The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors. GameSpot may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.
The Best Mobile Games Of 2021
Pocket-sized adventures in faraway fantasy lands and new spins on classic properties were some of 2021's mobile highlights.
Between new console launches and PC hardware pushing games to the bleeding edge of what's visually possible, mobile games can often feel as if they play second fiddle to that market. The market has a shovelware problem, with many games being thinly disguised attempts to score some extra cash out of your pocket. But there are some definite gems in that space that are well worth your attention, and the mobile games space in general is thriving as a business.
The best mobile games use the medium to deliver engaging gameplay and gripping story, and 2021 saw a number of pocket-sized gems. From lovingly crafted RPGs to fresh spins on existing franchises, 2021 was a stellar year for mobile gaming. Read on for a look at our picks of the five best, and then check out our full top 10 games of 2021.
Rocket League Sideswipe
For years, Psyonix's game about rocket-powered cars competing against each other in a game of soccer has been one of the best competitive titles that you can play on PC or console. In a new form, it's also one of the best games you can play on your mobile device, as Rocket League Sideswipe takes all the charm of Rocket League and boils it down to a highly enjoyable and fast-paced experience on a 2D plane. It's still as fast and as furious as ever, but with an emphasis on vertical action and gravity-defying tactics, Rocket League Sideswipe is the series at its most accessible level yet while also offering plenty of advanced techniques to master.
Exquisitely designed, Rocket League Sideswipe's finely-crafted action is a template for just how the best games on PC and console can transition to mobile devices.
League of Legends: Wild Rift
2021 has been a big year for Riot's League of Legends franchise, and if a recent viewing of the superb Arcane series has piqued your interest about that universe, then Wild Rift is a great place to dive head-first into. It's essentially League of Legends stripped down to a more accessible core, cutting a substantial amount of fat from the core product and retooling it for mobile devices. Wild Rift is League of Legends without any of the glut of the main game or its intimidating learning curve.
An alternative to anyone who looks at the PC product and sees an impenetrable metagame, the expertly crafted touchscreen controls, vibrant design, and easily-readable on-screen action make Wild Rift one of the best mobile games of the year.
On paper, Genshin Impact sounds too good to be true. It's a collection of verdant worlds and well-balanced gameplay, and it regularly expands with new content, all for the low price of absolutely nothing. While there are some premium elements to its gacha design, Genshin Impact straight out of the digital box is still an incredibly enjoyable game that offers an absurd amount of content without having to shove microtransactions into your face.
2021 has been a terrific year for the game, with new regions unlocked, a regular influx of new characters added to its roster, and next-gen upgrades that made an already visually-stunning game look and perform that much better on PS5 and PC. Mobile is no slouch either in the graphics department, but whichever platform you grab Genshin Impact on, the end result is a fantasy adventure that'll have you hooked for hours on its magical world.
In GameSpot's Genshin Impact review, Heidi Kemps gave it a 7/10, writing "Genshin Impact makes a great first impression. The anime-inspired visuals are inviting and colorful, and the fully voiced, nicely choreographed cutscenes give the game the feel of a premium product. It also gets you going with the gameplay very quickly; thanks to solid control design, you'll be running, swimming, climbing, dodging, gliding, fighting slimes, and slinging spells just a few minutes after the intro cutscenes wrap up. And once your first additional party member officially joins your posse, things start to get very interesting, as you'll start to learn the ins and outs of the elemental interactions that make Genshin Impact unique."
Fantasian is a game that knows exactly which time-honored RPG mechanics and ideas it wants to incorporate into its design, and with Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi involved, the obvious similarities are easy to spot. While Fantasian doesn't stray too far from a path that dozens of RPGs have walked on for decades, it still manages to take those familiar elements and polish them up to a mirror shine, adding in quality-of-life changes that matter.
It's also a visually enchanting game, with Sakaguchi having pioneered a technique that turned dozens and dozens of handcrafted dioramas into actual parts of the game, lending the experience an artisanal quality that is unique. The biggest selling point of Fantasian, though, is its approachable nature, as a bounty of save points, tight controls, and engaging battles help create a game that's fantastic for beginners and appealing to genre veterans. It's style and substance, a refined approach to a classic genre of gaming, and one of the best games you can have on your mobile device today.
Pokemon's roots may lie in turn-based RPG monster-battling games, but the series has never been afraid to experiment in other genres. This year's Pokemon Unite may just be one of the boldest attempts that the series has taken to reinvigorate itself and find a new audience, as Nintendo went into MOBA territory with a game like League of Legends and Dota 2. Pokemon Unite still adds its own twist to the genre formula though, and as a game that merges easy-to-learn mechanics with fast and frantic gameplay, it makes a great first impression on anyone willing to give it a try.
In GameSpot's Pokemon Unite review, we scored it 7/10, with Jason Fanelli writing "the MOBA genre fits the Pokemon franchise very well, and as more Pokemon are introduced, the metagame will likely continue to evolve and may introduce more fun opportunities to strategize. Dropping into battle with new builds and trying new things is fun, as is taking a newly earned Pokemon into a battle and seeing what they can do."