The perfect cure for a rainy day or your morning transit commute.
Not everyone wants to commit hours of their day to playing games on their phone. That’s why casual games exist! Championed by iconic mobile games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga, these games have proven wildly successful. They’re designed to be played on the go and at your own pace — as laid back or competitive as you want.
Most casual games are free, offering in-app purchases and some ads, while a few may cost you a dollar or two, but they’re totally worth it. We’ve collected some of our favorites from the past, along with some newer games that are great to keep on your phone for a little gaming break during your day.
Super Mario Run
Everyone’s favorite turtle-stomping plumber is back on Android in Super Mario Run. While Super Mario Run might be a bit of a disappointment for those of us dreaming of a full-fledged Mario game on a non-Nintendo handheld device, it’s a great casual game that’s sure to be a hit with Mario fans young and old.
Most of the Mario mechanics you know and love from the classic side-scrolling games of the past is here: you’re running your way through eight different worlds made up of three levels and a boss battle as you try and rescue Princess Peach from the scaly claws of King Bowser. But rather than giving you full control over Mario, he’s automatically running to the left and you control his jumps. It’s a game that’s designed to be played with one hand while you’re riding the subway, which is the goal of most casual games.
The game is free to download and play the first world, but then you’ll need to pay $ 9.99 to unlock the full game.
The Battle of Polytopia
If you love in-depth strategy games like Civilization 5, but don’t typically have 10 hours to burn playing through a full campaign, you should check out The Battle of Polytopia. It’s a casual strategy game that borrows heavily from the Civilization franchise but offers a fresh take on the genre for Android.
Upgrade your technology tree, explore new lands, and decimate your enemies in solo and multiplayer modes that are great for quick pick-up-and-play or lengthier gaming sessions. Everything is wrapped in colorful poly graphics and it’s surprisingly robust for a free-to-play title.
If you haven’t played Reigns yet, you need to check it out — it was one of our favorite games of 2016 and won Google’s first Indie Game Award. It’s built around a very casual gameplay mechanic (traditionally found in dating apps): you play as a King ruling over your kingdom who must make “yes” or “no” decisions to the advisors, citizens, and talking animals that wander into your palace.
The aim is to live as long as you can. When you die, you take up the role of your successor and the new reign begins (get it?). Featuring a great mix of mystery and gallows humor, this game is filled with fun surprises to discover the longer you play. Well worth the price of admission, this is a game you can casually play — but be prepared to get addicted to its simplistic gameplay and engaging storytelling.
Fast like a Fox
Search for stolen coins, emeralds, and diamonds as you race through multiple worlds in Fast like a Fox. The retro-style geometric design of your little hero fox and the landscapes he runs through are fun to watch, and the soundtrack is zippy and catchy.
The game claims it’s “easy to play, hard to master” and that’s just what you want in a casual game; it will keep you coming back until your fox has claimed all of the treasure he can. The game also uses a rather unique control scheme that lets you tap the back of your phone to control the speed of your fox. In-app purchases are available for removing ads or unlocking secret character, but they are unnecessary for enjoying the game.
Unwind in your downtime by breaking virtual glass in Smash Hit. No consequences, only loads of points when you shatter the glass obstacles in your path in beautifully designed game levels.
The music and audio effects change as you progress through the game’s stages, over 50 of which are available in the free download. An optional in-app purchase gives you premium perks such as the ability to save and access checkpoints, new game modes, and cloud save access across all of your devices. If you have a Samsung Gear VR, you’ll definitely want to check out Smash Hit VR, too. Less casual, but a super cool VR experience to say the least!
If you often find yourself mindlessly doodling, Blek is a game designed with you in mind. The multiple award winning game takes doodles to an artistic level as you find patterns and draw your way to more challenging levels.
The concept is simple and hooks you in right away. Use your doodling skills to draw a continuous line that collects all of the colored balls in a pattern. Succeed and your doodle becomes its own piece of art; make a mistake and you try again. Blek is easy enough to play on your downtime, yet challenging enough to busy your mind. With full support for the S-pen, this is a must-own for Samsung Galaxy Note owners.
Piano Tiles 2
Building on the popularity of the original Piano Tiles game, Piano Tiles 2 lets you play along with the band to classical music and modern pop songs. Use your fingertips to tap the black keys as they scroll down your screen to the music.
Play in friendly battle of bands-style competitions against your Facebook friends or against other music lovers from around the world. In-app purchases unlock additional songs. A tremendously popular game with a beautiful built-in soundtrack? That’s an absolute must have.
Candy Crush Saga
The Candy Crush franchise is the most popular casual puzzler for phones. In the latest twist on the Candy Crush game, you match three of the same candy on the game board to create, spread, or clear away jelly. Your nemesis is the Jelly Queen and you can battle her alone or test your skills against your friends.
The game has added new candies you’ll wish you could buy and eat in real life. If you’re connected to Facebook you’ll have access to a leaderboard that shows you how well you’re doing and who your biggest competition is. There are over 100 levels of sweet, silly fun to be had, and the games are as short or as in-depth as you want them to be.
Fruit Ninja Free
Enter the world of Fruitasia, where your Sensei is waiting for you with fruit fight missions. All you need to know to get started with Fruit Ninja is to slice the fruit, not the bombs; once you master that, you’ll be slicing and dicing like an old pro in no time.
As your game improves, you can upgrade your blade and join new Dojos. Learn how to handle bananas and multi-slice pomegranates, not to mention the rare 10 fruit Great Wave. It all sounds funny and a little on the ridiculous side, but it’s also all for fun and distraction; that’s the perfect casual game.
Angry Birds 2
The Angry Birds franchise is one of those iconic smartphone games that has reached heights that even the developers couldn’t have envisioned when the first game landed on mobile over 7 years ago. What started out as a simple game pitting upset birds battling the green pigs that stole their eggs has spawned several spin-offs and sequels — and even a freaking Angry Birds movie!
If you’ve never played it before, here’s the skinny. Every bird comes with a unique skill, designed to ruin the evil pigs and restore order. You fling the birds at obstacles, power up their skills with features like a Birdquake (hint: it’s exactly what it sounds like), or make a one-time purchase of the Mighty Eagle and show those pigs who the real bosses are. It’s loads of addictive fun for gamers of any age or skill level. Angry Birds 2 is the sequel, which adds more birds, more powerups, and more fun!
Dumb Ways to Die 2
This casual game is based on the cute, animated Australian public service announcement about train safety that went viral a few years back. All you have to do is stay alive, and that would be easy if your character wasn’t so dumb. Dumb Ways to Die 2 is actually a series of mini-games, perfect for those little moments when you want to play a game but can’t invest loads of time.
In the Dumb universe, you don’t throw the javelin, you catch it. Have you always wanted to swim with dolphins? Try your hand at the Dolphin Rodeo and try not to break your neck. Don’t forget to join the local curling team and play with dynamite rocks. Invite your friends in the multiplayer mode and see who can jump the ever-rising electric fence.
New Words With Friends
Fancy yourself a wordsmith? If so, get on board with Words With Friends, the Scrabble-based game you play at your own pace, whether it’s one word an hour or one word per day. Just check your gameboard whenever you have a few free moments and play tiles to earn points and climb the real-time leaderboard.
The in-app chat feature lets you converse with your friends as you play, so you can send them an innocent taunt or gentle reminder that you’re waiting for them to take a turn, or you can congratulate them on a complex play. You’ll also be able to access your game from your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone, so your game can just keep on going.
Keep it casual
We want to know what are some of your favorite go-to casual games? Tell us all about them in the comments!
Update June 2017: Revamped our list and added some of our favorite newer casual games — Super Mario Run, The Battle of Polytopia, and Reigns!