The 10 best paid Android games of 2016

Spend a few bucks for on-the-go greatness with these Play Store picks.

paid android games 2016 lead
Mobile entertainment that is well worth your cash

While free-to-play games seem to dominate the Play Store, premium games haven’t gone away. As always, paying a few bucks from the start will typically get you a richer gameplay experience free of ads and without (or with less of) the aggressive monetization tactics found in most of today’s free downloads.

Paying for a game doesn’t automatically ensure that it will be awesome, but you can’t go wrong with the 10 games collected here. For just $2 to $5 a pop, these games provide engrossing fun, polished gameplay, and some of the most inventive experiences we’ve played on smartphones all year. Here’s a look at 2016’s best premium Android games.

paid android games 2016 downwell
Downwell

Downwell arrives in stark contrast to the heaps of casual games available on the Play Store. Despite being streamlined enough to work well on a small touchscreen, Downwell is seriously intense and clearly aimed towards hardcore players and fans of old-school arcade shooters—in case the mostly-monochromatic, lo-fi look didn’t give that away.

Here, you’ll vault your hero straight down a well (get it?), with only his bullet-blasting gunboots to help slow his descent… as well as chew through any enemies found immediately below. You’ll need to react quickly to keep making progress, and take advantage of the various power-ups you encounter along the way. What lies beneath the surface? Pixelated fun, apparently! 

Downwell ($3)

paid android games 2016 chameleonrun
Chameleon Run

Like the great Rayman mobile games, Chameleon Run ditches the endless platform-hopping approach in favor of tightly-constructed and increasingly difficult stages to conquer. And it’s likewise pretty brilliant in the way it continually throws you for a loop, despite never making the controls any more complicated than tapping on either side of the screen. 

Chameleon Run’s unique hook is that its hero can change between yellow and pink with a tap, and you can only land on platforms of the same color. Getting to the end of each level not only means dodging obstacles, but also ensuring that you switch colors—all while contending with new play mechanics and twists that pop up along the way. As far as Super Mario-esque side-scrolling games go, Chameleon Run is one of the absolute best on Android.

Chameleon Run ($2)

paid android games 2016 minimetro
Mini Metro

Building an effective subway system in real life requires extensive planning, but in Mini Metro, you’ll have to think fast to satisfy all of the riders pouring into your rapidly-growing transit lines. This super-minimal puzzler takes inspiration from subway maps and may not look like much at a glance, but there’s a lot more to it than drawing lines between shapes.

As new stations emerge on the map, you’ll need to create transit lines to ensure that passengers can get to their destinations in a timely manner. You’ll need to make do with meager resources to try and keep your system up and running for as long as possible, and then use the lessons learned from your mistakes to try and last longer the next time. 

Mini Metro ($4.99)

paid android games 2016 dontstarve
Don't Starve: Pocket Edition

Don’t Starve hits it right on the head with its title: dropped into an uncompromising and unfamiliar wilderness setting, your imperative is to avoid dying from hunger. It’s a simple goal, but not a small feat in this cartoonish survival game. You’ll need to craft items and weapons, contend with the local wildlife and various threats, and deal with other weird things that happen along the way.

Without tutorials, missions, or hand-holding, Don’t Starve is a lot like Minecraft’s own survival mode, albeit with quite a bit more personality in the presentation and encounters. Likewise, this indie game has been a surprise smash on PC and consoles, but the Pocket Edition thankfully keeps the challenge and charm fully intact on Android. Good luck out there.

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition ($4.99)

paid android games 2016 bannersaga2
The Banner Saga 2

The Banner Saga is easily one of the most engrossing games you’ll find on Android, and between its deep tactical battles, branching conversational options, and absolutely stunning hand-drawn artwork, it’s a tough game to put down. And now The Banner Saga 2 provides much more of the same, which is obviously a very good thing. 

It’s not the ideal starting point: you really should start with the first game, especially since you can transfer your personalized story into the sequel. But just like the original, The Banner Saga 2 offers rich role-playing combat on the battlefield and intriguing characters to interact with as your caravan travels amid the apocalypse. And despite that grim premise, it’s still a beauty. 

The Banner Saga 2 ($4.99)

paid android games 2016 reigns
Reigns

Think you have what it takes to rule, to balance the wants and needs of a kingdom and its institutions? Try and prove it with Reigns, a clever little swipe-based game that makes you a medieval monarch in charge of making decisions with wide consequences. Each choice you face can be swiped towards one outcome or the next, and the story unfolds based on the results. 

Each decision quickly ripples through the kingdom, and the little icons on top show how it affects the people, the army, the church, and the treasury—and you’ll need to keep all of them in balance to remain in power. Interesting sub-stories and new possibilities pop up with repeat playthroughs, so it’s well worth seeing the extended lineage through. 

Reigns ($2.99)

paid android games 2016 rungunjumpgun
RunGunJumpGun

RunGunJumpGun might be one of the most frenzied and absolutely chaotic games released all year on any platform, but that anarchic fun fits perfectly on a smartphone. Like a twisted new take on Jetpack Joyride, this game lets your hero vault off of the ground by shooting his weapon straight down—but it can also be used to zap enemies ahead.

You’ll need both abilities to get through the 120+ intense levels within, which feature things like crisscrossed laser grids, spinning saw blades, and spiked walls, plus new gameplay tweaks pop up along the way. Super-simple controls and immediate respawns keep this tough gauntlet fun despite all of the death, and RunGunJumpGun is a pitch-perfect throwback to the 8-bit era.

RunGunJumpGun ($2.99)

paid android games 2016 herstory
Her Story

You’ve surely never played anything like Her Story before. This highly non-traditional game finds your character accessing an old police computer to view a treasure trove of interview footage with one woman: Hannah, whose husband has mysteriously disappeared. You’ll have access to 271 short clips from various interviews, but there’s no clear or correct pathway through them.

Instead, you’ll search through the database by typing in terms and then viewing the results, and along the way, you may piece together what really happened to Hannah’s husband. It’s loopy and not immediately rewarding, but spend some time with the compelling clips and you may find that Her Story can be one satisfying narrative experiment.

Her Story ($4.99)

paid android games 2016 room3
The Room Three

If you thought that The Room used up its entire bag of tricks through the first two entries, well, think again: The Room Three is just as essential of a touch-friendly adventure game. As before, this is one of the most polished and pleasing games available on the Play Store, showing dazzling production values, loads of atmosphere, and plenty of intelligent puzzle design.

All of Fireproof Games’ design smarts are put to use to punish and/or delight your brain, of course. The tactile puzzle boxes and environments here must be poked, prodded, and examined to locate the solutions, and The Room Three is the largest and most ambitious version to date thanks to its expansive locations and new play mechanics.

The Room Three ($3.99)

paid android games 2016 deusexgo
Deus Ex Go

Like the great Hitman Go and Lara Croft Go before it, Deus Ex Go translates a complex console and PC action game into a turn-based tactical puzzler—and once again, it works splendidly. Deus Ex Go keeps the slick cyberpunk theme of the popular core series, and translates hero Adam Jensen’s robotic augmentations into abilities you can use to navigate each stage. 

Your task is to find a path to the goal in each fresh level, but that’s rarely an obvious task: you’ll need to overcome guards, robotic drones, and other hazards to emerge safely on the other side. Deus Ex fans will get more out of it, but really, anyone who likes a strategic puzzle game (and especially those who loved the other Go entries) should dig it.

Deus Ex Go ($4.99)