Do you like the 80s, smart-talking teenagers, and mysterious islands where alternate dimensions might be a thing? Then this atmospheric adventure will be right up your misty street as a group of teens uncover a creepy supernatural surprise when they go away for the weekend. Complete with incredible moody synth soundtrack, Oxenfree is full of brilliant dialogue, memorable characters, and plenty of different ways for the action to unfold as you explore. Will everyone get off the island the next day? That’s kind of up to you, dude.
Genre: Space sim
Anyone who has seen Alien knows that space exploration isn’t relaxing. Even when you aren’t having lunch with someone that’s about to explode in a shower of milk and grue, it’s not meant to be a zen experience. Then Rymdkapsel comes along and somehow even battling alien invaders is peaceful as you manage an ever growing population of tic tacs as they research imposing monoliths across the galaxy. You’ll have to grow plants, create food in the kitchen, manage weaponry and even mine resources on an ever growing space station of your own Tetris-style design while listening to a brilliantly zen electronic soundtrack. It’s time to discover the true meaning of the term ‘meditative strategy.’
Genre: Battle Royale
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
You might think of console and PC as Fortnite’s natural homes, but millions of people play it on mobile: every time you login you’re instantly matched with 99 other players, all of whom want to murder you. The controls aren’t as smooth as a controller or a mouse, but you can still be accurate, and before long you’ll be placing walls and stairs with a tap. The on-screen sound cues, which tell you the direction of nearby footsteps, are a masterstroke, and should be in every touchscreen shooter.
This is definitely a game that favours higher-end phones, but it’s free to see how well it runs on your device. It might take you a while to get a victory royale when you’re still getting used to the controls, but when you finally do it, when you finally outmanoeuvre your opponent in that tense 1v1 finale, it will all feel worth it.
7. Mini Metro
If you’ve ever thought you could design a better underground system than Transport For London, it’s your time to put your money where your overcrowded station is. Mini Metro is a beautifully minimalistic exercise in complete godlike commuter control. Stations pop up and all you have to do is connect them to each other in a way that keeps everyone moving but of course it’s not that simple. The real life city recreations have rivers that need bridges and tunnels, trains need new carriages and stations need upgrades to become true transport hubs. Don’t worry, there’s a zen mode for when the stress gets too much.
6. Stardew Valley
Relaxing, addictive, and endlessly complex, planting and harvesting potatoes on you Stardew Valley farm will eat hundreds of hours of your time. It’s utterly charming, from its bouncy music to its fantastical themes. You’ll make friends with the inhabitants of Pelican Town and leave them gifts on their birthday, but you can also meet dwarves, spirits, and a wizard who lives in a spooky tower on the edge of town.
It never stops giving you ways of making in-game gold: just when you thought you’d sowed all your seeds and emptied the rivers of fish, a new bus route opens up that takes you to a casino where you can strike it lucky.
Each day is comprised of an ever-changing to-do list that you set yourself—go fishing, water crops, buy a new kitchen—which means it’s easy to play for ten minutes and feel like you’ve made progress, and the excellent touchscreen controls make Android feel like its natural home.
5. Alto’s Odyssey
Genre: Endless runner
Price: Free, with in-app purchases
Alto’s Adventure was the best endless runner on Android—until the sequel came along. Odyssey swaps Alto’s snowboard for a sandboard and sends you swooping over dunes and into canyons, performing jumps, tricks and grinds as you pick up speed.
The scenery is stunning, and the weather changes from perfect sunshine to flashes of lightning as you zoom past temples and desert city skylines. It’s all set to a soothing soundtrack of flutes that keep you relaxed, even when you crash, and the procedurally-generated levels make every run feel fresh. Whether you played the original or not, this is a must-own.
4. Hidden Folks
Genre: Hidden object
A stylish monochrome version of Where’s Wally/Waldo crammed with happiness and charm. Each big, dense levels has a long list of cartoon collectibles, and lots of moving parts to poke. You can unfurl tents, slide open doors, flick switches to start conveyor belts, or shake trees to make bananas fall to the ground, and everything is accompanied by a mouth-made sound effect guaranteed to make you smile (the ‘Bing’ of a correct spot is imprinted on our brain forever). Hidden Folks is a simple delight that will keep you busy for hours.
3. Monument Valley 2
A beautiful puzzler about shifting perspectives. As silent protagonist Ro, you move across a world of impossible shapes, prodding and pulling at the environment to make it move, creating new pathways. Each level is an optical illusion to wrap your head around, and it’s satisfying to work out how you’ll click its staircases, blocks and bridges into exactly the right place.
What sets Monument Valley 2 apart is how well it’s presented. The wistful, sometimes haunting soundtrack rises and falls in all the right places, and each on-screen action is accompanied by its own perfect sound effect. Every stage is a work of art, and the curved spires of its other-worldly towers are set against an ever-changing colour palette.
Quite simply, you owe it to yourself to play this game—and if you haven’t tried the original yet, make sure you do that too.
2. The Room Series
If it were just a standalone game, The Room would’ve made this list: it’s a creepy, atmospheric mystery with clever puzzles. But the series has gotten better with every new entry, and now there are four, all of which are worth playing. Every single screen has things to touch and tap—keys to find, levers to pull, eerie shapes to peer at and secrets to uncover, and it all unfolds with a sense of theatre that few other Android games manage.
The level design is exquisite. Nothing feels out of place or wasted, and puzzles are wonderfully tactile, with whirring contraptions that spin, slide and snap into place. No two puzzles feel the same, remarkable given how many are packed into each game, and developer Fireproof consistently hits the difficulty sweet spot: you’ll rarely be stuck for too long, but you’ll still feel like a genius when you reach the end.
1. 80 Days
Developer Inkle is renowned for its writing chops—see Sorcery! at number 30—and 80 Days is its magnum opus. You play a valet to explorer Phileas Fogg, and it’s your job to plot a route around a wondrous world, which blends reality and sci-fi to create a unique setting. Amphibious trains dive into the English Channel, and bustling markets float in the sky.
You’ll have to manage your finances closely and keep an eye on Fogg’s fragile health, but this isn’t a game where you worry about failing. It’s about the journey: the cities you’ll see, the memorable people you’ll meet, the trouble you’ll get into. The interplay between Fogg and Passepartout is endearing, and every line of dialogue has been honed until it’s razor sharp.
You could play 80 days hundreds of times and still stumble across new stories. It’s available on PC, but the mobile version is still the best fit for its simple interface. If you only play one Android game this year, make it this one.