Table of Contents
The best free Android games 2022
Whether you’re into word games, endless runners, platformers or puzzles, there’s something here for you.
Click through to the next pages to see each category or read on below for our pick of the month. And check back every month for our latest pick.
- Here are the best free PC games of 2021
Free Android game of the month
Kitty Q neatly showcases that no subject matter’s off limits to Android puzzlers. The game begins with a half-dead/half-alive kitty bursting forth from a cardboard box that appeared on your doorstep. Your task is to dig into the principles of quantum physics to help the cat escape her peculiar quantum superposition.
Don’t worry: you don’t need to be a science nerd to get through the game. It’s a sweet-natured, brief, enjoyable room escape title, where you discover objects, find clues, and solve puzzles to progress.
To assist you while helping Schrödinger’s cat, Schrödinger’s great-granddaughter offers tips, and an in-game Kittypedia lets you delve into the actual science, should you feel the need. Oh, and there are dress-up elements too, because if there’s one thing a half-skeleton cat needs, it’s glasses and a comedy mustache.
The best free racing games for Android
Our favorite free Android 3D, retro, 2D and on-rails racers.
Code Racer takes racing game conventions and throws them out the window, so rather than bombing around a circuit, your twitchy reactions being the only thing keeping your car from flipping over, you instead define your route by way of basic programming-style commands.
At first, Code Racer relies on a lot of trial and error as you define acceleration, braking and turn times, and power levels. It’s hard enough to go around a corner, let alone face levels with jumps, moving platforms and other terrifying hazards.
Before long though, you’ll start to grasp the game’s various nuances and more rapidly piece together the steps required to get to the checkered flag intact – or escape the cops in surprisingly tense takedown levels.
Beach Buggy Racing 2
Beach Buggy Racing 2 is a high-octane kart racer. True to form, your dinky vehicle belts along larger-than-life tracks, taking in everything from medieval castles with fire-breathing dragons, to an ancient world full of dinosaurs – and gigantic sea creatures you can bounce off.
Naturally, your aim is to get to the checkered flag first, across just two laps. To do this, you must find shortcuts, and make use of power-ups that can turn opponents into a block of ice, blast them into the heavens, and far more besides.
Sadly, there are no leagues, and Beach Buggy Racing 2 only ever offers you two race choices at any given time. But the compulsion loop is extremely strong, the upgrade/unlock path reasonable, and the racing action some of the best around on Android.
Disc Drivin’ 2
Disc Drivin’ 2 is the turn-based driving game which was presumably created when someone reimagined shuffleboard as Mario Kart and shoved that strange concoction online for web-based multiplayer contests.
The concept of a turn-based racer is bonkers and it shouldn’t work, but it really does. As you flick your little disc about tracks suspended in space, the tension ramps up as you home in on your opponent. You will learn to master shortcuts, zip past hazards, and also how to make best use of bonus powers afforded to your little disc.
It’s absurd to think that one of the best mobile racers on Android is about flicking a coin around a race track, but there we have it. Miss this one at your peril.
Asphalt 9: Legends
Asphalt 9: Legends, like its predecessors, is a decidedly nitro-happy, larger-than-life take on arcade racing. It has you belt along at insane speeds, regularly soaring into the air, your car spinning and pinwheeling in a manner that’d have your car insurance company angrily tear up your policy documents.
This racer also differentiates itself by streamlining controls to the point you needn’t steer. The car moves on rails, with you swiping between lanes, and timing actions like boosts and drifts. That might sound reductive, but this doesn’t detract from the racing feel, it gives you a keen sense of focus on timing, and there’s a manual option if you really want that.
Being an Asphalt game, there’s some grind, but this is offset by you being immersed in the most outlandish and eye-dazzling arcade racing on Android.
Carmageddon is a blast from the past of PC gaming. It masquerades as a racer, but often feels like you’re hunting prey – albeit while encased in a suit of speeding metal.
The game’s freeform ‘arenas’ are networks of roads in a dystopian future. People and cows blithely amble about while deranged drivers smash each other to pieces. Victories come by way of completing laps, wrecking all your opponents, or mowing down every living thing in the vicinity.
In the 1990s, this was shocking to the point of Carmageddon being banned in some countries. Today, the lo-fi violence seems quaint. But the game’s tongue-in-cheek humor survives, sitting nicely alongside bouncy physics, madcap sort-of-racing, and deranged cops attempting to crush you into oblivion should you cross their path.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Asphalt 8: Airborne is a high-octane racer that gave a cursory glance towards realism. It then decided against bothering with such a trifling issue, and decided it’d much prefer you to pelt along at insane speeds under the power of glorious nitro, which frequently sends your car soaring into the air.
Not one for the simulation crowd, then, but this racer is perfect for everyone else. The larger-than-life branched courses – hyper-real takes on real-world locations – are madcap and exciting. Rather than doing laps around a boring circuit surrounded by gravel traps, you blast through rocket launch sites, and blaze through volcanos.
There are downsides – cynical IAPs and timers abound, welding a massive comedy tailfin to this otherwise sleek racer’s stylings. But for dizzying speed, mid-air barrel rolls, and loads of laughs, this racer is tough to beat.
Data Wing has the appearance of a minimal top-down racer, but it’s far, far more than that. That’s not to say the racing bit isn’t great – because it is. You guide your little triangular ship around neon courses, scooting across boost pads, and scraping track edges for a bit of extra speed.
But there’s something else going on here – an underlying narrative where you discover you’re, in fact, ferrying bits of data about, all under the eye of an artificially intelligent Mother. Initially, all seems well, but it soon becomes clear Mother has some electrons loose, not least when you start getting glimpses of a world beyond the silicon.
With perfect touch controls, varied racing levels, a few hours of story, and plenty of replay value, Data Wing would be a bargain for a few dollarpounds. For free, it’s absurdly generous.
One Tap Rally
This game does for racing what auto-runners do for platform games. One Tap Rally is controlled with a single finger, pressing on the screen to accelerate and releasing to brake, while your car steers automatically. The aim is to not hit the sides of the track, because that slows you down.
Win and you move up the rankings, then playing a tougher, faster opponent. In a neat touch, said opponents are recordings of real-world attempts by other players, ranked by time.
In essence, this is a digital take on slot-racing, then, without the slots. But the mix of speed and strategy, along with a decent range of tracks, makes you forget about the simplistic controls. If anything, they become a boon, shifting the focus to learning track layouts and razor-sharp timing. Top stuff.
In the world of Splash Cars, it appears everyone’s a miserable grump apart from you. Their world is dull and grey, but your magical vehicle brings colour to anything it goes near. The police aren’t happy about this and aim to bring your hue-based shenanigans to a close, by ramming your car into oblivion. There’s also the tiny snag of a petrol tank that runs dry alarmingly quickly.
Splash Cars therefore becomes a fun game of fleeing from the fuzz, zooming past buildings by a hair’s breadth, grabbing petrol and coins carelessly left lying about, and trying to hit an amount-painted target before the timer runs out. Succeed and you go on to bigger and better locations, with increasingly powerful cars.
- Keep your mobile secure with one of these best free VPN apps
The best free strategy games for Android
Our favorite free Android RTS and turn-based games, board games and card games.
Cards of Terra
Cards of Terra features an alien princess stranded on a world full of aggressive enemies. Fortunately, she has magic powers and sets her new foes against each other while attempting to rescue her crew, so they can all make their escape.
Your quest is depicted as a card game that vaguely resembles solitaire. You drag different colored cards together so they do battle, and when one’s score is depleted it disappears. What elevates the game beyond its contemporaries is the sheer diversity of cards and how they feel alive, with rules that often find them doing their own thing after you’ve made a move.
The initial quest helps you understand how everything works, after which point you’ll have a tough multi-stage ‘draft’ mode and one-off random drafts to contend with. It’s superb stuff, with brilliant design and a compelling challenge.
Void Tyrant tasks you – as a mighty hero – with cleaning up the galaxy. And you do so via the power of blackjack. Sort of.
Yep, this free Android game is another card battler. As you work your way through the universe, you face off in one-on-one battles with various violent foes, flipping over cards, and trying to better your opponent’s score without going bust.
But there’s more to winning than guesswork because you also build a deck full of skills and weapons. Playing these additional cards (which eats into slowly replenishing energy) is the key to success, and adds strategy to what might otherwise have been a lightweight, throwaway card game.
Instead, it’s one of the best around, with tons of depth and replay value, and a very reasonable premium upgrade if you want to rid yourself of the ads.
Bounty Hunter Space Lizard
Free Android game Bounty Hunter Space Lizard is the tale of a despondent lizard living in a van, whose lover left, and whose spacesuit sprang a leak. Obviously, said reptile then had an epiphany: the only way to ‘feel alive’ is to be a bounty hunter!
It’s not a recommendation TechRadar would make (perhaps get a gym membership, or take up an instrument), but it does provide the backstory for a fun and surprisingly deep turn-based strategy title.
Across 20 levels you carefully move your lizard, mercilessly cutting down targets, and try to avoid getting horribly killed yourself. The game keeps shaking things up, shifting from clockwork stealth to a chess take on Bomberman. Reaching the ending is a rewarding experience – albeit one you likely won’t have for quite some time. It turns out being a bounty hunter is tough!
Chessplode is – as its name might suggest – chess with explosions. The big bangs (well, cartoonish pops) occur when you take a piece. At that moment, everything in the piece’s line or column is vaporized – unless a king happens to be lurking there. Then, you just get a boring old chess capture.
As you might imagine, this lobs every conventional chess strategy out of the window. There are oddball initial board layouts as well, meaning you must effectively relearn the game in order to win.
Of all of the free Android games that rethink chess, this is the most successful. You get a bunch of predefined challenges to try, real-time multiplayer battles, and a level editor for making your own boards – although you’re only allowed to share one when you can prove it’s possible to beat!
Pocket Cowboys: Wild West Standoff
Pocket Cowboys: Wild West Standoff invites you to endless high-noon standoffs, with four gunslingers ready to fill their enemies full of lead. But instead of being a free-for-all brawl, this game is more like rock/paper/scissors, with a smattering of chess.
During each round, you choose to move, shoot, or reload. Depending on which character you’re controlling, shooting may unleash leaden death on a wide area, or just on the space next to you. Success relies on correctly anticipating what your (online, human) opponents will do, and making the right move yourself.
This straightforward slice of strategy affords Pocket Cowboys great immediacy; but stick around for the long haul and you can upgrade your team, and partake in events, all while formulating strategies to avoid your gang too often being sent to Boot Hill.
King Crusher is a real-time strategy brawler in a shoebox. The backstory finds the king being annoyed that adversaries exist, and so he dispatches you to remove them. Your little band must therefore trudge through forests, deserts, and cemeteries, wiping out anyone in their path.
Although King Crusher immerses itself in a range of RPG tropes, such as building your team, upgrading powers, and taking on quests, it’s also perfectly suited to mobile. Each battle takes place on a tiny grid, where you must quickly react to danger, and unleash your team’s powers on whoever you happen to be duffing up.
It all works wonderfully. There’s enough depth to keep you scrapping over the long term, but the bite-sized action-packed battles are ideally suited to phone-based play.
Hearthstone is a head-to-head card game that immerses you in a world populated by hunters, mages, warriors, and other fantasy types. Players take it in turns to try and batter their opponent’s health down to zero, playing cards that represent minions, spells and other skills.
This genre is often baffling to the newcomer, but Hearthstone is an accessible and balanced game. Although IAPs lurk – cards can be bought with bling won in-game, but also by using actual cash – veterans have proved that you can blaze through the leaderboards without spending a penny.
However you choose to play, this is a game that rewards those in it for the long haul. Have patience and learn its mechanics, and you may eventually become a master of this fantastical world of character and chance.
The Battle of Polytopia
The Battle of Polytopia is a turn-based game akin to a stripped-back Civilization designed specifically for one-thumb mobile play. Each game has you start with a single city, the aim being to dominate a little isometric world. You either race to be the best within 30 turns, or emerge victorious when you’re the only tribe still standing.
Wisely, Polytopia focuses more on approachability than depth. The tech tree is abbreviated, stopping short of guns. The maps are small. Cities can be conquered, but you can’t found new ones with settlers.
Each of these decisions helps the game flow, but despite its compact nature, Polytopia affords plenty of opportunities to strategize. That’s especially true when venturing into online multiplayer with other people – a mode open to anyone who buys one or more extra tribes.
Train Conductor World
You might moan about trains when you’re – again – waiting for a late arrival during your daily commute, but play this game and you’ll thank your lucky stars that you’re not in Train Conductor World. Here, trains rocket along, and mostly towards head-on collisions.
It’s your job to drag out temporary bridges to avoid calamity while simultaneously sending each train to its proper destination – it’s exhausting.
From the off, Train Conductor World is demanding, and before long a kind of ‘blink and everything will be smashed to bits’ mentality pervades. For a path-finding action-puzzler – Flight Control on tracks, if you will – it’s an engaging and exciting experience.
There’s always a whiff of unease on recommending a game from a developer nestled deep in the bosom of freemium gaming, but Clash Royale largely manages to be a lot of fun however much money you lob at it. The game is more or less a mash-up of card collecting and real-time strategy. Cards are used to drop units on to a single-screen playfield, and they march about and duff up enemy units, before taking on your opponent’s towers.
The battles are short and suited to quick on-the-go play, and although Clash Royale is designed for online scraps, you can also hone your strategies against training units if you’re regularly getting pulverised. There are the usual timers and gates for upgrades, but the game largely does a good job of matching you against players of fairly similar skill levels, meaning it’s usually a blast and only rarely a drag.
The best free shooting games for Android
Our favorite free Android FPS titles, twin-stick blasters and vertically-scrolling retro shoot ’em ups.
Salvagette is ideal if you like the idea of bullet-hell shooters, but if you also find dealing with dozens of projectiles hurtling toward you at any given moment a bit too much. It gives you time to think by reframing the genre as a single-screen turn-based strategy game of sorts.
Each level has a selection of enemy craft beam in. You swipe to move, time stopping when you do. The enemies convey their intention to fire by way of a blue glow that gradually shrinks, and you need to ram them before they strike – or dodge their projectiles should they blast them in your general direction.
It’s a clever, refined idea – and surprisingly intense, given that you mostly stare at a static screen. Multiple endings and an in-game shop for stocking up on power-ups add longevity and strategy, respectively.
PewPew Live scratches a number of retro-gaming itches, with its fast-paced gameplay and vibrant vector-style graphics. At its core, it’s a twin-stick shooter, echoing Geometry Wars and Robotron, as you aim to survive for as long as possible in a claustrophobic arena full of hostile enemies.
But PewPew Live expands on this basic premise across five meaningfully different game modes. One builds on classic arcade title Asteroids. Another has you weave between multiple deadly objects, thereby testing your dexterity more than your trigger finger.
One of these modes alone would be enough to recommend the game. That you get five equally strong challenges for free transforms PewPew Live into one of Android’s most unmissable freebies.
Shooty Quest is an excellent warning to wannabe evil types that annoying someone called the Deadly Arrow is a bad move. Furthermore, you really don’t want to, say, burn down his house, steal his cat, and sign your handiwork – because he tends to get a bit shooty.
Cue: 36 levels (and one endless battle) that features you, as the Deadly Arrow, killing everything in sight. Said carnage is all tap-based, with you unleashing arrow-based doom by prodding at the screen.
As you sit stationary at the center, survival initially relies on timing, dispatching encroaching enemies in order; later, you must master multiple weapons, ensuring you’re armed with the most effective one to off the nearest foe. In all, this is a frenetic and exciting claustrophobic shooter that’s ideal for mobile play.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs takes Angry Birds into the third dimension, and frees it from the confines of your phone. Sort of. Both of these things are achieved by the game being presented in augmented reality.
This means ramshackle constructions within which egg-stealing pigs lurk are ‘projected’ on to your surroundings, be that a table, the floor, or the local town square. You can then check out the current challenge from any angle, before flinging one of the titular avians at it by way of a massive catapult.
As a series, Angry Birds was arguably tired years ago. But this game is more than yet another me-too sequel. In providing 3D environments you can fully scrutinize, the concept again feels fresh; and it doesn’t outstay its welcome, with 70 tightly designed levels.
Kazarma finds you zooming along the ancient bridge of Kazarma, which connects the human colonies within the galaxy. Sadly, it has seen better days. Not only have maintenance been slacking, judging by the massive holes everywhere, but the bridge has also been invaded by aliens. It’s your job to sort them out, by blowing them all to pieces.
Much more suited to a phone than a tablet, this free Android game has you use a single thumb to zip left and right, dishing out neon death to anything stupid enough to get in your way. Procedurally generated levels ensure no two games are the same, and there are also three difficulty levels. On the easiest, Kazarma almost has a chill-out vibe, but ramp things up and it will take your face off!
Boom Pilot is a shooter that yet again finds a lone hero saving the world, on the basis that the good guys can apparently only afford to fund a single pilot. This time, you’re in vertically scrolling territory, weaving through bullet hell, to take down robot fleets that now command the skies.
For some reason, the heavens are also packed full of boxes to blow up, coins to grab, and massive floating plane crushers. There are also, naturally, bosses to take on with the comparative pea shooter that is your plane.
The controls are a bit floaty, but the game’s nonetheless an entertaining blaster, with vibrant visuals, and an urgent soundtrack that’s seemingly beamed in from the 1980s.
HELI 100 has the standard backstory of an arcade blaster: hordes of aliens are invading; but, for some reason, all your lot can cough up is a single defensive fighter. Into the fray you go, then, your people’s last hope against annihilation.
Fortunately, your craft is pretty hot stuff. You use two thumbs to have it zigzag between enemy fire, and it automatically retaliates, blasting foes to pieces. Now and again, pick-ups helpfully appear, which when triggered unleash all kinds of extremely dangerous death.
There are 100 levels in all, the last of which is endless, and the first ten or so of which are quite dull while you’re learning the ropes. Stick with it, though, because HELI 100 offers some cracking shooty action perfectly tuned for mobile play.
Piffle is a shooting game where you fling strings of balls at blocks, depleting their face numbers until they explode. The backstory is that the nefarious Doc Block is doing something suitably evil with the blocks, hence why you’re trying to eradicate them.
Okay, that’s not the deepest of stories, but it doesn’t matter when the cartoonish action is so inviting and immediate. Flinging balls around the colorful levels is lots of fun, not least because they resemble tiny meowing cats.
There’s some grind here, and you’re going to hit levels that urge you to open your wallet. In the main, though, this is a bright and breezy arcade treat, with nice surprises as you work your way to the ultimate goal of stopping the blocks – and Doc Block – for good.
PewPew is a twin-stick blaster in the classic mold. It has no time for storylines. Instead, it dumps you in a ship, hurls countless enemies your way, tasks you with blowing them to pieces, and dresses the entire thing in gorgeous old-school neon vectors.
From the off, this is a tense, exciting game. The arena you’re within is claustrophobic and frequently packed with ships and projectiles. Surviving for any length of time requires mastery of the controls, and learning how different enemies behave.
But there’s depth here, too. Once you’ve suitably honed your shooty skills, you can take on a mode with giant space rocks, and a version of PewPew that removes your weapons entirely, presumably making the ships pilot really wish they’d added ‘bring a really big gun’ to their to-do list.
Shadowgun Legends is a first-person shooter with tongue firmly in cheek. Set in a world where mercenaries are rock stars, and aliens are so much cannon fodder, this is a bold, brash, noisy slice of wanton arcade violence.
If you’re looking for nuance, head elsewhere. The story and characters here are wafer thin. But if you’re after action, Shadowgun Legends does the business. Missions are linear in nature, challenging you to be fast and accurate. Combat is responsive and fluid, and you soon find yourself amassing a pile of cash, upgrading kit, and adding to your fame.
Get good enough and your adoring fans will build a statue in your honor. It still won’t be enough to convince you this is a console-quality shooter, but this game feels perfect for mobile: streamlined, bite-sized, free-flowing, and fun.
Drag’n’Boom shows that you should never encourage a teenage dragon. Here, the rebellious fire-breather zooms about minimal landscapes, belly-sliding down hills, soaring into the air, barbecuing soldiers, and generally being a menace.
Fortunately, you get to be the dragon, rather than the put-upon army rather wishing it had better weapons. The game recalls Angry Birds in how you ping your dragon along, but also borrows from twin-stick shooters, Sonic the Hedgehog (super-fast tunnel bits), and even The Matrix (slo-mo as you aim).
Although there’s admittedly not masses of variation across the game’s 50 levels and endless mode, it’s hard to be too critical. Drag’n’Boom looks great, and has the kind of grin-inducing breezy gameplay that’s perfect for slotting into the odd moment when you feel the need to unleash your inner dragon.
This vertically scrolling shooter plays with convention in a manner that messes with your head. The basics are familiar – you’re dumped within a vertically scrolling environment and must shoot ALL OF THE THINGS.
Occasionally, obliterated foes drop bonus items that boost your weaponry, providing the means to unleash major destruction while yelling YEEE-HAA – if that’s your sort of thing.
However – and this is a big ‘however’ – everything in Time Locker only moves when you do. The temptation is to blaze ahead, due to bonus points being won for covering greater distances, and because you’re being pursued by the sole thing that doesn’t freeze when you do – an all-devouring nothingness.
But careening on isn’t always a good strategy, because blundering into a single foe or projectile ends your game. Risk versus reward, then, in this fresh and great-looking blaster that dares to try something different.
Bad news! It turns out the Axis of Evil needs overthrowing immediately, on account of having access to a ridiculous number of planes and tanks, some of which are the size of small villages. Sadly, we’ve had some cutbacks, which means our air force is now, er, you.
Still, we’re sure you’re going to love your time in AirAttack 2, cooing at gorgeous scenery shortly before bombing it, surviving bullet-hell, and puffing your chest to a thumping orchestral soundtrack.
Sure, you might have to turn down the graphic effects a bit on older hardware, and it’s a bit of a grind to reach later levels, but you’re not going to get better freebie shooting action this side of World War III.
The best free puzzle games for Android
Our favorite free Android brain-smashers, logic tests and path-finding games.
Samorost is an endearing point-and-click puzzle series that appears to have been released in reverse on mobile. Premium title Samorost 3 arrived first – and remains one of the finest games of its type on Android. But for Amanita Design fans and newcomers alike, the original Samorost is worth checking out to find out where it all began.
The game features a space-faring gnome who discovers his tiny world is about to be obliterated by an asteroid. He therefore blasts off in a tiny rocket, only to find himself in a fantastical world of surreal collage-like locations. Each of the half-dozen screens has a few puzzles to solve, and you’ll be done in half an hour. So don’t rush it: breathe this one’s beauty in, and be glad a bite-sized PC classic was so carefully remastered for your phone.
Empty. is a puzzle game for people with – or wanting – a decidedly ‘zen’ outlook on life.
Each handcrafted level begins as a minimalist space with objects dotted about. These are depicted almost as silhouettes, featuring as few as one and rarely more than a few colors. The idea is to manipulate the scene so objects are merged into matching flat planes.
Success mostly hinges on finding the correct order in which to dispense with items – and it’s satisfying when you manage to empty a room, unlocking the next stage. This game’s designers want you to relax while you play, too – it’s generous with object positioning, is devoid of ads and IAPs, and has no timers. Ideal stuff to unwind with, then – and to learn a little about the value of simplicity in your life.
Sky: Children of the Light
Sky: Children of the Light is a freeform adventure that draws heavily from Journey – a game that’s yet to arrive on Android. That doesn’t matter now, because Sky is arguably the better title.
If you’re into backstory, there’s one about children trying to spread light and hope through a desolate kingdom. All you really need to know is that there’s a lot of running about, giddily sliding down hills, and figuring out how to deal with puzzle-like barriers that block your way.
The twist is that loads of other people are playing at the same time. Often, you must work together to succeed – easier said than done when communication takes the form of parps and gestures. It can frustrate, but there are also times when someone will grab your hand, and a group of you will soar into the sky. Moments in mobile gaming are rarely so magical.
Total Party Kill
Total Party Kill finds a trio of heroes in dank single-screen dungeons with their exits inconveniently far out of reach. They then hit upon a novel way of escape: sacrifice.
Your job is to figure out in which order everyone needs to be dispatched. The knight hacks at chums with his sword, sending them flying across the screen – potentially towards otherwise inaccessible switches. The mage freezes companions into blocks of ice. And the ranger uses his arrows to impale cohorts on walls. You get the idea.
The mix of dark humor – especially the little jig the escapee does while his friends lie dead – and tight puzzles make for an entertaining brain-smashing time.
Turn It On! Free
Turn It On! Free is an excellent response to all those people who gripe when they find it a bit tricky to turn on a new piece of kit they buy. At least those items aren’t as bonkers as the black boxes in this game, which take powering things up to a level beyond the ludicrous.
Initially, you flick the odd switch or twiddle a dial. But Turn It On keeps upping the insanity level. Even fairly early on, you’re faced with an entire board of switches, and no idea what any of them are for.
Eventually, there are cranks and cogs, meters and displays, and probably your quiet sobbing voice in the background when you realize you’re 15 minutes into a level and still have no idea how to complete it. The mark of a solid puzzler, then.
XOB transplants an ancient TV into your Android device. Within the CRT fuzz and lurid colors lie 100 levels of platform puzzling, where you must find a path to the exit by manipulating gravity.
You play a square. By dragging the screen, the entire level tilts, forcing the square to trundle. If it falls from an edge on to another plane, the entire scene twists. A single tap and the square leaps to the ceiling, rotating everything 180 degrees.
This can disorient, but XOB keeps you glued to the screen with its retro-modern aesthetic. The end result is something that at its core is actually quite basic, but the whole is elevated by way of superb presentation and execution, in a manner countless other free Android games would do well to take note of.
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle
Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle bucks the trend in Android horror games. Instead of traipsing about a rickety building that may as well hang ‘Enter to be horribly murdered!’ above the door and getting the odd jump scare, you instead face a sliding puzzler. Think Sokoban – but with buckets of cartoon gore.
The aim in each level is to slide horror icon Jason Voorhees into unsuspecting campers, who are then summarily dispatched. The required pathways become increasingly convoluted; hazards and move limits also act as barriers to your desire to get all stabby.
The puzzles are well designed, and the horror neatly straddles the line between icky and ridiculous. After all, it’s hard to take things seriously when your mother’s decapitated head, levitating in the corner, is offering sagely wisdom.
Tiny Bubbles is a mostly meditative match game set in a world of gloopy bubbles. A premium app in its previous life on iOS, it comes across intact to Android in free form, merely dropping in the odd ‘commercial break’ if you don’t fancy splashing out on IAP.
The game itself is delightful, having you figure out how to match four bubbles of the same color, which then pop, ideally in an explosive chain reaction. Complications come by way of color mixing demands, troublesome bubbles to remove, and the machinations of a bubble-blowing fish.
If that all sounds a bit too sedate, the game ramps things up some in the arcade mode. But however you take on this puzzler, it’s bursting with fun!
Flipflop Solitaire is at its core spider solitaire. The aim is to remove every card from the table. Cards can be built on the tableau in rank, and in-suit sequences can be moved between columns – but Flipflop shakes things up by messing with the rules.
First, it’s primarily designed for smartphones, and you get just five columns of cards. This is trickier than the standard spider layout, and so the game allows you to stack cards in both directions – enabling dizzying sequences like 9876787654543. You only have to stop stacking when you run out of space.
These changes might seem paltry, but they have the effect of making almost every hand technically possible to win. Throw in endless undos and this transforms Flipflop from yet another throwaway card game into a deviously clever mobile puzzler.
A Way to Slay
A Way to Slay turns epic and extremely bloody sword fights into a kind of turn-based puzzle. You start each bout surrounded by angry foes with a penchant for getting all stabby and head-choppy. Double-tap on any enemy and your hero zips his way over, before painting the screen red with their insides.
On making a move, your opponents also get a chance to adjust their positions – and they are vital to keep track of. For if you venture too near to anyone, it’s your innards that end up decorating the sparse landscape.
The key to victory, then, rests in figuring out the combination of moves that will see you tap your way to victory, a lone survivor surrounded by a sea of corpses. Top stuff, assuming you’ve the stomach – and brains – for it.
Aquavias is a sedate path-finding puzzle game. The aim is to deliver water to cities, which will otherwise suffer from drought. Unfortunately, a buffoon has decided the means of moving said water is by way of elevated and fragmented aqueducts.
Each section – most being a single line or quarter circle – can be individually rotated, the idea being to gradually fashion a solid path for the water to follow.
Naturally, this is where you come in. Each tap rotates a piece 90 degrees clockwise. Depending on the level, you’ll either have a limited number of moves, or a rapidly draining reservoir.
Over time, the complexity of the required pathways increases – notably when T-junctions enter the fray; but the game never becomes overbearing, and its pleasing visuals and soundtrack further add to the charm.
Does Not Commute
This superb arcade puzzler finds you directing traffic about a small town. A vehicle enters the screen, and you’re told where it needs to leave, steering it by way of directional arrows. Easy.
Only, this town is afflicted with strange temporal oddness that means subsequent journeys overlap previous ones. Before long, you’re making all kinds of detours to avoid collisions with cars you’d a minute ago driven to safety, which would otherwise wipe seconds off the timer as you wait for damaged vehicles to limp towards their exit.
Adding to its smarts, Does Not Commute includes a storyline with multiple characters, playing out across its varied environments. The only snag on mobile: you must complete the entire game in a single sitting. If that sounds like too much, a one-off IAP unlocks checkpoints.
Although you play games, few of them are about play itself, in the sense of experimenting with a set-up or situation and seeing what happens. Orbit, though, while presenting itself as a puzzle game, is more a minimalist sandbox where you immerse yourself in the delights of creating tiny solar systems.
The game is played by slingshotting celestial bodies around black holes. They then proceed to leave colored trails in their wake, while gravity does its thing. Soon, you have planets clustering together, wheeling around one or more black holes, creating minimalist modern art while they do so.
It’s all rather gorgeous and mesmerizing. The only snag is ads periodically wrecking the mood, although they can be eradicated with a single IAP.
In RGB Express, your aim is to build up a delivery company from scratch, all by dropping off little coloured boxes at buildings of the same colour. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Only this is a puzzler that takes place on tiny islands with streets laid out in a strict grid pattern, and decidedly oddball rules regarding road use.
Presumably to keep down on tarmac wear, roads are blocked the second a vehicle drives over them. Once you’re past the early levels, making all your deliveries often requires fashioning convoluted snake-like paths across the entire map, not least when bridge switches come into play. Despite its cute graphics, then, RGB Express is in reality a devious and tricky puzzle game, which will have you swearing later levels simply aren’t possible, before cracking one, feeling chuffed and then staring in disbelief at what follows.
The best free arcade games for Android
Our favorite free Android arcade titles, fighting games and retro fare.
Valley of the Savage Run
Valley of the Savage Run is like an on-rails Frogger, only instead of crossing a street and a river, you’re heading in breakneck fashion along a pathway peppered with traps and teleporters, all while a lumbering but relentless and deadly snail pursues you.
Further complicating matters, you control two frogs – one with each thumb. A tap moves the relevant amphibian on one space, and each frog must only ever land on matching colored tiles. Not doing so means instant death, and in this game, there’s a lot of death as you get to grips with the demanding pace, plus the regular requirement to have one frog temporarily travel on another’s back.
You’ll hate your thumbs as they err, but stick with the game and it will click. You’ll then feel like a gaming god when blazing through even the most savage of levels.
Fancade is 50 minigames in one – but also potentially unlimited in scope. The base game has you face off against bite-size arcade tests that echo fare you’ll find elsewhere on Google Play. There are dinky racers, micro-puzzlers, and tricky compressed platform games. Win enough stars and you unlock more worlds and games.
That alone would be enough for a recommendation. The games are without exception fun and simple, and they fit nicely into odd moments. But Fancade also invites you to make your own games, either through using pre-defined kits, or – for the most motivated players – by starting with a blank canvas.
This is a level of ambition rarely seen on mobile, not least in a free Android game. Should you fancy rewarding the creator, consider the low-cost monthly IAP that will help keep the servers running while you work on your next miniature Fancade epic.
Super Fowlst 2
Super Fowlst 2 finds a chicken on a mission to defeat evil, but said fowl’s main weapon is merely a rotund behind – and it’s no marvel in the air either.
Tap left or right and the bird hurls itself in that general direction, gracelessly arcing through the air. Smack into a demon to clobber it – but you must avoid chicken-skewering projectiles spewed your way. Beyond that, you grab gold to later buy upgrades, and beat up bosses that appear periodically – if you can figure out how.
All of which might sound familiar to fans of the original (and excellent) Super Fowlst, but this one’s even better. There are treasures to hunt, mechs to drive, and a body slam move to squish anything beneath you. With its retro visuals and two-thumb controls, this game is a tiny arcade classic perfectly realized for your phone.
Tiny Tomb: Dungeon Explorer
Tiny Tomb: Dungeon Explorer is a free Android game that reimagines dungeon crawling for mobile. But although you’re not surrounded by swarms of enemies you have to cut through with your weapon, there’s still tension as you use a single digit to explore varied dungeons, aiming to find food for a gigantic demon.
The isometric visuals echo Crossy Road, and have plenty of vibrance and character as you dart about dank locations. Coins are grabbed, skeletons are punched, and you quickly learn to jump on and off bear traps to avoid losing one of your three lives.
Naturally, there’s freemium gunk alongside more traditional green stuff on the dungeon walls, but the app’s quite generous regarding progression and checkpoints. And although ads pop up now and again, the fun factor of Tiny Tomb is more than enough to encourage further exploration of its blocky depths.
Vertical Adventure is a minimalist tap-based arcade effort that – depending on your approach – is either a casual game for noodling around, or the kind of speedrun test that will leave you sobbing and rocking in a corner.
The game casts you as a tiny dot that for some reason needs to climb 60 levels packed full of obstacles. Between you and the finish line are a bunch of collectables. With careful aiming and a basic grasp of gravity, reaching the end shouldn’t be too tricky, if you’ve a reasonable sense of timing.
Leave things there and Vertical Adventure is worth your time. But if you crave further challenge, a bar fills at the side of the screen as you play, indicating a target reference time. Only if you beat that by way of a crazed mix of prodding, slalom, and luck can you truly consider yourself having mastered the game.
Free Android game Yokai Dungeon features a festival interrupted by the titular yokai – monsters, demons and spirits out to make a nuisance of themselves. Taking the form of what amounts to a furry ghostbuster, you set out to banish the evil critters – primarily by hurling things at them.
All these critters are fortunately corporeal and easy to squash, so you scoot about grid-like arenas, and shove boxes at the monsters to flatten them against a wall. It’s fast-paced stuff, with a fluid control system that keeps you zipping about.
Because the dungeons are randomly generated, no two games are the same. And with power-ups, periodic boss battles, and some arenas that span multiple screens, the hero of the hour won’t get bored dishing out justice in this beautifully realized arcade treat.
Knight Brawl is a side-on brawler, where medieval fighters leap about the place, hitting each other with weapons designed to do serious damage. But rather than immerse you in blood and gore, Knight Brawl gallops towards the absurdist end of the fighting-game spectrum – and then keeps on riding.
If you’ve ever played the creator’s previous efforts, such as Rowdy Wrestling, you’ll know what to expect. Cartoonish combatants bounce around, realistic physics having long ago left the building. You get the feel you’re just about in control, as if driving a car that’s always on the edge of skidding off the road.
It’s glorious – huge amounts of fun, and perfectly pitched for mobile. Moreover, there’s surprising depth, with several modes when you just fancy a scrap, and also missions to carry out.
Project Loading depicts the adventures of a loading bar on a quest to reach 100%. If you’ve ever wondered why such bars take ages to fill, this game explains why. Rather than inching from left to right, the bar here must work its way around all kinds of hazards and traps.
There are speed-up mats, and those that slow you down. There are bouncers and deadly crosses, and barriers to open with keys. Given the twitchy nature of the tilt controls, getting to the end can be a tricky business.
The lives system (refilled by watching ads) can be a drain when you hit later levels, but otherwise this is an engaging creation, with stripped-back arty visuals, a clever concept, and plenty of challenge.
Williams Pinball squeezes some of history’s best pinball tables into your Android device. Each has been lovingly recreated, with superb physics, lighting, and visuals. Although this being a free app, your experience does end up bouncing around some freemium bumpers.
You start by choosing one table to unlock from the selection, and you then gain XP, table parts, and coins from daily challenges (single-ball; score attacks). Parts and coins can be used to gradually unlock other tables for challenges, and then free play.
This takes ages, and we doubt many players will ever get tables to level four, where creator Zen Studio’s animatronic components come into play. Still, the vanilla pinball’s great, the challenges are fun, and at worst you’ll have one amazing table to play, assuming you pick well at the start. (Hint: Attack from Mars or Medieval Madness!)
Fly THIS has hints of mobile classic Flight Control, which some time ago vanished from Google Play. Like the older title, Fly THIS has you draw paths for planes to follow, so they land at airports. But instead of following Flight Control’s endless stylings, ramping up the panic until an inevitable collision, Fly THIS feels more puzzle-oriented in its execution.
You deal with fewer planes, but the maps are smaller and peppered with hazards, such as weather and mountains you probably don’t want to steer your aircraft into. You’re also charged with getting passengers from A to B – and must do so within a strict time limit.
The entire thing becomes a grin-inducing – and sometimes challenging and frustrating – juggling act. It’s different from the game that inspired it, but no less appealing.
Sneak Ops is a retro-infused stealth game where every day brings a new mission. The goal is to get to the chopper by stealthily moving through an enemy compound without being spotted.
The game utilises intuitive top-down gameplay – initially, you can freely scamper about the tiles, but when deeper into your mission, it’s vital to carefully time runs past cameras – and regularly use your ability to smack guards over the head.
Getting to the chopper is tough, but if you don’t fancy starting from scratch on being captured, you can ‘buy’ restart points with floppy disks that litter the compounds – an odd quirk we suspect a real spy would give up their best attaché case for.
Fun gameplay and a fresh daily challenge keep Sneak Ops feeling fresh.
Spaceteam is a superb multiplayer game that deftly showcases your ability (or lack thereof) to work as part of a (space)team. With between two and eight players connected in local multiplayer, you’re informed that your spaceship is fleeing an exploding star, and you must perform actions to stave off your transport being blown up in a manner that would be a major downer for everyone on board.
The snag is the controls were designed by a lunatic. They’re spread between everyone’s screens, and demands simply show up as text-based prompts, so you’ll be searching for the Dangling Shunter switch and Spectrobolt slider, while pleading with everyone to “please turn on the Eigenthrottle”. Captain Kirk never had it this tough.
Jodeo features a cycloptic blob being put through the grinder by a sadist. A claw-like contraption lifts the jelly-like critter above an ‘experiment’ and lets go. Your aim: to move it left and right, squelching over every edge of geometric shapes lazily rotating on the screen – without falling off.
With standard 2D forms, Jodeo might have been entertaining, but it wouldn’t have been as interesting. Here, you’re tackling 3D objects moving in and out of a 2D plane, along with other ‘scientific’ conditions, such as someone unhelpfully hurling meteors your way, or turning off a shape’s lines so you can’t see them.
The experience is short, but it’s hard to gripe about a freebie – not least given the protagonist’s seemingly permanent expression of sheer terror.
Beat Street is a love letter to retro brawlers, echoing the likes of classic arcade title Double Dragon. Yet here you duff up all manner of evil gang members by way of using only a single thumb.
This is quite the achievement. Old-style scrolling beat ’em ups might not have had a modern-day gamepad littered with buttons and triggers, but they still had a joystick and two action buttons. Here, though, you drag to move, tap to punch, and use gestures to fire off special moves.
It works wonderfully. Beat Street gradually reveals new abilities and features – not least weapon pick-ups, one of which rather unsportingly has you smack opponents over the head with what’s described as an ’80s brick.
Silly Sausage: Doggy Dessert
In Silly Sausage: Doggy Dessert, the world’s stretchiest canine finds himself trying to worm his way through a land of cake, chocolate, ice cream, and a worrying number of spikes, saw-blades, and massive bombs.
Rather than walk like a normal pooch, the furry hero of this game stretches as you swipe, until his front paws can cling on to something. His bottom then snaps back into place. It’s quite the trick – but also a hazard if one end of his body ends up in danger when the other end is worryingly distant.
There are 50 scenes in all, along with tricky bonus rooms to try and beat. And although some of the later bits of the game are perhaps a bit too testing, this one as a whole is a very tasty, satisfying arcade treat.
The best free match games for Android
Our favorite free Android games where you swap gems and match tiles, aiming for a high score.
Sprint RPG in stills looks an awful lot like a retro take on a FPS – or at least a first-person hack and slash. In reality, it’s much closer in nature to a match puzzler.
The aim is to reach an exit, offing monsters and grabbing bling along the way, all without getting horribly killed yourself. Helpfully, all this happens against the clock, too.
However, on encountering a terrifying gigantic spider or a goofy skeleton zombie, you can’t just mash at the screen to give it a kicking – each enemy requires you execute a precise sequence to defeat it.
It’s interesting stuff, mashing up several genres in an effective way that feels particularly appropriate on the small screen, from the neatly realized retro visuals to the smartly conceived thumbable controls.
I Love Hue Too
I Love Hue Too is a color-matching game about harmony and geometry. It begins as a series of colorful shapes with a gradient painted across them. Next, some tiles vanish and reappear in random locations. Your task is to recreate the original layout by dragging and swapping tiles.
That probably doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s not what I Love Hue Too’s going for. This isn’t some kind of manic gem-swapper, with you playing against the clock. Instead, this is a meditative and almost zen-like free Android game that you can relax to.
That said, if you fancy a challenge, each level does have a minimum moves target to aim for; and as you work through the hundreds of levels, patterns become increasingly complex, challenging you to spot the smallest differences between similar colors.
Tetris is one of the most famous games of all, and you probably know the drill. Blocks fall, and you position them to make complete lines, which disappear. Should your pile of blocks reach the top of the well, it’s game over.
Designed on PC, and later exploding into the mainstream on the original Game Boy, Tetris has had a tough time on slippy touchscreens. But this version controls well, even at relatively high speeds.
This free Android game is also devoid of cruft. There’s one IAP to remove the ads, but multiple skins are available immediately, rather than you grinding for in-game currency. It’s possible that fans of EA’s discontinued Tetris may gripe about the simple nature of this new version, but we prefer to think it echoes the elegance of the Game Boy favorite.
The Ninja in the Dark
The Ninja in the Dark is at its core not far removed from Fruit Ninja. You’re tasked with quickly slicing up a bunch of stuff (in this case, evil critters) on the screen, while avoiding getting all stabby with hero-obliterating bombs. Only in this game, you do this in the dark.
It’s something of a memory test, then. You get a few seconds to study the screen layout; then your finger becomes a virtual sword, zipping about and hopefully not scything through anything deadly.
The core gameplay is, perhaps inevitably, a little repetitive. But The Ninja in the Dark is fun in short sessions. Stick around for the long term and you’ll end up battling increasingly ferocious monsters, along with unlocking new worlds and power-ups.
Six Match is a new take on match games. Instead of swapping gems, you switch coins by having the suitably named Mr Swap-With-Coins barge past them. The twist: a number on the cuboid hero’s head denotes how many moves he has left before he freezes to the spot – six at most before he must make the next match.
This twist makes for a very different match experience – one that’s far more strategic than swiping at the screen like a maniac. You can’t afford to waste moves – particularly when Six Match introduces new concepts to help and hinder. These include bombs, coin-shifting cages that assist and frustrate in equal measure, deadly skulls, and poker-style card hands that boost your score.
The combination of factors proves clever and engaging, and offers scope for long-term play as you work out strategies to improve your score.
Push & Pop
Push & Pop is a sliding tiles puzzler, with mechanics not a million miles away from Threes! (or low-rent knock-off 2048), but this is no mere clone. Instead, it builds on the basics of shifting tiles or blocks around a limited space by also borrowing ideas from Sokoban and Pac-Man, before stripping everything right back again.
Play occurs on a five-by-five grid, around which you slide a cuboid. On every move, a new block appears somewhere on the grid. Arrange five into a solid line by pushing them and they disappear, freeing up space, and leaving behind gems the blocky hero can collect by eating or shoving blocks through them. Further complications are added when immovable blocks appear. Your game’s over when you become stuck.
With its neon visuals and ethereal soundtrack, Push & Pop takes simple foundations and runs with them, fashioning an intriguing, engaging, and surprisingly novel title.
Laps – Fuse
Laps – Fuse is a match-three game based around numbered discs. If three or more of the same meet, they fuse into a new disc with twice the face value. The tiny snag: you’ve limited slots to hurl discs into. The other tiny snag: the discs you hurl zoom about the edge of a circle. The other other tiny snag: you’ve only 20 laps to secure your high-score – and thereby Laps bragging rights.
This isn’t a thoughtful Threes-style outing, then – more an arcade puzzler on fast-forward. You at every moment you must plan ahead, trying to set up matches and chain reactions that fling your circling disc back a little way, buying you a few seconds of extra time.
It’s a tense, clever take on what’s become a tired genre. And should you master the main mode, you can unlock ‘endless’, ‘furious’ (faster), and ‘extreme’ (fewer slots – presumably for masochists).
Wilful Kitty is a sliding tile puzzle game on a four-by-four grid. But before you yawn and assume it’s another 2048 knock-off (which itself was a Threes! knock-off), guess again. Because this game features cats. And all the things that cats really like.
The twist here is a little kitty moves about the grid as you swipe, and objects that enter the grid are combined into consumables and toys. For example, milk and a bowl becomes a kitty drink, and a plate and some fish makes a hearty lunch.
This shift in mechanics shakes up everything you knew about this kind of game – as does you being able to charge up a ‘satisfaction bar’ that when full unleashes a ‘Hyper Kitty Dash’, clearing a chunk of the playfield in double-quick time.
It’s entertaining serving the tiny cat’s every need – and surprisingly challenging, too. Because it turns out this Wilful Kitty has bite.
With its four-by-four grid and penchant for rapidly restricting the playfield, Topsoil comes across a bit like a horticultural Threes! There’s no sliding cards about, though – instead, you’re presented with a string of things to plant, and prod open spaces to plonk them down.
After three, you get a chance to harvest – and this is where things become more complicated. You get more points for harvesting many plants at once, which requires them to be on adjacent squares. But on harvesting anything, the soil beneath is turned over. Soil cycles between blue, yellow, and green, and groups of plants cannot cross different soil colors.
The net result is a clever game where you must plan ahead, and where you keep digging for strategies to last longer and discover new plants to grow and harvest.
There are a lot of Android puzzle games that involve you sliding blocks about, but Imago is one of the best, even giving Threes! a run for its money.
You drag numbered tiles around a grid, merging those of the same colour and shape. On doing so, their numbers combine, but when merged groups reach a certain size, they split into smaller tiles, each retaining the score of the larger piece. Successful games require careful forward planning, with only a few moves it can be possible to ramp up scores dramatically, into the millions or even billions!
The game’s relative complexity is countered by a smart modes system that gradually introduces you to Imago’s intricacies. There’s also a Daily Flight mode that provides a regular influx of new challenges, for when the standard modes begin to pall. On Android, we noticed a few minor visual glitches here and there, but otherwise this is a must-download puzzle game that’s among the best on the platform.
In Threes! Free, you slide numbered cards around a tiny grid, merging pairs to increase their values and make room for new cards. Strategy comes from the cards all moving simultaneously, along with you needing to keep space free to make subsequent merges, forcing you to think ahead.
On launch, it was a rare example of a new and furiously compulsive puzzle-game mechanic. Within days, it was mercilessly ripped off, free clones flooding Google Play.
Now, though, you can get authentic Threes! action entirely for free, and discover why it’s 2048 times better than every freebie 2048 game (personality; attention to detail; music; small elements of game design that make a big difference).
You get 12 free games to start. Add groups of three more by watching a video ad. And you can always upgrade to the paid version if you get suitably hooked.
There are loads of freebie Bejeweled knock-offs on Google Play, and so if you fancy a bit of gem-swapping, you may as well download the original. For reasons beyond us, Android owners don’t get the multitude of modes available on some other platforms, but there’s the original match-three ‘classic’, the can’t-lose ‘zen’, and the superb ‘diamond mine’.
In the last of those, matches smash a hole into the ground. You’re playing against the clock, and over time uncover harder rock that needs special moves to obliterate. It’s a frenetic, intense experience considering this is a match-three title, although high-score chasers might cast a suspicious eye over the offer to extend the time limit by watching an advert.
The best free platform games for Android
Our favorite free Android platformers, from classic retro 2D fare to full-on console-style adventures.
My Friend Pedro
My Friend Pedro is a violent platform game with Matrix slo-mo and a protagonist dedicated to annihilating everyone in their path at the behest of a sentient banana whose family has been kidnapped. We’ve no idea what substances the creators enjoyed when coming up with that plot, but the end result is tasty.
On Android, the game finds the trigger-happy star gracefully sailing through the air in arc-like leaps and periodically shooting goons. Drags and taps are all you need to succeed – or fail when you fall short and impale the ‘hero’ on spikes.
The odd puzzle and a 3D motorbike chase breaks up the platforming action – as do a lot of ads. Still, it’s generous that you can play through the entire game for nothing, and if the ads irk, you can be rid of them for $2.99/£2.19/AU$3.99.
Sad But Ded
Sad But Ded is a single-screen platformer featuring an endlessly screaming protagonist. That’s quite apt, given that the game’s devious nature means you’ll be the one screaming before long.
As ever in these things, your aim is to reach a goal. But rather than being armed with a virtual D-pad and buttons, you get a handful of single-use icons to prod at opportune moments. The auto-running hero responds accordingly, jumping or changing direction.
Well, mostly, because – as we said – the game is devious. Sometimes, based on level titles that you really need to pay attention to, buttons will do the opposite of what you expect or be blank. Or perhaps the level’s platforms will be unhelpfully removed.
Fortunately, Sad But Ded’s compelling nature and inventiveness will keep you playing even when you’re tempted to bellow in frustration.
Nameless Cat is a platformer that features a heroic moggie on a quest within a strange, deadly land. Hidden in each small level are two collectables that must be grabbed to allow progress – only between you and them are tricky passageways, roaming enemies, and quite a lot of spikes.
Fortunately, not everything in Nameless Cat is out to transform you into Very Dead Cat. You can make headway at speed – and sometimes avoid charging critters – by teleporting to cross-emblazoned containers. Friendly figures sometimes appear, too, offering sage advice, and adding to a thin but impactful story threaded throughout the game.
There are times where the difficulty level becomes extremely tough, but that mostly challenges you to think your way to a solution rather than brute-force it. In all, Nameless Cat is a delight – a near purr-fect freebie for Android.
OCO is a one-thumb platform game that will make your head spin. Everything takes place within minimal rotating circular arenas, and your aim is to grab all of the bling. All you can do is tap the screen to jump – it’s precisely when you do this that makes all the difference.
Depending on the level you’re tackling, you may have to figure out which walls to rebound off of to change direction. Or there might be speed-up mats and jump pads. On emerging victorious, OCO will wryly provide minimum jump and time targets, adding replay value to levels you’ve already completed.
With daily challenges, a level editor and un-intrusive advertising, OCO is a good bet for platform game fans looking for something a bit different, and that’s perfectly suited to one-handed mobile play.
Spicy Piggy is like Canabalt, but with an auto-running pig that breathes fire. Along with carefully timing jumps, you belch flames that obliterate everything from enemies to walls. (It turns out the pig’s wolfed down some particularly hot chili, and is desperate for a drink.)
This is, to put it mildly, a tricky game. You must perform intricate finger gymnastics to prod the three action buttons (you can also slide) at the perfect moments to nail a route’s required choreography. There are checkpoints, but unlocking one requires spending collected fruit (which can only be grabbed once) or watching an ad.
This free Android game therefore tends to be staccato, or forces you to replay sections again and again. Even so, it brings home the bacon if you’re after an exciting hardcore auto-runner.
Yeah Bunny 2
Yeah Bunny 2 might be wafer-thin on plot – find a mother bird’s kidnapped chicks – but it’s big on fun as your speedy rabbit zooms about platforms, grabbing carrots, collecting coins, squashing enemies, and trying very hard to not get impaled on a spike.
We’re in traditional platform-gaming territory, then, but without conventional controls. This bunny auto-runs, and so your interactions are limited to timing jumps, whether that’s across deadly pits, or from wall to wall, ninja-style.
Levels can become puzzle-like as you figure out how to get to areas with this stripped-back setup, and sometimes backtracking can be a chore. For the most part though, Yeah Bunny 2 is a blast – and surprisingly exciting during levels where you’re chased by a gigantic, deadly boss.
Turn Undead 2: Monster Hunter
In stills, Turn Undead 2: Monster Hunter looks like an action-packed platform game. Its heavily armed, cloaked hero can be seen performing all manner of monster-killing feats with two massive guns that fire stakes the size of a small tree. Only Turn Undead 2 – as the name hints at – is in fact turn-based.
This means you get all the trappings of a classic platform game, but within the framework of a clockwork turn-based puzzler. You get time to plan every move you make, but with the ongoing realization that you might not make it to the exit if you put a foot wrong.
Arguably, it’s a little too tough at times, which can frustrate. Even so, this game’s well worth hunting down, purely because of how well the mash-up of genres works.
Super Cat Tales 2
Super Cat Tales 2 follows in the feline footsteps of its superb predecessor. All chunky retro-style visuals and leapy gameplay, this high-octane platformer finds a ragtag gang of moggies trying to save their world from an alien invasion.
Like the original, this sequel cleverly rethinks platform game controls for the touchscreen – tapping or holding the left or right of your device’s display is all that’s required for running, leaping, wall-jumping like a furry ninja, and obliterating robot foes when you chance upon a massive yellow tank.
Smartly, this time round you can switch cats on the fly, making use of each one’s special power to blaze through tricky sections, or unearth sneaky secrets. For a fiver, we’d recommend this one; for free, it’s a total no-brainer.
It’s Full of Sparks
It’s Full of Sparks is a speed-run platformer where sentient firecrackers must find a body of water to hurl themselves into before their fuses make them explode all over the shop. The first level is a sprint to the finish line, but the game immediately makes things more complicated.
You first don some red shades, which give you a button for turning on and off chunks of red landscape. Two more colors soon join the show. As the levels increase in size, you end up with a crazed, tense dash for survival, juggling bits of landscape via delicate finger choreography that’d impress even the finest flautist.
The game can be frustrating, and larger levels need quite a bit of trial and error, but this game’s charm and innovation ensures its spark won’t die for the duration.
Hoggy 2 is a platform puzzler that feels like it’s escaped from a Nintendo console. The premise involves the evil Moon Men kidnapping the children of the blobby heroes. You must find where the kids have been hidden, somewhere inside a massive maze full of jars.
Each jar houses a bite-sized challenge packed full of platforms, enemies, traps, and fruit. Eat all the fruit and you’re awarded a key. Collect enough keys to unlock new areas of the maze.
The platforming bits are frequently deviously fiendish. Early levels ease you in, but you’re soon facing tests that seem impossible until you spot something crucial – a block you’d previously not noticed, or a different order in which to approach things – whereupon you feel like a genius.
Should you best all 200 hand-crafted levels, you can make your own in a level editor, or take on those the Hoggy community’s created. That this all comes for free is astonishing. Download it now.
Drop Wizard Tower
Drop Wizard Tower is a superbly crafted love letter to classic single-screen arcade platform games like Bubble Bobble. You dart about, knocking out enemies, grabbing gems and fruit, and duffing up bosses, working your way towards a final confrontation.
However, there’s a twist in that Drop Wizard Tower fuses old-school platforming with auto-running. Your little wizard never stops moving, and can only be directed left or right. And he only shoots the instant he lands on a platform.
You’ll likely fight against this at first, cursing Drop Wizard Tower for straying from traditional left/right/jump/fire controls. But the game really works on mobile, and when it clicks you’ll be zooming about, stunning foes with your magic wand, and booting them away to create tumbling ‘avalanches’ of enemies.
Although there are exceptions, traditional platform games rarely work on touchscreens. Fortunately, canny developers have rethought the genre, stripping it back to its very essence. In Bean Dreams, you help a jumping bean traverse all kinds of hazards, by sending the bouncing hatted seed left or right.
Each level is cleverly designed to offer optimum paths, boosting your points tally when hitting the goal having made the fewest bounces. Timing is everything, then, but there are further challenges that reward exploration. To find the pet axolotls spread across the map, or collect all the fruit, you must use different approaches, which adds plenty of replay value.
Cally’s Caves 3
Poor Cally. It’s like she can’t go for five minutes without her parents being kidnapped. It’s third time unlucky for her in Cally’s Caves 3, but lucky for you, because you get an excellent old-school platformer that costs nothing at all. Cally leaps about, shooting and stabbing enemies in a gleeful manner you might consider unusual for a young girl with pigtails.
The game’s brutal, too, with a checkpoint system that will have you gnashing teeth when you die a few steps before a restart point. But the weapon upgrade system is clever (keep shooting things to power up guns!), there are loads of items to discover, and unlike on iOS, the free Android version has several extra unlocked modes.
The best free sports games for Android
Our favorite free Android golf, football, tennis and extreme sports games.
Rowdy City Wrestling
Rowdy City Wrestling is Colin Lane and Brad Erkkila’s third crack at wrestling on mobile, after the retro weirdness of Wrassling and the manic Rowdy Wrestling. This follow-up is a little more conventional – although only to a point.
Career mode is the meat of the game – an ongoing mission to win the world championship. The snag: you start from scratch with a weedy fighter. That means you kick things off lugging chairs about for extra cash and partaking in dodgy dockside brawls. Hulk Hogan would be very disappointed in you.
The actual fighting is immediate but with enough nuance to develop tactics. And although the madcap bouncy physics and whirling arms found in other Lane/Erkkila wrestling games are absent, this one wins the title when it comes to depth, fun and longevity.
Pocket Run Pool
Pocket Run Pool rethinks pool games for mobile. It gets away from having you sink balls in standard fashion, or play against a computer AI you know is hobbled to go easy on you, or that plays like a pool god. Instead, you get something akin to a high-score chaser, where it’s just as important where you sink a ball as when.
This all works by assigning scores to each pocket, which change positions after each shot. Sink the 12 ball in the bottom-left pocket, and you may get anything from 12 to 120 points, depending on the multiplier lurking there at the time. Scratch and you lose a life; mess up three times and it’s game over.
This risk versus reward approach really freshens up the game. Coupled with phone-friendly controls and multiple modes, this free Android game is well worth a shot.
Grow in the Hole
Grow in the Hole is reminiscent of Android favorite Desert Golfing. You get the same side-on viewpoint of minimalist courses, and drag an arrow to determine each shot’s strength and direction. The main difference is that the ball’s size increases whenever you don’t get it in the hole.
With bouncy physics and a ludicrous premise, the game becomes quite comical when you’re smacking a gigantic ball about – and oddly intense when you realize one more shot and it will be too big to fit in the hole.
Matches play out as nine- or 18-hole sessions, or you can tackle an endless mode of procedurally generated courses. Whichever you choose, this one’s an amusing diversion, and a good example of how compelling gameplay can more than make up for rough visuals.
Golf Blitz builds on the frenetic speed run multiplayer races from Super Stickman Golf. You battle to get to the hole first, fending off three other players by all means necessary – whether that’s making use of power-ups to speed your ball along, or unsportingly using a grenade to blast their balls off of the screen.
As in Super Stickman Golf, the courses here bear no relation to real-world equivalents. There’s no Cypress Point or Pebble Beach – instead, you get caverns carved into the ground, floating islands, walls covered in sticky goo, and clockwork wooden contraptions.
Despite some issues with shot accuracy (a bit random) and player match-ups (occasionally unfair), Golf Blitz largely avoids the rough. It’s a fast, breezy title, and regular unlocks (courses; abilities; hats) should keep you coming back for more.
PGA Tour Golf Shootout
PGA Tour Golf Shootout is an interesting golf game, sitting halfway between simulation and the many ‘flick’ golfing games that litter Google Play. The viewpoint echoes the latter, with you directly interacting with a ball rather than an on-screen avatar getting all swipey with a club. But the level of control the game affords is a novel, intuitive and fun mash-up of arcade and precision.
Although there are plenty of challenges to delve into, the meat of the game is ultimately its multiplayer offering, which is quickly and easily unlocked. You then find yourself in tense, short matches against real people, and can over time gradually improve your kit and skills. Naturally, there’s a whiff of freemium shenanigans, but this one’s closer to a hole-in-one than a bogey in the fun stakes.
Touchgrind BMX 2
Touchgrind BMX 2 is a BMX trials sports game. In other words, it’s not enough to just be fast – you also have to be a massive show-off, catapulting your bike into the air, before performing all manner of stunts. However, unlike the majority of trials games on mobile, Touchgrind eschews a side-on view for something far more tactile and ambitious.
Your bike is seen from above and behind, and you’re invited to park two of your fingers on it – one on the handlebar and one on the seat. Subtle movement allows you to steer, while flicks let you perform the aforementioned stunts.
Success and high scores rely on mastery of stunt combos and committing courses to memory, and then stringing together bike-based choreography that’d make your hair curl if you were to try it in the real world. Great stuff.
Rowdy Wrestling manages what some people might consider impossible: taking a sport that’s already full of spectacle and the ridiculous, and making it even more so in every conceivable way.
Bouts involve absurdly bouncy physics and fighters whose arms whirl about their person. Buttons enable you to move left and right, jump, and attack, but this isn’t a game about precision and nuance. Instead, it’s a madcap free-for-all, where you feel like you’re, in terms of control, clinging on by your fingertips.
Fortunately, it’s a blast. Although it can irk when you lose because your wrestler’s seemingly doing his own thing, it’s hard to stay mad at a fighting game that’s this stupid. And it moves beyond single-bout gimmickry, too, with tag-team and career modes.
Virtua Tennis Challenge
Virtua Tennis Challenge is based on the classic tennis game that years ago once graced the Dreamcast. Although it politely doffed a sun visor in the direction of realism, the game was very much a frantic, exciting arcade outing – and that’s just as true on mobile, as you scoot about the court, trying to better your opponent with a dizzying array of well-placed lobs and electrifying super shots.
Given its console origins, the game controls as well as can be expected. And that means badly if you opt for the gestural controls, which make your tennis star look like they’ve had a few gins too many before appearing on the court. But go for the on-screen D-pad and buttons, and Sega’s tennis game is a fine example of having your own little Wimbledon nestled on your smartphone.
Mad Skills BMX 2
Mad Skills BMX 2 is a one-on-one racing game. You pit your skills against various opponents, racing them on tracks packed full of ramps and bumpy sections designed to make you giddy as you zoom along.
And this is very much a fast game. When deep into a race, the scenery blazes by in a blur as you battle to beat your opponent and take the checkered flag. It’s a true arcade experience, with two-button/one-thumb controls making racing all about track mastery and careful timing.
Somehow, it often feels like a breakneck upside down Tiny Wings. And although it does eventually spray pay-to-win freemium in your face, for a good few hours this one’s wheelie good.
Super Stickman Golf 3
This third entry in the Super Stickman Golf series is perhaps feeling a bit too familiar, but the game remains the best side-on golf to be found on Android.
As ever, your little stickman is charged with smacking balls about courses comprising floating islands, laser-infested bases, and space stations. You set your direction and strength, hit the ball, and hope for the best – although this time you can also add spin.
Power-ups eventually enter the mix, providing opportunities to discover new ways to lower your scores. There are also two multiplayer modes – a deranged real-time race and a more sedate turn-based affair.
The free version of Super Stickman Golf 3 is a little limited regarding simultaneous multiplayer games and access to new courses, but a single IAP unlocks the premium game.
Although a far cry from classic Pokémon titles, there’s no getting away from the sheer impact of Pokémon GO. It’s resulted in swarms of smartphone users roaming the streets and countryside, searching for tiny creatures they can only see through their screens.
In all honesty, the game is simplistic: find a Pokémon, lob balls at it, amble about for a while to hatch eggs, and use your collection of critters to take over and guard virtual gyms.
But despite basic combat and the game’s tendency to clobber your Android’s battery, it taps into the collector mentality; and it’s a rare example of successfully integrating a game into the real world, getting people physically outside and – shock – interacting with each other.
The best free word games for Android
Our favorite free Android games that are all about letters, anagrams and crosswords.
Kitty Letter involves two neighbors having a big disagreement, fighting it out using their weapon of choice: exploding cats. Kitties are dispatched by you spelling out words based on letter tiles that surround a colorful vortex. The first letter of any word dictates where the cats will march, your aim being to counter incoming destructive felines – and get past your enemy’s furry defenses.
It’s an odd premise, and made all the odder by way of illustrations by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal. Power-ups arrive from the rear of a ‘dysenteric deer.’ Cartoon strips within the story mode provide chucklesome moments between fraught battles.
But although the visuals are daft and the tunes are catchy, there’s plenty of strategy here, as you perform the head-patting/tummy-rubbing combination that is unscrambling words and repelling real-time attacks from your opponent.
Sticky Terms has you piece together words from their component parts, but this is no mere game of anagrams. Instead, words are transformed into tactile puzzle pieces that you drag and click back into place. The aim in each level is to form a phrase or saying that has no direct equivalent in other languages.
Given that what you start out with often looks unrecognizable as letters, Sticky Terms can be quite challenging. But this is a game that scratches an itch for puzzle and word-game fans alike. Its playfulness with both language and interaction proves joyful throughout its entire length, with tactile, smartly designed controls, and beautiful typography that at times makes you forget you’re playing this puzzle on a screen rather than in the real world.
AI Dungeon is a free Android game that uses the mechanics of ancient text adventures, but fuses them to an AI that creates a story and writes it on the fly. Imagine something like Zork being endlessly rewritten by an unhinged group of scribes who can’t quite agree on what should come next.
Whether or not you’ve experienced traditional text adventures, AI Dungeon is fascinating. The AI darts between forgetful, bonkers, brilliant, and imaginative. However, stories can be upended on a single turn, and the app’s grasp of people, places, locations, and objects is often hazy. If you want solid, handcrafted tales, look elsewhere.
What AI Dungeon provides are limitless opportunities to revel in dreamlike narrative worlds, whether you work with its built-in examples, or cook up your own adventure to share – which only requires you type a few lines of introductory text to get started.
Typochondria is the ideal word game for anyone who gets miffed on spotting a terrible spelling mistake when reading a book or article. Your beady eye is pitted against the clock, with you tapping typos within the paragraphs of a crime novel. It proves surprisingly fun – and nerve-racking when you’re down to your final seconds and just can’t find a misspelling.
If that all sounds a bit too stressful, there’s a Zen mode for when you want to relax and play endlessly, without any risk. There’s a tough challenge mode, too, which tasks you with finding how many errors are within a specific page. IAP lurks, but only to try your hand at other genres, including sci-fi, romance and non-fiction. Buying any of these inexpensive packs removes the ads.
Each game takes place on a grid, and you select letters to form words. Used letters vanish and bears then fill the gaps. But if turn-based countdowns on any letters reach zero, the tiles turn to stone, scuppering gigantobear schemes.
The game shakes things up a bit with timed levels, and a fairly baffling meta-game where you collect bears to unlock a bewildering array of bonuses. There’s also a smattering of educational content lurking within, giving you an excuse when someone asks if you’re wasting all your time playing games again.
Well worth bear-ing in mind, then, if you’ve a hankering for a fab new set of word puzzles.
Bonza Word Puzzle
Bonza Word Puzzle deconstructs the classic crossword. Rather than a clue for each word, you get one for the entire puzzle. Said challenge is essentially a completed crossword that’s been hacked to bits and sprayed across your screen like a cross between a Scrabble set and tetrominoes.
Early levels lead you in gently. When there are only a few pieces to manipulate, it’s not much trouble to complete the puzzle before you. But when you’re staring at a dozen or more tiny clusters of letters, figuring out how they all join up is an invigorating test.
Bonza does have IAP for level packs, but you get a decent selection for free. Even better: every day, you receive a new puzzle, giving the game reason to stick around on your device for the long term.
Dropwords 2 brings together Boggle and Bejeweled. You sit before a five-by-five grid of letters while a timer ticks down. When you spot a word that snakes through the board, you tap it out from start to end. Submit your word and its letters vanish; gravity then has its brief moment of glory, bringing in new letters for you to use.
Like in timed Bejeweled modes, fast matches are the key to high scores. However, keeping your timer bar full doesn’t just require rapidly submitting words, but also finding longer ones that’ll give you an extra second or two.
If that all seems a bit stressful, there are more relaxing modes too. And the app rather neatly provides a slew of other customization options, from larger boards to alternate typefaces – just as well, given the default Chalkboard that whiffs of Comic Sans.
Jumbline 2 is one for anagram fiends. Its main mode starts life as a row of scrambled letters, and a bunch of empty slots awaiting any words you find. Against the clock (which is surprisingly tense and exciting), or in a more relaxed timer-free mode, you drag to rearrange letters, and then draw a line beneath relevant ones to send a word to its slot. Get them all to try the next level.
There are two additional modes as well. Cloud Pop has you fashion words from letters found within clouds, using them before they vanish from the screen, but Star Tower is better, having you create the floors of a tower as it gradually scrolls downwards. Longer words make for taller floors, gaining you precious extra seconds to get your brain in gear and think of something suitably amazing with your next set of letters.
Letterpress combines the anagrams of Boggle with the territory capturing of Risk. Two players take part in a turn-based battle on a five-by-five grid of letters. Any letters used in your word turn your color – but there’s a twist: those surrounded by your tiles cannot be captured by the other player during their turn.
Strategy within Letterpress is therefore not just about finding the biggest words – and certainly not if its tiles are spread about the board. You must instead cunningly eat into your opponent’s territory while safeguarding your own. Battles become like an intense tug of war, ramping up the excitement and providing the kind of edge not usually found in word games.
Spellspire finds you as a crotchety wizard, trying to climb a tower. The snag is that heavily armed monsters want to stop you. This might not sound like the premise for a typical word game, but Spellspire adds a bit of magic to the anagrams mix.
On each floor, you get 10 letters to juggle and form into words that become fuel for spells. Short words only unleash a smallish magical blast, but longer words give your foes a serious kicking. Perform well on your quests and you’ll over time acquire new bling, with which to take on tougher floors.
There’s a bit of grind – you’ll need to replay levels to get enough clout to duff up even the earliest boss – but Spellspire is always fun, and you’ll smile from ear to ear once you start walloping foes with seven-letter words.
Typeshift rethinks anagrams, word searches and crosswords. Each puzzle comprises columns of letters you can drag up and down, the aim being to make a complete word in the central row. When you do so, the word’s letters change color. To complete the puzzle, you must color all of the letters.
Although completing puzzles at speed rewards you with higher scores on the leaderboard, such aspects to Typeshift are largely hidden. This is mostly a lean-back game to relax with, but should you hanker for an additional layer of brain-smashing, you can try cracking crossword-style puzzles where you match words to set clues.
It’s worth noting that Typeshift’s puzzles are hand-crafted, not algorithmically generated, so they do run out – and only some of them are free. Still, there’s always a daily puzzle to try your hand (or your best swiping finger) at.
Yes, the proper Scrabble, not some copyright-infringing clone that’ll be pulled by the time you read these words. EA bought the license, tidied it up and stuck it out on Android, where it’s a remarkably advert and in-app purchase free experience.
It’s been beefed up with a few new modes, but stuff like the ability to sync with Facebook and play multiple matches is actually exactly what you need. A classic that’s not been ruined. Hooray.
The best free endless runners for Android
Our favorite free Android games where you run, hop, drive or pinball towards a high score – or an abrupt end.
Box It Up! Inc
Box It Up! Inc is an action puzzler that finds you sorting boxes on a conveyor belt, to ensure they head through the correct wrapping slot. In theory, this should all be simple: red, yellow and blue boxes merely need to be shoved into position, so they’re in the correct lane. And it is – at first.
But Box It Up! Inc soon starts sending all kinds of additional complications your way: staff will dump boxes on the belt, packages will need putting into their boxes, and power-ups will shake everything up, sometimes triggering a breakneck-pace mini-game.
On repeat play, the game does feel a touch repetitive – the same kind of puzzles (if not always identical layouts) always appear in each respective level. But at its best, this is an exhilarating and characterful endless puzzler.
Crashy Cats finds a naughty kitty smashing its way through houses, offices, and museums. Its sole aim is to rack up the kind of damage bill that’d even make Jeff Bezos sweat. Coins are collected to subsequently buy stylish cat hats, and if that was all Crashy Cats had to offer, it would still be worth a download.
This free Android game goes further, though. It looks gorgeous, with delicate hand-drawn old-school pixel art. It’s smart too, with level design that gradually introduces new ideas, including cats to collect during your travels (thereby creating a kind of kitty conga that works rather like extra lives), and a trippy bonus section that will bring a smile to the face of Nyan Cat fans.
Even if you’ve had your fill of one-thumb endless titles, give this one a go, because it’s furry good.
Star Jolt is an endless survival high-score chaser where the end comes swiftly. Plot-wise, you’re collecting space junk, but quite why this all exists in a tunnel you barrel along at insane speeds is never made clear.
Still, it’s an exhilarating arcade experience as you slide your finger left and right, escaping death by the skin of your teeth, before inevitably smashing into a wall. A few goes later, you may even hoover up several hundred pieces of junk before the game removes most of the roadside visuals, making survival even harder.
That all might sound punishing and slight, but Star Jolt is a free Android game that keeps you coming back for more. Its mix of oddball humor, retro-tribute visuals, and hard-as-nails breakneck gameplay demands one more go – even if you’ve already had a dozen.
Saily Seas is a one-thumb endless game that sets you on a tiny raft, points you at an endless sea, and challenges you to survive. Doing so isn’t easy. Navigating massive waves is straightforward enough – tap to ‘climb’, hold to jump, and swipe to dive – but it’s everything else lurking in and above the water that’s the problem.
For a start, linger by not going fast enough and you’re eaten by a massive whale. And the further you sail, the more likely you are to be smashed to a watery grave by a shark, eagle, or massive octopus.
This could all be quite repetitive, but Saily Seas is clever. It shakes things up visually with light and weather effects, and the sea is – as in the real world – always similar but ever changing. A game with hidden depths.
ChessFinity offers a very different take on chess, fusing it with the guts of an endless runner. Instead of playing on an eight-by-eight board, ChessFinity plonks you on one that’s only five squares wide – but infinitely long. You’ve only got a single piece to use at any given moment, too.
Fortunately, you can swap pieces as you go, in order to make the best possible move – or, when stuck, to sacrifice a pawn rather than a queen. Your game’s up when you run out of pieces or time.
Yep, this one’s against the clock – it’s chess not only played on an endless board, but also at lightning speed. Still, there are power-ups lurking as well, which go way beyond saying ‘check’ in a funny voice and hoping it puts off your opponent.
Race the Sun Challenge Edition
Race the Sun Challenge Edition finds you piloting a solar-powered craft at breakneck speed for… some reason. It’s never explained why you feel the need to dice with death (which mostly comes by way of smashing into a very solid structure), nor, for that matter, why you’re flying a craft that fails the instant the sun sets.
Anyway, we’re in arcade territory here, so nothing’s really meant to make sense. What this kind of game is supposed to do is ramp up the adrenaline – and in that, Race the Sun succeeds. You’ll squee as you escape death by a whisker, and grab a power-up to gain the extra seconds required to complete a stage. Daily challenges should also keep you playing long after the sun has set on this game’s contemporaries.
PAKO Forever is the third entry in a car chase series gradually leaving behind all semblance of reality. If its predecessors were a bit odd at times, Forever is decidedly nutty. It dumps you in the world’s largest car park, with a seemingly unlimited number of cop cars out for the kill.
If you’re rammed just once, your game is over. Initially, that will take mere seconds. But you soon figure out how to drift and snake around obstacles to eke out some extra seconds. At that point, you can start collecting temporary bonus weapons, or chancing upon bizarre ‘events’ like UFOs and volcanic eruptions.
The game’s a touch crude, and should arguably be more forgiving; but for a quick blast of high-octane racing survival, it hits the spot.
Alto’s Odyssey finds the titular board-obsessed protagonist move from the snowy slopes of Alto’s Adventure to sandy dunes. Again, he’s on an endless journey, zooming through eye-dazzling scenery, and regularly flinging himself into the air for the odd bit of show-off and score-chasing stunt work.
The game starts off very similar to its predecessor, to the point it might feel like you’re just getting new visuals. You prod the screen to leap, hold to somersault, and must regularly clear massive ravines. You still get chased, too, albeit by rabid wildlife rather than angry elders.
But soon you discover new places to explore, and novel ideas like the ability to wall ride. And if working your way through the game’s increasingly tough achievements gets too stressful, there’s a chill-out risk-free ‘Zen’ mode that’s just you, an endless desert, and some moody music.
Will Hero is a superb, daft, frenetic one-thumb platform game featuring a bunch of squares. Perhaps it’s easier to animate such creatures, but a lack of torsos and limbs hasn’t made Will and his enemies any less violent. Instead, they’re intent on hacking each other to pieces.
Initially, you largely spend your time prodding the screen to move forward and attempting to jump on bouncing enemy heads, like a simplified geometric Mario. But grab a chest and all bets are off. You might find a massive sword or missiles within.
Will Hero then becomes a blast – a glorious minute or two of gore and destruction, before you lose your concentration for a moment and are sliced in half by an inconveniently placed and surprisingly dangerous windmill. This one’s great – install it immediately.
Power Hover: Cruise
Power Hover: Cruise is a spin-off from futuristic hoverboarding game Power Hover. Whereas that game mostly featured heavily choreographed levels punctuated by the odd boss battle, this one’s all about endless challenges that involve the robot protagonist eventually becoming a pile of scrap metal.
The journey, though, is wonderful. Several of Power Hover: Cruise’s modes could lay claim to being among the best endless runners on Android, and you get over half a dozen here, each with its own distinct feel, hazards and challenges.
As you arc across the screen, learning to master the board’s heavy inertia, you’ll be thrilled when dodging dancing lasers inside a pyramid by a hair’s breadth, whirling around a track snaking through the sky, and avoiding projectiles hurled your way by a psychotic monster living deep in an underground tunnel – and who everyone probably should have left alone.
Glitch Dash is a premium auto-runner. It’s also really, really hard. It essentially dumps you in an abstract world of checkerboard corridors peppered with traps. You must swipe to dodge, leap and slide, avoiding walls, laser grids, and massive scythes that some nutcase has left swinging from above.
The high-octane gameplay is augmented by an intense electronic soundtrack that broadly matches the moves you must make in order to survive. And unlike the majority of entries in this genre, Glitch Dash’s levels are hand-crafted.
This means when you fail (and you will – often, and sometimes when tantalizingly close to your goal), it’s down to your lack of mastery and an inability to make your thumbs do what you want them to. But you’ll try again right away. After all, you’re not going to let a game beat you.
Infiniroom is Canabalt in a box, infused with the sadistic nature of Super Hexagon. You prod the screen to make the auto-running protagonist leap to avoid electrified boxes that appear from every surface of a room you’re trapped in. And like a certain superhero, he happily runs up any wall he reaches, then along the ceiling and back down again.
It’s dizzying and chaotic, but Infiniroom further ramps up the tension by continually chopping and changing the play field. At any moment, you may get a second’s warning before a chunk of space disappears (don’t be there when it does), or a new area opens up. And then the game starts gleefully lobbing saw blades and lasers at you.
Not a relaxing game, then, but one you’ll want to play again and again. And given how short Infiniroom games are, you can pack plenty into the shortest break.
Flipping Legend is a demanding endless runner smashed into an RPG-like upgrade system. The protagonist embarks on an orgy of destruction atop a chessboard-like pathway, and can only leap diagonally.
This initially makes your head spin, not least because the path is a wraparound one. This means if you leap off of its left-hand side, you reappear on the right – something you frequently have to make use of, to avoid the many hazards in your way.
To further complicate matters, your health bar drains at an alarming rate, and only refills when you biff enemies. Grab enough bling and you can unlock power-ups for taking out multiple foes.
With an energetic soundtrack, a bunch of alternate characters, and a very smart chunky art style, Flipping Legend shows there’s still life left in endless runners (albeit as the hero is busy killing everything in this one).
Zero points for innovation in Binary Dash, which is another side-scrolling auto-runner where you tap to jump, and tap somewhere else to flip upside-down.
But many points for the combination of super-fast gameplay, superb level design, and a visual aesthetic that thumbs its nose at the modern-day penchant for mid-80s pixel art, instead hurling you back to the lurid charms of late 1970s gaming.
Yes, Binary Dash more looks like it’s been vomited out of an ancient Atari console, but it nonetheless has a quirky charm. And the game itself is great. It eases you in gently, helping you get to grips with flipping above and below the horizon, thus turning game-ending pillars into pits to leap over when you’re upside-down.
Before long, though, your thumbs will be seriously challenged by the tight choreography required to jump and flip your way to the ends of later levels.
Yet another into-the-screen endless runner, channeling Temple Run. Yawn. Only Sky Dancer has a certain something that keeps you playing – and that certain something is leaving your stomach in your throat every time you jump.
Much of this is down to the construction of Sky Dancer’s world, which comprises tiny chunks of land hanging in the air in a manner that rocks usually don’t have. As you hurl yourself off the edge of one, you must quickly maneuver to land on a platform below.
Battling gravity and inertia is exhilarating, especially when the game speeds up and you know the slightest miscalculation will result in you meeting a splattery end on the desert floor.
Pinball infused with the DNA of an against-the-clock endless runner sounds like an odd combination – but it works. In PinOut’s neon world – featuring a gorgeous electro soundtrack – a massive table stretches far into the distance. Within: dozens of miniature tables comprising flippers, ramps, and more than a few traps.
The basic aim at every turn is to keep moving forward to the next mini-table – and quickly. Accurate ramp shots are key, and so mastering the game’s physics and the layout of its various stages is essential.
For advocates, this is a fresh take on pinball that works brilliantly in mobile form. And for newcomers, PinOut is freed from the frequently arcane rules of pinball, but loses none of its frenetic excitement.
Disney Crossy Road
We’re big fans of Crossy Road, which is both a lesson in how to update a classic arcade game (Frogger), and create a free-to-play business model that isn’t hateful. (In short, throw free coins at players, don’t make anything pay to win, and add loads of tempting but entirely optional characters to buy.)
With Disney Crossy Road, anything could have happened, but this is far from a cheap cash-in. Sure, it starts off very much like Crossy Road – just starring Mickey Mouse. But unlock a few characters (you’ll have at least three within ten minutes) and you suddenly find yourself immersed in chunky takes on famous movies, such as Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph, and The Lion King.
Even better, these aren’t mere skins on the original. Each world has unique features, from tiny graphical details that will thrill fans, through to subtle shifts in how the game is played that force you to dramatically change your approach.
You might think there’s little new in Alto’s Adventure, which is essentially endless leapy game Canabalt on ice. But refined visuals best even Monument Valley, with an eye-popping day/night cycle and gorgeous weather effects; additionally, there’s a delightful soundtrack, and a kind of effortless elegance that permeates throughout, propelling Alto’s Adventure beyond its contemporaries.
Ostensibly, Alto’s Adventure is a game about collecting escaped llamas, but mostly Alto is keen on mucking about on snowy slopes. You zoom down hills, catapult yourself into the air, and try to somersault before face-planting. Extra challenge arrives in the form of chaining stunts to increase your speed, and outrunning elders, angry you’re having fun rather than sitting in a stinky llama pen.
In Rust Bucket, a cartoon helmet with a sword dodders about a vibrant dungeon, offing all manner of cute but deadly adversaries — skittering skulls, angry armoured pigs, and spooky ghosts. This is a turn-based affair, echoing classic RPGs, but its endless dungeon and savage nature transform it into a puzzle game perfect for quickfire mobile sessions. You must learn how foes move and react, plan every step and always keep in mind a single error can spell doom.
In its current incarnation, Rust Bucket cleverly balances enough depth to keep you coming back with the brevity that makes it ideal for on-the-go roguelike larks. Future plans include finite puzzle modes and expanded endless content.