The 20 Best Android Games

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The 20 Best Android Games

Not all of the best Android games are also on the iPhone, just as not every iPhone game is also available on Android devices. That’s weird: Android’s the biggest operating system in the world, and not just on smartphones. If your goal is to have the largest possible audience, Android seems like the play to make. It may not get the hype or the apps that iOS does, but Android is pretty much everywhere. And yes, there are tons of great games available for phones running this OS. Here’s a quick look at the 20 best, once again in no particular order.

Lara Croft Go

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Last year’s Hitman Go was a crowd-pleaser, and its successor, Lara Croft Go, really is every bit as good as they say. It’s prettier and more action-packed than Hitman—in other words, it’s better in almost every regard—all while refining the turn-based puzzle/action design template that made Hitman Go so successful last year. Mimicking Agent 47’s “stealth” sequences, Lara now has to sneak up on snakes to shoot them—okay—but Lara’s world is so much less static than Hitman Go’s was. With Lara running and jumping and clambering up cliffs with such vigor and life, you might forget that this puzzle game is entirely turn-based. It’s all quite a feat, especially given that, on a mobile phone, Lara is a centimeter tall.—Jenn Frank


Dark Echo

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As the name suggests, Dark Echo is built around sound. The screen is black except for your shoes and the sound waves that reverberate from your steps. You have to closely watch the sound waves to avoid traps and find the unseen exit to each stage. This dependence on audio might limit when and where you can play the game—you can suss it out on sight alone, but it definitely helps to pay attention to what you hear—but when you’re able to plug in a pair of headphones Dark Echo is a top-flight puzzle game that emphasizes a sense often overlooked by games.—Garrett Martin


Prune

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Prune is unabashedly an ‘art’ game, but it has zero pretensions: At its core, it’s a gorgeous, solid puzzle game. In it, you shear a lone tree’s branches (by swiping at the touch screen), carving away at the tree so that its limbs will grow around numerous obstacles and curl toward the sunlight. Apparently, the game itself was inspired by the practice of trimming bonsai, which might make Prune sound like a slow, contemplative, perhaps even arduous game experience. It isn’t. Because the tree grows so quickly, Prune often tends more toward an ‘action’ pace: You can usually brute-force your way to level’s end by beating back vines as fast as you can—which is to say, there isn’t a ‘right’ way to play Prune. It’s graceful, sophisticated, and wholly gratifying to play.—Jenn Frank


Pac-Man 256

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The original Pac-Man effectively ends on the 256th screen. A glitch covers half the level with gibberish, and it’s impossible to collect enough dots to move to the next screen. Pac-Man 256 uses that kill screen as the basis for an endless version of the all-time classic, where you have to stay alive as long as possible while avoiding the ghosts and outrunning the glitch. The backstory doesn’t make it great—it’s the smooth way in which this game takes a primordial gaming experience and turns it into an addictive and contemporary mobile experience without losing any of that classic spirit.—Garrett Martin


Downwell

Downwell is a crunchy, rapid-fire “Spelunky-like” (are we at that point already? Are we prepared to start describing games as “Spelunky-likes”?) but, instead of side-scrolling, Downwell occurs vertically, in a procedurally-generated dungeon that the player falls down through. The player’s sprite will often fall right past powerups, enemies, and treasure rooms, making the game wonderfully frenetic torture. Fortunately, the player is equipped with a pair of goddamn gun-boots—making you, the player, feel incredibly powerful for every second you’re not staring in shock at the Game Over screen. —Jenn Frank


Ridiculous Fishing

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Ridiculous Fishing is a story about a man’s attempt at becoming one with nature in an attempt to settle a personal vendetta against the ocean. It is a story about a world that exchanges fish that have been liquified by gunfire for surprisingly large amounts of cash. It is a story about birds making fun of each other on the internet. Ultimately, and in a pretty roundabout way, it is a story about coming to terms with the infinite.—Joe Bernardi


Monument Valley

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Monument Valley is a brief, wondrous piece of art about structure and perspective. Technically it’s a puzzle game, available now for iOS and coming soon to Android, but its puzzles serve less as brain-teasers than as a vehicle to explore Ustwo’s beautifully crafted environments. The game’s artwork, which unfolds across ten succinct chapters, borrows heavily from the works of M.C. Escher, the Dutch graphic artist known for his “impossible constructions”—grand rooms filled with infinite staircases, balconies simultaneously above and below one another, spires at once in the foreground and background. Monument Valley isn’t entirely about optical illusion, but its pastel stages consistently channel this brand of imagination.—Matt Akers


Hundreds

Hundreds is about the distance between objects. It’s about making circles grow as much as they can without impeding the progress of others. It’s about coexisting peacefully in a cramped, indifferent world that we have minimal control over. Mostly, though, Hundreds is about touching.—Garrett Martin


Drop7

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Drop7 was an early and essentially perfect puzzle game for the iPhone. The interface is slick and uncluttered, the controls are dependent on nothing but a slide of the finger, and the rules are immediately understandable. It’s not easy, though, offering up the kind of constantly escalating challenge you expect from classic puzzle games. It’s been seven years since Drop7 came out and it’s still the best example of this type of game for this type of device.—Garrett Martin


80 Days

Not only is 80 Days a near-perfect travel game, but it’s also a near-perfect game about traveling. Think Jules Verne meets a visual novel meets Oregon Trail and that should put you somewhere in the right neighborhood. On top of being beautifully illustrated this is also easily one of the most well-written games available on the App Store. The downside? If reading while you’re in a car (bus, plane, train…) often makes you nauseous, 80 Days should be the absolute last thing you reach for.—Janine Hawkins

Love Live: School Idol Festival

If you have access to a Japanese iTunes account, you might already be familiar with the vast world of “idol games.” Half collectable card games, half rhythm games, Idol Games are a slightly creepy offshoot of the Anime Industrial Complex. But if you’re just looking for a fun and challenging rhythm game you can play on the bus you can’t really go wrong with Love Live: School Idol Festival. Packed to the brim with personality, Love Live just wants you to collect and get to know these teenage girls, (yes I know how that sounds), but it really wouldn’t mind if you spend money on its many currencies. But no matter how exploited I feel, I’ll still fire up the game whenever there’s an event going on or a new SSR card to collect. I just really love those girls.—Gita Jackson


Jetpack Joyride

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Videogames used to exist solely to suck up every quarter of our baby-sitting and paper route money. They offered short bursts of play with a goal no greater than making the high score board. Mobile games often share the same sensibility today, and Jetpack Joyride fulfills its end of that bargain better than most games. Few games stunned me more with “just one more time” paralysis than this infectious one-finger pursuit. No matter how far I fly with that jetpack (or dirtbike, or mechanical dragon) it will never be far enough.—Garrett Martin


Threes

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Threes is an elegant finger-slider for the discriminating player. The goal is to combine tiles on a four by four grid by sliding them into other tiles with the same numbers on them. Two threes combine to form a six, two sixes form a 12, and so on. You don’t slide individual tiles or rows, though—you slide every tile on the board in the same direction whenever you swipe. The game starts with nine tiles on the board, and a new one appears every time you swipe. Once the board is full and there are no possible combinations left, the game ends and your score is calculated. It might look complicated in words, but it’s a simple concept with a surprising amount of personality.—Garrett Martin


Alto’s Adventure

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Consider this like Canabalt with snowboarding, llamas, breathtaking mountain vistas, a day-night cycle, and cranky old people who will toss your ass down a hillside if you disturb them. So maybe not much like Canabalt after all.—Janine Hawkins


Desert Golfing

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I can go on about how Desert Golfing is a knowing deconstruction of the mobile game, how its series of simple and repetitive swipes boils the entire form down to its most basic parts, with barely any embellishment at all. I mean it looks like an Atari game, just a two-tone background with a white dot for a ball, blocky white numbers and a small yellow flag. I could talk about how it locks us into our failures, preventing us from restarting and replaying levels. About how it pretty much never ends. But in that time I could add like another thirty strokes to my total on hole 2000 and something, so I’ll just go do that instead.—Garrett Martin


Super Hexagon

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Disclaimer: Paste Games Editor-at-Large Jenn Frank did voiceover work for this game. Other than a few previously published entries for other games, she was not involved in the decision making process for this list at all.
Super Hexagon is incredibly challenging , but it understands to a remarkable degree how players progress to that tipping point. This continuous point of revelation—that place where the player and the developer have a real honest moment of communication—is what Super Hexagon gets right.—Luke Larsen


Eliss Infinity

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Playing Eliss Infinity feels like juggling. While you’ve got one ball in the air, you need to be thinking about the one you are catching, as well as the new ball that is about to get thrown into the routine. In Eliss Infinity, you’re tasked with the mission of combining planets of the same colors that pop up and “scoring” them in same-colored portals, all while keeping them from touching other planets of different colors. It’s a simple idea, but things get hairy really fast—especially in the high score Infinity mode. The Infinity mode really is the big new thing here, and the classic Eliss gameplay absolutely shines in this new mode. Not since Super Hexagon have you had so much fun while being so utterly stressed out.—Matt Akers


Hitman Go

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Hitman Go transposes Hitman to the context of a board game, and in doing so makes every aspect it touches smarter. Guns and weapons are no longer tools of reckless aggression, but board tactics for puzzle solving and path opening, used only in careful consideration of cutting through the ranks of the other player’s men. People have always been pieces, and Hitman has always been about manipulating them to accomplish a grisly deed. Go focuses more on the former than the latter, to the effect of not burying itself in needless pulp.—Matt Akers


Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP

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Sword & Sworcery’s most awe-inspiring moments take place when it allows us to forget about ourselves, our world, our iPhone and our Twitter followers for long enough to take in the wonders that it presents. Danger feels imminent and foreboding, and the animal and plant life seem organic and ethereal. While performing the “Songs of Sworcery” our fingers seem to trigger magical wonders and beautiful music. The story itself is beautiful in its simplicity, and it is so effective because it lingers on implications rather than literalities.—Richard Clark


Kim Kardashian: Hollywood

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The greatest asset for videogames as fiction, one that it holds over other forms of media, is the immediacy with which you can identify with people and experiences that are not your own. While books and movies allow you to observe, videogames really allow you to be someone else. With each little tap on my tablet’s screen, I feel like I am closer to experiencing Mrs. Kardashian West’s world, though with less pressure, and the ability to turn it off. If there’s any reason or purpose for this game other than to put more money in Kimberly Noel Kardashian West’s pocket, it’s this: You want to know why Kim Kardashian is famous? It’s because she works.—Gita Jackson

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