Gaming is on the rise, and all you need is your phone.

It's prime time to game! But you don't need a fancy computer or console to play good games—if you know where to look, you can play some riveting stuff on your phone or tablet. So if you're bored of Netflix or the endless newsfeeds and social media got you feeling funky-down, see if one of these tickles your fancy.

A lot of mobile games are historically kind of bad—90 percent of them follow a free-to-play model that depends on ads and in-app purchases to make money. The methods of monetizing mobile games often mean the game is kind of a stinker to play, but there are diamonds to be found in all that rough. Here are some:

The Battle of Polytopia 

Platforms: Android, iOS, Steam
Cost: Free, paid expansions

From a humble corner island, your citizens can march on the world. Pic courtesy Midjiwan AB.

Have you ever played Civilization games? This is the best, turn-based-strategy, empire-building, and free game you'll find on any app store. You can find it on the Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, and even Steam. Though it released in 2016, it's been getting steady updates and attention from its developer and has won several awards. The graphics are a charming and easy-to-read, low-poly style, that makes tapping to move units, attack, and explore really easy. As your empire grows, you'll research new technologies, disperse the fog of war, and encounter secrets and other tribes. Without spending a penny, you can play as different tribes in several modes against virtual opponents. For a couple of bucks, you can unlock Multiplayer mode to play with a friend and unlock new and monstrous tribes to play as.

Each tribe has unique units and abilities—and there are even more than pictured. Courtesy Midjiwan AB.

Dots: A Game About Connecting

Platforms: Android, iOS
Cost: Free


Dots is the kind of simple fun that soothes the reptile part of the brain that just loves doing colorful tasks. It's available for both iOS and Android. There's a six-by-six square of dots, and your job is to connect same-colored dots in lines and squares to clear them out so new dots can drop in. The more dots you connect in one continuous swipe, the more points you get. If that description and picture got your brain finger-swiping already, it might be the perfect idle game for spare minutes.

Monument Valley

Platforms: Android, iOS
Cost: $3.99

monument valley
MC Escher walks into and under-through a bar . . . Pic courtesy ustwo games.

$4 might seem like a lot to pay when there are so many free games. But just like 4 is incomparably greater than 0, Monument Valley is a standout in mobile games. It's available for Android and iOS and there's also a sequel out (Android and iOS). If you've ever looked at the spatially-twisted courts of an MC Escher painting and yearned to walk around there, this game will scratch that itch. You assume the role of a little princess and must manipulate stairs and passageways to find the secret exit in each beautiful and perplexing level.


Platforms: Android, iOS
Cost: Free

data wing
It's peculiar how a handheld game on a tiny screen can make you feel a sense of speed. Pic courtesy Dan Vogt.

This game probably shouldn't be free—it's exquisite. DATA WING a neon-colored racing game with a twist: the closer your little arrow-spaceship glides to the walls of the track, the faster you go. You can get it on iOS and Android. Set to a pumping soundtrack, the game takes you through a mysterious story and teaches you how to get better at its systems. As you race through ever-increasing obstacles and unique conditions, you'll realize the skill ceiling for the game is astronomical.

Whether it's a binge-session on the couch or a couple of minutes before cooking dinner, phone gaming can be a great way to escape and have fun. Find one that you like!

What's your favorite app on your phone? Got any good games? Comment below and let us know!