[Update: July 2019] Best Android games in every category

I’m going to get this out of the way right at the beginning. There are so many awesome games for Android that trying to build a comprehensive best android games list isn’t practical. What I have put together is a list of great Android games across every genre. I’ve played and enjoyed every game on this list, and while I’m certain you will recognize a number of them, hopefully it also includes some that you haven’t tried yet. There are definitely more fantastic Android games out there, so please let me know your own favorite(s) in the comments, and maybe it will make the list next time around.

Best puzzle games for Android

Puzzle games have always been one of the most popular genres on mobile, and that remains true today. There’s a wide variety of games that fall into this category, so whether you like quick-hitting puzzles or more drawn-out experiences, there is something that will appeal to almost everyone.

The Room Series ($0.99 — $4.99)

Point-and-click puzzle games have been around for decades, but The Room is the first one that I can recall really clicking (sorry) on mobile. While there are some variations across the games, the basic premise is that you are solving a series of puzzle boxes. One twist that adds to the complexity is a material known as “null” used in some pieces of the box, which can only be viewed using a special lens that you have equipped. There is an overarching story that is revealed across the now four games in the series, but overall, it’s a well-crafted set of puzzles to solve, and each installment should keep you entertained for hours.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XxgxBu

Lara Croft GO ($0.99)

This was the second installment in the Go series from Square Enix, and my personal favorite. Like the other games in the series, Lara Croft Go places you on a game board making turn-based movements and interacting with the environment to complete each puzzle. It’s not graphically stunning, but it has a stylized look and added complexity versus Hitman Go. The one downside with the game is that it is a bit short, with just 40 levels to complete but at 99 cents it’s hard to complain.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XG99Uw

The House of Da Vinci ($4.99)

The House of Da Vinci borrowed heavily from The Room series, but it’s also clear they put time and attention into their spin on the genre. While the structure of solving puzzle boxes and using an “oculus” in this case to see additional details are quite similar, there are some new twists. One is a time manipulation mechanic that allows you to view things playing out in the past with a slider to control the playback speed. You are exploring Leonardo Da Vinci’s home, which at least for me adds some interest, versus a generic mystery mansion. Many of the puzzles involve inventions drawn from Da Vinci’s work. It’s an excellent game in its own right, and certainly one for any fans of The Room series to check out.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XxPk1s

Sudoku — The Clean One (Free with IAPs)

Sudoku - The Clean One screenshots for Android

For fans of Sudoku, there is no shortage of options on Android, but the beautiful minimal design and smooth animation make Sudoku — The Clean One stand out. There are five difficulty levels, three assistive options to toggle, and seven themes. The free version includes occasional ads when you start or complete a game. A one-time IAP of $2.99 gets rid of the ads. The only other IAP is an AMOLED theme pack ($1.99) with 10 new color options featuring a dark background. If you are a fan of Sudoku or have always wanted to give it a shot, this is a great mobile version of the game.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2ZQhK47

Threes! ($5.99 or free with ads)

It’s been several years since Threes! burst onto the scene and birthed an abundance of clones, but it remains endlessly replayable. The core gameplay is simple: Swipe to stack cards and add them together, building ever-larger totals. But as with plenty of classic puzzle games, mastering the game can take years and keep you entertained anytime you have a spare moment.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XtIgmw

Best adventure and RPG games for Android

This is hardly a new genre on mobile, but in the last few years, as devices have gotten bigger and more powerful, the games have definitely risen to the challenge. Adventure and RPG games offer a depth that most wouldn’t have sought out on their smartphone in years past, but as smartphones have become the primary gaming devices for so many, these more extensive experiences have found a place.

Crashlands ($6.99)

While Crashlands may be a few years old now, it remains one of my personal favorite adventure games on Android. The game centers around simple combat and crafting as you explore the world that you have crash-landed on while attempting to make a delivery. The game does away with inventory management by giving you an unlimited inventory, so pick up anything and everything you come across as you might need it later. The developer, Butterscotch Shenanigans, has a unique art style and a sense of humor that helps the game stand out. While I wouldn’t sit down for a full day of gaming with Crashlands, it’s fantastic in that 20 minutes to an hour range.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Xw3EaJ

Samorost 3 ($4.99)

Samorost 3 is a point-and-click adventure game with an incredibly unique art style that has you exploring numerous worlds (nine in total) and finding interesting creatures and landscapes along the way. You could also categorize it as a puzzle game, but I find the exploration component and the need to observe the world to solve the puzzles makes this feel more like an adventure game. The basic plot of the game is that a magical horn falls from the sky, and you use that horn to interact with the world by amplifying sounds and playing back tunes at times. You discover through this that someone is wreaking havoc on the nearby planets, and you need to set out to put this right.

As with most games with this much attention to detail, it isn’t an extremely long experience at maybe six hours to complete the primary mission, but you are free to continue exploring after that, and there’s at least another few hours of experiences to be had. If you want to give it a try before committing to the purchase, you can download the free demo of the first planet, and if you decide you like it, your progress will be carried over to the full game as long as you sign in to Google Play Games.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XAMPvo

Monster Hunter Stories ($19.99)

For those that like to complain that console titles don’t make it to mobile, Monster Hunter Stories might be what you were waiting for. Sure, that console may be the Nintendo 3DS, but this port of the game is actually an improvement over the original. Monster Hunter Stories is an offshoot of the popular Monster Hunter series that is centered around a village that collects and raises the monsters rather than hunting them down.

Once you’ve hatched the monsters, you continue to build your bond with them, which powers you and them up over time. The combat itself is turn-based and straightforward RPG fare. Finishing the main storyline and sidequests will probably take you somewhere between 50-60 hours, which helps to justify the steep-for-mobile pricing. There is also a multiplayer component once you have progressed far enough that allows you to battle other players in your region. Thankfully there is a free demo of Monster Hunter Stories to get a feel for the game before you plonk down your money on it and your progress will transfer to the full game.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XBKBf9

Oceanhorn (Free with IAPs)

Given the style of games that Nintendo seems willing to offer us on mobile, it is going to be a while before we see a true Zelda game. Until then, Oceanhorn is one of the best titles to give you that same sword-slashing and world-exploring experience. I’m talking older-school Zelda, not the open-world revelation of Breath of the Wild. In Oceanhorn, you set out to help your father defeat the Oceanhorn, which is a mechanical beast that is laying waste to your world. You sail to and explore islands, solve puzzles in dungeons, and otherwise do battle with all manner of beasts. I want to be absolutely clear that Oceanhorn can’t live up to the Zelda franchise, but it does scratch that itch on mobile, and it’s worth giving it a shot.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2IDX0Hg

Best shooter games for Android

Shooters were terrible on mobile for so long that it was hard to believe they were ever going to get one right. Graphically, some games managed to deliver, but the controls were almost universally terrible, and in the case of multiplayer, bandwidth was often a problem. While the boost in smartphone power certainly has helped, screen size makes the real difference for this genre as it has made on-screen controls far more tolerable, and further developments in cloud gaming can deliver massive multiplayer games with limited lag.

Fortnite (Free with IAPs)

While I’m complete garbage at Fortnite, I still recognize that it’s an amazing achievement as a mobile game. Given everything that is going on in this crafting/builder/shooter/battle royale title, the fact that the controls are as usable as they are on mobile is astounding. The gameplay is as frenetic on mobile as it is anywhere else, and watching people far more competent than I play it delivers something awfully close to the console/PC versions. If you have the patience (and fast-twitch reflexes) to master the game, you are in for hours and hours of entertainment, and if you can resist those IAPs, it is completely free. Famously, Epic did not publish Fortnite on Google Play, so the link below will take you to their website to download the game. It’s also worth noting that Fortnite requires a pretty high-end smartphone and will absolutely decimate your battery life, so be prepared.

Download from Epic Games: http://bit.ly/2KAUofj

PUBG Mobile (Free with IAPs)

While Fortnite ultimately grabbed the most attention, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) kicked off the battle royale trend. “Classic” has you parachuting into the game map and battling it out with a total of 100 players, and the last person or team standing is the winner. This mode can take up to 30 minutes, so there are quite a few additional modes that favor mobile users with smaller maps and shorter durations. PUBG Mobile delivers a pretty faithful port to smartphone users with mainly control conveniences to speed up certain aspects of the gameplay. The developer is constantly adding new modes and skins, and occasionally new maps as well. PUBG Mobile tries to push you to a Prime or Prime Plus subscription, which will get you in-game currency and access to more outfits and skins, but none of it actually affects the core gameplay.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2LeK4Jm

Shadowgun Legends (Free with IAPs)

If you are more of a Halo or Destiny fan, Shadowgun Legends from Madfinger Games may be the shooter for you to target. You are part of a mercenary force tasked with taking down a group of alien invaders, and if you are looking for a deeper plot than that, you have come to the wrong game. You receive missions from NPCs in the central hub where you can spend your in-game currency on upgrades and other entertainment. Completing missions builds your “Fame,” XP, currency, and of course, gear. There’s an abundance of gear, and with 12 total slots to equip on your character, you can get pretty granular with your setup. Shadowgun Legends caters to those that like run-and-gun-style games with your gun by default set to fire automatically. It doesn’t require much strategizing, but that’s not always what you are looking for.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XvXJCB

Best simulation games for Android

There’s a pretty wide spectrum of games that could fall into this category. For example, plenty of racing and shooter games are simulations of reality. I may refine this in future updates, but for now, I’m going to consider this to be games that are simulations that aren’t particularly focused on players winning, but learning something in the process of playing.

Pocket City ($3.99)

The fact that a series of games based on city planning is one of the most popular titles of the last few decades still amazes me at times, and yet I have sunk hundreds of hours into it. While Sim City may have birthed the genre, I much prefer Pocket City on mobile to escape the IAPs. It’s obviously not a graphical powerhouse, but I really like the art style they’ve gone with. I would love to see some further development to make the later stages of the game a little more difficult, but even as is, the game is a great little city builder. The devs have been responsive to community feedback and continue to push out updates, so I have hopes to see more out of Pocket City in the future.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XHdHKl

Best tower defense games for Android

The tower defense genre may not be as popular as it once was, but it’s far from going away. Tower defense strategy games have you placing characters or objects on or along a path in order to stop your opponent.

Bloons TD 6 ($4.99 with IAPs)

Many people may have forgotten this series as there was roughly a six-year gap between Bloons TD 5 and 6. But when the game returned last year, it captured the great art style and gameplay from the previous games. Personally, I like the cartoony ridiculousness for tower defense as they invariably turn into just a massive pileup of towers and attackers, and the varied character types and attacks keep it fresh and entertaining. Despite the cartoon-style graphics, the game gets incredibly difficult if you want it to, so don’t let the look fool you. The most recent update brought with it co-op play, which opens up even more replayability. I’m never a big fan of IAPs on top of an upfront charge, but these are pretty easy to ignore.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2K0UytR

Best card games for Android

If you resisted collectible card games in reality due to either cost or not wanting to have a bookshelf of enormous binders, but were always curious, then the digital versions are a great way to scratch that itch. While I’ve never played a single game of Pokémon or Magic, I have played hours of collectible card games on my phone and can easily see the appeal.

Hearthstone (Free with IAPs)

Probably the best-known collectible card game on mobile, and for good reason. Hearthstone is a fantastic implementation of the genre with phenomenal artwork, well-thought-out cards, and interesting characters. Actual games involve two players facing off with constructed decks of 30 cards each, and ultimately trying to defeat the other side’s hero. The hero has a power that can be invoked, but the fighting is primarily done with the cards. Players have a limited amount of mana that dictates the value of cards or powers that they can use in a round. Standard games are played in either casual or ranked matches, the latter naturally being far more competitive. There are also Arena, Tavern Brawl, and Solo game modes that all ultimately follow the same basic game structure, but with varying restrictions or starting elements.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XyCRud

Best survival games for Android

They aren’t for everyone, but I find something awfully compelling about a game that has the sole objective of surviving. Naturally, some of these games can dip into more serious topics, but others remain pretty lighthearted despite the high stakes for your character.

This War of Mine ($13.99)

This War of Mine skews heavily into the serious side of survival games. You are controlling a group of civilians that are trapped in a city under siege, and simply trying to get by with what they have available. The city is too dangerous during the day, so that time is spent cooking, working on shelter, and crafting with materials in the shelter. At night they are able to head out and scavenge for additional supplies to use the next day. You need to manage the mood, hunger levels, and overall health of the group until a cease-fire is declared. It’s a challenging game and a compelling look at another side of war simulation games.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XyUuKu

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition ($4.99)

Another stylized adventure game, but as the name suggests, this one falls squarely into the survival genre. You are thrown into the wilderness and must use everything that you find to feed and protect yourself. Beyond your hunger, you need to maintain your health and sanity. As there is little instruction, surviving means a lot of trial and error. In this case, error usually means your death, so you will die a lot as you discover the various odd creatures and features of this world. Crafting is a big part of the game, from building a simple axe to building a permanent home where you can farm and raise animals. The cartoonish artwork and goofy animals like the Beefalo keep this game light despite the dire name, and I always found the challenge of eking out a few more days of survival to be quite satisfying.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XrqS1R

Best sports games for Android

Whatever sport you love, there is guaranteed to be an Android version of it available.

Dream League Soccer 2019 (Free with IAPs)

There is no shortage of soccer games available on Android, which isn’t surprising, given that it is the most popular sport in the world. With that said, most of the simulations do an incredibly poor job of actually capturing game play, and the controls tend to be a nightmare. Dream League Soccer is a long-running series that comes the closest to getting it right. You serve as the team’s owner, acquiring new players, training your existing squad, and building up your stadium over time. And then, of course, you actually control the team on the field. There are three buttons along with directional controls that offer enough variation to get the job done without overwhelming the screen. If you are looking for a realistic soccer/football fix on mobile, Dream League Soccer 2019 is the best I’ve found.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2JWIqKf

Best driving games for Android

Driving games have always been a popular genre, and given the relatively simple controls needed, it’s a great fit for mobile.

Asphalt 9: Legends (Free with IAPs)

In the long tradition of racing games serving as the graphical benchmark for gaming (Forza, Gran Turismo, etc.), the Asphalt series has often played that part on mobile. The games richly detailed models, lighting, and of course, speed really will show the limits of what your smartphone/tablet is capable of. Fortunately, they are also quite competent in the gameplay department. While the look of the vehicles tips toward realism, the racing is a lot more fantastical with ludicrous courses, jumps, weather conditions, and speed-boosting effects. This version also feels a lot less pay-to-play than some of its predecessors. The IAPS will accelerate things, but progress is fast enough without them.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2YagZTd

Rush Rally 3

If you want your racing to be a little more grounded in reality, then Rush Rally 3 could be the series for you. You are racing across roads (dirt and pavement) in a wide variety of terrain. The car models aren’t quite up to the level of Asphalt, but they aren’t that far off, and overall it’s a beautiful game. There’s a lot of customizability as far as your view and controls for the game that helps give it a broader appeal, as the top-down view makes for a vastly different experience than the first-person view. The game modes help keep things fresh as well with the main career mode, and then individual races or skill challenges, and of course multiplayer.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2ZYbasF

Best games for kids

Obviously, many of the games listed above are perfectly suitable for kids as well, but here are some games primarily targeted at kids in the 8-15-year-old range.

Minecraft ($6.99 with IAPs)

The now 10-year-old building/sandbox game has continued to improve on mobile, and given the still-thriving community playing and adding to the game, it’s impossible to not include on this list. The simple building and exploring mechanics that have always made Minecraft so popular are still there, along with added depth from years of refinement and additions to the core gameplay. Whether it’s the recent Village & Pillage update that brought a wealth of new content with it, the Realms multiplayer experience that allows you to create worlds just for you and your friends, or community content that appeals to you, there is no sign of Minecraft slowing down.

Download from Google Play: http://bit.ly/2XwwWWz

Roblox (Free with IAPs)

On the off chance you aren’t familiar with Roblox, it’s basically a universe of mini-games. The majority of the games are created by the community, and the quality varies wildly as a result. Unfortunately, you can’t build your own Roblox games on mobile, yet Roblox Studio requires Windows or macOS. The basic building blocks for almost any style of game are there, so while the look of Roblox games are similar, they can be platformers, shooters, simulation games, hide and seek, virtually anything. Roblox is also a massively multiplayer game, so most of these games will have other players present. Given that fact and the age range targeted by Roblox, it thankfully offers parents some controls, including the ability to disable chat, which is certainly recommended, particularly for younger children.

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