The Best Mobile Action Games

Popular wisdom says that fast-paced action and mobile phones just don’t go together. Many console and PC action games rely on quick decisions and responsive inputs, which are harder to achieve on a small screen with touch controls. But that’s not always the case, as many action games made for mobile use the quirks of touch controls to their advantage.

The vastness of the mobile market has convinced many developers to port their games to modern phones. Often, those ports would be stripped-down versions of the originals, with subpar controls and less content. But just as often, as is the case with the games listed below, clever design and slight streamlining can make this transition painless.


10 Evoland 2

Evoland 2 starts with a simple premise. It’s a puzzle-action game about fighting monsters and solving mysteries across different gaming generations. This results, somehow, in a story-focused adventure sprawling over 15 hours, with plenty more in optional content.

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Evoland 2 plays kind of like A Link to the Past if Link was actually traveling through time. When prompted, players can move to either the SNES past, the PS1 present, or a nebulous 3D future. Solving puzzles is really what time travel is for, switching to simpler graphics to warp the map and to modern mechanics for deeper interactions with the environment.

9 Pascal’s Wager

A screenshot from Pascal's Wager

Pascal’s Wager is, put simply, a bloodborne clone. It doesn’t have the same aggressive health recovery system, and it’s certainly not as hard, but boy does it look like bloodborne. The Soulsborne influences show up during gameplay as much as they do in the presentation, and for the most part, they serve to make the game better.

Pascal’s Wager takes to heart the lessons of Dark Souls, focusing on stamina management and one-on-one combat with unique enemies. It offers the player multiple unique characters to choose from, like a warrior that fights with a full-size coffin tied to a chain. The biggest deviation from the Soulsborne series, besides the removal of traditional RPG elements, is the switch to a linear story, complete with dialogue choices.


A screenshot from GRIMVALOR

2D action-platformer GRIMVALUE owes as much to metroidvanias as it does to Dark Souls. just like Bloodstained or Salt and Sanctuary before it, the Souls inspirations mixed with 2D action make GRIMVALUE a sort of metroidvania by default. Even if the Souls inspirations are a bit surface level, this is the best way to scratch that Salt and Sanctuary itch on mobile.

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Just like in any good metroidvania, unlocked moves serve both as fighting options and as movement boosts. The first unlock in GRIMVALUE is a charged attack, a staple action game move that also opens new paths through the cracks in the wall.

7 Apple Knight

A screenshot from Apple Knight

Free-to-play hidden gem Apple Knight is a cute little platformer with an Action RPG streak. An unassuming hero takes on a quest that is simplistic, yes, but also charming in a nostalgic way. The pixel art is reminiscent of SNES classics and the color palette makes it look like the game lives in a perennial autumn. The levels are cut to the essentials, but the occasional fake wall or simple quest keeps things fresh.

With lots of different characters and a long campaign, Apple Knight is certainly meatier than how it initially appears. Most of those characters do cost real money, but just a single purchase also disables ads. Additionally, a $10 in-app purchase allows players to unlock almost everything in the game, including future updates.

6 ActRaiser Renaissance

A screenshot from ActRaiser Renaissance

ActRaiser Renaissance is a mix of action and city building, with some RPG mechanics thrown in for flavor. It’s a bonified SNES classic, though it was never the most popular title. Playing as the “Master”, a divine figure of sorts, the player takes control of different champions and fights evil in 2D stages.

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ActRaiser Renaissance is, for the most part, a faithful remake of the SNES original. The city building phase does switch things up and so does the new graphical style, but only slightly. All in all, this is the same game as the 1990 classic Action-RPG, adapted to mobile.

5 Streets Of Rage 4

A screenshot from Streets Of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 is the last sequel of pioneering multiplayer beat-em-up series, Streets of Rage, and the first entry since 1994. Time doesn’t seem to have weakened the series’ formula, as players still go from left to right, grabbing power- ups and beating up goons, up until the final boss.

Although combat is mostly faithful, Streets of Rage 4 brings one great innovation to the series: juggling. Borrowing the tactic from spectacle fighters like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, Streets of Rage4 encourages players to use launchers and midair attacks to keep enemies off the ground. This small addition works wonders for rejuvenating a formula that’s almost 30 years old.

4 Huntdown: Cyberpunk Adventure

A screenshot from Huntdown Cyberpunk Adventure

2d shooter Huntdown: Cyberpunk Adventure sees the player taking on the role of a bounty hunter and dismantling the city’s gangs one at a time. Huntdown has three main characters to choose from, though they are the same template of ’80s action heroes in male, female, and robot flavors. What the game does have instead is incredibly detailed pixel art, immersive soundscape, and wonderfully appropriate voice acting.

Huntdown: Cyberpunk Adventure is certainly a beautiful game, but it is also one of the most compelling 2D shooters on mobile machines. Characters aren’t the most resistant, with enemy goons that go down after one hit and a main character that can only take five. The effortless cover system helps deal with the high lethality without having to resort to fast platforming, which would be an issue on mobile.


A screenshot from JYDGE

JYDGE really wants to be Judge Dredd. As the cheesy voice acting reveals, even the titular vigilante’s name is just a weird spelling of Judge. But unlike the semi-immortal, pulp version of the judge, this stick-less twin-stick shooter is a more tactical affair. Enemies in the last levels of JYDGE can easily swarm up the player, who doesn’t have that much to live in the spotlight.

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At the start of each level, players enter a new building and try to leave from the other end without leaving anyone inside. That means freeing up hostages and killing enemies, but it also means not dying in the process. High lethality and persistent sneaking make this not a game of relentless action, but one of weighing one’s options from room to room.

two ICEY

A screenshot from ICEY

ICEY is a stylish 2D side-scrolling action game with a curious twist. Not unlike meta-game sensation The Stanley Parable, ICEY features a narrator trying to anticipate the player’s every move. And just like inscription predecessor pony island, ICEY will sometimes pause the hacking and slashing in favor of brief adventure sections that are best left unspoiled.

ICEY is the story of how a cyborg felt on an unclear mission ends up challenging its instructions. Icey’s rebellion develops as the player disobeys the narrator’s orders, which eventually becomes a stand-in for the developer. Though the story never reaches the highs it could have, it accompanies a combat that is as good as mobile action gets.

1 Dead Cells Mobile

A screenshot from Dead Cells

Roguelites with metroidvania elements are a dime a dozen, on mobile or consoles. Yet the critically acclaimed Dead Cells managed to raise well above the competition, shipping over 6 million units. The premise is simple but works brilliantly for a roguelite. Players control a creature that can possess bodies, but is trapped in a world that reshapes itself every time its body dies.

For a game originally conceived for consoles, Dead Cells has one of the best control schemes of any mobile game. The screen can certainly get a little cramped and the buttons can become too small, but for a game of this complexity, there’s little that the developers could have done. With a ludicrous amount of content and as many possible builds, Dead Cells can keep roguelite fans playing for months.

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