Best Android Phones for Hardcore Gaming

featured image hardcore gaming

What makes Android phones good phones for hardcore gaming?

Is it being able to charge quickly?

What about having a bigger battery in the first place?

None of that means anything if your battery can explode, but enough power to make the battery useful is just as helpful.

There’re some factors that go into an Android phone to make it one of the best for hardcore gaming. To me, one of the biggest deciding factors is the price. That’s why I’ve organized this list from the most powerful of budget devices to the powerhouse kings that demand the most out of your wallet.


Best Android Phones for Hardcore Gaming Under $300

When I use the term, hardcore gaming, which Android phone comes to mind? The first phones to pop into my head are usually flagship phones, the kings of the block.


What if I told you there are plenty of other gaming smartphones for much less out there?

Not every gaming smartphone has to be a wallet breaker, and here are some examples how.


1. Moto G4

Price: $199.99-229.99 (16GB-32GB)

First on the list, and what I consider one of the budget king of the market, the Moto G4.

motog4 hardcore gaming

I’ll admit that I have a small bias towards Motorola phones, but that doesn’t make the Moto G4 any less of a great phone for the price. The G4:

  • Only has 2GB of RAM, but is backed by the processing power of the Snapdragon 617. While this isn’t going to be able to run everything flawlessly, you’ll at least get a good amount of performance out of the device to run most games without issue.
  • Runs Android Marshmallow out of the box, providing an easy to use experience that doesn’t require a massive update before you start playing.
  • Has a 3000mAh battery, that while won’t keep your phone running for days on end, will at least get you through enough gaming sessions throughout the day before you have to charge it again.
  • Has a large enough touchscreen (16:9, 5.5 inches) for a good gaming experience without eye strain, and is bright enough to show everything you need to see.

The Moto G4 has a 16GB, and a 32GB model, but has a microSD slot for expandable storage. If you’re looking for one of the best Android phones for hardcore gaming on a budget, the Moto G4 is a good contender for the top spot.

If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can even get up to $50 off of the Moto G4 at checkout, and at that price, it’s an amazing purchase.

Moto G4


2. ZTE Zmax Pro

Price: $179.99 ($99.99 with Mail-in Rebate)

Next up is the ZTE Zmax Pro, which has an interesting price-point, but with only one storefront where it’s readily available.

zte hardcore gaming

The only way to get the ZTE Zmax Pro is through metroPCS, which is going to be an issue for some users, but its price point of $99 with a mail-in rebate is worth the hassle if metroPCS is an option for you.

As far as features, the ZTE Zmax Pro:

  • Has similar processing power and RAM to the Moto G4, just at a lower price. It sports 2GB of RAM, with a 1.5 GHz Octa Core, Snapdragon processor, so it has plenty of power for its budget price.
  • A step up from the Moto G4, the ZTE Zmax Pro features a 6 inch, full HD display. This will mean your games will be vibrant, colorful, and most of all, easily visible.
  • The Zmax Pro only has a 32GB version, which is unfortunate for hardcore gaming when you have a lot of storage-hungry games to keep around. Thankfully, the Zmax Pro does have expandable storage.
  • The Zmax Pro’s battery is 3400mAh, so expect to get a decent chunk of game time in while using this phone during less demanding games.

The biggest downside to the ZTE Zmax Pro is how you have to buy it. If you want the phone, you have to buy it through metroPCS, which means its availability is limited. That said, for one of the best Android phones for hardcore, but still budget, gaming; it’s hard to think of a better deal.

metroPCS


3. Honor 5X

Price: $199.99

Third on our list is the Honor 5X. It’s a Huawei phone, but on a budget. Don’t let that make you think for a second that this phone can’t be used for gaming; it has a lot of power for such a small package.

honor hardcore gaming

Let’s go over the specs first just to give you some stats.

  • On the Honor 5X, you’re looking at getting 2GB of RAM, with a Snapdragon 616 for the processor, providing speeds and capabilities far outside of the Honor 5X’s price range. This is something that you’d often end up seeing in a phone for around $100 more.
  • The Honor 5X has a full HD, 5.5-inch display, with nice and bright colors, but has trouble displaying darker colors with the same power. That said, it’s an amazing screen on a $200 phone.
  • The 5X only 16GB of onboard storage, but it can be extended by a microSD card for up to 128GB if you need it, and you definitely will for hardcore gaming.
  • The battery is 3000mAh, but still manages to keep the phone afloat for a day of light gaming, but may struggle if you’re trying to play power intensive games throughout the day.

The only downsides to the Honor 5X are the downsides to any budget phone. The power and battery life isn’t as high as the ideal, but realistically, for the price, it’s amazing. The Honor 5X is one of the best Android phones for hardcore gaming, at its price. You can get it for as low as $199.99.

Honor 5X


4. Sony Xperia Z4 Aqua

Price: $149.99

I can’t mention budget gaming phones without at least mentioning one phone in the Xperia series. So for the last phone on the budget list, let’s talk about the Xperia Z4 Aqua.

xperia aqua hardcore gaming

The Z4 Aqua’s specs aren’t especially impressive, but for the price, they’re more than decent.

  • It’s a constant on this list, but it bears mentioning again. The Z4 Aqua has 2GB of RAM and is running with a Snapdragon 615, which means it’s only slightly slower than some of the other phones on this list.
  • The Z4 Aqua has a 5-inch display, but it isn’t full HD. The screen is 720 x 1280, but for the price, can you complain? I certainly can, but it’s hard to be $50 cheaper than your standard budget phone without cutting costs somewhere.
  • The Z4 Aqua has both an 8GB model, and a 16GB model, but since the 16GB model is $149.99, it’s better to pay for the extra space. Both models still have a microSD slot, so expandable storage is recommended.
  • The Sony Xperia Z4 Aqua has the smallest battery of all the phones I’ve mentioned, sitting at 2400mAh, so don’t expect to play anything major for too long at one time.

The Z4 Aqua’s biggest selling point is the price. It’s extremely cheap for what you get, but what you get isn’t the best gaming device on the market by far. If you’re looking to save an extra $50, the decrease in power and battery might be worth it, but I recommend going after other choices.

Sony Xperia Z4 Aqua


Best Android Phones for Hardcore Gaming – Over $300

Let’s say you have some cash to spend for the best of the best. There isn’t any other way to say it, these phones are expensive, but they’re your best Android option for hardcore gaming that you can buy. If you want to spend a good chunk of your day playing Hearthstone like I do, you’ll need one of these so you can still make calls afterward.

5. OnePlus 3

Price: $399.00

Let’s start with a phone that’s just about $100 past the budget range, but is an impressive contender, the OnePlus 3.

oneplus hardcore gaming

Now that we’re talking about more expensive phones, the specs are much more impressive. This is especially true for the OnePlus 3, because of its low price, but expensive tech.

  • Starting off with how much processing power the OnePlus has, it’s packing a Snapdragon 820 and a quad-core CPU. With an impressive 6GB of RAM, the OnePlus 3 can run any game on the Play Store with ease, and anything off of it without breaking a sweat.
  • The OnePlus 3’s display isn’t very large at 5.5 inches, but it’s still in full HD with 1080p. This is, of course, a negative if you’re looking for a better display for things like VR, but is still perfectly reasonable for the device’s price and goals.

Even though the OnePlus 3’s screen isn’t the best for VR, the smaller display allows for better battery life while playing normal games.

  • One of my biggest issues with the OnePlus 3 is storage. It only has a 64GB model, but with no card slot for easily expandable storage. 64GB is still plenty for a large number of games, but it’s troubling to have the ever present threat of running out of space looming overhead.
  • The last mark against the OnePlus 3 is the battery, it’s only 3000mAh, but the OnePlus 3 does a great job at the optimizing So despite the smaller size for a phone of its class, battery life is still standard for at least a year or two.

The OnePlus 3 isn’t the best Android phone for hardcore gaming, but it’s pretty great for its price and availability. It’s a good mid-range device with some budget design choices that are mostly for the better.

OnePlus 3


6. Moto Z Droid

Price: $624.00

It wouldn’t be a biased list like mine without another Motorola device making the cut, but the Moto Z Droid is an amazing phone in its right. It’s an expensive piece of hardware, but I think once I get into it, you’ll see why.

motoz hardcore gaming

One of the most impressive parts of the Moto Z Droid is the screen, but everything else that the phone has to offer isn’t as impressive. That said, it’s still a great high-end device for a few reasons.

  • Let’s talk about processing power first; that’s pretty important when dealing with games. The Moto Z Droid has 4GB of RAM and is using a Snapdragon 820. This doesn’t make it the fastest phone on this list, but it’s more than serviceable for most games.
  • The screen is what I want to talk about the most. The display may only be 5.5 inches, but it’s 1440p Quad HD, which is a great resolution for a screen of its size, and makes it perfect for VR as long as you can keep its battery full. Everything looks great on this device, so as long as you keep the screen protected, it’ll shine.
  • Storage is an issue with the Moto Z Droid. Internally, the phone only has 32GB, and a lot of that is taken up before you even get to use the device. Thankfully, you can increase this using the phone’s expandable storage slot.
  • Lastly, the battery. Unfortunately, the Moto Z Droid’s battery is 2600mAh and non-removable. Thankfully, you can fast-charge it, but expect to see the overall battery life decrease quickly as time goes on.

One negative that I need to mention immediately is that the Moto Z Droid doesn’t have a headphone jack. So unless you want to buy an adapter, or go wireless, you’re left to use your speakers for game audio.

Thankfully, the Moto Z Droid features a modular design, so there are plenty of speaker models that you can clip onto the back of your phone. However, this doesn’t help if you want to play a game in a space that appreciates silence.

Moto Z Droid


7. Huawei Nexus 6P

Price: $499.00-649.00 (32GB-64GB-128GB)

I mentioned the Honor 5X earlier, so let’s look at another phone from the same company, but with a larger price, and better performance. The Huawei Nexus 6P is without a doubt, one of the best Android phones for hardcore gaming, and any other activity.

nexus6 hardcore gaming

The Nexus 6P was a fantastic device when it came out, and it still is now. The specs still hold up, so I’m happy to go into them. It doesn’t have the highest processing power of the phones on this list, but it will last the longest out of all of them, and is highly customizable.

  • The Huawei Nexus 6P only has 3GB of RAM and is running a Snapdragon 810. This doesn’t make it a powerhouse, but it’s competent enough to run most standard games without trouble, or chugging. Just don’t expect a flawless VR experience.
  • Speaking of VR, the screen is ready for it, even if the rest of the phone isn’t. The Nexus 6P has a 5.7 inch, 1440p screen that displays everything beautifully. Even under harsh sunlight, seeing this screen should be relatively easy.
  • The Nexus 6P has models that go all the way up to 128GB, which is an impressive amount of onboard Which is good, because the 6P has no card slot for expandable storage. If there’s one model I recommend, it’s the 128GB one.
  • Lastly, the battery is 3450mAh, making it the longest lasting battery on this list. While the mAh number doesn’t automatically indicate daily battery life, it does let you know how long you can realistically expect the battery to last over the phone’s lifespan.

The biggest selling points for me on this phone are both the screen and the battery life. I think it’s one of the best Android phones for long, hardcore gaming sessions. Considering I go on salt streaks in Hearthstone constantly, long battery life is a must have for me over all other points.

Nexus 6P


8. Samsung Galaxy S7

Price: $563.49

It’s impossible to mention anything about the best of the best without talking about Samsung. I’m mentioning the S7 here instead of the S7 Edge because of preference. I feel like the sides of the Edge models of Samsung phones make them less desirable for longer gaming sessions.

galaxys7 hardcore gaming

However, whether I’m talking about the S7, the S7 Edge, or even the explosive Note 7; all of them have enough power under the hood to run any game with ease.

  • Focusing on just the S7 for now, it has 4GB of RAM, with a Snapdragon 820 under the hood. This isn’t the most impressive amount of processing power on this list, but it’s a fitting amount for a flagship phone. You’ll never have to worry about slowdowns during playtime as long as you don’t have three other games in the background.
  • The screen is a gorgeous 1440p, wide quad HD, and comes in at 5.1 inches. The maximum brightness on the Galaxy S7 is even brighter than the S6, making those rich colors pop in just the right places. There’s no need to worry about struggling to see in harsh sunlight either.

The Galaxy S7 has a mode (the S6 had it as well) that while in auto-brightness mode, it’ll kick up the brightness to just the right level while outside, instead of just cranking it up to blind you under the blaring sun.

  • The Galaxy S7 has a 32GB model, and a 64GB model, but both have a card slot for expandable storage. Since you’re looking to play games throughout a good chunk of the day, the more storage, the better. If you’re using a Dual-SIM version of the phone, the expandable storage slot is your second SIM slot.
  • Last but not least it the battery, weighing in at 3000mAh and is non-removable. This isn’t exactly impressive, but it’s an improvement over the S6, and will at least allow you to get a few small sessions in during the day before you need to charge again. Just don’t expect to keep playing for more than a couple of hours straight at a time.

The Galaxy S7 is a pretty impressive phone, even if it isn’t the absolute best Android phone for hardcore gaming. Overall, it’s a great device that performs well in all areas and doesn’t have any glaring negatives to bring it down as a gaming device.


Conclusion

Hardcore gaming is difficult to define since it means something different to anyone. It could describe someone who plays Clash Royale every day, someone who’s always playing Pokémon GO when they have a free second, or even someone like me with a crippling Hearthstone addiction.

There’s even a point where joking about addiction crosses over into something much more serious. It’s different for everyone, which is thankfully why there’s a different phone for everyone. No matter what your hardcore gaming needs are, there’s an Android phone out there for you.

What’s your favorite game to play on Android? You can let us know down below. Mine starts with H, ends with S, and won’t let me escape my phone.

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Comments (16)

  1. Dave Granger on

    The Xperia Play is a fantastic device if you’re into retro gaming, it’ll play anything on the PSX and earlier perfectly. Terribly underrated little phone, I’ve had mine for two and a half years and see no reason to replace it, every phone in the market is the same these days.

  2. George on

    @HTC One
    “Amazing Graphics with the 4.7” HD display.” – it’s FULL HD and the sharpest on the market!

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      • Riz Wan on

        Hey what about htc m9 ,one a9, note 5.plz tell me is it good for playing heavy net games downloaded from play store

  5. Riz Wan on

    Hey what about htc m9 ,one a9, note 5.plz tell me is it good for playing heavy net games downloaded from play store

  6. nestor on

    hello, im having a hard time choosing which the best phone this time (midrange), i hope you could help me. here are some of my considerations:
    1. Quality
    2. Performance (some phone are fast when it is new, but slows down as time pass)
    3. battery life, (i like to play games, so its better to have more battery).
    here are what i sited some mobile phone models, Samsung J7 prime, Moto G4, Vivo V3max or v5max and Oppo F1s.

    thanks

    • Trevor on

      the quality consideration is subjective and varies person to person. Performance lacks over time for all phones, so the more memory the better. For gaming look for higher RAM phones. The J7 would work fine. If it were a different Oppo, I’d say get that, they seem like great phones.

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