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Each year a new crop of gaming phones hits the market, and while Asus and RedMagic easily stand out, there are more than two options to think about, not to mention years of hardware that predates the latest. This is why we here at AP have built this handy buyer's guide to pinpoint exactly which Android phones are phenomenal for gaming in 2023. So if you're looking for a powerhouse of a phone to pair with your favorite Android gaming controller, you've come to the right place. Just make sure to install a few of the best Android games to put your new gaming phone to the test.

Our winners for best Android gaming phones in 2023

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Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro
Source: RedMagic
Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro
Best overall

The power you need, the coolness you deserve

While most gaming phones seem determined to break the bank, the Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro brings us the power and efficiency of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and a big, beautiful screen for hundreds less than other brands. While it may compromise in a few small areas — like the selfie camera — for gaming and high-intensity applications, it's the best phone, especially for its price.

  • Excellent performance and price
  • High framerate screen
  • Internal fan that keeps hardware cool
  • Selfie cam is blurry
  • Buggy software
  • Fingerprint sensor is sometimes iffy

Nubia has been slowly improving its RedMagic gaming phone line for over a few years. Now in the 8th version, the improvements are really starting to show, all while keeping prices low. But despite its low price, the RedMagic 8 Pro is easily our favorite, thanks to the excellent performance that doesn't buckle no matter what game you throw at it. While the software can still get a little bit buggy at times, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2's improved power and thermal efficiency and the almost comically-sized battery should keep you gaming all day and into the night without needing a charger or an ice pack.

Samsung Galaxy Z23
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
Premium pick

The perfect overall phone is also the perfect gaming phone

What makes a phone great for gaming often makes it a great phone overall, so it should come as no surprise that one of the best premium Android flagships is also one of the best gaming phones around. Sporting the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 as the RedMagic 8 Pro, Samsung ends up beating the RedMagic with its robust One UI software, especially with its full-featured Game Booster suite with plentiful recording and streaming options.

  • High refresh rate screen perfect for gaming
  • Large battery for long gaming sessions
  • Screen recording with inline sound
  • Expensive
  • Slower charging, as 45W is rare to reach

This year, Samsung's top phone is the Galaxy S23 Ultra, a great gaming device. Yes, it's expensive, starting at $1,200, but you get what you pay for with an excellent high-frame rate OLED screen and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. Not only can the device tear through any Android game, but those games will also look great on the screen, which is what gaming phones are all about. Plus, Samsung was one of the first to offer inline sound recording paired with its video recorder — so streamers, YouTubers, and the press at large, can easily record the games they play along with the native sound playing.

No matter how you slice it, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is a perfect pickup if you want to play the most demanding games on Android.

Black Shark 5 Pro
Source: Black Shark
Black Shark 5 Pro
Best value

All the bells and whistles

The Black Shark 5 Pro is the latest gaming smartphone from Xiaomi, offering a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, physical pop-out triggers for gaming, and lots of cooling layers to keep games running smoothly. Unfortunately, there's no fan; everything is cooled passively, so the phone may feel hot when used, though this doesn't impact performance.

  • Pop-up physical triggers for gaming
  • 120W fast charging
  • 144hz screen that doesn't auto-adjust, is actually static
  • Battery life stinks
  • No headphone jack
  • Cameras leave a lot to be desired

The included 120W fast charging is incredible, but you will have to take advantage of it often since the battery tends to drain a little too fast for comfort, especially if you leave the frame rate capped at 144FPS. While the $800 price tag is perfectly acceptable for the killer hardware you get in return, competing phones with better specs are slightly cheaper. Plus, you'll see the same amount of support since the general rule of gaming phones is that pennies have to be pinched somewhere to keep costs down.

The pinching is usually on the software side, such as infrequent updates, and on the camera side, since the cameras here are nothing to write home about. Still, the purpose of this phone is to tear through games, and Black Shark 5 Pro does this with confidence, making it a fine choice for those who frequently game on their smartphone. It's the phone you need if physical triggers are required, as the pop-out triggers are not only a nifty feature to show off, but they work wonderfully.

Asus ROG Phone 7 product box
Source: Asus
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
By gamers, for gamers

Asus's latest entry on the ROG Phone line is the seventh iteration and the most polished to date. The design retains and even improves upon many of its best features, offering an uncluttered screen that supports blazing framerates, shoulder touch buttons, and of course, brings top-of-the-line specs to easily chew through any game you throw at it. It's a gaming phone for those who game heavily, and every inch of its design shows it.

  • Uncluttered high-framerate screen
  • Headphone jack
  • Front facing speakers sound great
  • Offcenter USB-C
  • Expensive
  • Heavy

The newest kid on the block, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate, is still unreleased in the US, but since we reviewed the UK model, it makes sense to add it to the list since it's available just about everywhere else. It's easily one of, if not the current king of Android gaming, but to play with the king means you'll be spending a pretty penny if you can find one. Trust that the money will be well spent if you're looking to get maximum performance from your phone. Sure, you can snag an optional fan attachment to really keep things cool for those long gaming sessions, but as is, you can rest knowing you'll be able to max out games like Genshin Impact.

While the US may still be waiting to get its hands on the ROG 7, there's already no doubt Asus has reclaimed the crown as king of Android gaming. So if you're willing to splash out on the best gaming hardware, make sure to keep an eye out for the eventual US release.

Source: RedMagic
RedMagic 7S Pro
Magical gaming for less

A year behind but still far ahead

$650 $750 Save $100

The RedMagic 8 Pro may be the hottest offering from Xiaomi's Nubia brand, but last fall's RedMagic 7S Pro still packs quite a punch and is available for $650 these days. A physical interior fan helps keeps things cool, even if it adds a bit of weight and bulk to the phone.

  • Designed specifically for gaming
  • Internal fan actually keeps things cool
  • Fullscreen, no cutouts or notches
  • Under screen front-facing camera is blurry
  • Erroneous inputs along bottom edge of bezel less screen
  • High framerate support auto-adjusts, workaround required for a static framerate

Regarding value, RedMagic often undercuts the competition while offering top-of-the-line specs. The RedMagic 7S Pro delivers on this front, starting at $730 for an unlocked version on RedMagic's site — and often discounted down to $650 — all while offering a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, a 5000mAh battery, and your choice of 256GB or 512GB storage paired with 12GB or 16GB RAM. You also get 65W fast charging, along with gaming software for launching titles, not to mention controlling the phone's fan, touch triggers, and frame rate. Best of all, RedMagic is finally offering frequent updates, which helps with the phone's longevity.

All in all, you'll be hard-pressed to find these specs for less anywhere else, and they come in a competent package from a company that has been manufacturing gaming phones for years. And thanks to the included internal fan, you won't find a phone at this price point that can chew through games any better.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 smartphone
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
Biggest screen for gaming

Gaming tablet and phone in one

$1400 $1800 Save $400

If you love mobile gaming but don't love the lack of vertical room most landscape games get, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 brings all the space you need as well as premium software and hardware. While a flexible screen can leave a crease after months of folding and unfolding, it still offers the screen of a tablet with the portability and connectivity of a phone.

  • An almost square 7.6-inch inner screen for more real estate
  • S Pen support for precise target tapping
  • Multi-window support for watching multiple apps while gaming
  • Ultra-expensive
  • Slower charging speeds
  • Cover display can feel awkward

The more squared-off form factor on the Galaxy Z Fold 4's internal screen can make some games feel awkward — some games are only designed for the 16:9-ish aspect ratio — but the ability to resize windows can help you overcome that and keep up with team messages at the same time. The Z Fold 4 uses the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, so its thermal issues aren't nearly as noticeable as the Galaxy S22 Ultra's, but when in tablet mode, at least more of the phone's back is exposed for heat to dissipate.

The Fold's unique size does mean that, like the ROG 6, many controller grips and accessories aren't as likely to fit, but the Fold itself is pretty easy to hold properly, especially once you get a good Galaxy Z Fold 4 case on it. Speaking of accessories, while the Fold 4 has support for the S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro, it doesn't have one included in the box, which is slightly disappointing considering that this phone is $1,800 before discounts — or storage upgrades — and hasn't been seeing as many spectacular deals in 2023 the way it did last fall and Black Friday.

ASUS ROG Phone 6
$800 $0 Save $-800

While some areas of the Asus ROG 6 are lacking as a phone, like the cameras and minimal software updates, the chipset, RAM, and battery are exactly what you'd expect in a gaming phone. Unlike the other phones on this list, the ROG 6's screen is completely teardrop, hole-punch, and pinhole-free so that nothing will get in the way of your game. And while Asus may not be as big a phone brand as, say Samsung, its software is significantly less buggy than Xiaomi's Black Shark or Nubias RedMagic.

  • Stereo front-facing speakers are phenomenal
  • Fullscreen, no pinhole cameras or notches
  • High framerate screen that actually locks framerates (no auto-adjusting)
  • Expensive
  • Off-center USB port doesn't work with many third-party controller attachments
  • Cameras aren't the best

The Asus ROG 6 has seen something of an odd release cycle; it first launched in the UK but took months to arrive in the United States. The phone technically retails for $1000, but Asus America is selling it for as low as $800. While that list price is comparable to many flagships, the ROG 6 is a gaming phone, first and foremost, which means killer specs and middling software. Thankfully, Asus knows a thing or two about gaming, so it has built-in robust software that should appeal to gamers, thanks to features like an on-screen performance widget and full control over the phone's frame rate.

If you're looking to buy the best gaming phone of the year, the ROG 6 is the top contender, and the price matches this label. The expenditure is worth it if you play and stream tons of games on your phone, which is why the ROG is our favorite.

OnePlus 11 smartphone green render
Source: OnePlus
OnePlus 11
Powerful yet eyecatching

One-up your gaming with this powerful yet affordable phone

OnePlus may not quite be the powerhouse it was five years ago, but it still makes some darn good phones for gamers, focusing on screens and battery life while providing a well-rounded flagship experience. The hole punch for the camera in the bottom left or top right corner can sometimes interfere with on-screen buttons, depending on immersive mode, but you'll be fine for most games.

  • Gorgeous screen
  • Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 paired with up to 16GB RAM
  • 80W charging in the U.S.
  • Decent price for the power
  • Awkward design
  • Updates have been less consistent

While OnePlus's cameras are inconsistent, but they're a better caliber than those from RedMagic, Black Shark, and ROG. This great gaming phone can still take decent photos when you're out at an e-sports event or that ridiculous five-floor pinball arcade. You won't have to worry about your battery dying after extended camera time alongside intensive gameplay. Go as hard as you like; the OnePlus 11 should still go at least a full 24 hours before you need to recharge it.

When it does come time to recharge the OnePlus 11, it'll go much faster than on any of Samsung's phones. While the version sold in the United States features a slower charging speed than international variants — 80W as opposed to 100W — this phone will still get from zero to 100% in a little over half an hour, so even the shortest of snack breaks will get you topped off and ready for the next raid. It does suck that it doesn't have wireless charging, but considering how little time you need to stay plugged in, I'll take that trade-off in a heartbeat.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Source: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
Still great after a year

A year behind but still far ahead

It may have been officially replaced by the new Galaxy S23 Ultra, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra is basically the same phone with a slightly older processor and a slightly smaller battery. So if you want Samsung's excellent software but can't shell out a full $1,200, last year's model will save you a few hundred if you don't have a phone to trade in at a carrier. (If you do have a phone worth trading in at a carrier, get the S23 Ultra.)

  • Incredible display
  • Stylus included, great for tapping games
  • Remarkable cameras
  • Still $1000 while a year old
  • Worse thermals than the S23 Ultra
  • Included cable only does 25W charging, not 45W

Since Samsung's flagship phone is so feature-packed, it also doubles as a fantastic gaming phone. Samsung was one of the first companies to create its own sound engine to work around Google's locked-down software. In turn, Samsung was able to include a screen recorder that supports the recording of inline sound — a boon for anyone who records gameplay of mobile games. Even though screen recorders are pretty much standard on Android phones now, Samsung still offers one of the most reliable recorders on the market.

Seeing that you get incredible specs with this device, playing the most demanding games is a breeze. And the best part? You can record your gameplay reliably, which is why the S22 Ultra is a great choice for YouTubers. Yes, the price is up there as one of the most expensive phones on the market, but if you're not enthused with the middling software and cameras that come with most gaming phones, perhaps the expenditure will be worth it.

The best gaming phones are at your fingertips

Gaming phones might not be at the forefront of the smartphone market, but there's certainly a place for them, especially if you're a fan of high refresh rate screens and top-of-the-line specs. You can splash out for a refined device with devices like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Or you can go for something at more than half the price — such as the Black Shark 5 or Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro — and still come away with a device that will rip through any game you toss in its path.

Whether you require a budget device or something new and expensive, today's guide has something for everyone. And to ensure you're prepared for all the gaming you're signing up for, don't forget to pair an awesome Android controller with your new gaming phone.

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Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro
Source: RedMagic
Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro
Best overall

The power you need, the coolness you deserve

While most gaming phones seem determined to break the bank, the Nubia RedMagic 8 Pro brings us the power and efficiency of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and a big, beautiful screen for hundreds less than other brands. While it may end up compromising in a few small areas — like the selfie camera — for gaming and high-intensity applications, it's the best phone around, especially for its price.