Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

The 10 best location-based games

Pokémon Go has provoked legions of gamers all over the world to get off their butts and explore their surroundings. There’s something exciting about this newfound popularity for location-based games, a genre that has been technically possible for several years but languished in relative obscurity until now. The widespread adoption of mobile devices with GPS and powerful processors has enabled developers to explore new types of gameplay that blend the digital and analog worlds.

The genre is still growing, but we’ve seen some new titles released over the past few years. Here are the 10 best location-based games for iOS and Android.

Further reading

Ingress
Ingress
64 %
Platforms Android, iOS
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Strategy, Tactical, Adventure
Developer Niantic Labs
Publisher Google
Release October 30, 2013
Pokémon Go didn’t come out of a vacuum. Developer Niantic (founded in 2010 as a Google subsidy) released Ingress in 2012, which was — until now — the biggest location-based mobile game. Players are divided into two competing factions of “agents” that struggle for control over “portals,” which correspond to real-world points of interest much like Pokémon Gos Pokéstops and gyms. Triangulating three portals gives control over the bounded area to that faction, earning them points for as long as the area is held. The narrative frame for Ingress is a sci-fi scenario wherein a newly discovered form of Exotic Matter (XM) sparks a heated division about how it should be used for humanity. Because of their direct relationship, Ingress shares a lot in common with Pokémon Go, but the former features more robust game and social elements, along with a passionate community that’s already invested years. The game has changed a lot over the years, so much so that the devs decided to rename the entire project to Ingress Prime.
Zombies, Run!
Zombies, Run!
Platforms Android, iOS
Genre Strategy
Developer Six to Start
Publisher Six to Start
Release February 27, 2012
Ingress and Pokémon Go boast exercise as a secondary benefit of gameplay but don’t quite provide the same direct motivation as a horde of zombies nipping at your heels. As the name implies, Zombies, Run! is an “exergame” that provides a mission and reward structure as motivation for jogging. With more than one million players, its website boasts that the title is the most popular fitness game ever for smartphones. While zombies, as a whole, might be a bit played out in pop culture at this point, it’s hard to argue that the theme doesn’t fit the game’s activity perfectly. The game has more than 200 missions and a base-building metagame, too, which should help even the most reluctant runners stay committed.
Pokémon GO
Pokémon GO
66 %
E10
Platforms Android, iOS
Genre Simulator, Strategy, Turn-based strategy (TBS), Adventure
Developer The Pokémon Company, Niantic Labs
Publisher Niantic Labs
Release July 06, 2016
Without a doubt, the most popular of all location-based games, Pokémon Go, continues to dominate charts nearly six years after launch. Niantic has provided players with constant updates to keep things exciting, and you can even take part in a yearly “Go Fest” celebration for added rewards. Most Pokémon games can survive on brand awareness alone — but Pokémon Go isn’t content to let its IP do all the heavy lifting. Competitive multiplayer, team-based battles, and engaging solo play make it a game that’s difficult to put down. There’s always something new to discover (especially if you live in a large metro area), and the Pokémon charm is simply the icing on the cake.
Pikmin Bloom
Pikmin Bloom
E
Platforms Android, iOS
Genre Adventure
Developer Niantic Labs
Publisher Nintendo
Release October 27, 2021
Pikmin Bloom is from the same studio that brought you Pokémon Go. It doesn’t have the same player base as the ultra-popular game, but Pikmin fans will find a lot to get excited about with the latest augmented reality (AR) experience. The relaxing game has you walking around your neighborhood to grow your squad of Pikmin. The quirky creatures hatch out of seedlings you’ll acquire as you play, and after a few weeks, you’ll have a whole army following you around wherever you go. It’s not as deep as some other GPS-based games, but the casual adventure is a great way to get outside and relax.
The Witcher: Monster Slayer
The Witcher: Monster Slayer
Platforms Android, iOS
Genre Role-playing (RPG)
Developer Spokko
Publisher Spokko
One of the few high-profile AR games not developed by Niantic, The Witcher: Monster Slayer is a mature take on the genre. You’ll still be roaming around town with your phone in front of you, but this time, you’ll be fighting deadly creatures and going on a variety of quests. You’ll be tracking monsters using Witcher Senses, kitting yourself out with a wide assortment of gear, then swiping your fingers on the screen to perform a variety of actions during combat. The narrative driving the action isn’t quite as deep as the main Witcher games — but it still draws from the same lore and offers hundreds of hours of gameplay.
Geocaching
Geocaching
Platforms Android, iOS
Unlike other games on this list, geocaching isn’t a discrete product from a particular developer, but rather a huge, community-driven activity. In many ways, it’s the ancestor of all of these other location-based games, since it started in 2000 when the GPS standard was first opened to the wider public. Participants hide GPS-enabled containers all over the world and then other people use the coordinates to find them and see what they contain. At a minimum, they contain a logbook that players sign, but some contain more exciting secrets. Community standards dictate that if players find something in a cache, they replace it with something of equal or greater value. We’ve included the link to two free geocaching apps below, but there are more feature-rich, premium options available as well. While it may not have the elaborate metagame of something like Ingress, geocaching has a vibrant, global community that’s far more established than any other game on our list.
Jurassic World Alive
Jurassic World Alive
Platforms Android, iOS
Genre Role-playing (RPG)
Release May 24, 2018
Although it may not be as popular as Wizards Unite or Pokémon Go, Jurassic World Alive has a dedicated following of players — and enough content to keep you busy for years. Fans of the series will encounter iconic beasts that they will level up, breed, and battle in real-time matches. You’ll need to roam your world to find these prehistoric creatures and collect their DNA, the main driving force behind the game. Between combat, evolution, and breeding, there’s a lot to wrap your head around. Thankfully, Jurassic World Alive does a great job of walking you through its various mechanics and is pretty easy for beginners to pick up.
Orna: A Geo-RPG
Orna: A Geo-RPG
T
Platforms Legacy Cellphone
Genre Role-playing (RPG)
Release June 17, 2019
Players who enjoy classic turn-based RPGs will find much to love in Orna. This strange title combines common RPG tropes — such as turn-based combat, party building, and class specializations — with all the features seen in today’s best location-based games. You’ll dive into dungeons, tackle challenging bosses, and collect more than 1,000 items as you explore the real world around you. Once you’ve put together an unstoppable team, take the action online and compete with others on a PvP battlefield or join a kingdom for access to online raids. It has a lot to offer players, even if it isn’t as popular as others in the genre.

Editors' Recommendations