While gacha games have their origin in Japan, in recent years they’ve grown in popularity across the world, no doubt thanks to the rise in mobile gaming. There are now lots of gacha games with immersive worlds, fully-fleshed characters and gripping stories for you to explore.
In this article, we’ll be ranking the best gacha games in 2021. We’ve made sure to include games that are compatible with Android or iOS.
What is a Gacha Game?
To understand what a gacha game is, you need to know where the gacha term comes from: a Japanese capsule-toy vending machine (gachapon).
When you use a gachapon machine, it gives you a capsule containing a mystery toy. The most valuable toys are the rarest to get.
Gacha games are video games that feature and adapt this process. They typically have a store where you can buy loot boxes (capsules) that give you mystery items. These include characters, weapons or skins. Like the gacha machines, the “best” items are the hardest to get.
Considering their roots, it’s not a surprise that most gacha games have JRPG qualities, like a heavy story focus, turn-based gameplay, and a more stylistic art style.
8 Best Gacha Games in 2021
- Released: July 2018
- Publisher: Plarium
- Developer: Plarium
- Platforms: Android, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Macintosh operating systems
Even if you’ve never played a gacha game before, you’ve probably heard of RAID: Shadow Legends. This fantasy RPG is so infamous for its aggressive marketing strategies, it’s become an internet meme.
Despite this, RAID: Shadow Legends isn’t “all talk” and no substance. This turn-based role playing game throws you right into a dark fantasy realm, brought to life by stunning, lag-free graphics.
RAID features a wide variety of game modes for you to explore. These include Campaigns, Dungeons, Faction Wars and the Arena. In Faction Wars, you join a clan with your friends and work together to take on battle bosses. The Arena is a PvP mode, where you can earn some pretty great rewards.
There are several classes in the game and an ever-growing number of characters. Currently, there are over 300 characters. Each character is beautifully designed, and has their own unique abilities and playstyle. You can upgrade these characters by collecting equipment and artifacts (buffs).
Although the graphics are jaw-dropping – making it apt for those who value eye candy – the story is mediocre at best. It relies on run-of-the-mill fantasy tropes, and the narrative isn’t memorable.
Another issue with this gacha game is that it constantly tries to persuade you to splurge your cash. It gives regular pop-ups of “limited time offers” on purchasable packs. Premium items also give a significant power spike to your characters. As such, this game is “freemium” in every sense.
Even so, if you’re not overly big on story and don’t mind its freemium approach, RAID is still a great gacha game.
- Released: March 2018
- Publisher: Scopely, FoxNext
- Developer: FoxNext
- Platforms: Android, iOS
Marvel Strike Force is a turn-based gacha game. It allows you to finally live out your dream of commanding a roster of Marvel superheroes – or supervillains. Since its release, it has won several awards, such as “the best breakthrough game of 2019 (Google Play)”.
The animations are smooth and exciting, and there’s a good variety of game modes. Each mode is easy to learn. You can unlock new Marvel characters through orbs (the gacha component) and by collecting shards. There are several other currencies you can use to upgrade your characters and items.
With over 170 characters and an endless amount of rooster combinations, every fight feels unique. This makes it a hard gacha game to get bored of.
- Released: May 2017
- Publisher: Yostar Limited, Yostar Co., Ltd, X.D. Global
- Developer: Yongshi, Manjuu
- Platforms: iOS, Android
Azur Lane is a unique gacha game; it combines JRPG elements with side-scrolling shoot ‘em up gameplay. You take on the role of a naval fleet commander, and the whole story revolves around naval warfare.
The game launched in 2017. It has since become one of the most popular gacha games out there, especially in Japan. In Japan, it garnered over five million players within the span of four months. In 2019, it also received its own anime adaptation and console game version (Azur Lane: Crosswave).
While some gacha games can be difficult to figure out at first, Azur Lane is pretty beginner-friendly. It won’t throw you in the deep end (pun intended). The tutorial is fully fleshed out, and explains how the game works clearly.
Set in an alternate WW2 era, the game also incorporates various historical references. This makes it great for gacha-loving history buffs. While the story isn’t as hooking as other gacha games, most dialogue lines are voiced and well-acted.
As we mentioned above, a core part of the game is its 2D shooter combat. In this mode, the characters are easy to control, and their weapons fire automatically. However, you can tap on buttons to unleash further damage-dealing special attacks.
There are hundreds of characters in the game to pick between and collect (via gacha!). Characters have varying ranks and rareness, and you can also unlock gear for them.
The characters are the human forms of WW2-inspired warships. As you might have guessed, this approach results in some hilarious character designs. For example, USS Spence (a destroyer ship class) is turned into a nervous and shy loli.
Azur Lane can be grindy and feel repetitive at times. But it does get updated regularly with new content.
- Released: May 2018
- Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO
- Developer: BANDAI NAMCO, Dimps
- Platforms: iOS, Android
Dragon Ball is one of the most successful anime of all time. Not only did it influence the genre itself – especially the tropes found in shonen – but it also proved that anime could be popular in the West. Considering this, it’s no surprise that a gacha game adaptation of the franchise is a big hit.
Dragon Ball Legends features real-time combat in a 3D environment. Combat is fun, fast and engaging. You control your character via swipes and taps, and throw out special moves and combos at your opponent. You can even dodge attacks and counter them. It also features a card system which determines your usable abilities.
There are lots of game modes, including PVP and story mode. The story does feel like it drags on at times, but it’s overall decent and will definitely keep you invested. The visuals are vibrant and have the classic Dragon Ball style.
- Released: May 2019
- Publisher: Hypergryph, Yostar Limited, Longcheng
- Developer: Hypergryph, Studio Montagne
- Platforms: iOS, Android
Arknights is a mobile tower-defense game equipped with an anime aesthetic. The game is set in a dystopian world. The remaining survivors fight over a valuable resource called Originium.
Unlike your run-of-the-mill tower defense, the turrets are replaced with characters (operators). Operators have their own classes, abilities and special attack styles. There are 8 classes in total, ranging from sniper to medic.
As you progress through the game, Arknights ups the difficulty, limiting the possible solutions. This means you have to be strategic in where you place your characters (turrets). As such, it’s an excellent gacha game for those looking for some brain-teasing fun.
Another great aspect of Arknights is that none of the levels need you to splurge out cash. You can complete every level without needing super rare characters.
While the gameplay is rather simplistic, the story is compelling and doesn’t rely on clichés to move it forward. The game looks appealing, sporting detailed textures and a 3D environment. Despite the impressive looks, the game still runs well on low-end devices.
The gacha experience Arknights offers is also particularly generous. You have a 2% chance of pulling an operator with 6-star rarity, and an 8% chance of getting one of 5-star rarity. Arknights also has a system to ensure you’ll receive at least one high-rarity operator every ten pulls.
- Released: February 2017
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo, Intelligent Systems, Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
- Platforms: iOS, Android
Fire Emblem Heroes is a turn-based strategy combat game. You move your characters on a chess-like board, with the aim of wiping out the opponent. This gacha game is a spin-off of the popular Fire Emblem series. But you can be fresh to the franchise and still enjoy the game.
There are various maps to solve and plan your way through. Designed for portrait mode, all the action fits neatly on your screen. The touchscreen controls are smooth and one-hand friendly. Battles are also short, averaging 40 seconds to a couple of minutes. All these factors make the game easy to play while traveling.
The game’s single-player campaign mode doesn’t boast the most interesting story. But there are plenty of other game modes available, including Arena Duels (PVP).
There is also a Special Maps game mode. This mode has maps on rotation (or event maps) which give you the opportunity to get unique rewards. Each map also has special win conditions, like “all allies must survive.” This makes for some entertaining gameplay.
With over 700 unlockable characters in the game, you’ll never run out of new things to collect and explore.
Fan of the Fire Emblem series? You’ll be pleased to know that virtually all the franchise’s characters are featured in this game.
You can get new characters through the “summoning” gacha mechanic”. Characters are rated from 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being the best. Drop rates are generous, thanks to the 5-star rate increase system. Every 5 turns you don’t get a 5-star character, the chance of obtaining one increases by 0.25%.
- Released: August 2018
- Publisher: Smilegate Megaport
- Developer: SUPER CREATIVE
- Platforms: iOS, Android
Epic Seven is a turn-based role-playing gacha game that is incredibly story rich. While the overarching story is straightforward, the characters and subplots add phenomenal depth. You get to form close bonds, and the story becomes more complex and hooking as new truths are unveiled.
The full-frame animation sequences also help to immerse you and bring the story to life. These animations are vibrant, and the characters and backgrounds are brimming with detail. It genuinely feels like you’re watching an anime at times.
Even when it comes to gameplay, the game is still a visual treat, especially the special effects. They are smooth, clear and gorgeous. Every character’s ultimate move also has a dedicated animated sequence.
While the gameplay is turn-based, it is far from simple. In fact, it can often feel a little too complex, especially when you’re starting out. The tutorials also don’t cover everything apart from the basics. Meaning, you will have to figure things out as you go along and rely on online guides from the community. Luckily, Epic Seven has a thriving community. You’ll have no problem finding players willing to help.
The game’s gacha system allows you to summon new heroes or boost gear and rating. It gives users one free “roll” each day. Reaching a particular level milestone will also give you access to a special gacha roll.
- Released: September 2020
- Publisher: miHoYo
- Developer: miHoYo, Shanghai Miha Touring Film Technology Co., Ltd.
- Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5
Genshin Impact grossed over $ 1 billion within half of a year of its release, and for good reason. It’s a fantasy roleplaying game featuring an open-world environment and engaging combat.
While most gacha games don’t have interactive combat, Genshin uses real-time action. This allows you to control every aspect of your character. Each character has their own abilities. Plus, there are tons of different elemental combos to learn.
The combat is even interactive with the environment. Battle an opponent nearby water, and they’ll become vulnerable to Electro attacks.
Genshin Impact’s world will keep you hooked for hours on end. There’s so much to see and explore, and every area is brimming with content. Roam around in one spot, and you’ll no doubt run into various combat events, quests and puzzles.
The soundtracks are beautiful and immersive, and the game looks stunning. It has an animeesque, Legend of Zelda feel, and the 23 playable characters all have charming designs.
Moreover, the gacha system “Wish” allows you to unlock powerful characters and weapons. While the odds of getting the best items are low, you can use the gacha system without having to spend a dime. The non-paying method will take some grinding. But thanks to the gorgeous world and characters, it never feels like a chore.
While just over a year old, the developers already have plenty more updates and content in the works.