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The best Android games to play this holiday season

Update: New categories, new games

There are a LOT of games in the Play Store (clue's in the name), and finding the games that are worth your time can be difficult. But don't worry, we've done the hard job of playing through the most promising titles out there to compile this list of the best Android games. Whether you're a hardcore handheld gamer or just looking for something to pass the time on your commute, we've got games for you.

All the following games are fantastic, but we've used our gaming experience to organize the most impressive titles according to genre below. Whether you love solving tricky puzzle games, leading an army to battle in strategy games, or exploring new RPG worlds, just select a category below to find the cream of the crop.

Jump to a section:

No Wi-Fi? These are the best games to play offline

Sometimes you end up in a situation where you've got no data or Wi-Fi connection available, and in those situations, you're going to need a fun game that plays well offline. The suggestions below lean towards the casual gamer, but a number of others in this list (Thimbleweed Park and Planescape: Torment particularly) are also huge games with hours of content that work without a connection. 

Crashlands

Crashlands is a fantastically well-designed game that plonks your protagonist on a dangerous planet with a mission to build a base, defeat your enemies, and eventually escape back to space.

The combat system is simple and fun and a streamlined inventory makes it easy to harvest resources and craft your base and items.

The story is light-hearted with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor. For $6.99, Crashlands offers potentially infinite addictive gameplay—once you've beaten the game, you can simply make more content yourself with the level editor.

  • App version: 1.2.16
  • Compatibility: Android 2.3 or higher
  • Price: $6.99

Reigns: Her Majesty

In the game of thrones, you swipe or you die. And sometimes you still die, but it's always fun. A sequel to Reigns, which was an entertaining mix of kingdom-sim and Tinder-style swiping, Reigns: Her Majesty puts you in the queen's fancy shoes this time, but the basic premise is the same—using a selection of cards and quirky items (new to the sequel), you make decisions that attempt to balance various factions in your kingdom, such as the people, the army and the church. And of course, your own desires come into it too...don't they?

Reigns: Her Majesty works best played in roughly 15 minute sessions that give the impression of an episodic progression through a story of intrigue, tension, and unexpected twists. Although it's a game that makes you think if you want to work for a perfect ending, I never got too stressed with the decision making because of the clever writing which delivers even missteps and misfortunes with a delightfully dark humor.

  • App version: 1
  • Compatibility: Android 4.3 and up
  • Price: $2.99

Have fun figuring out these Android puzzle games

Need a brain scratcher to keep you entertained? These suggestions should have you covered, whether you like physics-based puzzlers or more exploratory games. 

The Room: Old Sins

The Room: Old Sins is the latest in a beloved series of atmospheric puzzlers with a focus on manipulating contraptions in a limited space. On the trail of a precious artifact believed to be the key to a mysterious disappearance, the player must explore disturbing places, puzzle through obscure clues and operate bizarre devices to uncover the secrets of Waldegrave Manor.

Manipulating intricate puzzles boxes with touchscreen controls sounds like it might be awkward, but the controls of The Room: Old Sins are really well implemented. As you explore the devious dolls house of puzzles, you'll want to poke your nose and fingers into every nook and cranny, looking for levers, buttons and other hidden mechanisms with the help of a special eyeglass.

The level of graphical detail and sound quality immerse you into the creepy story, making the game feel tense and tactile even as you're free to take your time to figure out the latest brain teaser—when you get stuck, the game will offer you progressively more informative hints.

Get it on the Play Store

  • App version: 1.0.1
  • Compatibility: Android 4.4 and up
  • Price: $4.99

Homo Machina

This game from highbrow European media group ARTE has an intriguing concept. This game reimagines our squishy, leaky, throbbing flesh-vessels as mechanical contraptions. Basically, wheels, cogs, pipes conveyor belts and valves take the place of biological veins and organs.

The developers at Darjeeling cite as inspiration the work of Fritz Kahn, a doctor and scientist who described the workings of the human body using machines as metaphors. Playing through Homo Machina, it also reminded me of another famous figure: Rube Goldberg, the artist whose illustrations of complex mechanical contraptions are evoked in the game.

If the human body is a machine akin to a giant factory, the player is tasked with managing the staff: little people-within-a-person whose job it is to keep everything running smoothly. The game's story presents several situations to navigate as game puzzles, from as simple as eating a meal to more complex ones like a date. As with the real human body, everything is connected, so solving one problem requires you to make sure several puzzles in different parts otfthe body have been completed.

Get it on the Play Store

  • App version: 1.0.2
  • Compatibility: Android 5.1 and up
  • Price: $3

Love to "point and click"? Try these great adventure games

Puzzle and story go hand in hand in the classic 'adventure' game format, which used to be synonymous with mouse and keyboard PC gaming back in the day. This style of gaming, where you take on the role of a character, navigate different levels, talk to NPCs and find items to advance to the next level of the story, are great for playing on your smartphone touchscreen.

Thimbleweed Park

The latest adventure game from legendary Monkey Island series designer Ron Gilbert, perfectly blends nostalgia with modern convenience:

You control a pair of idiosyncratic FBI agents investigating a murder mystery in an equally idiosyncratic town, and in the mode of classic adventure games, you need to explore different environments, talk to quirky characters, and collect and use items in the right way to solve puzzles to progress.

Being able to switch between different characters in different locations adds another layer of depth, but if the head-scratchers are too much, there's even an 'easy' mode if you'd rather just enjoy the story and retro-style graphics.

  • App version: 1.0.4
  • Compatibility: Android 4.4 and up
  • Price: $9.99

Get in on the Play Store

Life is Strange Mobile

Life is Strange broke a lot of hearts back when it released for PC and consoles in 2015, but in a good way. This graphically beautiful game combines a supernatural mystery with emotional and compelling human drama.

Life is Strange puts you in the shoes of Max Caulfield, a high-school girl with a passion for photography who just recently moved back to her hometown of Arcadia Bay.  After she witnesses a girl getting shot in her school, Max discovers that she can rewind time, allowing her to change what happens in the past, hopefully for the better.

This is a story-focused game where your choices matter. You guide Max around the scenes, interact with objects and characters and make decisions that advance the story. The ‘rewind’ ability lets you play around with these decisions, and reverse your choices and check the consequences of different actions (at least in the short term...the far-reaching consequences will still come back surprise you).

Get it on the Play Store

  • App version: 1.00.258 
  • Compatibility: Android 6.0 and up
  • Price: First episode free, $8.99 for the complete game

Hold the line against enemy waves

Tower defense is a huge genre with many Clash of Clans-style imitators. Often, however, these are blatant money-grabs or vehicles for ads. The ones below offer a better experience than that. 

Plants vs Zombies 2

This is one free to play game that gets most things right. PvZ2 is characterized both by its detailed and colorful graphic style, as well as by the many tactical possibilities. There are also many varied worlds in which the player is given many different tasks, and the title also offers various mini-game variants in tower defense style.

Here you can place various plants, from energy-giving sunflowers, to balling pea cannons, to carnivorous plants in your 5 x 9 tile backyard. It's besieged by a zombie herd of transformed football players, newspaper-reading grandfathers, and crazy gardeners in waves that you'll have to now down (how fitting).

  • App version: 7.0.1
  • Compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  • Price: Free, in-app purchases

Defense Zone 3 HD

Defense Zone 3 is a challenging tower defense title based on a more realistic look and futuristic weapons and vehicles war equipment than most other games in the genre. Instead of defending its base against cute animals or blobs, tanks and anti-aircraft guns are used.

Not only does it look really good, it also plays very well. The many tactical possibilities and attitudes might be a little overtaxing for beginners and beginners at the beginning, but connoisseurs of the material will find their way immediately and appreciate the playful variety.

  • App version: 1.2.5
  • Compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  • Price: Free, in-app purchases

Fighter? Wizard? Rogue? Try these fantastic RPGs for Android

Just like with tower defense and sports games, there's a good chance you have your favorite RPG that you've already invested a lot of time (and possibly money) in already. The following are more in-depth RPGs for those prepared to spend hours diving into fantasy worlds.

Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition

Planescape: Torment is rightly remembered by gamers of a certain age as a masterpiece, but the Dungeons and Dragons based RPG that wowed so many in the year 2000 hasn't aged so well alongside modern AAA titles.

Thankfully, Beamdog has given this classic title a modern facelift and tune-up that includes various convenience tweaks as well as beautification and a remastered soundtrack. Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition's rich and immersive storytelling remains as compelling as ever, and you can expect to sink 30-40 hours into completing it. 

If you enjoy Planescape: Torment, then you might also want to check out Beamdog's similarly enhanced editions of classic RPGs such as Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate 2.

  • App version: 3.1.3.0
  • Compatibility: Android 3.0 or higher
  • Price: $9.99

The Quest

Don't let the generic title put you off. The Quest from Redshift games is an old school first person open-world RPG with hand-drawn graphics and a great story, that brings to mind the classic Elder Scrolls titles such as Daggerfall

There's a complex plot at the heart of The Quest, but he game doesn't hold your hand down a set path. You're free to explore a vast fantasy world and handle the different side-quests and missions at your own pace, in your own style, and your choices can lead to many different story outcomes. 

To go on this quest, you'll have to pay eight bucks, but you'll get many hours of gameplay in return, with no annoying ads. And if that's not enough for you, there are five expansions with new quests and areas to add on. A tip: the main game goes on sale for half price quite often.

  • App version: 9.0.1
  • Compatibility: Android 4.4 and up
  • Price: $3.99

Ready? Go! Android endless runner games

Endless runners are always one of the most popular Android games categories, and our suggestions below should keep you entertained for a long, long time. 

Alto's Odyssey

The long-awaited sequel to Alto's Adventure delivers all the great elements of the original-lush levels, entrancing music, smooth flowing gameplay-but more. More variety in levels, more movement tricks, more worlds to discover and secrets to find.

Its main appeal over other endless runner type games is atmosphere. The levels are truly beautiful. Desert dunes, ancient temples and rock canyons are painted with rich, evocative colors that give an impression of vastness beyond the 2-dimensional plane that you're racing down. A day-night cycle and weather effects not only add variety to the palette, but add a sense of life to the fantastic world. Music also plays a key part, with the relaxing yet driving rhythms absorbing you into the game.

Alto's Odyssey is free to play, but you'll get ads in between levels that can be removed for a couple of bucks. If you're impatient, you can also outright purchase the coins that you normally collect in the different levels, which can then be used unlock special items and bonuses, like a wingsuit or compass that provide powerups.

Get it on the Play Store

  • App version: 1.0.2
  • Compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  • Price: Free, ad-supported, in-app purchases

Run Sausage Run!

Run Sausage Run! Is an endless runner with a culinary twist. As a plucky sausage attempting to escape your fate on the dinner table, you've got to dash through the kitchen dodging deathtraps like knives, tenderizers, searing hot grills, and various whirling blades.

The bloody but cartoony visuals and tongue-firmly-in-cheek humor make Run Sausage Run! stand out from the many endless runners out there by force of personality. The fantastic soundtrack and variety of power-ups help keep the high-score chasing gameplay interesting over time and there are various outfits and skins to unlock to personalize your sausage.

Although free to play, the game is supported by ads, which, once you get engrossed in a particularly tricky section of traps, can feel quite frustrating. An in-app purchase exists to remove them.

  • App version: 1.2.0
  • Compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  • Economic model: In-app purchases

Android action games to get your adrenaline pumping

If you'd rather be handling weapons and slaying rivals than kickflipping your way to a high-score, these action games should keep you entertained. 

Dead Trigger 2

Fragging zombies might be a gaming cliche, but done right, it remains incredibly satisfying to shred the shuffling, moaning meatbags with heavy firepower. And Dead Trigger 2 does it right, and looks good doing it too. One of the most graphically impressive games available on Android, this FPS from Madfinger Games boasts hundreds of missions with a wide variety of weapons. 

Dead Trigger 2 may be an action shooter but it's not all about guns. There's a visceral satisfaction in beating down on the undead with a hammer or eviscerating them with a machete. Then there are more unconventional ways to bring the pain, such as with a boat motor or with...exploding chickens. Yes. 

Of course, there's a variety of enemies with different types of attacks and weaknesses to keep the player challenged, too. Dead Trigger 2 isn't mindless repetitive blasting. The levels are well-designed with a variety of enemies that demand new tactics.

  • App version: 1.3.1
  • App size: 519 MB
  • Compatibility: Android 4.0.3 and up
  • Price: Free (in-app purchases)

Implosion - Never Lose Hope

Rayark's offers 6 levels of their fantastic sci-fi action game for free download, and it's enough to get sucked into this graphically gorgeous title. The player controls one of two mechs with a variety of abilities for long- and close-range combat against a variety of alien and cybernetic enemies.

The controls are intuitive and responsive and it's easy to master a range of impressive sword attacks, dashes, shooting, melee combos etc to keep things interesting. Unlocking the full version opens potentially hours of slick action and combat with more powerful enemies.

  • App version: 1.2.11
  • App size: 1.49 GB
  • Compatibility: Android 4.0 and up
  • Price: Free ($9.99 for full version)

Start your engines! Racing games for speed freaks

Got that need for speed? Longing for the engine's roar? Then strap yourselves in, because here we go!

Asphalt 9: Legends

The latest in the popular series from Gameloft, Asphalt 9: Legends is one for fans of a high-end graphics and realistic vehicles. As always, it is available for free download but in-app purchases are there to tempt you.

One of the main draws of Asphalt 9: Legends is the extensive roster of well-known cars (about 50) such as Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini. New circuits are present, as are new online features like the 7-player multiplayer. For the first time in the Asphalt series of games, you can also create your own online community of racers with the Club feature. 

Gameloft has perfected racing with touch controls, and Asphalt 9 plays smoothly and responsively so that you can react in those split seconds crucial for winning in such a high-speed contest.

Micro Machines

Micro Machines needs little introduction on any platform, and the Android game is no different. Grab yourself a car, select a race mode and you'll be thrown into a race against other real opponents playing around the world.

As is common in many free-to-play games nowadays, you'll need to play a fair amount to unlock new courses and vehicles as you progress, but there's enough variety to keep you entertained. And if you're happy to hand over some money to skip the grind, you can do that instead. 

In race modes, the objective is pretty simple - get across the line first by any means necessary, which means using the weapons and other pickups you'll collect as you race. In elimination mode, points are awarded to racers that manage to keep up the pace and stay on screen, and in Battle mode there's no course to race around and the only aim is destruction of your enemies.

Sounds like fun? That's because it is.

  • App version: 1.0.5.0001
  • Compatibility: Android 4.0.3 and up
  • Price: Free, in-app purchases

Android fighting games: the way of the warrior

Sometimes all you really want to do to release frustration with the real world is bash the hell out of someone in a video game. For those moments, we recommend these Android fighting games. 

Street Fighter Fighter IV: Champion Edition

When it comes to fighting games, you can't go wrong with Street Fighter. Capcom's classic fighting series puts up a good fight on mobile, although you'll notice a graphical downgrade if you've played SFIV on console (come on Capcom, even Street Fighter 2 on the Sega Genesis had animated stage backgrounds).

But Street Fighter IV: Champion Edition doesn't skimp on gameplay. Unlike many fighting games on mobile, there's no login for daily rewards, no grinding for in-game currencies to level up your fighters punches, no gambling-style random unlocks of characters or features.

Instead, you can try it out for free, playing Ryu against three classic characters, and one eminently in-app purchase of $5 unlocks all the other fighters. Then you can let rip with the full roster in a variety of game modes including online versus, with a full virtual gamepad (though you can add your own controller) to give Street Fighter veterans the deep gameplay they're used to.

For new players or those who find the touch controls awkward, there are various convenience features make special moves easier to pull off. 

  • App version: 1.00.01
  • Compatibility: Android 4.4 and up
  • Price: Free version, $5 in-app purchase for full version

Shadow Fight 3

The classic beat 'em up, in which a pair of rock-hard warriors thrash each other within an inch of their lives, isn't one of the more popular types of mobile games but the Shadow Fight series has always stood out as one of the best examples of the genre on mobile devices.

Although previous titles in the series featured battles between almost featureless black figures, Shadow Fight 3 brings all the action into the light, with great graphics and a variety of fighting styles, armor and weapons for your fighter to brutalize opponents with. "Shadow" powers are still available as special moves, however.

You won't get far with button-mashing in this game either, beating Shadow Fight 3 requires proper form and timing to succeed, especially if you resist the in-app purchases.

  • App version: 5.2.3
  • App compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  • Price: Free, in-app purchases

Want to see the other challengers? Check out our list of the top fighting games for Android

Lock and load: the best Android FPS games

First person shooters have been a popular genre in the video game world ever since the days of Doom, and yes you can play Doom on Android. For our selection here, we've picked our favorite action-packed space shooter, as well as the best sniping game for those who like more careful, tactical action.

Shadowgun Legends

Shadowgun Legends is the latest offering from Madfinger Games, the same team behind the previously mentioned zombie shooter Dead Trigger 2. Shadowgun Legends is a more futuristic affair with lush graphics that will remind gamers of classic AAA PC/console titles such as Destiny and Halo.

You play a futuristic mercenary, or "Shadowgun" that can be equipped which an impressive variety of weapons and armor for an edge in battle but also with an eye to cosmetics, as high-scoring hero will strut their stuff in front of other players and will be honored with public statues of their avatar in the game world.

The emphasis given to visuals fits in with the game's economic model, which offers in-app purchases for cosmetic items. But the actual gameplay is solid, and offers a lot for free: an extensive single-player campaign, as well as multiplayer, versus and co-op team challenges, still offers a lot of fun, intense FPS action without any need for spending.

  • App version: 0.4.3
  • Compatibility: Android 6.0 and up
  • Price: Free, in-app purchases 

Hitman Sniper

There are plenty of fast-paced action shooters on the Play Store, but there's something to be said for the slow-paced satisfaction of picking the perfect shot and sniping your enemies from afar. For that experience, Hitman Sniper is king and a steal at less than a dollar. 

The main challenge in the game is executing your targets in a discreet manner, leaving guards and bystanders none the wiser. The game contains over 150 missions, various sniper rifles to unlock, and leaderboards to check your rankings.

  • App version: 1.7.110758
  • Compatibility: Android 4.1 and up
  • Price: $0.99, in-app purchases 

Expand and conquer with the best Android strategy games

Want to plot the rise of an empire? Conquer new lands while developing technologies that catapult you through the ages? These Android strategy game suggestions have got you covered. 

The Battle of Polytopia

The Battle of Polytopia is a wonderful mix of strategy and adventure that sees you exploring (and conquering new lands) and battling any AI tribes you come across on the way. It's also one of the better looking options with cute, blocky graphics.

The tribe you choose for each game will dictate the type of adventurer you start with, but you can research new abilities along the way, so it really just dictates what you'll be doing at the start. Leveling up is easy enough to achieve to not be frustrating but the gameplay is tricky (and varied) enough to keep you coming back for more. This is also helped by the automatically generated maps and different tribes you can join. 

It's very simple in comparison to many strategy games, meaning there aren't too many in-game options and items, not that it doesn't present a challenge. It's a pleasingly small download and there's really no need to pay for any in-game purchases in order to progress or fight off the newest challenge. 

  • App version: New World
  • App compatibility: Android 4. 0 and up
  • Price: Free, in-app purchases

Uciana

Uciana is an indie space strategy game that came out of nowhere to impress us this year. The game delivers a fantastic amount of depth for just $0.99. There’s no IAP either. What you get is effectively a mobile game version of sci-fi Civilization descendants, such as Master of Orion 2.

There are several distinct spacefaring civilizations to play as, from humans to interstellar crabs. Through the graphics are basic, each comes with distinct bonuses and ship design to give them a different flavor.

The goal is galactic conquest, which is accomplished via exploration, expansion, economic growth, technological research, and of course, diplomacy and war once you start bumping in to your rivals. Nonetheless, once you've spent time getting the hang of it, Uciana stands out as one of the best strategy games out there on mobile that isn't tarnished by pay-to-win monetization or predatory IAP.

  • App version: 1670
  • Compatibility: Android 4.2 and up
  • Price: $0.99

All against all: welcome to battle royale

Despite the name, the now uber-popular battle royale format of shooting game doesn't just offer free-for-all battles, but various other game modes such as squad-based games are also possible. Nonetheless, the classic battle royale is still king: start with nothing, explore and scavenge on an island for the weapons and items you need to overcome your enemies and be the last left standing as the game area closes in on you.

Battle royale is a hot trend right now, with two big names currently in competition for world domination:

PUBG Mobile

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (popularly known as PUBG), is one of one of the most played video games on PC and Xbox, and enjoys great success as a free-to-play game on mobile, with over 20 million players active daily.

PUBG Mobile is fantastically faithful to the addictive gameplay that made the PC version so explosively popular in the first place. 100 players parachute onto an island, scavenge weapons and equipment and engage in a winner-takes-all fight for survival as encroaching death zones push them ever closer to the enemy.

We'll admit that several AndroidPIT editors gave their lives over and over again on launch day as we struggled to adjust to the touchscreen controls, but we quickly got the hang of it, and before long, we were winning that chicken dinner.

  • App version: 0.3.3
  • Compatibility: Android 4.3 and up
  • Price: Free 

Fortnite Battle Royale

Global gaming sensation Fortnite has arrived on Android, but you won't find it in the Play Store. Nonetheless, we couldn't not feature it on this list. Want to get in on the action? Here's how to download it for free and try it for yourself.

For an in-depth look at how Fortnite plays on Android, you can check out our full review. Fortnite's take on the battle royale format is quirkier, more cartoonish and generally more whimsical than PUBG's grim and gritty 'realistic' style. The environments and player avatars have eye-catching colors, bizarre outfits and a more absurd feel. Whether you prefer Fortnite's visuals and zany sensibilities to PUBG is a matter of taste but it's also free to try, with in-app purchases reserved for outfits and cosmetic enhancements.

Get your game on

There are hours of fun to be found in the games listed above, but in case the selection doesn't quite fit your style, we're always on the lookout for great new games, and you can check out our reviews of the latest and greatest in our monthly list of the best new games to land on the Play Store

If you're interested in pushing immersion to the limit, then take a look at our selection of best VR games for Android, covering Cardboard, Daydream and Gear VR.

What does the future hold in store for Android games? As our smartphones become even more high tech, Android games are becoming more impressive all the time .We keep track of the most hotly anticipated titles right here:

What is your favorite Android game? Let us know in the comments!

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