From action and puzzle games to sports and strategy, Android was well-served with impressive and inventive games to suit all tastes.
Trends? As on Apple's iOS, the dominant business model for mobile games this year was freemium: you could play for free, but the games made their money from in-app purchases and ads (but mainly the former).
It can be controversial, especially when previously-paid game franchises go freemium – Plants vs Zombies 2 and Real Racing 3 were examples of that in 2013 – but the model appears here to stay. That said, there were some excellent paid Android games too this year, many of which feature in this roundup.
The title of each game is a link to its Google Play store listing, so if your device uses another app store – Amazon's in the case of Kindle Fire tablets – you'll need to search for them manually to check if they're available. Disagree with the inclusions or think a favourite game has been cruelly left out? Make your case in the comments section.
A roundup of The Guardian's 50 favourite non-game Android apps of 2013 can be found here. Meanwhile, if you want a deeper dive into 2013's Android recommendations on this site, browse the archive of weekly Best Android apps roundups.
This was the second Angry Birds game to be set in the Star Wars universe, with characters turned into birds and pigs, and 120 levels to fling them through. This time round, you could play as both sides, and there's a range of Telepods toys that interact with the game too, Skylanders-style.
Badland was one of many well-loved indie games to make the leap from iOS to Android this year, as developers recognised the growing potential of Google's platform for games. It's a platform-adventure set in an eerie forest, with beautiful visuals, slick physics and plenty of exploration.
Activision's latest Call of Duty game was made for mobile devices from the ground up. Some elements were familiar – ie all the shooting – but new twists included the ability to swap between first-person action and a more tactical third-person view to plot your squad's tactics.
The original Dead Trigger was a made-for-mobile first-person-shooter by developer MadFinger Games, and its sequel amped up the action: more zombies, including bosses, and more weapons to dispatch them with. The graphics were also a big draw: one of the best-looking Android games of 2013.
This was publisher Gameloft's official game for the Despicable Me movies, putting you in the shoes of a scampering minion for this Temple Rush-style endless runner. Leaping, sliding and dodging obstacles while earning or buying costumes and power-ups proved hugely popular among children and adults alike.
Just in time for Christmas came this Android version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, originally released in 2004 for consoles. It's nostalgia, yes, but the game still packs a mighty punch with its sandbox gameplay. It plays nice with Bluetooth controllers too.
Good luck pronouncing the title to this shoot 'em up, although you needed even more luck (and plenty of skill) to play it well. This was an old favourite from Japanese developer Cave, with bullets flying all over the shop, and a punishing-yet-rewarding difficulty curve.
Having made its name with Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes, developer Nimblebit turned to the action genre, blending Snake gameplay with RPG-style characters and upgrades. You swiped your party of heroes to guide them through levels of increasing difficulty. It's genuinely addictive.
The last word is the clue here: Papa Pear Saga came from the same company (King) that made puzzle phenomenon Candy Crush Saga. Where that game was a Bejeweled-style match-three puzzler, this is essentially a rewrite of another game, Peggle, firing balls to destroy pegs.
Crescent Moon Games has won plenty of fans for its Ravensword RPG games, and its latest Android instalment was very impressive. It involved exploring a vast fantasy world fighting and questing, in the vein of some of the impressive open-world adventures on consoles.
Ridiculous Fishing is, yes, ridiculous: you lower your bait down as far as possible while avoiding a variety of creatures, then haul it back up again catching as many as possible along the way, hurl them into the air, and blast them to bits with a shotgun. Bad in real life, but fun virtually.
Cartoon Network's Adventure Time show appeals to kids and grown-ups alike, as does this game. It sees the stars of the show sliding down hills on their bottoms to evade avalanches, pulling stunts as they go. It captured the quirky charms of the show perfectly, whatever your age.
Namco Bandai's Sky Gamblers series has spawned a succession of visually-impressive dogfighting titles. This was the latest version, offering more solo modes than before, as well as online multiplayer with a choice of teaming up with friends, or blasting them out of the skies.
Super Hexagon may have been the most hardcore Android game of 2013: a "minimal action" arcade game with a punishing difficulty level – yet intensely rewarding once you got to grips with it. Its pulsating chiptune music was also a standout mobile-game soundtrack this year.
Temple Run was one of the biggest "endless runner" games on mobile devices, and the sequel did a good job of bumping up the graphics and adding more depth to the gameplay. At its core, you're still swiping to jump, slide and turn your way through paths to escape an angry giant monkey.
"Explore, mine, craft and build in this giant and detailed sandbox game," explained the Google Play listing for this, with the two key words being "mine" and "craft". Unashamedly inspired by Minecraft but with a 2D spin, it's an excellent sandbox to explore.
Tiny Thief was a release from Rovio Stars, the new publishing business that's part of Angry Birds-maker Rovio. Inspired by classic point'n'click adventure games, it sees the titular hero exploring six quests, with some delightful puzzles and surprises in store.
Part of the rush of freemium games on Android this year, Bejeweled Blitz was a reengineered version of the classic match-three puzzle game, with rounds lasting 60 seconds each, and the emphasis on power-ups and high-score tables of friends to compete against.
Blip Blup was a hypnotically-addictive puzzle game from UK studio ustwo, which sees you tapping to fill a screen-full of tiles with colour. The complication being walls and obstacles that get in the way of your colour-pulse's path. More than 120 levels to work through provided plenty of challenge.
Cutesy monster Om Nom's proper Cut the Rope sequel will hit Android early in 2014, but this intermediate game proved a hit in 2013, with a time-travelling theme and similar action: cut ropes to solve physics puzzles across six locations, while feeding sweets to the monsters.
The latest Doctor Who game was instantly familiar to anyone who's played Puzzle & Dragons – one of the few mobile games to be making as much money as Candy Crush Saga. It sees you swapping colourful orbs around to attack monsters while building a team of the Doctor and his companions.
Dots was the most addictive Android game this year, thriving on the simplicity of connecting same-coloured dots on a grid in 60-second rounds. Twitter and Facebook are plumbed in to compare your scores to friends, and there is also an untimed mode for practice.
British developer Brainbow was hoping to become the new Dr Kawashima-sized brand in the brain-training world, with Dr. Newton: The Brain Adventure. It's a familiar mix of mini-games and score-tracking, and very polished – perfect for short daily bursts of brain workouts.
Circular puzzle game Hundreds sees you tapping on circles in each level to make them (and the numbers inside them) bigger – adding at least 100 points overall without them touching. Which sounds slightly tortuous written down, but the game's genius is its stripped-down simplicity.
Essentially Candy Crush Saga with square-shaped fruit rather than sweets, but it's very well done. Published by Rovio, it features hundreds of levels of fruit-matching puzzling, with combos, Facebook integration and in-app purchases used to buy power-ups when it gets too tough.
Kami is a beautiful, relaxing game based around folding colourful virtual paper in squares, trying to fill the screen with a single colour in as few moves as possible. No time pressures or impossible levels trying to make you buy in-app purchases. A marvellous de-stress tool.
This addictive puzzler sees you matching pixels and characters to make more-powerful characters, who then attack enemies at the top of the screen. If you've ever played the (also gripping) Triple Town, it's a bit like that but with extra fighting, and a fantasy-RPG theme.
Atmospheric puzzler The Room passed the 1m sales mark on iOS in mid-January before crossing to Android. The gameplay involves exploring a beautifully-crafted 3D room solving puzzles with tactile touchscreen controls, providing a genuine challenge for your grey cells.
RACING / SPORT
The latest Angry Birds game was controversial for its enthusiastic adoption of pretty much every free-to-play gaming mechanic going, but underneath that is a genuinely impressive karting game with smooth handling, well-crafted tracks and familiarly-fun characters.
Freemium drag-racing game CSR Racing roared onto Android with its blend of buying, upgrading and racing a range of cars from Audi, BMW and other manufacturers, with an emphasis on customisation – and in-app purchases used to fund the action.
Social publisher Kabam was the latest Fast & Furious licence-holder, aiming to do for the cars'n'guns movie franchise what it had already done for The Hobbit. Which is? This involved more racing, customising cars and trying to work your way up the global leaderboards.
Even FIFA went free-to-play this year with in-app purchases to unlock all the single-player modes, and for packs of players in the Ultimate Team mode. Otherwise, it was business as usual: slick action, thousands of licensed players, and inventive touchscreen controls.
The original Flick Kick Football was fantastic, but returned this year as a freemium game with a retro look, and an emphasis on team-building as well as goal scoring. The gameplay was richer too: besides pinging shots you also have to master tackling, intercepting and passing.
Another polished football game, with more of a focus on multiplayer matches as well as a single-player mode. As in its predecessor, it sees you trying to score goals by drawing lines for your players' runs, then (hopefully) flicking the ball into the net. A real tactical challenge.
The latest Android version of the world's best football management franchise adds more depth, a redesigned user interface, the ability to create your own club (yes, with you as the star striker if you're in that frame of mind), and the ability to manage in more than one country. Engrossing.
One of the best-looking sports games on any mobile device, this sees you battling through a 30-fight career mode against 20 beefy boxers, while training your fighter up in between matches. The chunky boxers and smooth animation made for impressive fight scenes.
Another game whose switch to freemium was controversial, but after some tweaks to its timers, Real Racing 3 really impressed. Dozens of cars, hundreds of events and genuinely console-quality graphics, plus clever asynchronous multiplayer races to compete against offline friends.
Supersolid had a big free-to-play hit with Super Penguins, with Adventure Town the follow-up. Familiar elements – build a town, harvest crops, compare with friends etc – have some neat twists and lots of gameplay polish. A cut above the FarmVille-style herd.
11 Bit Studios' gameplay is described as "RTS tower offense" rather than tower defence. Still, that gives you an idea of the rough genre, as you play humans trying to fight back against a wave of nefarious machines who've taken over the world. Multiplayer lets you pick either side too.
It took a while, but Supercell's popular iOS game Clash of Clans rampaged onto Android this year. New to it? The game involves building up a village and army, sending them out to attack others, and planning your defence for when people attack you. A long-term pleasure.
The original Fieldrunners was one of the best tower-defence games for mobile devices, and its sequel lived up to its reputation. It involves placing towers to fend off increasingly tough hordes of enemies, building mazes to contain and destroy the marching troops before they reach your base.
If you like a real challenge with your mobile games, then Frozen Synapse was a fiver well spent this year. It's a turn-based strategy game originally released for computers, as you guide your squad through a succession of levels. 55 missions to play by yourself plus five multiplayer modes.
Fishlabs' sprawling Galaxy on Fire space epics have always been a reliable source of mobile entertainment. The latest saw you shooting and trading your way across the galaxy, with more than 10 hours in its main campaign mode, and additional quests unlocked through in-app purchases.
Games developer Supercell was the firm behind Clash of Clans, but Hay Day is just as fun: a social farming game that takes the FarmVille formula and polishes it to gleaming levels. Crops, animals and helping out friends may be familiar, but here they felt fresh and fun.
Another game switching to freemium, but Plants vs Zombies 2 just about survived the transition: a strategic defence game where you fend off zombie hordes by placing plants. It was also an example of a game that got more features over time through updates, keeping fans playing.
An addictive, accessible game that offers a sci-fi twist on the real-time strategy genre. The emphasis is on building a space-base through Tetris-like block-placement, while fending off waves of enemies. It was simple in all the best ways, and well worth the purchase price.
Another big free-to-play success story on Android this year was Samurai Siege, as you built a thriving village and constructed an army capable of fending off other players. The samurai and ninja characters put a neat spin on the real-time social strategy genre, too.
This game was based on the equally-marvellous Tiny Tower, where you had to build a tower level-by-level, populating it with "bitizens" to work, play and rest. In this officially-licensed Star Wars version, the tower is a Death Star, and the bitizens are characters from the films. Very moreish.
One of EA's biggest mobile hits ever, this Simpsons game sees you rebuilding Springfield, fuelled by the in-game donuts currency. Pretty much all your favourite characters from the TV show make appearances, and regular content updates throughout the year provided reasons to keep visiting.
Finally, a famous old game revived for modern devices. The task remains building your own transport company, moving cargo and passengers through a mixture of road, rail, sea and air transport. It was as engrossing and challenging an affair as the original PC game.
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