It can be a minefield trying to navigate the Play Store. Now that it clearly distinguishes between ''free'' games and free games with in-app purchases, it turns out that there really aren't that many completely free games out there. But some games with in-app purchases can still be enjoyed without spending anything and there are still plenty of games that are fully free. This list includes both categories of games, with their conditions for entry being that you don't need to spend anything to enjoy them, and of course that they're incredibly, relentlessly fun. Read on for our list of the best free Android games to play on your device so far in 2015.
Super Monsters Ate My Condo!
This Jenga-meets-hyperactive-Japanese-arcade-game is as crazy as it sounds, which can largely be attributed to the fact that it's made by Adult Swim games (creators of the legendary Robot Unicorn Attack). In Super Monsters Ate My Condo! apartments floors of various colors drop down from the top of the screen, and it's your job to swipe them away into the mouths of the correspondingly-colored monsters sitting in wait.
If you leave the monsters unfed for too long, they get angry, and you don't want to see them angry (well, you probably do, but it'll lead to you losing the game). There are power-ups such as acid, nuke and dog to help and hinder you, as well as various game modes, unlockables, and online scoreboards.
Winter Walk / Autumn Walk
This duo of games is very endearing - from its pixelated art style, to its top-hatted protagonist, right down to the simple gameplay premise of trying to keep a Victorian gentleman's hat on his head as he goes for his afternoon constitutional.
As the weather conditions worsen, you'll find it more and more difficult to keep his hat on, even though mechanically all you need to do is hold your finger on it. Both games are similar, although in Autumn Walk you have to hold onto an unruly dog on a leash, and can also buy new outfits to make your gentleman look quite the dandy!
Dungeon Hunter 5
The latest installment in the demonically popular Dungeon Hunter series is here, and it offers an interesting new twist on the dungeon-crawling hack-&-slash formula. It has a similar main quest to previous games, as you and up to three of your friends slash and spell-blast your way through piles of monsters to save the Kingdom of Valenthia.
There is spellcrafting, levelling-up and boss-fighting in abundance. However, the most interesting new feature is the new 'Strongholds' multiplayer mode, where you build a base, train a monster army, then take on other players and their strongholds. Clash of Clans better look out!
Falling somewhere between Frogger and infinity runners like Temple Run and Subway Surfers, Crossy Road is a cute game that's great for those quick-fix sessions. So great, in fact, that it won 'Best quickplay game' at the International Mobile Gaming Awards. The longer you survive, the more gold you earn, letting you unlock new characters to traverse the endless 3D pixel-blocky world. It's old-school and new-school, charming and challenging, and we love it.
It may look suspiciously similar to the wonderful Monument Valley, but give Skyward a chance (it's free, after all) and you'll see that it offers something quite different. You control a red and a blue circle, and have to rhythmically guide them through Escher-like levels that are falling away behind you. Take too long, and the circles shrink to nothing. It looks fantastic, and there are no in-app purchases, so you get the full experience for free.
Subway Surfers takes over from the venerable Temple Run as the top infinity runner on Android, and rightfully so. Subway Surfers takes you to the subway/railway tracks of colorful, cartoony versions of famous places like Miami, Las Vegas, London and Bangkok. The idea is simply to run (very fast) along the railway tracks, avoiding trains and other obstacles, and picking up coins. Earning enough coins lets you unlock new characters and powerups. It's great fast-paced fun!
New Words With Friends
This Scrabble clone changes the classic board game from something you need to sit down and play with your grandparents, to an online experience where you can play several people simultaneously, and take your turn whenever you like. The new version tracks your performance, showing you your scores relative to other people, the longest words you've played, as well as your overall win-lose record. There is now also an in-built dictionary feature, so next time you gain points for a two-letter word you don't understand, you can find out what it actually means.
Hopeless: The Dark Cave
Horror, comedy and cuteness combine to great effect in this shooter about a small group of incandescent blobs in the middle of a dark cave, trying to fight off an endless horde of dark-dwelling monstrosities. There is no end to the game as such, just collect coins to upgrade your weapons arsenal for the next go, and do your best to keep the cute fellas alive. The game is not for the feint-hearted, because watching the brave blobs get swallowed up one-by-one by the darkness is a heart-rending experience.
Plants vs Zombies 2
Sequel to one of the most successful free-to-play games ever, EA’s Plants vs. Zombies 2 retains the spirit of the original while adding more zombies, plants, and power ups. This colorful tower defense game will suck up a lot of your time (and potentially money, if you want to make use of its in-app purchases), but you are guaranteed fun along the way.
This one's been around for a while, but that doesn't stop it being one of the most addictive and intense multiplayer games on Android. Set in an abstract galaxy (presumably far, far away), you use a fleet of spaceships to fight for control of planets against the computer or other players. The more planets you control, the faster your fleet grows. The single-player campaign is OK, but the real fun starts when you play against others over Bluetooth or online.
Fruit Ninja has been around for years now, but it is still just as addictive as it was when it first hit the scene. Swiping your finger - sorry, ninja sword - across the touchscreen to dish out deadly attacks to, erm, fruit - watermelons, bananas, peaches will fall by your blade. Slice your way through your five a day while creating combos and making highscores in this infinitely satisfying arcade game.
Words On Tour
The second wordy Zynga game on this list is a bit less conventional. Think of it as a free-for-all word search meets Tetris. Complete levels by creating words out of letters that are adjacent to each other in the grid. You don't have to create words in straight lines either, which means your mental muscles will be flexed if you want to gain maximum points. There are power-up tiles and traps hidden in the game, and you can take your progress online to compare yourself against your friends and rivals.
Who doesn't love a good jetpack? Jetpack Joyride is an endless runner with a twist: in this game you don’t jump to avoid hazards, you use your jetpack. It’s all about getting the furthest distance or earning the most points before inevitably crashing. Along the way you will find other vehicles, such as mechanical dragons, motorbikes, and teleporters to help you, as well as new outfits, power-ups and other unlockables.
Clash of Clans
Clash of Clans is a simple, highly addictive concept - build a town and its defences, then train your troops to fend off attacks from other players. As it's a persistent multiplayer game, its duration is basically never-ending, and is one of the most popular games on the Play Store. Your progress syncs to your Google + account, so you can continue your game across multiple devices.
Candy Crush Saga
Candy Crush is now beyond a game, it's a cultural phenomenon. The game is based on the concept of Diamond Mine, where you connect colors together in series of three to make them explode. It's a tried-and-tested idea dating back to the days of Bejeweled, but something about the psychedelic world of Candy Crush has caught millions of peoples' imaginations. What’s more, Candy Crush Saga often gets festive for holidays, so you'll have unique features for Christmas, Valentine's and Easter.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
If you are into racecar driving, look no further than Asphalt 8: Airborne, a favorite arcade game among Android users. Why do we love it so much? Well, it's free for a start, and you get to choose between real-life cars that you’ve always dreamed of driving - from Lamborghinis to Ferraris - ripping them down courses in various stunning locations. Plus if you’ve got a competitive side, you can also drive in career mode which takes you through 8 seasons and 180 events.
Angry Birds Go!
Angry Birds have more or less taken over the world, taking the form of soft toys in our bedrooms, breakfast cereals, and now Mario Kart-style racing games. In Angry Birds Go! you choose from a variety of Angry Birds characters and must race your way through fanciful terrains while shooting random objects at your opponents. Just like Mario Kart, the controls take some time to get used to at the beginning, but soon you’ll be slinging those birds down the race track with ease.
Dumb Ways To Die 2: The Games
Dumb Ways To Die was originally created as an educational game to teach you and your kids a lesson about foolish things that people do that often lead to embarrassing deaths. The sequel doesn't have the same educational slant as the original, throwing the colorful characters into dangerous athletics games-style scenarios. You must jump over electric fences, unclog doorways, and ride dolphins for as long as possible. The game gets faster and faster, then after you've lost three lives, you're dead. Simple, and hilarious.
Dead Trigger 2
Following the success of their first game, MadFinger Games released Dead Trigger 2, which is so zombielicious you’ll soon be asking for more blood and guts after just a few minutes of playing. You must travel through various undead-infested areas of the world, killing as many zombies with your jam-packed artillery of weapons. It’s positively disgusting, and that’s why we love it.
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We hope you didn’t forget how to connect the dots from your childhood, because this game asks for those set of skills all over again. Dots is an Android favorite, where you must combine as many same-colored dots as you can in just 60 seconds. There are also some other game modes, like endless mode, no-limits, un-timed (counts the number of moves) etc. The game design is also really nice and minimalistic.
QuizUp landed like a bomb in 2014, revealing that everyone's a sucker for a good trivia game. The sky’s the limit for the number of categories, with new ones added daily. It’s not just your usual 'sports, films, history' fare either, with categories ranging from Android, to Harry Potter, to Batman. You can also play against others from around the world to compete on the global leaderboards.
Similar to Flappy Bird in its simplicity, Timberman was released in July of 2014. In this (basic) lumberjack simulator, you chop chunks out of the trunk of an infinitely tall tree, while avoiding the branches that fall from it. The game is ridiculously simple to understand, hard to master, and insanely addictive.
Badland has been lauded by games critics, ourselves included. It's an adventure game where you tap the screen to guide a group of forest dwellers through strange, swampy forests full of eerie shadows and obstacles. Think of it as the connoiseur's Flappy Bird. Aside from compelling gameplay, the graphics are great, there's a multiplayer mode, and it has a fantastic soundtrack.
SHADOWGUN is hands-down the best multiplayer shooter on Android, and will push powerful Android devices to the limit because of its demanding graphics. There are several classic shooter modes, including Deathmatch, and the Battlefield-style Zone Control. To better coordinate your team, or just yell insults at your enemy, there is also an easy-to-use multiplayer voice chat.
From the creators of Clash of Clans comes Boom Beach. Like Clash of Clans, you must build and defend your base while building up your forces to attack and conquer enemy territories. The battles that go down on Boom Beach are among the best you can get on Android, because the order and the type of units sent really make the difference between victory and defeat.
Another cult classic: Icomania is simple, but keeps you entertained. The game shows you a series of icons and you have to guess which movie star, cartoon, place, or various other category of thing in the world it is. If you get stuck, we’ve got all of the answers in our forum.
Pudding Monsters is one of the hardest games on Android, but in a fair way that won't have you flippantly smashing your device against the wall (we hope). You must move the eponymous pudding monsters in straight lines to prevent them dropping off the screen. It’s hard to explain, so take our word and give it this addictive game a try. This game was developed by the same creators as Cut The Rope.
Cut the Rope series
Cut the Rope is a veteran game by Android standards now. The aim is to feed the monsters candies by cutting candies that are teasingly hanging on ropes over their heads. Sounds weird? Yes, it is, and it's utterly brilliant for it. Cut the Rope 2 adds a host of new characters and locations, while Cut the Rope: Experiments adds 200 new levels. All this for free. You can't say no to that, can you?
4 Pics 1 Word
Like Logo Quiz, there are many versions of 4 Pics 1 Word. The purpose of the game is to guess the concept that a picture is hinting at. If you can’t figure it out, then you will get a second image, then a third and finally a fourth and final picture. It's a great brain exercise game to settle you down after playing some of the more chaotic entries on this list, like Timberman and ShadowGun.
Angry Birds series
This iconic series could not escape the list. There are so many versions of Angry Birds now - Space, Rovio, Epic, to name a few - that they'd take up too much of our list if we added them individually. The basic premise is that you need to slingshot the birds (we assume they volunteer for this suicidal strategy) and knock down forts created by the green pigs.
This is certainly one of the darkest entries on our list, as you control an deadly virus attempting to wipe out the world's population. Are you watching the news anxiously to stay abreast of the Ebola epidemic? Try this game to get some scary insight into how such diseases can spread. As the virus, you must adapt to beat treatments, infect people on planes, and use all the other ruthless virus methods to replicate and spread. It's dark, bleak, and morbidly entertaining.
Do you agree with our list? Have you discovered any free Android games that we haven't mentioned here? Let us know about it, and it might just make the list one day!
Updated by Robert Zak 4/7/15