What’s better than a free game? Pretty much nothing. Except when it’s terrible and you’ve wasted time on downloading and playing it. Fortunately, there are loads of fantastic free games for Android – and we list the very best here.
Whether you’re into word games, endless runners, platformers or puzzles, there’s something here for you.
Click through to the next pages to see each category or read on below for our pick of the week. And check back weekly for our latest pick.
Free Android game of the week: PewPew
PewPew is a twin-stick blaster in the classic mold. It has no time for storylines. Instead, it dumps you in a ship, hurls countless enemies your way, tasks you with blowing them to pieces, and dresses the entire thing in gorgeous old-school neon vectors.
From the off, this is a tense, exciting game. The arena you’re within is claustrophobic and frequently packed with ships and projectiles. Surviving for any length of time requires mastery of the controls, and learning how different enemies behave.
But there’s depth here, too. Once you’ve suitably honed your shooty skills, you can take on a mode with giant space rocks, and a version of PewPew that removes your weapons entirely, presumably making the ships pilot really wish they’d added ‘bring a really big gun’ to their to-do list.
The best free racing games for Android
Our favorite free Android 3D, retro, 2D and on-rails racers.
Asphalt Xtreme: Rally Racing
Asphalt Xtreme: Rally Racing takes Asphalt off-road. It ditches its collection of sports cars and larger-than-life city circuits for jeeps and trucks – and an awful lot of mud, dirt, rocks, and grime.
Another thing there’s an awful lot of is freemium mechanics. As is seemingly law for an Asphalt game, exciting racing is sadly gunked up by all manner of timers and IAP gates. But put that aside and you’ll find Xtreme an entertainingly daft addition to the series.
Blasting through deserts, canyons and jungles, with your off-roader soaring into the air in a manner that’s almost certainly not covered by insurance, never really gets old. And although the basics – loads of nitro; floaty physics; crazy tracks – might be familiar, the new environments alone make this one worth a download.
Carmageddon is a blast from the past of PC gaming. It masquerades as a racer, but often feels like you’re hunting prey – albeit while encased in a suit of speeding metal.
The game’s freeform ‘arenas’ are networks of roads in a dystopian future. People and cows blithely amble about while deranged drivers smash each other to pieces. Victories come by way of completing laps, wrecking all your opponents, or mowing down every living thing in the vicinity.
In the 1990s, this was shocking to the point of Carmageddon being banned in some countries. Today, the lo-fi violence seems quaint. But the game’s tongue-in-cheek humor survives, sitting nicely alongside bouncy physics, madcap sort-of-racing, and deranged cops attempting to crush you into oblivion should you cross their path.
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Asphalt 8: Airborne is a high-octane racer that gave a cursory glance towards realism. It then decided against bothering with such a trifling issue, and decided it’d much prefer you to pelt along at insane speeds under the power of glorious nitro, which frequently sends your car soaring into the air.
Not one for the simulation crowd, then, but this racer is perfect for everyone else. The larger-than-life branched courses – hyper-real takes on real-world locations – are madcap and exciting. Rather than doing laps around a boring circuit surrounded by gravel traps, you blast through rocket launch sites, and blaze through volcanos.
There are downsides – cynical IAPs and timers abound, welding a massive comedy tailfin to this otherwise sleek racer’s stylings. But for dizzying speed, mid-air barrel rolls, and loads of laughs, this racer is tough to beat.
Sonic Forces: Speed Battle
Sonic Forces: Speed Battle reimagines Sonic The Hedgehog as an into-the-screen lane-based auto-runner. Which probably sounds a lot like Sonic Dash – but here, you battle it out against online opposition.
With trap-laden courses and pick-ups you can regularly grab as you belt along, Speed Battle has hints of Mario Kart about it. Races are packed with tense moments as you unleash a fireball, in the hope of taking out a distant leader, or have the checkered flag in sight, but know your opponents are only fractions of a second behind.
There is some grind – chests with timers; multiple currencies; glacially slow leveling up. But Speed Battle puts a colorful, entertaining spin on auto-runners that’s fun even if you keep your wallet firmly closed.
Data Wing has the appearance of a minimal top-down racer, but it’s far, far more than that. That’s not to say the racing bit isn’t great - because it is. You guide your little triangular ship around neon courses, scooting across boost pads, and scraping track edges for a bit of extra speed.
But there’s something else going on here – an underlying narrative where you discover you’re, in fact, ferrying bits of data about, all under the eye of an artificially intelligent Mother. Initially, all seems well, but it soon becomes clear Mother has some electrons loose, not least when you start getting glimpses of a world beyond the silicon.
With perfect touch controls, varied racing levels, a few hours of story, and plenty of replay value, Data Wing would be a bargain for a few dollarpounds. For free, it’s absurdly generous.
One Tap Rally
This game does for racing what auto-runners do for platform games. One Tap Rally is controlled with a single finger, pressing on the screen to accelerate and releasing to brake, while your car steers automatically. The aim is to not hit the sides of the track, because that slows you down.
Win and you move up the rankings, then playing a tougher, faster opponent. In a neat touch, said opponents are recordings of real-world attempts by other players, ranked by time.
In essence, this is a digital take on slot-racing, then, without the slots. But the mix of speed and strategy, along with a decent range of tracks, makes you forget about the simplistic controls. If anything, they become a boon, shifting the focus to learning track layouts and razor-sharp timing. Top stuff.
If you’re of the opinion gaming takes itself a tad too seriously at times, Maximum Car is a perfect antidote. This amusingly over-the-top racer has you barrel along winding roads, blowing up rival racers, and driving like a maniac.
Smash the same kind of car up enough across multiple races and you can buy it in the shop, using coins acquired by terrorizing other road users.
It all feels a bit like someone stripped down Burnout, added a slice of OutRun, and shoved the lot through a Lego-like visual filter.
Along with a brainless commentator (“I’ve got a reading age of six!”) growling at regular intervals as you use your ice cream van to smash an unfortunate convertible to smithereens, this all makes for a suitably silly and entertaining blast of speed that’s great in small doses.
In the world of Splash Cars, it appears everyone's a miserable grump apart from you. Their world is dull and grey, but your magical vehicle brings colour to anything it goes near. The police aren't happy about this and aim to bring your hue-based shenanigans to a close, by ramming your car into oblivion. There's also the tiny snag of a petrol tank that runs dry alarmingly quickly.
Splash Cars therefore becomes a fun game of fleeing from the fuzz, zooming past buildings by a hair's breadth, grabbing petrol and coins carelessly left lying about, and trying to hit an amount-painted target before the timer runs out. Succeed and you go on to bigger and better locations, with increasingly powerful cars.