Put your credit card away and just play.
There’s something refreshing and low-stress about playing a mobile game without in-app purchases. Knowing that you’re spending a couple of dollars to get an entire game that you can actually finish from beginning to end without being hounded to buy coins or gems, or open crates or card packs or whatever — it genuinely makes the experience better.
Here are the best Android games without those pesky IAPs!
- Reigns: Her Majesty
- The Room series
- Suzy Cube
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Mini Metro
- Roller Coaster Tycoon Classic
- Evoland 1 and 2
It’s hard to find a fun puzzle game that doesn’t try to sell you on power-ups or extra lives or something.
That’s just one of the reasons why Holedown is a standout game in 2018. Holedown will have you strategically blasting through to the core of celestial bodies — starting with asteroids and working your way up to the Sun — using the classic gaming formula of bouncing balls off blocks. Each brick has a number that represents the number of hits needed to destroy it, or you can destroying a supporting block clear out everything above it.
This is a pickup and play game that’s an easy concept to grasp but you quickly learn there’s an amount of strategy and skill involved. All the bricks are curved, allowing you to set up tricky bank shots to clear out massive sections of blocks in one go. This will become quite important as the screen move up one row after every shot. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, it’s game over.
Along the way, you will collect crystals which you spend on upgrades that give you more balls per shot, and more shots per round. These upgrades are crucial to completing the later planets but also let the earlier levels become more of a mindless distraction for your subway commute. All told, it won’t take you too long to max out all your stats in Holedown, but that’s mostly because it’s so hard to stop playing this game once you start.
If you’re a fan of physics-based puzzle games and are looking for a new obsession, Holedown is well worth your money!
Grab your gun boots and jump down the well in Downwell. This retro-styled roguelike game is extremely challenging, featuring a pretty steep learning curve as you learn how to defeat the enemies and figure out which weapon upgrades work best for your play style (Hint: it’s the Noppy).
Since your character is falling, enemies and shops come from the bottom-up, so you need to be strategic in your freefall do you don’t accidentally land on an enemy and lose a heart. There are a number of different ‘styles’ you unlock through repeated play, which give you different numbers of hearts at the start, changes the way end of level upgrades work, and slightly alters the way your sprite falls down the well.
The goal is to survive as you fall deeper and deeper down the well. There are no in-app purchases, save points, or continues, so when you die you must start at the entrance of the well again.
Reigns: Her Majesty
If you’ve always dreamt of being king for a day, you’ll definitely want to check out Reigns. It’s a stylish game with simple gameplay mechanics and razor-sharp wit, wherein you try to keep your kingdom running smoothly by interacting with advisors, citizens, witches and other characters in your kingdom. It’s best described as one of those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books, except instead of flipping to some page, you simply swipe left or right.
Each decision you make has an effect on four resources you must manage: religion, citizens, the army and your kingdom’s treasury. Balancing these resources is key, as if any meter maxes out or reaches zero, your reign is over. But the game doesn’t end — instead, you become your successor and try to last longer in your reign than the king before you.
It’s the perfect pick-up-and-play game for killing some time, and you’ll definitely enjoy the dark humor found throughout.
The Room series
The Room franchise represents some of the absolute best puzzle experiences you can play on Android. In each game, you are tasked with solving a series of three-dimensional puzzles set up by the mysterious Craftsman.
The latest game in the series is The Room: Old Sins ($4.99), but if you’re fresh to the series you may want to start with the first games which are reasonably priced:
The entire series is rightly celebrated as one of the best mobile game of all time, so you can be sure that you’re in for something special here. These games are engrossing and require your full attention to complete the complex puzzles.
Suzy Cube is hands down the best 3D platformer available on Android outside of using emulators. It features surprisingly tight touchscreen controls that let you jump and dash through over 40 levels, each filled with challenging platforming and secret areas to discover.
There’s some repetition — each world ends with a near identical boss battle with slight variations — but Suzy Cube does a good job of never feeling stale. There are no in-app purchases at all, as all the bonus content is unlocked using stars found throughout each level. That means you’ll be replaying levels to collect all the stars and set new speed running times.
Check out Suzy Cube if you’ve been dying for a great 3D platformer to play on your smartphone.
Grand Theft Auto franchise
If you’re a console or PC fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, then why not extend your fandom to Android?
Rockstar Games has five great GTA titles for you to choose from and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. My absolute favorite is the expansive San Andreas, but you’ve also got Liberty City Stories, Vice City, GTA III, and Chinatown Wars available for all your shoot-’em-up, blow-’em-up, car-stealing desires on mobile!
The price here isn’t so bad, considering you get the full game with no dumb in-app purchases schemes in place. What with Rockstar milking GTA Online for all that it’s worth with microtransactions on console and PC, it is totally worth it to go back and revisit these classic games on your phone. There’s crucial support for Bluetooth controls and best of all the games will load much faster than your PlayStation 2 ever could back in the day.
If you want full Grand Theft Auto games right on your phone, hit up the Google Play Store and go love.
Enter a world set in a beautifully rendered, futuristic steampunk dystopia, where you play as Josef the robot, on a quest to save his girlfriend.
You’ll have to solve a series of puzzles at each point in the game to advance to another part of the city, and you can even uncover easter egg back story scenes when you idle in certain areas.
As Josef, you tap items to solve the puzzles and brain teasers, but in an interesting twist on the genre, you can only tap whatever’s in Josef’s reach.
There is no dialogue and aside from the odd tutorial, everything is devoid of language. Instead, pictographic thought bubbles let you know what’s on Josef’s mind to help you work your way through the game.
If you like a great adventure game with a fun story and great graphics, Machinarium should be your dystopic go-to.
Mini Metro is a pure joy to play — a puzzle game based around building subway routes across an expanding city where the in-game music is set to the movement of the subway cars.
Just check out the trailer to get a sense of the flow of this game. It’s a perfect game to play on your commute, and the newly-added Challenge mode will give you a reason to check in and play a quick game every day.
There’s no in-app purchases or ads to distract from the simple design and addictive gameplay. Check out my full review for a more in-depth look at how great this game is.
Roller Coaster Tycoon Classic
The Roller Coaster Tycoon franchise on mobile offers two perfect examples of game development philosophy. There’s Roller Coaster Tycoon Touch which is free and features nice graphics but an unnecessary card collecting system and premium in-game currencies, and then there’s Roller Coaster Tycoon Classic, a direct port of the ’90s PC game that plays just as you remember complete with 95 park challenges and the only in-app purchases are for the sequels and expansions.
I spent a lot of time playing this game as a kid and if you did too this game will be a good dose of nostalgia. The in-game menus could have been improved given how small some of the text and buttons are and this is a game that would especially shine on a Galaxy Note with an S Pen, but I had no major issues building coasters and managing my park finances on the 5-inch screen of my Google Pixel. This is as pure a port as you’ll find which means there are no in-app purchases (beyond expansion packs), delayed build times or any other free-to-play mechanics to deal with.
However, you do have to pay for this game — six bucks, which might seem steep for a port of an older PC game. But if you’re an RCT fan, or interested in finding out what the hype is all about, it’s well worth the money. Check out my full review if you need more convincing.
Evoland 1 and 2
Evoland is one of those premium games for Android that you just won’t be able to put down. The first Evoland was created as part of a game jam and was a nostalgic nod to the evolution of the RPG genre, with the sequel expanding both the depth of the story and the variety of video game and pop culture references.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Evoland game for Android and was only disappointed by how short it was. That’s not the case with Evoland 2, which features well over 20 hours of gameplay.
Evoland is only $0.99 which is an absolute steal, so you may as well get both games for about $8.
Kudos to the game developers at 10tons Ltd out of Finland, for they have mastered the art of the twin-stick top-down shooter for Android with JYDGE.
In a futuristic world where violent cyberpunk gangs are a real problem (and the letter "U" has inexplicably been replaced with "Y") you play as the JYDGE, a cybernetic enforcement officer who uses his Gavel (see: big freaking gun) to dole out justice.
Each level features different challenges you’ll need to complete to progress through the game. In that way, this game has a bit of a rogue-like element to it where you may keep replaying levels with different upgrade combinations until you complete all the medals. There’s a deep upgrading system here that thankfully wasn’t developed around in-app purchases. Instead, the game rewards you for completing goals, replaying levels, and ransacking enemy hideouts for loot that you can spend towards cybernetic upgrades
Frankly, about the only thing not to like about this game is the weird fixation on replacing "U" with "Y" in the title and throughout the game.
Teslagrad is an indie game you may not have heard of, but it’s an absolute must-play for any platforming or puzzle game fans. The game is set in the fictional city of Teslagrad, which is apart of the Kingdom of Elektropia. You play a young boy who is chased by the King’s guards into the ancient Tesla Tower in the middle of town. It’s there that you start to discover the long lost Teslamancer technology used by wizards to control electromagnetism in various ways. You’ll be tasked with solving platforming puzzles as you go about your adventure which includes some epic boss battles.
Featuring hand-made graphics and very unique art style, Teslagrad is one of those game that needs to be experienced first hand, ideally on a device with a big and bright screen. I’ve been playing it on the Razer Phone and it looks absolutely gorgeous with the enhanced refresh rate and all. The animations are super fluid and the game has an uninterrupted flow to it with no ads or menus popping up as you play. I’ve only been playing it for a couple of hours since its launch and I can already tell it’s one of the top premium games released for Android in 2018.
The touch controls are a bit unforgiving at times, and there isn’t any options for tweaking the controls. My only gripe so far is that the floating directional pad can sometimes result in you accidentally running the wrong way right into a deadly trap. Fortunately, the game also supports Bluetooth controllers which is always a nice touch and is also compatible with the NVIDIA Shield TV and Android TV for a more traditional gaming experience.
Which are your favorites?
In spite of all the money that can be made through micro-transactions, there are still so many great games out there with no in-app purchases. Let us know which ones you love missed our cut in the comments below!
Updated December 2018: Revamped our list with the best games without in-app purchases for Android in 2018!
December 8, 2018 at 05:03AM