From Vainglory and Prune to Lara Croft Go, Alphabear and Minecraft: Story Mode, the 25 best games for Android of the year Once upon a time, Android often played second fiddle to iOS when it came to the latest and greatest games. That’s long gone though: 2014 was an exceptional year for Android gaming, but 2015 was just as good.
From platformers and puzzle games to shoot ‘em ups and even hardcore MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) titles, Android owners had plenty to choose from. Here’s our roundup of the 25 best titles, with more to be recommended in the comments section. If iOS is your mobile gaming platform of choice, there’s a separate 2015 roundup for that, which you can find here.
So, what have we missed? The comments section is open for your comments on the games above and your recommendations for other titles – ones released for the first time in 2015, if you don’t mind.
25. Attack the Light – Steven Universe RPG
Based on the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe, this stands on its own merits as a well-crafted RPG – although fans of the show will enjoy the narration from its cast. There’s plenty to explore without it ever feeling overwhelming, while the battle mechanics are just right for the touchscreen.
24. Mos Speedrun 2
Another platform game in what was a strong year for this genre on mobile. This is a pixel-perfect game designed to be played as fast or as carefully as you like, with lots of secrets to explore if you choose the latter. Slick controls, well-implemented controls and some very silly costumes will put a smile on your face.
23. PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist
A game based on one of the world’s most popular YouTubers might seem like a recipe for a cash-in, but this was anything but. Legend of the Brofist is a well-crafted platformer with lots of knowing references to gaming history. It also makes you rely on your skills rather than your wallet (for in-app purchases) to progress.
22. The Trace: Murder Mystery Game
If you love a whodunnit crime novel, The Trace is the closest thing to it in mobile-game form. You have to play detective, searching for clues, analysing evidence and wandering around murder scenes brooding (optional). What makes this so fun is that the storyline is on a par with high-quality TV crime dramas.
21. Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes
Every month in 2015 seemed to bring a new Star Wars mobile game, all of them good. This is the one that fans will relish most: a well-designed action game with an emphasis on collecting characters from the various eras of Star Wars, and then forming them into teams to battle out in the universe.
20. Dark Echo
We’ve seen audio-only games like Papa Sangre on smartphones before, but this is different, using “visualised sound” to show its environments based on the sounds you make. Except those sounds also attract... well, we won’t spoil it. But this isn’t a game you’ll want to play alone late at night – it’ll have you jumping out of your sofa.
19. Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon
The sequel to 2009’s (still worth checking out) Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, this is more eight-legged puzzle-solving, as you explore an abandoned mansion trapping insects and uncovering a supernatural story. Part of a trend (along with games like Prune and Beneath the Lighthouse) for less frenetic brain-stretching.
18. Beneath the Lighthouse
It’s a very different game, but if you loved Monument Valley in 2014, then Beneath The Lighthouse might be your next fix. It’s a puzzle game set below a lighthouse, where you have to turn mechanical wheels to find your young hero’s way to his lost grandfather. It’s bright and colourful, and tests your lateral thinking skills.
17. Stick Cricket 2
As much a rhythm-action game as a sports sim, Stick Cricket 2 has you hoicking fours and sixes against a range of opponents, with perfectly stripped-down controls and silky-smooth animation. The best cricket game on Android, but its mechanics should make it appeal to more casual fans as well as cricketing buffs.
16. Fallout Shelter
By the end of 2015, Fallout fans were playing Fallout 4 on their consoles. But until its release, mobile game Fallout Shelter was their fill-in fix – but also a top-notch game in its own right. The game sees you running a post-apocalyptic shelter underground, like a radiation-dodging The Sims.
Also known as Android’s Animal Crossing, albeit with more pirates. This had you sailing the high seas on a series of quests to help rebuild your hometown, while building a crew, fishing and helping out an array of characters. Like its inspiration, it’s ideally suited to short bursts of daily play.
14. This War of Mine
Another game that will give your emotions a good going-over, this is a war game played from the perspective of civilians in a city under siege. You’ll split your time between building your hideout and foraging in the dangerous city streets, with some very hard decisions to be made about the people under your protection.
Another game that experimented with new controls this year: in this case, arranging panels of an animated comic book to alter what was happening within. This, accompanied by neat visuals and a toe-tapping jazz soundtrack. A world away from same-old match-three puzzles, Framed found a new way to test our wits.
Easily the best Android game this year that involved pinging a skull around platform levels by snapping back then letting go of its stretchy brain. Not a crowded genre, admittedly. But Skullduggery! is an inventive action-puzzler, complete with Matrix-esque slowdown as you navigate your way into (and out of) tight corners.
11. Shooty Skies
Otherwise known as one of the things the Crossy Road developers did next: besides reinventing Pac-Man, they made this rapidfire shoot ‘em up. It uses similar dynamics to Crossy Road: you’ll die regularly, but will unlock new characters as you progress. Plenty of charm, and refreshingly unaggressive with its in-app purchases.
10. Minecraft: Story Mode
Minecraft maker Mojang’s decision to team up with developer Telltale Games for a narrative adventure could have been a mistake, but instead it was a triumphant success. A game set in another game’s world may sound a bit meta, but the characters, voice acting and fan-focused references made this a treat.
9. Rayman Adventures
Vintage console franchise Rayman has become one of the most trustworthy mobile gaming brands too, with a series of marvellous touchscreen titles. Rayman Adventures didn’t break the streak even with its freemium structure: colourfully-cartoonish platform action with controls that never frustrate.
8. Frozen Synapse Prime
There are very few more satisfying strategy games than Frozen Synapse Prime on Android: set in the future, it’s a deep, rich turn-based game that gets you shooting and creeping your way through 40 missions, testing out different modes along the way. The more you play, the more refined your tactics will become.
7. Five Nights at Freddy’s 4
The Five Nights at Freddy’s series has built a devoted fanbase, and this final game didn’t disappoint them. Once again, you’re doing battle with genuinely-creepy animatronic enemies, except this time round the action has shifted to your own home. The best game yet in mobile’s premier survival-horror series.
6. Alphabear: Word Puzzle Game
Nearly four years after its launch, Triple Town remains one of the best mobile puzzlers. In 2015, its developer made an equally-addictive word game, Alphabear, which sees you spelling words from Scrabble-like tiles to earn points – and build cartoon bears. The perfect dip-in dip-out mobile game.
5. Lara Croft Go
It might star a famous game face, but this was no lacklustre spin-off. Lara Croft Go – like Hitman Go before it – is a familiar brand applied to a rock-solid puzzle-adventure engine. Lara Croft Go puts the focus squarely on your mental ingenuity, with six chapters of perfectly-formed visuals to explore.
A wonderful idea for anyone who’s ever loved the roleplaying game (RPG) genre. Evoland starts as a top-down, monochrome adventure but gradually works its way through the genre’s history, ending up with whizzy real-time 3D battling. A gimmick? Thankfully it was backed up by an absorbing game.
3. Football Manager Touch 2016
There have been excellent mobile versions of Football Manager for several years now, but 2015 saw the gap between tablets and the desktop versions of the management sim narrow even further. Not least because of the cloud-save option to play your saved game on either.
A welcome port from iOS, this mobile MOBA game plunges you into team-based battles with other players, with matches lasting around 20 minutes at a time online. It’s an intimidating genre for newcomers, but Vainglory does a good job at making it accessible to start playing.
Is this a game, or a gardening-themed meditation app? Either way, it was one of the best things to play on Android this year. Described by its developer as “a love letter to trees”, it sees you nurturing yours with gentle touchscreen swipes. The game looks and sounds beautiful: the antidote to your mobile-inbox stress.