When it comes to platform games on mobile, endless runners are some of the hardest to play since they can go on seemingly forever. There's always room for improvement since your goal is to beat your previous score (or someone else's high score). But which endless running games are worth your time?
Both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store are riddled with infinite runners, many of which are just shoddy remakes of clever classics. I've played just about every one out there and can assure you some shouldn't be on your iPhone or Android phone. Enter my top ten favorite games in the genre, which I recommend you try out.
All of the games on this list of the best endless runners (according to me) has a free version on at least one operating system. To be specific, a few that are free on Android are paid on iOS, oddly enough. When that's the case, it'll be noted below.
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No endless running game list is complete without the revolutionary "Temple Run" franchise. It popularized the genre thanks to a bevy of distinctive features, such as an escalating score multiplier and upgrade shop, that gave it more depth than predecessors like "Canabalt."
The synopsis is simple: you control an explorer who steals an ancient artifact, and you have to run from evil demon monkeys who are after you. The original was such a success that Imangi Studios soon released the highly anticipated sequel "Temple Run 2" in 2013. Yes, it's old, but it's still maintained and updated regularly.
While there's always the fear of a sophomore slump, the sequel to "Temple Run" is an improvement in every way. Better graphics, unique gameplay, new obstacles and power-ups, different characters, and advanced path variations will keep you playing and playing. The setting is also different. Instead of running through a jungle filled with Aztec ruins, "Temple Run 2" transports you to a floating temple in the clouds, which gives the game a much larger feel than the original.
Exactly like with the original, the sequel uses a combination of swipe gestures and device tilting to run, jump, duck, turn, and navigate through the map. However, the introduction of new obstacles makes the gameplay a bit more exciting. Instead of just running, you must swing through zip lines, carefully tread through rapid river currents, and keep your mine cart delicately balanced on tracks. On top of that, you also have to worry about jets of fire, falling stones, rotating spikes, and sharp, misleading turns. These make the gameplay both exciting and hectic, so you can never catch your breath.
As you play, you can collect chests, power-ups, coins, and gems that allow you to run faster and longer and collect more gems and coins. That, in turn, will enable you to unlock not only more characters, but also different maps which include a sub-Arctic frozen land, an Egyptian desert, and an Indian jungle. In-app purchases allow you to quickly get new characters and maps, as well as unlimited "continues." But if you play enough, IAPs aren't necessary because you can collect enough coins and gems to do the same without ever spending a dime.
If "Temple Run" revolutionized infinite runners, "Subway Surfers" refined it. Co-developed by SYBO Games and Kiloo in 2012, the premise of the game is (again) simple. You, a young delinquent, are caught spray-painting on a train, and you must run away from a police officer and his dog. They chase you through a never-ending train station, running on top of trains, across platforms, and through the air (on a jetpack, sometimes).
The concept is nothing new, but it does it better than most thanks to a gorgeously designed environment, dynamic animations, incredibly responsive controls, and memorable characters. So much so, that in 2017, "Subway Surfers" was the most downloaded game in the world. It's also still updated regularly.
As you run and parkour your way through the course, you can grab gold coins, power-ups, keys, and other items, all while dodging objects, including stationary and moving trains, roadblocks, and lampposts.
The gameplay is similar to most endless platformers. Swipe your finger left or right to move vertically, swipe up to jump, and swipe down to duck. What is different, and what sets "Subway Surfers" apart from others in the genre, is that it has three different tracks for you to run on. And you swipe between the rails to dodge stationary items. It creates a bit more havoc as you run, but it also makes it more exciting in place of sharp turns and strange terrain.
Special items, such as boots and jet packs, allow you to jump higher and fly through the sky, respectively. You'll also find magnets (that attract coins to you no matter what track you're on), pogo sticks (which take you to a higher level to collect more coins), letters (so you can win items), and mystery boxes (also to win items). In the store, you can purchase different objects, characters, and boards (with coins or money), the latter of which gives you various powers, like jumping higher or going faster.
Another feature that separates "Subway Surfers" from the rest is that it updates its gameplay based on seasonal holidays. It also has a "World Tour," in which the gameplay changes every few weeks based on where the game is currently based. For example, when the game was set in New Orleans over Halloween, the police officer was transformed into Frankenstein's Monster, along with a skeleton dog sidekick. Other special events, such as Weekly Hunt, give you the option to win new in-game rewards and characters. It's a great way to keep players excited because there are always new characters, boards, and other items.
"Crossy Road," developed and published by Hipster Whale, is less of an endless runner and more of an infinite hopper — a modern take on the classic "Frogger." It's still an endless running game, only you're running across an unlimited supply of streets instead of down a neverending path.
The game is about a chicken attempting to cross the road, except this road is crowded with speeding cars, trains, trucks, rivers, trees, and other obstacles. You tap to go forward one step at a time, and swipe left or right to move in either direction.
As you cross, you'll have to dodge moving objects coming from the left and right and not fall into any water. You can also collect coins along the way to purchase new animal characters, including a goose, pigeon, goat, sheep, frog, and newt. There are even some monsters.
If you have a friend with you, you can play multiplayer from one smartphone. The screen will split, and two people can navigate their animals across the road by tapping and swiping on their side. It could get a bit difficult if you have a smaller smartphone, but if you've got a big screen, you'll be good to go.
Aside from that, there isn't much else to the game, which is a good thing. The design and animations are both vibrant and polished, but not too crazy. There are no power-ups, unique items, or crazy obstacles. There aren't even really any advertisements; the only way you'll see one is if you want a gift of more coins. "Crossy Roads" doesn't waste any time on the unnecessary, if simplicity is your thing.
"Alto Odyssey," the sequel to "Alto's Adventure," is a simple endless runner where you sandboard down desert dunes, over rock formations, and through hot air balloons. But it brings something unique and refreshing to the genre through a gorgeous atmosphere, simple gameplay, a calming soundtrack, and muted color palettes — in the same vein as "Monument Valley."
Open the game for the first time, and you'll notice right away that you're not playing your typical endless runner. Although "Alto's Odyssey" has endless runner elements, it's a two-dimensional side-scroller with unique mechanics and objectives that separate it from the run-of-the-mill infinite gameplay. Tap on the screen to jump, and hold down to backflips, which helps you both fly higher and earn boosts you can use to crash through rocks instead of jumping over them.
As you surf along, the desert environments will shift from day to night, sunny to thunderstorms. The farther you go, the more biomes you'll stumble across, like ruins, canyons, and temples. Each playthrough is unique, as the terrain is procedurally generated, so you'll never see the same thing twice.
You can interact with the environment as well, using tornados to fly higher and hot air balloons to bounce around. As you collect coins and perform combo moves, you'll be able to unlock characters and features after each run. One fun feature you can unlock is a wingsuit, which you can use to fly through the side-scrolling land. You can also take advantage of "Zen Mode," which allows you to play the game without losing, so you can run through different biomes in a relaxing manner.
Best of all, "Alto's Odyssey" is a premium game that doesn't have any in-app purchases, which makes it unique among this list. Unfortunately, the game is only free on Android. On iOS, you'll have to shell out $4.99, although the price is worth the incredibly beautiful visuals and the compelling and enthralling experience it offers.
SYBO Games, the co-creators of "Subway Surfers," released "Blades of Brim," another endless runner, soon after their first big hit. Don't worry — although it's an infinite runner, it's got a few updates that make it worth checking out if you're into the game genre.
"Blades of Brim" revolves around a young knight carrying a large sword, tasked to fight off a variety of monsters, break vases, and collect coins while running endlessly through a kingdom. Unlike "Subway Surfers," you can interact with your environment by attacking goons with two different attacks. Swipe down to attack monsters in front of you, and swipe up and to the side to attack goons to your left or right. Thankfully, you don't die after just one mistake like with other endless runners. If you miss an enemy, you only lose a portion of one of your three hearts.
You can run up walls and fly in the air thanks to bursts of wind that shoot out of the ground. It allows you to traverse the endless runner on different floors, each carrying different items for you to pick up. Much like how other infinite running games have different levels, "Blades of Brim" is split up by dungeons. You can avoid them, but inside, you can take on tasks that reward you with gold or treasure chests, which have power-ups and gear that you can use to improve your run.
Collect coins or "essence" to purchase better weapons to attack, armor to protect yourself, and boosts. They can give you flight, increase the damage of your weapon, make you invincible, and turn your enemies into gold (think Midas touch). You can also summon a pet, such as a fire-breathing horse or a lightening-invoking wolf, who you can ride and attack monsters with.
One of the more exciting aspects of the game is that you can only collect coins and essence by reaching a checkpoint. If you're killed or get knocked off the side before you reach a checkpoint, you'll forfeit what you collected (unless you spend an orb of essence).
Visually, "Blades of Brim" is very similar to "Subway Surfers" — vibrant, colorful, and explosive — but it adds to the gameplay with unique features, challenges, and mechanics that make the endless runner worth trying out.
Are you into bullet-powered jetpacks, huge mechanical dragons, and birds that poop money? If so, "Jetpack Joyride" — another side-scrolling endless runner, this time created by Halfbrick Studios (the developers behind "Fruit Ninja") — might be for you.
You play the role of Barry Steakfries, a struggling salesman who stumbles upon a laboratory where they're experimenting on jetpacks, so he decides to steal one. The point of the game is to attempt to break out of the lab with a stolen machine gun jetpack. But this is an endless runner, so the real point is to score as high as possible.
The game is in 2D, which means you don't use your typical swipe gestures to maneuver through the world. Instead, you tap or hold down on the screen to fly up and let go of the screen to go down — similar to "Flappy Bird." However, you don't die if you hit the top or bottom of the screen. You can only be killed by floating zappers, smart missiles, and lasers that trap you on screen.
Maneuvering the jetpack takes a little getting used to, but there are other ways to progress through the game. Occasionally, you can hop into different vehicles that behave uniquely and allow you to progress. Along the way, you must avoid obstacles and hazards to collect coins, which you can use to upgrade your jetpack, change your outfit, and buy advantages.
Overall, the gameplay isn't challenging, but collecting coins and power-ups while your speed increases and you continue to avoid hazards is what can be a bit rough. If you do die, there are tokens you can use to play a slot machine, which offers some massive awards, so it's worth looking out for them, even if you might die.
What keeps you playing are the missions. You always have three current tasks to work towards, ranging from simple (high-five ten scientists) to difficult (have a near-miss with a missile). As you complete missions, you receive more coins and new goals to attempt, while also earning new titles for your character.
The charm in "Jetpack Joyride" is that it pays homage to 16-bit games, is filled with crazy obstacles, and provides a bit of humor relief (e.g., scientists running around like chickens without heads), all while adding something unique to the endless runner genre.
"PunchQuest" packs quite the punch in the endless runner genre by creating a retro and over-the-top world that makes it so fun to play. The rule of the game? Punch your way through a never-ending cascade of bats, skeletons, zombies, one-eyed mutants, and other enemies. Tap on the left side of the screen to uppercut and the right side to do a forward-tap. Although there are only two buttons, you can string together the punches to create a combo, which unlocks special blows that kill enemies easier.
In the game, you have the option to take different paths, which can result in you discovering unique power-ups, minibusses, collectible items, and even dinosaurs that you can ride on and use to attack your enemies. As you progress, you build a meter of three special attacks, which you can purchase with the points you collect in each level. The special attacks can do more damage, shield you better, and more. As long as you manage to stay alive long enough, you can easily collect enough to unlock these attacks easily.
You can also customize your character. Things you can change include your character's sex, costume, hat, and face, as well as the color of these customizations.
- App Store Link: PunchQuest (free)
Much like "Jetpack Joyride," this 2D endless runner is over-the-top but in a good way. It has replayability value because of unique features, such as alternative routes and minimal controls, but also because of how ridiculous it is. Dinosaurs shooting lasers and skeleton uppercuts are just a recipe for success.
"Robot Unicorn Attack," from Adult Swim, was created as a joke, but it soon took on a life of its own, much like other Adult Swim creations. The original game features a robotic unicorn that must gallop through an intense world, dashing over platforms and missing crystal stars to avoid dying. The game was a hit, which only means one thing — it had to be sequel-ized.
"Robot Unicorn Attack 2" is much like the original. You're still a robotic unicorn. The stage gets faster as you go through it. You have three lives. But it just does everything better. While the first game may have felt like a joke, the second iteration feels more like a real polished creation, although the craziness is still there.
In the game, you face off against new enemies that force you to think fast. Star barriers still exist, but they're now aggressive because they shoot fire at you. You control your unicorn by tapping on the screen, but there are now multiple paths through the stage, each one with different hazards and items to collect. The way the level layout looks changes every day as well, so there's always something fresh for you to play through.
Much like other endless runners, there are challenges you can take on, which increase your rank and unlock new abilities, items, menu options, and other worlds (the latest is a Lava World). There are also daily challenges, which are a bit more complicated, and community challenges that require everyone that plays RUA2 to play together in a sense.
The game is free to play, which means you'll see some of the microtransactions you're accustomed to in endless runners, but it's nothing crazy. There's a music shop that sells songs for $0.99, but "Always" by Erasure (which added to the identity of the first game) is replaced by a lyric-less version. If you want the original or other funny songs like "The Neverending Story" (recently made popular again in "Stranger Things" on Netflix), you'll have to drop a few bucks to have them play in the background.
Luckily, the elements that made you lose yourself in the first game are still here in the sequel. With the addition of community events, more challenging terrain, better bosses, and constant updates, "Robot Unicorn Attack 2" is one of the better endless running, side-scrolling games out there.
Kumobius' "Time Surfer" is an improvement of Andreas Illiger's "Tiny Wings," which popularized the whole endless-runner-with-hills concept. The game, like many of these infinite runners, is simple. You use the hills to gain speed, holding down on the screen to make your character drop into the downslopes and releasing to launch up into the air. The mechanics of it aren't as easy as other games at first, but soon you learn to ride the waves.
In "Time Surfer," your goal is to fly throughout multiple worlds. There are tons of little jumps for you to fly through, which makes it difficult because you must time your jump or else you'll quickly die. One of the coolest features in this game is the ability to reverse time, which gives you a few seconds to fix a mistake you may have made that accidentally killed you. Using this feature costs you "time power," which you can collect throughout the state (purple gems). You can also collect "cake," which is the in-game currency.
There are two types of obstacles: deadly ones, which you must avoid, and the rest, which allow you to bounce off of them for a big boost. You can slide down planet rings in the sky, use speed strips for a quick boost, and collect bonuses for which increase your speech or attract gems magnets automatically.
As you complete in-app challenges, you can unlock pets, which you must pay for (in cake), to bring them along with you on your run. Each pet provides a different enhancement, such as a speed boost or a free recovery from death.
Like a few of the other endless runners in the list, "Time Surfer" banks on a few unique features, a retro look, and a geeky universe to make you choose this game over others, and it works. It uses both the old and the new to create a refreshing game in a sometimes stale genre.
"Breakneck" is a cross between "Star Wars Episode I: Racer" and your typical endless runner, only better. In this game, you're in the cockpit of a jet fighter, and you must get as far as you can, scrambling through unfamiliar terrain, dodging obstacles, and evading capture and destruction.
Everything in "Breakneck" is either sleek or gritty, with your shiny racer nicely contrasting the dusty desert floor, creating visuals that you won't see in other infinite runners. As you race through this alien fortress, you can collect coins to buy boosts and unlock ship upgrades, which can help you take on the many challenges the game has.
The game is pretty, but the gameplay is also great. It's simple too: tap on either side of the screen to move left or right. When you fly close to a wall, you get a charge of energy. Once this energy is full, you can tap and hold both sides of the screen to shoot forward at a much higher speed.
In front of you, there are closing and opening doors, which you must carefully navigate through. You must also watch out for enemies, who are attempting to destroy you with a laser beam from behind.
Yes, the game is free to play, which means there are ads, which can get a bit annoying. You can watch a video to continue your run, but ads sometimes play between races. It wouldn't be so bad if there weren't already so many controls to tap on to start the race in the first place, but those are the things you have to deal with when a game is free. The incredible visuals and the simple gameplay are enough to keep you playing the game, regardless of ads.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' special coverage on mobile gaming. Check out the whole Gaming series.