There’s a rumor going around that mobile games are all casual, silly, throwaway affairs for playing on the toilet or while waiting for your Pop Tart to pop up.
As this list shows, the Google Play Store plays host to some of the deepest, richest, and most challenging strategy game experiences around. These titles will take you to WWII and Vietnam, the British soccer league and outer space, and several different fantasy worlds.
Wherever you end up, you’ll need to keep your wits about you to survive.
It’s impossible to dislike CUE – short for Cards, the Universe and Everything. Even if you don’t really like card-battlers, it’s so full of fun trivia and gentle humor that you can think of it as the mobile gaming cousin of the comedy panel show QI. This award-winning educational game is suitable for all ages, and it lets you battle a dinosaur with a pharaoh, a pug with Loki, and a bear with Zeus.
Gwent may well have been the game that convinced CD Projekt it had the midas touch. Originally designed to be a sideshow in The Witcher 3, Gwent proved so overwhelming popular that it deserved a spin-off game of its very own, allowing players who honed their skills against strangely familiar NPCs to take on other humans. Regular content drops and a winning backstory make this an essential card-battler.
This cleverly framed prequel to hit roguelike The Binding of Isaac sees you playing as a hobo trying to recover his stolen money, but also as Isaac, inventing a game to distract himself from the horrors of his home life. Gameplay-wise, it’s an interesting and addictive card-battling roguelike with a variety of “ugly, yet cute” bosses, dozens of items and trinkets to collect and upgrade, and 30 different enemies.
Developed by Dan Fornace and Tako Boy Studios, Creatures of Aether is a perfect gateway card-battler, if you don’t think you’re quite ready to jump into a round of Gwent. It sees you building a deck and laying cards down on a grid. Like a cartoony, fantasy version of Risk, it involves outmuscling your opponent with sheer numbers and trying to change the board to your color. It’s not for hardcore card-battlers, but it’s a terrific option for beginners.
Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale is often compared to Adventure Time, not least by me, and with good reason. Aesthetically and tonally it could be a spin-off of Pendleton Ward’s surreal masterpiece. But it’s no mere tribute act. This marvellous card-battling sequel sees you adventuring through a fantasy word via the placement of cards. If you’ve ever played Slay the Spire (another excellent influence) you’ll know roughly what to expect.
Riot Games took its time bringing League of Legends to mobile. Before launching the excellent League of Legends: Wild Rift, it treated us to Legends of Runeterra, an immaculate card-battler based in the League of Legends universe. It features iconic regions and champions from that series, as well as a few characters of its own. There’s crafting, ranked play, and much more. It’s just a very solid card-battler, as you’d expect.
Terafyn is a card-based RPG that takes you through a story campaign involving warring siblings, an epic war, prophesies, and more. It’s a great big bumper bundle of lore, characters, puzzles, locations, hand-drawn are, demigods, mythical creatures, and all that good stuff. Combat, meanwhile, is turn-based and involves spinners. There’s nothing else quite like it.
Radio Commander, from 911 Operator dev Games Operators, places you in the shoes of a radio operator during the Vietnam war. You’ll use your radio to back orders at soldiers on the battlefield, with only the radio chatter coming back at you and an annotated map letting you know what’s happening on the ground. It’s an incredibly immersive, tense, and innovative take on the real-time strategy genre.
When it comes to soccer management on mobile, there really is only one option. SEGA’s Football Manager 2021 Mobile has all the official licences you could ask for, as well as a revamped Dynamics system, new tactical templates, new nations, and years of cumulative experience. This is a strategy game to get lost in – assuming you like soccer.
Maze Machina comes from the fertile mind of developer Arnold Rauers, whose strategy games have earned a loyal following on mobile. It sees you playing as a tiny mouse trapped in an ever-changing mechanical maze. Why? For the amusement of the evil Automatron. The gameplay involves swiping on a grid to move. The twist is that everything moves in the same direction, meaning you must plan ahead to avoid robotic annihilation.
Like The Bonfire: Forsaken Lands before it, The Bonfire 2: Uncharted Shores is a slick, stylish, award-winning city-builder in which you find yourself washed up in a strange land. You need to establish a colony on a procedurally generated world map, positioning your structures to maximise their effectiveness, but you also need to fight off monsters every night. Your only hope in the long term is to gain magical artifacts to defeat the ancient evil.
Games don’t come much more highly acclaimed than Crying Suns. Inspired by Dune and FTL, it casts you as a space commander and tasks you with exploring the ruins of a fallen empire, getting into tactical battles. It’s a story-driven experience, with each playthrough filling in a bit more of the game’s backstory, making it almost infinitely replayable. If you liked FTL, you’ll love this.
There are lots of good games, but only a select few can legitimately be described as masterpieces. Company of Heroes is indisputably one of them. This compelling WWII real-time strategy game came out all the way back in 2006, and still routinely appears in Best Strategy Game lists – and now, thanks to Feral Interactive’s excellent Android port, it’s in this list too.
Adapted by Dire Wolf Digital from the award-winning boardgame, Raiders of the North Sea is a worker-placement game that sees you assembling a longboat crew and setting out to conquer the hapless peoples of the North Sea. Of course, there’s a bit more resource-management and planning than in your typical Viking yarn, but somebody has to do it. Your reward: a glorious death.
Another boardgame conversion, this time the setting is Warhammer’s Age of Sigma, and more specifically the Gaunt Summoner’s Silver Tower. You need to enter this tower and work your way through waves of monsters in tactical turn-based battles. Fortunately, several champions are on hand to help you out, all with their own skillsets and gameplay styles.
There’s nothing quite like Kingdom Two Crowns – other than Kingdom: New Lands of course. This unspeakably pretty pixelart strategy game sees you setting yourself up as a monarch, recruiting subjects, building a kingdom, and defending it against hideous monsters. The major difference between this game and its predecessor is that you can play with another person, hunched over the same device. Just make sure you live in the same household.
Magic: ManaStrike is a real-time strategy card-battling take on Wizards of the Coast’s peerless Magic: The Gathering franchise. It’s an accessible and fun card-battler, letting you pick a color, customize your spells, and head straight into PvP matches with players from around the world. Planeswalkers make an appearance, too, bringing unique abilities to the fray. This is just a solid CCG from an established series.