The 10 best free Android games of 2016

Don't miss out on the year's best phone games—without an entry fee.

free android games 2016 lead
Free, fantastic fun

The vast majority of new Android games released nowadays are free, whether they’re ad-supported, loaded with in-app purchases, or just offer a taste before you have to pay for the rest. If you download something from the Play Store, there’s a good chance that it won’t be very satisfying unless you spend some cash… or deal with obnoxious ads or timers.

Luckily, there are plenty of awesome free games on the Play Store as well, and while all of these games offer in-app purchases and may include minor freemium annoyances, all can be thoroughly enjoyed without spending any real money. This year brought us a nice heap of great new Android games, and these are our 10 free favorites of the bunch (in no particular order). Download and enjoy!

free android games 2016 clashroyale
Clash Royale

Clash Royale is addictive, “one more match” gaming at its finest. Supercell took everything it learned from the immense success of Clash of Clans and poured it into a mobile battler with live online action, quick-hit combat, and colorful and charming presentation, all while blending tower defense and card collecting elements. Expectedly, that proved to be a very potent concoction.

This one-on-one affair finds you dropping unit cards onto the tiny battlefield to try and take out the towers on the other end of the screen, all while protecting your own. What unfolds is a frenzied battle between giants, knights, witches, and massive fireballs as you try to prove your supremacy within a window of just three minutes.

Clash Royale (Free)

free android games 2016 pokemongo
Pokémon Go

Niantic’s location-based spinoff of the beloved Nintendo monster-snagging series was downloaded more than 500 million times during its first two months of release. As such, we’d bet that if you haven’t already played Pokémon Go, then you’ve at least heard of it. And if you still haven’t played, then you should definitely give it a shot: it’s one of the top free phone experiences of 2016.

Pokémon Go uses your phone’s GPS to send you all around the neighborhood to capture the cute little buggers, collect items from nearby hotspots, and fight for Pokémon supremacy in digital gyms all over the place. It has been significantly improved since release, too, so if your initial hype wore off before summer’s end, now is a great time to jump back in.

Pokémon Go (Free)

free android games 2016 altos
Alto's Adventure

Looking for a winter journey that’s warmer than most? Alto’s Adventure is surely up to the task: it’s a side-scrolling, endless snowboarding game that’s a fair bit like Ski Safari, except instead of being silly and cartoonish, it’s calm and beautiful, and clearly built with a love of heart and precision. And it’s free on Android, unlike the earlier iOS version.

As you glide down the slopes, you’ll jump to dodge jagged rocks, do backflips to earn points, and try to maintain momentum to evade pursuers. Meanwhile, the time of day and weather gradually shift in remarkably gorgeous fashion, and the ultra-catchy music helps propel you along. The premise might be familiar, but uncommon and incredible detail make Alto’s Adventure feel distinct. 

Alto’s Adventure (Free)

free android games 2016 pinout
PinOut

Best known for building innovative endless experiences like Smash Hit and Does Not Commute, Mediocre takes that same mentality and applies it to pinball in PinOut. Indeed, this freebie scraps the confined areas of traditional pinball tables and gives you an ongoing game world to flip the ball through, with each new area giving way to something else on the horizon. 

Each new area you unlock has a fresh theme—albeit still very neon and Tron-esque, with pulsing beats to match—and unseen obstacles to maneuver around. Yet it’s still grounded in the classic game of two paddles and a ball. You can play as much as you’d like for free, or pay a couple bucks within to unlock checkpoints between worlds, much like in the studio’s other games.

PinOut (Free)

free android games 2016 sagesolitaire
Sage Solitaire

Solitaire is a classic single-player game and makes perfect sense for a phone, but all of those stacks of cards can look mighty crowded on a handheld screen. Sage Solitaire, on the other hand, keeps things simple: it’s like a one-player version of poker, and it challenges you to make classic hands (pair, full house, straight flush, etc.) using the on-screen cards. 

There’s one big rule, however: you must use cards from at least two different rows to make a hand, and while you can “trash” a couple cards at a time to see what’s beneath, you’ll quickly run out of options if you don’t make smart and strategic moves. Sage Solitaire is a great solo spin on familiar card games, and the core game is free with some bonus modes available for purchase. 

Sage Solitaire (Free)

free android games 2016 rodeostampede
Rodeo Stampede: Sky Zoo Safari

Rodeo Stampede is one of our surprise favorites of 2016, because at a glance, it doesn’t look like something that would keep our attention. We’ve seen a lot of generic Crossy Road-esque games, in both look and design, pop up since that title became a sensation, but Rodeo Stampede thankfully manages to do its own thing. And it’s almost as addictive, too.

Here, your goal is to ride on the backs of various bucking, sprinting, and flying animals, all in an effort to notch the farthest distance as possible before crashing or falling off. You can leap freely between animals to utilize new abilities or satisfy objectives, but you’ll need to time the jumps perfectly to keep up your run. Also, by taming new animals, you’ll build up a weird floating zoo along the way.

Rodeo Stampede: Sky Zoo Safari (Free)

free android games 2016 ssg3
Super Stickman Golf 3

Three games in now, has Super Stickman Golf lost steam? Nope. While the core experience hasn’t changed significantly, Noodlecake’s side-scrolling spin on the sport is still an absolute blast in this free-to-play sequel. As ever, the 2D stages make the game feel like a puzzle-solving platformer, where you need to discover the best route to the hole and then properly nail the shot to sink the ball in.

Super Stickman Golf 3 offers a wealth of free content, including 20 distinctive nine-hole courses, both single-player and multiplayer modes, and plenty of characters, power-up hats, and other abilities to unlock. You’ll find loads to enjoy without spending a cent, but if you dive in deep, it’s well worth the $3 premium upgrade to access bonus courses and gain other perks.

Super Stickman Golf 3 (Free)

free android games 2016 asphaltxtreme
Asphalt Xtreme

Gameloft’s Asphalt 8: Airborne is still the best free Android game for speedy racing thrills, and now Asphalt Xtreme is here to satisfy similar urges away from blacktop and cities. Xtreme is the first series entry to focus on off-road antics, and you’ll find 35 different rides—including monster trucks, mud buggies, and rally cars—to whip around the ice, dirt, mud, and more.

Continuing the trend of the last game, Asphalt Xtreme is a super-slick experience, delivering sharp 3D graphics and steady performance, plus the campaign mode has a seemingly endless array of events and challenges to take on. And once you’ve learned the ropes, you can hop online for live eight-player battles. Some of the freemium systems are annoying, but they don’t kill the glossy fun here.

Asphalt Xtreme (Free)

free android games 2016 pvzheroes
Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes

Collectible card game based on a cartoonish tower defense strategy game? Plants vs Zombies: Heroes didn’t seem like the most graceful or obvious of spinoffs, but spend a little time on the battlefield and you'll find that these deck-based duels are actually pretty clever. You’ll build up your best deck from an array of cards on either side, as is typical for the genre, but the combat has some interesting twists.

The lane-based action recalls the core Plants vs. Zombies games, while the Zombies side has added “Tricks” that they can play to gain an upper hand. And the way that resource points gradually build up can really affect how you build out your deck. Spending money on card packs can bring quick advantages, but you can still have a lot of fun without spending any cash.

Plants vs. Zombies: Heroes (Free)

free android games 2016 peterpanic
Peter Panic

Peter Panic is a strange, silly little game—and we mean that in the best way possible. Adult Swim’s game spotlights a young man who finds that his small town theatre has closed under mysterious circumstances, and given his tendency to sing showtunes during every interaction, that’s not good news. His goal? Recruit help by working odd jobs around town.

At its core, Peter Panic takes its cues from Nintendo’s WarioWare series, as you’ll blitz through rapid-fire runs of quick-hit microgames: sorting papers, filling boxes with packing peanuts, and other speedy tasks. But everything around that takes the form of a stage musical, with Peter’s weird new allies singing their stories at every opportunity. It’s a delight, and you can play straight through it for free or pay $3 within to unlock checkpoints.

Peter Panic (Free)