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. 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. 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 Red Magic 3S review
3. 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
4. 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
5. 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
6. 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
7. OnePlus 7 Pro
There's really very little to fault in the OnePlus 7 Pro. The display, camera, and core specs are essentially all best-in-class - or close enough to count - while the few shortcuts (wireless charging, an IP rating) are easily explained away by a price point - starting from £649/$669 - that still undercuts the closest comparable rivals by some way.
Yes, this costs a bit more than you're probably used to from OnePlus, but it delivers on enough of its promises to justify that price hike - and if you're not convinced, the regular OnePlus 7 is always there (outside the US at least), at the same ol' £499 price OnePlus has been hitting for the last year or two.
In a year that's already seen both Samsung and Huawei drop pretty phenomenal flagships, OnePlus has still managed to drop a device that might just be the phone to beat in 2019.
Read our full OnePlus 7 Pro review
8. Red Magic Mars
It might not have the latest specs, but the Red Magic Mars provides a great mobile gaming experience – especially for the price. The display is bright and crisp, it’s powerful enough to run the likes of PUBG Mobile on Ultra settings with no lag or screen tearing, and the built-in customisable trigger buttons really do give the edge when gaming on the small screen. The RGB strip is a plus too, if you're into that kind of thing.
Don't get us wrong, it's not perfect; the cameras are underwhelming and the software needs tweaking, but it’s still a tempting option at half the price of leading gaming-focused smartphones.
Read our full Red Magic Mars review
9. Razer Phone
The Razer Phone, if you’re a gamer, is an ideal smartphone. It may not compete with sleek, thin smartphones but it does have a stunning 120Hz display. It makes a huge difference to gaming on the phone, especially when combined with stereo front-facing Dolby ATMOS-certified speakers and an app that lets you tweak the performance of games on a per-app basis.
But while the display is perfect, we can’t really say the same about the camera setup. The rear-facing dual-camera setup isn’t bad, but the quality of images captured isn’t enough to compete with other current flagships.
But hey, if you’re a gamer on the market for a new smartphone the Razer Phone is the ideal candidate even with the Razer Phone 2 now out.
Read our full Razer Phone review
10. Apple iPhone XS Max
The XS Max is everything a flagship phone should be: beautifully made, high performance for everything including gaming and - ultimately - desirable.
The screen is an all-new size, and it bears some thought when choosing between the XS and XS Max, but it's great you don't have to compromise on features if you don't want the bigger, heavier phone.
Feature upgrades compared to the iPhone X aren't huge, but if you need dual-SIM then you will want an XS or XS Max. It's really just the price that will be a barrier for some people.
Read our full Apple iPhone XS Max review