The Best Multiplayer Games for Android – March 2018
While some may prefer to game alone in the comfort of their own home, it’s no secret that gaming with friends can be a total blast if you have the right crew behind you. Whether it’s playing locally, sharing a screen or playing on multiple handheld devices, or you’re playing across the internet, in different homes or even halfway around the world, playing online can be cooperative and competitive, allowing you to work together with your teammates or go in for the kill. Multiplayer gaming isn’t limited to consoles and gaming PCs, though. There’s a wide-reaching market for multiplayer games right on your phone, allowing you to battle with and against your friends, work together to solve puzzles, or combat strangers online in a 1 versus 100 duel to the death.
In fact, the flexibility of mobile devices allow for the development of some really interesting games. Android and other mobile platforms allow you to combine real life and gaming, use your phones as controllers while a television acts as your display, and even message friends and teammates while playing a multi-day campaign to battle other individuals over the web. We’ve looked at the wide spectrum of games available on the Play Store and chose the ten that represent the pinnacle of mobile multiplayer gaming, both online and locally with friends. These are games that allow you to work together or compete, allow you to share a screen or split the play on each separate mobile device, and most importantly, don’t let in-app purchases and bad game design get in the way of having fun.
No matter what you’re looking for in a mobile title, there’s bound to be a game on this list that impresses you. Let’s dive into our favorite multiplayer games for Android!
If you’re a resident of North America, you probably haven’t heard of Arena of Valor until recently. Though the game’s been out since 2015 in China as Kings of Glory, the game expanded to the United States at the end of 2017 on both iOS and Android, making it the first time English-speaking players have managed to play the game. Developed by Tencent Games, a division of Chinese conglomerate Tencent, the game’s mobile release began a massive push for the mobile MOBA title that will culminate in a launch on the Nintendo Switch sometime this year. Though it’s unclear how successful the game has been in the first few months of the year, there’s no better time to jump into one of the hottest worldwide MOBAs on your phone today.
Any fans of Riot Games and League of Legends will immediately recognize a lot of what made Arena of Valor the international hit it is today. Riot Games is owned by Tencent just like Tencent Games, which has allowed the two to share assets and gameplay modes, making for the closest game to League of Legends on mobile yet. In a world where PC games are being ported to mobile devices at increasing rates (more on that later in this article), the fact that Arena of Valor takes what makes League so successful and translates that to a mobile-friendly game that still feels just as fun to play as the original is a miracle. With the click of a mouse replaced with a virtual joystick, it may not be exactly what MOBA diehards are looking for, but it’s still worth trying out on your own time.
Playing through a few matches on the title, it’s easy to see why Arena of Valor was so successful in developing an audience in China. To our surprise, the game was one of the best mobile MOBA titles we’ve played yet, combining easy to learn controls with the complexity of desktop battle arena games. As mentioned, you move around the map with a joystick in the corner of your screen, as you control one of dozens of rotating champions that allow you free access to the game. On the right side of the screen is your lineup of abilities, three per character, that allow you to attack and destroy your enemies. These grow stronger throughout the match as your power grows each level. Though the rotating champions are the easiest way to get into the game, you don’t have to use them if you’re willing to drop real money or in-game currency on purchasable champions.
Despite Arena‘s modified control scheme from something like League or Dota 2, everything feels accurate and easy to control. The store interface is tap-friendly, as are your abilities that make it easy to level up. You’re always aware of where your target lies with an enemy hero or minion, which makes it easy to target a character inside the game. On our test Pixel 2 XL, we saw no noticeable frame drops in both bot matches or online play; everything seemed to hold up to around 60FPS. It’s fair to say this level of polish has something to do to Arena‘s connection to League of Legends, but by no means is that a bad thing. In fact, though Arena often looks identical to its desktop-based older brother, that connection has basically ensured the game looks and plays great.
In addition to original characters, you’ll also find sponsored champions filling in the game, including the likes of Batman put in place of characters based on Chinese folklore that would be unrecognizable stateside. You can use Facebook to connect with friends, and with built-in online voice chat (a rarity in online mobile MOBAs, as far as we’re aware), you can communicate and plan strategies all while playing around the world without the need for a keyboard. Unsurprisingly, there are a ton of in-app purchases available here, though they’re mostly used for skins and other non-essential content. Still, this is essentially a mobile-friendly version of League of Legends, and any fans of that game will be foolish not to jump on the bandwagon with this one. Whether the US popularity will match what we’ve seen in China remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Tencent is doing their best to find success in a previously-untapped market.
Unlike other games on this list, Dual is an indie project that isn’t based on an existing project or developed in order to port a project from PC or consoles to mobile devices. Instead, Dual (which is stylized in all capital letters but for the sake of this article will remain in lowercase) is a project designed for people looking to play a game between two devices locally. There’s no single player campaign or options, and there’s no online multiplayer. With Dual, it’s you and a friend, battling it out for victory as you tilt and move your device to score against your enemy in real time. It’s a blast to play, and is absolutely worth checking out for anyone looking to play games with their fellow Android-owning friends.
The basic setup of Dual is pretty simple, even if it seems overly complex at first. You and a friend grab your phones, pair them together over Bluetooth or WiFi, and you stand (or sit, but it’s best played standing) next to each other, phone to phone. The battlefield of Dual, composed of minimal graphics and black backdrops, stretches across both displays on your phones, which is why it’s important to be close to each other in order to see the puck slide across screens. Throughout the game, you use your phone’s gyroscope to move your piece, moving it around to tap on the puck sliding back and forth and to push the piece between both sides. As you battle, you’ll be trying to score on the opponent by sliding the puck into their goal, like air hockey or Pong, while defending yourself from bullets and other power-ups that come from each ship.
There’s a few different game modes as well, including a mode that requires you to defend your side from an onslaught of attackers by working together with your friend and a mode that requires you to deflect the ball off of the side of the arena in order to score and win the game. These additional modes join the basic dueling mode that allow you to change up the gameplay against your opponents, making it an incredibly fun twist on the multiplayer genre, and allowing for some changes to the core gameplay. One fun twist to the game: you can collect color sets for your player “tokens” within the game, and each device has its own color set, which means you’ll need to play against multiple friends to collect every color.
Perhaps the best thing about Dual is its price. It’s a free to play game, with the basic Duel mode available for free to all players and all unlocks available for just $1.99. Only one player has to buy the $1.99 unlock to play with other people, so once you own the game yourself, all of your friends can play all three game modes assuming they’re playing with you within the game. Dual also has crossplay with Android and iOS, which means you aren’t limited to who you can play with based on your platform of choice, and the game is still routinely updated with new modes and new patches. Ultimately, all of this makes for a great local multiplayer title, something you can try out for free and buy into at an incredibly low price if you wish. With no ads and only the single unlock price for the whole game, Dual is one of those titles you just want to support on mobile platforms. Definitely check this one out.
Hearthstone is the first of four games on this list to be ported from PC or console to Android (the second of five if you count Arenas of Valor as an unofficial port of League of Legends), and chances are, you’ve heard of the popular online collectible card game (or CCG, similar to trading card games, or TCG). Developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch, Hearthstone‘s success comes from its gorgeous graphics, its easy-to-learn gameplay, and its free to play nature. It’s one of the best multiplayer games on Android today, and it’s easy to see why once you pick up the title. Let’s take a look.
Diving into the world of collectable card games can be fun and exciting, especially if you have friends who are interested in joining in and playing with you, or who already have built decks and joined the community. Unfortunately, cards and booster packs can be expensive, and if you’re concerned about dropping $50 or more just to get started with Magic: The Gathering or YuGiOh, the good news is that Hearthstone can be an excellent alternative to both of those games. (It’s worth noting both of those titles have their own online versions playable through Android, though neither measure up to the excellency of Hearthstone.) The fact that Hearthstone is free to play, with limited ads and the ability to basically bypass in-app purchases if you’re willing to grind out some matches, is one of the best reasons to dive into the game if you’re interested in the genre.
When you begin playing Hearthstone, the game starts by supplying you with a starter deck, full of some basic cards that make victory possible against early opponents, both AI-based and human. It’s a friendly game to start playing, with tutorial options, guides available from players online, and a chat system that doesn’t allow for griefing, taunting, or harassment. Don’t be fooled, however: there’s a ton of depth to Hearthstone, and the game gets seriously complex once you dive farther into the mechanics of more advanced cards. As you battle against more difficult opponents, you’ll begin to learn how to balance your deck, what strategies work and which don’t, and you’ll slowly begin to develop a play style of your own, unique to your own abilities.
The matches are simply and relatively short. Once you’ve assembled your deck, you’ll be pushed into a duel with another player. Each character takes their turn, playing cards on the virtual table in front of them. There are four types of cards: minions, weapons, and abilities, along with quests from the Journey to Un’Goro expansion deck. Your minions have their own attack types as well, including Warrior, Rogue, Druid, Mage, and more. Each card costs a certain amount of mana to summon, and feature their own hit points and attack points. Using strategy and a combination of cards, monsters, and effects, you unleash attacks on your opponents cards and, eventually, their own hitpoints, lowering them to zero health and eventually eliminating them from the table.
We will say this: on Android, the mobile app is fairly large, requiring at least 2GB of free space for the app when you install the game on your phone. Still, once you have it active, you’ll realize how fun this game can be to play, and if you get into it, it’s well worth keeping on your phone (plus, you can use the same account on your computer). Oh, and when it comes to paying for cards, you can drop cash on unlocks, or just keep playing the game for free expansion packs. Hearthstone may not be a direct translation of a game like YuGiOh or Magic, but Hearthstone is the first major trading card game to arrive first and foremost for digital devices. Whether you’re playing on mobile or PC, you’ll have a blast in this collectible trading card game. Definitely don’t sleep on this one if you’re looking for fun multiplayer games.
First, a caveat: you’ll need more than just an Android phone to play this game. The entire library of Jackbox Party Packs require something that can output to a television, but luckily, you probably already have something that can manage. Do you have a midrange or better PC or Macbook? You can probably manage to run these games. Have an Android TV, Apple TV, or a Fire OS device? You can run Jackbox. Do you have a gaming console from this or last generation, including an Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, or Nintendo Switch? You can run Jackbox on those devices too. The game is even capable of running on some Comcast cable boxes. The breadth of devices the game can run on makes it ideal for anyone looking for a party game to play with their roommates, friends, or family members.
At this point, you may be wondering why a game that would require a specific device would make its way onto a list of the best Android multiplayer games. Jackbox Games have been developing party titles for over two decades, but they’re best known for their most recent titles, the Jackbox Party Packs. The general concept is simple: you and some friends gather around the television, playing party games that involve trivia, art skills, creativity, word games, and other laugh-inducing hilarity, controlling input from your smartphone’s browser. The games are typically designed for up to eight people, though some games have a smaller limit on users and some games really only work if you have a large group of players. The game is best played locally with a room full of your friends, but playing online is also an option using streaming services like Twitch.
Setting up the game is simple. Once you’ve purchased the Pack of your choice (there are four of them—we’ll dive into more detail below), you start the game on the device (gaming console, Fire TV, etc.) and choose one of the five games included in each pack. Once the game starts, you’ll be given a four-letter code to enter at Jackbox.tv on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop (it’s best played with a smartphone), and you’ll join the game room. Once everyone’s in, the first person who joined the game starts, and the rules will either be quickly explained for new players or, if the rules are a bit longer, you’ll be given the option to skip if you’ve played before. No game is too complicated to learn, and most games are appropriate even for younger players. For those games with raunchier input, you can typically turn on a family-friendly filter in the settings of the game.
From there, you simply follow through what the game wants from you. Most games are unique, with only a few sequels to earlier games here and there. With four Jackbox Party Packs now on the market (one a year since 2014), there are more than 20 games to pick from, split up between each pack. Here’s a quick breakdown of each Party Pack, along with our recommendations for each.
- Jackbox Party Pack (PS3, PS4, X360, XOne, PC, Mac, Switch, and more): The original pack, this includes You Don’t Know Jack 2015, a new version of the original trivia game Jackbox developed in the 90s; Fibbage XL, a trivia game that involves knowing the truth from the lies; Drawful, a game similar to Pictionary; and more! Despite being the first Party Pack, this might not be the best place to start for new players, but if all you have is an Xbox 360, this is the one for you.
- Jackbox Party Pack 2 (PS3, PS4, XOne, PC, Mac, Switch, and more): This pack introduced Quiplash XL to the pack, a game originally sold on its own, which allows you to enter funny comments as an answer to a question. Two prompts then go up against each other, and players vote to score points. Quiplash is one of the best games for new players in the Jackbox series, which might make Party Pack 2 a solid place to start. It’s also the final version released on the PS3. Other games include Bidiots, Earwax, and Fibbage 2.
- Jackbox Party Pack 3 (PS4, XOne, PC, Mac, Switch, Apple TV, Android TV, and more): Quiplash 2 is one of the standouts here, but frankly, Party Pack 3 is one of the best ones yet. In addition to Quiplash 2, which remains a great starter game, Fakin It introduces one of the most original games we’ve seen from the dev team, which involves trying to lie your way out of prompts you might not even know. Trivia Murder Party is a solid trivia game with some dark humor, and Guesspionage and Tee-KO also make for a solid pack.
- Jackbox Party Pack 4 (PS4, XOne, PC, Mac, Switch, Apple TV, Android TV, and more): The newest pack, this is the only pack to include more than five games. The standout here is Fibbage 3 and its pack-in, Fibbage: Enough About You, which combines the lying-based trivia from Fibbage with lies about yourself. Survive the Internet is a Quiplash-style creative game, Bracketeering is a fun bracket-based game where you bet on which submissions are best, Civic Doodle is a fun twist on the usual drawing game addition, and Monster Seeking Monster is a dating game where you’ll have to message users to get them to go on dates while trying to gain hearts.
Ultimately, we think starting with Party Pack 3 is the best place for new players. It has Quiplash 2, which is a great starting point for new players, and Fakin It and Trivia Murder Party are fun additions to a great pack. From there, either go with Party Pack 4 or Party Pack 2. Four has some crazy additions to the game, while Two is an excellent addition in the vein of Three. Ultimately, all of them except for maybe the original are worth keeping on your devices, and even the original is a solid party game. If you’re used to having multiple friends or family members over at once, or you don’t mind starting up an online voice chat with a ton of friends and streaming the game to them online, Jackbox is a great way to spend a Saturday night.
At this point, no one is going to be surprised by the addition of Minecraft to any kind of gaming roundup. The game, which has been on the market for nearly nine years, is and has been a massive phenomenon for most of its existence. Considering it’s on nearly every modern platform, it should be no surprise that Minecraft is the second best-selling video game of all time, behind only Tetris. The game is big enough that the development team, Mojang, was bought by Microsoft in 2014. That hasn’t stopped the game from expanding to every platform under the sun, however, and Android is only one of the many platforms where you can dive into the infamous brick-building game to let your creativity—and your survival skills—flourish.
Those unfamiliar with the game will likely have at least heard of the title, or seen the merchandise in stores around the world. If you’ve played or watched gameplay surrounding Minecraft before, feel free to skip this paragraph. For everyone else, Minecraft is a sandbox game where your goal (in the standard Survival mode) is to use the materials in the block-based world around you to build and create shelter, weapons, and more to defend against the creatures that come out at night. The game allows you to make tools in order to gather more difficult resources by chipping away at the world around you, and once you have enough resources to protect yourself from creepers, spiders, zombies, and more, you’re free to explore the caverns, waterways, and more of the world around. There’s also a Creative mode, which allows you more power over the world without the threat of enemies to build anything you want.
The mobile version of Minecraft (formerly Minecraft: Pocket Edition) started as a testing-only project from Mojang in 2011, with a limited featureset and as an exclusive for the Sony Xperia Play, a phone that crossed Sony’s mobile efforts with their Playstation line of products. When the game finally came to Android and, later, iOS, it was only available in an early alpha build. At the time, the game lacked basic features of the traditional desktop game, including the Survival mode that most players use when playing the game traditionally. Slowly but surely, the game rolled out updates and features, pacing well behind the desktop version of Minecraft but nevertheless becoming a more viable option for players who couldn’t play the standard game. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 when the game finally added the endgame called The End, thus upgrading the game to version 1.0 and finally becoming a standard port of the title.
If you’re concerned about using touchscreen controls on your phone, don’t be. Despite the obvious concern a die hard Minecraft fan would have about using two thumbs on a glass screen to control movement, jumping, and more in the world of Minecraft, the controls are actually pretty solid. A virtual D-pad sits in the lower-left corner of the display, with a button for jumping on the right side of the screen. To place a block, tap anywhere on the screen, and swipe along the display to move the camera. Selecting items from your inventory is easy; just tap on the item in the bottom of the screen, or open your inventory full-screen to organize it. Dropping items is easy as well, and can be completed by just holding the item icon for two seconds. For anyone still concerned on the controls, rest assured the game supports Bluetooth controllers on Android as well, which means anyone with around $30 to spare can pick up a controller to make playing on the go way easier.
Despite having reached version 1.0 in 2016, updates haven’t stopped, however, and in fact, a major update rolled out to players last fall that completely changed the name. Codenamed the Bedrock Edition because of the new Bedrock Engine powering the game, the Xbox One version, Android version, Fire OS version, Windows version, and soon, the Switch version of the game were all lumped into one world under the “Better Together” title, with only the Xbox 360 version (due to its age) and the PS4 version (due to Sony’s unwillingness to allow crossplay between consoles) kept out of this update. Not only did this update add dozens of new features to the game, but it made it an even better multiplayer game for Android.
Under the Bedrock Edition, Minecraft on Android can be played on the same servers as almost every other copy of the game, allowing multiple people to interact on a single hosted server and generally improving how the game plays. It also introduces the Marketplace, a one-stop shop for skins and other themes for the game, allowing you to share your content between different versions of the game. Ultimately, the important takeaway here is that Minecraft for Android has never been quite as powerful as it is now, and recent updates have made it one of the most enjoyable and flexible multiplayer games on Android. If you’re a fan of the title and haven’t yet picked up a copy of the game for mobile, you should absolutely do that.
Yes, seriously, we’re putting Pokemon Go on this list, and for good reason. Not only is the game still one of the most popular multiplayer games throughout the world (despite the massive popularity from the summer of 2016 having long faded away), it’s also one of the few games that involves meeting with people in the real world. Pokemon Go is as communal as you want to make it, and assuming you’re prepared to meet up with players in real-world locations, it can be a serious blast. Whether you’re new to Pokemon Go or you’re a returning player, it’s a surprisingly easy decision to get back into the game. With new features, new Pokemon, and new events unfolding all the time, there’s never been a better reason to dive back into the one-time phenomenon
For those unfamiliar with Pokemon Go, the central concept is simple. Using your GPS and augmented reality tech, you travel around real-world areas catching Pokemon that appear in the field. When a Pokemon appears on your screen, you tap on it on your phone’s display to begin battling it, throwing Pokeballs at the small (or large) creatures in order to capture them for your collection, to train and to care for. In many ways, this emulates the experience of collecting Pokemon in the standard games released on Nintendo handhelds (and soon, the Switch), allowing you to relive some of the memories of playing the games throughout your childhood or young adulthood (or, if you never played the games, feel some of the enjoyment for the first time on a smart device.
The core gameplay of Pokemon Go is simple. You walk around outside in the real world, with your GPS tracking your location on the virtual map inside of the game. As you walk, Pokemon will appear on the map on your screen, and by tapping on each Pokemon will enter you into a battle with them. Once you’re within a battle with the Pokemon you selected, you can use berries to lure it in, and then throw Pokeballs at the screen to capture the Pokemon. AR mode will allow you to see the Pokemon somewhere in the world around you using your camera, but it also makes it a lot harder to catch the critter on your screen. As you throw Pokeballs, you’ll deplete your source, which you can either replenish through in-app purchases or by checking into real-world locations around you called Pokestops.
That’s the basic gameplay of Pokemon Go, but two things make it into a solid multiplayer title. First, Go is one of the few games that actually involves meeting up with people in real life, to play a game in the outside world. As it begins to grow warmer throughout spring and into the summer this year, trying to get your friends back into Pokemon Go, or to get them into it for the first time may be a solid way to spend an afternoon or two, especially if you live in suburban or urban areas. Go‘s second aspect that makes it a blast for anyone looking for a multiplayer title is the changes made to gyms. Thanks to the raid system that was added to the game last year, you and friends who share a team together can hit up a raid together whenever a boss Pokemon takes over a gym. Working together with people in real time to defeat a Pokemon is a blast, and once you’ve won the battle, you get the chance to capture that boss Pokemon, which is often a rare or legendary creature.
Some readers might be brushing off trying out Pokemon Go again, especially if they already tried playing the game nearly two years ago and fell off the title. While we can’t guarantee you’ll ever love the game again, there have been some pretty big advancements since most people last played. First and foremost, several new types of Pokemon have been added from the second and third-generation games, Gold, Silver and Crystal and Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, respectively. This means there’s over 300 unique types of Pokemon you can capture in the game, which means you’ll need to work hard to fill out your Pokedex with the new additions. There’s also added daily and weekly challenges and rewards for playing every day, and an in-game weather system that gives the chance to find specific types of Pokemon based on the weather and time of day in your area. There’s even an updated tracking system that makes finding Pokemon a lot easier than it was two years ago.
Overall, Pokemon Go is still the same flawed-but-enjoyable experience it was in 2016, but the improvements have helped the title come a long way. More features and more Pokemon are on the way, with rumored appearances of Castform and Spinda having just appeared in the app in March. Trading is still rumored to come to the app sometime this year, and we’re still holding out hope the game might even end up getting PvP to make it that much better a multiplayer game. Niantic, the development team behind Pokemon Go, is currently working on a Harry Potter title that promises to let you fight creatures from the Harry Potter universe, but until that game launches sometime this year for iOS and Android, picking up Pokemon Go one last time may prove to be a rewarding venture.
Had we published this review in 2017, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds would still be standing as one of the hottest games in the world, a game that was taking Steam by storm and regularly being streamed on Twitch and YouTube. For $29.99, gamers in 2017 unlocked one of the best third-person shooters to come along in some time. While the game spent most of last year in Early Access, meaning the game wasn’t complete and some serious bugs would occasionally hamper gameplay overall, the game was a surprisingly-fun way to waste away some time. And with the recent mobile release on Android of the game, you can enjoy the same 1 versus 100 experience while on the go, playing with strangers from all across the world.
But of course, we have to address the elephant in the room. While 2017 was undoubtedly the year of PUBG, the first three months of 2018 has belonged squarely to Fortnite: Battle Royale, a free expansion to Fortnite, a game developed by Epic Games. Fortnite‘s popularity began in 2018 after launching the previous fall. While it initially found its audience primarily on the Playstation 4, where PUBG hasn’t been released, it slowly built an audience on other platforms as PUBG succumbed to performance issues on the Xbox One and to cheaters and hackers on the PC version of the game (in addition to the free to play structure as opposed to paying $30 for a license). Fortnite has seen more popularity among younger players over the last few weeks after the iOS version launched, but without an Android version launching at the same time, we heartily recommend playing PUBG on Android as an alternative.
For players new to the battle-royale genre, what exactly is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (and, for that matter, games like it)? PUBG (the official abbreviation for the game, pronounced Pub-G) is a game in which you’re cast against ninety-nine other players in a battle for supremacy, fighting it out in firefights using fists, weapons, guns, and more. Making it more thrilling is the circle that surrounds the entire map, slowly closing in on the action and forcing players into one specific spot in order to avoid dying. You can join small teams to help ensure that your chances of victory grow, but basically, once you hit the map, you’re on your own. You’ll need to scout for items, backpacks, and more in order to avoid being murdered by the other players.
PUBG on mobile is a direct port of the game, brought to players by the same Chinese development team that brought us Arena of Valor, Tencent. This isn’t a simplification or a distillation of the basic experience on PC and Xbox; it’s the full game, from the moment you build your character to the moment you launch out of the plane. As of writing, the game has in-app purchases, but has not become a pay-to-win mobile game like plenty of other desktop-to-mobile ports, instead offering basically the same experience you’ll find on desktop and allowing anyone to play. There are, of course, in-app purchases here, running up to $99, but they’re basically limited to what you can buy using the loot box system, something that we’ve already seen on the desktop version anyway.
The controls of PUBG are, unfortunately, a bit difficult to get used to, even if Tencent has done their best job to translate keyboard or controller inputs into a touch-friendly interface. The UI of PUBG is a bit of a mess, thanks to all the buttons, icons, and other information that has to be listed in order to allow players to push through the basic controls of the game, but luckily, if you have any experience playing the game, you’ll likely find yourself right at home. The game also has decent graphics for what is a bit of an ugly game overall; thankfully, you can set the graphics in the settings menu of the game, so that your phone can always handle whatever you’re trying to throw at it. Unfortunately, there’s no official controller support for PUBG on Android yet, but you can hack your way around this if you have a Dualshock 3 or Dualshock 4 controller lying around your house.
While Android users may be disappointed that Fortnite hasn’t arrived to the platform (as of writing), Epic Games’ loss is PUBG‘s gain. The game is a faithful remake of the original PC hit, first meant for Chinese players (where mobile games are far more popular than anything else, thanks to the bans on certain gaming devices), and now for players around the world. Even if your friends have been bitten by the Fortnite bug, there’s no reason not to dive into the original battle-royale game on Android, especially before Fortnite launches on the platform. If you’re new to PUBG, playing on the mobile title might just be the best way to learn to play: it’s free, it’s smooth, and the early game includes bots to help ease new players into matches before filling in all 99 spots with actual humans. As far as multiplayer shooters on Android go, you can’t beat PUBG.
Subterfuge is not a game that’s easy to explain to newcomers, but once you dive into the title (pun mostly not intended), you’ll find yourself hooked (again, we’re sorry). Unlike most of the games on this list, which mostly involve either real-time games lasting a short amount of time (up to thirty minutes, typically), or games that use asynchronous multiplayer to allow for users to play when and where they have time. In theory, Subterfuge is more in line with the latter series of games, but after you start a game, you’ll find yourself unable to stop playing the game. One of the most inventive mobile games we’ve seen in a long time, Subterfuge is absolutely worth a look if you’re at all interested in strategy, teamwork, and most of all: deception.
The game is a free-to-play real-time strategy title that launched at the tail end of 2015 and has slowly been picking up more of a following. Set in an underwater world (thus the name Subterfuge), the game involves four to ten players set against each other in a race to conquer the opponents and gather 200 neptunium, a resource found within mines in the game. Though the game’s graphics are minimal at best, the real game comes from the social strategy you’ll need to deploy to win a round. You can start up private chats with any of the players you’re battling, which allows you to make alliances, plan strategy against common enemies, and most importantly, lie your pants off. This is a game in which you’ll need to convince your opponents of your goals, only to turn your back on them when the time come.
On your phone, you’ll see a map of the game world, in which you and your enemies are located. Negotiating peace with the people surrounding you is key to winning Subterfuge, since one attack on your base early in the game can send you packing. And, we should mention, once you start a game, you’re in to win it all. Real-time strategy means real-time strategy here: games of Subterfuge take a full week in real-time to plan out, and any attacks, builds, or other moves you take within the game will require actual time and energy. An attack at two in the morning can destroy your fleet and your hard work. Unlike something like Words with Friends 2, where you can take moves when you have time, Subterfuge requires your attention and energy in order to get the most out of the game.
Throughout the game, you’ll be making and building fleets of different types, including generators, factories, and mines, all of which can be upgraded and eventually gain a shield to help protect against enemy attacks. Sending your fleet to attack other bases costs units, but also gains you more land and more opportunities to build additional units and mines. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game, however, is the tool that allows you to play the game in the middle of the night without sacrificing your sleep schedule. Dubbed Time Machine, Subterfuge allows you to plan attacks and moves in advance, in order to strike in the dark of night. It’s a brilliant offering, allowing you to surprise your enemies without them knowing, and it’s perhaps the best part of an already brilliant game.
That isn’t to say you won’t be up in the middle of the night, of course, since the game can be a bit addicting while you’re attempting to take down your opponents. If we had to say something negative, of course, there is one sticking point with the title. The game is a bit hard to learn, unfortunately, and the single player missions (which we also tested and are pictured here), which are designed to act as a tutorial for the actual version of the game, don’t do the best job teaching new players how to dive into the proper game. Still, for a free-to-play title (with its entire suite of game features locked behind a one-time $9.99 payment that, honestly, isn’t too steep if you get really into what’s offered here), Subterfuge is one of the best multiplayer strategy games we’ve seen on any platform, a game perfectly made to capitalize on what a mobile device that’s always with you and made for communication can offer.
If you had a Facebook account in the early 2010s, you’re well-acquainted with Words with Friends. The game, originally launched in 2009, was developed by Newtoy before being purchased by Zynga, and offered players a social version of Scrabble on their phones and laptops through Facebook. The first game was a massive hit at the time, reaching over 250 million downloads over the past eight years since its release, and giving users millions of Player is waiting” notifications on their social media accounts that you’ve had to learn to ignore. Well, Zynga’s back with a brand new sequel to the original game, and while it might seem like an odd play—how do you iterate on Scrabble?—it’s clear that Zynga has thought about this process, improving on the original in nearly every way.
At its core, Words with Friends 2 is still Words with Friends, complete with everything that made the original such a huge hit. From push notifications alerting you when it’s your move to the core concept of playing a Scrabble-type crossword game on your phone, this is still the same game that millions of players have grown used to playing over nearly a decade of existence. The biggest changes here come from the new modes, the rewards and trophies that come from completing challenges presented through the app (similar to a game like Fire Emblem Heroes), and additional changes to the gameplay like power-ups that makes the game feel a bit more fresh when playing through the game. All of this, of course, is in addition to the basic changes to the user interface that help to make the app feel a little modern.
It’s the two new game modes added to the app that are worth focusing on. The first is a brand-new solo mode that allows you to play against AI opponents of various strength and skill. The opponents seem to be themed based on the current seasonal event; for example, all of the current characters are based on Easter and Spring. These games typically aren’t full games; rather, they require your to defeat the character within a certain amount of turns, with each enemy becoming more difficult as time goes on. The other new game mode, Lightning Round, asks you to team up with up to five other players to compete against another team in a race to score the most points possible. Both Solo Challenges and Lightning Rounds ask you to play Words with Friends in an all-new style, making it feel fresher than the original game ever managed to do.
As with its predecessor, the app has its fair share of flaws. There are a ton of ads, par for the course for this type of social mobile title, with banner advertisements appearing on the top of the app’s main display and full-page ads appearing following moves within the game. The game also includes loot boxes for completing certain actions or logging in each day, granting users coins that can purchase profile frames (which are purely cosmetic and cost hundreds of coins each) or power-ups (which run you only a handful of coins). Coins can, of course, be purchased through the shop, allowing you to immediately buy something from the store if you wish, but for the most part, the game can be played for free by earning rewards through playing matches.
Overall, Words with Friends 2 builds on the original in meaningful ways while still continuing the core gameplay from the first game, making it a welcome revival for one of the oldest games on the Play Store.
Worms is one of the longest-running multiplayer game series around, dating back to the 1990s when the original game was launched for PC by developer Team17. The main series has seen more than two dozen iterations on the title, from newer 2D titles to 3D versions of the gameplay, to spin-offs like Worms Forts and Worms Battle Island. The game gained a massive boost of popularity in the early 2010s with younger players thanks to the popularity of some Let’s Plays on YouTube, and Team17 has continued to make games in the series for over 20 years, delighting players around the world with some local multiplayer fun.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Worms is a turn-based artillery game in which you control a team of cartoonish worms that battle against other teams. The game is similar to other artillery titles, including the classic Tanks games you can find in flash titles on the internet, and Cannon Fodder, a game first released in 1993. The game we’re reviewing specifically, Worms 2: Armageddon, is one of the best in the series, a perfect distillation with what makes the entire Worms series so special. You and your friends each create a team of four worms, giving them names and prepping them to battle out in the open against the other teams. After loading into a match, you begin attacking your opponents on a turn-by-turn basis, controlling one worm per turn with a rotation in play. Where your worms start on the battlefield matter, since it can make or break your team, but the strategy of which weapon to use and when also comes into play here.
Though you start with weapons, you can gain additional weapons by gathering the crates that fall from the sky, giving newer and more powerful weapons to your team. The weapons can be tweaked in settings to allow for a more difficult or more casual gameplay period, but ultimately, you’ll be spending your turn moving your worms around the map, making sure to not take any damage from falling or other mistakes, and then selecting a weapon and aiming for your enemies. You’re on a time limit with each turn, so you’ll want to make sure you’re moving quick, selecting your weapon, and aiming fast to cause as much damage to your team as possible. As with all Worms games, the last team standing wins, so make sure you have a worm guarded just in case the rest of your team falls to a rogue bomb.
What makes Worms so special on mobile platforms is its flexibility in how you play with your friends. While nothing will ever beat playing against your friends while gathered around a single television, the mobile versions of the Worms game feature pass and play (similar to how you can pass and play with a single controller while playing the games on a console or computer). You can take your turn, then pass the device to your friend from the right or left to you to allow them to make a play. Obviously, this works best with tablets, but it’s worth noting that it works great with smartphones as well. If you have a Chromecast, you can even stream your display right to the television to make for a more interactive experience while making moves within the game. And while all of this makes for a great local multiplayer experience, don’t forget that the game also has online PvP for two players over WiFi!
Ultimately, Worms 2: Armageddon is a perfect multiplayer title for Android. At $3.99 without ads or in-app purchases, it’s priced low enough for anyone to easily buy it (and if you’re opposed to spending real money, remember you can always use Google Opinion Rewards to save up a few bucks in Play Store credit answering surveys!) and keep it on their phone for when they’re with friends. There are newer Worms titles on Android you could choose from, including Worms 3 and Worms 4, but both of those games cost an additional dollar and include in-app purchases within the app. Plus, neither of those games include the local multiplayer option that is so key to taking Worms from a good game to a great one. Stick with the older title, even if it offers less weapon choice, and you’ll have an excellent time with your friends or family.