Decent gaming experiences on the go aren’t just consigned to the ‘portable console’ box of devices that basically just contains the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. As long as a phone hails from the last few years, it’s highly likely that it’s a pretty competent games device.
There are thousands of games available across the various mobile gaming platforms, whether Java, Symbian, N-Gage or iPhone, and we’ve collated the ten phones we think are the best for mobile gaming to help you when you decide to get a new handset.
To find out more about the games themselves, and which ones to buy when you’ve got your new mobile gaming rig all fired up, check out our mobile games channel.
Who For? For those that want a true games console and phone in one
Since the App Store was opened last year, it has quickly become the definitive gaming phone. It’s not compatible out of the box with any other mobile gaming standard but the thousands of applications and games that have been released for it silenced that concern pretty quickly.
Some games look almost as good as the top Sony PSP games, and with the low price points of the App Store, you can keep on buying new games guilt-free.
Nokia N95 8GB
Who For? Hardcore gamers who also want a traditional phone
You may be asking why the N95 features so highly on this list when Nokia has released a great many capable gaming handsets since. Well, it’s because the N95 featured a 3D chip that hasn’t been used in its other phones. The result is that you can expect higher frame rates when using the N95 than when using its follow-up, the N96.
N-Gage games run wonderfully, while the N95 is highly capable as a Java gaming device. It’s still considered a very important handset by just about all games carriers, so you should be able to get just about any newly released game for it too.
Sony Ericsson C905
Who For? Java gaming fans
Sony Ericsson phones may not have quite the high-end graphical capabilities of Nokia N-Gage-compatible phones or the iPhone, but they are the kings of Java gaming. The Sony Ericsson C905 is a relatively high-end phone in the manufacturer’s range, and offers great compatibility and performance across just about every game you’ll find.
Although the 2.4-inch screen isn’t as massive as that of the touchscreen devices flooding into the market, it’s bright and large enough to stare at for longer gaming sessions without straining your eyes too much.
Sony Ericsson W580i
Who For? Prepay budget gamers
The W580i is something of a littler, cheaper brother to the C905. If you’re after a cheaper entry route into Java gaming nirvana, the W580i is a good bet. In fact, it’ll offer similar performance levels to the C905, even with CPU-worrying 3D games like Fishlabs’ Galaxy on Fire 2.
The screen is significantly smaller than that of the C905, at 2 inches, but as a budget option, the W580 is a safe bet.
Who For? Those that prefer it to the N95
The N96 was a step up from the N95 in many ways, but it also saw Nokia dropping the 3D chip from the design. However, it’s still N-Gage compatible and also very capable as a Java gaming handset, giving you the best of both gaming worlds.
Since it sold so well, it’s also seen as a priority handset for publishers to support in their games, meaning that you’ll be able to find just about any game made in the last couple of years, if you’re willing to search around a bit. There are even some camera-enabled Symbian games available for it too, if you’re looking for a bit of left-of-field gaming.
Who For? iPhone haters
The Android has a long way to go to catch up with the iPhone in gaming terms. In truth, we don’t think it will, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a decent gaming platform in its own right. A host of great casual games have already been released on the Android Marketplace too, such as Buka and Twiggle. If you can’t stand the idea of owning the iPhone, but want some of its gaming goodness, the HTC Magic is a strong contender.
With a capacitive touchscreen, the HTC Magic is about as sensitive as the iPhone too, making it great for those symbol-matching puzzlers that form part of the backbone of any mobile gamer’s library.
LG KP500 Cookie
Who For? Touchscreen-loving prepay gamers on a budget
Now, it seems like just about every new phone is going touchscreen, but a while ago they were a lot rarer, generally consigned to the upper echelons of the phone market. The Cookie placed itself a bit lower in the price scale, managing to become pretty popular in the process.
Now that it’s been out for a good few months, support for the Cookie has picked up too, meaning you’ll be able to get hold of a strong selection of Java games for it, some of which are well suited to the touchscreen. Available for around a hundred pounds on prepay, the Cookie is a great credit crunch-busting handset.
Nokia 5320 XpressMusic
Who For? Those wanting N-Gage on a budget
Phones that support N-Gage aren’t generally very easy on the pocket. Sure, it’s fine if you’re the kind of person that already spends £30 or more a month on their phone bill, but if you’re a light or prepay user, getting an N-Gage phone can prove expensive.
Then the 5320 XpressMusic came along and proved that it was possible to get on the N-Gage train without re-mortgaging your house and selling your family into slavery. It’s not a bargain basement handset by any means, but if you’re looking for N-Gage on a budget, the 5320 XpressMusic demands investigation.
Who For? Prepay budget gamers
Another cheapie, the KS360 is a good choice for the gamer on a budget. Although it won’t boast quite as high compatibility rates as the Sony Ericsson W580i, the D-pad style buttons on the front are very gamer-friendly- perfect for the many platform games available for the device.
For a handset with a full slide-out keyboard, the KS360 is remarkably cheap too, available for well under a hundred pounds on prepay. With a fully pink-ified version, the KS360 is perfect for anyone looking for a girlie handset.
Samsung INNOV8 i8510
Who For? Symbian fans
Although it’s a Samsung phone, the i8510 INNOV8 is a Symbian S60 phone, meaning it can handle a lot of existing Symbian games alongside traditional Java fare. It packs-in an 8-megapixel camera too, making the i8510 a great all-rounder.
It can handle high-end Java games well, so if you’re after a gaming handset that’s not from Nokia or Sony Ericsson, i8510 is a good choice. It’s not all that cheap, mind.
Predictably, the iPhone wins out this particular battle, but if you don’t want to invest in Apple’s touchscreen wonder, the decision is a little more hazy.
For traditional Java gaming, the Sony Ericsson phones are hard to beat, offering superb levels of compatibility across the catalogues of almost all games publishers. The Nokia devices are also very capable as Java gaming devices. The bonus of these is the addition of N-Gage, but the future of that particular platform is currently in jeopardy.
However as long as the store itself keeps its doors open, there’s enough great content available to make the investment worthwhile if you’re after a higher-end gaming experience.
It’s still early days for Android, so if you’re considering investing in a handset on the merits of its gaming potential, we’d recommend holding off for a few months, especially considering how much the devices will set you back.
So, for the ultimate in gaming on the go, it’s the iPhone all the way. If you can find a refurbished N95, it makes for a great mid-range solution, while the Sony Ericsson W580i is perfect for those on a budget.