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Our picks for the 10 best new Android games in 2023
After years of free games dominating the scenes, we finally saw a big shift in 2023. Although there were plenty of great Android games released this year that were still free, only two out of ten of our top favorite mobile games of 2023 are completely free with ads, although a few have demo versions.
Why the sudden reversal? Part of it is due to Netflix. The streaming giant dipped its toes into mobile games in 2021, but 2023 saw it ramp up these efforts, offering high-quality ports of console games and other original titles to its subscribers at no extra cost. Apple also played a role with the announcement of the iPhone 15 Pro and the company’s plans to bring console-quality games to its phone, offering them at premium prices ranging from $30 to $60.
When Apple introduces a new trend, the Android world often seems to follow suit. With Apple pursuing expensive premium games, developers are likely more comfortable releasing premium experiences on Android again. Now that you understand why there are more premium titles than ever, let’s dive right into our top ten picks, followed by a list of honorable mentions.
Curious about how we came up with our selections? While I was the primary curator of the titles, there was more to the process than just picking my favorites at random. We provide more detail at the bottom of the post.
The best Android games for 2024
1. Hello Neighbor Nicky’s Diaries
- Price: Free to try, $7 to unlock
- Genre: Horror/Adventure
This year’s race was very close, making it challenging to select the top three or so. Ultimately, Hello Neighbor: Nicky’s Diaries was chosen for several reasons. First, Nicky’s Diaries is one of the few mobile games from a franchise that offers an experience on par with its console counterparts. For instance, Warcraft Rumble is an okay game, but it doesn’t come close to the quality of a genuine Blizzard title.
While the original Hello Neighbor was previously ported to Google Play and provided a decent experience, it didn’t reach the same level due to bugs and awkward controls. Nicky’s Diaries also stands out because it boasts beautiful graphics, well-functioning mechanics, and some of the best mobile controllers I’ve ever used.
The story is pretty much the same as in any other game in the series: you have a weird neighbor, and you decide to investigate while he essentially tries to kidnap you. This time, however, there’s a lot more in-game lore that can be unlocked, which makes this title stand out even more. You can download the game for free, but you’ll be limited to a very small portion of it unless you pay $7 to unlock the full experience, which we believe is worth it. Looking for more adventure games? Check out our guide to the best adventure games for Android.
2. Laya’s Horizon
- Price: Free with Netflix
- Genre: Action /Adventure
This one was a very close second, as it was my personal favorite of 2023, at least until Nicky’s Diaries came around (one of my favorite franchises). From the makers of the Alto series, Laya’s Horizon is a 3D open-world game that shares the same general aesthetic as the company’s previous titles. This means equally charming graphics and sound.
Essentially, the game is about indulging in limitless flights around the open map, although it does provide specific goals that can unlock new styles of flight through additional capes. It offers a very casual, relaxing experience that works well for both short playthroughs and longer sessions. The controls are quite a bit different from other movement-driven games, as Laya’s Horizon uses touches and gestures to navigate the world. There’s a bit of a learning curve here, but once you master them they’ll feel more natural than other methods used in similar games.
The game is exclusively available for Netflix subscribers, so there’s no way to play it on Android without a subscription.
3. Pocket City 2
- Price: $5
- Genre: Citybuilder/Sim
Pocket City arguably was the gold standard for mobile city-building simulation games, but sequels can be tricky — just look at how City Skylines 2 has been having a hard time living up to its predecessor at launch. The good news is Pocket City 2 not only lives up to its predecessor, but it brings new 3D Graphics and plenty of other improvements.
The game mechanics have also been polished and it’s added some pretty exciting new features like the ability to free roam and enter buildings or drive around in cars. The good news is that the company has struck a decent balance between these features and what people want: a good city builder.
There are two versions of the game, but we highly recommend picking up the premium app as it’ll only set you back $5, and yet you’ll lose the ads and gain a bunch of extra features and functions that are omitted from the base game. If you want to try the free version first, you’ll find it on Google Play as well.
4. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge
- Price: Free with Netflix
- Genre: Arcade
As a young boy, I spent more hours than I care to admit attempting to beat TMNT 2: The Arcade game on the NES so I was excited by this release. While it’s a whole new game it still gives me the same nostalgic vibe as the original and it’s nice to see a solid game like this in modern times, as these types of games aren’t nearly as popular anymore. This game has been around on other platforms for a while, but Netflix brought us an Android version in 2023.
Netflix is one of the best when it comes to optimizing its games and so it’s no surprise that the mobile controllers are actually fairly decent. Still, you can’t replicate the experience of an actual physical controller, so I’m even happier that the game includes full support for controllers as well. As with other Netflix games, the only downside is that you can only play it if you subscribe to Netflix.
5. Sid Meier’s Railroads!
- Price: $12.99
- Genre: Tycoon
One of the most expensive Android games of the year, Sid Meier’s Railroads is a faithful port of the 2006 classic. While there are many great tycoon games out there for mobile with more modern additions to the mechanics, the game actually holds up reasonably well despite its age. You get all sixteen scenarios from the original game, as well as the 40 real-world engines from the game. Unfortunately, there’s no multiplayer support in the Android version.
When I first heard about this game, I was concerned as I owned the original and the graphics were pretty dated. Thankfully, this isn’t just a straight port, as there is a redesigned interface for mobile, as well as upgraded graphics. It’s still not the most visually impressive Android game by a long shot, but it’s a solid upgrade from the original. Is it worth $12.99? If you’re into these kinds of games, then absolutely.
6. Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon
- Price: Free with Netflix
- Genre: Action/Puzzle
Netflix is on this list multiple times this year, a testament to just how good its console ports are. The game is a unique blend of rogue-lite action and puzzle mechanics. You have a main map that you walk across and can enter into encounters with enemies, which starts up a puzzle round. There are plenty of puzzle games that offer a similar experience, but this more gamified rogue-lite approach helps it stand out as a charming, addicting experience.
While Shovel Knight works well for shorter playthroughs, I will admit I often got lost in the game and ended up playing longer than I intended. This is largely down to the fast-paced gameplay that makes you feel like you earned it when a level is clear and leaves me wanting to start the next one. I let my wife try this one, as she typically sticks more to traditional puzzle games as her mainstay. She fell in love and has been playing it almost nightly since.
- Price: Free trial, $4.99
- Genre: RPG
As a Pokemon fanatic since the original Game Boy era, I was happy to see a full-fledged classic monster-catching game finally come to Android, even if it was originally for other platforms first. The game is completely unapologetic when it comes to copying the Pokemon games, but it manages to do it with utmost respect, similar to how Stardew Valley was inspired by classic Harvest Moon games. You’ll find similar-looking but unique monsters (there’s a ghost-cat, which is my favorite), as well as the same general story of leaving behind your mom to collect pocket monsters
The graphics are reminiscent of the earlier Pokemon games, particularly during the GBA era, but with more polish and modernization. Although you’re limited to just a small part of the game for free, it’ll only cost $4.99 to unlock an experience that will keep you busy for at least 25 hours but can easily double that time if you are a completionist.
8. Hitman: Blood Money REPRISAL
- Price: $14.99
- Genre: Stealth
Yes, there are a ton of ports on this list but this one stands out as it is a massive upgrade that is worth a replay, especially if you haven’t touched it for a decade or more. For Hitman fans who came to the series more recently, Blood Money was first released in 2006. The Hitman franchise has evolved a lot since then adding several new changes to the formula. Although it won’t feel like the more recent Hitman trilogy, the game does make some improvements to help modernize the game, such as adding a core feature from its direct successor.
The game Hitman: Absolution arrived in 2012 with a brand new Instinct Mode, which marks NPCs with yellow outlines and allows your character to see enemies and civilians alike. It also helps indicate points of interest. This makes it much easier to play the game, especially with mobile controls. This is the most expensive game on the list at $14.99, but it’s worth it if you’re a fan of the series or want to replay the popular classic with quality-of-life improvements.
9. Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
- Price: Free with in-app purchases
- Genre: Card RPG
Although Harry Potter Legacy has had some mixed critical reception, it was a massive hit amongst the fans. That’s not the only new Harry Potter game though, as it’s been a pretty good year for The Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter Magic Awakened went under the radar a bit but was still picked up by loyal fans like my daughter. The game is a mix of RPG and RTS, blended further by card game mechanics. it’s an interesting mix, if not a completely unfamiliar one. The art looks great and the gameplay is a lot of fun most of the time. Some of the mechanics can admittedly be a bit frustrating in my experience. Even the storyline is solid.
Harry Potter is a big franchise with a huge fanbase, so why isn’t this further up the list? Bugs, for starters. I found this game would play inconsistently on the Pixel 7, Pixel 6 Pro, and even my Z Flip 3. It would work well until it encountered some error and crashed, or even worse it would just disconnect the game. You won’t always run into issues, as my daughter says she’s had many great play-throughs with no issues, but equally as many times she’s been completely frustrated with the game.
10. Honkai: Star Rail
- Price: Free with in-app purchases
- Genre: RPG/Gacha
Honkai: Star Rail is easily the best RPG gacha game released to Android in 2023. Set in the HoYoverse, the graphics of this title are beautiful, the storyline draws you in immediately, and within minutes you’re already thrust into some early action that’s interspersed with cut-scenes that further the story and introduce you to the world around you. The battle is your typical turn-based fare and is quite balanced as the game progresses, and there’s clear inspiration in some of the mechanics taken from the developer’s other smash hit, Genshin Impact.
While the game is easy to jump into, it also gets progressively more difficult as you have to learn the best move and ability combinations for certain battles and more. We highly recommend this game whether you’re into RPGs, gachas, or both. Many of my coworkers specifically voted for this one to be on the main list and honestly, I wish I could give the last three picks a tie as it was a very close decision. You can play the game for free and while there are in-app purchases you can easily get through most of the game’s objectives without paying a dime, just be aware progression will be harder and slower once you reach higher character levels.
Honorable mentions: The rest of the best
Every year, we also list a few games that nearly made the list, but fell just short. After all, there are tons of great titles released, but our list only holds our favorite ten. Here are the rest of the best new Android games released in 2023:
- Perfect Grind (Free with in-app purchases) — This quirky casual title lets you flip, grind, and perform skating tricks, build your own skatepark, customize your style, complete challenges, and more.
- Roto Force (Free to try, $5 to buy) — This unique game is a fast-paced bullet-filled frenzy. It feels like the kind of s arcade game from Atari’s heyday but with a modern twist.
- Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance ($9.99) — Baldur’s Gate takes on a very different form in this action RPG from the early 2000s, ported masterfully to Android. While it’s not cheap, it’s a great game and will provide countless hours of fun.
- Super Meat Boy Forever ($0.99) — The sequel to Super Meat Boy, this game is set years later where Meat Boy has lived happily and safety for years with his new family. Until Dr. Fetus shows up.
- Iris and the Giant ($5.99) — This game is an odd but satisfying fusion of RPG and card game, with roguelike elements thrown in.
- Goat Simulator 3 ($12.99) — The Goat Simulator is back on Android, complete with good graphics and all the same features as you’d get in the console version.
- Metria (Free with in-app purchases) — At first brush, this looks and plays a bit like modern Zeldga games, but the world is only semi-open and the game has more JRPG/Gacha elements.
- Storyteller (Free for Netflix subscribers) — Netflix brought Storyteller to Android in 2023, which lets you drag and drop fairy-tale characters onto a virtual page. Both a puzzle game and just a fun experience, but bugs and other issues do drag it down a bit.
- Monster Hunter Now (Free with in-app purchases) — Monster Hunter Now was an attempt by Niantic to bring another AR game to the world with fairly mixed results. Still, it’s worth a look for Monster Hunter fans, as it’s free to play.
- Dust & Neon (Free for Netflix subscribers) — This port is pretty solid but suffers from awkward touch controls. It is worth a play if you subscribe to Netflix, though.
How did we decide on our picks?
There were a lot of great games released in 2023 and not all of them could make this list, but how did we decide our picks in the first place? Through a few factors:
- As the curator for our Weekly App Newsletter since about mid-September, I’ve used a ton of new games and apps along the way. I used this to compile a Google Sheet of my observations and thoughts.
- I consulted over eight months of Android Authority‘s backlogged “best games of the week” articles to pick out some of the most notable.
- I came away with a list of hundreds of apps, so I went through Google Play review scores and factored this into the selection process. I also removed anything ranking less than 3.5 unless there was a good reason, and only placed four-star apps into my first top ten draft.
- After narrowing the list to twenty games, it was put out to the team for suggestions and to vote any of my game selections initial positions up or down.
- Finally, I spent a bit extra hands-on time with anything in our top selections to ensure the selections were solid, and then I locked in the picks.
As with any best list, this one is obviously at least partially subjective, but that’s our pick for the top ten best mobile games for Android released in 2023. Which was your favorite? Let us know in the poll below.