Gaming on phones has been a thing ever since we all first booted up our Nokia 3310s for hours on Snake, long before our iPhones became clogged with hours of Candy Crush Saga. But increasingly smartphones are becoming viable gaming devices for more than simple distractions on the go, sitting alongside home consoles in ever serious gamer’s collection.
Such is the power of modern smartphones. Gaming sensations like Fortnite and Call of Duty Mobile can thank their mobile platform and portability for ridiculous run-away success. And it’s no wonder considering the power inside the best smartphones around.
While the latest Apple and Samsung phones are capable of running the most demanding mobile games, the market is so popular that there are also dedicated gaming phones from the likes of Asus ROG, Red Magic, and Black Shark. Since there are only a handful like this, we’ve also included the odd ‘normal’ phone that also offers a good gaming experience.
Below are our recommended best phones for gaming. Take some time to consider which has the best features at the best price for you, for the games you want to be able to run.
Best gaming phone 2022
1. Red Magic 7 – Best overall
- 6.8in 165Hz OLED display
- 720Hz touch sample rate
- Great performance
- Heavy build
- Hit-and-miss battery life
- Can't change default launcher
Nubia’s Red Magic smartphones have a reputation as having some of the best gaming-focused displays around, and that’s just as true with the latest in the collection, the Red Magic 7.
At its heart is a fast 6.8in 165Hz OLED panel with an impressive 720Hz touch sample rate that beats practically every other smartphone on the market. Though you might not notice much of a difference in real-world performance, it’ll certainly satisfy the need for gamers to have the best of the best.
That’s paired with the flagship specs including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 12/16/18GB of RAM, 128/256GB of storage and an updated three-fan cooling system to keep things running smoothly during longer gaming sessions.
There’s also a plethora of gaming features including side-mounted touch-based shoulder triggers, advanced haptic feedback and the ability to control performance on a per-game basis, and it’s all presented in Red Magic’s ‘Game Space’ mode.
The rear-facing triple camera setup remains unchanged from the Red Magic 6S, which in itself was the same as the Red Magic 5S, but software improvements mean it fares a little better this time around.
The only real disappointment is battery life; it’s smaller than that of its predecessor at a rather average 4500mAh, and combined with a 165Hz display, it drains much more quickly.
2. Black Shark 5 Pro – Best for physical triggers
- Strong gaming performance
- Fast, responsive 144Hz display
- Built-in magnetic triggers
- Great main camera
- Fixed focus on ultrawide camera
- Can get hot over prolonged sessions
- JoyUI takes some getting used to
he Black Shark 5 Pro might not redesign the wheel, but it ticks all the boxes for gamers: it has a buttery smooth 144Hz refresh rate, top-level performance, gaming-specific features like magnetic triggers and gesture-activated shortcuts plus much more.
The 120W charging, while unchanged, provides some of the snappiest charging times around achieving a full 100% charge in under 30 minutes, though the downside is a smaller battery than alternatives.
Unlike the touch-based triggers of some rivals, the Black Shark 5 Pro has magnetic triggers that pop up from the body of the phone for a more traditional controller experience, making for a great portable gaming experience without the need to carry additional accessories.
Though not usually a focus for gaming phones, the Black Shark 5 Pro has an impressive 108Mp rear-facing camera that’s capable of taking decent snaps, though the decision to include autofocus capabilities to the macro lens and not the more popular 120-degree ultra-wide is an odd decision that leaves some ultrawide shots looking a little soft.
It is more expensive than the competing Red Magic 7 Pro, but the magnetic triggers, in particular, make the Black Shark 5 Pro a compelling gaming smartphone that negates the need for a controller in many games.
3. Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro – Best ultra flagship
- Class-leading performance
- Gorgeous 165Hz OLED screen
- Superb battery life
- Impressive speakers
- No built-in fan
- Heavy and bulky
The Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro is arguably the ultimate gaming phone – but you’ll have to pay for it.
Performance is the priority here, so the phone is powered by the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip – the most powerful around.
Specs elsewhere are supreme too, with a 165Hz AMOLED screen, 6000mAh battery, and up to 18GB of RAM.
It also features a unique PMOLED screen on the rear of the phone, used to indicate incoming calls, notifications, and charge state, and like all the ROG Phones it ships with a range of optional extra accessories.
The only problem is the price: it’s more expensive than all its rivals, which in some cases cost half the price but offer similar performance. It’s a great high-end bit of kit, but there are plenty of gaming phones that’ll give you the same bang for less buck in 2022.
4. Poco F4 GT – Gaming phone that doesn't look like one
- Incredibly fast 120W charging
- Magnetic shoulder buttons
- Restrained design
- Middling battery life
- Clunky software
- No gamer software/accessories
The Poco F4 GT is an attempt to build a gaming phone that could be just as appealing to non-gamers.
The F4 GT packs the hardcore hardware you’d expect: a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, 120Hz AMOLED display, and up to 12GB of RAM – not to mention almost absurdly fast 120W charging. It even includes pop-up magnetic shoulder buttons similar to those found in the Black Shark 5 Pro.
But the restrained design means this won’t scream ‘gamer’ to everyone who sees it, and the shoulder buttons double up with extra functions outside of games – a camera shutter button, for example.
5. Red Magic 7 Pro – Most responsive display
- Record-setting 960Hz touch-sampling rate
- Under-display selfie camera
- Impressive battery
- Heavy build
- 'Only' 120Hz refresh rate
The Red Magic 7 Pro is an unusual phone, not least because it’s not an upgrade on the regular Red Magic 7 in every respect – and in fact we’d recommend the regular model to most people.
The changes here are mostly in the display. The first is that the 7 Pro comes with the most responsive display in any phone right, registering touch input at 960Hz – i.e. it can detect touches 960 times a second. That’s literally a game-changer, but it brings a drawback: the screen refresh rate is ‘only’ 120Hz, down from the 165Hz of the regular 7.
The other change is the inclusion of an under-display selfie camera. This helps keep the 7 Pro compact and gives you a gorgeous full-screen experience, but again there’s a trade-off: your actual selfies won’t be all that great, with a soft, over-processed look to them.
This packs plenty of power and delivers on battery life too, but with a hefty price tag consider carefully if you really need the upgrade from the Red Magic 7.
6. iPhone 13 Pro Max – Best iPhone for gaming
- Powerful A15 Bionic chipset
- Superb battery life
- 6.7in 120Hz display
- No charger in the box
When it comes to gaming on iOS, the 6.7in iPhone 13 Pro Max is the one to beat. Apple’s 5nm A15 Bionic is one of the most powerful chipsets on the market right now and can handle just about anything you can throw at it without a hint of stutter or lag – and our benchmarks back that up too.
Importantly, the iPhone 13 Pro Max sports a gorgeous Super Retina XDR display that makes games look incredible on the iPhone, whether they’re free-to-play titles or the latest Apple Arcade exclusives.
It’s also one of the first iPhones to make the jump to a variable 120Hz refresh rate, offering the buttery-smooth refresh rate – and improved response time – that make Android rivals so strong.
There’s also up to a whopping 1TB of storage available, so you can carry an entire library of mobile games in your pocket, and the battery life is the best of any iPhone to date for longer play sessions.
The catch? It’s on the expensive side, and you don’t even get a charger in the box.
7. Oppo Find X5 Pro – Best Android flagship for gaming
- Unique design
- Top-tier performance
- 6.7in 120Hz AMOLED display
- No gaming-specific hardware
- No gaming accessories
Though Oppo’s top-of-the-line Find X5 Pro doesn’t look like much of a gaming phone – in fact, at 8.5mm thick and 218g, it’s fairly lightweight compared to the likes of the ROG Phone 5 – but the svelte flagship has a surprise or two up its sleeves.
It’s powered by Qualcomm’s top-tier Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 with 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM and 256GB of storage, with benchmarks detailing an impressive device able to take on dedicated gaming phones. There’s also the 6.7in LTPO AMOLED display to consider, with a WQHD+ resolution and buttery-smooth 120Hz refresh rate providing a responsive gameplay experience.
Gaming prowess aside, it has all the bells and whistles you’d expect including 80W fast charging that’ll get you 94% charge in 30 mins, and a triple-camera array provides some of the most detailed images around – especially in low-light.
So, while you might not get built-in triggers or cool gaming-focused software enhancements, you’ll certainly get all the benefits of a flagship smartphone.
8. Asus ROG Phone 5 – Best for accessories
- 144Hz AMOLED display
- Top-notch performance
- Gaming-focused features
- Gets hot quickly
- Tall and heavy design
- Older chip
The Asus ROG Phone 5 might not have mass appeal, with a bulky, gamer-esque design, but that’s not the aim here.
Gaming is the priority here, and Asus has taken things up a notch with a 144Hz AMOLED screen, two 3,000mAh batteries, last year’s top-end Snapdragon 888, and up to an eye-watering 16GB of RAM. It can handle just about any game available on Android right now, with enough power left over to future-proof the phone for quite some time – all at a price cheaper than big-name flagships.
The gaming experience is further enhanced by haptic triggers built directly into the side of the ROG Phone 5, and if you want to take things a step further, the plethora of official accessories – including Nintendo Switch-esque Kunai 5 controllers and the fan-powered AeroActive Cooler 5 cooling system – should be right up your street.
They’re not related to gaming, but even the cameras are decent, which is unusual for a gaming phone. We can only really complain about the size and weight, measuring in at 10.3mm thick and 238g, but that’s not so applicable in the gaming sector.
The ROG Phone 6 has since launched, but we’re yet to review it – and will update this chart once we have.
9. Red Magic 6R – Most affordable gaming phone
- Impressive performance
- 144Hz AMOLED display
- Built-in triggers
- Disappointing battery life
- Red Magic OS
- Hit-and-miss cameras
The Red Magic 6R is one of the cheapest gaming-dedicated smartphones on the market right now, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on features or performance.
Sporting a 6.67.in AMOLED display slightly smaller than that of the flagship Red Magic 6, you’ll find the same 1080 x 2400 resolution and 400Hz touch sampling rate. The 144Hz refresh rate may be slightly slower, but it’s still safely in gamer territory and the difference is negligible in real-world use.
Under the display you’ll find the powerful Snapdragon 888 with either 6GB, 8GB or 12GB of RAM depending on the variant you opt for. It’s capable of keeping up with flagship gaming phones in the performance department, but the lack of an active fan cooling system means it gets hot much quicker than premium alternatives.
The only real disappointment is battery life, with a 4200mAh battery only able to provide all-day usage if you drop the refresh rate from 144Hz to 90Hz.
Still, if you can look past battery life issues, the Red Magic 6R offers a premium mobile gaming experience at an affordable price.
10. Poco X3 Pro – Best budget phone for gaming
- Great performance
- Very affordable
- Long-lasting battery
- No 5G
- Bulky design
- Average camera performance
Xiaomi’s Poco X3 Pro may not be a dedicated gaming phone, but it has built on the success of the popular Poco X3 NFC to provide fast performance without the price tag.
The headline feature is the inclusion of the Snapdragon 860, an impressive feat when you consider the budget nature of the X3 Pro. That’s coupled with 6- or 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage, and the 6.67in LCD panel offers a boosted 120Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz touch response rate.
The whopping 5160mAh battery is more than enough to get you through an intense gaming session or two, and while 33W wired charging isn’t the quickest available, it’s still pretty nippy.
The Poco X3 Pro might not be quite as capable as some of the dedicated gaming options in our chart, but it certainly offers bang for your buck when compared to similarly priced smartphones available right now.
Do you need all the highest specs?
These phones often have specialised hardware or even sometimes clip-on controllers to help you game better. Internals often have boosts in RAM or the most powerful CPU or GPU to help the phone keep up, while high refresh rate displays are common to allow you to hit even higher frame rates while playing. A couple even have liquid cooling.
Specs are pretty important if you want to game to the highest level on a phone, but it does depend on which games you want to run smoothly. If you are more into arcade or puzzle games then you might not need to splash out on a high-end gaming phone.