Smartphone gaming has come a long way from small-scale timekillers, and nowadays even some of the big console heavy-hitters can be played on mobile in some form or another.


Best of all, many of these games are free, proving to be a budget-friendly alternative to next-gen consoles and the increasing cost of gaming. You can also get an Apple Arcade free trial to unlock 200+ games on iPhone.

Mobile gaming may be a hard sell to hardcore console fans, but there's no harm in trying - you may be pleasantly surprised when you see how far the industry has come.

Indeed, the line between mobile and console gaming is becoming increasingly blurry, especially with controllers such as the Backbone One and the Razer Kishi - see our Backbone One review for more info on how a controller can transform smartphone gaming.

So whether you're dipping your toe in the water or are a veteran smartphone player, here are some of the best mobile games around on both iOS and Android. There's a good mix of platformers, card games and even battle royales - many of which are free.

14. Call of Duty: Mobile

Key artwork for Call of Duty: Mobile

Call of Duty has dabbled in app-based gaming before, but finally hit its stride when the franchise was rebooted with Call of Duty: Mobile. Featuring content from throughout the series, the game managed to implement the classic Call of Duty multiplayer mode surprisingly well with a variety of maps and weapons, as well as the signature zombies mode and even a 100-player battle royale free-for-all.

Die-hard Warzone fans may wish to wait for the release of Warzone mobile, but for FPS fans this is one of the best blockbuster experiences on mobile.

Download Call of Duty: Mobile for free on Android or iPhone

13. Rise of Cultures

We thought we'd start with a game you might just have seen advertised about the internet. While these dubious ads might put you off, we're here to say that this one ain't so bad. A lot of mobile games come under the genre of "idle game" - which means that after a while the game plays itself, and you only have to check in every now and again.

Rise of Cultures is a great example of this, which means you can fit it around your busy schedule. It's also a great game for history fans who love Age of Empires but don't quite have the time to play. Maybe not one for core gamers, but great for casuals.

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Download Rise of Cultures for free on Android or iPhone

12. Fortnite

There are Fortnite: Play Your Way quests for every type of player.
There are Fortnite experiences for every type of player. Epic Games

More than just a battle-royale game, Fortnite is a cultural phenomenon that features multiple ways to play. Not only can you play the main experience without the building (and without any teammates if you prefer to go it alone), but you can also undertake a number of fan-made side experiences in Creative mode.

Fortnite is changing all the time, but there's almost always something tempting in the battle pass that you work towards over time, earning XP across all the different modes in the game. It's a great way to spend your spare time, and it's free to start playing too! It also runs particularly well with mobile controllers like the Backbone One. Of course, though, you'll need a good internet connection to get the most out of it.

Play Fortnite on mobile with Xbox Cloud Gaming

11. Two Dots

Key art for Two Dots.
Key art for Two Dots, showcasing its cute visual style. PlayDots

With a gorgeously simple art style and heaps of cutesy characters to boot, Two Dots is one of the most underrated games on mobile in our opinion, and it offers multiple ways to play as well.

On top of the hundreds of free levels in the main part of the game (which is a fun spin on the match-three puzzle formula), Two Dots also has weekly treasure hunts where you can peruse beautiful artwork in search of characters, items and other random stuff (think Where's Wally with a bit more chic).

Play Two Dots for free on Android or iOS

10. Before Your Eyes

The unique visual style of Before Your Eyes.
The unique visual style of Before Your Eyes. GoodbyeWorld Games/Skybound

When we first played the PC version of this game, we were absolutely blown away by its heartfelt storytelling and a very unique gameplay mechanic – you control the game by blinking, with the main character's life quite literally flashing before your eyes.

You can read our Before Your Eyes review to see what else we had to say about it, or read our Before Your Eyes interview to learn all about the developers and how they ended up partnering with Netflix to get this award-winning game onto mobile devices.

Play Before Your Eyes on Android or iOS (free with a Netflix subscription)

9. Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact, like Pokemon Go years prior, took the world by storm when it came out for free. This was in the midst of lockdown, too, so - like Animal Crossing - it was a lifeline to those in need of gaming comfort.

It's a gatcha game, which means the gameplay loop revolves around in-game currency being spent to receive a random in-game item. With new items coming out all the time it might seem a little daunting to start now, but many people do, and there are plenty who swear it's never too late to start Genshin!

Download Genshin Impact for free on iOS or Android

8. Wayward Souls

Wayward Souls is a fantasy adventure game that somewhat resembles the old top-down Zelda series, with a gameplay loop more akin to a roguelike. The challenge of this game is a step up from all we've mentioned so far, but we thought it was time to include something that tests your abilities.

If you're a fan of Hades, or even the Souls series, and fancy something similar on your phone, we recommend Wayward Souls.

Buy Wayward Souls from the App Store or Google Play Store (£6.99)

7. Super Mario Run

Sometimes we just want a familiar face when we're out and about with only our phone for company. Well, rest assured, because everyone's favourite Italian Plumber (unless you're acquainted with a real Italian plumber) is available on mobile. And while it might look like a generic runner, the game is super fun.

It isn't an "endless runner" but an automatic runner with plenty of different stages, each with plenty of coins to collect. There are loads of different modes, too, and a Toad Garden to build and expand with the coins you earn. Happiness in the palm of your hand.

Download Super Mario Run for free on Android or iOS

6. Among Us

In contemporary life he is ubiquitous; on birthday cakes, in memes, in the crowd at a fancy dress party. The Among Us guy is a cultural icon, and we think this is well deserved. Another game that blew up in lockdown, Among Us is a sci-fi Cluedo in which friends must work together to keep a spaceship afloat, while one to three murderous imposters try to sabotage the whole enterprise.

It's still enjoyed by many today as a quick social game to jump into whenever. Very simple, but truly one of the best mobile games.

Download Among Us for free on Android or iOS

5. Thimbleweed Park

On the surface, a blend of X-Files, Twin Peaks, and '80s retro gaming. And once you've dived in you won't be disappointed. And it's no surprise, because this point-and-click adventure comes from the same team that made the iconic The Secret of Monkey Island.

Winner of multiple awards, this game will be a blessing to your mobile. Don't just take our word for it – try for yourself!

Buy Thimbleweed Park on the App Store or Google Play Store (£8.99)

4. Pokémon Go

While it's true that the craze ended about five years ago, Pokémon Go is still a great game to get into. Wandering around the real world, with an augmented Pokémon-world reality on your phone, is an absolute dream come true for fans of the franchise.

It's also a great way to get some exercise and vitamin D as you game, but please look where you're going. You don't want to fall down a man-hole as you search for that rare Pokémon.

Download Pokémon Go for free on iOS or Android

3. Marvel Snap

It wouldn't be a complete list without the brilliant Marvel Snap. It's a card game for Marvel fans, sure, but it's also a game everyone can enjoy. The diverse decks of cards available are great, and the gameplay loop adheres to that marketing quote of "simple yet addictive".

Like a lot of mobile games it's a pick up and play kind of affair, but you can also spend all day on Marvel Snap. With the great artwork, slick gameplay, and huge range of Marvel characters, we reckon this would be a day well spent.

Download Marvel Snap for free on iOS or Android

2. Stardew Valley

stardew valley

Another casual one here, but it's so adorable we just have to give it a high spot. In this role-playing sim, players take control of a character who inherits a farm. How they continue with the open-ended story after that is up to them - if you want, you can live a quiet life of solitude, or you could get married and have children.

Just look at that screenshot, though - it's a lovely looking game. And if you give it a chance, we think you'll have a lovely time.

Buy Stardew Valley from the App Store or Google Play Store (£4.99)

1. Papers Please

One of the best video games of all time was released on mobile earlier this year, so we had no choice but to whack it at the top of this list. Papers Please is a border-control-officer-sim, which is absolutely nowhere near as dull as that sounds.

Your decisions have consequences, both for the innocent (or not) people you're letting into the fictional dystopia of Arstotzka, and for your own family at home. It's a moral dilemma game and, dare we say it, a piece of art. You need this game, and if you haven't already played it, download it on your phone.

Buy Papers Please from the App Store or Google Play Store (£4.49)

What about the best games on Apple Arcade?

We review Alba: A Wildlife Adventure on Nintendo Switch.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a brilliant game about the environment.

And here's one final note. If you're playing on iPhone, it's also worth checking out Apple Arcade (click that link to learn more), a subscription service that lets you play brilliantly fun games like Alba's Wildlife Adventure, Hot Lava and Warped Kart Racers. Of everything we've tried on that platform so far, those are our favourites for sure.

Those games all support controllers, too, which is always a plus if you've invested in a gamepad attachment for your phone. We tried to focus this article on games that are available on Android, too, but check those out if you're an Apple-head! Don't forget you can get an Apple Arcade free trial too!

Hungry for more gaming? Visit our video game release schedule, or swing by our hubs for more Gaming and Technology news.

Looking for something to watch? Check out our TV Guide or Streaming Guide.


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