31 free big-name games for iPhone or Android

31 free big-name games for iPhone or Android

With the recent launch of Apple Arcade, a £5/month gaming subscription service for iPhone/iPad – not to mention the possible need for many to self-isolate in the coming weeks – I reckon now might be a good time to round up some of the best free games you can download for an iOS or an Android device.

There are TONS we could include, but I've decided to focus mainly on big names with a mainstream following, and to keep it genuinely free I've avoided games where it seemed you'd need to spend real cash to succeed (though many do include optional in-app purchases – see below). The list includes popular Nintendo hits such as Mario Kart Tour and Pokémon MastersPC & console classics such as Call of Duty and The Sims, plus some of the top spin-off titles from TV shows & films, including Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.

Important. Two things before you start...

  1. Watch out for 'in-app purchases'. Many free games offer purchases to enhance the experience or help speed the story along. This means gamers need patience and self-control to avoid paying to play, and if the kids are playing you need to set up parental controls (see 'My child spent £150 on Fortnite' –how to avoid an unexpected bill). If you have an iPhone you can disable in-app purchases in your settings. If you're an Android user, you can set up authentication for purchases.

  2. Keep an eye on data usage & storage space. Most of these games use the internet, and some can't be played offline, so unless you have a generous data allowance, make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi before downloading or playing. You'll also need a decent amount of storage space on your phone if you want to download new apps. If you're struggling, see How to increase phone storage.

Nintendo games

A new Nintendo Switch console costs about £280, and games aren't cheap either – the upcoming Animal Crossing: New Horizons is priced at up to £50 to order. But there are completely free games you can play on your phone, based on Nintendo favourites such as Pokémon and Super Mario. Here are some of the most popular:

Mario Kart Tour

Mario Kart is a mega-popular racing game, originally designed for Nintendo consoles but launched as a free app last year. It's popular with gamers on the MSE team, and is highly rated on Google Play and in the App Store. It's worth noting the Nintendo Switch version, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, is currently selling for about £40, so this is a great MoneySaving alternative.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2019

Pokémon Masters

Another hugely popular gaming franchise. Pokémon Masters is the latest free app in the Pokémon series, after the huge success of Pokémon Go in 2016. The aim is to team up with other 'trainers' and become champion of the Pokémon Masters League.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2019

Pokémon Go

This augmented reality app gets Pokémon fans running around trying to catch 'em all in real-life locations. You hunt the Pokémon using GPS, then catch them and do battle against other players. The game cleverly uses your phone's camera to make it appear as though the Pokémon are right in front of you.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2016

Fire Emblem Heroes

Fire Emblem Heroes is a tactical role-playing game, part of a series that started way back in 1990. Not as well known as Mario and Pokémon, the app is well rated and has been nominated for a number of awards. 

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2017

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Another popular Nintendo series, Animal Crossing is a 'social simulation' game, where you can interact with various animal characters, performing tasks and activities such as collecting items or planting seeds. The latest Switch game is due to be released this month – you can order it now for as much as £50 – but a much more MoneySaving option is this free app.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2017

Super Mario Run

Unfortunately only a portion of this app is free, but as it's popular we've included it anyway – see it as a free trial to take advantage of, but don't be lured into parting with your cash unless you think it's really worth it. In this game Mario constantly runs forward and you control him by tapping the screen. If you time it right you can perform jumps and spins to gather coins, just like in the original Super Mario games.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2016

Classic Sega games

If like me, you're missing the Sega Mega Drive games of your childhood, there's good news – you can get loads of completely free mobile app games based on classics such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Crazy Taxi and more. See the full selection of free games here, but here are a few you may remember fondly:

Sonic the Hedgehog

Probably the world's most famous hedgehog (they even made a film about him this year), and this app lets you play the classic Sega game that started it all, as you help superfast Sonic battle the evil Dr Eggman.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2017

Streets of Rage

A classic of the beat-'em-up arcade genre, Streets of Rage has you fighting thugs on the streets, and trying to rid the city of crime.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2017

Crazy Taxi

This was one of my favourite games as a teen. Originally an arcade game, it proved so popular it was adapted for PC and consoles. You play a taxi driver, and your aim is to get passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible – you'll earn bigger tips for taking shortcuts and performing stunts with your car.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2014

Classic PC/console games

A surprising number of popular PC and console games have accompanying free apps meaning you can play a version of them on mobile. Keen gamers may already have the new Call of Duty app, released last year, but did you know you can also get a version of The Sims and even Lemmings on your phone?

Call of Duty: Mobile

Call of Duty, or 'COD', is a first-person shooter, and one of the most popular games for PC and consoles. Last year, a mobile version came out allowing fans to play on the go for the first time. It's had millions of downloads and has since won a number of awards, as well as being well rated in the App Store and on Google Play.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2019

The Elder Scrolls: Blades

The Elder Scrolls is a series of popular action role-playing games for PC and consoles, which include Oblivion and Skyrim. This free version is also scheduled to be released for Nintendo Switch later this year.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2019

Asphalt 9: Legends

Asphalt is a racing game, which has clearly been popular given this is the ninth in the series. You can play it free on the PC and Nintendo Switch as well as mobile.

Devices: iPhoneAndroidPC and Nintendo Switch
Launched: 2018

Assassin's Creed: Rebellion

Another popular role-playing game that has a free-to-play app, I'd say the characters in this version look a bit too cute to be assassins – but it's well rated by players.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2018

Lemmings

Another childhood favourite of mine; I was very excited to discover there was a free app to recreate the experience, though it's not as highly rated as some of the other apps in this list. This is a puzzle game where you have to save your lemmings by guiding them through various levels filled with hazards and traps.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2018

The Sims Mobile

The Sims is HUGELY popular, even with the most casual of players who wouldn't normally class themselves as gamers. You create and control virtual people or 'Sims' – building their homes and fulfilling their needs (hunger, social etc). This app brings the experience to mobile, and follows on from The Sims Freeplay app below.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2018

The Sims Freeplay

Although an older app, I've included it because it provides a different experience to The Sims Mobile, and is available to play on Kindle Fire as well as on mobile. In this version, you use your Sims to complete quests and earn rewards.

Devices: iPhoneAndroid and Kindle Fire
Launched: 2011

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia

Final Fantasy is another popular role-playing video game series. In this app, you can build parties of characters from across the different games in the series, and prepare them for battle, which involves turn-based combat.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2017

Fallout Shelter

I personally found this one very addictive (you've been warned), and it's available on a whole host of devices and consoles. Based on the Fallout series, in this free version you're in charge of an underground vault full of 'dwellers'. You have to keep them happy and protect them from the dangers of the nuclear wasteland above.

Devices: iPhoneAndroidPC, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch
Launched: 2015

Need for Speed: No Limits

Need for Speed is an undisputed racing classic with over 20 games in the series. It was even adapted into a film in 2014 – though I'm not sure that's remembered as fondly as the games.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2015

Games for TV/film buffs

Even if you're not an avid gamer, there are plenty of free apps based around popular films and TV shows, such as Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

The Harry Potter franchise needs no introduction. And this free game is by the same makers as the mega-popular Pokémon Go – it uses augmented reality to make the game appear all around you. Your job is to find magical artefacts, creatures, people and more, which have been mysteriously appearing in the Muggle world.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2019

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

A slightly different Harry Potter game – this one takes place inside your phone, as it were, rather than in the world around you. It has you exploring the wizarding school Hogwarts, investigating mysteries.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2018

Game of Thrones: Conquest

Although the TV series ended last year, you can continue the adventure and live out your own fantasy of sitting on the Iron Throne with this free Game of Thrones app.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2017

Yu Gi Oh: Duel Links

Yu Gi Oh was originally a Japanese manga (comic) series, which spawned a huge franchise – it's been adapted as a TV show, trading card game and video game series. This free app brings the trading card game to your phone, and is also available to play on PC.

Devices: iPhoneAndroid and PC
Launched: 2016

Walking Dead: No Man's Land

If you're a fan of the Walking Dead TV series (or the original graphic novels), you'll likely enjoy the opportunity to take down 'walkers' yourself in this game. 

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2015

Walking Dead: Road to Survival

Another Walking Dead game; I've included both as they're so popular with fans. Plus you can play this one on a Kindle Fire, as well as on mobile.

Devices: iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire
Launched: 2015

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes

Another franchise that needs no introduction, you can fight with light and dark-side Star Wars heroes in this game to become 'Master of the Galaxy'.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2015

Simpsons: Tapped Out

This is a relatively old app, but a popular one. It's a city-building game, which lets you rebuild Springfield, after Homer causes a meltdown that wipes out the town.

Devices: iPhone and Android
Launched: 2012

Other popular game apps

While these don't fit as neatly into the categories above, we can't forget some of the big free apps from recent years that have been created specifically for the modern gaming world. 

Fortnite

Fortnite is a massively popular shoot 'em up, particularly with young people. It was originally launched for PC and consoles but then launched as a mobile app. You can play Battle Royale, where up to 100 players fight to be the last one standing, or there's Fortnite Creative, where you create your own worlds and battle arenas. Unusually, the game is available for free across all major consoles.

Devices: iPhoneAndroidPC/Mac, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch
Launched: 2017

Rebel Inc.

Rebel Inc. is the follow-up game to the popular Plague Inc. (below). Rather than destroying the world, in this game you need to stabilise your country and prevent insurgents from seizing power.

Devices: Android
Launched: 2019

Plague Inc.

Plague Inc. is a strategy simulation where you essentially create a virus and try to use it to destroy the world. Uncomfortable subject matter at the moment, perhaps, but the game's been around years, and has been downloaded millions of times.

Devices: Android
Launched: 2014

Pocket City

A lot like the classic Sim City, in this game you're the mayor of a city, which you have to build up, eg, creating residential, commercial and industrial zones. You'll also need to help it survive natural disasters such as volcanoes and tornadoes.

Devices: Android
Launched: 2018

Let us know if you've played any of the games above, or if there's any you think we've missed, in the comments below or in the forum.