Mobile technology has come a long way since the days of Snake, Pong, and Doodle Jump. As operating systems become more powerful, these devices that were once considered just a uni-functional tool for cellular communication are now capable of running high-end games without so much as a technical hiccup.
It’s got to the point where mobile phones are able to run not just console-style games, but games that originally released on current generation consoles, whether they’re remasters of iconic classics or official ports of your favourite contemporary titles. You might be surprised, in fact, by just how many great console titles are available on mobiles these days, often at a reduced price to their home system counterparts. If you think your phone can muster the technical specs, here’s the best console games to download and play on Android right now.
Over the last three years, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (opens in new tab) has rapidly been breaking records after a rags to riches launch on PC (followed by subsequent console releases on PS4 and Xbox One), and mobile players can also get in on its trend-setting spoonfuls of battle royale action.
Developed by a separate company to PUBG Corp, the Chinese-based Tencent Games, Battlegrounds on mobile is a faithful recreation of the spirit and style of creator Brendan Greene’s battle royale, frying pans and chicken dinners intact. Players can join rounds of the last-person-standing deathmatches as lone wolves, or team up with others via the Duos and Squads modes, while PUBG’s host of vehicles, guns, and outfits are all here for your portable enjoyment. Nothing quite starts the day better than a chicken dinner victory achieved on the commute to work.
It was really only a matter of time before Fortnite (opens in new tab) came to Android. The little battle royale that could has gone from strength to strength since first releasing on console in 2017, and the recent transition to mobile has been another success story for developer Epic Games. Fortnite: Battle Royale drops you and 99 other players into a large, beautiful island to fight to the death using a cadre of weapons, gadgets, and vehicles, which is quite the ambitious elevator pitch for a universal mobile port.
Nonetheless, it runs like a dream, with the buoyant visual style maintaining its consistency throughout, and cross-play functionality allowing contenders to team up with friends no matter what platform their playing on. If you haven’t yet played the cultural phenomenon that is Fortnite, now’s the time.
Minecraft (opens in new tab) is a place of infinite possibilities in a world without rules, all running on a device the size of your palm thanks to Pocket Edition, the Android port of the game that first kickstarted the sandbox survival craze back in 2009. Minecraft really is the perfect candidate for on-the-go gaming, as you’ll never know when a bright idea for a new construction might pop into your head.
Pocket Edition originally launched in 2011 with limited features, but Mojang and Microsoft have been continually updating the sandbox to this day, as most recently evidenced by this year’s Aquatic patch, bringing the game’s underwater biomes to life with new toys, tools, and assets. Minecraft on mobile lets you jump in, play with friends, and build to your heart’s content, no matter where you are in the world, and that’s something to be treasured.
Ark: Survival Evolved
One of the most popular PC games of its generation, Ark: Survival Evolved is essentially Rust meets Minecraft meets PUBG meets Jurassic Park, as it drops you and hundreds of other neolithic survivors onto a dino-filled island and lets you run wild. Join a clan of other like-minded cavemen and engage in jurassic style wars against your bitter online enemies, build to your heart's content via the game's expansive crafting system, or hunt the deadliest dinos in the world using whatever it takes to bring them down. The choice is completely up to you.
Ark: Survival Evolved released on Android and iOS in 2018 and, while it's inevitably a scaled down version of the PC and console hit, this is by and large Studio Wildcard's online survival sim as you know and love it. The game runs surprisingly well on mobile, too, and the best part is that it's completely free to play on the platform, as opposed to the upfront fee required for the original version, so there's nothing stopping from downloading the game right now.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
When Firaxis Games rebooted the XCOM series with Enemy Unknown in 2012, it introduced a new generation to the unparalleled joys of turn-based, isometric strategy games. Less than a year after releasing on console, the game then made its way to Android, and lost none of its charm, depth, or appeal along the way.
With its more measured pacing and top-down perspective, XCOM: Enemy Unknown makes a nice home for itself on mobile, running at a consistent framerate with a tactile user interface to keep things manageable even on the small screen. You can also grab its excellent expansion pack, Enemy Within, on Android too, which adds new layers of systems and mechanics to enrich and expand its generous helpings of paranormal flavoured tactics gameplay.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
While the idea of Grand Theft Auto 5 (opens in new tab) running on mobile devices might seem like a distant pipe dream for the time being, mobile users still have the next best thing with 2013’s port of San Andreas. As one of the best, most iconic titles in the open world crime series, San Andreas offers a massive, three dimensional city to explore and wreak havoc in, and nothing’s changed since the game first released on console almost 15 years ago.
Other GTA titles are also available on mobile, including Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City, but San Andreas remains a benchmark instalment for its memorable characters, industry-leading visuals, and Rockstar’s unmistakable knack for immersive open world design.
As beautiful to look at as it is mind boggling to play, The Witness (opens in new tab) is a puzzle game like no other, and famed indie developer Jonathan Blow’s long awaited follow up to his breakout game, Braid. It starts off simple, using a single concept of mazes and lines as the key that unlocks new parts of the serene island setting, but takes that idea to great heights, crafting deviously tricky environmental puzzles that will have you scrawling geometric shapes on the walls like a bacchanalian conspiracy theorist.
Beneath it all is a deeply philosophical subtext about the relationship between science and art… or something, but you’ll probably be too busy with those aforementioned mazes to even appreciate it the first time round. Luckily, The Witness’ puzzles are perfectly designed for touch screen controls, while none of its stylistic resonance is lost when playing on mobile. A brain straining pleasure from start to finish.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
My teenage self would be screaming at the prospect of a full, BioWare RPG playable on mobile, not least one set in the Star Wars universe. Even today, the fact that the entirety of Knights of the Old Republic is available on Android remains a mind-boggling miracle, given just how large and detailed every aspect of its design is manifested in classic BioWare style.
For mobile users, this is a great excuse to either replay a genre-defining icon or - if you’re yet to have experienced KotOR - enjoy one of gaming’s best mega narratives of the last two decades. Just try to ignore the fact that, with Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise and LucasArts’ prompt dissolution, none of its incredible story is considered canon anymore (*sobs*).
Truth be told, it’s neither surprising nor all that impressive that Limbo can effortlessly run on portable devices, what with its minimalist, monochromatic visuals and two-dimensional perspective, but it’s still a game worth playing nonetheless.
Playdead are masters of the side-scrolling form, contributing new ideas to the platforming genre with experimental gameplay set to a palpably brooding atmosphere that sucks you in and keeps you among its world for the entirety of the two hour run time. WIth its modest price point, accessible length, and captivating story, Limbo is an easy choice for anyone with a decent mobile, and a great entry point into the wider world of portable gaming.
Sadly, 2016’s DOOM (opens in new tab) is far too powerful and hefty to run on mobile (yet..), but the original game that inspired it is very much playable on Android devices right now. The first person shooter that essentially invented the first person shooter remains as compelling and gleeful as ever, with addictive feedback loops that make every demon kill feel as guiltily satisfying as the last.
Traditionally, the FPS genre has never translated very well to the touch screen controls of mobile phones, but the folks over at Eltechs have expertly ported Doom’s unmistakable pace and flow to maintain that buttery smooth sense of motion when playing on your Android device of choice. Thoroughly retro, and eternally entertaining, DOOM is the kind of killer app that every smartphone ought to have installed within its memory banks.