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.
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 some '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.
The best gaming phones in 2019
1. Red Magic 3
- Reviewed on: 18 July 2019
The Red Magic 3 somehow manages to offer high-end gaming features including the latest Snapdragon 855 processor, a huge 6.55in 90Hz display and touch-sensitive trigger buttons for less than £500/$500. The gaming experience is superb, with smooth gameplay and no hint of lag, even during intense PUBG Mobile sessions.
It does lack a little in the camera department, sporting a single 48Mp sensor, but it's an improvement on what's on offer from the Red Magic Mars, also featured in our chart. The design is a little 'in your face' and while some gamers love it, some will hate it - it's down to your personal choice.
The only real downside is the lack of polish in terms of software, with key Android Pie features like gesture navigation missing, along with instances of broken English and even Mandarin displaying within some OS menus. Still, for the price, you'll struggle to find anything better.
Read our Red Magic 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 12 August 2019
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 Black Shark 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 25 July 2019
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 Asus ROG Phone review.
- Reviewed on: 22 October 2018
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 Razer Phone 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 8 July 2019
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 OnePlus 7 Pro review.
6. Honor Play
- Reviewed on: 15 November 2018
At £279, it's very easy to recommend the Honor Play. The display is no match for rival gaming phones like the Razer Phone or Asus ROG, but the Play offers top notch performance at a far lower price than either of those, which might make it the ideal phone for gamers on a budget.
The specs are almost identical to the pricier Honor 10 and even the much pricier Huawei P20, though it's worth noting that it's got a metal chassis rather than a glass back, and the camera isn't a patch on the ones in those phones.
Still, even if you're not a gamer, this is one of the best value phones on the market, offering flagship performance at a fraction of the price, so long as you don't mind missing out on the best photography features.
Read our Honor Play review.
- Reviewed on: 18 March 2019
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 Red Magic Mars review.
8. Razer Phone
- Reviewed on: 5 January 2018
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 Razer Phone review.
- Reviewed on: 15 July 2019
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 Apple iPhone XS Max review.
10. Honor View 20
- Reviewed on: 23 January 2019
The Honor View 20 is stunning to look at - from just about any angle, thanks to the one-two punch of the pinhole camera on the front and the genuinely unique holographic V effect on the glass rear. The photos look great, but don't really do this thing justice - it's properly gorgeous.
With a Kirin 980 and 6/8GB RAM the specs are plenty powerful to match, and comfortably rival much more expensive flagship phones (including Huawei's own Mate 20 Pro). And perhaps for the first time, Honor deserves to be in the same conversation as the big names when it comes to camera quality. Touting a 48MP lens is meaningless, but it's hard to argue with the results, especially from the AI Ultra Clarity mode.
At just £499 for the base model, and £579 for one with extra RAM and storage, this is genuinely affordable too. Honor's flagships have always offered serious specs and slick design while undercutting rivals on price, but it usually feels like there are a couple of compromises along the way.
For perhaps the first time, the View 20 doesn't feel that way. Sure, premium features like wireless charging and waterproofing are still missing, but for most people those remain nice-to-haves - whereas with the core features here Honor is firing on all cylinders.
Read our Honor View 20 review.