Trying to find a mobile game that won’t hook you with $100 in-game purchases for currency or boosters? If you’re looking for a fun, premium Android game without the BS, check out our selections.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of “The 10 Best Android Games Ever”—we’re not quite that arrogant. There are so many thousands of games on the Play Store, one person can only hope to play a small percentage of them.
But these are games we’ve personally enjoyed that don’t feature the manipulative currency and booster purchases you find in most free-to-play mobile games. We’ve also avoided ported games from consoles or PCs, as they tend to be tough to control on a touch screen.
Without further ado, let’s get to the picks.
If you long for the simpler age of racing games, when going fast was pretty much all there was to it, Horizon Chase is for you. It’s a simple setup, with a wide selection of tracks and cars based on 80’s and 90’s classics.
The graphics are simple, but appealing, crisp, colorful 3D reinterpretations of classic sprite-based racing games from the 16-bit era. I wish it had a multiplayer option, but for tight, technical racing with a wonderful atmosphere, you can’t beat it! Players get access to a few tracks for free, and at this writing, you can unlock the whole game for $3.
Alto’s Adventure takes the simple setup of an “endless runner” game and nails every aspect of it, from the simple, but enthralling, graphics, to the chill music and super-fluid animation. At first, the game seems basic. But as you expand your repertoire of snowboarding moves and techniques (and get a handle on the sliding physics), you find there’s an amazing variety to the 2D stages.
You can play the entire game for free, but you can unlock characters faster with in-app purchases—at this writing, $10 gets you all of them. The sequel, Alto’s Odyssey, is extremely similar, with a wider variety of environments and obstacles.
Fans of the console and PC game, No Man’s Sky, will find a lot to like in Morphite, including exotic alien landscapes to explore, weird creatures to catalog, and supplies to gather. Randomly generated worlds are appealing on their own, but Morphite also has a tighter focus on its story and more platforming elements to keep you invested.
The low-poly 3D graphics are simple and should run on just about any hardware. You can play the first two missions for free and unlock the full game for $5 (at this writing). There are a few paid options for extra vehicles and tools.
This is what we call an “instant classic.” Monument Valley shares a lot in common with the platforming and puzzle games of the indie renaissance on PC, but it’s built from the ground up for mobile players.
You control a single character, who moves around trippy 3D stages that look like they were built by M.C. Escher. It focuses on puzzles and atmosphere over action. At this writing, the main game costs $4, with $2 in-app purchases for newer level packs. The sequel, which expands on the original and adds a new character, is $5.
There’s something incredibly appealing about the design language of subway train maps. Mini Metro takes those visuals and turns them into a puzzle game. Players build and expand subway systems loosely based on a wide selection of real cities.
It has a lot in common with management games, like SimCity, only scaled-down and laser-focused. Multiple game modes cater to your desire for casual play or challenge and, at this writing, you can get it all for just $1.
If Wayward Souls reminds you a lot of Dark Souls, well, that’s the point. Aside from the top-down, 2D setup and the pixelated graphics, this roguelike combat game wears its inspiration on its sleeve. That’s not a bad thing—especially if you’re looking for something with a steep learning curve and surprisingly varied combat.
The touch-screen controls are surprisingly tight, but if you’d like something a little more precise, it’s compatible with external controllers as well. At this writing, the game is $7 and has no in-app purchases.
Mobile collectible card games are generally a thinly-veiled cover to see which players can spend the most. But not Card Crawl! It’s a single-player game where you play against a…I’m actually not sure what the thing in the tavern is.
Anyway, the stacking element is reminiscent of solitaire, with some interesting strategic combat and deck-building piled on top of it. You can play through the tutorial and a few missions for free. At this writing, you can unlock the whole game for $5.
If you haven’t played any of the innumerable versions of 2048, you certainly know someone who has. Those who enjoy the grid-based addition puzzles should try the original it ripped off—Threes.
Sliding tiles combine in a small grid and require precise planning. But it’s the character in the little doodled numbers that makes Threes better than its imitators. You won’t believe how appealing a little grinning square with “384” on top can be. The game costs $6 at this writing, but there’s a free version with ads, as well.
Technically Reigns is a card game, but that’s not the point—it’s an endless series of small decisions that affect a fictional kingdom. You make royal decrees in a yes-no fashion and swipe choices like Tinder profiles.
Your tiny feudal ruler inevitably dies, but you can take over as the heir to the throne and continue the story, exploring all the possible outcomes of a king’s life. The game is just $3 (at this writing) with no in-app purchases. If you’re more of a queen, try the sequel, Reigns: Her Majesty. There’s also a Game of Thrones version, in which gameplay is adapted to the HBO series.
“99 Bricks: Wizard Academy”
This unique take on Tetris turns the puzzle game upside down. The player’s task is to build a tower instead of clear away lines. The formula is also shaken up by “opponents”—other wizards who throw ice blocks and supersized blocks into your path. You can counter these with your spells.
As a new spin on a timeless classic, this one succeeds at expanding familiar gameplay in interesting ways. It’s free to try, with a $1 (at the time of writing) in-app purchase to remove advertising.