The term “free game” on Android used to have a very negative connotation. You just knew you were going to end up wasting time with some glitchy, ad-filled garbage with five types of currency and a massive paywall. Even free casual games were more of a chore than fun to play.
That’s changed over the past few years, however, and these 10 games have a lot to do with it. Crossing every genre, these hardcore games are actually worth paying for. Except you don’t have to, unless you want to show off some in-game bling to your friends.
Super Evil Megacorp
Ever since the rise of Defense of the Ancients and League of Legends, the MOBA is the most popular free-to-play genre on the planet. Vainglory brings this popular genre to Android in a big way. The matches are short and sweet while still providing a ton of addictive action. With over 30 characters to choose from, you’ll be able to compete in online multiplayer modes from battle arenas to ranked matches.
Vainglory is easily one of the deepest games on Android, with each hero having a unique RPG archetype (i.e. tank, healer, mage) and strategy. Join a guild and keep grinding for in-game currency to buy new heroes, skins, and more. Super Evil Megacorp regularly updates the game, and you’ll find seasonal and holiday offerings matching whatever’s happening in the real world. If you haven’t played a MOBA yet, crawl out from the rock you’ve been living under and download Vainglory.
Download Vainglory on Google Play
9. Asphalt 8: Airborne
Developer Gameloft has a deep archive of mobile games, especially runners and racers, and Asphalt 8 is the cream of the crop. Silky smooth steering and sleek graphics make it look and feel like a console-quality game. It’s not just your average car-racing game either; the in-air stunts add a level of extreme to this already fast-paced game.
The Asphalt series has long been a favorite around the Hardcore Droid office. Choose your favorite cars, tune them to the maximum speed, and don’t be afraid to spend those boosts if you really want to win multiplayer PVP matches.
Download Asphalt 8 on Google Play
8. Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go became a phenomenon upon its release in the summer of 2016, and it’s still going strong to this day. New Pokemon (including limited-time legendary ones) are released on a consistent basis, and Niantic really polished some of the more annoying glitches in the game. It’s also easily the most successful augmented reality game released so far.
Perhaps the best part of Pokemon Go is this game encourages people to go out and explore the real world. Gyms are located in cities and towns all over the globe, and raids provide a way to meet up with other Pokemon fanatics. Just be careful lurking around police stations or dangerous areas hunting these imaginary creatures.
Download Pokemon Go on Google Play
7. World of Tanks Blitz
Wargaming is a master of vehicle-based MMOs, and World of Tanks Blitz brings the genre to Android devices. Choose one of over 250 WWII-era vehicles from different nations to participate in 7v7 battles on 23 different maps. Like you’d expect from an MMO, the depth of levelling your tanks provides an almost better experience than playing the game itself.
Many freemium games suffer from paywall problems, where you either can’t beat the game without paying (Super Mario Run) or are constantly bombarded with purchase requests (Asphalt 8) or ads (Plants vs Zombies Heroes). Neither is an issue here. World of Tanks Blitz is the bar every mobile game should clear moving forward.
Download World of Tanks on Google Play
While the world waited for Nintendo to release a legitimate version of its acclaimed Mario platformer series on mobile platforms, Frogmind came through. Badland is easily among the best side-scrolling adventure games on any platform. It’s fun, easy to control, and has breathtaking visuals.
Up to four players can play on the same device, it has full support for all controllers, and the level editor increases the game’s value. The Badland developers and community both contribute new content on a regular basis. Whether playing solo, coop, or multiplayer, it has easily the most replay value of any free game you’ll ever download.
Download Badland on Google Play
5. Fallout Shelter
Bethesda Softworks, LLC
When Bethesda initially released Fallout Shelter, I didn’t know what to think. At the time, great mobile games (especially free ones) were few and far between. Few developers had been able to capture the essence of a console game in their mobile ports, often just slapping a known IP onto a cheap runner (hate to keep taking shots at Nintendo, but they’re so easy).
Fallout Shelter is different than most console ports. It keeps the charm of the Fallout franchise while giving you something to do in your free time. Essentially it’s a great game to play while waiting for the rumored release of Fallout 5. Keep an eye on Bethesda’s E3 conference this year to find out if it’s finally announced.
Download Fallout Shelter on Google Play
4. Plague Inc
Pandemic simulators are a dime a dozen on Android, but Plague Inc is still the king of the hill. Rather than save the world like most games, this one challenges you to destroy it by infecting the population with the most deadly disease possible. It strangely became increasingly popular during the ebola crisis of 2014.
The game has held up for over five years now, thanks to its simple (yet addictive) gameplay, clean graphics, and grim premise. If you’ve ever dreamed of destroying the world, this is easily the most fun way to go about it.
Download Plague Inc on Google Play
3. Critical Ops
Critical Force Ltd
Free-to-play first-person shooters are everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good. Many are glitchy, hard to control, and suffer from expensive paywalls. Critical Ops does have freemium content available to purchase, but it’s not pay-to-win. It’s essentially Counter Strike or Team Fortress for mobile.
Everyone has the same weapon loadout in Critical Ops, so you won’t have to grind your way through months of infuriating losses to players who simply have better hardware. It’s also built for mobile multiplayer, allowing players to jump in and out of matches with ease. Not only is it free, but Critical Ops is one of few mobile games with console quality.
Download Critical Ops on Google Play
2. Stranger Things: The Game
Stranger Things is one of the most popular Netflix original series, and I’m not typically a fan of games based on movies or TV. However, BonusXP got everything right with this free game that has no sneaky in-app purchases or hidden fees required to play. It’s just a pure adventure game that feels like the 16-bit glory days of video game consoles.
Explore the creepy forests with your friends and punch your way through a variety of puzzles, enemies, and hidden treasure chests. Everything about this game reminds me of the late 20th century, and it’s a welcome addition to any hardcore gamer’s Android collection.
Download Stranger Things on Google Play
Blizzard Entertainment, Inc
Card games have become a trend these days, and Hearthstone is the reason why. Developer Blizzard created this game based on its popular World of Warcraft mechanics, and it surpassed WoW in popularity over time. Dueling either with friends or random opponents online through multiple platforms has never been as much fun as it is in Hearthstone.
Unlike its clones, Hearthstone has a great matchmaking system. I’ve never once been mismatched with an opponent too far above or below my skill level. Regular updates create all-new strategies with new card releases, and you’ll never have to spend a dime. You can simply grind through to build your collection and build deadly combos.
Download Hearthstone on Google Play