Best gaming phone 2021: the top 10 mobile game performers

The best gaming phones can rival tablets and arguably even portable consoles like the Nintendo Switch when it comes to gaming potential, so if you’re into games, then it’s worth having a phone that can do them justice.

Picking such a phone typically means picking one with a big, high resolution screen, a high refresh rate, and lots of power, plus ideally decent battery life so your games aren’t interrupted by the need to charge. So these are all things that you should look for when buying.

Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max tick those boxes, so you’ll find those in the list below. But there are other phones that go even further and are designed specifically with games in mind.

We’re talking phones like the Asus ROG Phone 5 and Lenovo Legion Phone Duel, which have things like shoulder triggers, customizable gaming modes, better vibration, and enhanced cooling.

We’ve highlighted the best phones specifically designed for gaming at the start of this list, then below that there’s a separate section for general smartphones that happen to excel for gaming too. And we’re regularly updating this article, so check back soon for new additions.

Once you’ve picked your phone we’ve got you covered when it comes to picking games as well, with our best iPhone gamesbest free iPhone gamesbest Android games and best free Android games lists – all of which are also regularly updated.

Best gaming phones 2021

Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro, Asus ROG Phone 5s
(Image credit: Asus)

1. Asus ROG Phone 5

The best gaming phone that appeals to non-gamers too


Release date: April 2021Weight: 238gDimensions: 172.8 x 77.3 x 10.3mmOS: Android 11Screen size: 6.78-inchResolution: 1080 x 2448CPU: Snapdragon 888RAM: 8/12/16GBStorage: 128/256GBBattery: 6,000mAhRear camera: 64MP + 13MP + 5MPFront camera: 24MPTODAY’S BEST DEALS$649VIEW AT AMAZON$659.99View at Amazon$719.99View at AmazonSee all prices (17 found)


+Remarkable performance+Great display and speakers


-No telephoto camera-Large, heavy and dense

The Asus ROG Phone 5 is a remarkable gaming phone – one which improves on the already-impressive Asus ROG Phone 3.

Its highlights include class-leading power from the pairing of a Snapdragon 888 chipset and up to 16GB of RAM, plus a screen that has a refresh rate of 144Hz and a touch sampling rate of 300Hz – both of which are higher than most phones and we found this pairing beneficial to games.

That screen is big too, and it’s backed up by dual front-facing speakers, which are among the best you’ll find on a phone.

The Asus ROG Phone 5 also has a huge 6,000mAh battery, so you can game for longer, and with 65W charging you won’t be out of action for long when it runs dry.

Add to that responsive shoulder buttons, programmable RGB lights, and compatibility with a range of gaming-focused accessories, and the Asus ROG Phone 5 really is the complete package for gamers.

It’s not quite an all-round flagship (its cameras don’t excel as much as the rest of the hardware for a start) but if gaming is your priority then this phone should be at or near the top of your list.

Read our review: Asus ROG Phone 5

Lenovo Legion Phone Duel
(Image credit: Lenovo)

2. Lenovo Legion Phone Duel

The best gaming phone for speedy charging


Release date: October 2020Weight: 239gDimensions: 169.2 x 78.6 x 9.9mmOS: Android 10Screen size: 6.65-inchResolution: 1080 x 2340CPU: Snapdragon 865 PlusRAM: 12/16GBStorage: 256/512GBBattery: 5,000mAhRear camera: 64MP + 16MPFront camera: 20MPTODAY’S BEST DEALSCHECK AMAZON


+Super-fast charging+Lots of processing power


-Pretty expensive for the specs-Software issues

The first gaming phone from Lenovo, the Legion Phone Duel, matches great gaming-dedicated features with some other top specs and features.

The phone supports 90W fast charging, and has a pop-up camera so the screen remains unbroken. It’s also got a top processor and software optimized for use in landscape mode. All of these contribute to make it great for gaming.

Our issues with the phone don’t touch its gaming prowess, though its high price, software issues and mediocre camera might affect some.

If you’re looking for one of the best gaming phones right now, this is up there; if you’re looking for a great smartphone that is also good for playing games, this is a good choice, though you should check the others on this list before buying.

Read our review: Lenovo Legion Phone Duel

A Nubia Red Magic 5G against a white background
(Image credit: Nubia)

3. Nubia Red Magic 5G

The best gaming phone for buyers on a budget


Release date: March 2020Weight: 218gDimensions: 168.6 x 78 x 9.8mmOS: Android 10Screen size: 6.65-inchResolution: 1080 x 2340CPU: Snapdragon 865RAM: 8/12GBStorage: 128/256GBBattery: 4,500mAhRear camera: 64MP + 8MP + 2MPFront camera: 8MPTODAY’S BEST DEALS$544.99VIEW AT AMAZON$574.99View at Amazon


+144Hz display is ideal for gaming+Shoulder triggers are handy


-Screen isn’t the most high-res-Software bugs

The Nubia Red Magic 5G has the world’s first 144Hz smartphone screen, which makes it ideal for gaming, as that’s a silky smooth refresh rate. We also found the display was bright and vibrant.

But that’s not the only thing that makes this ideal for gaming. In fact, it’s designed specifically for this pastime, with shoulder triggers to give you increased control, a fan and a liquid cooling system to keep the handset cool under pressure, a dedicated ‘Game Space’ to let you customize your gaming experience, and a ‘4D Shock’ feature that adds vibration to games.

That last feature isn’t supported by many titles at the time of writing, and nor is the 144Hz display, but if game developers embrace them then this could be one seriously future-proofed phone.

It also supports 5G of course, and has plenty of power. It’s only let down slightly by a 1080 x 2340 screen, which isn’t among the sharpest around, along with some software bugs and a design that will prove divisive.

Read our review: Nubia Red Magic 5G

Xiaomi Black Shark 3
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

4. Black Shark 3

The best gaming phone for those who also want good cameras


Release date: March 2020Weight: 222gDimensions: 168.7 x 77.3 x 10.4mmOS: Android 10Screen size: 6.67-inchResolution: 2080 x 2440CPU: Snapdragon 865RAM: 8/12GBStorage: 128/256GBBattery: 4,720mAhRear camera: 64MP + 13MP +5MPFront camera: 20MPTODAY’S BEST DEALSLOW STOCK€565VIEW AT CONRAD ELECTRONICCheck Amazon


+Affordable for specs+Cameras are surprisingly capable


-Appearance may be divisive-Refresh rate behind competition

The Black Shark 3 is the best gaming phone from the Xiaomi sub-brand, although it doesn’t quite beat its contemporary gaming phones from a few other brands.

The phone is big, bold in design and has LED lights, and its specs are all what you’d expect from a gaming phone – in that they’re top-end. The cameras were surprisingly effective too in our tests, especially in low-light settings, though sometimes the optimization could be overzealous.

The reason this phone isn’t higher is thanks to its 90Hz refresh rate, which is lower than the other phones higher on this list, and that it doesn’t have as  many dedicated gaming features as the others either.

Read our review: Black Shark 3

A Razer Phone 2 against a white background
(Image credit: Razer)

5. Razer Phone 2

The best compact gaming phone


Release date: October 2018Weight: 205gDimensions: 158.5 x 78.9 x 8.5mmOS: Android 9 PieScreen size: 5.72-inchResolution: 2560×1440CPU: Snapdragon 845RAM: 6/8GBStorage: 64GB/128GB (up to 1TB with card)Battery: 4,000mAhRear camera: 12MP + 12MPFront camera: 8MPTODAY’S BEST DEALSCHECK AMAZON


+Top-line specs and 120hz refresh rate display+Backside logo glows in millions of RGB hues


-Low minimum storage (64GB) for price-Smaller 5.72-inch screen

The first Razer Phone was a solid first effort to bring the gamer-specific brand to a mobile device, but it had a few shortcomings that dropped it further down our list. The second version has addressed some and come out with a stronger device for it, though it’s still aimed primarily at gamers.

What does that mean? We found the camera and display aren’t nearly as impressive as other phones that cost this much, so casual gamers might want to look elsewhere. But if you’re more serious about mobile gaming and can afford it, this is a solid choice.

Outwardly, the Razer Phone 2 hasn’t changed much from its predecessor, though it’s upgraded to the Snapdragon 845 chip and switched to a glass back for Qi wireless charging. It’s also added a slick vapor chamber to cool the device as you game.

At the end of the day, the phone’s beefy chipset, 8GB RAM, great speakers, 120hz refresh rate screen and 4,000mAh battery, as well as extensive settings to tweak battery life and performance, make this a great choice for gaming.

Read our review: Razer Phone 2

The best non-gaming phones for gaming

We’ve suggested the best phones designed for gaming, but if you’d rather have a more mainstream device, here are all the phones we recommend that, among the rest of their strengths, are also very good phones to play games on. 

You’ll find a lot of overlap with our best phones list, for good reason: these handsets have top-end specs and screens to give the best gaming experience possible outside of gaming-focused phones.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The best non-gaming phone for gaming


Release date: January 2021Weight: 228gDimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9mmOS: Android 11Screen size: 6.8-inchResolution: 1440 x 3200CPU: Exynos 2100 / Snapdragon 888RAM: 12/16GBStorage: 128GB/256GB/512GBBattery: 5,000mAhRear camera: 108MP + 10MP + 10MP + 12MPFront camera: 40MPTODAY’S BEST DEALS$789.90VIEW AT AMAZON$849.90View at Amazon$859View at AmazonSee all prices (16 found)


+Great camera+Stylus support


-More expensive than needed for gaming-No microSD card slot

If you’re looking for a phone that’s great for gaming, and many other things besides, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a good choice. It may not be a dedicated Samsung gaming phone, but it is Samsung’s latest top-tier flagship phone with specs taken up to 11 across the board.

Our main issue with this phone is the reason many people won’t buy it – the price. It’s an incredibly expensive smartphone and few people will even be able to consider buying it.

If the Galaxy S21 Ultra fits in your budget, though, you’ll find it great for gaming with top processing power, and a large, good-looking screen. The top camera smarts are just an extra.

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