The Google Play Pass released in September last year as a sort of answer to the increasingly popular Apple Arcade. With it comes an open library of games (and apps!) that are, with the $4.99 monthly subscription, totally free. And we mean totally. Many make the mistake of thinking the Play Pass is somehow Apple Arcade’s rival twin, when in fact there are key differences between them.
They are but rowdy siblings, at most. Not only does the Play Pass offer more than games, it offers otherwise free-to-play titles with ads disabled and their in-app purchases completely unlocked. While still small, google is working to shift more and more games over to onto the Play Pass catalog, and in an effort to shed some insight into what the Pass has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of top 5’s from each of the separate categories for those interested in seeing what the Play Pass monthly subscription might hold for them.
- Shadow Fight 2: Special Edition
- Smashy Road: Wanted
- Titan Quest
- OTTD: Over the Top Tower Defense
Action games, more than any other genre, dig down into the core of what it means to be a game. Excitement. Contest. Conflict. Google Play Pass has a variety of action games, but these five stood out the most.
Grimvalor is a superb, high-quality side-scrolling platformer-meets-action RPG. Shadow Fight 2: Special Edition is an expansion of the massively successful fighting game. This one removes the energy constraint, brings new story content, and completely removes ads. Smashy Road: Wanted is a bit like GTA in blocky, top-down form — pitting you against the police in one of the most heart-pounding pixel games on the market.
Old-school gamers might recognize Titan Quest. Fourteen years after its initial release on PC, the game is back on mobile with its open-world onslaught of monsters, items, skills, and seemingly endless content. And finally, for fans of classic tower defense games comes a solid attempt to resuscitate a genre that has fallen to the wayside in recent years: OTTD: Over the Top Tower Defense. The game does its best to clamp down on the foundation of the genre while merging it with an RTS game in the way of collectible heroes and weapons on top of the endless onslaught of enemies.
Related: 15 Co-op Puzzle Games to play online
Adventure games pull us in like no other genre. Driven by a lust for exploration, story, and discovery, they have the uncanny ability to make themselves memorable and touch us in ways that transcend gameplay or momentary distraction.
LIMBO is the first of our favorite picks from the Play Pass vault of adventure games and it’s not just us; the game has notched over 100 awards from top publications. You embark on an emotional journey of a boy searching for his missing sister who wanders through deep dark forests, solving puzzles and exploring a complex set of machines and out-of-the-world characters while adhering to a monochromatic old film-like gameplay and an engrossing surround sound. Indeed, a profound and rightfully award-winning experience.
The second award in this list goes to Terraria which can be considered an alternative to Minecraft but in 2-D. You can explore an endless extent of worlds and add intricate details to your world using over 3500 items, various building options, biomes, and mini-biomes. The game comes with three world sizes: small, medium, and large; and features over 300 enemies and 15 Bosses to defeat.
Next is Wayward Souls, a game for those who like the more treacherous, peril-ridden side of adventure games. Procedurally generated levels create the game anew every time, and a massive amount of equipment and playstyles make the pixelated dungeon crawler an excellent choice for players looking for a harder edge to their adventure game.
The next game, Nyxquest is perfect for fans of Greek Mythology; side-scroll your way through ancient Greece in search of Icarus, solving a variety of puzzles and using an array of god-given powers to lay waste to the minions of Hades. Last, but certainly not least, we have Thimbleweed Park — a deeply intriguing murder-mystery game that unfolds almost like a season of great television with stellar, pixelated visuals and masterful storytelling.
- Fancy Pants Adventures
- Samurai II: Vengeance
- Chameleon Run
- Marvel Pinball
- The Bug Butcher
- Red Ball 3: Jump for Love
Hinging on reflexes and timing, Arcade games are similar to action games in their emphasis on clutch, split-second decisions but designed to rapidly ramp up the intensity while relying on stupidly simple controls. This makes them excellent for shorter doses of frantic, satisfying gameplay.
The Play Pass Library has, at the time of this writing, only six Arcade games so far so we’ll make a short note on them all. Fancy Pants Adventures is an awesome side-scrolling, a physics-based platformer with echoes of Sonic and a little bit of Mario in its gameplay. Samurai II: Vengeance is a bloody, action arcade game that goes out of its way to be visually shocking with eye-popping manga stylization and dynamic camera angles.
Chameleon Run is a phenomenal and super intense runner that has players jumping and rapidly switching colors according to the platform across levels handcrafted start to finish by the developers. Great for fans of arcade runners who want an extra complication to intensify matters. Marvel Pinball is well, pinball. But with a Marvel superhero motif. If you like Pinball, and you like superheroes (but mostly the Pinball), Marvel Pinball is the game for you.
The Bug Catcher is an exciting action shooter that gives you the short bursts of frantic, exciting gameplay that make arcade games shine. Players use an arsenal of bug-spattering sci-fi weapons to lay waste to hordes of extra-terrestrial creepy-crawlies. Red Ball 3: Jump for Love is a family-friendly physics-based platformer that pits you, the eponymous Red Ball, against 20 intricate and puzzling levels that test your reflexes as well as your forward-thinking.
- Mahjong Epic
- Risk: Global Domination
- Yachty Free
- Dominoes Jogatina: Classic and Free Board Game
Board games are the old reliable of the gaming world. They hearken back to quieter, less-flashy days when games were by necessity “local multiplayer.” Instead of dying out, as many hypothesized they might, the rise of the internet has given board games a wider reach and a more dedicated audience than ever before.
Our favorite board games on the Play Pass starts, quite fittingly with Chess — one of the oldest games in the history of games. We don’t have to go into what Chess is, do we? It’s Chess, and you can get Chess Prince’s version on the Play Pass with all IAP unlocked. Next is Mahjong Epic, the digital version of the ancient Chinese tile-based game with a million-strong player base.
The third is Risk: Global Domination, the common ancestor of pretty much all modern strategy games. The digital version comes with 40+ maps, an in-depth tutorial and cross-platform support. Fan of dice games? You’ll be interested in the next game, Yachty Free. This three-dice game is similar to Generala (played in Latin America), and Poker Dice (played in the UK) where you score by rolling different dices to make certain combinations.
Lastly, we have Dominoes Jogatina: Classic and Free Board Game. Any fan of dominoes who actually knows how to play the game instead of just stacking them in unforgivably long lines and patterns for the purposes of making a youtube video will be happy to see an online version with multiplayer modes, custom tables, and dominoes, and even statistics tracking.
Play Pass has a surprising number of card games in the library, even if it isn’t the most diverse array in the world. You’ll find all the classic staples, starting with Solitaire (of which there are many iterations of the vanilla option available) and Hearts, but with some more novel concepts like Card Crawl — a mashup of dungeon crawlers and solitaire in which players use weapons, skills and abilities to clear the board.
Reigns: Her Majesty is a simple but interesting decision-making game that has players swiping left or right to decide royal matters and bearing the brunt of those eventual consequences. Card Thief comes from the same developer as Card Crawl, and like its predecessor does its best to condense an entire genre into a card game — but this time it’s Stealth.
- Bubble Blend – Match 3 Game
- Thomas & Friends: Race On
- NR Shooter™
- Hidden Folks
- Bubble Poke™
- Brain Game. Picture Match.
Casual Games are the mainstay of people who just want a small, pocket-sized stress-buster to kill a couple of minutes — or a few hours — at a time. Casual Games aren’t the kind to put pressure on the player but rather lull them into a pleasant, time-flying state of mind. The Play Pass has a variety of casual games to pick from for those looking for quaint and unimposing gameplay.
Bubble Blend is a simple ‘match three’ game along the lines of Bejeweled or Candy Crush Saga. Thomas & Friends: Race On is a kid racing game starring the characters of the most recent installment in the long-running Thomas the Tank Engine franchise. NR Shooter™ is a classic bubble shooter that has players aiming for groups of three or more bubbles of the same color.
Recognizable, easy to understand fun. Hidden Folks is one of the more creative and visually striking titles in the casual games category with 32 hand-drawn levels for you to search for hidden folks in. Kind of like Where’s Waldo but digital and with an appealing pen-and-ink aesthetic. Bubble Poke™ is another matching 3+ game, though less enthralling than Bubble Blend and basically just NR Shooter without the shooting. Brain Game. Picture Match is a small-scale, picture memorization game good for kids and fans of brain games.
- My Town: School
- Toca Mystery House
- Kids Reading Sight Words
- Kids Learn to Count 123
- Learn to Read Alphabet Letter Names (Kindergarten)
Educational games are a great resource for kids to learn while having fun, and Play Pass gives access to a pretty substantial library of learning devices cleverly disguised as simple, colorful children’s games. My Town: School is a schooling simulator that serves as a great way to get kids to associate school with fun.
Toca Mystery House is a fun exploration game that lightens up on the educational side and tries to cultivate a spirit of curiosity and experimentation in children. Kids Reading Sight Words is an excellent resource to familiarize children with the Dolch Sight Words List and makes a point to avoid pop-ups, and over-stimulating distractions and imagery.
Learn to Read Alphabet Letter Names (Kindergarten) provides a comfortable and progressive learning path for children to get a grasp of the ABC’s using a kooky and fun protagonist, Captain Cat. Kids Learn to Count 123 is another game by the developer Intellijoy with 20 different activities for children to help them understand the concept of numbers and counting without undue pressure or over-stimulation.
Puzzle games, similar to their board-based counterparts, have been around since pretty much time immemorial and have continued to evolve and keep pace with emerging technology. The Play Pass has dozens of puzzle games for people who like to twist their brains into a pretzel only to enjoy undoing the knot a moment later.
Energy: Anti Stress Loops is a soothing and atmospheric puzzle game that has players finding the connections between broken loops to bring the puzzle to life and is supposedly a potent therapy for OCD. Bridge Constructor Portal will have fans of the Portal franchise delighted to have a pocket-sized trip into the Aperture Science Enrichment Center that merges the staples of the classic Portal and Bridge Constructor games.
Monument Valley 2 is the visually striking sequel to the story-driven puzzle platformer and brings new dynamics and depth to the series. The immensely popular 2048 puzzle game is also available on the Play Pass with all of its usual addition-based problem-solving charm and IAP unlocked. Made out of optical illusions and impossible, Escher-esque shapes, Hocus is one of the more mind-bending puzzles on the store itself, let alone the Play Pass.
Racing Games were one of the earliest harbingers of real, console-quality graphics on mobile and continue to push the limits of engines and gameplays on the smallest screen. The Play Pass has, as of now, only four games under the racing category. Furious Car Driving 2020 is an update of the previous installments in the series that brings realistic physics and fully destructible cars for players who enjoy an extra dose of realism in their driving simulator.
Moto X3M Bike Racing Game is a reboot of the popular flash game from back in the day, serving up a straightforward dose of classic hill racing games with a motorbike focus. Absolute Drift is a beautifully styled, minimalist game that’s all about drifting. The primary appeal is its ability to help players find the inner peace that can only come from subjecting the fragile human body to horrendous amounts of G-force. Offroad Legends 2 is a robust, offroad racing, monster truck-driving game with tons of content, excellent graphics, and even controller support.
Role-Playing games are a genre with about as many variations and sub-genres as there are species of insects. Turn-based jRPGs, open world, (certain) roguelikes, MMORPGs — the list goes on. While the Play Pass doesn’t have a sprawling library of RPGs just yet, it does have a few interesting titles that become even more so with all IAP unlocked and their purchase price covered by your subscription.
Stardew Valley is, without a doubt, the biggest title on Play Pass, regardless of category, and the fact that it’s completely and totally free with the subscription service is itself pretty wild. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is, fittingly, quite old but most certainly gold and is considered by many to be one of the best classic RPGs. And the fact that the Play Pass erases the $9.99 price tag is pretty awesome. Hoplite is more of a cool, old school strategy game based on ancient Greece than it is an RPG… but is nonetheless an interesting title under the RPG category.
Magium is a text-based Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game and one of the more popular in the sub-genre available on the Play Store. Fans of MUDs and Dungeons and Dragons will enjoy the game most and those who play for free will have the added bonus of having the game fully unlocked. Inspired by classic console titles, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a turn-based combat game where you help this young girl Gully find her lost father by exploring dark and mysterious forests and battling bandits, beasts, demons, machines, and the undead.
Once a niche genre, as technology grows and evolves so too does the ever-growing legion of Simulation games. And the Simulation Genre is well represented on Play Pass with several of the bigger mobile titles in the Pass library. Extreme Landings Pro is not only an incredible flight simulator with some of the best realism but also one of the single most expensive games on the store at a whopping $45.99 — but completely free with the Play Pass.
Up next, Game Dev Tycoon is another popular title where players simulate the experience of developing your own hit video game studio in the ’80s — very cool, very fun, and with a proven track record as an excellent game. Pocket City is a great city-builder game with events, offline play, and multiple metrics to balance like traffic and even citizen happiness.
This is the Police is a fun police simulator by HandyGames that sets the player in a city overrun with crime and tasks them with quick decision making to turn the tide against corruption. Mini Metro is a beautifully simple but highly rated metro simulator that has players managing the logistics of an urban metro — a simple concept beloved by many.
- BAIKOH: Words & Brain Challenges
- Word Search
- 7 Little Words
- Crossword Puzzle Free
- English Guess the Phrase
Word Games continue to be one of the single biggest draws in all of gaming, standing the test of time against an ever-growing army of super big-budget AAA titles. Most likely due to their simplicity and accessibility, and, nowadays, their incredible portability. BAIKOH: Words & Brain Challenges stands at the top of our list as it’s a word game for the modern world. You’re required to spell out words by matching the tiles that appear on the screen and stack them as quickly as possible. Think of it like a Tetris game but with words. What makes it better? You can play it with others online, unlock badges, level up, and more.
English Guess the Phrase is an excellent gamification of English phrase learning that uses a Hangman style format to test your memory. 7 Little Words is a word-scrambler that has you using 7 hints to piece together 7 words from 20 different lettered-tiles. There are a lot of word search games on the Play Store, but this Word Search is one of the more highly rated options out there and is now available in the Play Pass library with all IAP unlocked.
And finally, we have the simple, straightforward, undeniable Crossword Puzzle Free. The game gives players all of the Crossword Puzzles their heart desires in a smooth and clean interface, and with the Play Pass, every pack of puzzles is made available.
What do you think of the Play Pass? Worth the money? Let us know in ALL CAPS below.