Fallout Shelter

The end of the year is right around the corner. But don't let that get you down: here's the latest in your regular installment of great Android games. Let's start with Fallout Shelter.

If someone told me that Fallout would make its mobile debut as a free-to-play Vault-building simulation, I would've been really, really confused. And I still am. But that's exactly what Fallout Shelter is: design a Vault, populate it with new citizens by recruiting folks from the post-apocalyptic Wasteland or through more…traditional means, and fight off incursions from raiders, mutants and far worse. It's a bizarre way to kill some time until we can play Fallout 4, but it's also quite a bit of fun.

Price: Free

Editors' note: This slideshow was first published in October 2013, and was most recently updated on August 26, 2015.

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Tales from the Borderlands

I'm a huge fan of the Borderlands series, so anything that builds upon that experience is worth a look in my book. Tales from the Borderlands does not disappoint: it's an adventure game in the vein of the classic point-and-click genre, which sees you fighting to survive on the dangerous and oft-hilarious world of Pandora. I won't spoil things, but if you like a light-hearted narrative and don't mind a fairly slow pace, you'll do well here. Price could prove troublesome, as spending $5, £4 or AU$6.49 just gets you the first episode -- you're going to have to pony up the same again every episode after that. If you're really smitten, you can save some cash and grab them all in a bundle.

Price: $4.99, £3.99, AU$6.49

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Pac-Man 256

It's the arcade game we've known and loved, updated to suit modern mobile gaming sensibilities. You're still eating dots to earn points, dodging ghosts and snapping up power pellets to send said ghosts back to the grave. But the new Pac-Man is also an endless runner, based on the infamous Map 256 glitch: the single level is being consumed by garbled characters, and you've got to keep on munching away for as long as you can.

Price: Free

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Angry Birds 2

How does one make a sequel to a game with a seemingly limitless number of spinoffs? The answer, in this case, is to go all-in on the freemium route. The new Angry Birds is free, but rife with many of the things we've grown to loathe about free-to-play games. A limited number of lives means you only have so many opportunities to clear a level before you're forced to wait an arbitrary amount of time -- or pony up some cash. But the souped-up graphics and some clever new mechanics have won me over.

Price: Free

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This War of Mine

I was hesitant to recommend this one, as it's pricier than my usual fare. But This War of Mine is something that needs to be experienced. It's a survival game that offers a haunting take on the horrors of war. You'll take control of three survivors as they try to cobble together a living, scavenging for supplies, shoring up their shelter's defenses and generally trying to steer clear of the excessively violent survivors that inhabit their shell-shocked city. I hesitate to call anything this gloomy "fun," but it's an engrossing experience that's well worth the price you'll have to pay.

Price: $14.99, £10.99, AU$18.99

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Alphabear

I still haven't forgiven developer Spry Fox for the time I've lost playing Triple Town, so diving into another of their games seems like a bad idea. But here I am: Alphabear is a game about words. And bears, but mostly words. Tap on the letters on a grid to form words and clear them from the board -- a bear will expand to fill the space. The goal is to make the biggest bear possible, to earn points and unlock new bears, who will in turn grant you new ways to earn an even higher score.

Price: Free

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Xenowerk

This twin-stick shooter is rather simple: point your guns at anything that looks remotely inhuman and fire away. But what Xenowerk lacks in subtlety, it makes up in presentation. The swarming baddies will force you to think on your feet, backtracking to avoid their attacks while managing your weapons, lest they overheat.

Price: $1.99, £1.49, AU$2.49

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Sproggiwood

Sure, it looks cute. But under Sproggiwood's saccharine exterior lurks a deceptively difficult roguelike challenge. You'll wander dungeons, slaying monsters and scooping up loot to outfit your character. As you fight, you'll earn experience points to unlock new moves. And once you defeat bosses, you'll ultimately earn entirely new classes, so you can tackle challenges in fresh new ways. It's a bit on the pricey side, but the level of polish and fun to be had makes this well worth it.

Price: $9.99, £7.99, AU$12.99

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Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions

I wasn't really convinced a twin-stick shooter that's reliant on quick reflexes and precision could work on a mobile device, and I wouldn't ditch the console iterations in favor of this one. But Geometry Wars 3 is still quite a bit of fun on a touchscreen: your left thumb moves the craft around, while your right thumb controls the direction you'll fire at. The craft can also fire automatically in a pinch.

Price: $4.99, £3.99, AU$6.49

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Knights of Pen and Paper 2

I loved the original Knights of Pen and Paper, and while the sequel currently feels a little light on content, it still retains the charm and whimsy that makes the series so much fun. The game stars a group of people playing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and while it plays like fairly standard turn-based roleplaying game, the writing is fun, and the combat is interesting enough to make this a worthwhile diversion.

Price: $4.99, £3.99, AU$6.49

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Twenty

Twenty is all about dragging tiles around to get to 20 as many times as you possibly can. Matching a pair of tiles raises their value incrementally: combine a pair of ones to get a two, combine a pair of twos to get a three, etcetera. More tiles rise up from the bottom of the stage over time, and they'll eventually start linking to one another, make it harder -- if not impossible -- to move them. A simple premise, executed expertly, resulting in a maddeningly alluring experience. Part of me regrets stumbling across this game, but that part is also a bit exhausted, having spent most of last night optimizing a number-wrangling strategy.

Price: Free

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You Must Build a Boat

From the minds that brought us 10000000 (I'm never sure if I've typed enough zeros) comes You Must Build a Boat. The premise remains the same: your character runs endlessly down a corridor, occasionally bumping into baddies or treasure chests. Your job is to match the right tiles to deal with a situation: swords to slash at monsters, keys to open chests, that sort of thing. And if you fail, don't worry: you can spend the treasure you've amassed to get stronger, and get a little farther next time.

Price: $2.99, £1.99, AU$3.79

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Final Fantasy Record Keeper

I'm something of a fan of the Final Fantasy series, though I stopped following intensely sometime around the end of the PlayStation 1 era. Final Fantasy Record Keeper is here to rectify that: this pseudo-RPG is a Final Fantasy highlight reel, consisting entirely of battle segments populated by familiar faces from the series. Come for the familiar turn-based combat, stay for the nostalgia-laden soundtrack, which cheers me up to no end. It is a stamina-based freemium title, but let's be honest: you'll likely want to take the occasional break from nonstop turn-based JRPG combat anyway.

Price: Free

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Skiing Yeti Mountain

My own experiments with skiing have historically turned out to be unmitigated disasters, so it's fitting that my performance in this skiing-simulator have fallen along much the same lines. It starts off as a fairly simple slalom run. But quickly throws in obstacles and rugged terrain over the course of its many levels. Best of all, the controls are really slick and humor abounds, so even failing is fun.

Price: Free

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Snake Rewind

Snake is the quintessential time waster, a thumb exercise that's seen us guiding our reptilian friends toward nondescript fruit since time immemorial. Snake Rewind improves upon that timeless formula by adding more stuff.

You're still wrangling fruit, though snazzy lighting effects add a feeling of depth to the chase. And the fruit comes in varieties now, serving up point multipliers or power-ups to make the score chase all the more exciting. And the game offers six different control schemes to choose from, so it shouldn't be too hard to find one that works for you.

Price: Free

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Sorcery 3

Sorcery 2 took me by surprise. The sequel to a game I'd never even heard of, it combined a gorgeously illustrated world with a fun narrative and intricate combat. Sorcery 3 says, "more of that," to which I reply, "Yup." The game follows in much the same vein as its predecessors, playing out as a sort of digital choose-your-own-adventure story with lovely illustrations. The combat system challenges you to consider every move cautiously, the narrative is still imaginative and full of meaningful options for you to weigh, and it remains a great deal of fun. If you've tried the earlier entries in the series you'd do well to pick this one up. If you haven't, the game does a fair job of easing you in, so it's worth checking out.

Price: $4.99, £3.99, AU$6

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Calculords

I'm comically bad at math, but that hasn't stopped me from really getting into this clever card collecting game. You'll perform (relatively) simple calculations to deploy cards into one of three lanes on a battlefield, tackling your opponent's forces and eventually their base. If you manage to use up all of the randomly assigned numbers in your calculation, you'll get a bonus, which of course leaves me staring at my screens for hours, trying to figure out the most elaborate way to add up a stack of numbers to 100. Those of you aren't so arithmetically challenged will likely do well here.

Price: $2.99, £1.99, AU$3.79

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Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft

I'm going to level with you. I suck at Hearthstone. And I don't mean in a comical, self-deprecating sort of way. I mean I'm really, really bad at it. As someone who missed out on Magic: The Gathering and its ilk, I've never really figured out the whole "collectible card game" genre. And that means when it comes time to shuffle through loads of colorful, information-dense cards to fight foes online, I'm generally at a loss. Maybe you'll have better luck: it's free to play.

Price: Free

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Ananias

I'm a sucker for roguelikes, and Ananias is a simple, fun take on the genre. There are four classes to choose from, each with a slightly different combat style. You'll guide your character through randomly generated levels, working your way down into the dungeon while scavenging for loot and keeping baddies at bay. The game is free, but there is a $2.99 "Fellowship edition" that adds a few extra classes and unlocks the leaderboards so you can compare your progress (or the lack of it) with friends and folks around the world. It's a nice way to support the developer and treat your competitive side, so do consider it if you enjoy the game.

Price: Free

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Dungeon Hunter 5

Dungeon Hunter 4 was a fun, little romp, but the nigh-incessant nickel-and-diming left a sour taste in my mouth. The latest game in the series offers a bit more leeway before the in-app purchases rear their head, but forewarned that this is definitely a freemium experience. The game is broken up into missions: each one will cost you a few points of stamina which will be replenished over time -- or for a bit of cash, of course. It's not all doom and gloom though: it's an attractive game and plays like a simplistic mobile version of Diablo, so you can expect to smash up plenty of baddies and sift through plenty of loot looking for the perfect goodies to upgrade your undead-slaying bounty hunter. You're can also replay missions you've completed for a chance at better loot, and can hire AI versions of your friends to tag along with you.

Price: Free

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Crossy Road

Crossy Road is Frogger for the modern age. Your only goal is to cross the never-ending roads and rivers that lay before you, dodging traffic, avoiding trains, and riding logs in a journey that only ends when you're crushed or flattened or otherwise maimed. You'll earn coins as you go, which you can cash in to play as new characters -- there are senior citizens, celebrities, and all manner of critters just trying to cross the road. This one's free, and definitely worth a gander.

Price: Free

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Kingdom Rush Origins

Kingdom Rush Origins doesn't stay too far from the tower defense formula. Enemies march onto the map in waves, and you'll need to erect towers to destroy your foes before they reach the exit and damage your base. Kingdom Rush revamps the genre. Towers that can be specialized to tackle specific types of foes, and you can choose between several powerful hero units can turn the tide of any encounter. Dynamic levels keep the challenge fresh: the enemy will open up entirely new paths to circumvent your well-laid plans, but you can also count on friendly flora and fauna to put a dent in their numbers.

Price: 99 cents, £0.69, AU$1.29

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Knights of the Old Republic

Knights of the Old Repblic is the quintessential "Star Wars" game, and after a year of iOS-exclusivity it has finally arrived on Android. Affectionately known as KOTOR, you'll find everything you could possibly want in a Star Wars game: namely, lightsabers and the occasional Jawa. The Sith are characteristically up to no good, and you'll need to choose between the Light and the Dark Side as you take on a mysterious murderous foe that's seeking... something. I'll refrain from revealing too much: suffice it to say, it's well worth a look, especially if you've never played it before.

Price: $4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49

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Secret of Mana

When I was too young to know better, I decided that Sonic the Hedgehog would be a superior first foray into the 16-bit era and begged my mother for a Sega Genesis. I know now that had I the chance to experience Yoshi's Island, Final Fantasy 6 and Secret of Mana during my formative years, I'd be a different (but definitely superior) human being. Don't make the same mistake I did; this is one of the greatest games of all time. If you've played it before, grab this portable copy to share with the uninitiated. I'm not entirely sold on the virtual joystick, but the interface works rather well, and performance is excellent on my Nexus 5. If you've never played Secret of Mana, now is your chance to get a solid port you can take with you everywhere.

Price: $9, £6, AU$11

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Goat Simulator

Five bucks seems like a bit much to pay for what's essentially a practical joke. The controls here feel a bit imprecise, the graphics are shoddy at best, and the premise -- you're a goat -- is a bit daft.

But it ascribes to the classical Tony Hawk: Pro Skater school of trucking about and seeing what happens. So cars will be plowed into, boxes will be leapt over and trampolines will be bounced upon, all in the name of racking up a high score. When the game arrived on PC I was a nonbeliever. And I won't say I'm convinced, now that it's on mobile. But I just used my sticky, prehensile tongue to drag a sedan into traffic and watched carnage ensue (with no regard to physics), so yeah, I'm getting a bit of a kick out of this.

Price: $4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49

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Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition

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.

Price: $9.99, £6.99, AU$12.99

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Baldur's Gate II

As previously discussed, Baldur's Gate is one of the greatest games of all time. Baldur's Gate II happens to be better: the adventure continues with revamped mechanics, updated visuals, and a quest that will take you around the world of Faerûn and out to the mystical Outer Planes, as you take on the very gods. Like the last game in the series, you can copy your saved games between the Android and Windows versions, should you desire to take your adventures on the road. Better still, if you own the original, you can load your character into the sequel without too much effort, continuing the adventure.

Price: $9.99, £6.99, AU$12.99

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Shadowrun Returns

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.

Price: $4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49

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Dragon Quest II

Dragon Quest II is a recent addition to the Play store, but it's actually the second entry in the classic Dragon Quest series, which dates all the way back to 1986. There are a number of entries in the series kicking around on the Google Play store, some costing upward of $15 -- five bucks is a nice compromise, and an excellent introduction to a legendary role-playing series. You'll wander an expansive fantasy world, slaying critters and tapping through amusingly archaic fantasy dialogue on a quest to right wrongs and defeat evil. The interface is a little spartan and the portrait-only orientation will make this a pain to play on tablets, but it should prove to be a challenging, fun romp on your Android phone.

Price: $4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49

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Hitman Go

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.

Price: $4.99, £2.99, AU$6.49

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