Smartphones and tablets have become so powerful in recent years that they're now approaching PCs and game consoles in terms of gameplay and graphics. Thanks to sharper and more responsive touchscreens along with powerful processors, iOS and Android devices like the OnePlus 5 have become gaming rigs in their own right, letting mobile gamers experience action games as never before.
Action games range from endless runners that push players to go further and set new records, to racing games that pit players against each other in a quest to dominate the track, and fighting games where players duel each other to determine who has the most skill. As such, the sheer number of games that fall under this category can make it hard to choose something worth playing, so we came up with our own list of the nine best action games for mobile devices.
Though all the games in this list come with in-app purchases that can enhance gameplay, we made sure to avoid pay-to-play games and ones that were full of annoying advertisements. With those ground rules established, here are our picks for the 9 best free action games that are available on both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.
Lost in Harmony seamlessly blends elements of obstacle running and rhythm games into a fast-paced musical odyssey set in the surreal dream world of two best friends as they cope with illness and grief. A poignant storyline that's too good to spoil combined with a beautiful soundtrack easily makes this one of the best action games for mobile right now.
Unlike most running games, Lost in Harmony has finite stages where you slide across lanes to gather stardust, all while avoiding obstacles and tapping on rhythm orbs that are tied to the musical score. More maps are unlocked as you progress through the story-driven game, along with different outfits and skateboards that you can purchase with stardust collected to customize your characters.
Lost in Harmony also comes with an expansion pack which tells the tale of M.I.R.A.I., a robot whose harrowing story of escape is told through a collection of new courses and accompanying musical tracks. In addition to its story modes, the game also lets you design your own courses, complete with music, which you can then share with the community.
The newest and possibly best Transformers mobile game, Transformers: Forged to Fight, has you helping Optimus Prime fight corrupted Transformers to save them from their ruthless overlords. Once you've defeated a robot, they'll join your cause regardless of whether they're Autobots or Decepticons. The game boasts console-quality graphics and is a solid choice for players that love fighting games.
Transformers: Forged to Fight features intuitive touch controls that let you unleash devastating combos to smash through any foe that gets in your way. Each robot can transform into their unique alt-mode to deal massive damage that can't be blocked by their opponent.
Die-hard fans of the franchise will love game's unlocking system, which allows you to collect, control, and level up unique robots from the entire Transformers universe, including the classic TV animated series, movies, comics, and toys. Transformers: Forged to Fight even has a base-building element that lets you collect and gather precious resources needed to upgrade your robots.
Need for Speed: No Limits, with its stunning graphics and massive selection of unlockable supercars, is sure to please gamers who crave adrenaline-packed racing games.
Besides boasting console-quality graphics, Need for Speed: No Limits has simple controls that make it easy to steer your machine as you drift through sharp turns and employ boosts. Missions that consist of racing through traffic-ridden city streets are short but intense, and ideal for the on-the-go nature of mobile gaming.
You can earn reputation points by racing and performing other tasks, which, in turn, will reward you with parts to upgrade your ride and unlock blueprints to add new cars to your garage. As a freemium game, Need for Speed: No Limits does come with a fuel system that limits gameplay. Thankfully, it's largely offset by fast level-ups that fully recharge it, as well as a variety of daily challenges that allow you to earn premium currency without having to spend real money on in-app purchases.
If you've ever had the urge to pilot a giant robot and rampage through city streets like a bull in a china shop, then Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade is the game for you. This sci-fi game from the popular Warhammer franchise has all the hallmarks of a great mobile game: Great graphics and touch controls, intense missions, and full character customization.
The intuitive controls make it easy to employ a variety of weaponry and wreak havoc on an assortment of enemy units that range from lowly grunts to tanks and robots. Your mech's movements are automated in a pre-determined route, which makes it a lot easier to concentrate on combat.
You can level up through combat and game progression, and this rewards you with precious loot, resources, and currency. With your currency, you can customize your mech by changing its color and upgrading its armor, or by crafting more powerful weapons to make it more potent on the battlefield.
A relative newcomer to the world of mobile gaming, Skullgirls actually started off in 2012 as a console-based fighting game which ended up garnering a cult following. Once you've tried this one out for yourself, you'll easily see why.
The artwork is incredibly eye-catching, providing a near-perfect mix of hand-drawn anime with classic black and white cartoons, tinged with a Gothic, steampunk twist. The jazzy soundtrack lends tremendously to the mood of the game, treating our ears to a fast-paced yet haunting vibe that captures the game's gloomy theme.
The touch controls are easily understood, so you'll quickly learn to unleash multi-hit combos that devastate your opponents with cruel efficiency. As is standard with mobile games, Skullgirls lets you unlock and collect up to 40 different playable characters and hundreds of special attacks by progressing through the game's campaign mode and claiming relics. Character traits and abilities can also be customized by leveling up after matches.
Vainglory is a multiplayer online battle arena that's similar to the famous League of Legends in terms of gameplay. The game pits players against each other in team-based three-on-three matchups with the ultimate goal of destroying the opposing team's Vain, situated deep in the heart of the enemy's base.
The multiplayer battles can last up to 30 minutes, which gives you time to gain points by defeating other players and destroying defenses. In the middle of the map, there are neutral monsters that you can fight to obtain special buffs and get that extra edge. Leveling up and obtaining precious loot is essential, and Vainglory even lets you equip more powerful weapons and armor to make you more effective in combat.
There's a ton of heroes to unlock in Vainglory, each with their own unique skill and abilities. This diversity is essential, as picking the right hero can help balance out your team's stats to maximize your chances of winning. All in all, Vainglory, with its awesome graphics and easily mastered controls, is a solid choice for those who have an MOBA itch to scratch.
Jetpack Joyride has over 100 million downloads on the Google Play Store and it's easy to see why. This game has a simple premise: Get as far as you can while avoiding obstacles like missiles, laser beams, and zappers, which equate to instant death.
This side-scrolling game can go on indefinitely, so it's only limited by your ability to keep up. The controls are simple — press anywhere on the screen to make the hero rise up and fly, then let go and he'll fall. As the hero is in perpetual motion at a constant speed, maintaining the right altitude is essential if you want to avoid obstacles and go the distance in Jetpack Joyride.
There are plenty of items to collect as you propel forward through the never-ending laboratory. Some items, such as spin tokens, give you a chance to play a slot machine to win various rewards like head starts and instant revivals. Other items, like robotic vehicles, can also be obtained, and act as a shield to protect you from accidental run-ins with obstacles and extend your life overall.
Into the Dead combines elements of running and zombie genres to make a terrifyingly exciting first person running game. As with other infinite runners, the object of the game is to survive for as long as you can — and as with other zombie games, you have to do this without getting mauled by the legions of undead that stand in between you and the relative safety of the woods.
Dodging zombies like an NFL receiver is essential to going the distance and surviving the post-apocalyptic nightmare that is Into the Dead. Thankfully, the game's controls are customizable, which helps you hit the ground running, so to speak.
To add spice to the game, crates containing various weapons are scattered across the field. You also earn credits as you play, which can be traded in for various perks like a head start and enhanced ammo capacity. There's even a leaderboard that you can view to see how you compare with other players. Despite its age, Into the Dead is still a solid infinite runner game and one we highly recommend.
Trials Frontier is a side-scrolling dirt bike racing game set in wastelands that are reminiscent of the wild west. The game's premise is pretty straightforward: Complete quests given by the colorful cast of characters from the backwoods town that rescued you from an explosion, being careful not to crash your bike and kill yourself in the process.
Trials Frontier shines in its simplicity, both visually and through its gameplay. Graphics are sharp and on par with modern 2D side-scrollers from any platform. The game's controls are simple, so you'll be earning extra points by performing mid-air acrobatics with your dirt bike in no time.
As is standard with action games, Trials Frontier lets you upgrade, unlock, and collect an assortment of dirt bikes and outfits for your character through campaign progression and level-ups. Multiplayer races are also available for those who enjoy directly competing against other players.
Action games, without a doubt, are some of the most entertaining ways to pass the time with your smartphone. And as awesome as these games are, there are many others that didn't quite make the cut for our list, so we welcome your suggestions. What's your favorite action game for Android or iOS? Let us know in the comment section below.