Android is still young, but in a short time we’ve seen its library grow from a handful of low-rent games to a thriving marketplace with some really impressive titles. Although there are games that raise the bar all the time, it’s a good time to look at the thousands of titles out there and single out the best of the best.1
Best Android Action-Adventure Game
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Android is still awaiting its landmark original action-adventure, but Rockstar’s 10th anniversary ports of the classic PS2 games are still a high mark to beat. The cities might be small by modern standards, but they’re a far cry from the small constricted levels and constant loading pauses we still associate with mobile gaming.
Best Android Adventure Game
Machinarium: Machinarium isn’t just the best adventure game on Android, it’s arguably the best adventure game of the last decade. Without a single word of dialog, it manages to evoke Eastern European animation and silent cartoons, in a lighthearted, charming package.
Best Android Third-Person Shooter
Dead Space: Although the genre has been increasingly taken over cover shooters in the vein of Gears of War, Dead Space is a reminder that there’s more out there than pop ‘n’ stop. With clever-but-effective controls and the series’ notoriously creepy atmosphere, Dead Space manages to be a worthy entry in its series – perhaps more so than the Wii offerings or the recent third in the trilogy.
Best Android First-Person Shooter
Dead Trigger: There are plenty of games on Android that credibly imitate console-style first-person shooters, but Dead Trigger is the only one that truly embraces the strengths of mobile, rather than the limitations. It doesn’t require a lot of precise sniping, or trudging through long levels, instead stripping the game down to pure adrenaline-fueled action in bite-sized chunks.
Best Android Turn-Based Strategy
Worms 2: Armageddon: Not so long ago, the once-proud Worms series was struggling to maintain its relevance, but it seems like the annelid army has found its second wind. It turns out that Team17’s riff on the classic Artillery Duel motif is a perfect fit for gaming on the go. Armageddon stays true to the series roots, and comes off like a series greatest hits, with all your favorite weapons and power ups ready to wreak havoc.
Best Android Real-time Strategy
Total War Battles: Shogun: Although full-fledged computer-style RTS games might work on a tablet, it’s tough to really make a robust real-time strategy game on a tiny touch screen. SEGA overcomes this with Total War Battles by fusing aspects of board games with a streamlined, simple interface to create a game that is fast-paced, fun, and still challenges the mind.
Best Android 2D Shoot ’em Up
Dodonpachi Resurrection: Developer Cave is practically synonymous with the “bullet hell” subgenre they helped to pioneer while still working at Toaplan, and Dodonpachi has long been their flagship series, for good reason. Not only does Resurrection pack the classic combo-based scoring system that gives the series its depth and the elegant firing patterns Cave is known for, but it does it with fluid, perfect controls that defy the usual complaints we have about arcade games and touch screens.
Best Android Beat ’em up/Hack & Slash
Wild Blood: Beat ‘em ups are among the hardest games to get right on a touch screen. It’s a genre so deeply rooted in console controller paradigms that even PC games have trouble making it work with other inputs. Wild Blood doesn’t entirely overcome all of these challenges, but it manages to succeed as a game despite them, boasting great graphics, and a varied move set, and tons of big, impressive bosses.
Best Android Japanese RPG
Final Fantasy Dimensions: Square’s dominance of the Japanese RPG genre may have fallen off in the last generation, but on the mobile side, they are almost uncontested. Although they’ve offered some impressive modern efforts, like the Chaos Rings series, it’s their old-school throwback that stands out as their best. Final Fantasy Dimensions combines the best parts of the classic NES and SNES games into one delicious package.
Best Android Western RPG
Ravensword: Shadowlands: The long awaited sequel to the 2009 iOS game serves as the high water mark for role-playing on the go. While it doesn’t manage to reach Elder Scrolls levels in size, scope or quality, it manages to deliver a credible taste of that experience in way that few others have managed to do on Android.
Best Android Action RPG
Zenonia (series): Gamevil’s Zenonia series arrived on Android in its early days with its charming retro-style graphics and gameplay that recalls the good old days of Secret of Mana. Since then, we’ve seen multiple sequels a year, each stepping forward with small upgrades to the graphics and gameplay. Zenonia 4 is perhaps the series strongest, with its fun time-travel storyline and high-quality sprites that look like a super-charged SNES game.
Best Android Racing
Riptide GP: The racing genre is one of Android’s strongest and most crowded, which makes it all the more impressive that the small two-man team at Vector Unit could produce one of the best looking, best playing racers on the platform. With the amazing water physics lifted from their Hydro Thunder console game, and a slick, futuristic arcade style that recalls Jet Moto, it’s the perfect blend of arcade style and simplicity.
Best Android Simulation
Dungeon Village: It seems like Kairosoft manages to pop out a new sim game every month, and almost all of them manage to be successful. It’s easy, then, for these titles to blend together, but Dungeon Villiage’s quirky concept – putting players in charge of an RPG town – sets it apart. The classic gaming theme is a perfect fit for Kairosoft’s trademark blocky sprites and quirky humor. While Dungeon Village may not be deep, it’s consistent, lighthearted fun, free from the freemium hooks that bog down so many other sims.
Best Android Platformer
Sonic CD: Sonic has had a few outings on Android now, but it’s his oft-forgotten Sega CD adventure that stands out as the best. As always, the simple controls and deep physics are the best the genre has seen, but the increased emphasis on exploration sets it apart from Sonic’s other iterations. Sonic CD can be oddly slow-paced for its famously fast hero, but it’s also one of the best games in the series, brought to life with an absolutely perfect port.
Best Android Puzzle Game
The Room: The Room toes the line between adventure game and puzzler, in the grand tradition of games like The 7th Guest. It’s deceptively simple premise is simply to get inside of an incredibly elaborate puzzle box, using only what can be found in or on it, but it manages to pack enough clever design and moody atmosphere into its short quest to make it one the very best games on Android.
Best Android Neo-Retro
Gridrunner: In 2010, Llamasoft announced the “Minotaur Project,” an initiative that took the indie-gaming duo back to their 8-bit roots, to see what classic gaming could look like on modern hardware. Their first Android release, Gridrunner, is one of their most interesting yet, forgetting the many evolutions the series has made over the years, while adding some new ones, blending a carefully cultivated early-‘80s aesthetic with the frantic mayhem of their newer games.
Download at Llamasoft
Best Classic Android Retro
Raiden Legacy: A quality port of Seibu Kaihatsu’s seminal shooter would be enough to put Raiden Legacy in the running, but packing in the criminally underrated Raiden Fighters trilogy is almost too generous. The smooth controls translate well, despite being a faithful arcade port, and even the high-level score play and medal chaining work perfectly without the need to plug in a controller. The release of Raiden Fighters Aces on Xbox was long overdue, but Legacy’s inclusion of those games and the classic 16-bit original seems too good to be true.
Best Android Sports Game
NBA Jam: Mobile sports games seem to run the gamut from full fledged simulations like Madden and NBA2K to simple mini-game challenges, but NBA Jam hits that perfect sweet-spot in the middle. It has just the right amount of depth, and lets you enjoy a full game, but it has the same fast pace and short play length that made it such a perfect quarter muncher back in the ‘90s.
Best Android Indie
Super Hexagon: The quintessential indie game, Super Hexagon is elegant in its simplicity, but ruthlessly addictive. The dizzying, pulsing visuals and throbbing chiptune soundtrack are all the elaboration this simple exercise in hand-eye coordination needs. Super Hexagon will rob hours from you, one minute at a time.