**Originally published updated January 7th, 2020. Updated April 26th, 2021**

Long gone are the days of hopping on your BMX bike, riding around the corner of your neighborhood, Capri Sun in hand, and heading over to your friends’ house for a friendly game of Super Mario Kart. While that statement may have potentially aged me more than I intended, every gamer kid can relate to this experience. Except in the modern world, there’s no need to hop on your Mongoose and pedal your way to Johnny’s house for some friendly competition. Nowadays, you can just hop on your Xbox, PS4, PC, or even your mobile device and immediately be dropped into a world of amazing visuals and some intense head-to-head competition – all courtesy of the internet.

Gaming has been improving at a far greater rate than any technology that came before it, specifically on mobile. Add in the rise of influencer marketing – where professional and celebrity gamers broadcast their gameplay to massive audiences on platforms like YouTube and Twitch- and you have a bustling industry ripe for even further growth and expansion. Android games seem to be pushing the envelope – and the capabilities of the device’s graphics card – and achieve new heights every year. And fresh on the heels of the release of Android Nougat and Vulkan API, rapid advancement is all but assured to continue in this thriving market. It won’t be long before mobile sees some even more impressive titles than we have now!


The Best New Mobile Games to Play in 2021

We have selected a handful of our favorite new games in 2021. Some of these games have been released in recent months, and are more than deserving of their place on the list of top games to play on mobile. Other’s are games expected to be released this year to much excitement and fanfare. But whether new or yet to be released, all of these games are worthy of your attention. So let’s get right to it! Here are the best new mobile games to play in 2021.


PUBG Mobile

PlayerUnknown’s Battleground (or as it is more affectionately known, PUBG) is perhaps the best game to hit smartphones over the past couple of years. And we should know. Viral Nation is proud to say we work with this epic franchise, and we were lucky enough to activate campaigns for both PUBG Mobile at the 2018 E3 Gaming Conference and the recent PUBG Mobile Star Challenge in Dubai.

Thanks to developers Lightspeed and Quantum, PUBG Mobile was able to effectively modify its game into a small screen friendly interpretation of the PC and console hit, complete with gameplay that in many cases actually exceeds the versions it was derived from. PUBG absolutely knocked it out of the park with PUBG Mobile, and the game has taken the world by storm.

For those unfamiliar with the basis of the game, let’s break it down for you. Essentially, 100 players drop from a plane onto a remote island, where they slug it out until the bitter end with only one man (or woman) left standing. The island is chock-full of gear, weapons, and vehicles that are strewn about the land, along with a  mechanism that reduces the play area over time to keep battles from being too drawn out.

For those looking for even faster matches, PUBG Mobile Lite is a lighter version of the game with fewer players per match and lower graphical settings. Though Fortnite may still be the talk of the town in the gaming world, PUBG is an equally delighting game with console-quality graphics and user-friendly gameplay. It’s a must-have for all mobile gamers.


Genshin Impact

MiHoYo’s open-world action RPG single-handedly redefined expectations for free-to-play games, or even mobile games in general, for that matter. Genshin Impact features an immense, explorable open world with hundreds of hours of questing, a fully voice-acted cast, and a combat system that puts many full-price console AAA titles to shame. Don’t let the anime aesthetic fool you: this is about as close as you’ll get to a full-fat AAA console experience on your smartphone or tablet.


Rush Rally 3

This one is for racing fanatics. One of the most beloved and respected mobile racing games returns in style. Like many of the games that made this list, console-quality graphics are more and more becoming commonplace with mobile games. And Rush Rally 3 is no exception. It touts a blistering 60fps performance, making it one of the best graphics-based gaming experiences you can have on mobile. Rush Rally 3 is a great way to enjoy the dirt and the drifts of its titular motorsport.

Rush Rally isn’t all about the stunning graphics though. With dozens of stages, an in-depth career mode, and a powerful physics engine that captures every bump and ding your car takes, Rush Rally is a legitimate console-quality game in the palm of your hands.


Mario Kart Tour

While first-person shooter games are always popular – and there are several amazing ones set to release in 2021 – casual games will always remain relevant, being that they are so easy to just pick up and play on a whim. This is especially true on mobile, where today’s ‘casual gamers’ are

Likely to every gamer’s delight, Nintendo confirmed Mario Kart would finally come to mobile back in January of 2018. And while it’s been over a year since the announcement, fans of the nostalgic racing game can rest assured that it will be more than worth the wait.

The iconic gaming brand released Mario Kart Tour in 2019, and it has been a popular choice on both iOS and Android ever since. The game is free to play, or “free-to-start” and has a multitude of in-app purchase options. For fans of the Mario franchise, this game is a must-have.


Snakebird Primer

Those who seek a challenge, this is the game for you. Snakebird debuted on mobile in 2016, and it’s a masterful and often overlooked puzzler.  Don’t let its bright, cheery demeanor and somewhat kiddish esthetic fool you. It’s most notable because it is extremely difficult, which may be the reason it’s still relatively under the radar to date. That’s where Snakebird Primer comes in.

Snakebird Primer goes the opposite direction this follow-up: It’s an easier take on the same formula, and (arguably) the iteration of the game that the original Snakebird should have been. In the same fashion as the original, you slink around the stages to collect all of the fruit, each collection gradually extending your colorful ‘snakebird’. Though easier than it’s predecessor, maneuvering about to the ultimate goal is still often tricky, courtesy of some cleverly placed large gaps and barriers. It’s more than a time-passer; it’s an engaging brain-teaser that is more than meets the eye.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II

16 years after it launched on PC and the original Xbox, KOTOR II remains one of the finest Star Wars games and a fantastic, morally complex RPG in and of itself. Aspyr’s mobile port is the full game with revamped touch controls, making this a great fit for tablets like the iPad Pro. Even better? The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod – adding in a huge amount of unfinished polish and content works with both the iOS and Android versions of this game. It’s pricey, but you’ll get dozens of hours of classic Star Wars action and intrigue.


Manifold Garden

Game designer William Chyr received universal comparisons to the art of M.C. Escher when he released this abstract, geometry-based puzzler on Apple Arcade in October of 2019. This designation was well deserved, as the core concept of three-dimensional spaces that seemingly loop endlessly comes right out of Escher’s dorm room poster repertoire. Chyr turns Manifold Garden into a gorgeous, often confounding game that will vex you for hours on end, while constantly impressing you with its mind-bending and breathtaking visuals.

The best part of the game? Probably that it’s not just on Apple Arcade. You can also play Manifold Garden on PC, and it will soon be available on the PlayStation 4 as well. However, the immediacy and convenience of playing it on your phone is the primary reason it is a member of our list.


The Room 3

The Room is a series about mysteries within mysteries, that all begins with a box. Roaming about and fiddling with dials and switches cause things to spring to life elsewhere in the game, and you soon begin to find boxes within the boxes, layers upon layers beginning to unravel before you.

The curious and often creepy narrative blended with fragments of horror from the original title coalesced nicely in the follow-up The Room Two, which expanded the ‘boxes’ into more varied environments – including a seance room and a pirate ship. Players were afforded slightly more freedom in the sequel, a small but welcome improvement to help you navigate your way through the game’s strange and mysterious world.

Fans of the original series will be thrilled to hear that The Room Three is by far the most expansive of them all. It features intricate, cleverly constructed puzzles to solve as you attempt to free yourself from The Craftsman and his island of demented traps. We suggest getting all three games and playing them through in order. For the thrillseeker in you.


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