Riichi’n for the Best: Your Guide to the Best Mahjong App

Mobile Games

Tired of the mindless clicker games you’ve been playing? Maybe you’ve gotten burnt out with the action-intensive MMORPGs on your smartphone? Or you got addicted to it getting a taste of the game in Yakuza or Final Fantasy. A relaxing game with a long history and plenty of players worldwide, mahjong on your smartphone might just be the answer to your needs! Here’s the best mahjong app you should check out!

 

What Is Mahjong?

First off, what is mahjong? It’s an easy enough question to answer, depending on who you ask. Mahjong itself is an old tile-based strategy game that comes from Qing China in the 18th Century. It slowly spread through East Asia and Southeast Asia before being introduced to the west in the 19th Century. In the US, it first gained popularity in the 1920s and was usually stylized as “Mah-Jong” instead.

The game is played using tiles, dice, and a set of printed markers. Tiles are mainly ceramic or porcelain rectangular cuboids with printed “suits, honors, and bonuses.” These suits are usually split into “dots, bamboo, and characters,” with numbers going from one to nine. The suits then have four identical copies each. Aside from the suits, there are also four “Winds” tiles and three “Dragons” tiles with four duplicates. There may be more or fewer tiles depending on the type of mahjong rules, but they usually start with the base 136 tiles.

Also read: 20 Best Card Games on Android and iOS

 

Traditional Mahjong vs Solitaire Mahjong

Modern mahjong players, especially in the west, would probably understand the game as two completely different things. The first type is the traditional mahjong gameplay where four or three players compete for winning hands or melds similar to the card game gin rummy. Tiles are laid face down and arranged into a two-high square which gets slowly dealt out to players.

This version has many rules and playing variations worldwide from Old Hong Kong style to American and Japanese (Riichi) style mahjong. While they still share base rules and gameplay, the variations also use additional tiles like “Flowers” and “Seasons” tiles or replace tiles with local equivalents.

The second version is more widely known as “mahjong” in the west, but it is actually an entirely different game that only uses mahjong tiles. This version is usually called “Solitaire Mahjong” due to its gameplay being closer to that card game than actual mahjong.

Solitaire mahjong is usually played with just one player to clear the game board. This player then matches 144 “open” mahjong tiles thereby removing them from the board. The tiles are placed in four-layered patterns that only “open” or “expose” the tile if they’re on the edges without any tiles piled on top of them.

Since there’s such a big difference between the two “mahjong,” we’ll split our guide for the best mahjong apps into two sections. You’ll see a section just for traditional mahjong and another one for solitaire mahjong. We’ll also note what type of “rules” a specific traditional mahjong app plays in and even give you a few mahjong resources at the end.

 

Best Traditional Mahjong Apps

1. Mahjong Soul

Platform: iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Publisher: Yostar Limited
Rules: Japanese/Riichi Mahjong

Mahjong Soul is another hit game from the creators of Arknights and Azur Lane, Yostar. The game features a wonderful introduction to those completely new to Riichi mahjong. After a short instruction animation to the game, you’ll still have the help button on the upper-right side available. This has all the game’s possible winning hands in it and other helpful tips so you won’t be bumbling around in the dark. Truly the best mahjong app out there for beginners!

Aside from the draw for newcomers, the game also has a very active playing community with leaderboards filled by players worldwide alongside occasional official contests and tournaments. Another draw is its art effects, emojis, friends system, ranking system, and character partners. These partners are fully voiced by Japanese voice actors with more than 40 to choose from!

Download Mahjong Soul from Google Play Store

Download Mahjong Soul from the Apple App Store

 

2. Kemono Mahjong

Platform: iOS and Android
Price: $2.99
Publisher: CyberDog Software
Rules: Japanese/Riichi Mahjong

Similar to Mahjong Soul, Kemono Mahjong is a good introduction to new players with a fantastic introductory video and easy-to-understand pictures. It also has a decent online playing community and able AI opponents to contend with. The game features several characters, mostly taken from the characters of the Chinese Zodiac that you can play as. Each character has their own graphics with voice acting for all their lines. While the game has a lot going for it, sadly, you can only play the game while in portrait mode.

Download Kemono Mahjong from Google Play Store

Download Kemono Mahjong from the Apple App Store

 

3. Let’s Mahjong in 70’s Hong Kong Style

Ad for Hong Kong Mahjong, the best mahjong app for HK rules mahjong
Photo from Let’s Play Mahjong in 70s Hong Kong Google Play Store Page

Platform: iOS and Android
Price: Free with In-app purchases
Publisher: Greenery Digital Ltd.
Rules: Old Hong Kong Mahjong

Let’s Mahjong in 70’s Hong Kong Style is as unique as it is quirky. While following its Old Hong Kong style of mahjong, the game tries to have you go through scenes and characters from a stylized 70s Hong Kong. The game has more than 100 characters, background art, and other visual goodies that represent the Hong Kong of yesteryear. Aside from the cartoonish animation, the game is a solid one with a hardcore player base and AI challengers.

The game has three modes — challenge, online, and free play — that let you slowly acclimatize to the game rules. While some of the AI may not have kid’s gloves when playing with you, you’ll easily learn the ropes and begin your journey in Hong Kong’s mahjong scene. It may not be as flashy as Mahjong Soul, but Let’s Mahjong in 70’s Hong Kong Style is definitely part of our list for the best mahjong app.

Download from Google Play Store

Download from the Apple App Store

 

4. Taiwan Mahjong Tycoon

Platform: iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Publisher: Cubeage Limited
Rules: Taiwan Mahjong

Stepping away from the Riichi scene, Cubeage’s Taiwan Mahjong Tycoon is a Taiwanese mahjong rules game. The game has a set storyline that follows your character trying to rule the Taiwanese mahjong scene in a world where gambling is supreme. It lets you create your own 3D character to play with and automatically links your account with a Cubeage one. Functionally though, it’s similar to any other mahjong game with the exception of its expansive plotline and wide range of anime-type characters with voice acting akin to Mahjong Soul.

The biggest flaw for the game, though, is its lack of a proper English translation. You’ll just have to slowly get used to the options and controls. However, it might be the best platform to connect with other mahjong fans because of its active online scene with players mostly from Taiwan and Mainland China.

Download Taiwan Mahjong Tycoon from Google Play Store

Download Taiwan Mahjong Tycoon from Apple App Store

 

Best Solitaire Mahjong Apps

1. Mahjong Epic

Platform: iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Publisher: Kristanix Games

Mahjong Epic is one of the most popular solitaire mahjong games on iOS and Android, garnering a score of 4.7 and 4.6 stars, respectively. The game was originally released with more than 1,600 boards and 30 background designs. It also had eight different tilesets you could use with different designs. Although it already has hours’ worth of fun for a free game, the developers continue to update the game, adding 1,025 free boards in May 2021 alone.

The game also offers in-app purchases that give even more boards, backgrounds, and tilesets to customize your gaming experience. All in-app purchases are also offered at a flat $2.99 per pack, which is more than worth the price. A game that offers hours of fun, customization, and continues to give free updates, Mahjong Epic is our choice for the best mahjong app for mahjong solitaire players.

Download Mahjong Epic from Google Play Store

Download Mahjong Epic from the Apple App Store

 

2. Mahjong Crimes

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Platform: iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Publisher: Spil Games

Due to the somewhat stale gameplay of solitaire mahjong, some games have their own quirks to bring players in. For Mahjong Crimes, that quirk is in its “crime-solving” bent. The game tries its best to make you feel like you’re solving mysteries and murders by helping the detective match mahjong tiles. The game is set in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and you follow the esteemed detective Hercule Poirot in uncovering the plotline of the novel. Each set you play through has a different setup with more than 200 available.

The game’s in-app purchases include coins and boosters that help you through the game with the cheapest at $0.99 for a “stack of coins” to a whopping $44.99 for a “suitcase of coins.”

Download Mahjong Crimes from Google Play Store

Download Mahjong Crimes from the Apple App Store

Also read: 15 Best Mystery Games to Download on Android and iOS

 

3. Mahjong Deluxe 3 (Mahjong Deluxe 3 GO on iOS)

Platform: iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Publisher: EsenaSoft

The game has a different name on iOS but is the same game as its non “GO” Android counterpart. Functionally, the game is pretty simple, with 640 tile layouts that randomize with each playthrough. Its quirk, however, is its “3D” puzzle maps which offer the same solitaire mahjong experience but with a three-dimensional board. The game only offers one in-app purchase, a $2.99 item to remove ads from the game.

Download Mahjong Deluxe 3 from Google Play Store

Download Mahjong Deluxe 3 from the App Store

 

4. Mahjong Titan

Platform: iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-App purchases
Publisher: Kristanix Games

Coming from the same creator as Mahjong Epic, Mahjong Titan echoes similar gameplay. The free game offers a base of over 1600 puzzle boards, eight tilesets, and 12 backgrounds. Aside from the over 1,600 boards in the base game, the developer offers constant updates, the latest on May 2021, that gave 1,075 boards and three tilesets for free. Currently, the game only offers in-app purchases costing $2.99 each that give you new board packs.

Functionally, the game is almost the same as Mahjong Titan, with the exception of a few graphic details. Besides that, however, the game is a solid solitaire mahjong game and offers a relaxed playstyle.

Download Mahjong Titan from Google Play Store

Download Mahjong Titan from the Apple App Store

 

Tips for New Players of Traditional Mahjong

Traditional mahjong has a lot of play styles and rules worldwide. Even with the number of rules, active English-translated mahjong isn’t that popular and is seen more as a niche. This leaves two main types of traditional mahjong for English players: Japanese/Riichi and Old Hong Kong style. The first is probably due to the influence of anime, while the Old Hong Kong style is generally accepted as something as close to “basic” rules for all the variations.

That said, there are two apps to help Riichi style players. The first is a Mahjong Helper & Calculator by the creators of Kemono Mahjong with iOS and Android versions available. The second is Riichi Calc, a Riichi calculator for Android users.

 

Pick the Best Mahjong App

We’ve gone through a monstrous list of mahjong games out there for Android and iOS to find the top 4 for each type. Hopefully, this article has helped guide you find the best mahjong app for you. In the future, maybe you’ll play your way through a contest with a winning yaku or a deciding ron. If you want to play mahjong on a bigger screen, you may want to look at our guide on how to play mobile games on a PC.

Mahjong might not be your gaming scene either, though, since the rules are complicated for some. In that case, you’ll do yourself a favor by looking at our list for the best city-building games or that for the best Otome games on Android or iOS.

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