We're going to start this list of great Android games off with a slow, methodical spin on eviscerating our enemies.
Hitman is all about surreptitiously taking out your mark. Hitman Go is all about surreptitiously taking out your mark, as a board game. Most of the usual rules of subterfuge apply: you'll scuttle along a level's grid dispatching guards with a quick backstab or distracting them by tossing objects, all while hunting down your target. If you're especially deft you'll nail all three of a level's extra challenges, which might involve collecting a briefcase, taking down your target in as few turns as possible, or fleeing the scene without killing anyone at all.
Shadow Fight 2 isn't nearly as complex a fighter as classics like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, with action that is comparatively subdued, and fewer combos to memorize or string together. It's a decidedly slower place, but it feels almost mediative -- if you're a fighting game fan it'll probably feel sluggish, and the touch controls definitely take a bit of getting used to. But it sure is pretty: the silhouette-based art style is simple, but bolstered by intricately detailed animations that makes everything feel slick. And the game isn't too brutal with the challenges, either: while there are in-app purchases that can make some fights easier, you'll find the most success with a bit of old-fashioned practice.
If you've played Tiny Tower or Pocket Planes, chances are you've already run away screaming, or let out a resigned sigh and dutifully trudged over to the Google Play store. Here, you get a few turns to peck through tiles to uncover hidden animals to cart off to your zoo -- think Battleship, with woodland critters.
The animals will earn you a few coins per minute, but they occasionally fall asleep so you’ll need to tap those slackers to keep the funds rolling in. Or, you can spend some premium "discobux" to throw a dance party that’ll get your entire menagerie partying, waking them up and earning you more coin. No, I don’t understand it either. But here I am, tapping and grooving away.
I've never followed the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book series, but anything that pairs a psychic Russian space-dog and a homicidal raccoon is worth a look in my book. This one is a party-based action RPG: you'll control up to four characters, fighting off waves of enemies by positioning your heroes strategically about the map. There's quite a bit of depth lurking here, with equipment to juggle, abilities to toggle and stats to consider, but it's mostly a funny, fun opportunity to while away a few hours --well worth two bucks.
It's a good thing I've always subscribed to the "if it sits (still), it fits" school of construction, or this particular take on Tetris would be the end of me. As it stands (or doesn't), the towers I've constructed are only likely to be the end of anyone inside or around them. You're tasked with with stacking Tetris blocks as tall as you possibly can, arranging them on a narrow foundation in order to build a majestic wizard's tower. But nothing is ever so easy: you'll learn all manner of spells along the way, and battle the finicky laws of physics (and jealous adversaries) on your quest to learn all you can about tower construction.
I mean honestly, who steals from inflatable, roving mustaches? And so ineptly, too, leaving bits of treasure scattered about winding caverns, treacherous deserts, and all matter of spooky locales? Don't worry, Leo, we'll find your fortune. I suppose it helps that it is a rather lovely adventure, with physics puzzles that are coupled with platforming reminiscent of classic Sonic the Hedgehog games.
Modern Combat 5 might not be able to compete with the console first-person shooters it's emulating, but it doesn't really have to. It's a stellar experience, pairing impressive graphics (for a mobile game) with an excited, varied single-player campaign -- even if most of the experience is fairly linear. The multiplayer experience is the best yet for the series. At 7 bucks it's pricier than most of the titles on this list, but if you're into shooters and want something to to kick back on the couch with, this isn't a bad bet. Just don't expect to take this game on the road: an internet connection is required, even if you're playing alone.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown means horror. Well, not literally, as it’s technically a turn-based strategy game. But when your veteran sniper is casually eviscerated by a chittering mass of claws and teeth you will know fear: death is permanent, and you aren’t winning many fights with a squad full of terrified rookies. This port of the stellar PC and console game has finally made its way to Android with nary a compromise, and it’s well worth the $10 cost of entry. Just remember, careful planning and a hefty dose of luck will ensure that everyone makes it home.
This one is only tangentially related to SNK's King Of Fighters series, but that's fine. It's also a bit bizarre, but I like to think that's part of its charm: you'll tap and swipe along to the rhythm of music from arcade classics like Fatal Fury and Metal Slug. If you can keep the beat you'll trounce your foes, but missteps will see you laid flat. You'll also gain experience points as you fight, unlocking new challenges down the road.
I'm usually loath to spend cash on shameless movie tie-ins. But preteen me would've never forgiven myself for passing up the chance to play a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game, so here we are. In this side-scrolling brawler you'll fight the forces of evil as Leonardo (the only correct choice), though his siblings are also available. It's a bit of a different take on the genre: enemies appear on screen and you'll swipe on them to perform combos and special attacks, while tapping to counter their attacks. There's no need to fiddle with virtual joysticks to move around, which makes combat feel at once strange and pleasantly fluid. I'm not sure I enjoy the new cel-shaded aesthetic but the game is fun, and the premise -- defending New York pizzerias from roving gangs, to start -- is as ludicrous as ever. Fans should definitely pick this one up.
Getting a little sick of tower defense games? That’s fair; planting towers to spit death upon wave after wave of mindless minions can get a bit stale. But Anomaly 2 switches things up: your squad of war machines are the minions, and you’ll guide them through a maze of treacherous turrets. Plan your route, gather power-ups and toggle special superpowers to fight or flee from the (mostly stationary) alien menace.
You’re probably asking yourself "Do I need to buy yet another copy of a role-playing game released in 1998?" I was like you, once. But this is Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition we’re talking about, one of the greatest games ever made. Better still, this rather solid port of the recently released "enhanced" PC version serves up new content, quality of life improvements (hooray for higher resolutions!), and a touch-friendly interface. You can also copy your saved games between the Android and Windows versions and literally never stop playing; 13-year-old me is swooning so hard right now.
And when you’re ready to take a break from the Baldur's Gate's world of magic, intrigue and elves, feel free to step into Shadowrun Returns, which is...well, much of the same actually. But in the future! Shadowrun's gritty cyberpunk setting has been captivating folks for years, and its return to video game form on the PC was nothing short of stunning -- the mobile version is pretty great too. Sure, you’re missing out all of the brilliant user-created content that’s coming to the PC, but being able to wander its intricately detailed world and fight heady turn-based battles on a mobile device is pretty awesome. Be forewarned: while the game will likely run on your phone, you're going to have a really squinty time navigating the interface -- best to stick to tablets.
Monument Valley is rather short, but it does an admirable job of serving up clever little puzzles and boasts absolutely stunning level design. With simple controls and a spooky soundtrack, it's a great way to kill an hour or two -- the developers have also promised to add new puzzles later on, though there's no word on when that might happen.
I'm not convinced that my latent fear of numbers is solely to blame for my ineptitude at Threes, but it helps. Despite all appearances, this isn't so much a math game as a puzzler that toys with space and sums. It starts with the numbers one and two, which add up to the eponymous three. From there your goal is to pair identical numbers into ever increasing sums by swiping them across your screen. Every swipe moves the tiles on the board one space, but also tacks a new tile onto the board. Once the board is filled, the jig is up, points are tallied, and you'll see how much better you are at this than me. Because I'm pretty awful.
Racing games are kind of a sore subject on mobile devices. Nowadays they look pretty and motion controls don't feel nearly as silly anymore, but the games are generally crippled by overzealous in-app purchases. GT Racing 2 drifts along a fine line here: a barrage of popups will suggest you spend a bit of premium currency to get an edge on your next race, but you’re mostly left to your own devices. Better still, temporary speed boosts and the like are only available during the single-player campaign, leaving your race to the top of the leaderboards largely dependent on your own skill.
You’ll want to pick this one up for the gorgeous visuals and the fast, clever endless-runner gameplay. You’re running from Point A to Point B and dodging hazards along the way, all the while collecting little golden pixies to free Rayman's capture comrades. But the real star here is the soundtrack. Nothing complements "Holy cow, did I just do that!?" dexterity better than Fiesta's fun, frenetic tunes. The brilliant, bite-sized levels are the proverbial icing on the cake -- just the perfect thing for a bus ride or especially lengthy meeting, as you'll be mashing the retry button in the hopes of getting that mythical flawless run.
I won't pretend to know anything at all about the sport, but I'd probably watch a lot more golf if it involved magnets, gravity defying courses, sticky pink mystery goo, and collectible hats. I’m a sucker for hats. I suppose you could think of Super Stickman Golf 2 as mini-golf with a whole lot of verticality; get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible, though that’s far harder than it sounds. If you’re feeling especially confident there’s also plenty of fun to be had in the online multiplayer modes, too.
NBA Jam isn't a completely accurate sports simulation -- though you've got to admit, basketball games would be much more exciting with inexplicable explosions and cameos by heads of state. What it is, however, is a brilliant arcade basketball game distilled into pocketable form, with tight controls and fast, fun match-ups.
Who says gaming can't teach you anything useful? During my stint as a humanity-eradicating pathogen, for example, I discovered that Madagascar will likely shut down all manner of transport and global trade, should one of its citizens catch so much as a cold. I'll need to keep that in mind in the likely event of a zombie apocalypse…
Anyhow, Plague Inc. is all about wiping out humanity by designing the perfect communicable ailment, and ensuring it evolves and thrives as scientists struggle to fight it. Quite fun, if a bit morbid -- and you’ll never look at folks coughing and sneezing on the bus in the same way again!
Your task: strap engines to fuel tanks and send them hurtling in the general direction of "up" in an attempt to reach the stars. That’s the idea anyway. You’ll mostly be exploding, as the immutable laws of physics frown on your shenanigans and send your metal monstrosities hurtling towards the ground. Fret not: if Kerbal Space Program has taught us anything, any rocket science conundrum can probably be solved by adding a few more rockets.
Ending is all about rhythm, though there isn't actually any music. Instead you'll navigate labyrinths and try to get the jump on your ASCII enemies in this deceptively complicated puzzle-adventure. Opponents move at the same time you do, following their own patterns. Bump into them, and you'll smash then in the bits -- they'll be trying to do the same to you. As you move about a level your life force slowly whittles away, replenished only when you take out a bad guy: get down to zero and it's game over.