50 best Android games 2014: our top picks
1st Sep 2014 | 16:01
Keep those Android thumbs busy
Best Android games: 1-8
While the 'free-to-play' market has taken a bit of a beating of late due to gamers falling out of love with the use of in-app payments, the world of mobile gaming is still an exciting one.
Whether you want games that will last the length of a commute, or want to be lost in a port of GTA where you spend hours mowing down pedestrians and making money out of murder, there is a game on here for you.
This constantly updated list is a mixture of free and paid for games, and also that one in between - some in-app payments aren't really that bad. Honest! If by the end you think we have missed something special off of the list, let us know and we will see if it is worthy of inclusion further down the line.
1. Dots (free)
Proving the notion that simpler is better on mobile, Dots is stupidly, almost patronisingly simple, with players just drawing lines between coloured dots. Link them up and, as coloured things tend to do in games, they disappear, So more fall in. And it carries on like this, getting more and more compulsive as you chase bigger and better dot combos.
2. The Simpsons Tapped Out (free)
EA's game based on the inhabitants of Springfield is surprising in a few ways. It's free, which is quite the thing, plus, although what many would deride as a 'freemium' game, it's more than possible to keep it going in the background, pottering away, slowly unlocking all of its content for free. Free-to-play done right, for once.
3. Angry Birds Space (free)
Developer Rovio has done quite a lot of aggressive whoring of the Angry Birds franchise, but this space-based fork of the simplistic physics game series is really worth a try. For one, it introduces some new play concepts, with the planet-based levels requiring different tactics, plus the puzzles generally need a bit more of a thoughtful approach than the chuck-it-and-see of the originals.
4. Badland (free)
Has a bit of an 'indie' vibe about it this one, with Badland offering a weird, dark and gloomy world, in which you fly about in control of a… blob thing. Your blob gets bigger and smaller, splits into loads of mini clones, and generally baffles you about what might lie around the next corner. We like a bit of a surprise, and this is full of them.
5. Crazy Taxi City Rush (free)
Crazy Taxi City Rush is another free game in which you need to put "free" in big quote marks, as it's packed to bursting with subsequent in-app purchases to unlock features, buy customisations and, in a particularly shameless move, buy petrol for your taxi to continue playing after more than a handful of failed runs. Still, endure the cash-grab and it's a pretty game, one that uses a new, simple, swipe-based control system to allow it all to work surprisingly well on a touchscreen.
6. Monument Valley (£2.49, $3.99, $AU4.90)
A very, very pretty game, this. Monument Valley is based around the weird sort of impossible geometric shapes popularised by artist M. C. Escher, with its colourful maps bending and rotating in ways that appear to defy the laws of nature. You walk on walls, flip them, turn them into floors, avoid crows and marvel at how beautiful it all looks. A short game with only 10 multi-layered levels, but a joyful ride.
7. PewPew (free)
The developer calls this a "multidirectional shoot them up" presumably because describing it as a "Geometry Wars clone" might have got him in a bit of legal trouble. Regardless of its origin, it's a superb shooter with some bizarre game modes and controls that work exceptionally well on touch devices.
8. Modern Combat 5: Blackout (£4.99, $6.99, $AUD8.99)
We get moaned at a lot for putting too many silly, quirky little games about shapes and animals and organising letters of the alphabet in this list. So here's one about men with guns shooting each other in 3D. Modern Combat 5 the latest in Gameloft's mobile homage to grown-up home console FPS franchises, in which you gun about the place alone or in online multiplayer matches. Nice to see Gameloft offering everything in a one-off install here, rather than packing it with in-app purchases.
Best Android games: 9-21
9. Plague Inc (free)
A really enjoyable and tough strategy game, in which you play some sort of evil god intent on crushing all of mankind. You do this by developing viruses, which spread through the air, water or human contact, gradually wiping out countries, continents and, if the wind's literally blowing in the right direction, everyone.
10. Whale Trail Frenzy (free)
No one dies of disease in Whale Trail. It's a sweet flying sim, which sees you float about in the clouds having a lovely time, collecting things, boosting and generally being quite happy about it. The cheery vibe is broken a bit when adverts and in-app purchase requests pop up, but it's happy enough before the money men turn up.
11. Thomas Was Alone (£3.99, $5.99, $AUD9.99)
One of the PC "indie" world's big name smashes has arrived on Android, with the existential platform game yours to... enjoy. Or at least attempt to understand. You could call Thomas Was Alone a "platform game" if you wanted to be mean and disrespectful, but it's more about offering an atmospheric and thoughtful journey through an abstract world. A bit like a piece of art, but let's not get into that debate here. I'm not being paid by the word.
12. Bad Piggies (free)
Angry Birds maker Rovio proves it's not a one-trick bird-pony with this, a bizarre and quirky physics game. You have a toolbox at your disposal, used to build a flying and/or driving machine, which then has to trundle its way through a level. It's silly, but at least attempts to shove out some new ideas.
13. Pocket Planes (free)
An extremely clever and enjoyable miniature strategy game that has you taking control of a small airline and attempting to ramp up customer numbers. It starts out with a few simple freight runs before you expand the fleet, open up new routes and generally get a bit panicked about how many people are depending on you for their holidays.
14. Radiant Defense (free)
The tower defense genre is heaving on Android, thanks to the poke and press play mechanics being ideally suited to touchscreen play. Radiant Defense is a great example of the simplified strategy concept, presenting its war action in a futuristic neon style that looks awesome on any phone with the grunt to do it justice.
15. Pocket League Story 2 (free)
Kariosoft's made a big thing for itself by using its management style of game across various scenarios, with this sporting event being one of the best. You take control of a club, then stress about signings, money, tactics and more. It's slightly robbed of some fun via a desire to use in-app purchases to squeeze money out of players, ironically mirroring the state of the game it takes inspiration from.
16. New Star Soccer (free)
A great football management game that has a bit of a sense of humour about itself. There's some turn-based play, but it's more about bringing together the off-pitch lifestyles of players with the crucial money matters of the football universe. Like Pocket League Story there are some in-app cash demands, so prepare to be badgered for payments after you've progressed some way through.
17. Star Wars: Tiny Death Star (free)
An absolutely gorgeous pixel-art recreation of the Star Wars universe, in which players embrace the dark side and go to work creating Death Stars to please the man in black. A massive challenge, made even more massive should you choose to play it without resorting to taking the shortcut of paying real money for in-game cash.
18. Sonic Dash (free)
There is some arguing as to whether this is "free" as it's rammed with in-app purchases, but there's no dispute as to its quality. Sonic's latest mobile game is, appropriately, an endless runner, with the hedgehog jumping left and right to avoid obstacles placed around its familiar green worlds.
19. Cut the Rope: Time Travel (free)
The weird little physics game is one of Android's most popular franchises, with this update introducing a few new tricks and weapons. It's the same sort of experience as its earlier chapters, though, with players swinging ropes to throw sweeties around its colourful screens. Masses of levels and a mid-to-high fun level.
20. QuizUp (free)
QuizUp is a staggeringly clever online pub quiz app, where you play with random strangers or friends. You can pick from a massive amount of categories, from riddles to sports through to Adventure Time, so you won't be caught out by subjects you don't know. Its simple quiz rounds only take a couple of minutes to get through, plus there's a seamless offline challenge option so you can mentally battle people who then take their turn later. It's loaded with questions and constantly updated with new categories. A real treat.
Best Android games: 21-33
21. Beach Buggy Blitz (free)
Offers something approaching big console quality on Android, in a game rammed with pretty worlds, loads of vehicles, power-ups, upgrades and more, plus the graphics engine can adapt to more powerful hardware and throws in more effects if you're using something with a serious number of cores. There is some level of in-app purchasing on offer, but it's mild and easily avoidable.
22. Toca Pet Doctor (£1.99, $2.99, $AUD3.99)
If you let your device be held by a child, get Toca Pet Doctor on there to keep it amused and stop it inadvertently liking the wrong people while exploring Tinder. Developer Toca Boca promises not to stick in-app purchases in its titles so there's no worry about that, or even seeing any adverts, plus this simple veterinary game is a charmer. You put plasters on sick animals, get flies out of their tummies and more. It's very loveable.
23. Voxel Rush (free)
A very pretty and minimalist racer, where the usual beach/mountain/lava environments have been binned in favour of bold slabs of colour. It's stylish, motion controlled, ready for multiplayer action and integrates Google Play Game support for solo achievements and leaderboards.
24. Nightbird Trigger X (free)
What the developer calls a "point shooting game," Nightbird Trigger X is a one-button pony where your little man has to shoot a point in the screen to progress. But there's stuff in the way. Annoying moving stuff, that means you score less and take longer if you can't find the target with your first bullet. Simple, but free and a little bit original.
25. Re-Volt 2: Multiplayer (free)
Old-ish people who played the original Re-Volt race series on the games hardware of yesteryear will be bang up for this, even though it looks a little rough around the edges. Re-Volt 2: Multiplayer is a refresh of the radio-controlled car racer, now updated with multiplayer options for the sociable modern player. Free to download and get going, with only some unlockables masked by an in-app purchase requirement.
26. Spaceteam (free)
This is bonkers. Spaceteam uses the Android hardware to the max to build a properly innovative multiplayer-only game, where between two and four players come together to shout exciting space terminology at each other while battling the control panel of an exploding ship. It's very silly, like something that only came out on the Wii in Japan.
27. Toast Time (£1.99, US$2.99, AU$1.28)
If it needs pigeon-holing, Toast Time is best described as a combat platform game. Thing is, you're only a toaster, and your weapon is… toast. So it's sort of a toast-based physics simulation as well, with the kickback from the toast knocking the toaster around the screen and requiring constant compensation. Because there's a clock that needs protecting and… it's best you play it. It's good.
28. Ridiculous Fishing (£1.99, US$2.99, AU$3.68)
Quite possibly one of the best uses of the mobile phone accelerometer tech there's ever been, this, with motion control sending your fishing line down to the depths of the sea while you avoid fish. Then, on the way up, it's how you catch them. That's when it goes ridiculous, as the fisherman chucks them up in the air -- and you shoot them to bank the money. Silly, but a must play.
29. Super Hexagon (£1.99, US$2.99, AU$3.68)
Another mobile classic. Super Hexagon has two controls -- rotate left and rotate right. That's all you need to navigate the endless maze that spins out of the screen, in one of the mobile world's hardest, coolest, best-sounding and most moreish games. We order you to buy it. You literally have to.
30. Threes! (£1.20, US$1.99, AU$2.40)
The sort of silly maths game you might've played in your head before mobile phones emerged to absorb all our thought processes, Threes! really does take less than 30 seconds to learn. You bash numbers about until they form multiples of three and disappear. That's it. There are stacks of free clones available, but if you won't spare the price of one massive bar of chocolate to pay for a lovely little game like this that'll amuse you for week, you're part of the problem and deserve to rot in a freemium hell where it costs 50p to do a wee.
31. Minecraft Pocket Edition (£4.99, US$6.99, AU$9.25)
The build 'em up phenomenon works brilliantly well on Android, thanks to the creator of the desktop original taking the time to do it justice. It's a slimmed down interface you see here with on-screen buttons, but the basics are all in and the Survival and Creative modes are ready for play -- as is multiplayer mode over Wi-Fi.
32. Heroes of Loot (£1.72, US$1.99, AU$3.30)
The entire back catalogue of solo indie creator OrangePixel is worth exploring, but his latest is the best yet. It's a stylish 2D dungeon explorer, with masses of quests, classes and secret areas to unlock. Plus it supports a wide range of Bluetooth controllers, for easier play if you've got a compatible lump of buttoned plastic.
33. Flight Control (£0.60, US$0.99, AU$1.20)
An exciting new genre all of its own when it appeared, Flight Control created the world of the top-down air traffic control simulator. Literally three million times more exciting than it sounds, it's played by swiping 2D aeroplanes into runway landing slots, avoiding collisions and scoring for successful landings. Perfectly suited to touchscreen play.
Best Android games: 34-50
34. Pac-Man Championship Edition (£2.60, US$3.99, AU$5.00)
Not just the same old Pac-Man that's been emulated, re-released and cloned for the last 30 years. Pac-Man CE is a fresh reworking of the maze game, with jazzy graphics, scrolling mazes and pumping sounds updating the concept for the kids of today. And the dads of today. Anyone after a really smart puzzle game, in fact.
35. Game Dev Story (£1.60, US$2.50, AU$3.00)
The "Story" that started Kairosoft's domination of the simplistic business world sim, Game Dev Story sees you take charge of a software house and attempt to create a smash game. The sweet pixel-art characters then battle with the complexities of design and the stresses of arbitrary internet reviews from people who haven't even played it (ahem), in the pursuit of a money-making smash.
36. Raiden Legacy (£4.45, US$4.99, AU$10.00)
Quite possibly the greatest 2D shoot 'em up of all time, the Android conversion of Radien is every bit as impressive as the original. A choice of control schemes, display and difficulty settings make it a little more manageable on touchscreens, plus, seeing as this is the Legacy edition, you get Raiden, Raiden Fighters, Raiden Fighters 2 and Raiden Fighters Jet.
37. Pointless - Quiz with Friends (£1.49, US$2.48, AU$2.80)
The bafflingly popular TV series has its own official app based around the UK version of the show, complete with cartoon effigies of its two 'Jeeves and Wooster' style hosts. Facebook integration means you can play cross-platform with friends or just spend 7.5 hours a day playing it at work. Although it can be guilty of repeating questions and categories, there's still enough content in here to waste masses of everyone's precious lives.
38. Football Manager Handheld 2014 (£6.99, US$9.99, AU$12.00)
Explodes through the usual Android game price ceiling by charging £6.99, but, in this case, it's worth it. The full app offers a superb, stats-heavy mobile take on the classic management series, hardly skimping on any minute detail in the transition to mobile. Manage transfers, the media, match days and more in one of the sporting gamers' must-get titles.
39. Canabalt HD (£1.99, US$2.99, AU$3.68)
The newer, slightly posher version of the original game, the one that pretty much invented the "endless runner" genre that now clogs up the gaming sections of the app stores of the world. You are a man. You run along rooftops to a techno soundtrack. That's about it, only it's much more enjoyable than it sounds.
40. Another World (£1.70, US$1.99, AU$3.49)
The classic 2D puzzle platformer that wowed the simpler folk of the 1990s with the very occasional bit of 3D, has arrived in perfect form on Android. This 20th anniversary edition has the original graphics plus the option of an HD refresh, but what's really about is getting to play one of gaming's most loved classics. On your phone. For a couple of quid. Madness.
41. GTA Vice City (£2.99, US$4.99, AU$5.53)
Seem to remember people thought this was quite good. For the price of a pint (if you're somewhere northern) you can own one of the largest and most highly-rated video games of all time, to pop in and out of on your mobile phone. On-screen controls are never going to suit a game like this, but they are at least fully customisable -- so you can get it how you like it.
42. Terraria (£3.14, US$4.99, AU$5.70)
Sort of a Minecraft… platform… puzzle 'em up, Terraria players dig and mine and fight their way through randomly generated worlds. Resources make weapons and houses, weapons and houses mean you stay alive, plus there's Wi-Fi multiplayer support that has it nearing parity with the version sold on desktops.
43. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (£1.99, US$2.99, AU$3.68)
Not the easiest thing to play using on-screen buttons, but the fact this exists at all is a marvel. It's also a glorious conversion, with Sega finally taking the time to do the best Sonic justice. It's been remastered into widescreen and supports a wide range of Bluetooth controllers so, even if you don't yet own one, you'll be able to enjoy it fully when you eventually do.
44. Osmos HD (£1.79, US$2.99, AU$3.45)
A lovely little ambient puzzle thing, in which you play a cell thing and make it your business to absorb others. The residue you fire out makes you smaller, though, so efficient use of your biological systems is a must. It's a chillout experience more than a game, with the surreal concept joined by some equally relaxing ambient music. A charmer.
45. Colin McRae Rally (£1.49, US$1.99, AU$2.80)
Cars. Cars going round corners and sometimes down straight bits. That's what you get here, in this nice looking recreation of the old PlayStation race favourite. On Android, Colin McRae lets users race four cars including Colin's classic Ford Focus, cars you get to smash around 30 separate race stages. Based on the beloved Colin McRae Rally 2.0 from the PS2, you really can't go wrong.
46. Broken Sword: Director's Cut (£3.99, US$4.99, AU$6.58)
This cult classic from an earlier wave of the big home consoles has been converted beautifully to Android, capturing the slightly odd and amusing adventure perfectly - and with an interface that really works on today's touchscreens. It's an "indie" game from before there were indie games, silly and with some excellent and challenging puzzles.
47. Worms 2: Armageddon (£2.99, US$4.99, AU$0.99)
Very old and very good, the Worms series led the way when it came to making strategy games fun. The comedy combat action is turn-based, with players alternating at having pop shots at each other with their weaponry. This slower pace means it's ideal for online and local multiplayer, as the odd glitch doesn't ruin the experience.
48. Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition (£6.99, US$9.99, AU$13.99)
The strategy titan has a hefty price tag attached to it on Android, but that's OK as the immense challenge it contains is likely to burn for longer than the sun. The first Baldur's game, this faithful reworking of the 1998 classic also includes several of the PC game's post-release expansion packs, just in case the standard 60-hour marathon quest isn't hardcore enough for you.
49. Super Crossfighter (£1.18, $1.99, $AUD2.99)
Developer Radiangames has done it again with Super Crossfighter, using its trademark red/blue/sci-fi visuals to reinterpret a classic genre. This time it's refreshed the Space Invaders concept, jazzing it up both visually and technically, by allowing players to flip their attacking craft up to the top of the screen for literally twice the alien-attacking action on the one screen. Watch the trailer; if your heart doesn't start pumping a bit quicker you're quite obviously dead.
50. Final Fantasy VI (£10.99, US$15.99, AU$19.99)
At time of writing, Square Enix's Android remakes of the Final Fantasy series only go up to Final Fantasy VI, which is probably just as well as we think the world may well explode should FF VII ever appear on Android. But chapter VI of the RPG series is almost as good an experience, offering a vast quest and the usual hours of unrelenting storytelling.