While gaming phones are extremely niche — especially in the U.S., with Asus being the only major gaming smartphone manufacturer— they are at least becoming more popular internationally from brands like Xiaomi and Nubia. However, phones are becoming so powerful overall that many mainstream options are now great for playing video games. Whether you want something big, small, affordable, premium, or just downright gamer-focused, this roundup of the best gaming phones has you covered.
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The best gaming phones in 2023
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
The ultimate gaming phone
Packed with specs and software gaming optimizations, the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the king of the hill when it comes to smartphones specifically made for mobile gaming.
- Gaming-specific software
- Packed to the gills with specs
- First-party gaming accessories
- Sub-par camera performance
It should be no surprise that the best overall gaming smartphone is one made by Asus. The company's tenure in the gaming space shows itself in the quality of its latest flagship smartphone, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate.
It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SOC and 16GB of LPDDR5X memory, with 512GB of UFS4.0 storage. These are some of the best specifications that you can find in any smartphone. They allow games to run smoother and offer more longevity where lesser-spec’d devices start to chug. The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate also has a 6,000mAh battery with 65W fast charging, which delivers up to two-day battery life. It boasts a huge 6.78-inch 165Hz AMOLED display, making any games feel fluid and responsive.
Tipping the scales at a whopping 246g, this isn’t a phone for the faint-hearted or faint-wristed, and it's not exactly great for long play sessions. The extra heft is partly due to Asus’ Gamecool 7, an included cooling solution that encompasses a large vapor chamber, graphite cooling sheets, and an external fan accessory. This will keep the phone performing well and prevent thermal throttling, which is where the phone will drop clock speeds to keep temperatures in check, resulting in worse performance.
Asus has made further optimizations in software, including its X-Mode, which allows you to adjust the display’s touch sensitivity, reduce background processes, and optimize wireless connections to ensure a stable gaming experience.
The ROG Phone 7 Ultimate won’t be for everyone. Aside from the huge weight and premium price tag, the device’s cameras can’t match those from the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi, and Apple. However, for all-out gaming, the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is unmatched.
The perfect all-rounder with a hefty price tag
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is a hyper-premium smartphone that does it all, as long as you’re willing to cough up the cash.
- Hyper-premium design
- Terrific performance
- Incredible display
- Lacks gaming looks
- So-so charging speeds
The Galaxy S23 Ultra isn’t a gaming-specific device, meaning that you don’t get hardware triggers, any gaming goodies in the box, or RGB LEDs on the back. What you do get is one of the best displays on a smartphone with a 6.8-inch QHD+ 120Hz AMOLED 2X panel. Though this screen won’t be as responsive as the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate's, its larger resolution and smaller bezels help create a crisp, clear window into games as you play. It’s not like the overly shouty gaming phones in terms of design, instead being more understated in its look, but then you won't have any distractions when gaming.
Running the show is a custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that increases clock speeds. This chipset is one of the most powerful on the market, enabling high frame rates. Combining its amazing screen and sharp performance with its otherwise world-class smartphone features like its stunning camera and great battery life makes this a device that can please most and impress many. This is further compounded by the silky smooth and well-maintained OneUI software The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s elevated price tag is more justified than that of the ROG Phone 7 Ultimate since it’s a better all-around smartphone. If you're a big fan of physical controls, you could always use an external controller via Bluetooth.
POCO F4 GT
Great for gaming without breaking the bank
If you want flagship performance and gaming-specific hardware but don’t want to break the bank, Poco’s F4 GT is the phone for you.
- Shoulder buttons for gaming
- Impressive specs
- Fantastic speakers
- Sub-par battery life
- Limited camera hardware
- So-so software
- Not available in the US
Xiaomi’s Poco smartphone line has cemented itself as a flagship-killer brand with relatively affordable, yet fast and powerful devices. The Poco F4 GT doesn’t deviate from this with a crazy price-to-performance ratio. For less than many other phones, the Poco F4 GT packs in mega specs and gaming-focused hardware. These include the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SOC, 8GB of LPDDR5 memory, 128GB of UFS3.1 storage, a 6.67-inch 120Hz AMOLED display, and 120W fast charging for its 4,700mAh battery. These aren’t the latest and greatest, but are still very high-end specs, allowing the Poco F4 GT to run even the most demanding of 3D titles.
The Poco F4 GT is more than an enticing spec sheet. It houses some of the best speakers that you can get in a modern smartphone, and if you’re not into listening out loud, Poco has included a 3.5mm adapter in the box — a scarcity in the 2023 smartphone market.
The Poco F4 GT’s hardware gets better for gamers. Its mappable hardware shoulder buttons allow you to see more of the action on screen whilst still interacting with games. There’s also an RGB lighting array in the camera module on the back which illuminates when gaming and when charging the device.
Xiaomi has managed to include all of these features due in part to a lower-end FHD+ display over a higher resolution panel and a cut-back camera system. This is a device whose focuses are high performance and gaming. If you’re happy to forego a quality camera and polished software experience, the F4 GT is a great option.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max
This one's for the iOS gaming fanatic
Apple’s premiere flagship smartphone is fantastic for gaming thanks to its impressive specs and big, bright display. Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny!
- Powerful hardware
- Big, bright screen
- Best-in-class haptics
- Punch hole obstructs elements
- Limited gaming-specific features
It’s not just Android-enjoyers who are treated with great gaming handsets. iOS fans can get their gaming groove on with Apple’s latest flagship device, the iPhone 14 Pro Max. All iPhone 14 models share very similar performance specifications, but they won't deliver equal gaming experiences.
The iPhone 14 Pro Max boasts the biggest, and more importantly, the brightest display of the iPhone 14 series — topping out at an eye-watering (literally) 2,000 nits. The 6.7-inch, 120Hz Super Retina XDR panel is impressive and handily driven by its Apple A16 Bionic SOC. This is one of the fastest and most capable chipsets to date, making it a great platform for playing high-end 3D titles. Apple has also been known to create crisp, responsive haptics, and the iPhone 14 Pro Max delivers. Its vibration feedback feels tight and intuitive, increasing immersion when playing supported games.
It must be said that the iPhone 14 Pro Max isn’t perfect for gaming. Its punch-hole camera cutouts can obstruct on-screen elements, and there’s not much in the way of game optimization like you’d find on a true gaming device. It’s also one of the more expensive devices on this list but is also one of the best all-around flagship smartphones, so it’s to be expected.
RedMagic 8 Pro
Purpose-built mobile gaming hardware
With built-in RGB lighting and an internal cooling fan, the RedMagic 8 Pro is a certified gaming device. You just have to look past its woeful selfie camera.
- Super gamer looks and performance
- Surprisingly affordable
- Built-in cooling fan
- Sub-par camera
- Slower charging outside of China
- Unproven long-term support
ZTE’s Nubia RedMagic brand is built for gamers. Its latest release, the RedMagic 8 Pro, features built-in RGB lighting, an internal cooling fan, and haptic shoulder buttons that can be remapped in-game. Its styling and overall smartphone qualities can be debated, but it’s clear that this device is made to game.
The RedMagic 8 Pro sports the latest and greatest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SOC with 12 or 16GB of memory, an FHD+ 120Hz AMOLED display, and a 6,000mAh battery with 85W charging in China, or 65Wcharging everywhere else. This equates to a fast and fluid gaming experience that shouldn’t run out of steam before the end of the first game level. Once the large battery depletes, the super fast charger should top it back up to a game-ready state in no time.
Nubia has included the charger in the box. It’s also one of the few high-end phones left on the market with a headphone port, making it great for competitive gaming. With its capacitive shoulder buttons, you’re able to map different on-screen functions to be controlled off the display, freeing up your thumbs for additional controls. Its reasonable cost makes it a terrific value, if not strictly an affordable option. When you consider the hardware that you’re getting, it has to be high on your list for price-to-performance and gaming-centric features.
However, Nubia decided to cut back on the camera system, meaning that the RedMagic 8 Pro can’t compete with devices from Samsung or Apple when it comes to image or video quality. Its in-display selfie camera also performs terribly, which is similar to many other in-display items. But if you’re after a relatively affordable entry into a phone with Qualcomm’s latest hardware and active cooling sounds like a benefit to you, definitely give this a look.
A big, unique mobile gaming experience
Though not a gaming phone per se, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 impresses with its huge internal display and great stereo speaker setup that fits into your pocket thanks to its folding mechanism.
- Large internal 120Hz display
- Impressive stereo speakers
- Solid performance
- Not as durable as a traditional design
- Inconsistent battery life
Let’s face it, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 costs a lot of money. However, the Galaxy Z Fold 4's gaming experience is like none other on the market. The huge 7.6-inch internal 120Hz AMOLED display paired with the stereo speakers makes for an immersive gaming experience that will leave you satisfied. With a screen so large, there’s plenty of room for on-screen controls, and the extra width when fully open allows for some impressive stereo separation.
The Z Fold 4 isn’t strictly a gaming device, but that isn’t to say that it isn’t majorly capable. The foldable packs last generation’s Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 12GB of memory, and storage starting from 256GB all the way to 1TB if you’re the sort to store all of your media locally. These specifications allow for smooth 3D gameplay, though aren’t technically the best that you can get right now with Qualcomm’s latest release being the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.
There are a couple of caveats to having a foldable as your mobile gaming device. Firstly, the in-display selfie camera on the internal screen is rather soft and washed out. The battery life can also be temperamental; a 4,400mAh cell in a phone with such a big screen was always going to end up disappointing. Durability is another concern for those who don’t baby their devices. The internal screens and hinges have seen improvements in robustness through the generations, but it’s still not perfect.
Overall, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 makes for a unique mobile gaming experience. It still fits in your pocket, and sports an impressive camera stack if you’re not solely focused on mobile gaming. Its performance and suitability for productivity as well as gaming make it a super versatile smartphone.
Xiaomi 13 Pro
Premium hardware with incredible specs
If you’re outside the U.S. and looking for a premium flagship smartphone with a great camera and excellent performance, you should definitely be considering the Xiaomi 13 Pro.
- Impressive camera stack
- Great performance
- Super-fast charging
- So-so software
- Not available in the U.S.
The Xiaomi Mi 13 Pro is possibly the company’s most well-rounded smartphone package to date. Unfortunately, the Xiaomi 13 Pro isn’t available in the U.S., instead having launched in the UK, Europe, China, and other countries in Asia.
It’s certainly not holding back when it comes to specs. Though for the hefty price tag, it’s no wonder. It packs solid flagship specs with an impressive camera and a sleek body. You get a QHD+ 120Hz AMOLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, and three 50MP cameras on the back. This means a sharp, fluid display and one of the fastest processors to drive it. This should result in smooth and crisp gameplay, even in high-end games.
Like some of the other options on this list, the Xiaomi 13 Pro isn’t a gaming phone specifically. It’s built to be a well-rounded flagship smartphone, and it delivers on that. Its big display and solid performance are suited for gaming. Whilst its 4,820mAh battery isn’t the biggest of the phones on this list, it’s made up for by the included 120-watt charger and ability to top up from 0-100% in just 24 minutes in its boost mode.
You won’t find any hardware triggers or RGB lights here, and Xiaomi’s software isn’t the most stable or fluid. However, the Xiaomi 13 Pro is still a solid option for those looking for a premium flagship smartphone with plenty of performance prowess in an understated chassis. It's 120W charging, top-tier specs, and complete camera package make for one of the best international smartphone packages, even if it is one of the company’s most expensive phones to date.
Get both speed and style
OnePlus’ latest flagship device boasts top-tier specs and a unique, stylish design but doesn’t quite compete at the top end of the market.
- Sleek, unique design
- Great performance
- Fluid and featureful software
- Display isn't bright enough
- Lacks wireless charging
- Weak telephoto camera range
OnePlus’ focus has been speed for a number of years, and the OnePlus 11 doesn’t disappoint. It packs some killer specs, but also offers a fluid software experience that won’t leave you wanting more. This is thanks in part to the controversial software merger with Oppo which brought with it some useful features.
The OnePlus 11 doesn’t just perform well with its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SOC and 8GB RAM, but it also looks the part thanks to its unique off-center circular camera housing and refreshing Eternal Green colorway. Combine that with the thin bezels and Hasselblad branding, and you have a phone that looks and feels like more than the sum of its parts. It manages to feel premium for less than its competitors’ prices too.
Its slightly under-clocked Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SOC combined with a vapor chamber cooling backplate makes for a phone that doesn’t melt your hand when gaming for a long time. Whilst this comes at the slight cost of performance, it shouldn’t be enough to dissuade you from buying what is a very well-made phone that is available in the U.S. as well as worldwide at a midrange price.
Best gaming phones: Rounding out
While we’ve seen more gaming phones in the past few years than ever before, they still aren’t plentiful, hence the inclusion of many mainstream flagship smartphones on this list. That isn’t to say that those phones aren’t great for gaming. It’s just that they don’t come with specific hardware or software designed specifically for playing video games. While you could consider importing a gaming phone, it's not always recommended due to poor shipping times, possible carrier incompatibility, and limited (or lack of) warranty options.
If you’re in the market for a purpose-built gaming smartphone, especially if you live in the U.S., then the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate should seriously be considered. Its mega specs combined with optimization software and first-party gaming accessories such as its included cooling fan make it a stand-out device.
Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate
The ultimate gaming phone
Packed with specs and software gaming optimizations, the Asus’ ROG Phone 7 Ultimate is the king of the hill when it comes to internationally-available gaming smartphones.
Towards the lower end of the market, there’s the Poco F4 GT. For much less cash, it packs solid performance hardware and great gaming features. It forgoes a good camera and extended battery life to give you more performance for less money. Its hardware triggers and superb speakers help it feel more premium than its price tag suggests. It's just a shame that this device isn't officially available in the U.S.
If you prefer a super premium mainstream smartphone with some great gaming attributes, and you’re not worried about cost, I highly recommend Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra. The big, bright screen and superb performance impress on their own. Chuck in an S-pen and versatile camera stack, and you have a device that can do it all. If you’re after RGB lighting though, maybe take a look at other options.