The Best Android Action Games of All Time
by Keven Tejada
Modern Combat 5: Blackout
The most successful first-person shooter franchise of all time is the Call of Duty series, but, aside from a few low-effort titles, it doesn’t have nearly as big of a presence on the mobile front. That’s where the Modern Combat series comes in, often considered the best first-person shooters available for mobile devices. This series is the mobile equivalent of Call of Duty and even surpasses it in some ways. I recall enjoying the first game more than some of the earlier Call of Duty games. Modern Combat 5: Blackout, the latest game in the superb Android action series, has even done away with in-app purchases, making this one arguably the best in the series.
Blackout is one of the best-looking games to grace Android devices, and this is a trend that the Modern Combat series has followed since its inception. At a glance, this beautiful game could easily be confused for the latest blockbuster console game, and the gameplay luckily matches the visual fidelity. Unlike most mobile shooters, you can even crouch, zoom in, and melee, which are features that are sorely missed in many of Blackout‘s contemporaries. All in all, Blackout keeps the Modern Combat series on top of the mobile shooter pile.
Following in the footsteps of fan-favorite shows like Cowboy Bebop and Firefly, Space Marshals fits into the odd category of “Space Western,” which means that there’s a group of people who will unconditionally love this game right off the bat. This Android action game has an isometric perspective with plenty of color. It’s honestly impressive how vibrant this game looks, especially because it still manages to incorporate the brown color palette of most Westerns.
You’ll spend most of the game controlling a bounty hunter named Burton and shooting enemies with a myriad of weapons, such as axes, sniper rifles, and energy weapons. Space Marshals also boasts a competent stealth system, which lets you tackle your missions in a variety of ways instead of just running in with guns a-blazin’, however fun that may be. In addition to paying attention to your weaponry and your tactics, you can also customize you gear, giving you an edge in your next mission. The whole experience makes for a truly exemplary action title, and, thankfully, there are even more games promised to come in the Space Marshals universe.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
After Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, expectations for the next game in the series were sky-high. Its successor, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, did not disappoint, featuring not one or two, but three large cities for you to wreak havoc in. The gang warfare of the story is fantastically complemented by the ’90s-era hip hop vibe that the game oozes. The open-world aspect of San Andreas‘ cites makes the bang-to-buck ratio of this Android action game very hard to beat, even compared to some modern-day console releases.
Condensing such a sprawling game into your pocket is a massive undertaking that required some concessions, such as very different controls compared to the console and PC versions. However, this isn’t necessarily a negative because Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has the option to switch between multiple control schemes and even use Bluetooth controllers. It is unlikely that you will find another open-world experience quite like this, especially on your phone.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Originally coming out on the Nintendo DS, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is actually the first, and only, Grand Theft Auto game that was built from the ground up with a handheld device in mind. This is reflected in its simpler aesthetic, streamlined controls, and its touch-based minigames. Because so much of the game could be controlled via the touchscreen of the DS, the gameplay translates faithfully to a smartphone’s bigger display, making it a great Android action game.
Despite Chinatown Wars being a very innovative entry in the series, it’s also a return to Grand Theft Auto‘s roots with its top-down perspective and simplified gameplay. The game is also quite aware that it is on a mobile device, so the missions take considerably less time to complete than in the console counterparts of this series. If you want a bona fide Grand Theft Auto game that was truly intended to be portable, not just a glorified rehash or port, Chinatown Wars is the right game for the job.
If you’re someone who thinks that the Gears of War series looks incredible, but never want to pony up hundreds of dollars for an Xbox, you absolutely need to check out Shadowgun. It’s a cover-based third-person shooter with a main character who looks like their daily breakfast consists of steroids. In it, you crouch behind cover and pop out to shoot enemies until you need to protect yourself again. It doesn’t revolutionize the medium, but it’s a solid formula that’s done right.
Shadowgun uses the Unity engine to take maximum advantage of whatever hardware it’s working with to create a truly a great-looking game. It also plays great. Shooters have an iffy history on touchscreen devices, but Shadowgun makes it work better than most. The weapons carry heft and punch and are satisfying to say the least, especially when you consider all of the kills you can rack up with them. If you want a cover-based Android action experience that’s almost on par with what can be found in AAA games, look no further.
Into the Dead
A couple of years ago, the infinite runner and zombie-killing genres were just about at their peak. However, they never really mingled, not until Into the Dead. It’s difficult to categorize this game, but I would say that it’s an incredibly unique marriage of infinite runner genre with the first-person shooter. The experience wouldn’t have the same effect if it had been in the third-person, so the first-person perspective definitely benefits the game.
Into the Dead nails the look and feel of George Romero’s zombie films by offering up graphics in black and white and not including any music during your runs. While running, you have the ability to shoot what’s in front of you, but you’re still very much in danger. Each time you die, zombies overpower you and feast on your body. The sounds that accompany your deaths are disgusting and cringe-inducing. If anything, it gives you more of a motivation to stay alive. Into the Dead is one of the only games where trying to beat your high score can actually stress you out, and yet it’s the kind of stress that’s an absolute blast.
Think of the zombie mode from the Call of Duty series. Now, imagine that as a separate, fleshed-out, Android action game retaining everything that makes the tense ordeal enjoyable to so many people, and that is, in short: killing zombies, buying upgrades, and building barricades. That is essentially what Dead Trigger is, sans barricades, and it definitely scratches that zombie-killing itch like no other Android game.
The best thing about Dead Trigger is that the missions never take longer than a few minutes. You can start up the game, get your short adrenaline rush, and then hop on the bus. In terms of gameplay, what’s fantastic is the variety. Not only do you kill zombies, but you also have missions where you need to deliver a package to another location, while another type of mission functions as a sort of tower defense mode. Call of Duty: Black Ops III has a pretty competent zombie mode, but Activision would be smart to take notes from Dead Trigger if they want to improve in the future.
From the developers that brought you Dead Trigger, Unkilled is a first-person shooter where you mow down crowds of zombies. Needless to say, this Android action game takes a lot of inspiration from its spiritual predecessor, but it’s different enough to justify its existence. The biggest distinction between the two is probably that this game has more of a story and focuses more of its missions around that idea.
Also unlike Dead Trigger, Unkilled has no intention of trying to scare the player. As a result, the game’s palette is a lot more vibrant this time around. It’s more akin to a zombie-slaying romp than a dour survival mission. Like most mobile FPSs, Unkilled takes full advantage of a hair-pin tight virtual joystick. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In terms of zombie shooters, Unkilled and its predecessor are the last word.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
A sequel to the 2012 hit game, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a top-down action games with plenty of weapons and plenty of thugs to kill. A constant ’80s vibe permeates the atmosphere, as if trying to remind you of the sound and aesthetic of Miami Vice. The pixelated art style and techno beats complement each other and add to the ’80s feel of the game, almost as if it could have been released over two decades ago.
Despite its simple and almost charming looks, Hotline Miami 2 deals with heavy themes regarding violence, such as the first game does. The story touches on the consequences of violent actions, and the violence in the game itself is very explicit. In fact, the beatings, bullets, and blood are as graphic as a pixelated game could possibly be. Whether all of these things are intriguing or discouraging is up to you, but, to most, there is definitely a lot of enjoyment to be found in the challenging gameplay, great music, and eye-catching graphics.
Beginning with its Doom-inspired cover art, Crimsonland makes it immediately clear that it’s all about using lots of guns to kill lots of monsters. This twin-stick shooter takes carnage to the next level by having you leave the entire battlefield covered in blood at the end of each and every mission. After you complete all of the game’s main quests, there’s also a variety of survival challenges for you to test you might against.
Crimsonland‘s arsenal has everything you could possibly want, including flamethrowers, shotguns, railguns, and rocket launchers. If killing creatures with a hefty array of weaponry isn’t enough, the game also awards you with perks multiple times per stage, most of which aid you in your unending quest to kill every living thing in existence. Racking up a high kill count in this game can be extremely addictive. Crimsonland is good enough to quench anyone’s thirst for blood and gore.