difficulty quickly ramps up. If you’re to survive you’re going to have to continually evolve your attack and defence, and carefully consider your decisions.
Bad Piggies is a spin-off from Angry Birds – another all-time classic Android game, or should we say franchise of games. Rather than focusing on the birds, this game is all about the pigs. Oink.
Specifically, it’s an addictive and challenging puzzle game, in which you are given a range of materials and asked to build a contraption that will get your pig to the end of the level.
As you might expect there are loads of obstacles to counter, and different types of terrain to master. Which means it’s nowhere near as easy as it sounds, and some of the levels are downright difficult. As a result, you’ll never put it down.