Smartphones have almost entirely replaced handheld consoles for gaming, and with good reason – they often have excellent screens and plenty of power, while the App Store and Google Play Store both have a large and ever growing selection of games.
But not all smartphones are good for games, and there’s more to consider than just raw power – though that’s certainly a factor.
There are phones like the Nubia Red Magic 5G, Asus ROG Phone 3, Black Shark 2, and Razer Phone 2, which are all built specifically with gaming in mind, meaning they have things like extra high refresh rates, touch-sensitive triggers, cooling systems, and more. We just got our hands on the Asus ROG Phone 5, and we’ll finish evaluating where it fits in the lineup soon.
On the other hand, there are also excellent gaming phones that aren’t aimed specifically at that market, with many top flagships like the iPhone 12 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 also doing a superb job, thanks to their stunning screens and high-end specs.
We’ve included all the best options below, ranked from best to worst, but you’ll find those designed specifically for gaming at the top, while standard handsets that happen to be good for gaming are further down.
Make sure to check back regularly too, as we’re keeping this article constantly updated with new arrivals.
And once you’ve picked your phone we’ve got you covered when it comes to picking games as well, with our best iPhone games, best free iPhone games, best Android games and best free Android games lists – all of which are also regularly updated.
1. Lenovo Legion Phone Duel
The first gaming phone from Lenovo, the Legion Phone Duel, matches great gaming-dedicated features with some other top specs and features.
The phone supports 90W fast charging, and has a pop-up camera so the screen remains unbroken. It’s also got a top processor and software optimized for use in landscape mode. All of these contribute to make it great for gaming.
Our issues with the phone don’t touch its gaming prowess, though its high price, software issues and mediocre camera might affect some.
If you’re looking for the best gaming phone right now, this is it; if you’re looking for a great smartphone that is also good for playing games, this is a good choice, though you should check the others on this list before buying.
2. Nubia Red Magic 5G
The Nubia Red Magic 5G has the world’s first 144Hz smartphone screen, which makes it ideal for gaming, as that’s a silky smooth refresh rate.
But that’s not the only thing that makes this ideal for gaming. In fact, it’s designed specifically for this pastime, with shoulder triggers to give you increased control, a fan and a liquid cooling system to keep the handset cool under pressure, a dedicated ‘Game Space’ to let you customize your gaming experience, and a ‘4D Shock’ feature that adds vibration to games.
That last feature isn’t supported by many titles at the time of writing, and nor is the 144Hz display, but if game developers embrace them then this could be one seriously future-proofed phone.
It also supports 5G of course, and has plenty of power. It’s only let down slightly by a 1080 x 2340 screen, which isn’t among the sharpest around, along with some software bugs and a design that will prove divisive.
3. Asus ROG Phone 3
The Asus ROG Phone 3 remains a phone with all the perks a mobile gamer needs, including a staggeringly large 6,000mAh battery (for extended gaming sessions), and a slick 144Hz AMOLED screen, in a large 6.59-inch size.
Add to that truly top tier specs, with the combination of a Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, up to 16GB of RAM and masses of storage, and you can see why the Asus ROG Phone 3 makes our list.
Being designed specifically for gamers, it also has features you won’t find on most other phones, such as a clip-on fan, which is generously included in the box, and a range of other accessories (such as a gamepad), which you’ll have to buy separately.
There’s also built-in software to help you tailor your gaming experience, through, for example, overclocking the already meaty CPU, and adjusting the fan speed.
There are some omissions in the Asus ROG Phone 3, but most of them don’t affect gaming. It doesn’t have wireless charging or water resistance for example, and the design is sure to be divisive. If all you want your phone for is gaming though, and you either like this design or don’t much care, then the Asus ROG Phone 3 is hard to beat.
4. Black Shark 3
The Black Shark 3 is the best gaming phone from the Xiaomi sub-brand, although it doesn’t quite beat its contemporary gaming phones from a few other brands.
The phone is big, bold in design and has LED lights, and its specs are all what you’d expect from a gaming phone – in that, they’re top-end. The cameras were surprisingly effective too, especially in low-light settings, though sometimes the optimization could be overzealous.
The reason this phone isn’t higher is thanks to its 90Hz refresh rate, which is lower than the other phones higher on this list, and that it doesn’t have as many dedicated gaming features as the others either.
5. Razer Phone 2
The first Razer Phone was a solid first effort to bring the gamer-specific brand to a mobile device, but it had a few shortcomings that dropped it further down our list. The second version has addressed some and come out with a stronger device for it, though it’s still aimed primarily at gamers.
What does that mean? The camera and display aren’t nearly as impressive as other phones that cost this much, so casual gamers might want to look elsewhere. But if you’re more serious about mobile gaming and can afford it, this is a solid choice.
Outwardly, the Razer Phone 2 hasn’t changed much from its predecessor, though it’s upgraded to the Snapdragon 845 chip and switched to a glass back for Qi wireless charging. It’s also added a slick vapor chamber to cool the device as you game.
At the end of the day, the phone’s beefy chipset, 8GB RAM, great speakers, 120hz refresh rate screen and 4,000mAh battery, as well as extensive settings to tweak battery life and performance, make this a great choice for gaming.