Get your game on — even in the offseason — with the best sports games available for Android.
Update April 26: Our list has been updated for 2017 with the latest and greatest sports games!
After a few golden years of fantastic entries, it seems that sports games, too, have all but succumbed to the freemium model. There's 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.
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 Mobile 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's a number of 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. The live events offer some nice 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 NFL Mobile provides.
Madden NFL Mobile provides good fun whether during halftime or break time at work — as long as you don't mind being slightly bogged down by the collectibles aspect.
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 down time when you're all caught up with the real games. Players build and train their own 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.
The FIFA games for mobile used to stand out as one of the best investments available in the paid app section of the Google Play Store, with FIFA 13 remaining one of the best mobile games I've ever played. Sadly, EA has shifted to a freemium model with the entire focus of the game being on building your own Ultimate Team.
While I personally feel like the change in format is a disservice to players, the game itself still plays like a dream and will surely keep any footy fans addicted for some time. There are four game modes to choose from: you start out with Live Events and Attack Mode, and unlock Leagues and Season once your profile reaches level 5. Live Events throw you into different drills and game situations where you can unlock coins, XP, and specific card packs. Attack Mode pits you against other players around the world in turn-based gameplay where you're each given time on offence to rack up as many goals as you can (hence the name). The newest addition is Leagues, which lets you start or join your own global league consisting of other players. It's both competitive and cooperative, as you can either compete in a league tournament or collectively challenge another league. Season mode is the single-player mode you've come to expect, but you'll need to maintain an internet connection to play FIFA Mobile, even in single player mode.
While FIFA Mobile is missing the freedom to play as you like from previous editions, it's still the best footy game you can play on Android.
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?
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 a 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 for interleague showdowns. Another neat feature of leagues is if someone in your league makes an in-app purchase, everyone in the league gets a free gift — essentially an added incentive to engage in that freemium model.
NBA Jam has been available on Android since October 2010, and yet it still 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.
The 9 Innings franchise has been a very popular game on Android over the years, and the latest edition might be the best yet. The game features all 30 MLB ballparks and over 800 players, which have been carefully rendered in 3D for a very authentic gameplay experience.
There's a number of 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.
If you're looking to play full baseball games on your Android device without being pestered with in-app purchase offers, R.B.I. Baseball 17 is your best bet. This paid app was developed by the MLB and is also available on PS4 and Xbox One.
While the game might feel a little lacking on the consoles, it looks and plays quite nicely on Android, featuring beautifully rendered stadiums and all 30 MLB teams available with regularly updated rosters. Choose your preferred game mode and play a quick exhibition game, take your favorite team through a full season, or jump right into the heat of the post-season.
This game is fairly optimized for mobile gaming, allowing you to play a full nine-inning game in under 20 minutes with intuitive two-button on-screen controls. Keep in mind that all those pretty graphics requires a fairly modern phone to play it, which means R.B.I. Baseball 17 only supports devices with memory/processor comparable to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and up.
This game will set you back $4.99 in the app store but in exchange, you won't have to deal with clunky free-to-play game mechanics.
For whatever reason, EA Sports' has not ported their celebrated NHL franchise for consoles over to mobile platforms. It's a shame, but Matt Duchene Hockey Classic might be the next best thing.
The latest in a line of games attached to rising NHL players (previously Patrick Kane), Matt Duchene Hockey Classic is free to try but you only get Team Finland and Team Sweden 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. As you might have noticed from the title, 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 definitely notice some sluggish moments if you play on an older device. But considering the lack of options for full-featured hockey games on Android, Matt Duchene Hockey Classic delivers as well as you'd expect.
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.
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 bought 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.
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!