Over the years, many portable and hand-held gaming consoles have arrived on the market. Whether it's another Nintendo Switch model or a newly introduced Steam Deck, portable gaming has surpassed technological barriers once deemed impossible. Players can now enjoy high-end gaming on the go - but we've been playing more humble mobile games when out and about, too.
With the growing number of portable gaming devices, your smartphone is one of the most underrated gaming devices. Smartphones have come a long way since they were first introduced and could even be called the underdog of portable gaming.
Today, our phones can even run games far superior in visuals and gaming mechanics compared to the original PlayStation Portable, also known as PSP (discontinued in 2014). Considering the PSP was solely built for gaming, but still falls short of performance compared to the newest smartphones, is almost unreal.
Mobile gaming - an overview
While smartphone gaming is closing the quality and performance game, it will never come close to gaming on a dedicated portable device such as the Steam Deck - at least for a couple more years. Success and popularity are another matter, though.
Mobile gaming is still growing in popularity regardless of how well smartphones do against the major hand-held consoles. According to Statista, the mobile gaming market could reach US$169.7 billion by 2025.
With that being said, here are the top smartphone games on both iOS and Android. To ensure the rankings are fair, we will only focus on monthly active users worldwide.
Active users, spend or downloads?
We have disregarded factors such as most downloads and amount of consumer spending. This is because downloads do not indicate how well the game is actually doing amongst players, i.e., how much it is being played. Players can download the game and delete it an hour later, for all we know. In addition, downloads can be easily manipulated using bots.
As for consumer spend, some players spend thousands of dollars for either bragging rights or gratification. We call these players the "whales," a term used to describe the big spenders. For the most part, spending by whales is motivated by their addiction to the game. Practical spending within a reasonable limit is out of the question for most whales. Therefore, consumer spending is also not a good factor for ranking the industry's leading mobile games.
All the data we have used in this study was collected over the 30 days to April 13, 2022, from various sites such as Statista, Data.ai, and Activeplayer.io. The majority of the active player stats are from activeplayer.io. It uses an algorithm that collects data from other notable sites, such as Newzoo, and averages them out to give the best possible estimate. We also used certain data from Business of Apps and SensorTower.
Top 10 mobile games worldwide
10. Call of Duty: Mobile
Released in 2019, Call of Duty: Mobile quickly amassed over 100 million downloads (worldwide) in just two months of its release. According to SensorTower, Call of Duty: Mobile had 148 million downloads in the first month of its launch, overtaking PUBG Mobile and Fortnite. The game has since been growing in popularity and has become a popular esport.
Currently, Call of Duty: Mobile has over 57 million monthly active users with approximately 6.5 million daily active users. The game has gained over 450k monthly active users in the past 30 days to beat its initial 56 million cap. This indicates that the game still has the potential to grow even more.
9. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
At first, this title might not ring a bell, but the stats reveal a different story. Developed by a Chinese company called Moonton, Mobile Legends is one of the most popular multiplayer online battle arena games. Its game design rivals the likes of League of Legends: Wild Rift, even surpassing the monthly active users by a considerable margin.
Mobile Legends is also a rising esport. Several esports events are hosted that include Mobile Legends and its professional teams. One of the most notable events is Mobile Legends Professional League (MPL), hosted in Indonesia.
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang has over 80.6 million monthly active users, with over 13 million daily active players logging into the game. Mobile Legends has gained over 1.5 million monthly active users in February 2022, with over 480k more added over the past 30 days. This, once again, hints that the game has the potential to grow into something even bigger.
8. Pokémon GO
Pokémon GO was released back in July 2016 and has grown significantly. As per the report by Business of Apps, the game had significant hype at the time of its release, which allowed it to reach over 232 million active users. From nostalgia-filled adults to excited young players, everyone was excited to catch their favorite Pokémon by going out in the wild.
One of the reasons Pokémon GO did so well is its virtual reality Pokémon catching concept. It gives the players the satisfaction of catching Pokémon in the "real world." Unfortunately, the hype dropped considerably the following year, dipping the monthly active user count to a measly 65 million. If you compare it to the initial 232 million active users that Pokémon GO had, that's more than a 70% decrease.
Pokémon GO has started to gain traction again, though, getting as high as 166 million active users in 2020. Despite the rebound, the game has again lost much of its active player base, now hovering around 81.2 million monthly active users, according to Activeplayer.io.
While the game has a rocky history dealing with controversies and safety concerns, it still holds an impressive monthly active players count, placing it at our number 8 spot.
7. Clash of Clans
Clash of Clans is a free-to-play real-time mobile strategy game developed by a Finnish company called Supercell in 2012. Clash of Clans is one of the most popular - and notorious - games on both Android and iOS.
According to Business of Apps, three months after its launch, Clash of Clans was the highest-grossing game in the United States on both iOS and Android. It was later titled the 'most profitable game' worldwide in 2013.
Clash of Clans did considerably well for a few years before its monthly active players declined. This was apparently due to the repetitiveness of the game's mechanics. Despite receiving numerous content updates, the game's overall mechanics were still the same.
Lasse Louhento, Clash of Clan's co-designer, gave an interview to PocketGamer, saying that updates are an integral part of the game and strategy. Louhento emphasized they wanted to create a game that rewarded players for the time they've invested in Clash of Clans. Given the time it takes for basic operations such as upgrading your canon, I'd say he is absolutely right. With no sense of accomplishment, the game starts to get dry.
Fast forward to 2019, and Clash of Clans' active player base was at an all-time low. Despite having millions of active players, the game was at its lowest monthly active player count, relatively speaking, with just a little over 75 million players.
However, Supercell revived the game considerably by implementing a season pass called the 'Gold Pass' in 2019. Clash of Clans once again picked up and reached the highest-grossing rank on both iOS and Android in over 46 countries.
As expected, the monthly active player base started to rise again. This fall and rise in average monthly players is also evident on Activeplayer.io, which is consistent with the timeline. Today, the average active monthly count stands at 105.7 million players. In addition to the pass, Clash of Clans has also received a lot of free content, including skins, events, rotating shop items, and more. This has kept players intrigued, and the Clash of Clan addiction continues to flourish, giving it our number 7 spot.
6. Minecraft: Pocket Edition
The most popular sandbox survival game since its launch, Minecraft has paved the way for hundreds if not thousands of block survival games.
Minecraft was already receiving many updates and new content before Microsoft bought the game in September 2014 for US$2.5 billion. Microsoft saw the potential growth of the game (rightfully so), and now Minecraft is available on essentially all gaming platforms, including iOS and Android. It's also on pretty much every list of the top-selling or best games.
Currently, there are over 173.5 million active average monthly Minecraft players with almost 16 million daily active players. There are almost 960k estimated concurrent players at the time of writing.
This is the result of giving creative freedom in gaming. We've seen this play out many times - if you provide creative freedom to the gamers, the game tends to last for a very long time. Take Elder Scrolls: Skyrim or Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 Zombies mode, for example. Due to mod support, these games are played extensively to this day.
Another sandbox massively multiplayer online game, Roblox, was founded by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel back in 2004. Roblox gives the players and developers complete freedom to create whatever they want in its 3D world. Roblox includes a plethora of worlds and levels designed by partnering developers responsible for producing items and content for Roblox.
Roblox is essentially a cross-platform game, so everyone can enjoy the game together whether they're on PC, Android, or iOS. This increases its potential number of active users considerably.
Roblox has an estimated 210 million average active monthly players with 21 million daily active users. The numbers far exceed Minecraft's, but both the games are equally addicting and fun to play.
4. Candy Crush
Developed by King, Candy Crush is one of the studio's primary flagship titles. While Candy Crush might not be everyone's cup of tea, it is undoubtedly popular amongst a massive demographic worldwide. Levvvel reported that most of the Candy Crush players are adults aged 30 and above. Gender-wise, females make up the majority of the player base at 54%.
The classic installment of Candy Crush called Candy Crush Saga still has a huge player base that is also happy to spend money within the game. The direct follow-up to Candy Crush Saga was the Candy Crush Soda Saga, released in 2014, which amassed even more players.
Today, Candy Crush Saga has 260 million active monthly players on average, with 13 million daily active players. As per Business of Apps, players have spent a cumulative 73 billion hours on Candy Crush Saga.
3. Garena Free Fire
Free Fire rise to popularity started primarily in Southeast Asia, but it quickly gained traction in the Middle East, South America, and even India. SCMP reported that Garena founder, Forrest Li, became the first-ever entrepreneur to join the ranks of billionaires and that he did so from Garena Free Fire alone.
Garena Free Fire has 311.2 million active monthly players on average, with 41.5 million daily active users. While 311.2 million might not be as high as last year's 356.6 million (recorded on April 30, 2021), it is still a remarkable feat to surpass 300 million monthly active users.
2. Among Us
Among Us is an online multiplayer game developed and published by InnerSloth LLC in 2018. Among Us gained international traction and an explosion in popularity during the middle of the 2020 COVID-19 quarantine period. That is when Among Us went viral. Every Youtuber and Twitch Streamer who played Among Us further contributed to its success.
Although the hype around Among Us is not as high now as during the 2020 period, it has still amassed over 530 million downloads as of 2022, as reported by Business of Apps. The developers continue to push updates and provide content to keep the community engaged.
Among Us currently has 415.5 million monthly active players.
1. PUBG Mobile
PUBG, along with Fortnite Battle Royale, is looked upon as "the standard" for the battle royale genre. PUBG was first released on Steam as an early access game, and even then, it surpassed League of Legends' peak concurrent players.
PUBG Mobile's largest player base was situated in China and India. And while things were initially going smoothly for the PUBG Mobile, India decided to ban it in September 2020, which hit its active player base count.
Today, PUBG Mobile has 511.6 million active monthly players on average, with 42.6 million daily active players. PUBG Mobile is also being played through emulators on PC (one of the most popular), contributing to its rise in active player counts.
Monthly Active Users Summary
The graph below sums up the entire article for those looking to see which game currently has the most active player base.