The 12 Best Smartwatch Games of 2018

Bored? Your watch might be able to help out

A woman playing a game on her smartwatch.

Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images

 

Mobile games have come a long way since the days of the Tiger Electronics Wrist Watch. A few years ago, watches you can play games on seemed like a novelty, but developers are now finally taking smartwatch games seriously. While we await a version of Pokemon Go for Android Wear, these are the top 12 games for Wear OS (formerly called Android Wear) available in 2018.

Space War promotional image from Google Play download page

It's a simple set-up: You're in a spaceship, and your mission is to destroy hostile aliens. Space War plays like many of the classic vertical-scrolling space shooters that dominated arcades in the 1980s. Motion controls allow you to steer your ship through 12 levels by moving your wrist. Out of the million or so space-related games, ​Space War is among the cream of the crop for Wear OS.

What We Like:

  • The graphics are quite impressive for a smartwatch game.
  • It's free to download.

What We Don't Like:

  • As fun as Space War is, it's no Galaga Legions DX for PS4.
Screenshot of Infinity Loop gameplay

More than 10 million users have played Infinity Loop, making it the most downloaded title for Wear OS. This brilliantly simple puzzle game challenges your brain without being frustrating. In fact, it was designed to help people relax as they wait at the bus stop or the doctor's office. There's no timer on the levels, so you can never "lose," and you can stop or resume playing without losing your progress.  

What We Like:

  • Infinity Loop is fun for all ages.
  • It's great for relieving stress and anxiety.

What We Don't Like:

  • The game is free to download, but once you get past level 100, you have to pay to keep playing.
Lifeline 2: Bloodline promotional image from Google Play download page

Lifeline 2: Bloodline is a follow up to the popular text RPG developed by 3 Minute Games. In this choose-your-own-adventure style game, you guide a woman named Arika on a quest to avenge her family. You tell her where to go or what to do, and she'll report back when she encounters a problem or needs further guidance. If you enjoy Lifeline 2, try the other games in the series like Lifeline: Silent Night and Lifeline: Whiteout.

What We Like:

  • The stories in the Lifeline series are suspenseful and engaging.
  • The game has a lot of replay value since the choices you make determine how the story plays out.

What We Don't Like:

  • The game features no graphics, which could be a deal breaker for some.
Papercraft promotional image for Wear OS

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PaperCraft isn't just another space shooter for your smartwatch. Instead, it's a one-of-a-kind open source experiment for gamers and developers. You can actually download the source code for PaperCraft and do with it as you please. Unfortunately, PaperCraft is no longer available on the Google Play Store, so you'll have to download the Android application package and install it manually.

What We Like:

  • Thanks to the Google Play Leaderboards, you can compete with friends all over the world for high scores.

What We Don't Like:

  • At its core, PaperCraft is a pretty standard space shooter, but it's not nearly as fun as Space War.
Promotional image for Rubik's Cube for Android Wear on the Google Play store

The Rubik’s cube has perplexed kids and adults for decades. There's no shortage of Rubik’s cube emulators for Android and Apple devices, but this Wear OS app is the definitive smartwatch version. The tiny screen presents an extra challenge, but you can zoom in to choose the blocks you wish to manipulate.

What We Like:

  • You can easily install the app on your Android smartphone and your smartwatch simultaneously, so you can play on either device.

What We Don't Like:

  • While Rubik's Cube for Android Wear is a fully functional virtual replica of the classic toy, it's a poor substitute for the real thing.
Promotional image for Galaxia on the Google Play store

Galaxia is a tribute to two arcade classics: Space Invaders and Galaxian. Like Space War, it features wrist control for steering your spaceship through alien fleets, but Galaxia merits its own spot on this list. If you're a fan of old school arcade games, then Galaxia is worth the dollar it costs to download. You might also enjoy Invaders 2, another Space Invaders clone.

What We Like:

  • Retro mode makes everything look like a 1980s arcade game, while the standard mode offers a more polished, modern look. 

What We Don't Like:

  • It's yet another old idea in a new package.
  • Young players may not appreciate it as much as arcade veterans.
Promotional image for Wear Chess for Android Wear

A lot has changed since IBM's Deep Blue defeated world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, more than two decades ago. Back then, no one could have ever imagined a chess-playing computer that can fit on your wrist. Since Wearable Chess is open source, you can actually peak into the code and see how the AI algorithm works.

What We Like:

  • Lower difficulty levels allow newcomers to learn the rules of the game.
  • Higher difficulty levels will test the skills of veteran players. 

What We Don't Like:

  • While fitting a game like chess on a smartwatch is a remarkable feat, the tiny screen makes gameplay tedious.
Promotional image for Wear Droid on the Google Play store

Wear Droid boasts 3D graphics that look exceptionally impressive on a smartwatch screen. Based on a similar game called Perfect Droid, Wear Droid has players testing robots under the direction of a mad professor. It's essentially a collection of mini-games, but the real fun comes from unlocking new robots as you progress. There are no in-game purchases, so you get the whole game for $0.99.

What We Like:

  • The variety of challenges and unlockables keeps gameplay fresh and rewarding.

What We Don't Like:

  • Due to the small screen, Wear Droid isn't quite as refined as its source material, Perfect Droid.
Promotional image for Oreo Ocquarium and Nougat Land on the Google Play store

Oreo Ocquarium and Nougat Land doesn't hide what it is: a blatant knock-off of Flappy Bird featuring all of your favorite Android mascots. Instead of piloting Faby through Super Mario style sewage pipes, you guide Bugdroid through an obstacle course of giant cats, lollipops and ​Oreo cookies. Previous versions of this game have been included as easter eggs on Android devices since 2014.

What We Like:

  • While the game is harder than the original due to the limited view of upcoming obstacles, you can adjust the difficulty to make things more manageable. 

What We Don't Like:

  • This free game comes with a lot of ads that interrupt gameplay.
Promotional image for Tilt on the Google Play store

Several games on this list feature motion-based controls, but Tilt is by far the most innovative. Based on the classic wooden maze toys that task players with guiding a metal ball through a labyrinth, this augmented reality game requires the use of both your smartphone and your smartwatch. Looking at your watch through your phone's camera allows you to see the game board​ while tilting your wrist navigates the ball.

What We Like:

  • Tilt offers a good balance of fun and frustration to keep you playing.
  • It showcases the budding potential of motion controls and augmented reality.

What We Don't Like:

  • The concept of using two devices for an augmented reality experience is ambitious, but it makes gameplay more obtuse than it should be.
Promotional image for Wear Shooter for Moto 360..

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It was only a matter of time until the insanely popular FPS genre made its way to smartwatches. Contrary to what the name suggests, Wear Shooter for Moto 360 is actually compatible with most Android Wear devices. You just need the Android application package. It's no Overwatch, but Wear Shooter looks about as good as classic Doom. It's certainly worth a shot.

What We Like:

  • If you like shooting and blowing things up, Wear Shooter won't disappoint.

What We Don't Like:

  • The motion controls can be tricky to master at first.
  • It should go without saying that Wear Shooter is not recommended for children.
Promotional image for Ingress on the Google Play store.

The closest thing to Pokémon GO for Wear OS is Ingress. Instead of catching Pikachus out in the real world, Ingress involves finding "portals" around your neighborhood and claiming them for your "team." The competitive element of the game gives players an incentive to search for new portals wherever they go. To play on Wear OS, you must download the game on another device, then sync it with your smartwatch.

What We Like:

  • Ingress is one of those games that encourages players to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Just don't play and drive.

What We Don't Like:

  • The game isn't as intricate as Pokémon GO, but it's a suitable substitute for smartwatch users.