12 best Android apps and games, according to Google

Whittling down the best Android apps from nearly 3 million to just 12 is a tall order, but that’s exactly what we saw happen at Google IO 2017 in May.

While Google’s impressive AI and VR initiatives took center stage at its annual conference, it did take some time out to focus on the apps that make its Android platform popular.

Here are the 12 apps that were honored at the Google Play 2017 Awards this year.

“Games from indie developers that focus on artistic design, gameplay mechanics and overall polish" is exactly why Mushroom 11 won this Google Play Store award and beat contenders like Reigns, Mars: Mars, and more. 

The game received plenty of praise in its time as a PC platformer, with clever physics puzzles, solid visuals, and music by The Future Sound of London. The Android port came out in March to favorable user ratings. If exploring a toxic wasteland as a sentient, amorphous blob sounds appealing, then Mushroom 11 is worth checking out.

Almost 200,000 people have given Hooked an average of 4.4 stars in the Google Play Store in the lead up to its win as the Standout Startup. This category was for "apps from new developers that offer a unique experience while achieving strong organic install growth," and it pulled that off with stories told on a text message conversation medium. 

This out-of-the-box literature app had to be doing something right to beat out the likes of Discord, the ever-popular chat and voice app for gamers. While some reviews seem annoyed with the payment model for the app, the overwhelmingly positive comments suggest that it does indeed get readers properly hooked.

Runtastic Running & Fitness has been one of the best apps to prove that technology isn’t always turning us into inactive hermits. Android software has been doing a fine job at improving our fitness routines. 

It does just that, with loads of distance and routing tracking tools, a voice coach and cheering feature, and even a built-in music player. Loads of reviews give the app a solid 4.5 stars in Google Play, and it’s functionality with Android Wear helped it earn the award for Best Android Wear Experience.

The award for Best TV Experience is for "apps or games built for the large-screen format to provide an intuitive experience," and there’s only one  that has bikes careening downhill, high-octane motorsports, pros carving the slopes, surfers and cliff divers, and documentaries about these wild sports. 

Red Bull TV has what extreme sports viewers want. The app must have scored extra high marks for intuitive navigation because it beat out even the likes of Netflix for this award. While the app might not stream your favorite Disney movies, it has plenty of sports content, music festival footage, and even a GoPro channel.

While the award in this category is for "Highly engaging and immersive experience with optimal use of Daydream UI,” Virtual Virtual Reality takes it a step further by putting virtual realities inside a virtual reality. 

Players enter the VR world when they put on their Google Daydream headset and within the game, they’ll put on more headsets to explore other virtual realities.  Stylized and cartoony, the game looks impressive, and the concept is novel, as players jump from world to world to avoid their in-game manager at work.

Pokemon Go and Snapchat might be the best known augmented reality apps, but you should check out the breakout hit Woorld. Whether you want to have mushrooms growing out of your carpet, or to have a faucet coming out of your TV and flooding the living room, Woorld makes that possible – at least visually. No surprise, this whimsical experience comes from the mind of Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi. 

The app, powered by the advanced AR technology of Tango, lets users add all sorts of things to the world around them, creating interesting and colorful environments. While devices with Tango are few and far between, it seems likely that as augmented reality becomes more prevalent, more devices could see Tango incorporated, or at least feature similar AR capabilities.

If you have a child and are looking for "apps or games with family-friendly design that encourage creativity, exploration and education," then Animal Jam – Play Wild! might be just the ticket. The app is something of a social network, designed as a “safe online playground for kids.” 

It lets them become an animal and explore a game world where they can meet and interact with other animal players. It has built-in minigames and includes opportunities to learn about wildlife. Other contenders in this category were Hot Wheels: Race Off, Teeny Titans – Teen Titans Go!, and Toca Life: Vacation.

With over a million reviews and a 4.4 star rating, there’s no arguing that Blizzard had another overwhelming success with HearthStone. The Warcraft-themed card battle game is playable on mobile devices and computers, allowing for friends to play one another without needing the same devices. 

Players can build their own decks of characters, devise their own strategies, and compete with real or computer-controlled opponents. Like Heroes of the Storm for the MOBA genre, Blizzard’s HearthStone is simple enough for players new to the genre while offering deep enough complexity for diehard players.

Memrise is an insanely useful app for learning. It allows users to create their own custom study sets – think flashcards but way more advanced – and tests users on a regular basis to keep their knowledge fresh. 

It’s also already loaded with study sets created by other users, so new users can dive in and learn advanced Japanese or what different horse breeds look like. There’s so much to learn. But that’s only part of why Memrise landed the title of Best App. The award is aptly for "a true representation of beautiful design, intuitive UX and high user appeal."

Pokemon Go was beaten out not only in the Best AR Experience category but also in the Best Game category, as Transformers: Forged to Fight took the title, meeting Google’s requirements of “…strong mechanics, stellar graphics and strong engagement and retention tactics." 

The game has several different elements, with a swipe- and tap-based arcade-style fighting game at its heart and base building and defense on the side. A whole host of fan-favorite Autobots and Decepticons are available for players to use, making the unlock and upgrade system all the more addicting. Best of all, it has impressive graphics and keeps the action fast for a mobile game.

IFTTT, meaning “If This Then That,” enables all sorts of automation with your phone. It's integrations with a wide array of apps allows it to do things like open your garage door and text your significant other “Honey, I'm home” when you pull into your drive or publically broadcast every text message you receive as a Twitter post. 

The idea is simple: if a given set of variables are met, a defined task will be performed, and the possibilities are nearly endless. For the less creative users, there are all sorts of pre-made automations available on the IFTTT website.  As an app that enables so much, it's no wonder it was able to take the award for Best Accessibility Experience, which is for "apps or games enabling device interaction to serve people with disabilities or special needs." 

The United Nations’ World Food Programme has made it easier to make a difference for people who are going hungry around the world. Its ShareTheMeal app lets users donate simply and directly from their phone, so after ordering a pizza on GrubHub, they can make a quick little donation to help out someone else in need of a meal. 

The app lets users decide how much they want to donate, and even lets them start teams to work together on big donation goals. ShareTheMeal boasts 13.3 million meals shared at the time right now, which definitely qualifies for the award for "apps that create meaningful social impact for a broad spectrum of people around the world.”

We have more great Android app suggestions from our editorial team, not just the best Google picks.

If you're looking to extend your games and app library on an Android phone or tablet, look no further than our official:

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