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Essays 22 July 2021, 15:58

author: Paul Musiolik

Best Gacha Games 2021 - There's an Anime Girl Hiding in This Loot Box!

Gacha is immensly popular in the East, but not so much in the West – for now. With its recent success, Genshin Impact blazes a trail for the genre. If you'd like to really get into it, you might want to browse this list of best gacha games.

The market for free gacha mobile games is filled with a variety of titles. On the one hand, we have extremely popular games like Fate/Grand Order, which have been enjoying unwavering popularity for years – and on the other, the more recent titles, such as Arknights, trying to get their share of the pie. The genre is all the rage in Japan, China, and North Korea, but there’s also quite a few counterparts coming from the States, such as Marvel Strike Force and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. These are also trying to gather a significant player base and they’re admittedly quite successive at that.

This list consists of the most popular and the best free gacha games that you can play on iOS and Android, but some of this game you can also play on Nintendo Switch, PC or PS4.

Best gacha games updated – July 2021

We've added new games to our list of the best gacha games 2021.

Best gacha games 2021 | TOP 21

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes

Developer: Capital Games

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release Date: November 24, 2015

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is one of the oldest games on this list. Developed by Capital Games, the title launched way back in 2015 and instantly gained immense popularity, as it was paired with the general return of Star Wars. The first several months were highly successful for the game, but over time, this trend turned into painful stagnation. Fortunately, the project was given a second life in mid-2020, and it seems quite steady right now.

The gameplay of Galaxy of Heroes is based on collecting characters known from the Star Wars universe, leveling them up, gaining equipment, and forming a team to face the challenges prepared by the developers. The game offers a fairly forgiving entry threshold, and unless you plan to get heavily involved in guilds and PvP, you won't have to shell out any real cash for microtransactions.

Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius

Developer: A-Lim / Gumi

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: October 22, 2015

Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is a real oldie – and also one of the most popular mobile games released by Square Enix in recent years. The game made its global debut in 2016 and topped the charts on iOS and Android ever since, constantly receiving updates with new content. The huge popularity brought guest appearances – most notably, Arianna Grande, a well-known pop singer.

By mixing the typical mobile gacha formula with a Japanese RPG, the developers have managed to create an extremely addictive game. Brave Exvius delivers an engaging story, free exploration of locations, PvP battles, many challenging endgame modes, and – of course – the option to win new characters. The game uses a turn-based combat system known from many jRPG games, which additionally offers combining attacks into more powerful sequences. Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is a free-to-play game, though it does use monetization quite abundantly. However, the game does not force us to buy anything, with its extensive F2P content.

Fire Emblem Heroes

Developer: Intelligent Systems

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: February 2, 2017

Fire Emblem Heroes is the first mobile game developed by Nintendo. The Fire Emblem universe was revived with the installments released for Nintendo 3DS, so the move to prepare a free mobile game using the gacha model shouldn't surprise anyone. Nintendo should be pleased with the game's popularity – the title has generated $656 of revenue since release, and there's little sign of the popularity wavering.

The gameplay in Fire Emblem Heroes is based primarily on tactical duels on small maps, where player's units clash with enemy armies. The in-game gacha allows you to draw new units, and because of the fairly player-friendly microtransactions and the in-game currency, we don't feel too much pressure to lay out real cash.

Dragon Ball Legends

Developer: Dimps

Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Release Date: May 17, 2018

Dragon Ball Legends, released in 2018, proved to be quite a success for Bandai Namco, which, using its license, together with Dimps, decided to bring Akira Toriyama's production to smartphones. Great visuals combined with constant updates allowed the title to gain and maintain a large group of active players.

The gameplay in Dragon Ball Legends combines elements of brawler, action RPG and card games. The popular anime characters you collect in the game can be upgraded by reaching new experience levels and learning new attacks, which we get in the form of cards. Each character can be equipped with a certain number of attacks. In addition to the story content, the game offers PvP modes and limited time events. As in other free gacha games, there are recurring special events allowing you to get the strongest characters.

Azur Lane

Developer: Shanghai Manjuu, Xiamen Yongshi

Publisher: Shanghai Yostar

Release Date: May 25, 2017

Azur Lane is one of the strangest games on this list. While the free-to-play gacha market has been dominated by RPGs and derivatives, Azur Lane is a side-scroller shooter featuring chibi heroines. Though, to be more accurate, the battleships are just presented as available to draw in the heroine's gacha. Personified battle fleets may seem like an odd concept, but the idea cought on in Asia. The polished gameplay and high production values translate into nice graphics and high-quality animation.

Created by Chinese developers, Azur Lane instantly gained immense popularity especially in Japan, where, shortly after its release, the game surpassed 5 million active players. The creators made hay while the sun shone and developed a console game (AzurLane: Crosswave) and an anime. The production is constantly being updated, offering crossovers with other brands from time to time to attract waves of new players.

Genshin Impact

Developer: MiHoYo

Publisher: MiHoYo

Release Date: September 28, 2020

Genshin Impact has been one of the most surprising hits in recent months. Studio MiHoYo decided to break away from the typical gacha formula that uses simple RPG elements, while keeping an eye on the overall gameplay to fit the mobile gaming trends. The game can confidently compete with the biggest players in the AAA market with huge, open world, visuals that easily compare to the best console games, and addictive gameplay that engages players for long hours on end.

Of course, one can obtain new characters via the typical gacha formula, and some activities are limited by an energy meter which replenishes very slowly (unless you pay). However, if one simply wants to spend a nice time in the beautiful world of Teyvat, they can do so without spending a dime. As befits a free game, Genshin Impact offers a huge portion of content and updates appearing every few weeks, making sure that no one gets bored with the game. The title is available not only on mobile devices, but also on PC and PS4, and is coming soon to PS5.

Marvel Strike Force

Developer: Scopely

Publisher: Scopely

Release Date: March 28, 2018

It's hard not to call Marvel Strike Force a copy of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. However, Scopely studio does a particularly good job at improving on the theme that’s been available for some time now. In MSF, just like in Galaxy of Heroes, we focus on collecting and upgrading characters, this time from Marvel comics. So, if the Star Wars license seem very appealing, perhaps the X-Men, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and a whole plethora of different mutants and superheroes will.

The game relies heavily on single-player content, offering a great deal of activities that will keep a newcomer occupied for at least a few months. And when our roster becomes sufficiently developed and strong, we'll be able to take part in PvP skirmishes, guild-specific raids and limited-time events that often bring new heroes. Even though Marvel Strike Force is a free game, and you can play it without microtransactions for a very long time. As time goes by, we may start to feel inclined to spend our savings on virtual items, though.

Dragalia Lost

Developer: Cygames

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: September 27, 2018

Dragalia Lost is the second Nintendo game available on smartphones. Unlike Fire Emblem Heroes, however, we're dealing with an entirely new IP with no previous history on the Kyoto-based company's hardware. This translates into lower popularity than FE Heroes, as well as more aggressive monetization of the title, for which Cygames was criticized several times.

However, the criticism did not affect the development plans. Dragalia Lost focuses on single-player content, though it does offer optional co-op for up to four players. The gameplay is based on a typical action-RPG formula. We fight opponents, defeat bosses to gain experience points and items needed for the development of the character, which we spend on upgrading our equipment. Like many mobile games, new characters are gained from gacha, by using the in-game currency or real cash. The chibi-style graphics won't appeal to everyone, though it can't be denied its charm.

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia

Developer: Koei Tecmo

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: February 1, 2017

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia is one of the most player-friendly mobile games when it comes to microtransactions. Although gacha is present and the whole system is based on it (we draw new weapons that give us new attacks and allow significantly developing the character), we get so many crystals and draw tickets during the regular gameplay that we shouldn't really run out. The idea behind the new content is to rely on a rich roster, and not require us to use particular characters that would require additional expenses.

If you've ever played Dissidia on the PSP, you'll be familiar with the basics. Each character has a BRV and HP attack at their disposal, the more BRV you collect, the more damage you deal. On top of that, there are special attacks and limits. Characters are divided into three archetypes (support, attack and healing) and our goal is to put together a team of three heroes that complement each other. Given the lack of PvP and guild content, all content is single-player and thanks to constant updates, there is plenty of new stuff keeping you entertained.

Fate/Grand Order

Developer: Delightworks

Publisher: Aniplex

Release Date: July 30, 2015

Fate/Grand Order is by far the most popular title on this list. The game created by Delightworks debuted in Japan in 2015, where it achieved gigantic success, climbing instantly to the top of the highest-earning mobile games. Two years later, the game was released to the rest of the world.

In Fate/Grand Order, we assume the role of a master who has the power to summon servants (mostly waifus). We then develop our units in battles, which take place in a turn-based system. Fate/Grand Order offers a ton of content, so it's a good option for people who want to focus on one game.

Due to extensive use of gacha mechanics, it is worth taking into account that in the later stages of the game, we may feel compelled to spend real money to stay competitive.

Bleach: Brave Souls

Developer: KLabGames

Publisher: KLabGames

Release Date: July 23, 2015

A free mobile game in the Bleach universe might not be the most popular choice when we compare it with other titles from this list. However, it has a loyal fan base that spends a lot of time with Bleach: Brave Souls.

The game by KLabGames studio stands out from the competition primarily with its gameplay mechanics. We do have action-RPG elements here, but the core is a 3-D beat'em up. Thanks to gacha, players can collect Bleach heroes and level them up in PvE and PvP modes.

The creators work closely with the author of Bleach, which is reflected in the high quality of the artistic layer. Bleach: Brave Souls is free to play, but those who are willing to invest real cash will significantly accelerate the development of their characters. Some may also be attracted by the fact that virtually the entire story from the manga/anime is told in the game.

Arknights

Developer: Hypergryph

Publisher: Yostar

Release Date: May 1, 2019

One of the newest games on the list, one that has instantly gained popularity. Arknights debuted in China in 2019, but wasn't made available worldwide until months later. However, this did not hinder the game's success. Arknights owes its popularity to very good visuals, addictive gameplay, and no pressure to spend real cash.

While it is true that the gacha in Arknights is very important and acts as a source of new units, it has been designed to encourage the player to spend cash rather than force them to do so by blocking access to content. What else? Instead of RPG elements, the game focuses on the tower defense formula. During the battles, the role of towers is performed by units that players have previously acquired, which, of course, they can upgrade for the material gained in the course of the game. In addition to PvE modes, the game also relies heavily on PvP competition, which, in the opinion of many, makes the production one of the best on the mobile market.

Epic Seven

Developer: Super Creative

Developer: Super Creative

Publisher: Smilegate

Release Date: August 30, 2018

Korean publisher Smilegate has one of the more popular free-to-play gacha games in its portfolio, namely, Epic Seven. The game has been available since 2018 on smartphones and has been downloaded several million times on Android alone.

Like many smartphone games, the production is an RPG that relies heavily on collecting characters and their subsequent development. We acquire units via gacha, of course, though Epic Seven has several character acquisition options.

Epic Seven offers a ton of content that can overwhelm at first, but the longer you spend playing the game, the faster you'll find your way around it. Good visuals, dynamic clashes and eye-pleasing style of the production make it easy to get sucked into the game. Still, it's fair to say that we have to spend a lot of free time to play the game, if we don't want to stand out from the competition. This is because, as in many other games, the aspect of PvP competition is as important as completing the story campaign.

The Alchemist Code

Developer: Fuji & Gumi Games

Publisher: Gumi

Release Date: January 28, 2016

The Alchemist Code doesn't stand out too much when it comes to gameplay compared to other mobile games. Gumi, the company responsible for the game's release, has prepared a tactical RPG, in which we collect characters through gacha, who we then use in battle. The game revolves around a story mode, in which we learn about the adventures of two characters – Logi and Dias. In addition, timed events await, offering several difficulty levels to provide a challenge for advanced players.

Of course, the free mobile game could not do without a PvP mode, in which we face off against other players. We earn currency for completing challenges, and we can then spend it on new characters through gacha. Unfortunately, in the case of The Alchemist Code, a significant difference can be felt between those who play F2P and those who spend real cash to develop their characters.

Lord of Heroes

Developer: Clover Games

Publisher: Clover Games

Release Date: March 26, 2020

This is the newest game on this list, but it's only gaining in popularity. However, thanks to very good visuals and addictive gameplay reminiscent of classic jRPGs, Lord of Heroes has a chance to become one of many mobile hits.

In Lord of Heroes, we collect heroes who are characterized by fixed character classes. Our goal is to properly compose the team to complement each other and be ready to face the content prepared by the developers. Apart from the standard story mode, there are side quests and the option to compete with other players. So we don't have anything new when it comes to the genre, but the developers have focused heavily on refining many of the elements we know from other games. Due to the youth of the production, it offers less content than other gacha productions, but that will change over time.

Pokemon Masters Ex

Developer: DeNa

Publisher: DeNa

Release Date: August 25, 2020

Pokemon Masters Ex is a dream-come-true for many smartphone gamers looking for a game where that allows battling other trainers. The skirmish mechanics are based on fielding three trainer-Pokemon pairs and are set in real-time (as opposed to turn-based, as seen in handheld games). We develop the acquired pairs using the gacha system and completing subsequent story threads and periodic events.

The title definitely stands out with its visuals and, jokes aside, has great appeal from the brand itself. Pokemon Masters Ex has been available on the market for almost a year and during that time it has managed to attract a large and loyal following. So at this point, we shouldn't worry about servers being shut down. If Pokemon Go doesn't appeal to you and you prefer something focused on Pokemon battles – you've come to the right place.

Raid: Shadow Legends

Developer: Plarium

Publisher: Plarium Global

Release Date: July 29, 2019

One of the most controversial games, mostly due to unusually aggressive marketing. To say that Raid: Shadow Legends is present everywhere is to say nothing. The game publisher is fighting hard to attract new players by offering a lot of bonuses at the start. But is there anything to start the adventure with?

Raid: Shadow Legends follows the same pattern as the currently listed Marvel Strike Heroes or Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. We collect units, upgrade them, grind necessary materials, strengthen equipment and develop combat skills. A multitude of game modes and good visuals can attract you for a long time, but you have to remember that sooner or later, the game will push you to the wall and will strongly encourage you to spend cash.

Punishing: Gray Raven

Developer: Kuro Game

Publisher: Kuro Game

Release Date: July 16, 2021

Still fresh on the market. Punishing: Gray Raven is already being called a serious competitor to Genshin Impact despite its not-so-catchy title. The words may be a bit over-the-top, but when you look at the visuals and gameplay, you realize that there is some credibility to this claim. PGR can boldly count itself among the new wave of AAA mobile games.

The gameplay focuses on real-time action. We direct a trio of Constructs, clashing with waves of enemies. During skirmishes, we can collect colored "Pings" that allow us to use powerful attacks. As is common in this genre, heroes and heroines are collected from gacha, and developed with the items we've farmed. The global launch of Punishing: Gray Raven encountered minor technical setbacks that resulted in a small boycott from players, but it doesn't affect the beginning of the game.

Pokemon Unite

Developer: TiMi

Publisher: The Pokemon Company / Nintendo

Release Date: July 21, 2021

An absolute newcomer to the market, which momentarily (well Pokemon) gained gigantic popularity despite the fact that it's only available on Switch for now (it will be released on smartphones in September). Pokemon Unite represents a different genre compared to the competition from this list. Instead of classic RPG with gacha, we have a MOBA, to which gacha has been added.

The effect is... extremely successful, according to early reviews. The TiMi team, which is responsible for creating the game, neatly combined the rules of a typical MOBA with those known from the Pokemon world. The unique Unite attacks are a novelty, which often allow to tip the balance of victory in our favor. More than 20 Pokémon are available at launch. The list will grow over time.

Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds

Developer: Netmarble

Publisher: Level-5

Release Date: June 20, 2021

Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds has only recently debuted in Japan, but it's expected to launch worldwide in 2022, so we thought it's worth writing about the game now. Why is that? Because we're dealing with a likely rehash of Level-5, which hasn't been able to turn its production into a success since Yo-Kai Watch.

It was aided by the Netmarble team, known primarily for Lineage 2, on which Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds is based on, and the game has already surpassed the barrier of 100 million downloads in Japan alone. The gameplay copies solutions known from other MMORPGs of this developer. We collect creatures from the gacha, develop them for materials and learn the story. When you see how the game looks, then you will understand why we have already highlighted it.

NieR Reincarnation

Developer: Applibot

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: July 28, 2021

NieR series can already be counted as one of the stronger brands in the jRPG market. After the phenomenal Automata, a remake of the original installment, it's time for a mobile spin-off that belongs in the canon. NieR Reincarnation is a sequel to Nier Automata, with action set in an unspecified time period. Compared to other mobile games, the story is a very strong element of production.

When you encounter an enemy, fully three-dimensional exploration is replaced with turn-based skirmishes that draw handfuls from other installments. Compared to other games with gacha elements, we don't collect new heroes, but rather weapons, which we later use in battles. This balances the gameplay better, so that those who simply want to learn the story can do so without limiting progress.

Paul Musiolik | Gamepressure.com

Genshin Impact

Genshin Impact

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes

Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes

Fire Emblem Heroes

Fire Emblem Heroes

Dragon Ball Legends

Dragon Ball Legends

Azur Lane

Azur Lane

Fate/Grand Order

Fate/Grand Order

Dragalia Lost

Dragalia Lost

Marvel Strike Force

Marvel Strike Force

Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius

Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia

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