The 10 best free Android games of 2015

You don't need to spend any cash to enjoy these awesome games.

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Free Android games are a dime a dozen, right? Wrong: they’re free, and they only seem to multiply when we look away. You won’t have any problem finding free games on the Play Store, but the titles that dominate the charts are often (but not always) grim grinds loaded with in-app purchase prompts, punitive timers, and aggressive ads.

Luckily, that’s not true across the board. There are many free Android games that deliver fun gameplay, respect your time, and offer reasonable yet enitrely optional purchases for players who want a little more out of the experience. Here are our 10 favorites from the year, some of which you’ve no doubt encountered, but others that surely warrant your time.

best free games 2015 crossyroad
Crossy Road

We’re probably not blowing anyone’s mind with this pick: Crossy Road was one of the year’s biggest mobile smashes, but it’s also a genuinely excellent free Android game. It effectively merges the endless runner genre with Frogger, plus a dash of Minecraft-like design, and creates the kind of ultra-compelling score chase that you can’t help but play over and over again. 

Crossy Road is also one of the kindest free-to-play games around, which has a little something to do with its success. There are dozens upon dozens of optional costumes to buy… but no play restrictions, no ads, and no in-your-face purchase prompts. And if you play a lot, you’ll get enough free coins to load up on most of the costumes anyway.

Crossy Road (Free)

best free games 2015 vainglory
Vainglory

MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games like League of Legends and Dota 2 are only meant for hardcore players on PC, right? Not anymore! Vainglory does an excellent job of streamlining the team-based combat experience for touch, resulting in a slick and exciting online multiplayer experience that’s great even on a compact phone screen.

Across a 15-30 minute match, you’ll work with two other live players to take down the opposing team’s defenses and ultimately smash up their base. You’ll do so by bashing the enemy players and their A.I. minions with fantastical attacks, and then spending experience on ability boosts and earned coins on items and weapons. It’s simpler than PC counterparts, for sure, but still great fun.

Vainglory (Free)

best free games 2015 alphabear
Alphabear

Alphabear isn’t your average word game. First of all, there are bears everywhere: bears that appear when you complete a word, bears that expand as you clear more of the tiles, and bear power-ups that boost your score. But the game also stands apart for delivering tactical elements that make it about more than spelling the biggest and best words.

Each tile on the board has a limited lifespan, and if you don’t use it within a few turns, it’ll turn to stone and block progress on the board. As such, success relies not only on wordplay, but also strategic letter usage and planning. Alphabear has an energy system that can limit long sessions, but it’s a perfect game for quick games here and there throughout the day.

Alphabear (Free)

best free games 2015 hearthstone
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

We've seen mobile card-battling spinoffs come and go, but Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is the real deal—just ask the millions upon millions of active players across Android, PC, and iOS. Hearthstone mines the rich setting of the Warcraft franchise to deliver a free collectible card game with plenty of character, heart, and strategy in tow.

And your phone is the perfect place for it, as you can hop on for a quick battle whether it's on the couch or in your cubicle. Hearthstone has a lot of opportunities to spend, and to be truly competitive against entrenched players, you'll either need money or a lot of time. But even for casual, free play, it's a very fun and addictive experience.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Free)

best free games 2015 fourletters
Four Letters

Had your fill of ponderous word games that try to test the depth of your vocabulary? How about one that spotlights speed instead? That’s the big appeal of Four Letters, which keeps you in the game so long as you can continue cranking out four-letter words. 

The letters are jumbled at the bottom, and you’ll need to tap out words in order to bring up the next set of letters. The faster you input them, the better your performance: not only is a timer ticking down (which is replenished slightly with each finished word), but you also get a score boost for rapid-fire responses. And despite the short terms, Four Letters still manages to toss some real head-scratchers in the mix.

Four Letters (Free)

best free games 2015 doesnotcommute
Does Not Commute

Does Not Commute is a delightfully odd game about driving cars, bikes, and boats through small city sections. You’ll only guide each for a few seconds at a time before moving on to the next vehicle—but once you’ve driven one, it stays on that path continuously. It’s easy to get through a city when you’re the only driver, but when a dozen other cars are frantically trying to navigate the same cramped roads, it’s a recipe for disaster.

The time-shifted premise is fun, but Does Not Commute also builds a ton of character and charm via its strange and hilarious driver descriptions, which deliver compact narratives amidst the arcade-style action. You can pay to unlock a checkpoint feature, otherwise the game is fully free.

Does Not Commute (Free)

best free games 2015 magictouch
Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire

Nitrome makes consistently awesome, offbeat mobile games, and Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire is my favorite so far. Armored, robotic enemies are storming your castle from above, and you’ll need to draw the symbols listed on their balloons—which makes them fall flat on their faces and explode into piles of bolts.

Magic Touch puts your Android phone’s touch display to great use by being entirely gesture-based, as you frantically scribble out lines, arrows, and other shapes to keep the enemies from landing gracefully upon your fortress. The pace livens up quickly in the primary mode, although there’s a Zen mode if you want to keep things chill—or an insane mode to go even crazier. How fast are your fingers? 

Magic Touch: Wizard for Hire (Free)

best free games 2015 brickies
Brickies

Brick breakers have more or less followed the same core rules since Breakout and Arkanoid set the mold decades back, which is fine—it’s a fun premise. But Brickies is one of the freshest-feeling riffs we’ve ever seen on Android. Sure, you’re still batting a ball to destroy a heap of bricks, but big tweaks make it feel distinctive. 

Most notably, there’s no lives system: you don’t lose a life if you miss the ball. Brickies is all about speed instead, challenging you to clear all the bricks before time runs out, and missing the ball deactivates it until you hit it again. Brickies has loads of stages with interesting layouts and neat power-ups, and the paid time bonuses are purely optional.

Brickies (Free)

best free games 2015 pacman256
Pac-Man 256

Hipster Whale scored a home run with Crossy Road, and then promptly signed up with Bandai Namco to do something truly new and interesting with Pac-Man on mobile. Enter Pac-Man 256, which turns the arcade classic into an endless maze-runner in which you’ll wind through the tight corridors as you collect dots, snag special items, and munch pesky ghosts. 

And there’s something else: an ever-pursuing mass of glitchy, broken game code coming from the bottom of the screen. It’s an homage to a classic Pac-Man glitch, but here, it’s also an constant threat that forces you to move upwards at all times. The free-to-play credits system may limit your play, but you can still get a lot out of Pac-Man 256 without paying. 

Pac-Man 256 (Free)

best free games 2015 beneaththelighthouse
Beneath the Lighthouse

Remember what we said about Nitrome? Beneath the Lighthouse is another one of its great 2015 games, and although it shares a 16-bit-like aesthetic with Magic Touch, this entry has a much calmer tone. It also plays very differently: Lighthouse is a puzzler in which you’ll rotate the screen to guide your rolling hero through tight, obstacle-packed levels.

You must avoid spikes and quickly roll past crumbling floors to make it to the goal, and although the game has a pleasant demeanor, the stages quickly become very challenging. As a free game, Lighthouse has a lives system that encourages precision play: die too many times and you’ll start a world over again. Paying a few bucks removes that limitation, but the added stakes in the free version are arguably an enhancement.

Beneath the Lighthouse (Free)