The Android ecosystem is home to an incredible number of games belonging to virtually every conceivable genre, or so it seems. In truth, certain varieties of games are underrepresented among the Play Store’s half million offerings. Whether it’s free-to-play games like Fortnite, or the latest online casino titles that allow you to redeem sign-up deals, there’s no denying the fact that there are certain categories of game that are best encountered beyond Google’s curated confines.

Fortunately, Android, in all its open-source glory, gives you the option to take matters into your own hands. Still, it can be difficult to know where exactly to look. Below we’re going to explore the best alternatives out there in 2023 for enterprising gamers looking to break free of freemium games and shovel-ware clones – let’s take a look.

F-Droid

There are plenty of reasons why one would want to seek titles outside of the Google Play Store. One of the primary reasons is that you can achieve a greater level of control with respect to the permissions you allow for downloaded apps. 

F-Droid is the FOSS (Free and Open-Source Software) equivalent of the Play Store. This means that not only is every game and app in F-Droid free to install, but all are completely trustworthy and secure. This is because open-source software can be checked by any user to confirm that it won’t install alongside spyware, malware or questionable permissions. 

There are plenty of fan-favorite games to explore on F-Droid, though don’t expect the graphical thrills of something like Asphalt 9. FreeCiv, an open-source version of Civilization II, is particularly popular among FOSS-aficionados.

Side-Loading

Simply put, to side-load an app is to install it without going through the official Google Play Store. There are numerous benefits to doing this. For example, certain games end-up being region-locked, meaning that if you live in the wrong part of the world, licensing complications may result in you ordinarily being unable to install it. By side-loading the game instead, you can circumvent this issue. 

Other games, like Fortnite, whose developer Epic Games is locked in a legal dispute with Google, are also unavailable to download via the Play Store. It does, however, remain available to download and play on Android

More broadly speaking, side-loading can be a means to install games on your device that were never intended for use on an Android system. There’s a whole world of game roms that can be run on emulators, potentially giving you access to hundreds of quality classic games that originated on the Sega Genesis, SNES, N64, PlayStation and more.