The Google Play store is basically a treasure trove of amazing titles, but sometimes it can feel like wading through mud trying to figure out which ones really are worth your time (and potentially money). But, we're here to guide to you the very best Android games there is to play right now.
This list is a healthy mix of free to play games - with optional in-app purchases mentioned where appropriate - as well as paid apps that deserve your eyes and thumbs. So from vault simulators to cat collectors and in depth adventures, here are the best Android games to get your screen smudgy.
Each month, we review a major new Android release in the hopes of finding new entries to this list. Some will make the cut, others won’t, but all the games we’ll review are at least worth knowing about. For the full list of the best Android games, turn to page 2.
January Android Game of the Month: Beat Cop
My favourite diner is about to shut down for good. A food critic’s visit has coincided with a rat infestation, and when the critic slides into his booth he’s likely to find droppings floating in his stew. To save the diner, I must borrow poison from the local donut shop and kill the rats before service starts.
It sounds simple, except I’m also supposed to bust a drug smuggling ring, help the mob deal with a snitch, catch a Nazi sympathiser and search three suspicious vehicles—all within the two hours left in my shift.
Beat Cop is a police game in which you try, and inevitably fail, to please everybody. You take to the streets of Brooklyn and tap the screen to walk around your beat, talk to passers-by and visit local businesses. The main story gives you 21 days to clear your name after being blamed for a robbery, but that takes a back seat to your daily tasks, which usually involve a ticket quota. You tap on cars to check their tyres, lights and the parking meter, slapping tickets on violators.
If you miss targets your boss docks your pay, and your reputation on the force drops. But both the Italian mob and a street gang called The Crew are happy to grease your palm if you turn a blind eye to their crimes or give them a hand. You can even join their gangs if they like you enough.
Beat Cop is at its best when all the factions demand your help at the same time. While trying to arrest a jewellery thief I got a call about a fire. I was supposed to sprint to the scene and ticket a car blocking a fire hydrant, except—oh dear—I hadn’t eaten enough donuts, so I had no stamina. And then I realised it was 3:55, and at 4pm I was supposed to keep watch outside the pizza shop to make sure a mob delivery went smoothly.
I enjoyed that stress, because it forced me to decide what mattered most. Tasks are optional, so you can pick which mini stories to follow and which factions to align with, and you’ll get different endings depending on your choices.
Unfortunately, the main story is spread too thin. It has multiple threads, each of which are abandoned for days on end and then picked up again, making it difficult to follow. The mini stories you’ll encounter day-to-day also tail off towards the end, replacing interesting asides—escorting a visiting Russian officer around the block, or convincing a porn star to come out of retirement for one last film—with more basic tasks. The last five days are a slog.
The bugs in Beat Cop are frustrating, too. Sometimes, it didn’t register that I’d completed a task, which meant I was punished. At the end of one day the game failed to take me back to the station, the clock permanently hanging at 6pm. And the UI can be fiddly: text boxes overlay on top of things you need to tap, which looks messy.
More worrying, however, is Beat Cop’s tone. It’s trying to copy the casual racism of ‘80s cop shows, themselves inspired by real-life racism in the police force. But by mixing it in with childish dick jokes and surreal comedy, it trivialises the racism. At times, Beat Cop even revels in it, using racial slurs as punchlines to unfunny jokes.
One of your colleagues constantly harasses a female officer during morning briefings, joking about how he’s going to slap his handcuffs on her, or boasting about how many women he slept with last night. Racism and sexual harassment shouldn’t be off-limits, and when handled correctly they can add to a story or flesh out the setting. But in Beat Cop they feel gratuitous, copied and pasted direct from the ‘80s—and what passed for entertainment 40 years ago needs more context, and more nuance, now.
It was enough to cloud the fun I had with Beat Cop. It could’ve been an addictive, time-killing mobile game with plenty of replayability, but the lack of finesse makes it hard to enjoy, and the constant bugs were annoying. In other words, it’s like a tasty stew ruined by rat droppings.
Turn to page two for our pick of the top 30 best Android games to play right now...