Once viewed as inferior to their console counterparts, mobile games are finally getting the respect they deserve. There’s still a laundry list of boring knockoffs populating the App Store and Google Play, but dozens of gems are buried just below the surface. Best of all, many of the greatest mobile games are completely free, making them a perfect way to feed your gaming habit without throwing down large sums of cash.
Whether you’re looking for an online adventure, collectible card games or fast-paced shooters, you’re bound to find a game that catches your eye on the mobile marketplace. To help you weed through the ever-growing catalog of titles, we’ve pulled together a shortlist of the best free games on iOS and Android. These critically acclaimed titles are bound to give you dozens of hours’ worth of entertainment — all without the need to break open your wallet.
Genshin Impact was one of the best titles released last year, and it’s only become better in the early months of 2021. You’ll embark on an epic adventure as you try to reunite with your lost sibling — meeting a colorful cast of characters along the way. Genshin Impact drew early comparisons to Breath of the Wild due to its art style, but the game itself couldn’t be more different from the iconic Zelda game — its combat is unique, it features online multiplayer and its story is entirely original.
While the adventure can be enjoyed without dropping a dime, folks who fall in love with the world of Teyvat can spend a few bucks to make Genshin Impact even more enjoyable. The mobile masterpiece relies heavily on gacha mechanics — that is, new characters and equipment are randomly earned by spending premium currency on Wishes — but it’s still possible to recruit the best characters without the need to spend any money. However, offer up $5 and you’re all but guaranteed to pull a powerful new ally, making the journey just a bit less challenging.
Despite nearing its fifth year, Pokémon GO remains as popular as ever. Over the years it’s added new ways to battle, new ways to trade and new ways to explore your surroundings. Pokémon GO is one of the most free-to-play-friendly titles on the list, as premium purchases don’t necessarily give you the upper hand — instead, they simply offer you some nice conveniences.
If you’re unfamiliar with the title, Pokémon GO tasks you with walking around your neighborhood and catching Pokémon with your smartphone. The title uses some flashy AR technology to project Pokémon into your real-life environment, before letting you throw Poké Balls towards them in the hopes of growing your roster. Not only will Pokémon fans love the game, but it’s also a great reason to get out and exercise without any upfront investment.
Black Desert Mobile
Not to be confused with Black Desert Online for PC and console, Black Desert Mobile takes the popular MMORPG and adapts it for the small screen. You’ll create a character using a robust customization menu, select from one of over a dozen classes, then set out on a massive adventure filled with political intrigue and royal betrayals.
Black Desert Mobile is a great fit for anyone looking to sink their teeth into a deep MMORPG. There are a variety of ways to play the game — competitive multiplayer, cooperative multiplayer or grinding through quests solo — and there’s even an Auto Play option to knock out a bit of leveling while you’re at work. The only reason you’ll want to spend any cash is if you’re hoping to compete with the top echelon of players. Otherwise, you can sit back and grind to your heart’s content, as the game won’t lock content behind a paywall.
Madden NFL Mobile
Madden translates surprisingly well to iOS and Android devices. Running the football is intuitive with swipe controls, passing is as simple as tapping your target and a variety of game modes keeps things interesting for extended play sessions.
If you’re a football fan — or love playing Madden on PS4 or Xbox One — Madden NFL Mobile is the best way to experience the action while on the road. If you’re willing to spend a few bucks on the in-game store, you’ll be treated to a few high-quality players for your team, although you won’t feel the need to break out your wallet unless you’re deep into competitive play.
The bizarre social game took the world by storm a few months ago and is scheduled to get massive updates throughout 2021. You’ll join up to nine other players as you try to prepare your spaceship for launch — but one of them is secretly trying to sabotage you. It’s up to you and your team to find the imposter before it’s too late. Microtransactions are available in Among Us, but they’re primarily cosmetic in nature and don’t provide an added in-game benefit.
Call of Duty: Mobile
When Call of Duty: Mobile launched in 2019, the community was shocked at how well the fast-paced action translated to smartphones. Its touchscreen controls are intuitive, there are dozens of ways to customize your character, a variety of game modes are available and Activision continues to support the game with constant patches and seasonal events. If you’re not keen to drop $60 on the yearly Call of Duty installment, this mobile adaptation is a great way to get your FPS fix without opening your wallet.
Developed by the folks behind Clash of Clans and Clash Royale, there was little doubt Brawl Stars would be an instant hit. The top-down, cartoonish shooter includes tense 3v3 matches and a battle royale mode, letting you mix up the action depending on your mood. There’s also a variety of unlockable characters, unique skins and a Brawl Pass with exclusive rewards to keep you coming back for more.
PUBG Mobile takes everything great about its older sibling and somehow makes it work in a mobile format. Dozens of weapons, vehicles and customization options make it easy to lose hundreds of hours in its massive world — much of which is available for free. Get hooked on the game, and you can spend a few dollars to pick up exclusive cosmetics and character outfits.
It should come as no surprise, but the world-famous battle royale is one of the most popular games on mobile devices. Fortnite was recently delisted from the App Store — meaning iOS players won’t have access to the game until Apple and Epic Games settle their lawsuit — but Android players can still dive into one of the most successful titles of the last decade. The game is completely free to play, with an available Season Pass and various cosmetic microtransactions.
Old School RuneScape
Old School RuneScape recently made the jump to iOS and Android — bringing a massive boost to its player count. While the game doesn’t have the flashy graphics of its 20-year-old sibling — which is also available on mobile — Old School RuneScape oozes nostalgic charm. If you’d rather head into tense PvP combat you can do that as well, as the game doesn’t hold your hand and lets you get up to your own devices.
A monthly subscription is available for the popular MMORPG, but you can easily sink hundreds of hours into the game before membership even crosses your mind.
Created by the same studio behind Overwatch and World of Warcraft, Hearthstone was a near-instant success. The game has continued to grow since launching in 2014, with plenty of content planned through the rest of 2021. There are plenty of collectible card games available on mobile, but Hearthstone remains one of the most intriguing — and with a studio like Blizzard, you’re guaranteed to see high-quality updates on a regular basis.
CSR Racing 2
CSR Racing 2 has one of the largest file sizes on the entire App Store — clocking in at a massive 3.8 GB. Thankfully, that file size comes with real benefits, as CRS Racing 2 has some of the best graphics you’ll come across on either iOS or Android. Dozens of officially licensed supercars were painstakingly translated to the small screen, creating an authentic drag-racing experience. With hundreds of unlockables, a laundry list of challenges and a robust online multiplayer mode, CSR Racing 2 will keep you behind the wheel without feeling pressured to spend any cash.
And if you’re in the market for a new phone to play all these amazing free games, make sure to set up a Deal Alert and we’ll let you know of any hot sales on the latest smartphones.
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