Proof Recommends: The Top 100 Android Video Games

In this new series, one author—among other things, a professor of digital culture and a long-time professional pop culture critic—ranks Android games, graphic novels, TV shows, films, and more.

{Note: While all these cultural artifacts are worthwhile, tastes will vary—so caveat lector, cave videntium, and caveat emptor. That said, if I have listed a work here, you can rest assured that I earnestly consider it to be badass and say so without any inducement from any party. These opinions are mine alone. To quote Donovan—by way of poet C.E. Chaffin—this is “one man’s opinion of moonlight.” Works with a star (⭐) are regarded as “the best of the best of the best.”}

Author’s Note

See this link—to “Proof Recommends the Best of the Best: Android Games”—for the “ground rules” for this entry in the “Proof Recommends the Best of the Best” series.

I hope Proof subscribers will suggest new games for me to try in the comments below! If you’d like to see my Twitter thread talking about this list, you can find it at this link.

Introduction

The one thing I’d add to the text at the above link is that in reviewing video games at Indiewire, and thereafter in teaching video games in the Digital Language Arts B.A. program at University of New Hampshire, I was perpetually astounded at how wide the variance was (and remains) between video game critics’ assessments of mobile games in particular. Whereas there tends to be a general consensus on most if not all console games—if Famitsu loves a game, it’s not like you’re suddenly going to discover that IGN and Polygon both hate it—with Android games we often find that a game that shows up at #1 on one list might not appear on five other Top 10 lists or even in the Top 200 in a comprehensive ranking on a website with hundreds of tiered entries.

One might conclude that the issue is simply volume—with tens of thousands of mobile games and a variable enough interest in graphics among hardcore mobile gamers that even games with dated graphics but compelling gameplay can be crowd favorites for years—but in truth, each generation of consoles has more than enough games in it that you’d expect much more disagreement between critics of console games than we see. So what explains the broad distinctions between ranked lists of mobile games?

My theory, as a professional cultural critic and a professor of cultural studies, is that the culture of mobile gaming is distinct from the culture console gaming—and that this distinction is driven by hardware. People choose to game on their phone rather than a console for so many different reasons that you can actually identify entirely different philosophies for ranking mobile games. Some critics put co-op games atop their lists no matter what; others look for ports of popular console games; others are so focused on the duration of mobile gaming sessions—generally speaking, shorter than those using consoles—that they favor games whose unit of measure (the discrete play sessions) is as small as possible; others consider mobile gaming only appropriate for a few genres of gaming (say racing or board games) with the result that their rankings are almost devoid of any genre that requires a very different sort of attention or time commitment (say RPGs or very complex puzzle games). Some critics have no interest in ranking games more than a year old, borrowing an inclination to “sunset” games from the “generation”-based discourse of console gaming (for those curious, we’re in the ninth generation of video game consoles) while other critics swear by mobile games from many years ago on the theory that the graphics of mobile games hardly matter at all. And because mobile gaming faces certain trends that certain critics so abhor that it transform their thinking dramatically—for instance, via an aversion to gacha (character-collection) games, PTW (pay-to-win) games, games with excessive ads, games with excessive microtransactions, games whose download time and constant updates quickly become onerous—if you don’t know the biases of a critic, you can find yourself bewildered at why a given mobile game is #3 on one list and #398 on another.

All of which is to say that I have biases, too. I have all of the usual ones regarding ads, microtransactions, load times, gacha games, unnecessary ports, and graphics fetishism, but I also find myself left cold by games that don’t seem to acknowledge the ways in which the culture of mobile gaming is quite simply wildly different from the culture of console gaming. The reason it’s so great that mobile games tend to be free or cheap is that it means one can guiltlessly jump from game to game; so if a game costs $19.99 or if it has a steep learning curve or if it’s based on a mythos you have to have known for years to fully appreciate it (think World of Warcraft, Magic: The Gathering, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the giant stable of Disney characters), it has a steeper hill to climb on a list like mine because it’s making demands of my time, attention, and emotional commitment that aren’t always appropriate for a mobile gaming session.

This doesn’t mean that I’d ever call a game “bad” that isn’t, it’s just that I’m not sure that spending months learning the lore of The Witcher to fully appreciate Gwent: The Witcher Card Game or spending hundreds of hours on PUBG Mobile when—if I’d wanted to spend hundreds of hours on PUBG at all—I’d do it on a console is the best use of my allotment of mobile gaming hours. I think it says something when you play a game and think to yourself, “This was made to be played in this way, on this hardware, in the timeframe and with the level of focus mobile gaming encourages and rewards.”

One last thought: no one has enough time, money, attention, or energy to play every Android game, so every Top 100 ranking that isn’t crowdsourced is going to of course be one person’s opinion and the product of which games they have or haven’t played. I have always tried to be transparent about my biases as a pop culture critic, and also to be clear about the fact that there are certain games I just haven’t had a chance to get to yet. That’s one reason you find a Next Up on the Docket section below (so you can see some games I definitely haven’t played yet) and a New Recommended Games section (so you can see which games have been newly added to the ranking). At this point I can tell you that any game ranked #75 or below on the following Top 100 list is in grave danger of being replaced the next time you encounter a ranking like this one at Proof.


Proof Recommends: The Top 100 Android Video Games

{with ranking, game title, and game category}

  1. Retro Bowl, Sports

  2. Meteorfall: Journeys, Card RPG

  3. Mini Metro, Strategy

  4. Bad North, Strategy

  5. Kingdom: Two Crowns, Strategy

  6. Pirates & Outlaws, Card RPG

  7. Untold, RPG

  8. Sorcery!, RPG

  9. Alto’s Adventure, Endless Runner

  10. Knightmare Tower, Roguelike (Action RPG)

  11. Battle Chasers: Nightwar, RPG

  12. Gris, Adventure

  13. Card Thief, Card RPG

  14. Sky: Children of the Light, Adventure

  15. Limbo, Adventure

  16. Genshin Impact, Action RPG

  17. Solitairica, Card RPG

  18. Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale, Card RPG

  19. Monument Valley, Adventure

  20. Alto’s Odyssey, Endless Runner

  21. Skiing Yeti Mountain, Sports

  22. Knights of the Card Table, Card RPG

  23. Sky Force: Reloaded, Shooter

  24. Threes, Card Game

  25. Dead Cells, Action RPG

  26. Alone, Endless Runner

  27. Summer Catchers, Endless Runner

  28. Grim Quest, RPG

  29. Titan Slayer, Card RPG

  30. Gorogoa, Puzzle

  31. Oddmar, Action RPG

  32. Maze Machina, Strategy

  33. Slay the Spire, Roguelike (Card RPG)

  34. Framed, Puzzle

  35. The Bonfire, Strategy

  36. The Office Quest, Puzzle

  37. Knighthood, RPG (Turn-Based)

  38. Tiny Bubbles, Puzzle

  39. Frost, RPG (Turn-Based)

  40. Burrito Bison, Endless Runner (Action RPG)

  41. Otherworld Legends, Action RPG

  42. Underhand, Card RPG

  43. I Love Hue, Puzzle

  44. Super Stickman Golf 2, Sports

  45. Badminton League, Sports

  46. Two Dots, Puzzle

  47. Old Man’s Journey, Adventure

  48. Inked, Adventure

  49. Lumino City, Adventure

  50. Card Hog, Card RPG

  51. Angry Birds 2, Action RPG

  52. Asphalt 9: Legends, Racing

  53. Hitman GO, Strategy

  54. 80 Days, Strategy

  55. Night of the Full Moon, Card RPG

  56. Lone Wolf, Action RPG

  57. Table Top Racing: World Tour, Racing

  58. Card City Nights, Card RPG

  59. Mini Football, Sports

  60. Jetpack Joyride, Endless Runner (Roguelike)

  61. Pocket City, Simulation (Management)

  62. Exploding Kittens, Card Game

  63. Raid: Shadow Legends, RPG (Turn-Based)

  64. Warriors of Waterdeep, RPG (Turn-Based)

  65. Demon Blade, Action RPG

  66. Crossy Road, Adventure

  67. There Is No Game, Puzzle

  68. AI Dungeon, RPG (Text-Based)

  69. Desert Golfing, Sports

  70. The Room, Puzzle

  71. Scrabble Go, Board Game

  72. Gnomitaire, Card Game

  73. Tomorrow Will Be Worse, Adventure (Text-Based)

  74. Tokaido, Strategy

  75. Minimal Dungeon RPG, RPG (Text-Based)

  76. Dawncaster, Card RPG

  77. Rymdkapsel, Simulation (Adventure)

  78. Skullgirls, Fighting

  79. Holedown, Puzzle (Shooter)

  80. Marvel Strike Force, RPG (Turn-Based)

  81. Disney’s Sorcerer’s Arena, RPG (Turn-Based)

  82. Pocket Mortys, RPG (Turn-Based)

  83. Teeny Titans Go, RPG (Turn-Based)

  84. Hoop League, Sports

  85. World of Goo, Strategy (Adventure)

  86. Raiders of the North Sea, Board Game

  87. Magic the Gathering: Arena, Card Game (Collectible)

  88. Hearthstone, Card Game (Collectible)

  89. Legends of Runeterra, Card Game (Collectible)

  90. Cytus II, Music/Rhythm

  91. New Star Soccer, Sports

  92. Mitoza, Adventure (Image-Based)

  93. Postknight, Action RPG

  94. State.io, Strategy (Action)

  95. Battleheart, Action RPG

  96. Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, Card Game (Collectible)

  97. Brawlhalla, Fighting

  98. Hill Climb Racing, Racing

  99. Data Wing, Racing *

  100. World Soccer Champs, Sports

*I may need to give this one another try. My first impression was pretty bad, but there was something there that I think is worth exploring further.


Newly Recommended Games

Adventure

Demon Blade

Card Games

Titan Slayer
Underhand

Endless Runners

Alone
Summer Catchers

Puzzle

I Love Hue
Maze Machina

Roguelike

Burrito Bison
Dead Cells

Knightmare Tower
Otherworld Legends

Simulation

Pocket City

Sports

Mini Football
Skiing Yeti Mountain

Strategy

Kingdom: Two Crowns


New Honorable Mentions

Battleheart
Crossy Road
Cytus II
^
Gnomitaire
Dawncaster
Old Man’s Journey

Raiders of the North Sea
Rymdkapsel
^^
Teeny Titans: Teen Titan Go
Tokaido
Tomorrow Will Be Worse
World of Goo

^ I’ll be honest—I had no idea what was happening while I was playing this game. I suspect you may have to have played the first one to have any idea what to do. But as a “rhythm” game in the Music genre, the graphics were gorgeous, the music very good, the gameplay clearly something one could pick up (there are multiple characters, a shop, and a loose narrative) and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this was great fun to play.
^^ Yes, this is how it’s spelled.


Next Up On the Docket

A Good Snowman
Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies *
Cultist Simulator
Dumb Ways to Die 2
Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition
Florence
Lara Croft GO
Layton’s Mystery Journey
Love You to Bits
Machinarium
Mushroom 11
Plants vs. Zombies 2
Reigns: Her Majesty
Rush Rally 3
Slither.io
Super Mario Run
Triple Town

*Just tried this and was not at all impressed, possibly because this game should under no circumstances whatsoever be played by anyone who has actually practiced law.