For a lot of people, gaming has always been an important factor when choosing between smartphones. We’ve had what we would refer to as modern mobile games essentially since we’ve had apps (can you believe Words With Friends came out in 2009!?), so this makes sense. One can make the argument though that gaming is becoming a more important factor than ever before.
This is partly because the app gaming market just keeps expanding. The aforementioned Words With Friends game paved the way for the likes of Ruzzle, or the brand new Word Domination. Combat and RPG games based on things like Marvel or the Greek gods give way to newer games like the recently released Age Of Magic. Sometimes whole genres come into play. There’s a misconception, for instance, that casino gaming is divided into expensive online games and cheap, cheesy mobile versions. In fact, there’s a broad swath of free titles in this category online, and more and more of them are becoming available on mobile devices. Again – the gaming sections of our app stores just don’t stop growing.
There’s also the fact that a whole new medium of smartphone gaming was introduced in 2017 (or if you want to get technical, perhaps back in 2016 with a certain Pokémon-themed sensation). Augmented reality once looked like the little brother to virtual reality, but now appears to be a very exciting space in which game developers can work with very few limits on their creativity. AR gaming makes artificial use of the space around us and effectively introduces a type of virtual reality that doesn’t require a headset (but also doesn’t amount to full immersion). The important thing in this conversation though is that it still requires a capable phone and a sharp screen.
That brings us to the question of what the best Android phones out there for modern gaming might be. With more games constantly flooding the app stores and augmented reality only just getting started, it’s clear that gaming will continue to be an important factor, if not the most important factor, in choosing a phone. So here’s our look at some of the best options.
The Razer Phone was effectively built to appeal to gamers, and it does just that. Previously, we compared it to the OnePlus 5 and gave a few nods to each device (which is why OnePlus 5 does not have its own category here), but considering other opinions the Razer is consistently rated as one of the top options for gaming. Everything about it is optimized for the activity, which doesn’t make it perfect, but does help it come close.
Samsung Galaxy S9
Many will argue that currently, the iPhone X is the best phone in existence for gaming and most everything else. As usual, though, Samsung is nipping at Apple’s heels, and the Galaxy S9 is also an extraordinarily capable phone. Even marginal improvements in display and processing power from the S8 make a big deal with high-end mobile games; plus there’s the phone’s easy compatibility with Samsung Gear VR to consider.
Sony Xperia XZ2
This phone doesn’t get as much attention in the U.S., but it’s another terrific option. Working on Android 8.0 and with the same chip as the Galaxy S9, it’s got all the perks you’d want in any high-powered Android device. Additionally, it has strong front-facing speakers and a vibration feature that combine to make gaming a little more sensory.
Moto Z2 Play
This is in most respects a fairly average gaming smartphone – performing a little bit like you might imagine a slightly outdated Samsung Galaxy device would. However, it gets extra points for having its own gamepad attachments, which can take the mobile gaming experience to the next level.
Google Pixel 2 XL
Not to be forgotten, the largest of the Google Pixel phones is also worthy of consideration. Really, there’s very little not to love about this phone: it has the same chip as the Xperia XZ2 and Galaxy S9, robust battery life, dual front-facing speakers, and an extremely sharp display. The Google Pixel 2 XL also has a lot of screen space (which isn’t vital for all mobile games but certainly never hurts) and is compatible with Google Daydream VR.