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Best mobile AR games to prove that technology is awesome

(Image credit: Getty Images / Portland Press Herald)

One day we'll all, no doubt, wear contact lenses that show us where to go, puts adverts in front of our eyes like some kind of Mad Men fever dream, but for now it's all about augmented reality, and thankfully the smartphone space is all over AR, already providing us with a plethora of titles that'll let you explore the medium. We've picked out what we think are the best mobile AR games you can download and play right now that'll really prove that augmented reality is hella awesome.

Ingress

(Image credit: Niantic)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer:
Niantic
Price: Free

Pokemon Go may be the most famous augmented reality game of all, but Ingress was its predecessor. Niantic made this title first, and it’s effectively Pokemon Go with a much darker, sci-fi skin. You wander around your local area, claiming access points. 

When you first play Ingress, you choose a faction. You’re either part of the Enlightened, who want to let the alien Shapers evolve the human race, or the Resistance, which wants to keep humans as they are. It’s a sci-fi civil war.

This splits the Ingress player base down the middle, each vying for control of the AR world map. Ingress is a giant game of capture the flag. It has been around on Android since 2013, and is worth playing if you like the idea of Pokemon Go, but have no desire to “catch ‘em all”. 

Knightfall AR

(Image credit: A+E Networks)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: A+E Networks
Price: Free

A lot of AR games feel like bits of fluff, little more than tech demos put out because augmented reality is trendy right now. There’s more meat to Knightfall AR, though. 

It’s an action strategy title in which a battlefield gets pasted onto your living room floor. At one end is your castle, and you need to protect it from waves of invaders. 

Knightfall AR is loosely a tower defence game, but you take a much more active role here, aiming and firing off arrows and trebuchets by moving your handset and tapping on-screen. You’ll need a fairly powerful phone to make it run well as the graphics are detailed, but don’t miss this one if you have the hardware for it.  

Pokemon Go

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Niantic
Price: Free

Tens of millions of people still play Pokemon Go every month. But let’s not just assume you’re one of the 150 million or so who have given it a go. Pokemon Go is not like today’s new AR games. It doesn’t use Apple ARKit or Google ARCore to accurately map the world around you inch by inch (yet). Instead, this is a GPS game, augmented reality on a completely different scale. However, it’s still perhaps the richest, and definitely the most popular, augmented reality game on mobile at present, allowing you to catch 'em all from the comfort of your own locale. 

Slingshot Island ARCore

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Sockethead Games
Price: $0.99 / £0.89

Slingshot Island is the AR take on Angry Birds, a concept so intuitive we knew it wouldn’t take long to arrive. Once the game has mapped your living room, a full 3D fortress appears on a floating island. You have to pull back the slingshot of the title and blow that fortress to pieces. There are thirty levels. Great graphics and physics-based action make this one of the better demos of augmented reality, particularly if you want to show off what it can do in just a couple of minutes. 

Jenga AR

(Image credit: Free Range Games)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Free Range Games
Price
: Free

There are a bunch of Jenna-Like augmented reality games. Balanced Tower, Jenga AR, Wobbly Stack and Stack-AR all let you carefully prise blocks from a stack to try to make as big a tower as possible, just like the real-world wooden block game.

Jenga AR has the most realistic, engaging physics engine of the current crop, and offers more features than most. As well as an extra versus mode, there are different types of tower that have sticky blocks, ones that explode and those that are easier to remove in one particular dimension. 

You’ll need a good play surface for Jenga AR, or you’ll find it even more frustrating than the real-world game. But it’s worth trying to see AR’s 1:1 movement mapping in person. 

The Creeps! 2

(Image credit: Super Squawk Software)

Available on: Android, iOS
Developer: Super Squawk Software
Price: Free

The original The Creeps! was one of the more popular tower defence games from the first few years of the App Store, and what was at the time called the Android Marketplace. As the genre isn’t as popular anymore, there’s a good chance you haven’t stumbled upon The Creeps! 2. It’s an accessible strategy title in the tower defence mould. And it has an augmented reality mode that works surprisingly well. 

In each level you’ll see an “AR” button that maps the level onto the real world. Busier levels need a powerful phone to run smoothly, but The Creeps! 2’s gameplay and structure feels much more complete than those of most augmented reality games. 

The Machines

Available on: iOS
Developer: Directive Games
Price: $4.99 / £4.99

This was the game Apple showed off during its 2017 keynote, when it brought ARKit to the eyes of the public. Alongside Knightfall AR this is one of the best-looking augmented reality games available. It’s a futuristic multiplayer battle arena that encourages you to really use the motion of AR to explore the playing field, making it perhaps the best technical demo of what can be done with augmented reality right now. The stinger is that it is not cheap, and this has limited its player base, which is a shame in a multiplayer title. 

Stack AR

(Image credit: Ketachapp)

Available on: iOS
Developer: Ketchapp
Price:
Free

This is one of the quickest, simplest AR games out there. You build a tower, like in Jenga AR, but Stack AR is all about timing, not physics and balance. The block that’ll make the next level of your tower scrolls by the last, and you have to tap the screen when it completely covers your tower’s base. Mis-time it and your tower will get skinnier and skinnier. When slimmed down to nothing, it’s game over. 

Harry Potter: Wizard's Unite

(Image credit: Niantic)

Available on: iOS
Developer: Niantic
Price: Free

Not one, not two, but three Niantic games on this list, and for good reason. The developer has made its entire niche making ace augmented reality games, based on popular franchises like this one. Yes, Harry Potter has gone all AR, just like Pokemon. Instead of trying to catch them all, Wizard's Unite sees you cast spells to defeat confoundables, brew potions, and perform wizarding challenges as you move around the real world. 

Minecraft Earth

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Available on: iOS
Developer: Mojang
Price: Free

Still rolling out to all territories in beta form, Minecraft Earth takes the Minecraft you know and love but throws it into an AR world. You'll still be building, gathering resources, crafting and exploring but you can build structures using AR with other players, gather resources through the tappables found on the in-game map, and access Adventures, which range from puzzles to specific tasks to tick off. You can use your build plate to collaboratively build together too.