Sure, casual games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush are still wildly popular, but thanks to Unity now offering fantastic cross-platform support for developers, indie developers and big publishers alike are able to make full-scale games initially developed for consoles or PC over to and Android and iOS devices. This, along with game streaming services like Google’s Stadia and Microsoft Project xCloud, means the time is right to make sure your next phone is capable of handling it all in stride. We think the Galaxy S20 is the best overall gaming phone, but if that doesn’t strike your fancy, there are plenty of other options worth considering.
Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S20
Samsung’s annual offerings continue to push the limits of what we expect from smartphones, and that extends well into the world of mobile gaming.
The Galaxy S20 is the latest flagship in Samsung’s lineup, and as far as gaming goes, it’s an absolute beast. Not only does Samsung’s Quad HD AMOLED display offer vibrant colors and a razer sharp resolution, but there’s also a 120Hz refresh rate that allows for buttery smooth animations to take your gaming to the next level.
Powering all of your games is some of the best silicone in the business. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 is at the heart of the Galaxy S20, and paired with 12GB of RAM, you end up with a phone that can handle every game imaginable. We’re also geeked out about the 4,000 mAh battery, which should give you plenty of endurance even with heavy usage.
Other highlights include 128GB of expandable storage, a great in-hand size that’s not too big and not too small, and compatibility with all U.S. carriers. The lack of a headphone jack is a bummer, but it’s simply a sign of the times at this point.
- Fantastic Super AMOLED display
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Snapdragon 865 with 12GB of RAM
- Gaming Mode and Game Launcher
- Expandable storage via microSD
- There isn’t a headphone jack
- Slippery, all-glass design demands a case
Samsung Galaxy S20
- $800 at Amazon
- $800 at Best Buy
- $800 at Walmart
Go big or go home
The Samsung Galaxy S20 is an absolute workhorse that will deliver outstanding performance no matter the mobile game you obsess over.
Best Value: OnePlus 8
While the OnePlus 8 isn’t explicitly marketed as a gaming smartphone, it does a great job including all the key features that make for a great gaming experience. Even better, it’s a fair amount cheaper than the Galaxy S20.
First off, the display is big and bright, with the 90Hz refresh rate making everything look and smooth. Thanks to a lean Oxygen OS running on great internal specs, you shouldn’t notice any slowdown even when playing the most graphically intensive games. OnePlus has been fine-tuning its charging technology to the point where the included Warp Charge 30T lets you fast-charge your phone while gaming without the phone overheating or experiencing a net drop in charging speeds.
Fnatic mode is OnePlus’ take on a gaming mode, and it prioritizes all the power of the CPU towards running your game. It improves your network connection by limiting network access to apps running in the background and blocking all incoming notifications so you can stay focused on the game at hand.
Gaming on the OnePlus 8 is a pure joy, and thanks to other features like three rear cameras, 128GB of internal storage, and up to 12GB of RAM, it feels like a flagship through-and-through — all without the ridiculous flagship price.
- Huge display with 90Hz refresh rate
- Software is intuitive and smooth
- Great haptics
- Fnatic mode
- Top-end specs
- Warp Charge 30T lets you top up while you play
- Storage isn’t expandable
- Lacks a headphone jack
- No wireless charging or IP rating
- From $675 at Amazon
All the essential features you’d want for gaming
Never experienced gaming in 90Hz on a phone? Let the OnePlus 8 be the first dazzle you with its outstanding specs.
Best for Touchscreen Controls LG G8X ThinQ
Foldable smartphones were one of the biggest trends of 2019, but one phone that managed to stay below the radar was the LG G8X ThinQ. While lacking the flashy design we saw on the Galaxy Fold or Mate X, LG’s foldable is arguably the more practical implementation of a dual-screen phone with some incredible gaming features.
Rather than offer a permanent fold-out display, LG offers a dual-screen accessory that plugs into the USB-C port when needed. The second screen is primarily designed for multitasking but also works wonderfully for dedicated controls for gaming. Games that offer controller support can use preset control configurations for different genres, including racing games, shooters, and platformers.
For games that don’t support controllers, such as PUBG Mobile, you can create your own custom configurations and add buttons and virtual joysticks to the second display. This frees up your view of the entire top screen and lets you set a comfortable angle for yourself.
There’s some charm to keeping the second screen connected as you get clamshell protection for both screens. Without the attachment, the LG G8X offers a larger 6.4-inch display, a massive 4,000 mAh battery, 6GB of RAM, and a Snapdragon 855 chipset. There are premium features like an in-display fingerprint sensor, wireless charging, and capable camera setup that can shoot video in 4K.
- Dual-screen attachment is perfect for gaming
- Preset and customized gaming controls
- Controls don’t block the screen
- Sizable 4,000mAh battery
- Expandable storage via microSD
- Headphone jack!
- Lacks the modern sleekness of other foldable phones
- Second screen adds considerable bulk to pocket carry
Best Touchscreen Controls
LG G8X ThinQ
- $680 at Amazon
- $700 at Best Buy
- $700 at B&H
Two screens are better than one!
The LG G8X is the working man’s folding phone that offers the best touchscreen control configurations for mobile gaming.
Best Advanced Features Nubia RedMagic 5G
You may not be very familiar with Nubia, but that’s OK. All you need to know about this ZTE sub-brand is that its RedMagic 5G is one of the most fully-featured gaming phones you can buy. Ifyou’re at all interested in mobile gaming, you owe it to yourself to consider picking it up.
There’s a lot about the RedMagic 5G that stands out, the first of which is its display. The phone comes equipped with a 6.65-inch AMOLED display, along with a jaw-dropping 144Hz refresh rate. That’s more technically impressive than what you get on the Galaxy S20, and it creates for a wonderful gaming experience. Also contributing to that point is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 processor, along with up to 12GB of RAM. And, as the name suggests, there’s also support for 5G connectivity.
Where the RedMagic 5G really stands out is with its special gaming-focused features. There are built-in triggers on the frame of the phone for more precise controls, liquid-cooling and Nubia’s “Turbo Fan 3.0” to prevent overheating, and a Touch Choreographer algorithm that aims to remove any and all stutter from your gaming sessions. Not to mention, the design of the RedMagic 5G is stunning 😍.
- Unmatched 144Hz AMOLED display
- Robust cooling system
- Fast Qualcomm processor with tons of RAM
- Built-in trigger buttons for extra control
- 4,500 mAh battery + 55W charging
- Design isn’t for everyone
- Mediocre cameras
Best Advanced Features
Nubia RedMagic 5G
- From $619 at Amazon
A phone that goes all-in on gaming
Features such as trigger buttons and a 144Hz display allow the RedMagic 5G to stand out in a big way.
Best for Stadia: Google Pixel 4 XL
The Pixel 4 XL is the highest-end smartphone Google has in its lineup right now, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s worth putting on your shortlist if you’re in the market for a gaming phone.
Looking at the phone itself, there’s plenty to like. The Pixel 4 XL has a simple design with a matte glass back that feels great to hold, the 90Hz AMOLED display makes games look better than ever, and the Snapdragon 855 processor with 6GB of RAM allows for ample performance. You should be able to get through one day of normal use on a single charge, but this is definitely one of the weaker batteries on this list.
While you can play regular mobile games just fine on the Pixel 4 XL, it’s also one of the select Android phones that supports Stadia — Google’s cloud-based game streaming service. While this is also true of the Galaxy S20, using Google’s streaming service on a Google phone just feels right.
Stadia is far from a perfect service, but it does allow you to play games like Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands 3, and Mortal Kombat 11 right on your smartphone. How cool is that?
- Guaranteed updates through October 2022
- Clean, minimalistic design
- 90Hz AMOLED display
- Flagship performance
- Face unlock and wireless charging
- Stadia compatibility
- No expandable storage
- Disappointing battery life
Best for Stadia
Google Pixel 4 XL
- From $669 at Amazon
- From $900 at Best Buy
- From $900 at B&H
The phone for game streaming
Google Stadia brings console-quality game streaming right to your pocket, and the Pixel 4 XL is the phone we recommend for it.
Best for iOS: Apple iPhone 11
Since we’re looking at gaming phones as a whole, we’d be remiss if we wholly ignored Apple’s offerings. While the iPhone 11 Pro is the big gun in Apple’s iPhone arsenal these days, the iPhone 11 simply offers the best value for those looking to get the most out of the latest version of iOS and enjoy the features included in the current iPhone — all without having to drop a cool grand.
Apple is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to the type of spec sheets we’ve come to expect from Android phone makers, but it’s also quite loud when it boasts about the chipsets and technology it develops in-house for its devices. The iPhone 11 uses Apple’s latest A13 Bionic chipset, a six-core CPU that’s one of the most impressive mobile chipsets we’ve ever seen. Needless to say, it should handle anything you throw at it with ease. The iPhone 11’s LCD display isn’t as impressive as the AMOLED panels of other phones, but thanks to Apple’s Liquid Retina display technology, the screen goes right to the edge of the phone — maximizing the screen-to-body ration for your favorite games.
Above all else, if you’re buying an iPhone it’s probably because they’re so easy to use thanks to the constant improvements Apple makes to the platform. You’ll get the latest version, iOS 13, along with full support for upcoming releases and security patches for years to come.
- 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display
- A13 Bionic chip is a performance beast
- Running iOS 13 with years of software support ahead
- Available in fun colors
- Reasonably priced
- Not an Android phone
- No headphone jack
- Big ol’ notch
- LCD display isn’t as impressive
Best for iOS
Apple iPhone 11
- From $699 at Apple
- From $699 at Amazon
- From $700 at Best Buy
Apple’s “mid-range” offering
The iPhone 11 delivers the design, performance, and price you’d want to get the most out of gaming on iOS.
Best International: Xiaomi Mi 9T
There are plenty of excellent gaming phones available in the U.S., but if you aren’t thrilled about the options available to you here, it’s worth checking out some of the international models — specifically, the Xiaomi Mi 9T. While the phone isn’t officially sold in the U.S., you can import it via Amazon without too much hassle.
Why would anyone want to do that? Simply put, the Xiaomi Mi 9T is a beast of a smartphone that’s paired with an incredible price. You’re getting a 6.39-inch Super AMOLED display with a 2340×1080 resolution, Snapdragon 730 processor with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a 4,000 mAh battery. It’s not the most technically-impressive loadout available, but for the price, it’s hard to beat.
The design of the Mi 9T is a true sight to behold, with the display having virtually no bezels, the selfie camera pops up out of the top frame, and the carbon fiber design on the back is downright stunning. For this price, it’s a steal.
- Beautifully designed
- Edge-to-edge display
- Generous specs for the price
- Hefty 4,000 mAh battery
- Headphone jack included
- Doesn’t have a U.S. warranty
- No microSD slot
Xiaomi Mi 9T
- $325 at Amazon
- $274 at Walmart
- $380 at B&H
Tons of value across the ocean
With its excellent display, solid specs, and distinct design, the Xiaomi Mi 9T brings a lot to the table.
Best for Widescreen Gaming Sony Xperia 1
Admittedly, the Sony Xperia 1 might not be on too many people’s radars as a top pick for gaming smartphones, but it performs admirably thanks to its Snapdragon 855 chipset and 6GB of RAM. In his review, Hayato Huseman describes the Xperia 1 hardware as “well-thought-out and luxurious” with perfect weighting and a curved back glass that is a pleasant departure from previous Xperia phones. That’s particularly great for the purposes of gaming because you definitely want your phone to be extra comfortable to hold.
The Xperia 1 is designed first and foremost for entertainment and it all starts with the display. Sony built this phone around a 6.5-inch 4K OLED display with a 21:9 aspect ratio — the same proportions often used in widescreen films. Sony calls the display CinemaWide and it makes the phone feel extra tall and slender held in portrait orientation but really shines when held in landscape mode for watching videos or playing games. Stereo sound is included using the earpiece and the bottom-firing speaker and is enhanced with Dolby Atmos.
Sony included a Game Enhancer mode that lets you set custom options for performance or battery prioritization, locking out the navigation bar and limiting notifications on a per-game basis. Not only will you enjoy the sights and sounds of your favorite games, but you’ll also feel the action thanks to Sony’s Dynamic Vibration Engine that delivers great haptic feedback to the action on the screen. It’s a feature that few companies prioritized when designing a phone, but it does make a difference in terms of immersing you into the game world.
- CinemaWide 4K HDR OLED display is incredible
- Stereo speaker setup with diverse audio settings
- Dynamic Vibration Engine delivers great haptic feedback
- Includes microSD slot
- Mostly stock Android 9 software really zips
- No headphone jack
- Outdated design
Best for Widescreen Gaming
Sony Xperia 1
- From $798 at Amazon
- $800 at Best Buy
- $798 at B&H
Designed for entertainment
The Xperia 1 is a great gaming phone that will also satisfy cinephiles with its uniquely amazing 4K display with a 21:9 aspect ratio.
Best Battery Life: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
We started this list by recommending the Galaxy S20, so it’s only fitting that we end it with the larger, more expensive sibling — the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The S20 Ultra is not a phone for everyone, given its large size and exorbitant price, but there’s no denying it being an excellent gaming device.
Let’s first talk about the elephant in the room, battery life. The Galaxy S20 Ultra is powered by a 5,000 mAh battery, which is one of the largest you’ll find in a mainstream smartphone in 2020. No matter what you’re doing on the phone, you can look forward to long endurance to keep you playing for as long as you want.
While you’re gaming on the S20 Ultra, you’ll be treated to a massive 6.9-inch display. Just like the regular S20, it’s an AMOLED panel with a Quad HD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. You also get a Snapdragon 865 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, expandable storage, and 5G connectivity.
- You get a 5,000 mAh battery
- Huge 120Hz display
- Fast and reliable performance
- Supports expandable storage
- 5G connectivity
- Doesn’t have a headphone jack
- Likely too big for some users
Best Battery Life
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
- $1200 at Amazon
- From $1200 at Best Buy
- $1200 at Walmart
Game for longer with incredible battery life
The 5,000 mAh battery is one of the biggest you’ll find in a phone, making the S20 Ultra an appealing gaming handset.
If you’re upgrading to a new phone and want something that can handle gaming with ease, the Samsung Galaxy S20 is your best bet. It’s an easy contender for phone of the year and is packed with pretty much all of the features you’d want for gaming and daily use.
Without a doubt, one of the best aspects of the Galaxy S20 is its display. Samsung’s AMOLED tech is just as vibrant and colorful as ever, but this time around it’s paired with a 120Hz refresh rate. This results in your eyes being treated to the very best display that exists on a smartphone right now, which contributes to a better user experience whether you’re gaming or using your phone for other tasks.
Another highlight of the S20 is its sheer specs. With a Snapdragon 865 processor, 12GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage, and a 4,000 mAh battery, this is a phone that’s outstandingly fast, has plenty of room for all of your local files/games, and can easily get through a full day of use.
The S20 isn’t a cheap or affordable device, but if you have the means to buy it, it will not let you down.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring is Android Central’s Senior Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He’s been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Reach out on Twitter @JoeMaring1 or send an email to [email protected]!