Performance, battery life, and screen refresh rate are three areas that gaming smartphones place a premium on so that they can be used for mobile gaming. That does mean that features that aren’t related to gaming, like the camera, get less love. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 14 Pro are two examples of more general-purpose smartphones that also happen to be excellent gaming devices despite not being marketed as such.
Is there a list somewhere of the top mobile devices for playing games? After putting dozens of top-tier gaming smartphones through our lab tests, we’ve compiled this definitive list for you.
All the phones have been subjected to exhaustive testing, from benchmarks to real-world gaming to battery drain to recharge time measurements. Each phone is given a rating out of 5 based on our research and daily use. To be considered for this elite group, candidates must have received a minimum of four stars overall and be exceptional players.
The best gaming phones will totally change the way you use your apps. These gadgets can do incredible things in your favourite thumb-tappers because they have extremely potent processors, a lot of RAM, and high-quality, high-refresh-rate displays. The popularity of Xbox Cloud gaming services on mobile devices has resulted in a proliferation of gaming-oriented smartphones available on the Play Store.
This makes it tough to determine your precise smartphone requirements and the appropriate budget for a dedicated gaming device. Thankfully, as gaming phones continue to advance, we are seeing prices on the best and biggest gradually decrease. That’s good news for shoppers of all income levels, and we’ve compiled some of our favourite options for you.
Check out our pick for the best gaming phone of 2023 if you’re also interested in a device that excels at a wide variety of other task.
At a Glance: Top Mobile Gaming Devices
Best overall: Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
2nd Best: Black shark 5 Pro
Best mid-range: Nubia Redmagic 7 Pro
Best iOS: iPhone 14 Pro
Best Android flagship: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Best cheap option: Poco X5 Pro 5G
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
Mammoth battery life
Loud and booming speakers
AirTriggers improve gaming controls
Too similar to ROG Phone 7
If you disregard cost, there is no competition between the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate and any other gaming phone on the market. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip gives it one of the fastest performances of any Android phone, and it’s packed to the gills with gaming-oriented features, as evidenced by our benchmark tests.
We prefer not having to rely solely on touchscreen prods, so the AirTriggers’ ability to simulate physical triggers makes them our favourite feature. The haptic feedback is excellent, and the triggers can be assigned to any action in the game; in Call of Duty Mobile, we used them to crouch and fire.
The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate’s rear screen panel displays useful information such as the device’s charging status and notifications. When the phone’s internal temperature gets too high, an automatic panel on the back will open to let more air in and cool things down, thanks to Asus’s thoughtful design.
The Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate has the best speakers, the largest AMOLED screen, and the largest battery of any gaming phone currently available. The one major drawback is the price, which is well over 1000 pounds or dollars. This makes the regular Asus ROG Phone 7 an appealing option, but the Ultimate model is still the best bet.
Black shark 5 Pro
Gorgeous OLED panel
An actually decent camera system
Physical pop-up triggers
Only minor battery upgrades
No audio jack
No wireless charging
Maintaining a stable position as the best gaming phone is difficult. It’s true that this gadget must be among the most powerful available, but it also can’t cost too much. The Black Shark 5 Pro offers remarkable value for the money. It’s not a cheap gadget, but it doesn’t feel overpriced either. In addition, a device needs to be equally useful as a smartphone and a gaming machine for it to be considered the best gaming phone overall. The Black Shark 5 Pro’s camera is perfect for this purpose.
It’s unusual to find a gaming phone with such high-end specs and performance, let alone a respectable camera setup. The quality of the photographs we took here exceeded our expectations. Although you’ll have to give up some smartphone features—wireless charging being the most glaring—you’ll still have a practical device with a respectable battery life.
However, the Black Shark 5 Pro comes into its own when loaded with a few games. The beautiful OLED screen and the accompanying physical pop-up trigger buttons ensure a fluid and responsive gaming experience. Touch-capacitive buttons have largely replaced these physical clickers on modern smartphones. It was the little touches like these that made the game so much more enjoyable for us.
When you combine all of that with the fact that the Black Shark line looks and feels like any other smartphone, you have a hidden weapon at your disposal. Without breaking the bank, this is the phone of your dreams.
Nubia Redmagic 7 Pro
Sophisticated cooling technology
Efficient processing power
Detailed gaming-focused program
Striking but solid design
Cameras can’t compete with others
Software can be frustrating
When it comes to mobile gaming, the Nubia RedMagic 7 Pro is unrivalled. You’re getting a mobile gaming experience like no other thanks to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, up to 18GB of RAM, and 120Hz AMOLED display.
The inputs were responsive and natural to use thanks to the 960Hz multi-finger touch sampling rate that smoothed out your on-screen gestures and the shoulder buttons that sat atop the device. These shoulder buttons, which are activated via touch rather than a physical clicker, become second nature after a short while. Not only is the 7 Pro extremely potent on paper, but it also manages to wring every last drop of performance out of its components thanks to RedMagic’s own Red Core 1 chip, which offloads non-essential processing tasks from the Snapdragon chipset, and the 20,000RPM fan, which keeps everything cool.
Despite our annoyance with the test unit’s lingering menu navigational and everyday software bugs, the 7 Pro held its own as a standard smartphone in addition to its gaming prowess. Sure, the cameras won’t be able to compete with the Samsung Galaxy range or the iPhone 13 Pro, but with 120W fast-charging (outside of the US & Canada, 65W in North America & Canada) and a solid battery life, there’s plenty going on here.
For those looking for the most potent smartphone on the market, the Nubia RedMagic 7 Pro is your best bet.
Apple iPhone 14 Plus
Only $100 more than the base model
Vibrant, immersive display
Long lasting battery life
Super comfortable and lightweight
Limited to a 60Hz refresh rate
The iPhone has had a hard time being recognised as a top gaming phone, but with Apple Arcade and Game Center, it has every chance of becoming a serious contender. The iPhone 13 Pro from last year was the first major step in incorporating that gaming focus into Apple’s smartphone hardware, thanks to its 120Hz display, boosted processor, and improved battery. In 2018, we were able to get our hands on an iPhone 14 Plus. Despite the possible reduction in refresh rate in this model, Apple ecosystem loyalists would be wise to spring for the larger display.
The first thing that struck us about the iPhone 14 Plus was how nice it is to hold. Even though it’s larger and heavier than the standard iPhone 14, our tests showed that the larger model only increased weight by 18%. Despite the increased screen real estate, we were happy to hand over the particularly heavy iPhone 13 Pro.
Although the phone itself isn’t particularly high-end, the large screen makes for an exceptionally immersive experience. That, along with its excellent performance (though nothing that will concern the ultra-powerful Android models above), makes it the best iPhone for gaming to date.
Yes, you’re skimping on some of the finer details that are included in higher-tier models. There is no Dynamic Island and only two lenses make up the camera array. However, the larger sensor backing that camera system translates to superior low-light shots and enhanced colour reproduction. It’s the reviewer’s pick for best camera here.
If you want a better iPhone experience in general, you should upgrade. If you’re not a creator of content or an expert Apple user, the iPhone 14 Plus’s larger screen makes it a great choice for mobile gaming.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
200MP camera delivers in both well-lit and low-light conditions
Top-notch performance from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy
All-day battery life
Stunningly detailed 6.8in 120Hz display
Relatively slow 45W charging
Difficult to use one-handed
This is a flagship smartphone, and its excellent gaming performance is just one of its many achievements; the previous two entries on this list are dedicated gaming phones, built expressly for that purpose and nothing else. You’ll get more than just the ability to play high-quality games on this device.
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset, which is unique to this device, makes it one of the fastest Android phones on the market and a top choice for gamers. It also has a stunning 120Hz WQHD+ display that makes playing games on the go a pleasure. This display is among the best available on any smartphone.
You won’t find features that purist gamers would want, like shoulder trigger buttons, but you will get a brilliant camera system with a suite of lenses that includes a main 200MP sensor and impressive zoom capabilities that are far superior to those of other gaming phones on the market.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is a great Android device that excels at gaming and provides much more besides.
Poco X5 Pro
Fully-capable 6.7-inch OLED display
Surprisingly well-equipped camera
Cheap rear design
MIUI software is very cluttered
Unfriendly amount of bloatware
If you’re a mobile gaming addict with limited funds and can’t afford one of the high-end flagships we mentioned above, don’t worry; you can still have a fantastic gaming experience without breaking the bank.
The Poco X5 Pro 5G is our top pick for this use case. The 6.7-inch AMOLED display has a smooth 120Hz refresh rate and 900 nits of brightness, and it also supports HDR10+ for those times when you’re not actually playing a game, all while costing less than $400 or £400. The main camera, at 108 megapixels, does a respectable job, and the phone’s massive 5,000 mAh battery ensures it can keep up with the best flagships in terms of battery life.
While they won’t blow you away with their speed, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting through a full gaming session on them.
Should you invest in a gaming phone?
If you want to play games to your heart’s content but can’t afford more expensive options, this budget-friendly smartphone is worth considering.
It’s always a good idea to invest in a high-quality mobile device if you plan on getting into the mobile gaming scene. You’ll have access to a more responsive display, increased memory and storage, a more robust processor, and advanced gaming options like frame rate caps and enhanced performance settings.
You should aim for a phone that can support your mobile gameplay, but not at the expense of other features, if you ever dabble with Apple Arcade or jump into the occasional PUBG session. The best gaming phones typically lack cameras and high-end networking features, and can be quite pricey to boot, so it’s important to consider whether you’ll actually use those extra gadgets before making the purchase.