The best Android games you need to play (right now)

Having trouble deciding what to games to load up on your Android phone or tablet? Here are some of my favorites.

The end of the year is upon on us, which is great -- the holidays often mean a bit of a break from work or school, and gives us all a chance to sit back and reflect on the year. You might spend that time traveling, getting together with friends and family, or gearing up for a brand-new year ahead.

Or, you'll while away the hours playing video games. Lots of them. Here are a few for Android that should get you through the next few weeks.

Do note: this is a list of my favorite Android titles from the the last few weeks. They're not necessarily the biggest (or freshest) games on the Play store, and while you will find me playing the occasional mega-blockbuster, I tend to save those for a few weeks after they launch -- there are far too many gems slipping under the radar.

Did I miss something you're into? Stow your pitchfork, and sound off in the comments!

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Soda Dungeon

Soda Dungeon is largely a hands-off, number-crunching affair, so it might not be for everyone. You play as... let's call it an entrepreneur, hunting for dungeon loot but unwilling to actually put themselves in harm's way. You'll instead hire fighters from the local tavern, attracting them with "soda" (definitely not booze, wink wink), paying a marginal fee, and then keeping a chunk of the loot they stumble upon as they slay monsters.

There's a surprising amount of depth if you're willing to stick it out: you can set the game to "Auto Combat" mode and let it play itself, but you'll have much better luck equipping a team with a solid balance of weapons and abilities, and taking a strategic approach to fights -- especially as you delve deeper into the dungeon, and reach higher levels. The right balance of healing gear and brute force will make the difference between struggling through a stage or breezing past boss fights.

Price: Free

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Digfender

Digfender is a neat take on the tower defense genre. You'll dig tunnels under the foundation of your castle, crafting a turret-studded maze to take out your foes. And most of the usual genre tropes apply: defeating enemies nets you a few gold coins, that you'll spend on your defenses. There are towers that'll slow your opponents down, or hit two enemies at once, or lob explosions that're great at damaging groups, but incredibly slow. And you'll be juggling resources all the while, designing tunnels in an effort to give baddies the most circuitous route to travel, while also collecting the best loot scattered underground.

Traps and support towers are tossed in to keep things interesting. Support towers will buff any tower they're adjacent, too, allowing them to hit a little farther or level up a bit faster, while traps are a one-use item that give you a bit of extra firepower -- useful, in a pinch. Digfender is simple, but fun -- and free. There are some in-app purchases that'll help you buy a few powerups, but the abilities you'll get feel a bit like overkill, and I never felt the need to use one.

Price: Free

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Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes

Galaxy of Heroes is part RPG, part trading-card collect-athon, and packed with onerous free-to-play drawbacks. But it's still quite a bit of fun. You'll fight in battles for the Light and Dark and of the Force, earning currency you'll spend on new characters, or training to make existing ones stranger. There's also gear to collect, to give your team an edge. Combat is straight-forward. Squads of up to 5 characters face off In turn-based battles. You'll want to take out healers first, but some units have special abilities that will force you to target them; others can damage you're entire squad. Of course you have the same tricks up your sleeve...

Your play time is limited by "energy" -- you'll spend a bit to enter a battle, and earn a bit more every few minutes. I've always used the energy systems in free-to-play games as a guide to let me know when to take a break, but if you're really into the game, then this hard stop -- unless you're willing to pay, of course -- will be off-putting. You'll also earn a ton of bonus energy as you play, so if you take things slow and steady, and don't get sucked into the morass of microtransactions, you'll be just fine.

Price: Free

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Battlestation: Harbinger

Harbinger isn't exactly a narrative tour de force, but stick with this one. You'll scoot around a randomly generated solar system, blasting bad guys and collecting resources to augment your own ship. Along the way, you'll pick up missions to track down particular bad guys, or distressed ships looking for an escort to a friendlier locale.

Do yourself a favor and play through the tutorial, first. The interface isn't exactly straightforward, and there's a surprising amount of depth packed in here. You can equip your ship with a range of weapons, each with their own strengths and drawbacks in combat. Collect enough resources by taking down foes and completing missions, and you'll be able to equip bigger, badder gear onto your ship, and recruit a few allies to fly alongside you. And as you make progress and earn a higher score (failing plenty of times along the way), you'll ultimately unlock new levels, and new ships to fly into battle.

Price : $3.99, £2.99, AU$5.99

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