The video game industry has been a multibillion-dollar business for a long time now, and the numbers keep increasing, with the total annual revenue in 2020 being upwards of $150 billion. Unsurprisingly, the biggest contributor to the revenue stream was mobile gaming. At $85 billion, it was double that of PC gaming and more than PC and consoles combined in the previous year.
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Many factors have contributed, such as the boom in popularity of online multiplayer games and micro-transactions. People nowadays are much much more likely to make an in-game purchase than they were a few years ago. As the years tick by, some mobile games just keep raking in the dollars, while newcomers are eager to grab a slice of the pie.
Updated on October 4th, 2021 by Derek Draven: Mobile gaming has certainly taken on a life of its own in recent years. Gone are the days of simple games like Snake on the original Nokia handhelds. Today’s mobile games are driven by full-scale graphics processors and feature some of the most innovative gaming refinements around. Taste might be subjective, but there’s no denying the impact and star power of these money-making behemoths that continue to rake in the cash.
15 Game Of War: Fire Age ($2.8+ Billion)
Strategy titles seem to fit quite nicely on mobile, thanks in part to a watered-down approach in comparison to many of its PC and console peers. Game of War tries to blend straightforward strategy with MMO elements and some depth of content, without bogging the player down too much.
Players can fight other players around the world, or form alliances with them to work together for a common good. This adds several layers of gameplay that have made it very popular, earning this title nearly $3 billion since it was first released in 2013. Even supermodel Kate Upton was brought on to help with the game’s titillating marketing campaign.
14 Gardenscapes ($3+ Billion)
Few games are as sweet, uplifting, and just plain fun as Gardenscapes. This family-friendly title features some of the most robust and addicting puzzle gameplay around, and it’s married to a wonderful model that doesn’t shove ads down the player’s throat every five minutes.
In fact, there are barely any ads at all, and what little there are remain subtle, and buried in the gameplay. It may not have pulled in the same cash as other mobile games, but Gardenscapes still managed to cross the $3 billion dollar threshold, while simultaneously becoming one of the best mobile games on Android.
13 Clash Royale ($3+ Billion)
Finnish developer Supercell will probably never reach the kind of height that it did with Clash of Clans, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t enjoyed other big hits. Like all of their games created after CoC, it is based on the characters from that particular game, along with many original creations.
The gameplay is fairly simplistic in nature, but the extremely fast pacing that demands players make quick and strategic decisions. This kind of accelerated gameplay works well with short-spurt mobile gaming, and can be tackled over a coffee break with ease.
12 Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle ($3+ Billion)
As far as IP adaptations go, Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle does it better than most. It brings the over-the-top pop culture cult classic to the mobile experience with everything a fan would expect from the Dragonball Z series, and then some.
Although free to play, that hasn’t stopped the game from pulling in a serious cash haul, and a wide player base. In fact, the game managed to attract 15 million players within the first three months of the Japanese release, proving that DBZ fever is still going strong, all these years later
11 Garena Free Fire ($3.4+ Billion)
There isn’t much that distinguishes Free Fire from the other seemingly endless battle royale games on mobile, but as the most downloaded mobile game worldwide in 2019, it is certainly one of the most successful ones.
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The game had over 80 million daily active users globally as recently as the May of 2020 and receives regular updates from the developers. Instead of the usual 100 player matches that are a staple of battle royale, Free Fire consists of a maximum of 50 players in a single match. It’s a bit derivative within its class, but fans of games like Fortnite will enjoy being able to take this title with them on the go.
10 Lineage M ($3.5+ Billion)
Lineage M takes its cues from isometric top down RPGs like Diablo and Fallout, and marries to the mobile experience with a strong connection to the Korean comic book source material based on the Lineage name. It was another attempt to port an MMORPG game to the mobile platform, and it has accrued a lot of revenue in the process.
The original game was released way back in 1998, but the mobile version is relatively new, having just been released in 2017. Since then, it continues to rake in the dough, despite some issues with a controversial patch issue that caused quite a lot of backlash inside the player base.
9 Fantasy Westward Journey ($4.7+ Billion)
This MMORPG by China’s NetEase was ported to the mobile platform in 2015, and has since racked up a considerable amount of cash. Within a single year, it managed to hit $800 million in revenue, before shooting past the $1 billion dollar mark.
The game is characterized by its 3D anime-inspired artwork, colorful characters, and exotic locations. It tries to lift as many elements from the MMORPG experience as possible, striking a nice balance between short-fuse mobile gaming, and a strong RPG adventure.
8 Fate/Grand Order ($5.4+ Billion)
The Fate series is one of Japan’s most popular media franchises and has spawned more video games, light novels, manga, anime shows, and movies than the average consumer can keep track of. It began with the 2004 adult visual novel Fate/stay night, and it is still going strong to this day.
Fate/Grand Order was the first in the series to release on mobile, and features a turn-based combat system, quickly rising up the ranks to become one of the most successful gacha games of all time. Fans of turn classic turn-based RPGs and strategy titles will like what it brings to the mobile experience.
7 PUBG Mobile ($6.2+ Billion)
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds isn’t a new game by any means, but its popularity skyrocketed to space when the mobile version was released in 2018. The game has become so widespread that it is banned outright in many countries, key among them being India, which made up a big percentage of the global player base.
With a player count of over 800 million, it is the second most-played video game in the world after Crossfire and helped cement the battle royale genre for the mobile experience. It’s also one of the few games to remain faithful to its console and PC counterpart.
6 Candy Crush Saga ($6.4+ Billion)
One of the oldest mobile games still kicking in the modern day, Candy Crush Saga was one of the first to make proper use of the “freemium” system, which meant that players were more than welcome to play the game for free. Investing real money into it would deliver additional, attractive, but unnecessary perks.
This is the monetization model that most mobile games employ today. The game’s sheer simplicity is what made it easy for virtually anyone to play, and the emphasis on gameplay meant that players weren’t constantly being herded towards purchases, but rather, enticed. The result is a franchise that eclipses some of the most well-known in the entire world.
5 Pokémon Go ($7.2+ Billion)
2016 was both an amusing, and an alarming year, thanks to Pokémon Go. The game utilized the real world when it came down to hunting down challenging Pokémon, and it was touted as both a fun family-friendly adventure title and an excuse to go out and get some exercise at the same time. Unfortunately, it got some bad press after addicted gamers started wading into oncoming traffic and other hazards, leading to a few dozen deaths and injuries.
Adding the innovative technology of augmented reality to one of the most iconic video game franchises in the world produced something significantly unique than what had ever been done before. Although the hype surrounding it has certainly died down from the astronomical heights that it reached in its heyday, there are still millions of people who play it.
4 Clash Of Clans ($7.7+ Billion)
At a certain point in time, everybody and their friends were playing Clash of Clans. The gameplay consisted of building clans while attacking others and having to defend themselves from other players. It quickly became an industry cornerstone, and although its revenue peaked in 2015, with $1.8 billion annually even today, it can easily be found in the top tens in both the Play Store and App Store.
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To give a rough idea of the game’s immense popularity and influence, a single player spent more than $1 million dollars on the game, which is a sign of either unhealthy addiction, brand loyalty, or a combination of both.
3 Puzzle & Dragons ($8.2+ Billion)
Puzzle & Dragons is a tile-matching game similar to Candy Crush that takes the formula a step further by introducing a combat mechanism. Here, players don’t just match tiles, but battle enemies at the same time. Released in 2012, it became the first mobile game to generate more than $1 billion in sales just after one year of being released.
The game’s success has spawned an entire franchise, crossing the boundary from mobile to consoles, with a spin-off game for the Nintendo 3DS, and an anime series to boot. Combos make up a big part of the gameplay, and gamers can get addicted to one-upping their own skills.
2 Monster Strike ($9.6+ Billion)
A role-playing strategy game with obvious Pokémon inspirations, Monster Strike’s gameplay is somewhat unique in the sense that the player battles enemies by hurling their monsters at the enemy, instead of the usual types of combat.
Despite the commercial success the game has enjoyed in its homeland of Japan, its name is relatively unknown on an international scale, and the English version was shut down in 2017 due to lack of popularity. Similar to many other Japanese video games, other related media were created such as an anime series and an entire anime film trilogy, proving that it’s still a lucrative platform.
1 Honor Of Kings/Arena Of Valor ($11+ Billion)
In the same way League of Legends dominates the MOBA genre on PC, Honor of Kings dominates it in the mobile sector. Backed by Chinese gaming giant Tencent, Arena of Valor is an international adaptation of Honor of Kings, and is virtually the same game, albeit modified to make it more suitable for the international market.
Like other MOBA games, players get to choose from a variety of different characters and game modes to try out. With a worldwide gross of over $2.45 billion, it was the highest-earning video game of 2020.
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About The Author
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Mahir Wasif is a college student with an ever growing passion and interest for all things entertainment related such as movies, tv shows and video games. Although ScreenRant is his first time writing for a professional medium, he is hopeful that the time and effort he invests here will prove to be beneficial for all the parties involved, the readers and he himself.
Always having had a natural knack for internet gossip and news, Mahir now spends his time better by sharing his skills and knowledge with a wider audience.
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