An RPG based on Steven Jackson’s brilliant choose-your-own-adventure books, developed by inkle, the team behind the 80 Days. It’s a mouth-watering recipe for good writing, and Sorcery! delivers as brilliant a story as you’d hope—and more.
You move around a hand-drawn map, encountering friend and foe, casting spells and slipping into combat when necessary. But it’s the words that make Sorcery! so engrossing—in two sentences, it will paint a picture of the town that lays just beyond the hill ahead, and that impacts the choices you make when you make it into the town itself.
Those choices come thick and fast: every 30 seconds you’ll be asked to decide whether to fight or flee, greet or ignore, pick a bright red flower or leave it alone. You always have three or four options in dialogue, each of which will open up a new line of inquiry. It allows you to create a story that’s entirely your own—and best of all, you can transfer your character and all their choices onto the sequel, Sorcery 2!.
29. XCOM: Enemy Within
If you didn’t know that XCOM: Enemy Within was a mobile port, you’d never guess. It’s a turn-based strategy game that plays like it was made for touchscreen, and it’s easy to move around your virtual soldiers, telling them to attack Earth’s alien invaders with a few quick taps.
Some of the maps are scaled down and the visuals aren’t as sharp as on PC or consoles, but the depth of the tactical combat remains. The soldier customisation, and the impact that one squad member can have on a fight, will make you fond of specific characters, right up until they’re horribly murdered by a swarm of sectoids. It’s cruel, but you won’t be able to stop playing.
Enemy Within is the expanded version of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with new weapons, aliens, and abilities. Basically, it’s the best version of XCOM, and now you can play it in your pocket. It works well on both tablets and larger mobiles.
A busy roguelike platformer about constantly falling down a well, stomping on enemies and firing customisable gun boots. You’re in constant fear of dying to one of many on-screen obstacles, but Downwell always wants you to go faster—the more enemies you beat in a combo, the more gems you’ll earn to spend on items at a shop.
At the end of every level you gain an upgrade, of which there are 20. They range from a drone that shoots bullets to a rocket jump that gives you more height when you fire your boots, and the way they interact means that your build changes as you progress. Add in different characters, colour palettes, ammo types for your boots and procedurally-generated levels and you have a platformer that just gets better with every run.
27. Data Wing
Data Wing’s looks are deceiving. You might think, from screenshots or video, that it’s just another arcade racer. But while turning and drifting feel slick—you gain speed by grazing the outside of the tracks—it’s the brilliant writing that sets it apart. You control a Data Wing, a carrier of information from one point to the next inside a computer, and the bulk of the story comes from your interactions with an all-commanding AI called Mother. We don’t want to give anything away, but suffice to say it’s more complex than it first seems, and has plenty of twists and turns. Play it without reading spoilers.
26. Lara Croft GO
First off, no this is nothing like Pokémon Go. Without a yellow electric mouse in sight, Lara Croft GO is a beautiful adventure where you must brave perilous ruins to hunt down ancient artefacts. Unlike her 3D adventures though, Lara’s GO controls are all about swiping to move as you make your way through turn based traps and other death-defying risks. Beautifully designed and complete with slews of enemies to take down as well as cliffs to climb and bridges to brave, Lara Croft GO is the perfect portable Tomb Raider experience. While it’s nice to see the originals on the Google Play Store, this is a far more enjoyable way to pass some time on your public transport mode of choice.
Thumper is a gnarled nightmare in rhythm game form. It’s a thrashing trip into hell that never wants you to sit comfortably, and beats you over the head with doom until you plead it to stop. You control a metal beetle screaming along a track, jumping over obstacles and skidding around corners in time to the beat. One mistimed tap can end your lift.
What makes Thumper so unique is not its flawless touch controls, but its oppressive atmosphere. The music rumbles and screeches, tentacles flail in the background and red eyes stare at you from the abyss. It wants you to know that you’re not welcome, and every beaten level comes with a wave of white-knuckle relief.
It’s on PC and PS4, but the one-button controls make it a perfect fit for your mobile or tablet.
We've given Machinarium high praise in the past, even calling it one of the best steampunk games ever, and we stand by those commendations. In addition to a responsive and smooth touch interface that makes its point-and-click setup work flawlessly, Machinarium's grungy and unforgiving world gives you an immediate sense of place. Just by looking at this harsh yet beautiful environment, you feel for its little robot protagonist, lost in this wasteland and searching for his lady-robot love. This is the sort of game that pulls you in and makes you want to don your gear-trimmed top hat. Incredible work from Amanita Designs. Also, you will get very, very stuck.
23. Super Hexagon
On paper, Super Hexagon sounds simple enough: your goal is to safely navigate your cursor through a tunnel of shapes (such as, oh I dunno, hexagons). Each shape has a gap in it somewhere, and by moving your cursor into that gap, you'll successfully avoid being instantly annihilated, free to continue enjoying the rockin' techno soundtrack. But things start flying off the rails almost instantly. The screen shifts and tilts all over the place, colors change erratically, and the shapes start flying at you faster and faster. It’s ‘one more go’ on crack. Beware.
22. Plants vs Zombies
Genre: Tower defence
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
It’s spawned endless sequels, clones and even a first person shooter but the original PopCap tower defence game is still as pure and perfect as it comes. If you’ve been in a undead proof vault for the last ten years, let us enlighten you. The zombie apocalypse is upon us, and there's nothing to defend us from the gnashing teeth of undead jaws except... garden vegetation. That's right: the only thing protecting you from getting your brains munched on are flowers and food plants. What begins with a front yard barricade of Peashooters and Sunflowers becomes an impenetrable force - one that's guarded by giant Wall-nuts as your flora turrets launch flaming projectiles and devastating melons knock the heads from those hungry for brains. The undead don’t stand a chance.
Download Plants Vs Zombies here
If you played Minecraft’s Android version years ago and dismissed it, then it’s time to return. It’s no longer a shadow of the main game: 2017’s Better Together update brought it in line with the Windows 10 version, and it receives all the same updates. You can even play it alongside your friends on PC or iPhone.
Mojang has put a lot of time into making the controls intuitive, which means nothing comes between you and Minecraft’s world of infinite possibilities. You can break any block and build any structure without worrying about tapping in the wrong space, and creating gigantic structures – King’s Landing from Game of Thrones, say – is now a genuine option.
Turn to the next page to find out what made our list of the top 20 best Android games...