Professional and/or competitive shooter games are fast becoming a sustainable industry trend for mobile gaming. Both game development and smartphone hardware are reaching the point where phones can absolutely deliver top-notch gaming experiences — even for first-person shooters.
This still probably sounds like crazy talk to traditional PC gamers, but the fact is that mobile shooters have cut out a nice niche within the pro-gaming community. Franchises such as PUBG Mobile and Apex Legends have competitive esports leagues that can be advantageous to people who love to stream, or want to try playing for cash in a tournament.
Just like other online games for console or PC, mobile games reward teams who can practice and train together, or you can just jump into the game and have some fun on your phone. And if you’re looking for something a bit less violent and/or competitive, check out our favorite Android games.
Bullet Hell Monday Finale
Bullet hells. You know them, you love them, and now the beloved Bullet Hell Monday has spawned a worthy successor, Bullet Hell Monday Finale. This newer version keeps most of what made the original game so valuable, and adds a much-needed Endless Mode so that seasoned players can push the limits of the leaderboards.
In classic arcade-shooter fashion, you pilot a ship and blast your way through — you guessed it — a gauntlet of bullet hells. Starting with just a few abilities in your arsenal, you swipe to move and attack with one hand and tap with the other to launch bombs. As you progress, you’ll gain new abilities in the process. The learning curve can be pretty brutal at first, but there’s an optional Easy Mode, and you can even skip levels that are proving to be too much of a challenge without penalty.
The graphics are stylish, vibrant, and bold, the gameplay is intuitive, and the soundtrack is absolutely awesome. If you’re looking for a good time with an arcade bullet-hell title, this one’s for you.
Call of Duty: Mobile
Call of Duty is one of the most popular and highest-selling game franchises of all time, so it was only a matter of time before a proper mobile version of the game was released by publisher Activision. CoD Mobile offers several ways to jump into multiplayer action with friends or strangers. Each multiplayer match type is 5-on-5, and the parameters are slightly different depending on the mode you choose:
- Team Deathmatch is pretty standard fare, with random respawn points and each team racing to get to 50 kills (40 if you’re playing a ranked match)
- Frontline is similar to Team Deathmatch, except each team’s respawn point is fixed on either side of the map.
- Domination adds in capture points that each team must secure and hold to earn points. The first team to reach the score limit wins.
- Search and Destroy is a tactical mode with no respawns played over several rounds. One team is tasked with destroying an objective, while the other team plays defense.
All those modes are available to play in unranked matches, while only Team Deathmatch is available to start for ranked matches. Ranked Domination and Search and Destroy modes are only unlocked as you move up the rankings ladder.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a 100-player Battle Royale mode that you can play in first-person or third-person view in solo, duo, or 4-person team modes. The Battle Royale mode also introduces a class system that gives your player a special ability to assist your team on the battlefield. Finally, there’s Warfare mode: a 20v20 match on the Battle Royale map with respawns that straight up kicks ass, and leads to an all-out war as both teams race to reach 150 kills first.
Call of Duty: Mobile is another free-to-play game buoyed by a Battle Pass system. Players are encouraged to buy in-app currency to spend on a premium battle pass for more rewards, or even more cash on cosmetic skins for your character and weapons. The good news is that you don’t need to pay any attention to the in-app purchases to enjoy the game, but they’re there for those who care.
Critical Ops is one of the best first-person shooters available for Android. It offers three game modes to choose from: bomb defusing, team deathmatch, and gun game, where you cycle through different weapons every time you kill an opponent. Boasting over one million active daily players, you’ll always be able to jump into a match with little to no wait time.
It’s kind of got that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare vibe to it, mixed with a healthy dose of CounterStrike to create a best-of-both-worlds scenario that offers great graphics and really solid controls. It’s free to play with in-app purchases available, but you can only buy skins for your guns, and the developers have assured players that this game will never be pay-to-win.
I appreciate the simplified menus and how quickly you can jump into a match here. The action is always fast-paced and intense, making Critical Ops one of my go-to shooters when I’ve got a couple of minutes to kill.
Dead Effect 2
Dead Effect 2 is a gruesome first-person shooter set in a dark, gritty, and somewhat horrifying nightmare. It features some RPG-lite mechanics (including character personality), controller support, plenty of weapon and implant upgrades to chase, a long campaign with side missions, and more.
This game isn’t for the faint of heart, with you shooting or cutting your enemies into gory pieces. As such, player discretion is advised. That being said, Dead Effect 2 is a high-quality game that looks fantastic. And there’s even a katana! Unfortunately, there’s also some freemium nonsense, like grinding to upgrade your weapons. Still, it’s a fun shooter.
Dead Trigger 2
Dead Trigger 2 continues to be the quintessential zombie-shooting experience on mobile. The graphics are amazing, though the game hardly takes itself seriously — there are many tongue-in-cheek references and over-the-top baddies to mow down. This version is a little different because players now have their own hideout and a crew that can build stuff for them.
The controls were streamlined for touch: All you have to do is move the crosshairs over a zombie, and if you’re in range, you’ll automatically start shooting. There are tons of missions to enjoy, and the in-app purchases were scaled back, removing the premium currency so now you can buy and build everything yourself without spending a cent.
Guns of Boom
Guns of Boom is a bright and colorful cartoony first-person shooter that doesn’t take itself too seriously, while still delivering one of the purest competitive online shooter games for Android. The game gets all the basics right that you want from a good FPS: quick and responsive controls that are customizable, well-designed maps and weapons that allow for adaptive gameplay, and a healthy community of players.
Matches are 4v4 deathmatches that take place in vibrant and colorful maps that allow for a mix of rush assaults, close-quarters combat, and long-range sniping. One of Guns of Boom’s biggest strengths is how easy it is to load up the app and jump right into the game.
Alternatively, you can spend time in the menus connecting with friends, organizing with a clan, or diving into the Arsenal to buy and upgrade new weapons and health kits using in-game cash and gold.
To that end, Guns of Boom may give you the feeling that it’s pay-to-win, and that might be the case once you get up to around Level 30 with the hardcore players who’ve maybe invested $100 or more into the game. But the game is super generous with cash and powerups if you’re diligent about completing all your daily challenges.
Hitman: Sniper finds you, Agent 47, stationed with a sniper rifle outside an estate filled with rich people, bodyguards, and a certain high-priority target. Your job is to take your time, plan a course of action, and begin removing enemies any way you see fit (as long as it’s through a scope).
Each mission has different objectives you can complete for extra money, which you can then spend on weapon upgrades and new sniper rifles. If you’re incredibly proud of a mission, use the Share Replay function to share gameplay footage with your friends.
This game has nice graphics and great mechanics: You must lead enemies on the move and must account for their sometimes unforeseen actions. They will not shoot back but will take cover and move around the map, attempting to help your prime target escape.
Controls are easy and responsive, meaning you won’t have too much trouble lining up the shot. The music is great, especially when you miss a couple of shots and set off some alarms, and the voice acting is also above par for mobile games. Get your heart beating with this great shooter, and enjoy no ads or in-app purchases.
Infinity Ops is the only game on this list that meaningfully pulled me away from CoD Mobile. This multiplayer shooter is more than just its incredible sci-fi aesthetic. There are a few different classes to choose from, each with its abilities and strengths.
The robust social features are great for people who appreciate that sort of thing. There are even clans! Infinity Ops contains a wide variety of weapons to choose from, depending on how you like to play. Each environment is different, too; some with differing levels of gravity to add a new element to the game flow.
While playing Infinity Ops, it felt like Bright Memory meets Destiny 2 PvP (minus the space wizard, god-slayer stuff), so if that sounds interesting to you, then I highly suggest you check out Infinity Ops. It’s free-to-play, with microtransactions going toward new weapons and gear. Did I mention that the game has jetpacks and giant mechs??
Modern Combat 5: eSports FPS
Originally released as Modern Combat 5 Blackout, this trend-setting first-person shooter for Android has been re-branded to take advantage of the eSports movement. Now, I’d love to be proven wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s never going to take off as a prominent esports game.
Having said that, it’s still a solid mobile FPS with dazzling graphics and options to play through the solo campaign or take it online — and you can get an edge on your competition with a proper controller in your hand.
It’s clear that this game was trying to rub some shine off of the Call of Duty franchise when it was first released. Now that Call of Duty has a proper release, gamers might feel like there’s less incentive to play this legacy mobile shooter, but if you’ve never checked out Modern Combat 5, it’s still well worth your time.
Modern Strike Online
Not interested in anything other than the thrill of online multiplayer? Modern Strike Online offers just that: a pure online FPS experience packed with features and game modes we’ve come to expect from the genre. Once you’ve leveled up some, you unlock all seven available game modes, which include the standard fare you’d expect — free-for-all, team deathmatch, seek and destroy, and a hardcore mode.
In-game currency can be bought via in-app purchases or earned via daily rewards, crates, and generally kicking ass. Spend your gold and credits on new weapons, armor, and accessories for your character. There’s a decent amount of customization available for kitting, with over 30 types of weapons available to rent or buy.
It’s as complete an FPS as you’ll find on Android. You’ll want to head into the settings first to customize your controls and screen layout and tweak the graphics quality to optimize gameplay on your device. By default, your gun will auto-fire as soon as an enemy enters your crosshairs — you can switch this off in the settings, but it’s a pretty handy feature to have when you’re already using your thumbs to move and look around.
Yes, there’s the occasional in-game ad and constant pressure to invest real cash, as is the case with most mobile games these days, but it’s not invasive. There’s plenty of fun and loot to be had relying on the free crates and daily rewards.
Overkill 3 is a third-person shooter that guides you through the level, also known as being on rails. Your job is to aim and shoot bad guys. Sounds easy? Overkill lets you choose a difficulty before each boss fight, meaning your recent disposal of entry-position bad guys has no bearing on what is to come.
Choose a loadout from the armory before each mission and unlock new weapons and gear as you progress through the game. You must collect stars by completing specific objectives during each mission — the stars are used to unlock more missions. A tally at the end of each level keeps track of your progress, so you’ll never be unsure of where you stand.
Graphics are not as great as other shooters, but Overkill 3 features a co-op mode that lets you team up with a friend or random player to crush the enemy. Ads are few and far between, but there are many in-app purchases.
It’s incredible how well PUBG Mobile plays on Android. The main attraction is the massive PvP Battle Royale mode that pits 100 players against each other on a massive island loaded with weapons, ammo, tactical gear, and vehicles. You drop in as a solo player or as part of a team and must use all your best skills to take down your opponents until you’re the last man standing.
Tencent Games continues to add new content to the game every couple of months, with new maps or different arcade modes added over the years to add a depth of gameplay, unlike other free-to-play games.
Of course, there’s a tiered progression ladder with a free game pass and a premium one that offers more cosmetic rewards. Every six to eight weeks, the game pass resets to introduce a new season that typically introduces new premium cosmetics rewards to unlock and collect.
For players looking for a more competitive experience, you can join or custom-create a clan where you can team up and practice your tactical strategies. Due to its global popularity, PUBG Mobile has developed a bustling esports community. Think you’ve got the goods? You can try out for a competitive team, start competing in privately-run tournaments, and then assemble your best squad and enter the PUBG Mobile Club Open.
PUBG Mobile manages to deliver a deep, well-rounded, and varied gaming experience with graphics, controls, and game performance scaled down perfectly for play on mobile devices. There’s just so much to enjoy here without having to participate in the in-game economy or premium game passes. In fact, I’ve almost given up playing the core Battle Royale mode because some of the Team Deathmatch and zombie modes are so dang fun to play all on their own.
Sky Force Reloaded
Sky Force has had some ups and downs in its time, but Reloaded is the best it’s been despite being a few years old. It offers a lot of progressions to keep you busy and gorgeous visuals to make sure you stay interested. Controls are super smooth, and gameplay waxes and wanes, so you’re not constantly on edge.
If you’ve never played a bullet hell game, then Sky Force Reloaded is a great place to start. Bullet hells are basically what the name suggests: a hellish storm of bullets and other projectiles on screen that you have to navigate through to survive. Sky Force Reloaded doesn’t offer a truly hardcore bullet hell experience — it’s more of a shoot-’em-up (shmup) — but I think it’s a good way for newbies to get their feet wet.
That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy Sky Force Reloaded if you’re a battle-hardened bullet hell or shmup veteran. It has a lot of nuances and requires plenty of skill. There’s a lot of mastery involved, and everyone can find a lot to enjoy.
This 5v5 top-down shooter is simply a blast to play, with a real-time physics engine that makes every match unique, and offers you multiple ways to go about attacking your enemy.
Developed by Finnish-Russian studio Panzerdog, Tacticool takes a ruthless approach to 5v5 tactical multiplayer by letting the battle unfold however players want on a destructible battlefield, built with real-time physics and vehicles available to drive at your leisure. Delivered in three-minute matches, Tacticool does a great job of providing fast and frantic action that gives the player more freedom in the game than most shooter games I’ve playtested for Android.
Now, for all the praise Tacticool deserves for its unmatched gameplay, the game is not without the usual warts found on free-to-play titles. For example, the weapon upgrade system heavily rewards those who spend real money in the game — and it’s not too long before you’ll start playing against some players who have clearly invested some cash. It’s not that anyone I’ve come across has bought enough upgrades to become godlike, but it certainly takes a heck of a lot more cunning and strategy to take out a paid player.
Unkilled is another very polished first-person shooter that fully supports Bluetooth controllers, and offers over 150 missions in the single-player campaign, along with multiple online multiplayer modes to choose from.
You get to choose your preferred character class for online play and then upgrade your skills and weapon load-outs with points you collect as you play.
You’re best off using the Bluetooth controller as it gives you a distinct advantage against the AI zombies, as well as your online opponents. Simply sync your controller with your phone, and it’ll automatically work when you load up the game.
I could be wrong about this, but playing Xenowerk gave me big Implosion: Never Lose Hope vibes, but with an emphasis on ranged rather than melee combat. From the top-down angle to the sinister metal halls and creepy labs you have to blast your way through, Xenowerk is a great action-shooter all about taking down mutants.
As you descend 70 levels of this overrun scientific facility, you’ll acquire new weapons, deploy special powers, and shine a light into the dark corners surrounding you on your mission to cleanse the mutant infestation.
It’s fast-paced, fun, and the dual-stick action plays well. What more could you ask for?
Trigger happy gaming
Despite what modern convention would have you believe, shooters come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you just want to watch zombies explode into piles of guts. Sometimes you want to sweat buckets as you dodge a hailstorm of obstacles to survive. And sometimes you want to team up with friends and strangers alike to claim victory on the battlefield.
If any of these describe your wants and needs as a mobile gamer, there’s almost certainly a shooter out there for you. It’s hard to single out any of the games on this list since they’re all pretty great quality, but for my money, I’d recommend Bullet Hell Monday Finale or Tacticool, as I suspect many shooter fans haven’t given these ones a shot yet.
Update July 2022: Added Xenowerk to our list!