Best gaming phones 2021: great phones for every kind of game

We rank the best gaming phones of 2021, from budget bargains to premium powerhouses

Best gaming phones 2021
(Image credit: Asus)

The best gaming phones in 2021 are packed with power. While the next-gen consoles hog the headlines – often because they're so hard to find – there are some amazing things happening in Android and Apple land, and unlike consoles you don't need to join a 5am online queue in the hope of getting one.

As processors get faster, GPUs become more powerful and displays get sharper, mobile gaming is getting better and better. And we should know: we spend tons of time gaming on our phones.

The very best gaming phones are technological triumphs. The very best ones  combine super-speedy silicon with streamlined software and optimised operating systems to deliver incredibly immersive experiences. They combine all the qualities we love here at T3: design, engineering and innovation – and because games demand so much from your phone it means that you can be sure your new gaming phone is  superb at all the everyday stuff too. 

As with our best phone guide, we've put this guide together knowing that everybody's different: what's ideal for one kind of gamer or genre might not be ideal for you or the games you want to play. That's why we've covered a wide range of phones here to ensure you can find the perfect gaming buddy.

We've also put together a complete set of T3's authoritative guides based around specific platforms and features, so if you're loyal to a particular brand or need phones with particular characteristics they'll help you discover the best Android phones if that's your preferred phone OS, or the best small phones if your fingers tell you that today's flagships are just a little too big.

We've also curated dedicated phone guides to specific brands, such as the best Samsung phones, and we've rounded up the best wireless chargers to make it easy to keep your phone powered up.

Although the best gaming phones right now aren't folding ones – at least for hardcore gaming – we've also produced a guide to the best foldable phones on the market if you're interested in a larger play area for more casual titles. 

Let's discover the very best gaming phones you can buy in 2021. 

The best gaming phones you can buy today

Razer Phone 2 best gaming phone 2021

The best gaming phone for most people? That's the Razer Phone 2.

1. Razer Phone 2

The best gaming phone for most people

Weight: TBC
Dimensions: 158.5 x 79 x 8.5mm
OS: Android 8.1
Screen size: 5.7 inches
Resolution: 1440 x 2560 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 845
Storage: 64GB
Battery: 4000mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/1.8 + 12MP f/2.6
Front camera: 8MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Sharp, bright display+Improved cooling

Razer certainly knows what it's doing when it comes to gaming, and it's followed up the impressive Razer Phone with the even more impressive Razer Phone 2. The screen is brighter, the speakers are louder, and there's more power under the hood to push those frame rates on the most demanding games that the Android platform has to offer.

With a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, the 5.7-inch display is super-sharp at 513 pixels-per-inch – and with a 120Hz refresh rate, you shouldn't miss any of the action. Plus, an improved cooling system inside the chassis means the Snapdragon 845 processor and 8GB of RAM can really get to work without overheating becoming a problem on the phone.

Maybe the improved IP67 water resistance and dual-lens 12MP+12MP rear facing camera won't be of as much concern to gamers, but they mean the Razer Phone 2 is also going to do an excellent job when it comes to being a normal smartphone too. Built for gamers, by the gaming experts, this is the best gaming phone full stop for most users out there.

To compare this gaming phone to our number one premium choice, be sure to scope out T3's Razer Phone 2 vs Asus ROG Phone 3 comparison feature.

best gaming phones 2021 Asus ROG Phone 3

The Asus ROG Phone 3 is a great premium price gaming phone.

(Image credit: Asus)

2. Asus ROG Phone 3

The best premium gaming phone

Weight: 240 g
Dimensions: 171 mm x 78 mm x 9.9 mm
OS: Android 10, ROG UI
Screen size: 6.59 inches
Resolution: 1,080 x 2,340 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM: 8GB / 12GB / 16GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
Battery: 6,000 mAh
Rear camera: 64MP f/1.8 wide + 13MP f/2.4 ultrawide + 5MP macro
Front camera: 24MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Packed with power+Advanced case cooling+Dedicated gaming buttons

There's no doubt that the Asus ROG laptops are some of the best in the business for gamers, and the similarly branded smartphones are doing the business as well. The third version of the Republic of Gamers handset brings with it a number of improvements, including 5G and a better camera, while also keeping everything we liked about the previous model.

This phone is absolutely stacked with power – not only does it come with the very best CPU for Android phones, you can also get it fitted with a whopping 16GB of RAM, which is a crazy amount. You could probably run three games side by side on this without noticing any sort of slowdown.

There's a lot more to like as well, including customisable buttons on the side of the Asus ROG Phone 3 and a dedicated gaming mode in the software to make sure you're always getting maximum performance. The 6.59-inch display is a real highlight too, running at a refresh rate of 144Hz to make sure that the action on screen always looks super-smooth.

To find out even more about this top-rated gaming phone, be sure to check out T3's dedicated Asus ROG Phone 3 guide.

best gaming phones 2021 Xiaomi Black Shark 3

For bang for your buck, the Xiaomi Black Shark 3 is a great gaming phone choice.

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

3. Xiaomi Black Shark 3

The best budget gaming phone

Weight: 222 g
Dimensions: 168.7 x 77.3 x 10.4 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.67 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2400 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB
Battery: 4720 mAh
Rear camera: 64MP f/1.8 wide + 13MP f/2.3 ultrawide + 5MP f/2.2 depth
Front camera: 20MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Aggressive, solid design+Huge, vibrant screen+Some neat accessories

The latest handset in Xiaomi's Black Shark gaming line is just as impressive as the first two: it's packed with power and functionality, as well as a host of features that are going to appeal to people wanting a superior portable gaming experience. It's hard to pick a fault in anything the Black Shark 3 offers from a gaming perspective (and there's the Pro version too if you need a bigger screen).

It's not a budget phone, but at a starting price of a little over £500 in the UK, this is very affordable considering what you get for your money – including a top-end Snapdragon 865 processor and an advanced cooling system. The 4720 mAh battery gives you plenty of time between charges as well, even when there are extended gaming sessions involved.

With a generous 6.67-inch display and plenty of RAM, as well as some striking ergonomics, this is undoubtedly one of the best gaming phones at the moment. We also like the official accessories on offer, including the clip-on charger that lets you keep playing while you're juicing up the handset, and the separate gamepad that makes it easier to control games without touching the screen.

Compare this phone to another device from our best gaming phones guide by reading T3's Xiaomi Black Shark 3 vs Nubia Red Magic 5G comparison feature.

To learn even more about this handset be sure to also check out our Xiaomi Black Shark 3 guide.

best gaming phones 2021 iPhone 12

The best gaming phone to buy if you want an iPhone? That would be the new iPhone 12.

(Image credit: Apple)

4. Apple iPhone 12

The best gaming phone for iPhone users

Weight: 164 g
Dimensions: 146.7 mm x 71.5 mm x 7.4 mm
OS: iOS 14
Screen size: 6.1 inches
Resolution: 1170 x 2532 pixels
CPU: Apple A14 Bionic
Storage: 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 2,815 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/1.6 wide + 12 MP f/2.4 ultrawide
Front camera: 12MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Polished, stable performance+Large variety of accessories+Lots of games to choose from

With its extra versatility and more in the way of customisation options, most of the gaming phone attention tends to go to Android, but don't discount iOS completely – with blazing fast processors, powerful graphics performance and tight hardware/software integration, iPhones are also excellent choices when it comes to picking up a mobile gaming handset.

That brings us to the iPhone 12, perhaps the best gaming iPhone of the bunch right now. It has a generous 6.1-inch display, like the iPhone 12 Pro – but as the Pro upgrades are mostly in the camera department, you don't really need to pay the extra if you're focusing on gaming. Of course the super-powerful A14 Bionic processor also makes it ideal for gaming.

From battery life to build quality, there are plenty of reasons to consider the iPhone 12 if you want the best gaming phone money can buy. It's difficult to beat in terms of raw power, you've got a vast choice of games to pick from on iOS (including the Apple Arcade subscription service), and it's going to work seamlessly with any other bits of Apple kit you happen to have set up around the home.

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best gaming phones 2021 OnePlus 9 Pro

The OnePlus 9 Pro is the best Android phone in the world and, as you would expect, it's got top gaming credentials, too.

(Image credit: OnePlus)

5. OnePlus 9 Pro

A powerful 5G handset that's particularly good for gamers

Weight: 197 g
Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7 mm
OS: Android 11
Screen size: 6.7 inches
Resolution: 3216 x 1400
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 4500mAh
Rear camera: 48MP + 8MP + 50MP + 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+Loads of power under the hood+Stunning, large 120Hz display+Gamer modes

It's not specifically marketed as a gaming phone, but let's count the ways the OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the best gaming phones of the moment anyway: that giant, 6.7-inch screen, for example, with its curved edges and very small punch hole notch. Turn it sideways and it's perfect for gaming, with virtually no bezels to distract from the gaming action.

Then there's all the power and performance that this phone is capable of, with the latest Snapdragon 888 CPU running inside and 12GB of RAM to ensure that your mobile games absolutely fly along. So fantastic visuals, fantastic performance, and fantastic audio as well, thanks to some very capable stereo speakers.

The OnePlus 9 Pro also stands out due to its 120 Hz display refresh rate (for keeping up with your favourite first-person shooters), as well as an upgraded Gaming Mode to enhance the picture quality and to improve haptic feedback. The Gaming Mode can also block calls and notifications while you're playing, and it's part of an overall OxygenOS software experience that continues to impress.

Overall, then, the OnePlus 9 Pro isn't just the best premium Android phone on the market, but also one of the absolute finest gaming phones, too. And this makes it easy to recommend.

best gaming phones 2021 Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

Want a large screen powerhouse gaming phone from one of the world's best makers? Then pick the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus.

(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus

A flagship-grade handset that delivers fantastic gaming phone performance

Weight: 186 g
Dimensions: 161.9 x 73.7 x 7.8 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.7 inches
Resolution: 1,440 x 3,200 pixels
CPU: Exynos 990 / Snapdragon 865
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/1.8 wide + 64MP f/2.0 telephoto + 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide + 0.3MP f/1.0 depth
Front camera: 10MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Packed with lots of power+Gorgeous appearance and screen+Long-lasting battery

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus is everything a modern flagship-grade phone should be – it's powerful, has a stunning screen, and is packed with top class features. It's also very, very good at gaming, with its 8/12GB of RAM, Mali-G78 graphics chip and Exynos 2100/Snapdragon 888 processor combining deliver high framerates in event the most demanding mobile games.

It's screen, which is a  6.7 inches AMOLED (120Hz, HDR10+) beauty, just makes watching anything on it a dream, and really makes colors pop in games and media. And, thanks to its long lasting 4,800mAh battery stack you'll be enjoying experiences like that day in day out without running to a charger.

The phone also comes with the very latest version of Android, Android 11, and also offers a very impressive camera system, which includes a triple lens array on the rear (12 MP, 12MP, 64MP), and a single 10MP selfie camera. Oh, and gamers will also love the fact that downloading and playing mobile games online is a buttery smooth experience too thanks to the S21 Plus' built-in 5G modem.

Overall, a fantastic phone for gaming as well as general usage.

best gaming phones 2021 OnePlus 9 review

A smartphone that will easily cope with the most demanding of games. 

(Image credit: OnePlus )

7. OnePlus 9

A superb, stylish phone for mobile gaming

Weight: 192g
Dimensions: 160x74.2x8.7mm
OS: Android 11 /Oxygen OS 11
Screen size: 6.55 inches
Resolution: 2400 x 1080
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Rear cameras: 48MP, 50MP, 2MP
Front camera: 16MP
Reasons to buy
+Pro Gaming mode +Fluid, smooth 120Hz display+Fast performance
Reasons to avoid
-No MicroSD card slot-The glass back is prone to marks-Could have a better battery life

If you want a smartphone with a slender, smart style but packs a serious punch in gaming performance, the OnePlus 9 will be a great choice. 

With a top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, the choice of 8 or 12GB RAM, as well as 128GB or 256GB of storage, this handset truly delivers on speed. Paired with the 120Hz refresh rate, it had no problems coping with big games. To say that it feels smooth is an understatement, the silky feel can only be fully appreciated in games with frame rates higher than 60fps, like Minecraft. All on a 6.55-inch display that honestly makes mobile games look stunning, with bright vibrant colours and crystal clear graphics. 

It also has a handy Pro Gaming mode which blocks out all distractions from other apps, reduces latency, improves app launch speed and increases performance overall. For avid mobile gamers who care about aesthetics, the OnePlus 9 will be a superb choice. 

best gaming phones 2021 Sony Xperia 1 II

Want an ultra-wide display to see enemies coming better in-game? Then plump for the Sony Xperia 1 II.

(Image credit: Sony)

8. Sony Xperia 1 II

The best gaming phone for an ultra-wide display

Weight: 181.4 g
Dimensions: 165.1 mm x 71.1 mm x 7.6 mm
OS: Android 10
Screen size: 6.5 inches
Resolution: 1644 x 3840 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB / 12GB
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 4000 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/1.7 wide + 12MP f/2.4 telephoto + 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide + 0.3MP TOF depth
Front camera: 8MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+21:9 aspect ratio, 4K-resolution screen+Light and premium in the hand+Clean, bloat-free version of Android

If you're after the very best gaming phone of 2021 then there's a lot to like about the Sony Xperia 1 II: not least that 21:9 aspect ratio, 6.5-inch 4K resolution screen, which means games are going to look vibrant and sharp whether you love space racers or cerebral puzzlers.

Sony has packed all kinds of tech into this phone, including HDR support for the display and Dolby Atmos audio so your gaming (and movie watching) is guaranteed to be as immersive as possible. That Snapdragon 865 processor and up to 12GB of RAM keep games ticking along nicely as well, and new this year is the introduction of 5G to the phone.

Away from gaming, that triple-lens rear camera is capable of some impressive shots while you're out and about, and it comes with Android 10 on board as well – clean and largely free from bloatware so you can get on with your gaming. Definitely worth investigating for your next gaming phone.

best gaming phones 2021 Sony Xperia 5 II

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Sony Xperia 5 II

The best mid-range gaming phone with ultra-wide screen

Weight: 163g
Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8mm
OS: Android 10
Screen: 6.1” 21:9 FHD+ HDR OLED
Resolution: 2580 x 1090
CPU: Snapdragon 865
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4000mAh
Rear camera: 3 x 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
Reasons to buy
+Really comfortable to hold+Stunning display+Great audio

Sony makes several Xperia models targeted at gamers. This, the Xperia 5 II, launched in late 2020 and is the official smartphone of the Call of Duty: Mobile World Championship Tournament.

The Xperia 5 II differs from the Xperia 1 II in several key respects. The two phones share the same Snapdragon 865 processor and Adreno 650 GPU but the Xperia 5 II has a slightly smaller screen: 6.1 inches compared to 6.5 inches. Both displays have a very wide 21:9 aspect ratio, but the screen in the Xperia 5 II is FHD+ rather than 4K.

It might be lower resolution than the display in the Xperia 1 II, but it’s a heck of a display. It’s a Triluminous display with Sony’s X-Reality engine, a 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz blur reduction for silky-smooth on-screen action. You can customise the screen settings for specific games, and it supports 240Hz touch scanning for very precise control.

Although these features are clearly aimed at gamers, this isn’t just a gaming phone. That superb display is brilliant for video, and the triple-camera setup delivers impressive results. 5G connectivity is a must-have in a 2021 phone, and Sony’s flavour of Android is easy on the eye. All-day battery life and fast (but not wireless) charging complete a very solid package.

best gaming phones 2021 Samsung Galaxy Note 20

Want a great gaming phone that also has digital stylus functionality? Then scope out the Samsung Galaxy Note 20.

(Image credit: Samsung)

10. Samsung Galaxy Note 20

A professional gaming phone that hits hard in every other department, too

Weight: 192 g
Dimensions: 161.6 mm x 75.2 mm x 8.3 mm
OS: Android 10, One UI 2.5
Screen size: 6.7 inches
Resolution: 1,080 x 2,400 pixels
CPU: Exynos 990 / Snapdragon 865 Plus
Storage: 256GB
Battery: 4300 mAh
Rear camera: 12MP f/1.8 wide + 64MP f/2.0 telephoto + 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 10MP f/2.2
Reasons to buy
+Comes with the S Pen+Brilliantly bright screen+Top-tier internal specs

The Galaxy Note 20 from Samsung simply isn't messing about, what with its screamingly fast internal components and that huge 6.7-inch OLED screen – any game that you load up on this phone is going to look great and run without even a hint of lag. With 256GB of storage too, you can get a lot of games installed before you're running out of room.

The integrated S Pen stylus is of course the main selling point for the Note series, and it can come in handy in a whole variety of games, as well as for all the other tasks you can use it for (as a remote control for the rear camera, for example). While this is an expensive handset, we think that it justifies the cost.

This gives you more than enough power and space to handle any game that you want to throw at the Galaxy Note 20, and thanks to the high capacity 4,300 mAh battery you should get plenty of gaming done between charges as well. Recommended if you want a top-tier gaming experience.

best gaming phones 2021 Nubia Red Magic 5G

(Image credit: Nubia)

11. Nubia Red Magic 5G

The best gaming phone for stylish gaming on the go

Weight: 218 g
Dimensions: 168.6 mm x 78 mm x 9.8 mm
OS: Android 10, Redmagic 3
Screen size: 6.65 inches
Resolution: 1080 x 2340 pixels
CPU: Snapdragon 865
RAM: 8GB / 12GB / 16GB
Storage: 128GB / 256GB
Battery: 4,500 mAh
Rear camera: 64MP f/1.8 wide + 8MP f/2.0 ultrawide + 2MP macro
Front camera: 8MP f/2.0
Reasons to buy
+Strong all-rounder+Good battery life+Dedicated gaming buttons

The Nubia Red Magic 5G from Chinese outfit ZTE ticks a lot of the boxes that you want to have ticked when you're shopping for the best gaming phones: it has a big, bright screen, it has a high capacity battery, and it has dedicated hardware buttons around the side that mean you don't have to spend so much time tapping the screen and obscuring your view of the action.

We should also talk about the looks of the phone, because this is one of the best gaming phones we've seen in terms of overall aesthetics. The styling is bold and brash, with Eclipse Black and Hot Rod Red your colour choices. People are going to notice when you pull this phone out of your pocket.

Under the hood we've got the ultra-fast Snapdragon 865 processor from Qualcomm, which means even the most demanding games are going to run smoothly – with the visuals helped by the 144Hz refresh rate display. While it falls short in some areas (like the camera), in terms of gaming this is a compelling device.

Want to get even more information about the Nubia Red Magic 5G? Then check out our Nubia Red Magic 5G guide.

iPhone SE 2020 best budget gaming apple phone

(Image credit: Apple)

12. Apple iPhone SE (2020)

The best budget Apple phone for gaming

Screen size: 4.7" Retina HD
Resolution: 1334 x 750
Cameras:: 12MP and 7MP
Storage:: 64/128/256GB
Processor: : A13 Bionic
Reasons to buy
+The most affordable iPhone+More modern than it looks+Great for casual gaming

Can't stretch to the cost or the size of the iPhone 12? Apple's smaller, much more affordable iPhone is a brilliant phone for casual gaming: we've just interrupted an epic Pokémon Go session to come in and write this review. 

The 4.7" Retina display looks great and the A13 processor, which we previously saw in the iPhone 11, is more than powerful enough for even demanding games – so while the iPhone SE is based on the iPhone 8 it's as powerful and as energy efficient as much more recent flagships. It's super small, super light and super affordable, and that makes it a super buy if you prefer to game on iOS but don't want to buy a bigger, more expensive iPhone.