Augmented reality games are some of the newer takes on the video gaming medium. AR games provide a new way to integrate classic gameplay into the real world, and while that produces challenges, it provides many new opportunities.
AR games can do what traditional gaming alone can’t, and while we’re still technologically limited in what AR games can do, their best titles have still achieved astonishingly fun results. What are AR games anyway, and which are the best titles you can play in 2023? Let's have a look.
No list of AR games would be complete without the first big title that set the world on fire. Pokémon GO was a revelation when it launched back in 2016, as it brought mobile AR games to the masses.
The idea is simple, Pokémon GO uses maps to semi-randomly place Pokémon down. You go, you catch, and you make progress by exercising and taking over local hotspots. This was a genius way to introduce AR games through the most profitable media franchise of all time, and the gamble by Niantic more than paid off.
Speaking of games that already made it big on other platforms before heading to AR, Angry Birds on mobiles was one of the titles that really reached across borders. The game was a simple Crush the Castle clone, but it struck a chord with players like its inspiration never did.
To play Angry Birds AR, you simply aim your camera at a piece of flat ground and the game produces a tower for you to knock down. Aiming a first-person slingshot, this is one of those AR games that can work even better in AR than in its original form. With 70 levels and all the classic Angry Birds characters, we just wish this game had more content to fly through.
Originally released in 2020, Zombies, Run! takes the idea of AR games to the frontier of mobile exercise. When this game arrived, exercise apps were already a fantastic way to stay in shape, and this title gamified their systems to new heights.
Filled with different missions that typically last around 30-40 minutes, ZRX also lets you build a base, check your progress and achievement, and now even crosses over with Marvel properties. AR games can be about more than just fun, and this title proves it.
If you’re after AR games that lean more heavily into real-world exploration, then WallaMe might be exactly what you’re looking for. This title uses AR functionality to let you hide messages in the real world, kind of like being a graffiti artist without having to spend on paint or risk being arrested.
WallaMe is an interesting kind of cooperative experience, where you can talk with friends and strangers and share ideas and a love of special places. Maybe you would like to express a great time you had with a friend, or even point out special nearby spots that other players might have missed. Few AR games provide the opportunities to do this like WallaMe does, making it just as much a fun communication tool as an AR game.
Some AR games allow PVP combat, but few approach the concept as directly as Reality Clash. This title lets you take place in AR combat either in person or across the internet as you claim real physical zones as home bases.
To play Reality Clash you’ll navigate and do battle while holding your phone in front of you as a gunsight, dodging and shooting to take down your opponents. While you’ll still need to be careful to not bump into anything, this form of engagement is still something you'll get lost in. If you want to check out if PvP vs PvE AR games are for you, consider this one as a measuring stick.
What would happen if you could bring space into your living room? Your lungs would probably object, but forget that point and consider the great space combat experience available from Cosmic Frontline AR. This game has you building a spaceship fleet to engage in battles with NPCs (non-player characters) in front of your eyes.
Despite how hectic space battles would probably be, the automated way that fights play out in Cosmic Frontline makes it one of the more surprisingly relaxing AR games. It might not be as relaxing as a nap in zero gravity, but it's as close as most of us will probably get.
The Five Nights at Freddy's series has a reputation for being frightening, which makes us wonder if making it one of the more realistic games on this list is a great idea. FNAF AR has you scanning for intruders as you prepare for the jump scares the games are famous for.
Malfunctioning animatronics are even more terrifying than regular animatronics, and having them leap out at you in your home where you feel safest can be literal nightmare fuel. Just remember to hold onto your phone tightly so you don’t throw it across the room, and that some AR games are best played in short bursts. The last thing you want is the Tetris Effect showing up with these creepy robotic intruders.
Tower defense games were some of the biggest hits in early web gaming, and Knightfall AR brings all their classic fun directly to you in the real world. Find a flat surface like a coffee table or a floor, and Knightfall places down a virtual castle to defend, and a parade of attackers who don't care that they've lost their invites.
Using arrows, catapults, and whatever taunts you think can break through chainmail, Knightfall’s single-player-only gameplay is a great fit for both newcomers and tower defense veterans. There's a lot of style in this game, which is a fantastic look on both Apple and Android devices.
The true promise in pushing AR to the next level comes with smaller and more portable glasses-type devices like Apple’s Vision Pro. These will encourage greater activity and flexibility, and bring existing physical games like laser tag to a whole new level.
Until then, AR on mobile is still at an impressive standard, and its popularity is only growing by the year. It's only been a short while, but AR has proven it's one to watch. Whether defending your base, watching out for mechanical interlopers, or engaging in the never-ending avian/porcine war, there's something in AR for everyone.
AR stands for augmented reality. This is where virtual imagery is placed over the real world through the use of cameras and screens. The most common use of AR in gaming is with smartphones, but the real potential is slowly being uncovered in next-generation glasses-type devices like Apple's Vision Pro.
The most famous games to use AR are Pokémon GO and Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs. Their titles are simple to jump into and have proven enormous revelations in showing the world just a glimpse of AR's true potential. These would be system sellers if everybody didn't already own a smartphone!
In virtual reality (VR) the entire displayed world is created by the computer. In AR, virtual elements are placed on top of the real world. Thanks to this approach, VR requires a full headset, but AR games can work extremely well on a smartphone too.
Most AR games can be played perfectly from smartphones released in the last five years, and often older devices too.
It depends on the title. Many AR games are cheap or free, and few that are released yet will be as expensive as traditional video games. This could change in the future, however, as experiences expand.
While you can't touch a projection directly, there are devices from companies like HaptX and MANUS Meta that integrate haptic feedback into specially designed gloves to generate feelings of touch. Future incarnations of this technology could enable realistic sensations of touch with AR imagery.
Like every other video game, this depends on your taste. There are enough genres that everyone should be able to find the title that stands out the most to them.
The room needed for AR will change depending on the title. Some require an open room-sized space in front of you, others are best used outdoors, and some can require a small flat table-sized surface.