Sometimes you really do get what you pay for. There are loads of great free games on Android, but spend a little cash and you can enjoy some of the best mobile gaming around.
And when we say ‘a little bit’, we mean it. Most of the games covered here can be had for less than the price of a pint – and some are even free.
Also, this being Stuff, we’re all about the very best. We’ve actually played all these games – probably a bit too much, if truth be told – and so whether you’re into high-octane endless survival games, blasting aliens, or having your brains smashed out by maddeningly tough puzzles, there’s something in this list for you.
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THE BEST ENDLESS RUNNER FOR ANDROID IS... ALONE…
Somewhere along the way, a great many games forgot how to be exciting. But ALONE… remembers those days of seat-of-the-pants roller-coaster gameplay, where a moment’s distraction spelled game over. Here, you’re piloting a tiny ship through deadly caverns at breakneck speed. Occasionally, alarms blare, to warn of incoming projectiles. All you have is your wits and reactions as your sliding finger directs the ship up and down, before it inevitably comes a cropper on the rocky face of one too many giant asteroids.
There’s no depth here, but there doesn’t need to be — ALONE… has tons of replay value simply by virtue of being relentlessly thrilling, no matter how many times you play.
Pinball reinvented as an endless runner of sorts, PinOut has you smash a ball ever onwards while a timer relentlessly counts down. The table is essentially a huge neon corridor, punctuated by ramps and flippers. Each section is a miniature table – a puzzle you must quickly grok, before making the perfect shot to send the ball to the next challenge.
It’s immediate but tense. Bonuses and mini-games help replenish the timer, but a few duff shots can leave you struggling on entering later, tougher zones. For £2.69, you can buy permanent checkpoint restarts; for free, you’ll have to play through to the end in a single sitting – a tall order, even for (virtual) pinball wizards.
Super Hexagon is survival gaming as reimagined by a lunatic. A tiny craft sits in empty space, surrounded by an infinite number of walls that are rapidly closing in. All you can do is dart left and right, nipping through the gaps, holding off your inevitable demise. But then the screen starts to lurch and spin, as if trapped inside a deranged washing machine.
Games last mere seconds until you start noticing repeating patterns and mastering how to get through each unscathed. As 60 seconds finally pass (many attempts later), colours shift and the pace increases further, signifying that a new, faster and even more punishing challenge has been unlocked. It might be brutal, but Super Hexagon is also electrifying and absurdly addictive; enter at your peril.
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Less impossible than once it was, thanks to an update that gave the white ball some shaded definition against the all-white background. But, don’t worry, it’s still completely impossible.
Keeping the ball on the track – though twists and turns, yumps, bumps and chicanes – is made harder by weird physics which give it apparent weight in the air but no directional momentum in the corners. And the fact that the simple left/right controls rotate the track around the ball, and the slightly sticky track edges occasionally repulse you into the white nothingness and time-out death.
But the insistent techno beat and endlessly redrawn and randomised track just keep you rolling back in for another run.
DISNEY CROSSY ROAD
Endless Frogger meets Disney in a rare example of an indie dev/movie house tie-up that works perfectly.
The mechanics will be familiar to anyone who’s played the excellent original — tap and swipe to have a blocky protagonist weave through traffic and deftly jump across rivers. But the addition of Disney characters finds you battling your way through retro versions of famous animated worlds, dodging tumbling blocks in Toy Story, filing memories for bonuses in Inside Out, and avoiding a psychotic suit of armour in Haunted House.
Osmos is a game of warfare between ‘motes’ - blobs that absorb anything smaller than themselves, and which can sometimes propel themselves by ejecting matter.
Initially, it takes place in what appears to be primordial soup, and you learn how to cope with the gloopy physics and manipulate time to speed up or slow down the movement of the tiny universe. Subsequent levels then introduce antimatter, ferocious hostile motes, and gravity-based constructions that shift Osmos towards what resembles a galactic scale.
It’s hard to pigeon-hole this title, given that there are elements here from real-time strategy, arcade fare, and puzzling, but it’s certainly easy to recommend it.
PAC-MAN CE DX
If you’d visited Stuff HQ in early 2015 and told us mere months later Android would receive the best Pac-Man game ever made, we’d have laughed so hard you’d have been blown out of the window. But the joke would have been on us, because CE DX is marvellous.
Following on from the original Pac-Man Championship Edition, this sequel is a fast-paced time-attack game, where you manage mazes split in half. Clear one side and a special object appears in the other; eat that and the now-empty section is refilled with a new dot configuration.
All the while, you graze sleeping ghosts that awake in a bad mood and follow your every move. The result is the best of Pac-Man and Snake, smushed together and sped up, across ten unique zones.
Spaceteam is a masterpiece in design — a multiplayer game that anyone can understand in an instant. The premise is your ship is falling to bits while attempting to outrun an exploding star. The only thing that will keep it going is responding quickly to commands that appear on your device. The snag is they may refer to your control panel or those on friends’ screens.
The net result is lots of people maniacally yelling things like “WILL SOMEONE PLEASE SET THE SIGMACLAPPER TO ZERO?” while frantically searching their own screen for “a switch that looks like someone being eaten by a telephone”. Genius.
If you liked the idea of Flappy Bird but hated everything else about it, give Badland a go. It's the best side-scrolling-one-button-physics-floater we've played (and we've played a lot), and is worthy of its place in this list for its gorgeous graphics alone. It's also beautifully animated: we've never seen a fuzzy alien blob absorb a power-up and gently throb as it grows to 10 times the size, but we're pretty sure this is exactly what it would look like.
As a game, it totally nails the tricky balance between so-hard-you-hate-the-world and so-easy-there's-just-no-point. It's tough, sure, but the checkpoints are well placed and it rewards repeat attempts. And trusts us, the sense of satisfaction you'll feel as you lead your troupe of cloned blobs to the finishing point will outweigh any you got from lasting 10 seconds on Flappy Bird.
There’s heart, whimsy and more than a touch of satire at the core of Ridiculous Fishing, a title that at times resembles grind-based IAP-laden fare, but that on closer inspection couldn’t be further from it. Play is broken into three distinct scenes; the first involves dropping your line and avoiding aquatic wildlife, until something is snared or your line runs out; you then reel your line in, hooking whatever you can on the way up; and then the catch is hurled into the air and blasted to smithereens, which oddly adds to your coffers.
Money can be spent in the in-game store, but there’s no IAP here; and while there’s plenty of repetition, grind is avoided by a masterful slow reveal of kit, captures, locations and a sweet story that underpins the entire game.