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 their 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 Razer Phone and Xiaomi Black Shark.
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 2018
1. 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.
And if you don’t have the first one, it’s the best gaming phone you can buy.
Read our Razer Phone 2 review.
2. Xiaomi Black Shark
The Xiaomi Black Shark is Xiaomi’s dedicated gaming smartphone, offering impressive specs alongside gaming-specific features including a dedicated gaming mode that’ll block any incoming calls and notifications. It sports a unique look when compared to most smartphones, inspired by gaming laptops and PCs, and comes bundled with a bespoke controller that is compatible with almost any Android game.
It’s the cheapest of the gaming-focused smartphones on the market at the moment, and we think it’s great value for money. If you’re looking to up your mobile gaming skills, the Xiaomi Black Shark is a great option for you.
Read our Xiaomi Black Shark review.
3. Honor Play
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.
4. 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 Razer Phone review.
5. Samsung Galaxy Note 9
If you want an Android phone with every feature under the sun, the Galaxy Note 9 is it. With premium design, amazing battery life and the unique S-Pen, it’s pretty much the most you can spend on a phone right now.
That said, its features aren’t for everyone and it will be too big and expensive for many. The regular S9 has similar design and most of the features and costs less (and will fit in most pockets to boot).
But the Note 9 has the best display on a smartphone on its release and the 4000mAh battery has incredible stamina. It even has liquid cooling and can run the most demanding mobile games.
If it’s up your street, it’s the only choice.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review.
6. 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 Apple iPhone XS Max review.
7. OnePlus 6
The OnePlus 6 doesn’t have everything you could possibly want on a smartphone, but it does offer an unrivalled level of bang for your buck.
If you really want things like waterproofing and wireless charging then you’ll need to spend more, which is fine if you have the budget.
Its gaming mode is very good, though and for most people, the OnePlus 6 is simply a steal with amazing design, build quality, specs and performance at an affordable price.
Read our OnePlus 6 review.
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