In the 80s and 90s, the coolest kid in school was the one with the digital calculator watch. Not only could the kid cheat on math tests, those watches came with simple, digital “games” like Snake that could keep you entertained during the most boring lectures. Still, we looked to the stars, longing for a future where smart, wearable tech allowed us to monitor our steps AND destroy marauding, digital aliens.
Now that Smartwatches live among us and have proven themselves useful, the next natural step was to program games for them. Google and Apple both have their flagship smartwatch, and there are numerous companies vying for Android customers, so you can find a device in your preferred flavor fairly easily. And while the game market for smartwatches isn’t nearly as robust as it is for phones, there are still some killer apps out there.
Here are the top 25 gaming apps for your smartwatch, and trust us – these are a lot more fun than playing Snake during 4th period English.
- The best free smartphone game apps
- The best paid gaming apps for smartwatches
- The top ten free or paid smartwatch games
The best free smartphone game apps
In compiling this list, we had to play a lot of games across multiple devices to sift out the trash from the treasure, and we’ve separated it down even further into paid and unpaid apps. Though there are not a ton of games for wearable devices, there are enough that you could be duped into buying something bad, so hopefully this list helps you make a decision. We will be describing the game, giving our thoughts and letting you know what devices its compatible with.
Okay well we didn’t mean to disparage Snake – it’s a fine game, especially when you’re not playing it on a graphing calculator. While this version isn’t graphically a huge leap forward, it’s still very fun and can be played to kill time when you’re stuck someplace waiting.
The reviews put this at about a 3.6 out of 5, which isn’t stellar, but this game is ancient by video game standards. Still, it’s a functional and fun way to spend 5 minutes.
More retro goodness, Galaxia Classic rolls Invaders and Galaxia into one app. It’s simple to play and perfect for burning some time without getting too in-depth. The minimalist design also works great for a smartwatch, since all the pixelated graphics scale well to any size. Unfortunately, there’s only an Android version at this time.
Augmented reality games are pretty popular right now and most are pretty complex. Tilt foregoes complexity for a fun concept, creating an augmented reality field that has you picking up boxes without dropping them. While this seems simple, it’s incredibly difficult to master and can get addictive very quickly.
We do appear to have a soft spot for retro games, but the fact is that they simply work great on wearable tech. The simple pixel graphics, easy gameplay mechanics and intuitive design worked 40 years ago, and they’re still gobbling up your time now. This particular version is only available on Apple OS.
One of the earliest-developed complex games for the Apple watch, Runeblade offers surprisingly deep gameplay, mirroring oldschool RPGs. Complete some quests, destroy some monsters and level up – all broadly appealing. The best part is the simple interface allows you to play and close up shop quickly, so you can pop in to get sate your thirst for adventure and then shut it down when your boss wants their TPS reports.
Incorporating the best “making you active” part of the smartwatch with a slew of cute monsters to collect, Standland rewards you for, well, standing. The less sitting you do, the faster you can collect these adorable critters and show off your accomplishments to other Standland players. Mixing a habit-forming app with a game is a surefire way to make an addictive product that also serves a very real-life purpose, which is a win-win.
Another “fitness” app that is disguised as a game, Walkr rewards you with in-game currency for hitting your step goals. As you get more steps, you get more points which you can exchange to upgrade your spaceship and explore the cosmos. With cute, cartoony graphics and an open exploration concept, Walkr kills time while encouraging you to stay active and healthy. It’s more complex than Standland and still scratches that collector itch.
2048 is an arcade puzzle game where you combine numbers to create larger numbers until you can’t do this anymore or you create the number “2048”. It’s very simple but extremely addicting, and its phone versions are some of the most successful gaming apps ever made for those devices. While there’s not much complexity, it’s just frustrating enough to keep you going back to beat your old score.
Perl was a very early game on Windows where you twirled links of yarn together to make chains, and Infinity Loop is like that. If you don’t remember Perl, ask your parents, but regardless, Infinity Loop is a great game where you click lines to make a, well, Infinity loop. Very simple to play and understand but difficult enough that you’ll never master it, Infinity Loop is a great game already that is fine-tuned for the Android watch. It’s free to play, though it has a few small in-app purchases if you’re so inclined.
Space War is like Galaxia, only instead of being a port of old games, it’s made in the style of old arcade space shooters. The graphics are nostalgic and lovely, and provide a quick yet challenging game that satisfies your urge for space battle. You know the urge.
The best paid gaming apps for smartwatches
While the prior games were all free, these next 5 are behind some manner of investment. They are, for the most part, better quality with higher graphics, more depth and better long-term playability than the ones before.
Another throwback to a time before graphics dominated gaming, Lifeline 2 is like the old text-based games from the 80s and 90s. Your character is on a quest to avenge her family, and you play by giving her directions through word-only choices. The story is complex and interesting, and it plays more like a “choose your own adventure” book than a game in a traditional sense, but if you’re into that it’s a very fun experience. The only thing that’s keeping it out of the top 10 is that it’s completely without visual graphics, relying on narrative through text-based choices.
Missiles in a Watch
Crystal-clear gameplay that has you dodging missiles with your airplane, Missiles in a Watch plays like a more free-form Snake or Slither.io. You dexterously maneuver your airplane to avoid increasingly more and more missiles. The controls are responsive, the graphics are pretty and the gameplay will have you coming back over and over to beat your high score.
The phrase “remember this” seems to be appearing in this list quite a bit but sorry, not sorry. There’s a reason many classic games are being ported to mobile and wearable devices; they were great then and they’re great now. Tamagotchi is a game where you take care of a digital animal – feeding it, giving it attention and generally caring for it. Back in the day, the Tamagotchi experience was on a keychain toy, so it makes sense that it would translate well to the smartwatch age.
If you’ve ever wanted to smash bad pastries while playing as a cupcake hero, this game is perfect for you. Unique, RPG game play and adorable graphics make this a must-have for any role-playing fanatic who also likes humor and whimsy. Equip items, destroy cakes and save Cupcakia from disaster, one monster at a time.
You pick one of 6 droids, each with its own unique gameplay and design, and try to survive your creator’s attempts to destroy you. If you succeed, you get to remain in good working order. If you fail, it’s off to the junk heap for you! The game has you falling through an obstacle course of sorts, where you move back and forth to avoid incoming damage, collect parts and power-ups and navigate the path in front of you. It’s tricky enough to keep you playing and fun enough to make it enjoyable.
The top ten free or paid smartwatch games
These are the best-of-the-best, whether free or requiring a purchase. These games will keep you occupied with mobile-quality graphics, gameplay and immersion, but on your wearable device. The following 10 games are highly downloaded, well-reviewed and very fun, so be careful you don’t sprain your wrist going back again and again to play them.
This game is exactly what it sounds like, but if you don’t have a pen and paper handy to do a traditional sudoku puzzle, having it on your wrist is the best possible alternative. Clever, quick, and designed to keep your mind sharp, sudoku is the ultimate brain game. This version is clean, intuitive and well-made.
The highly addictive, oddly named mobile app is ported to wearable devices, and it’s exactly the same. There’s no loss of gameplay, functionality or fun – Best Fiends is as addictive and enjoyable on your wrist as it is in your hand. A colorful combination puzzle game that adds monster-fighting and collecting elements, Best Fiends scratches all the best itches of the most popular mobile games. With hundreds of collectable, cute characters and engaging gameplay, you’ll find any waiting room is much more tolerable with this in your apps.
Take a little Monster Rancher, a smidge of Pokemon and a bit of puzzle gaming and you have Battle Camp. You can build up your monsters with a tried-and-true experience system that evolves them, which while derivative, is still fun to see explored in other games. Additionally, the world in which you play is live with other players, and you can work together to fight tough bosses and solve devilish puzzles. It’s free to play on the App store with in-game purchases and it’s just very well done.
Are you a dog, cat or …lizard person? Virtual pet will help you answer that question, whether you’ve ever asked it or not. You pick a virtual animal, raise it, love it and then send it out to quest in a digital world that looks really nice. A combination of Tamagotchi and Runeblade, you’re responsible for your pet’s fate but it’s more immersive than just taking care of a digital companion. The gameplay is fluid, it looks great and it’s just a whole lot of fun.
Cops and Donuts
This is a simple yet addictive puzzle-plus-collecting game that has you using various collectable cops to chase down delicious donuts. While the premise seems incredibly thin and simple, it’s surprisingly addicting, and much like the sugar-laden rings it’s named for, keeps you coming back for more. Free to play on the app store, you can make small in-game purchases to get rid of ads or upgrade your experience.
Many of the games on the wearable platforms are ports of popular mobile games or reboots of classic arcade games. While Minecart Jumper feels retro, it’s designed specifically for wearable tech and because of that, it plays beautifully. Great graphics, clean controls and a system designed for “one more round” gameplay, you’ll be happy to spend a bit of time on this perfect platform puzzler.
This game is incredibly simple – red dots and blue dots each have their own side, and there’s a sliding wall with a small door between them. You control the door, and your job is to keep the spawning dots on their own side. It’s trickier than it sounds, but it’s addictive and fun and the difficulty will keep you engaged.
While for some reason Pokemon GO isn’t on wearable tech, the company who makes Pokemon Go – Niantic – has a few other augmented reality games that are worth checking out. Ingress Prime is one of those games, pitting you in a complex battle against other players, using the world around you as important hubs of information and resource gathering. Will you work for humanity’s evolution with the Enlightened or fight against them with the Resistance?
A very fast-paced puzzle game that you can pick up and put down without losing progress, Rules! is extremely engaging. While it works as a game, its main functionality is in its brain-trainer origins. A daily login is all it takes to work out your mind and keep it sharp.
Trivia games are well-suited for wearable tech because the interface required is extremely minimal. Trivia Crack takes this genre and distills it to an art form, offering challenging questions and fun, fast-paced gameplay. One of the most downloaded games ever, Trivia Crack makes its wearable debut and it doesn’t disappoint.
Gadget geek, watch lover, fitness fan, walker, long-time tech writer/blogger and family man.