40. Cultist Simulator
Genre: Narrative card game
A deep, addictive card game about setting up your own cult, sacrificial rituals and all. Through tight writing—no more than a sentence or two at a time—Cultist Simulator brings its twisted version of 1920s London to life, sucking you further into its world with every fresh start.
It’s a complex game that doesn’t really explain itself, but learning how it works is part of its appeal. Starting with just one card, you quickly work your way up to dozens, and you get better by experimenting with their interactions. Placing ‘Health’ in ‘Work’ slot will set you up for a day of manual labour—doing the same with ‘Passion’ will make you paint, for example.
Soon, you’ll be using these systems to send your followers on assassination missions, or enter a dream world that brings you ever-closer to immortality. It’s full of lore snippets to flesh out your journey, and the number of variables, which include pesky detectives trying to stop your progress, means that Cultist Simulator feels different every time you play it.
39. Baldur’s Gate 2
One of the best games of all time can be played, in full, on Android devices. Baldur’s Gate 2 has an epic story, likeable characters, tactical combat, and a massive world to explore—it’s a piece of RPG history that every fan of slower, story-driven games should play at least once.
It shows its age in places, and the UI can be fiddly. It’s only recommended for tablets with screens larger than 7 inches, too. You can play it on large phones, but only if you’re willing to put up with small buttons and the odd mis-click.
But that doesn’t take away from just how timeless Baldur’s Gate 2 is. I first played it 10 years ago, and the characters have stuck with me ever since. I return to it regularly and, thanks to the Android version, I can now do that whenever I want.
38. Layton: Curious Village
It used to be that Curious Village was the only one of the much-loved Professor Layton puzzle games available on Android, but this summer Diabolical Box made its way to the Play Store too. This is still the place to start: it’s the first in the series, one of the best in terms of its puzzles, and a HD remaster to boot. Curious Village’s cutesy anime presentation and simple premise – Professor Layton and his young assistant must solve a mystery in a quirky town – belies the complexity of the puzzles ahead.
Everyone you meet in St. Mystere has a brain teaser to solve, and they’re all individually crafted. You’ll complete logic puzzles and word games, spatial challenges and riddles, and when you’re done with one you’re only 30 seconds from the next.
The puzzles are not so difficult that you’ll be scratching your head for hours, but they’re challenging enough that it feels satisfying to figure them out without using the hint system, which is always there if you get into trouble. It’s a polished, fun puzzle game that everyone, mobile gamer or not, will enjoy. Play it, then try Diabolical Box.
37. Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies
Objection? Overruled. This visual novel about being the legendary lawyer Phoenix Wright is worth the hefty price tag thanks to its funny dialogue, constant plot twists and smooth touch controls.
You won’t find a single boring character on show, from your enthusiastic underlings to the compulsive liars on the witness stand. Piecing together the evidence for each case is never difficult, but you still feel smart when you draw out a key contradiction, and watching Wright deliver his rambunctious soliloquies—complete with flashy animations—never gets old. The story is over-the-top and silly, but that’s all part of the charm.
Originally a 3DS game, the touch controls work perfectly for the mobile port, and selecting the evidence you want to scrutinise is easy. If you play it and want more, Capcom has a few other Ace Attorney games available, and all of them are worth a whirl.
36. Desert Golfing
A lonely, meditative golf game without microtransactions or opponents: it’s just you, your ball, and endless miles of sand.
What makes Desert Golfing so addictive is how it never kicks you out of its world. From the minute you boot up the app you’re in the desert, and as soon as you’ve finished one hole the camera pans to the right to reveal the next flag. You can’t restart, so your only option is to embrace any mistakes your make, watching your total shot count tick up as you plod from hole to hole.
Golf is a notoriously frustrating sport, and golf games on mobile are usually no different. But Desert Golf doesn’t care about your score, and the feeling that nobody else is watching makes it a soothing space to spend half an hour.
35. You Must Build a Boat
Genre: Match three meets RPG
You Must Build a Boat starts you out in a dinky dinghy with only a skeleton and a zombie as your crewmates – but eventually, you'll be the captain of your own magnificent cruiser. It’s the sequel to 10000000 (another game worth playing), and like its predecessor, it’s a frantic match-three puzzler that has you shifting entire rows and columns instead of individual tiles.
You can’t afford to take it slow, because your explorer is ploughing through a simplistic 2D dungeon at the top of the screen, and you’ll have to quickly line up combos to help him persevere against a wide variety of monsters that you can later recruit to your ship's crew, or dodge traps that fly in from the right of the screen.
Unlike in 10000000, you can queue up your next move before your current one finishes, which makes it feel far smoother, and your objectives – such as finding a particular item – take on more significance. Each one gives you better rewards but hampers you in some way, making traps harder to avoid, for example. It’s little tweaks like this that make it the perfect sequel: it’s everything that we loved about 10000000, but bigger, brighter, and more involved.
34. Thimbleweed Park
Genre: Point and click adventure
Classic adventure games The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion were both made by Thimbleweed Park creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick—so you know it’s going to be good. You’ll spend most of your time with agents Ray and Reyes uncovering an increasingly bizarre mystery in a small town, but in total you’ll control five characters, including a potty-mouthed clown who lives alone in disused circus. The writing is smart, but the puzzles are smarter: some are devilishly hard requiring multiple character switches and several objects to solve, but when the solution pops into your head you’ll feel like a genius. Its relatively open world means you’ll always have another challenge to tackle if you get stuck.
33. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
The best Star Wars game ever made. This is Bioware at its storytelling peak—a vast world crammed with side quests and fascinating characters to meet, pulled together by a main questline that’s worthy of the franchise’s name. You could easily sink 35 hours into your first playthrough and still feel like you need a second run at it, perhaps with a different character build: a blaster specialist is equally as viable as a Jedi Master.
If you never played it on PC or console, this is a perfect chance to clear a classic from your gaming backlog. It’s essentially a 1:1 port of the original, so you’re not missing out on any detail, and the early ‘00s
The reason it’s not higher on this list is the controls, which can be fiddly. They work fine most of the time, but minigames are tough to get to grips with on a touchscreen, and it makes the combat—which already feels clunky, 15 years on—more frustrating. KOTOR on Android is still a must play, but just do it on as big a screen as you can manage.
32. Samorost 3
Genre: Point-and-click adventure
A charming puzzler with environments that come alive as you touch them. You control a gnome travelling through space to find the origin of a magical flute, but the fun in Samorost 3 isn’t figuring out how to progress in your journey—it’s in tapping on everything you see, just to find out what happens.
Tap on termites to make them sing in harmony. Tap on a branch to interrupt a monkey’s natural hot tub in the canopy of a forest. Tap on some ghostly mushrooms sprouting from a bush to make them play musical notes. Tap, tap, tap.
It looks and sounds beautiful, from its bouncy music to the sound of your footsteps. The solutions to puzzles are occasionally obscure but each challenge is unique, whether you’re arranging cards to help stickman catch their prey or pulling on levers to move platforms between stony outcrops.
31. Lumino City
Even if Lumino City’s world was completely devoid of interaction, it’d still be worth downloading. Everything you see in the game is hand-made out of paper, card, miniature lights, and motors—and the results are unforgettable. Every scene is a masterpiece, every building a marvel, and we go wide-eyed every time we boot it up.
But on top of that stunning setting is a charming puzzle game in which you poke at gorgeous machines to make them work. The story follows Lumi’s attempts to rescue her kidnapped grandfather, from whom she’s conveniently inherited a handbook to every mechanism in the city. If you ever get stuck, you can always find a relevant page to help you out. It’s therefore never frustrating, and the puzzles never distract from the gorgeous backdrop.
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