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The best mobile games in 2023
If you're looking to play something that puts the silicon inside your shiny new smartphone to good use, we've got a few ideas.
Mobile games don't have the best reputation. However, gaming on iOS and Android has come a long way from the days of Flappy Bird and Fruit Ninja.
These days, it's easier than ever to find mobile titles that are just as fun, compelling and robust as their console or PC-based counterparts. It doesn't hurt that many modern mobile games are either free-to-play or free-to-try. Finding your next on-to-go gaming habit is rarely more than a few taps away.
With that in mind, we've put together a short list of the great mobile games that the Australian Reviews.org team has spent a little bit too much time on recently. We like some of these games a lot, so we hope you do too.
Words and picks by
Alex Choros, Fergus Halliday and Brodie Fogg
1. League of Legends: Wild Rift
If you're itching for more LoL after watching the first season of Arcane on Netflix, League of Legends: Wild Rift is arguably a much better place to start than the PC version of League of Legends. It doesn't dilute the best parts of Riot's megahit MOBA, but it does streamline and tweak the experience for the realities of modern mobile gamers.
Wild Rift is League of Legends without any of the cruft or fat. There are fewer characters to keep track of, the maps are smaller, and games are over faster. These revisions make for a competitive multiplayer experience that's more digestible to newcomers and respectful to the limited time of lapsed fans.
2. Slay The Spire
Slay the Spire has consumed over 70 hours of my life on my iPhone alone, and I’ve easily put in almost the same on Switch. It’s the kind of game that’s so good I’ve bought it twice.
Slay the Spire is one of the key games that popularised the roguelike deck-building genre, and it’s easy to understand why. Easy to pick up and play, you pick from one of four classes and partake in subsequent card-based battles as you make your way up the titular spire. No two runs are quite the same, and post-game difficulty modifiers give you a reason to keep coming back even after you Slay the Spire with all four characters.
A word of warning though. As you can see from my play time, it’s far too easy to sink weeks into Slay the Spire.
3. Hot Lap League
Developed by Aussies over at Ultimate Studio, Hot Lap League doesn't have the fidelity of Forza nor the crash-friendly cachet of something like Burnout. What it does have, however, is the spirit of Nadeo's TrackMania series.
Hot Lap League is a solid and addictive racing game built to make the most of what mobile gaming is good at, rather than trying to compensate for what it's bad at. There are over 150 tracks to complete and compete on via global leaderboards, with new challenges dropping on a week-to-week basis.
Fans of roguelike deck builders have no shortage of options these days, but even so, Dawncaster is a standout addition to the genre. Available on both iOS and Android for a couple of bucks, the game combines a stylish Gwent-inspired visual style, seven playable classes and dozens of weapons, spells and abilities to snap together like Lego.
It's easy to imagine countless roguelike deck builders making the jump to mobile, but few feel as built for the platform as Dawncaster. Most encounters take less than sixty seconds, making it very easy to fit in a few rounds on short notice or binge your way through an entire run in a single sitting.
5. Into The Breach
Into the Breach is a pint-sized turn-based tactics game from the makers of FTL. You control three mechs attempting to fend off an alien invasion and save the timeline - and it’s surprisingly hard.
Rather than focusing on spectacle, Into the Breach is largely about positioning. Each turn is a puzzle to be solved, where you try and work out how your mechs take as little damage as possible while also protecting buildings, and ideally, taking out aliens. The sheer level of depth adds plenty of replayability, but each individual combat is a bite-sized affair.
6. Dead Cells
What do you get if you cross the labyrinthine level design of Castlevania, the randomness of a run-based rogue-like and the cryptic worldbuilding of a Dark Souls game? The answer is Dead Cells. Developed by Motion Twin, the 2D roguelike platformer won over critics back in 2018 and has only gotten better in the years since.
The mobile version of Dead Cells has complete parity with the console and PC versions of the game but is no less challenging nor rewarding. Live, die, try and try again.
If you're an Apple Arcade member, you can now get Dead Cells+ as part of your subscription.
7. Marvel Snap
My colleague, one Fergus John Halliday, is trying to kill me. Or at least systematically eliminating the little free time I have. He’s screwed me twice this year: first when he introduced me to Dune: Spice Wars, and second with the App Store’s latest flavour of crack, Marvel Snap.
The App Store is littered with so many low-quality Marvel games that I didn’t give Marvel Snap a second thought at first. But upon hearing an old dealer of mine (ex-Hearthstone) was behind it, I decided to risk it.
I’m thankful that I did and disgusted at myself for the hours I’ve sunk in since launch. Snap is a free-to-play (F2P) game where you unlock new cards and variants through raw gameplay or purchasable currency. Like most F2P games, the high of unlocking these bonuses becomes harder to reach the longer you play. Credit where it’s due though, Second Dinner has created a reasonable balance between microtransactions and free play. The stream of rewards might slow, but my motivation to grind never faded.
8. Shovel Knight Dig
Plenty of established franchises have been plumbing the depths of the loosely defined roguelike genre in search of the same success as 2020’s Hades but few have been a more natural fit than Shovel Knight: Dig.
Yacht Club Games and Nitrome have sent the iconic 2D-sidescrolling hero underground in his latest journey. And while there might be some missteps in the way of rewarding and intuitive progression, this subterranean spin-off still plunders many of the genre’s most alluring aspects without losing any of the series’ heart or sense of adventure. There are hidden rooms aplenty, more treasure than you can shake your shovel at, and a rich sense of discovery that gets more rewarding the deeper you dig.
It’s tough as nails but if you’re familiar with Shovel Knight’s (typically) close-quarters melee and general flow, the quarries of this short expedition shouldn’t muddy your progress too much.
Backbone One iPhone controller
Corsair Sabre RGB Pro Wireless
*Pricing and deals only accurate as of last page update.
9. Genshin Impact
If you're the type to dismiss mobile games as a pale shadow of their console and PC counterparts, Genshin Impact is here to change your mind.
Developed by China-based miHoYo, this ambitious and sprawling open-world fantasy RPG plays like a cross between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and World of Warcraft. There are quests to complete, collectibles to harvest, factions to curry favour with, monsters to slay and diverse lands to explore. The four major regions already in the game represent hundreds of hours in stuff to do, and there are at least another three on the cards.
Both in terms of raw ambition, playable content and literal gigabytes, Genshin Impact is one of the biggest mobile games out there.
10. Gunfire Reborn
Originally a PC exclusive, Gunfire Reborn isn't as well-known as some of the other franchised titles on this shortlist list. However, if you're a fan of loot shooters like Borderlands and Destiny, it's definitely worth more than a passing glance.
A first-person shooter with chaotic gunplay and support for up to four-player co-op, each run of Gunfire Reborn nets you skill points that quickly add up to make each run more fun than the last. The experience is even better if you can wrangle yourself a Razer Kishi or Backbone One.
11. Diablo Immortal
Set between the end of the second game in the series and the start of the third, Immortal might as well be Diablo 2.5. You roll a character, choose from one of six playable classes, hack and slash your way through scores of monsters and collect progressively more epic loot along the way.
Immortal is more than just more Diablo or a cut-down version of the hack-and-slash in a more handheld form factor. The monetisation and MMORPG elements are undeniably messy, but there's still plenty for fans of the series to sink their teeth into while they wait for its next major instalment and beyond.
12. Apex Legends Mobile
While the relatively-demanding spec requirements for Apex Legends Mobile might keep those with more modest hardware from having much fun with it, those who do have a device up to meeting the performance requirements are in for a treat.
As opposed to something like League of Legends Wild Rift or Call of Duty Mobile, Apex Legends Mobile isn't looking to cut corners, condense or otherwise shrink down the experience offered by the other incarnations of the game. Aside from a smaller roster of playable characters and in-game players, it's a faithful recreation of what the main game offers.
If you have an appetite for a multiplayer shooter with enormous maps, tight gunplay and a roster of unique characters to master, you'll eat up what Apex Legends Mobile has to offer.
13. Rocket League: Sideswipe
Rocket League: Sideswipe shrinks the kinetic and car-based action of the console/PC version of the game onto a 2D plane without losing out on any of the potential fun. It's smart about being simple, and a perfect fit for the smaller screen on your smartphone.
Much like Rocket League proper, the fun and thrill of a close match in Sideswipe is its own reward here. Still, there are tons of cosmetics and cars to unlock, plus ranked play for those who want to be a bit competitive and a duo queue for those who want to play with a friend.
14. Call of Duty: Mobile
If you've fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to Call of Duty proper, but still yearn for the series' stylish gunplay, the series' mobile spin-off might scratch that itch.
Call of Duty: Mobile doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to smartphone shooters, but it does an effective job of emulating what people tend to like about the popular shooter franchise. Every possible weapon, skin, kill-streak and game mode you can think of is probably here.
Even if the visual volume of the game's monetisation can be a bit grating, Call of Duty: Mobile provides plenty of snack-sized shootouts with smart touches that help it encapsulate and embody everything that fans enjoy about the franchise.
15. Legends of Runeterra
Set in the same fantasy world as Netflix's Arcane, Legends of Runeterra is a colourful and character-driven card battler with slick production values, a ton of strategic depth and regular free updates. There's even a roguelike-influenced single player mode called Path of Champions for those uninterested in ranked or other types of competitive play.
More than just the setting and systems, another big difference between this and something like Hearthstone is that you don't buy and grow your collection of in-game cards through the usual booster packs. Instead, every card in Legends of Runeterra is earned through play. The sum total of these merits makes for a more generous sort of card battler that's no less fun than its biggest rivals.
How we pick the mobile best games
While we rigorously test consumer technology products, like smartphones, wireless earbuds and headphones, there's no right answer when it comes to picking the best mobile games out there.
Our list is simply made up of the games that have brought our writers joy over 2022; the games that have challenged us, wowed us, and commanded far too much of our free time. Games we think more people should know about. Games we think you'll enjoy too.