Vignettes makes you feel like a child again. Its puzzles are a series of objects to be poked, tapped and rotated until they morph into something else entirely. An hourglass transforms from blue to purple when you tilt—and then, when you stand it on its end, it turns into a jewelled chalice, which then becomes a bird cage with butterflies flitting inside.
Each puzzle can be solved in seconds, so the joy comes more from finding unexpected interactions, like tapping on a doll so that it opens to reveal a key. The sound is wonderful, too, and reacts to what you see on-screen: a band will start up when you discover a trumpet, for example.
If you want, you can rush through it in half an hour. But it’s the kind of game you can prod at for hours, not caring about making it to the end, and it has enough secrets that you’ll want to play through more than once.
49. Meteorfall: Journeys
Genre: Roguelike card game
Meteorfall: Journeys is one of the most welcoming card games on Android. You don’t need to worry about complex deck-building—you just pick an adventurer, find monsters and swipe left or right on a card to either use or discard it. Swiping right on an attack card deals damage, while swiping left will recover stamina needed for further attacks, for example.
That doesn’t mean its always easy. Before you meet a monster you can decide whether to fight them or avoid them entirely—steering clear will save your life, but you’ll lose the chance to win XP, and levelling up gets you new cards. It’ll push you into tight corners, and you’ll agonise over these decisions.
Its short fights and continuous stream of encounters means it’s a card game you can play in ten-minute spurts, which is rare. But once you start running through events it’s hard to tear yourself away: you’ll go straight from fighting a Filthy Gobloid to considering a trade with a well-dressed demon, and levelling up to build the deck you want is an addictive loop.
Price: First chapter free, then £4.99/$4.99
Mobile platformers are notoriously difficult to get right. Touchscreens simply weren’t designed for precise jumps, and controlling big leaps on a small screen always feel slippery. Somehow, Oddmar nails is. You control a cartoon Viking bouncing and smashing his way through colorful levels, finding hidden gold and solving physics-based puzzles as he goes. It looks brilliant, the animations are smooth and, most importantly, the controls feel tight. It’s a AAA console-quality platformer in your pocket.
It’s made in part by the team behind Leo’s Fortune, another brilliant Android game—this is essentially more of the same, but with a Nordic theme and an extra layer of polish. You can play with a controller, but trust us, the touchscreen controls are shockingly good. The first chapter is free, too, so you have no excuses.
47. PUBG Mobile
Genre: Battle Royale
Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
The accessible Fortnite is the Android battle royale king, but PUBG isn't far behind. It's a more realistic, slower-paced take on the genre, and the mobile version manages to pack nearly all the bells and whistles of the PC original onto your touchscreen.
The UI looks messy, the pages of paid-for loot can feel overwhelming and you'll run into occasional bugs, but you'll forget about all that when you manage to pull of a headshot from 400 feet, accounting for bullet drop. Longer round times and the large map lets you think more tactically about your loot and positioning, while the need for patience makes victories feel—at least for us—more satisfying than in Fortnite.
Genre: Card game
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
Hearthstone, like all the best card games, is quick to learn but seriously tricky to master. It arms you with the heroes of World of Warcraft and pits you against devious enemies: you’ll need to grapple with spells, creatures, weaponry, bonus decks, Tavern Brawls… before you know it, you’re down the Hearthstone rabbit hole. It’s the kind of game that you could play all day, every day and still learn something from each fight, picking up inventive strategies and counters from your opponents. That intricacy lends itself to competitive play – there’s a good reason that the game has set the eSports world alight.
The mobile version offers everything the PC one does, and the touchscreen controls feel natural. It’s not for everybody, and some players have abandoned it in favour of other card games, but hey, it’s free. Play a few matches and see if it clicks: if it does, then it’ll be the start of a long, beautiful relationship.
45. Raiders of the North Sea
Genre: Digital board game
Board game adaptations are hard to get right on mobile, but Raiders of the North Sea nails it. The source material helps: Raiders is a simple, elegant board game where each turn consists of placing a worker on a given building, performing that building’s action (such as getting armor for the armory) and then picking up a previously placed worker. Eventually, you’ll have amassed a well-resourced crew of Vikings ready to raid nearby settlements.
The art looks stunning on an Android phone, and brings to life the physical game with flowing rivers and soaring birds. It also feels like Raiders was made for touchscreen, and that arguably makes it better, not to mention cheaper, than the PC version. Asynchronous multiplayer and an extra campaign mean that it’s – whisper it – almost as good as the physical edition.
44. A Good Snowman
An oldie, but a goodie. In A Good Snowman, your only goal is to make snowballs of three different sizes—small, medium and large—by rolling them around in piles of the white stuff and stacking them on top of each other, like you did when you were a kid. It sounds simple, but the puzzles are smart and gradually get more difficult, with more snowmen to build in each garden and more possible ways to fail.
You can hug the decorated snowmen after you've built them, which would melt even the coldest heart. It came to PC first, but the effortless touch-and-drag controls, which let you preview a move before you commit, make mobile the best place to play it.
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
A wonderfully-addictive roguelike with a design as spartan as its main character: as a armor-clad warrior, you must clear hex-based maps to reach the stairs, which will take you deeper and deeper into a demon-infested world. It’s turn-based, and your move set is small but powerful: you can leap, throw your spear, or stab enemies, and each is triggered by a defined set of events (to stab an enemy, you must stand next to them and then move to an adjacent tile, for example). Enemies, from wizards to archers, have their own moveset with defined rules, and it’s your job to figure out how they interact and plot the best part forward.
It’s therefore part puzzle game, part turn-based strategy and part rogue-like RPG – on each randomly-generated floor you can upgrade your character, eventually adding new abilities. It’s a delicious combination, and the easily understood makes it fun to ruminate over each turn, working out what the most efficient move is. It reminds us, in that way, of Into The Breach, and that’s high praise indeed.
42. Plants vs Zombies
Genre: Tower defence
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
It’s spawned endless sequels, clones and even a series of first person shooters, but the original PopCap game is tower defence at its purest. If you’ve been in an undead-proof vault for the last ten years, then you might not be aware that the zombie apocalypse is upon us, and there's nothing to defend us from their gnashing teeth and gaping wounds except...plants. Yep, flowers and vegetables are our last hope. What begins with a front yard barricade of Peashooters and Sunflowers slowly becomes an impenetrable force guarded by giant Wall-nuts. Flora turrets launch flaming projectiles and melons knock the heads off of your lurching enemies. The undead don’t stand a chance.
Recently, the game has become diluted by ads and microtransactions, which is a shame, and it’s the reason it isn’t higher up the list — but it’s still well worth a go.
Download Plants Vs Zombies here
41. Rush Rally 3
Mobile racers are usually throwaway arcade games or sims laden with microtransactions, but Rush Rally 3 is neither. It’s simply the best racer on the Google Play Store: varied tracks, a real learning curve, a full campaign, and plenty of control options, including both touch and tilt steering. Whether your playing from inside the cockpit or with a birds-eye view it looks polished, and sliding your rally car around a muddy corner feels every bit as good as it does on a console.
The campaign is the focal point, and you’ll tour the world taking on tough tracks against the clock. But you can also race against the AI, or even against your friends: it has real-time multiplayer as well as a ghost mode that lets you take on the world’s best. Move over, GRID Autosport: there’s a new Android racer in pole position (and it’s half the price).
Turn to the next page for the top 40 best Android games...