Smartly Casual: 14 Best Casual Games for Mobile in 2021

Mobile Games

Casual gaming is the main allure and backbone of smartphone gaming, whether you’re on Android or iOS. Even with the rise of so-called “hardcore” games like Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends, and Call of Duty on mobile phones, casual games continues to dominate the largest chunk of mobile gaming. With literally thousands of games and titles to choose from, though, it is kind of hard to choose which one is worth your time to try out. This is especially true if you want something more than just your mindless clicker game. We’ve got your back, though, with our list of the best casual games on smartphones that also make you think!

 

 

What Are Casual Games?

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© Photo by Chanzj from Pixabay

First off, what are casual games? Compared to other genres like first-person shooters (FPS), MMORPG, or MOBA, casual games are more loosely defined. Basically, any game in any genre could be a casual game. To be considered a casual game, though, it only needs to have two things. These two things are how hard the gameplay is and how easy it is to pick up and return to the game. The first one refers to how fast you can understand the gameplay mechanics and start playing the game. Another point is how easily you can easily play the game and then come back to it days or even weeks after. In a nutshell, casual games are games that require little mental and time investment.

 

Our List of the Best Casual Games on Mobile

As we said earlier, for this list, we’ll include casual games across all genres, from card games to city builders. All games would have available ports on both iOS and Android, which we’ll link to in the article. We’ll also weed out any mindless clicker games as well as generic clones and copies of other games. You’ll see that for this list, we’ve added the game’s genre, developer, and price along with how a specific game’s playstyle works. All that said, due to the many differences with each of the games, this would be an unordered list of the best casual games for smartphones!

 

1. Candy Crush Saga

Genre: Puzzle/Board Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: King
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Candy Crush Saga has been at the forefront of casual games ever since it was released by King in 2012. The game evolved from King’s Facebook-linked Candy Crush game into its own independent app on a freemium model. It wouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve seen your parents or grandparents playing this addictive tile-matching game since then. This longevity is why it’s the first game we thought of for the best casual games to play on smartphones.

Gameplay-wise, it’s a simple matching game with a candy theme. You have to clear out a board by matching at least three tiles to “pop” them and then slowly progress through the stages. There are quirks to make the game harder or easier as well. The board can have some challenging blocks that are immovable and can’t be cleared. You also get limited moves, lives, and some “gold bars” that serve as power-ups to help you win.

Candy Crush Saga on Apple App Store

Candy Crush Saga on Google Play Store

 

2. Among Us

Genre: Simulation Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: InnerSloth LLC
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Although released in 2018, the game only became a massive fad after everyone was forced into their homes by COVID-19 in 2020. Among Us is a type of social deduction game where players use clues to figure out who to trust and which of the other players to be suspicious of. Due to its popularity, you’ve probably already played this game or had a friend that kept bugging you to try it out.

Among Us has a distinctly unique feel with a cartoonish outer space theme. It’s played by four up to 150players in different colored astronaut suits who communicate with each other through the game’s text chat. The game is played with players doubting, fighting, and voting against each other to figure out which players are “impostors” and eliminate them. These impostors can be from one to three players with a goal to either kill off all the “crewmate” players or prevent those players from succeeding against an emergency “sabotage.”

The game was originally supposed to get a sequel called Among Us 2, but InnerSloth instead decided to support their game with updates for a longer period. The latest update was last June 15, 2021, which gave the fifth map to the game and upped the maximum number of players to 15 per game.

You might also want to look at our in-depth Among Us game review.

Among Us on Apple App Store

Among Us on Google Play Store

 

3. Stardew Valley

Genre: RPG and Simulation Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Chucklefish Limited
Price: $4.99

Stardew Valley was originally a project made by just one man, Eric Barone, for the PC. He created the game as a tribute and an improvement to the Story of Seasons Series (formerly Harvest Moon in the US) by Marvelous Inc. The game was then picked up by the Chucklefish team who then ported the game to smartphones, Mac, Linux, and other modern consoles.

As a homage, the game has a lot of similarities to Story of Seasons games but has a lot of quality of life changes for players. The game has you in the shoes of a burnt-out office worker at Joja Corporation before quitting your job to inherit your long-dead grandfathers’ farm in Pelican Town. Gameplay-wise, it’s an exciting mix of farming simulators, dating simulators, and dungeon crawling.

Stardew Valley continues to receive important updates that add not just more game mechanics, but stories and characters as well. The smartphone versions of this game do not support multiplayer play that other ports have, however.

Take a look at our beginner’s guide for Stardew Valley on mobile.

Stardew Valley on Apple App Store

Stardew Valley on Google Play Store

 

4. Mini Metro

Genre: Simulation Game

Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Dinosaur Polo Club
Price: $0.99 on Android, $3.99 on iOS

One of the more simple games on this list, Mini Metro doesn’t have a lot of backstory to it. Don’t discount it, though, since you’ll find a good mind-teaser of a game. Since its release in 2016, the game has garnered a few awards like the Excellence in Audio Award at the Independent Games Festival. It also received nominations for a British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) and was a finalist for Best Mobile Game of the Year for IGN and Gamespot.

As said earlier, the game is a simple puzzle game where you connect stations to one other to deliver passengers. You do this while minding the time and efficiency of each line and railway to get the highest points possible. The game has several cities you can plan out from The London Underground to the New York City Subway.

Mini Metro continues to get updates from Dinosaur Polo Club five years after it was first released. Their newest update adds Chinese city maps like Chongqing and Guangzhou to the more than 20 base maps.

Mini Metro on Apple App Store

Mini Metro on Google Play Store

 

5. Battle Cats

Genre: Tower Defense Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: PONOS Corporation
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Originally released on the Japanese iOS store as Nyanko Daisensou or “The Great Kittycat War” in 2011, Battle Cats was an immediate hit. The game had an abortive release in the west with an English version released in 2012 but pulled out in the same year. Battle Cats or “Battle Nekos” was then improved and re-released on September 17, 2014.

Battle Cats is an absurd and absurdly fun game where you control your cat army to gain world domination! The game itself is a tower defense game played in landscape mode. It has two distinct play modes, a sort of preparation mode and a battle mode that can be accessed. Preparation mode lets you use an in-game currency called “Cat Food” to buy loot boxes for unique units and upgrade them. During battles, you defend your tower by spawning your “cats” to attack the opponents’ tower.

PONOS keeps the game constantly updated and adds new units and “CatCombos” once in a while. You should occasionally look at the game due to the collaborations and partnerships they occasionally have that give exclusive units and events. Some of the more recent collaborations the game had were with Yamaha’s Vocaloid Project and anime studio Gainax’s Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Battle Cats on Apple App Store

Battle Cats on Google Play Store

 

6. Plague Inc.

Genre: Strategy Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Miniclip.com for Android, Ndemic Creations for iOS
Price: Free for Android, $0.99 for iOS; both with in-app purchases

Released to both Android and iOS in 2012, Plague Inc. has a simple goal: annihilate humanity with a pandemic. While a bit morbid to think about, the game is a surprising hit with over 160 million downloads worldwide.

For this game, you play as the invisible hand of evolution to guide your chosen plague to wipe out humanity. The game has a myriad of options, from simple bacteria to engineered bio-weapons. After selecting where to start your plague, most of your time would be spent looking at the world map. The game tries its best to simulate the world economy and movement of pathogens between countries and continents. Occasionally, you’ll have to press red pop-ups that give you more DNA points to evolve your pathogen and blue pop-ups that hinder humanity’s efforts to create a cure in time.

The Android version of Plague Inc. is vastly inferior compared with its iOS counterpart. While it’s free, the Android version doesn’t have the option to buy expansions to the game like the Simian Flu and Shadow Plague expansions.

Plague Inc. on Apple App Store

Plague Inc. on Google Play Store

7. 2048

Genre: Puzzle/Board Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Solebon LLC
Price: Free on Android and iOS; with in-app purchases on iOS

The original 2048 game and apps were created by Gabriele Cirulli in 2014. They were released on an open-source MIT License. Since then, a lot of clones and copies have popped up on both Android and iOS that sometimes have their own quirks and cons. Even then, nothing beats the original.

You play the game on a four-by-four grid with tiles that start at either 2 or 4. Sliding the tiles towards similarly numbered tiles adds the face value of those tiles into a new tile that replaces them. The game continues until you either run out of moves where you can merge tiles or reach the coveted 2048 tile. You can continue playing even after reaching the 2048 tile until the maximum 131,072 tile.

The only in-app purchase you can get on iOS is a $4.99 option to remove ads from the game.

2048 on Apple App Store

2048 on Google Play Store

 

8. Tiny Tower

Genre: Simulation and Management Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: NimbleBit LLC
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Released for Android and iOS in 2011 by NimbleBit, Tiny Tower is an odd mix of business simulation, management, and city building. The Android version of the game was pulled out by Mobage’s services on September 24, 2015. It took until May 25, 2016, for its re-release on the platform without Mobage’s social gaming network. This re-release, however, added a lot of new items, “bitizen trading,” and the “Golden Ticket” mechanic.

The game functions mostly like a city management game. Instead of a city, though, you’re in charge of a soon-to-be high-rise that only has one floor. Tiny Tower slowly introduces you to its mechanics like tenants, electricity, water, and heating. Your overall job is to slowly increase the number of floors your building has and keep up with your bills.

Tiny Tower continues to be updated even years after its first release. The latest update was on June 22, 2021. It added a new customizable player house in line with the game’s 10th anniversary.

Tiny Tower on Apple App Store

Tiny Tower on Google Play Store

 

9. Mario Kart Tour

Genre: Racing Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Nintendo Corporation
Price: Free with in-app purchases

One of the newer games on this list, Mario Kart Tour arrived on iOS and Android on September 25, 2019. The game is Nintendo’s first version of their Mario Kart series for mobile phones. It was first announced in 2018 and entered closed beta for Android users from May to June of the same year. Mario Kart Tour’s first day of release saw over 10 million downloads of the game.

Mario Kart Tour plays a little differently than other Mario Kart games. It is still a racing game at heart, but most of the driving is done automatically. You can read more about the gameplay in our Mario Kart Tour review.

Update-wise, Nintendo continues to support the game with more content and the occasional new character. There are claims that some updates have made the game hard to play on older hardware, however.

Mario Kart Tour on Apple App Store

Mario Kart Tour on Google Play Store

 

10. Uno!

Genre: Card Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Mattel163 Limited
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Uno! has long been a staple in social gatherings and events as a tabletop game. The Android and iOS versions are a direct copy of the base version of Uno! Both ports were released in 2008. These games were made by Gameloft, a group known for their Android and iOS ports of games like Assassin’s Creed, Brothers in Arms 3, and The Amazing Spider-Man.

At this point, it’s hard to believe that you haven’t played Uno! at least once. For a simple explanation, though, your objective in the game is to be the first to whittle down your dealt cards by using them. The game has four color suits numbered 0 to 9 and “action” cards that have different effects.

The Uno! apps have a competitive ranked scene as well as sponsored contests. Mattel also continues to update the game with new maps, decorations, game modes, and rule change toggles.

Uno! is part of our list of the best card games on Android and iOS.

Uno! on Apple App Store

Uno! on Google Play Store

 

11. Angry Birds 2

Genre: Puzzle Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Rovio Entertainment Corporation
Price: Free with in-app purchases

The second game in the Angry Birds franchise, Angry Birds 2, was originally called Angry Birds Under Pigstruction. Angry Birds 2 is an overall improvement to the original hit game. The game was briefly released under its former name on March 5, 2015, in Canada. Its official worldwide release was on July 30, 2015. The game continues to be updated with “Daily Challenges,” events, and a competitive leader board.

Another simple game, Angry Birds 2, sees you slinging cute cartoon birds at green pigs hiding behind flimsy constructions. You have a wide selection of birds to choose from, each having different powers and abilities. Your final goal is to eliminate all the enemy pigs while making as much mayhem as possible.

Angry Birds 2 on Apple App Store

Angry Birds 2 on Google Play Store

 

12. Pocket Trains

Genre: Simulation and Management Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: NimbleBit LLC
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Another game by NimbleBit, Pocket Trains, was first released to iOS on September 15, 2013, followed by an Android version soon after. The game is a mix of a business simulator and a transport management game. Pocket Trains is a train version of NimbleBit’s Pocket Planes.

The gameplay has you in the shoes of a train company manager. You create railroad lines and manage what cargo they shuttle between stations. Most of your time would be spent alternating between the world map and station maps. You have one goal, to connect the major cities of the world in your company’s train network and earn profits.

NimbleBit occasionally updates the game with new train sets, events, and seasonal decorations. With a large number of trains, constant updates, and interesting in-game events, for us, this game is one of the best casual games on smartphones.

Pocket Trains on Apple App Store

Pocket Trains on Google Play Store

 

13. Mahjong Epic

Genre: Puzzle/Board Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Kristanix Games
Price: Free with in-app purchases

Mahjong Epic is a 2017 game by Kristanix Games. Epic is Kristanix’s second mahjong solitaire game after Mahjong Titan. The game continues to be updated with tons of free boards, several new tilesets, and backgrounds for the game.

Mahjong Epic plays like most mahjong solitaire games where you match “exposed” tiles to clear the board. This game has more than 1,600 boards to choose from with eight unique tile sets and is fully HD optimized.

A more in-depth explanation of mahjong solitaire and Mahjong Epic can be found in our article on the best Mahjong apps.

Mahjong Epic on Apple App Store

Mahjong Epic on Google Play Store

14. Pocket City

Genre: Simulation and Management Game
Platform: iOS and Android
Developer: Codebrew Games
Price: $2.99

Pocket City is Codebrew Game’s first-ever game and was released on both Android and iOS on July 31, 2018. The Android port has two versions, a paid version, and a downgraded free version. Codebrew Games has one promise with this game: no microtransactions at all. Instead, the game would feature unlockable mechanics and items exclusively gained through gameplay. Codebrew has occasionally put out bug fixes and optimization updates along with new translations. The game, however, hasn’t gotten substantial new updates since 2020.

Pocket City has you in the role of a city mayor, architect, and city planner at the same time. The gameplay is very reminiscent of Sim City and other city-building games. You’re in charge of slowly building up your small town into a bustling metropolis. Balancing population happiness, the city finances, and completing quest demands, you level up and unlock upgrades for your town.

Also read: Best City Building Games for Smartphones

Pocket City on Apple App Store

Pocket City on Google Play Store

 

Although there are a lot of games that fall into the casual game genre, this has been our list for the best casual games on smartphones. Hopefully, you’ve found at least one game to install into your smartphone that can give you an enjoyable time.

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