After a few golden years of fantastic entries, it seems that sports games have all but succumbed to the freemium model. There are far too few quality sports games out there that just let you jump into the game without having to deal with player cards, upgrades or waiting for 'stamina meters' to refill. Nearly all the top mobile sports game franchises have switched over to a team building system that requires you to unlock (or buy) card packs to upgrade your team.

But there are still great games to be played! We're covering the five major North American sports here — football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and, ahem, soccer — with two options for each. The first will typically be more sim-based for the hardcore sports fan, while the second is a more arcade-like option for casual players.

MLB Nine Innings 2018

The latest version of the Nine Innings franchise for 2018 features the best graphics we've seen yet. The game features all 30 MLB ballparks and over 1,700 players, which have been carefully rendered in 3D for a very authentic gameplay experience.

There are ways to play depending on how much free time you have. You can jump into an exhibition game or play your way through a full season with options to play bat/pitch only or take control of both sides of the game. The game also features a unique "Live Player System," which will accurately reflect the real-life performance and value of MLB players throughout the season.

You're also tasked with collecting your favorite players and building your dream team which, coupled with the free-to-play model, means you're going to have to deal with in-app purchases. If you can get past that, you should have a great time playing this game throughout the season.

Download: MLB Nine Innings 2018 (Free w/IAPs)

Badminton League

When you think of sports and video games, badminton might not jump to mind. Badminton League for Android is a pleasant surprise, offering a simplified version of the sport on a 2D plane that offers a true challenge whether you're facing AI or online opponents.

The controls are easy to learn with three different shot types to choose from. Which one you choose is a matter of timing, positioning, and can force your opponent to the backcourt and get them to set you up for a big smash for the point.

It's a quick and competitive game that features tournament play and also allows you to play locally against a friend when you're connected to the same Wi-Fi. The game is free to play with ads, and there are also in-app purchases available to remove the ads and get a ton of coins for buying equipment.

Download: Badminton League (Free w/IAPs)

PES 2019 Pro Evolution Soccer

Konami's PES franchise is one of the top tier virtual soccer franchises right up there with EA's FIFA. But when it comes to mobile gaming, PES 2019 is the superior product delivering gameplay more similar to what you'd experience on a proper video game console.

For a free-to-play game, PES 2019 stands out for offering the best graphics and gameplay on mobile without being entirely pay-to-win like FIFA is. Alongside the expected online modes, you're able to play one on one against friends in local multiplayer and even create a Local League with multiple friends.

Konami has locked down league licenses from around the world, including the J-League for Japanese players who will know this series as Winning Eleven. If you want to play a full-fledged mobile football match on the go, this is the game to get.

Download: PES 20190 Pro Evolution Soccer (Free, with IAPs)

Score! Hero

For something a little different, look no further than Score! Hero. Instead of putting you in charge of building a team, you create your own player and work your way through a professional career from rookie to legend.

Another difference from other games is the way you control the action. Instead of the free-flowing action found elsewhere, you only take over once your team has control of the ball. Play freezes, waiting for you to swipe at the ball to take your shot or pass to a teammate. It's an interesting dynamic that really highlights the strategic elements of soccer and a nice change of pace.

Each level sets up the game situation and gives you your mission for completing it, but if the defending team intercepts or otherwise gains control of the ball, you're forced to restart the level or spends some of your in-app funds to use a rewind to redo your last kick. Sometimes your mission involves scoring back-to-back goals which make those rewinds extra tempting, but you'll want to avoid relying on them unless you're intending on dropping real cash into the game. All told, Score! Hero features 420 levels to play through. Can you beat them all?

Download: Score! Hero (Free, with IAPs)

Madden NFL Overdrive Football

Football fans know that Madden is king on consoles, and despite the freemium, card-collecting gameplay at the core of the Android version, Madden NFL Overdrive Football still reigns supreme on the mobile gridiron as well.

Yes, you're stuck building your team through opening card packs, which can be bought with in-game coins or purchased with real cash. Fortunately, there are many ways to earn in-game currency: Head-to-head match-ups against other users where you exchange offensive drives, a single-player season mode where you play out through a full season against CPU opponents, and multiple daily live events to test your skills. For anyone looking for pure simulation gameplay, you're out of luck.

The marquee mode in this latest update is the Overdrive mode which is an uber-arcade mode where you try and score as many TDs against your opponent. You can also challenge them to complete specific tasks which, if they fail, gives you a bonus. The live events offer some nostalgia for those who remember the mini-camp drills from Madden 2004. On the field, the touch controls are on point, and while the graphics are understandably a far cry from those found on the latest PlayStation and Xbox editions, they're more than serviceable for the bite-sized football action Madden for Mobile provides.

Download: Madden NFL Overdrive Football (Free, with IAPs)

Football Heroes Pro 2017

Football Heroes Pro 2017 is a full-fledged arcade football game, licensed by the NFLPA. Unlike the more realistic sim-style of Madden, it provides a casual football experience (think Tecmo Bowl) in your downtime when you're all caught up with the real games. Players build and train their team with their favorite real-life players and unlock new plays by opening card packs. Premium currency can be used to buy card packs, though you're also able to buy packs with coins earned from winning and by leveling up your players. Gameplay-wise, this one features a lot of button mashing for tackling and breaking tackles.

For those looking for a casual football game to kill time during commercial breaks, Football Heroes Pro 2017 has plenty to offer.

Download: Football Heros Pro 2017 (Free, with IAPs)

NBA Live Mobile

Another sport, another EA Sports title. If you're a fan of NBA Live on consoles, or even the NBA 2K franchise, you'll likely dig the mobile offering. Again, with every other sports title offered by EA this year around, there's the unavoidable emphasis on card collecting to unlock players. If your sensibilities are offended by that, you'll want to look elsewhere.

Otherwise, what you get here is pretty solid. Dive into daily live events, or challenge other players around the world to a head-to-head challenge where you go back and forth playing one quarter at a time. Season mode lets you play a full NBA season with your team, all the way through to the NBA Championships. Once you've reached level 5, you unlock Leagues, which lets you start up a league for you and all your friends, or join a random league. They operate similar to clans and allow for friendly matches between other league members, or interleague showdowns. Another neat feature of leagues is if someone in your league makes an in-app purchase, everyone in the league gets a gift — essentially an added incentive to engage in that freemium model.

Download: NBA Live Mobile (Free, with IAPs)

NBA Jam

NBA Jam has been available on Android since October 2010, and yet it remains as one of the most polished and fun sports games you can play on the platform.

This remake of the 90s classic features all the fast-paced two-on-two action you remember from back in the day, with upgraded graphics including hilarious big head animations for every player in the game. Touch controls are simple and responsive, making it super easy to set up an epic alley-oop, or sink three shots in a row and hear Tim Kitzrow — the original NBA JAM commentator — yell his infamous line, "HE'S ON FIRE!"

There are four modes of play and no in-app purchases or currencies to deal with, so you can jump into a game right away. On top of quick matches and a Classic Campaign where you can unlock legendary players and other goodies, you can play online (but good luck finding a random opponent) or with a friend over local Wi-Fi.

If you're an NBA fan or a fan of the original game, NBA Jam should be a mainstay on your Android device.

Download: NBA Jam ($4.99)

Hockey Classic 16

For whatever reason, EA Sports' has not ported their celebrated NHL franchise for consoles over to mobile platforms. It's a shame because that leaves Hockey Classic 16 as the next best thing.

The game is free to play with Team Finland and Team Sweden available when you download it from the Google Play Store. Fortunately, you'll need to pay a very reasonable price to unlock the full game, which includes 60 teams and a plethora of game modes including playoffs, outdoor games and "Hockey Giants", which is essentially big head mode.

This game isn't officially licensed by the NHL, so while, for instance, the team from Boston wears black and yellow jerseys there are no logos nor are there any active rosters. It's also a bit of a resource hog. You'll notice some sluggish moments if you play on an older device. But considering the lack of options for full-featured hockey games on Android, Hockey Classic delivers as well as you'd expect.

Download: Hockey Classic 2016 (Free, with IAP to unlock full game)

Advertisement


Hockey Hero

Hockey Hero is an outlier on this list, as it's not exactly a traditional sports game — more a sports-themed entry if anything. However, with its charming retro graphics, simple gameplay, and minimal ads, it's a great break from the rest of the titles on this list.

The concept is both wacky and simple — tap and hold to control the hockey hero, who must deftly deke past wave after wave of opposing players who are looking for a fight. If you lift your finger off, time slows down allowing you to determine the clear path between defenders. You move on an endless sheet of ice comprised of multiple hockey rinks attached end-to-end so that once you've skated to the end of one rink and scored, you immediately skate on towards the next rink. It's a silly and fun concept for an endless runner style and is a great game you can just pick up and play whenever you have some free time. As you progress further, you unlock different jerseys for your hockey hero, giving you goals to work towards.

Hockey Hero is far from a traditional sports title, but with its simple controls and fun concept, it's definitely worth checking out.

Download: Hockey Hero (Free, with IAPs)

Golf Star

Hit the links in Golf Star, the best golf game for Android!

This game features great graphics and easy controls. Customize your golfer and jump into Career Mode and hone your skills. It's going to take you a bit of time to figure out the intricacies of the physics and how to properly read the greens and aim your putts, but you'll pick it up in no time.

Beyond the single-player Career Mode, there are a couple of different ways to play against friends and other online opponents. Tournament Mode lets you compete in one-on-one competitions against live opponents. More game modes are unlocked as you progress your character from beginner to amateur — all the way until you achieve pro status.

Win and you'll earn rewards, which can also be purchased via in-app purchases. Golf Star also requires you to spend a certain amount of hearts each time you play, which you'll need to wait to regenerate. If you're alright with dealing with those free-to-play mechanics, you're sure to enjoy Golf Star for Android.

Download: Golf Star (Free w/IAPs)

Snowboard Party: World Tour

While Android shamefully lacks a port of quintessential snowboarding franchise SSX, it does have its own snowboarding franchise in the form of Snowboard Party.

The latest title in the series is Snowboard Party: World Tour, and it rocks. The graphics are great, the pop-punk soundtrack is fitting, and the touch controls are surprisingly tight. There are also four different mode to choose from — Time-Attack, Freestyle, Big Air, and Halfpipe, along with a multiplayer mode for playing against your friends. There are 16 snowboarders to customize and upgrade, which you can do without spending a dime although in-app purchases are included.

This is an Editor's Choice on the Google Play Store, and after spending even just a few minutes playing this game it's clear to see why. This is the best snowboarding game you can play on your phone!

Download: Snowboard Party (Free w/IAPs)

What did we miss?

There's a ton of sports games in the Google Play Store but if we're completely honest, most of them aren't worth your time. If you think we missed one that should absolutely be on our list, let us know in the comments!

Updated February 2019: We've overhauled our article with the latest and greatest sports games worthy of your time in 2019.

Android Gaming

Main

Best action games for Android

This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.