Great smartphone games to get ready for 'the big game'

In gearing up for the big game this Sunday, I've put together a collection of football games for both iOS and Android.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
4 min read

The big game is this coming weekend, and most Americans will tell you it's a lot more than just a football game. Many people make an event out of the game with parties, barbecues, and betting pools, even if their favorite team isn't in the running. My team lost a week ago, but you can bet I'll be watching just for the fanfare. Even the commercials shown during the game are an event in themselves with advertisers spending huge amounts of money for 30 second and one minute spots.

While you wait for next Sunday's festivities to kick off, I've put together a collection of mobile games to get you excited for the main event. All but one of the games here have versions for both Android and iOS, with Ted Ginn: Kick Return being the odd man out.

Madden NFL 25
In Madden NFL 25 you can see the whole field. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Madden NFL 25 (iOS | Android) is the latest from the storied video game football franchise, but it's not what you would expect if you had played only on consoles.

You get a set amount of plays you can use in Madden NFL 25, but you'll need to unlock additional formations by playing games and earning coins. As a freemium game, you also have the option to buy what they call card packs (for specific players and football plays) for real money if you want to unlock them sooner. Though it took some getting used to going from a controller to a touch screen, I found the gameplay pretty good. I only wish they would let me buy the whole game for a reasonable price so I wouldn't have to jump through the freemium hoops.

NFL Pro 14
NFL Pro 14 gives you closer view of the gameplay. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NFL Pro 2014 (iOS | Android) is Gameloft's version of football, which is fairly similar to Madden NFL 25. The graphics aren't quite as good, but you do get onscreen buttons for speed boosts, jukes, and spin moves. Madden football's touch screen swipe controls are serviceable, but I prefer the control system in this game.

One strange thing about NFL Pro 2014 is that it's licensed by the NFL, but it's only a limited license. In other words, you can play your favorite teams in the uniforms you recognize, but none of the player names you know will be playing for your team. Part of the fun of sports games is being able to play as your favorite players, so while the gameplay and control system are both good, the license limitations are a bit disappointing.

NFL Quarterback 14
The graphics are excellent in this game, and you get other game modes. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NFL Quarterback (iOS | Android) concentrates only on passing the ball to open receivers, but the precise controls, crisp graphics, and fun gameplay make it great pick-up-and-play game.

You can pick your favorite NFL team, choose a name for your quarterback, then take to the field in this offense-only game. The goal is to score as many touchdowns as possible without throwing interceptions, because after three interceptions, the game is over.

NFL Kicker
NFL Kicker has a game mode called Coffin Corner that challenges you to make the perfect punt. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NFL Kicker (iOS | Android) is made by Full Fat games, the same developer as NFL Quarterback, but this time you're focusing on kicking the ball through the uprights. The graphics in this game are equally as good, and the gameplay is perfect when you have a few minutes to kill.

In the beginning, you'll just be kicking field goals straight on, but as you progress, you'll also have to kick from different angles and aim to compensate for wind speed. Being precise counts as well, because you'll get more points for hitting the field goal in the sweet spot (marked by colored bars between the uprights).

Backbreaker 2
Though it's a bit dated, BackBreaker is still a lot of fun. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Backbreaker 2: Vengeance (iOS | Android) is an older title, but still stands up as one of my favorites for simulating running and juking on the field as you try to score a touchdown. This game also lets you play on defense (in the Vengeance game mode), letting you attempt to stop opponents from scoring on you.

As more of an arcade football game than a simulation, you'll be tasked with running through scoring zones to get points, ducking under obstacles, and avoiding tackles as you make your way to the end zone. Though this is an older game, I included it because it's still a lot of fun. For pure arcade football action, this might be the best in this collection.

NFL Runner: Football Dash
This endless runner uses the game of football as its theme. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

NFL Runner: Football Dash (iOS | Android) is the furthest from a football simulation in this collection; in fact it's not really a football game so much as it is an endless runner with football players. The game is licensed by the NFL, so you'll be able to pick your favorite team before you hit the field.

If you've played other endless runners like Temple Run or Running with Friends, you'll know that the object of this game is simply to run as far as you can without being stopped. You'll have to jump over obstacles, slide under others, and try to avoid defensive players that get in your path. Even though this isn't your classic football game, I included it because I liked the gameplay, and if you like running games, you probably will too.

Ted Ginn's Kick Return
Don't let the simple graphics fool you; this game is addictive. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Ted Ginn: Kick Return (iOS only) is a free game that I decided to grab because Ted Ginn happened to play for my team in the past. I'm really glad I tried it.

With this game you're not going to get any flashy graphics, nor can you use NFL licensed players or uniforms. But what you do get is a fun game that focuses entirely on returning kickoffs. What's fun about it is you need to read defenses on the fly, then draw a line that avoids the defense all the way to the end zone. At first, I admit I was pretty unimpressed with this game, but later found that I couldn't get enough of trying to blow past defenses to score the touchdown.