Gaming on phones has been a thing ever since we all first booted up our Nokia 3310s for hours on Snake, before our iPhones became clogged with hours of Candy Crush Saga. But increasingly smartphones are becoming viable gaming devices alongside home consoles and these are the best ones you can buy.
Such is the power of modern smartphones. Gaming sensations like Fortnite and PUBG can thank their mobile platform and portability for ridiculous run-away success. And it’s no wonder considering the power inside the best smartphones around.
While the latest Apple and Samsung phones are capable of running the most demanding mobile games, the market is so popular that there are also dedicated gaming phones like the Asus ROG Phone, Razer Phone and Xiaomi Black Shark. Since there are only a handful like this, we've also included the odd 'normal' phones that also offer a good gaming experience.
Do you need all the highest specs?
These phones often have specialised hardware or even sometimes clip on controllers to help you game better. Internals often have boosts in RAM or the most powerful CPU or GPU to help the phone keep up, while high refresh rate displays are common to allow you to hit even higher frame rates while playing. A couple even have liquid cooling.
Specs are pretty important if you want to game to the highest level on a phone, but it does depend on which games you want to run smoothly. If you are more into arcade or puzzle games then you might not need to splash out on a high-end gaming phone.
Below are our recommend best phones for gaming. Take some time to consider which has the best features at the best price for you, for the games you want to be able to run.
Best gaming phone 2020
1. Asus ROG Phone 2
The Asus ROG Phone 2 is the best gaming phone we've tested to date. Okay, it doesn't have mass appeal but that's not the aim here.
Gaming is the priority here and Asus has taken the already decent original and made it even better. This second gen device gets a 120Hz screen, huge 6000mAh battery, improved performance and more. All of this at a price cheaper than big name flagships.
They're not related to gaming, but even the cameras are pretty great which is unusual for a gaming phone. We can only really complain about the size and weight, but that's not so applicable in the gaming sector.
Read our full Asus ROG Phone 2 review
2. OnePlus 8 Pro
The OnePlus 8 Pro is arguably the company's first full flagship, finally incorporating long-requested features like wireless charging and an IP68 waterproof rating, while upgrading the display to a blistering 120Hz - ideal for gaming.
Understandably the price has gone up accordingly, but at £799/$899 for the base model - no slouch at 8GB RAM and 128GB storage - it still represents serious value by flagship standards, meaning you will save at least some money by opting for OnePlus over most other manufacturers. You can save even more with the £599/$699 OnePlus 8, though you'll have to give up a few features and downgrade the display to 90Hz.
The 8 Pro camera is OnePlus's best yet, and while it still lags behind rivals slightly in some software the hardware is among the best around, which has helped to close the gap considerably. Throw in 5G, a great design, and the best Android skin around and the OnePlus 8 Pro is easy to recommend to anyone who can afford it.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
3. Nubia Red Magic 5G
The Red Magic 5G is undeniably one of the best gaming phones on the market. Its 144Hz display and stereo speakers are among the best in their class, while the camera enjoys a notable upgrade over the Red Magic 3S.
The phone is targeted squarely at mobile gamers and as such, some aspects are less well suited to mainstream users. These include its imposing industrial design and some unimpressive software tweaks - the frustrating in-display fingerprint scanner chief among them.
All things considered, however, the Red Magic 5G offers everything budding gamers are looking for, not to mention 5G speeds, at a price that means it's hard to resist.
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 5G review
4. Vivo Iqoo 3 5G
The Vivo Iqoo 3 is India's first 5G gaming phone and boasts impressive speed, performance and excellent battery life. What makes it even more attractive is its price. Though it's not available directly in the UK, you can pick it up for around £600 or less from retailers like Banggood or eBay, and non 5G options cost even less.
In terms of gaming specs, the phone comes with dedicated pressure sensitive gaming buttons along the side and an Ultra Gaming Mode that lets you customize a seamless gaming experience. You can activate 4D game vibration, customize air triggers or block calls while gaming – the list goes on.
It's powered with a top-tier Snapdragon 865 making it a worthy competitor against the Asus Rog 2 Phone, but at a lower price point.
Whether you’re a gamer or not it's easy to see the appeal of the Iqoo 3. It’s just a shame you can’t easily find it on UK high streets.
Read our full Vivo Iqoo 3 5G review
5. Black Shark 3
The Black Shark 3 hardly reinvents the wheel when it comes to gaming phones, but there are some useful upgrades here.
Of course, a Snapdragon 865 processor and 8 or 12GB of RAM means performance is truly excellent, while some thoughtful touches in Shark Space should make it a hit with gamers. Other highlights include some significant camera improvements and staggeringly fast charging speeds.
My main frustration is the accessories, with a bulky fan and expensive gaming pad adding little to my experience. The magnetic charging cable is a great idea, though.
It certainly isn’t what most people have in mind when considering a new smartphone, but Xiaomi has plenty of phones that cater to mainstream interests. With the Black Shark 3, it hopes gaming fanatics will buy into its vision for the future of mobile gaming.
With the baseline model priced identically to the Red Magic 5G, it gives people serious about mobile gaming a big decision to make.
Read our full Black Shark 3 review
6. Samsung Galaxy S20+
There's no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S20+ is both an exceptional flagship and one of the most well-rounded phones on the market right now, but ironically it stands in the shadow of its smaller sibling, the standard Galaxy S20.
If you prefer the larger 6.7in display that the S20+ offers up, you'll also enjoy its WQHD+ resolution, HDR10+ visuals and most exciting of all, the new 120Hz refresh rate. Performance is also top-notch meaning it's great for enjoying media and gaming, there's 5G onboard and 25W fast charging means you can refill the phone's 4500mAh battery in little over an hour.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20+ review
7. Oppo Find X2 Pro
The Oppo Find X2 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in, 10-bit, 120Hz, QHD+ panel is the best display in any phone right now, and Oppo backs it up with the fastest wired charging around at 65W, and a top-tier camera that boasts two 48Mp lenses and up to 10x hybrid zoom.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging, and the choice between bland grey ceramic or garish orange vegan leather finishes might leave some struggling to find a design that suits their style.
For pure performance though, the Find X2 Pro can’t be beat right now, with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 865 5G, 512GB storage, and 12GB RAM - you just have to be willing to pay the price, as at £1,099 it doesn't come cheap.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Pro review
8. Black Shark 2
We’re impressed by what the Black Shark 2 offers gamers, with impressive specs, innovative gaming-focused tech and a very affordable price tag, but there are a few niggles that stop it from being the best.
The gaming experience is premium, sporting powerful internals, industry-leading cooling tech and a range of accessories to enhance performance, but unlike most other gaming phones, the Black Shark 2 is capped at 60Hz, half that of the Razer Phone 2. It’s also worth noting that the gaming accessories are sold separately, and they’re not the cheapest accessories we’ve seen either.
However, it’s little issues with the Black Shark 2 that bring the overall experience down, including a rather dim display, hit-and-miss controller design and a camera setup that has admittedly been improved, but is still not quite up to the standards set by other 2019 flagships, or even other mid-range phones.
Read our full Black Shark 2 review
9. Asus ROG Phone
Asus really has pulled it off with the ROG Phone, by absolutely going to town with the design and features with gamers in mind.
It might not have a 120Hz screen like the Razer Phone 2, but 90Hz still means silky smooth performance and many will prefer the AMOLED tech anyway. You also get an overclocked Snapdragon and plenty of other gaming extras like the AeroActive fan and AirTriggers.
Those, along with the software, give it the edge over its rivals. However, this is a sort of joint first position as the ROG Phone is so lairy - ostentatious even - that we would totally understand if the Razer Phone 2 is more your style.
Read our full Asus ROG Phone review
10. Razer Phone 2
The Razer Phone 2 looks an awful lot like its predecessor, but an LED logo, wireless charging, and revamped camera setup show off a company willing to both learn from its mistakes and chase after proper flagship features.
All that comes at a high price - quite literally, this thing is expensive - and there might not be enough here to justify the upgrade, but it’s encouraging to see Razer sticking to its guns.
It's really up there with the Asus ROG Phone, depending on which design and features you prefer.
Read our full Razer Phone 2 review
11. Nubia Red Magic 3S
The Red Magic 3S has built on the success of its predecessor to provide an almost complete mobile gaming experience.
The 90Hz display is a joy to use, while front-facing stereo speakers and a dedicated gaming mode are all too rare on modern handsets.
However, there are a few areas where it is lacking, most notably in a disappointing implementation of cameras and thick bezels. Having tested the Red Magic 3, we were hoping for more of an upgrade in these areas.
At this price point, it is far more affordable than the other dedicated gaming handsets, including the Asus ROG Phone 2 and the Razer Phone 2.
If you haven't owned a gaming phone before, the slick and polished UI on the Red Magic 3S provides a truly memorable mobile experience.
Read our full Nubia Red Magic 3S review