Best Augmented Reality Games For Having Fun Outside (what Is Augmented Reality?)

by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist

Published in Gaming on 14th March, 2019

Augmented Reality (AR) video games have populated our smartphones and the best way to play them is outside, enjoying the coming spring.

Spring is coming and the best way to enjoy the coming sun and longer days is playing some cool games outdoors.

best ar games

Sure, you can take your Switch with you and chillaxing in the nearby park but that takes out the best part of the whole idea of playing games outside: stretching legs and walking miles! Instead of the Switch, or any other portable console just take your smartphone with you and enjoy one of many augmented reality games that make your walks matter.

Or, if in the mood for some chilling in the shade there are AR shooters, multiplayer titles, and sports games that don't require walking for hours in order to advance the game. The choice is yours!

Now, most AR games work on most Android and iOS devices but some require advanced AR capabilities, limiting some smartphones running Android.

Only devices supporting Google's ARCore (software that enables precise camera motion tracking and 3D rendering done in AR) can be used to play some games from this list. Google published a detailed list of supported devices, which can be found here.

Anyway, this list includes lots of location-based games, perfect for walking, a couple of multiplayer titles that can be played outside with friends, and some sports games and shooters to enjoy on your own whenever you are.

Pokemon GO

By far the most popular location-based game in the world that utilizes some light AR elements. The goal is simple like with other Pokemon games - collect every single Pokemon out there, battle other trainers, try capturing gyms, and have lots of fun! But unlike other Pokemon games, you actually have to track pocket monsters out there in the wilds.

Basically, you walk around with your phone in front of you, looking at your surroundings through the camera, waiting for a wild Pokemon to appear. When you see one simply throw the Pokeball and catch it!

You can also hatch Poke eggs, and for them to hatch you actually have to walk, a lot. Each egg requires about an hour and a half of walking.

Combine that with wandering around searching for Pokemon and you got yourself a perfect game that can make you physically active while having fun! You can meet with people in real life and do some battles (perfect for friends who hunt Pokemon together), there's the option to locate nearby gyms, which can be challenged and conquered.

pokemon go

And there are also special real-life events where thousands of fans hunt for rare Pokemon and do some battles to test their favorites!

Pokemon GO is a perfect way to get in shape and the addictive game mechanics that ask players to walk around in order to receive new Pokemon from eggs is better for losing weight than all diets in the world put together. Spring is upon us so if you like Pokemon get this game and go outside!


Ingress Prime

While Pokemon GO is the fan favorite Ingress is the app that made location-based games mainstream. The original game featured simple AR interface that put gameplay in front and it was cherished and played by millions of people.

The new Ingress Prime expands on the visual field while keeping most gameplay elements from the original game. The story is simple: an exotic element was discovered and the world divided into two factions. One faction (The Enlightened) wants to harness the power of the newly discovered material and while The Resistance wants to keep humanity safe from side effects of the Exotic Matter.

Once you install and run the game you pick your faction and begin earning faction points, adding to the overall score of your faction. The game is based on various real-life POIs which can be visited to harness points and virtual portals, which can be controlled by one faction or the other.

Players can walk around and visit so-called places of cultural significance (real life places such as museums, universities, landmarks, monuments, etc.) to collect resources or they can try taking control of various portals dotted around the map that give them an edge over the other faction. The map is divided into areas control by The Resistance or The Enlightened and you can know where to go in order to help your faction by opening the game's map.

Nearby players of the same faction can communicate, allowing them to create advanced strategies and to assign players to different portals, or just meet in real life to play the game together.

The AR interface is used when scanning cultural points and portals but other than that the game can be played without utilizing its AR layer. As Pokemon GO, Ingress Prime asks players to walk a lot if they want to be better in the game, making this another excellent choice for those who want to enjoy the sun while having fun!


Jurassic World Alive

Jurassic World Alive took the super popular formula of Pokemon GO and tweaked it a bit making another hugely addicting AR location-based experience.

Here you hunt dinosaurs and add them to your battle team, battle other players, form alliances, create unique creatures, collect resources, and manage your dinosaur pets. The game takes place in the real world, with the AR layer used for hunting new dinosaurs and battling other players.

You have to walk around the map to collect resources needed to breed your own creatures and to hunt for dinosaurs. The more you walk the better because the map is dotted with dinosaurs and resource caches and in order to collect from those you have to visit them in real life.

The game is addictive because once you start walking around you start noticing that other dinosaurs and caches are quite near each other so you start visiting those, eventually walking for hours without even realizing it. And that's great because we all need some exercise on a daily basis.

jurassic world alive

The nice thing about Jurassic World Alive is the fact that lots of activities can be accessed without needing to walk to a real-life location. Creating new creatures, PvP, and PvE battles, managing your base and your dinosaurs, as well as many other things can be done from the comfort of your chair. But in order to be competitive and to collect new dinosaurs, you simply have to be active and to walk at least a couple of miles on a daily basis.


Ghostbusters World

Yup, this is another location-based AR game where you hunt for ghosts instead for Pokemon or dinosaurs. The whole world got infested with ghosts and it's up to you (and millions of other players) to stop this otherworldly Invasion! Walk around your hood in search of ghosts and then take them down in order to be able to add them to your collection.

There are literally hundreds of different ghosts to collect, each with their own list of strengths and weaknesses.

Powerful Dimensional Doors are located at specific points around the map and these usually hide powerful ghosts. You have to walk to reach those gates, and you also have to actively hunt ghosts by walking around. An additional feature that drives players to spend even more time exercising is special Boss Raids that appear on the map from time to time and require for a couple of nearby Ghostbusters to join forces and strike down bosses cooperatively.

Ghostbusters World has its fair share of game modes that can be played without moving around such as the excellent (and pretty long) single-player campaign, PvP battles against players from all around the world, and daily and weekly challenges that award resources needed for making your ghosts stronger.

And since co-op gameplay is present this game is a blast to play with friends, especially when raiding bosses. If you like ghosts over dinosaurs or pocket monsters this game is for you.

Download Android, IOS

Zombies, Run

Zombies, Run is a different kind of video game experience. It isn't really AR game but it is location-based. But, instead of killing zombies, crafting survival items, and doing missions in real life in Zombies, Run you run not only to escape from the undead and to survive but also to unwrap the game's pretty exciting story.

There are single player missions and these ask from you to run, jog or walk a certain distance in order to find out what happened next in the game's story.

This is an excellent way to be more active than ever, but the game includes other fitness-oriented missions for you to tackle. There's a base that needs to be rebuilt, dozens of survivors in search for food and shelter, and various characters that ask for your help in order to stay alive just another day. And all that can be done simply by walking or running.

You can request airdrop that contains valuable resources. Just pick a spot on the map and then reach it in real life. Three are also supply runs where your total distance plays a role in the number of supplies you get at the end of the day.

Zombies, Run also includes training missions where you are working out and earn resources and there are also Races, endgame-like missions that ask from players to cross long distances in order to find out extra details about the story.

And since Zombies, Run is also a fitness app it offers training plans that can make you get in shape and lose a few pounds while at the same time making you finish lots of in-game missions.

Zombies, Run is one fantastic game and while it doesn't really use any AR feature, it offers an excellent reason to go outside and partake in a virtual zombie invasion, which is better than what we can find in like 99 percent of other zombie games.


My Tamagotchi Forever

If you're a 90's kid you will simply adore this game! It is a popular Tamagotchi title modernized for smartphones. The basics are still the same as they were 20 years ago: you have your own virtual pet and in order to keep it happy and in good shape you have to feed it, play with it, make it entertained and in good health.

You do that by playing mini-games and by interacting with your pet via the touchscreen.

my tamagotchi forever

The AR part of the game is all about Tamatown, a cute little town that is home to every digital pet. You can explore it in AR and discover secrets and easter eggs, look for hidden Tamagotchi and play hide and seek with your own pet by making it look for friends that are hiding all around the tiny town!

It is all done via camera interface that places Tamatown on top of the real world, which can look pretty cool inside or when placed against grass, which is a perfect backdrop for exploring Tamatown in AR. This one is only available for Android devices.


AR Smash Tanks!

Of course, not all cool AR games are location-based and one of those is AR Smash Tanks! The game works by scanning any flat surface via camera and then projecting a playing field on top of it.

It then populates the map with tiny tanks that can do lots of damage and the destruction can begin! You can play the game in single player against bots or against friends. Players control their tanks which can move or shot by pulling them and releasing like when you play a game of pool. Shoot enemies or destroy buildings to get new attack routes.

Each map is completely destructible meaning that creative players can use the environment to their advantage to flank enemies and get some easy kills.

The game looks surprisingly good and it works okay most of the time. Tanks are cute and detailed while the rest of the map is made out of simplistic elements in order to support advanced physics simulation needed for destructible nature of in-game elements. And the best thing is that the background can look different each time you play the game.

Maybe you want to play against a friend during a break on work, making the map be built on top of a work desk. And when you're outside the nearby grass field can make for some idyllic battlefield located in the great outdoors. An amazing little AR game that shows what the technology is capable of.

Download Android, IOS

Army of Robots

Turn your backyard into a sci-fi mecha battlefield with Army of Robots! Just pick up your phone, find some robots nearby and smash them to pieces! The game features a solid single player campaign that is made out of simple missions where you walk around and destroy giant enemy killing machines.

Maps are drawn on top of the real world which can look pretty cool at times and this is one of those games used for showing off new phones. Aside from cool graphics Army of Robots features excellent motion controls that allow for easy aim and super-fast movement in real time that is important for dodging rockets.

The game demands constant movement in order to scan for new enemies so if you're in the mood for some outdoor activities Army of Robots can be an excellent choice just make sure you have plenty of room to avoid rockets.

Otherwise, the game is perfect for short gaming bursts when bored at home or, if you're more of an adventurist while chilling outside. Just ignore people staring at you and you'll be fine. This is another game that is available only on Android devices.


Zombie Gunship Revenant AR

Remember that cool mission in Call of Duty Modern Warfare where you pilot the AC-130 gunship, dealing death to enemies while protecting Captain Price and Soap?

Well, this AR game for smartphones gives you the level and intensity of action from that cult mission, only with zombies and in AR! You turn on the game and aim with the camera at any flat surface and it becomes the battleground for the future of humanity. The unique thermal imaging visuals look amazing, allowing the game to project large maps populated with hundreds of zombies.

You play as a gunship pilot (helicopter gunship, there's no AC-130 here sadly) who must mow down zombies before they breach defenses and the combination of superb motion controls and explosive gameplay make Zombie Gunship Revenant one of the best AR games currently available. Explosions are phenomenal and the level of detail is astounding for a mobile game.

There are lots of missions and players can collect new, even more, devastating weapons and upgrade them. The control scheme makes the game extremely dynamic and you'll often find yourself running, turning, and performing all kinds of movements in order to destroy as many enemies as possible. Zombie Gunship Revenant is a definitive recommendation for all fans of AR and action games and the good news is that the game works on a plethora of devices.

Download Android, IOS

Slingshot Island ARCore

Slingshot Island is one of those games that ask for advanced AR capabilities which means you have to own a phone supporting Google ARCore. The game can be described as 3D AR Angry Birds but without a ton of microtransaction options and without loot boxes.

Your phone plays as a slingshot and maps are drawn behind it, in full 3D and without clipping with real-life surfaces. Motion controls allow for precise aiming and shooting is done simply by pressing a button on the screen.

The game features a wide array of puzzles, usually looking like medieval castles and your goal is, of course, to totally obliterate them. The campaign is made out of 30 levels in total and some of the later ones can really be tricky to solve.

Visuals are great except when it comes to explosions and other effects that look subpar in order for the game to run smoothly. Slingshot Island is another simplistic yet addictive AR game that can be played either indoors or outdoors.


Nightenfell: Shared AR

An AR multiplayer game that supports multiple players connected locally that reminds of a mix between Asteroids and Tower Defense? Yes, Nightenfell: Shared AR is just that and yes, it plays as good as it sounds.

First, you need to find a couple of friends and to start the game, which then collects data from all devices and creates a shared level that is shown on each device. Then the game starts and all hell breaks loose!

Your phone is a magic wand and you and friends have to defend an immensely adorable magical kingdom from nasty meteors and other dangers. Different spells have different effects; you can cast them by creating various shapes, and once the action starts you have to cooperate in order to end a level without the whole map being covered in smoke and craters.

The game is fast paced and requires quick thinking and playing with friends is a complete blast. You can play this one anywhere, all you need is one to three friends and some time to spare.

Download Android, IOS

Kings of Pool

Kings of Pool is known as one of the most popular pool games for iOS and Android devices supporting online multiplayer as well as a selection of single-player modes. The game recently introduces AR game mode and it looks amazing!

The table is extremely detailed and animations are fluid enough to not get in the way of immersion. Your phone casts the table on a flat surface and the table stands still while being projected. You, on the other hand, have to move around it in order to hit balls with controls being intuitive and easy to learn.

And the best thing is that the game supports local multiplayer over multiple devices. This means that you and friends can download the game and play AR pool whenever you want. And since visuals are great, stability is superb, and animations are quite fluid the AR version of Kings of Pool can replace the real thing while providing a surprising level of immersion.

And since this is a mobile AR game it can be played anywhere you want. Maybe you want a game of pool while camping, or while on a break at work? Not a problem, just find a couple of friends and start playing!

Download Android, IOS

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