Mobile games tend to get a bad rap from more avid gamers, who might find it difficult to imagine what an immersive gameplay experience even looks like on a phone screen. If you are looking to dip your toes into the deep ocean that is mobile games, idle games are a perfect place to start.
The beauty of a good idle game is that it rewards you both for playing it and for stepping away. However, the very best idle games will have you so enthralled that you might have trouble putting your phone down in the first place.
Updated on July 1, 2023, by Gabrielle Huston: Idle games get a little bit better all the time! We’ve updated this list with brand-new recommendations for idle game fans.
19 Forest Island
In Forest Island, you slowly expand the natural habitats of your world. Each biome hosts beautiful wildlife and adorable creatures who will have you cooing at your phone. The gameplay revolves around earning enough resources from your animals to continue to rejuvenate nature.
The only downside of this game is that there are quite a few ads, but they’re almost always optional. If you want to progress more quickly, you watch something for 30 seconds and start building! It doesn’t feel unbalanced or predatory. One of our favorite aspects of the game is the photo mode, where you’re challenged to take pictures of your animals in unique poses and activities.
18 AdVenture Capitalist
In AdVenture Capitalist, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a millionaire! In this economy, who could turn that down? Just like real millionaires, you earn money by doing absolutely nothing – it accumulates throughout the days! You can customize and control your business, though, upgrading it and hiring managers to deal with the messy stuff in your absence.
Pretty quickly, you’ll be surprised to see how far you can go – literally! Just like real billionaires, you can leave Earth and start to explore the universe! We’re sure nothing will go wrong.
17 Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector
Neko Atsume might be the pinnacle of mobile idle games. Unlike many other idle games, which build many of their mechanics around enticing you to watch advertisements, Neko Atsume asks very little of you other than your time. You use fish currency to buy food and leave it out for the neighborhood ‘strays.’ In return for full tummies, they gift you more fish.
This endless cycle does more than just reward you by slowly allowing you to expand your yard and buy more toys. Every time you open the app, the joy of discovering new kitties with new personalities awaits you.
16 Egg Inc.
On its surface, Egg Inc appears to be an idle clicker game about having the best chicken farm. In actuality, it is about unlocking the secrets of the universe. Yes, you read that right. The more profitable your egg farm becomes, the more types of “world-breaking” eggs you discover.
From eggs that can cure a common cold to eggs that can power rocket ships, each discovery helps you expand your egg empire. The game is also extremely generous with the random gifts it bestows upon you, making it incredibly easy to continue your path to egg overlord.
15 AFK Arena
If MMORPGs, Gacha, or auto chess games are your cup of tea, then AFK Arena is the perfect mobile game to pick up. This stunning art nouveau-style idle game goes so in-depth with its strategies and mechanics that it can be difficult to get started as a newbie, but if learning new metas is your thing, AFK Arena has your name written all over it.
Build your team of heroes, send them off into battle, and collect loot from their victories while you are AFK! The further you progress, the more heroes you will unlock.
14 Cats & Soup
There is something very Ghibli-esque about this idle game, in which a bunch of kitties work together to cook some soup out in the woods. Whether you are there to sell their soup or taking a step away from your phone, Cats & Soup lets you reap the benefits of your cat’s hard work, earning billions of coins.
The more riches you accrue, the more recipes and ingredients you might unlock, which means finding new cats to work in your woodsy soup kitchen. You can even get your kitties’ outfits to boost their cooking stats and feed them fish to boost their happiness.
13 RAID: Shadow Legends
You would be hard-pressed to find a gamer who has not heard of RAID: Shadow Legends. This is another natural fit for the MMORPG fan looking for a more casual mobile game experience. Send your team of Champions on raids and dungeon runs, or challenge other players in PVP arena battles. Or let your heroes journey on their own while you do other things.
A word of warning, however. RAID is well-known as a “freemium” mobile game, meaning it can prove difficult to get the same value from the game as others who might be paying for the subscription.
12 Soda Dungeon
Adventuring can be dangerous. Fighting battle after battle will eventually result in your terrbile demise. Good thing that in Sonda Dungeon, you’re not an adventurer. Instead, you own and operate a tavern by the local dungeon, boosting the various heroes that show up with items and abilities. Once ready, you send those poor fools into a seemingly endless pantheon of monsters and enemies. The further they get, the more items and money you gain.
With multiple classes of hero that can appear, and a surprisingly large variety of weapons and armors, this game offers a satisfying blend of loadout management and numbers-go-up dopamine hits. This is one of the best idle games to not rely on timers; the idle component comes from the party adventures. Send the heroes out, let them auto battle, reap the rewards, and use that to make the next party stronger. Repeat this process, gradually unlocking more features and functions in a nearly endless progress loop.
11 Realm Grinder
Do you love base-building games? Realm Grinder is a free-to-play kingdom-building idle game for Android and iOS that challenges you to grow your humble farm into a massive realm. The alliances you choose to forge with different races and factions will impact the bonuses you receive.
While Realm Grinder can get pretty involved the larger your kingdom grows, its pixel-art style and idle rewards make for a cozy gaming experience, perfect for picking up on the go.
10 Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter might not have been the game fans wanted, but at its core, it is actually a very good idle game. It is reminiscent of survival simulation games like Oxygen Not Included in many ways.
Manage your own little Vault full of Dwellers, sending them out on missions into the Wastelands to get resources, build your bunker into the ultimate survival base, and help your Dwellers to, uh, repopulate the Earth.
9 Idle Theme Park Tycoon
Roller Coaster Tycoon fans rejoice! Now you can take all that theme-park enterprising fun on the road with you. Idle Theme Park Tycoon very naturally takes the classic tycoon game formula and makes it idle. Build your very own amusement park, then sit back and wait for the profits to roll in so that you can continue to expand.
Like many idle games, there are advertisements and microtransactions that multiply your earnings, but with some patience, you can still grow your theme park to be the grandest in the mobile-game world.
Unlike some other games, the ‘idle’ part of Forager comes in with setting up your base to automatically produce resources and goods. If you want to continue gathering raw materials and adventuring out in the world, you will have actively participate in that part yourself.
Hence, why the game totes itself as an “idle game that you want to actively keep playing.” While other mobile idle games reward you more for stepping away, Forager lures you back in with promises of expansion and exploration.
7 Animal Restaurant
All the cuteness of Neko Atsume meets the fun of running a restaurant-management game. Grow your restaurant by advertising to new critters and make new friends along the way! Every new animal you meet has their own story and benefits that they will bring to your restaurant enterprise.
When you close the game, the restaurant will continue to run on its own, but there is a cap on how many tips you can earn while inactive. If you really want to offer the finest dining experience an animal can afford, you will have to be active in running your restaurant.
6 Princess Connect! Re: Dive
The developers behind Granblue Fantasy and Dragalia Lost have a new iOS and Android game in the mix called Princess Connect. If you know Granblue Fantasy or Dragalia Lost, you may be thinking, “these aren’t idle games!” You’d be right, but Princess Connect is a bit different.
You can play through chapters with your party of girls, where auto-battling is the norm. Additionally, the storyline is separated from the main battle track. You don’t have to sit through long dialogue; you can save it for later. While there are definitely times that you need to strategize, most of this game can be played idly, with auto-battle taking your party through hordes of enemies.
5 AdVenture Communist
Are you sick of Capitalism? Do you dream of an escape to a magical land where nothing is wrong? Then AdVenture Communist might be the game for you!
The beloved followup to AdVenture Capitalist, in AdVenture Communist you build a Communist paradise where everyone works together and the people own the means of production! You start off as a proud potato farmer and work your way up through the ranks. It’s very active, with weekly events and special missions popping up all the time, so you’ll feel very welcome here.
4 Cat Condo
Cat Condo is exactly what it sounds like; you will populate a giant cat tree, combining cats to get rare ones. For example, at the start, you will have white cats. Combining two of these will create a black one. From here, you can combine two black cats to get a new one. This pattern continues, with dozens of cats that can be created.
At a certain point, you won’t be able to create more. Each cat produces money, with rarer cats making more. If you wait for your cats to produce enough money, you can buy rare cats to combine without going through the long process of making it. The more you buy a cat, the more its price will increase, meaning if you play for a while, you will need to save up a lot of money!
3 Idle Zoo Tycoon
Idle Zoo Tycoon combines the classic Zoo Tycoon with a casual idle game. Rather than tending to your animals and guests, you set up an infrastructure to do this for you. Over time, you will attract more guests and earn more money.
There is always room for improvement in Idle Zoo Tycoon. After your park has been running smoothly without your help for a while, you can add new attractions and guest services, which will boost your income even more. This game is very similar to Theme Park Tycoon, so if you like that recommendation, then be sure to check out Idle Zoo Tycoon.
2 Cat Snack Bar
If there’s anything that this list has revealed, two things are easy fodder for idle games: cats and restaurants of all kinds. It’s because these things are both great and, together, they can be incredible! Enter: Cat Snack Bar. You manage a little snack bar for cats (shocker) and slowly work your way up to a bigger and bigger operation.
There’s plenty to love about this game, including the sweet graphics, the lovely music, and the seasonal events! If you need something to calm you down after a long day at the office, we couldn’t offer a better recommendation.
1 Dungeon Inc.
Lastly, we have Dungeon Inc. This is a unique idle game where you play as the dungeon maker rather than the hero. In the game, you will need to build dungeons and hire monsters to work for you. Although the setting can be scary, it’s similar to business management!
Once you have a tough dungeon filled with monsters, challengers will enter; if your dungeon has a weakness, they may ransack you and take some money. On the other hand, if you have a strong dungeon, no Tax Knight will be able to make it through.
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