Growing up, my family and I used to play games almost every night after dinner. There were countless Monopoly marathons, Uno matches that would rival competitive sports, and more than a few domino games that included ‘friendly wagers.’ And while admittedly, I needed a long break before I could eagerly jump back into the game night frenzy, as an adult, I’m happy to keep the tradition going. To help you do the same, I’ve rounded up my favorite game night games that are guaranteed to keep you laughing well into the night. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Before you scroll through, here are a few tips to take game night from an obligatory commitment to something everyone will look forward to. I love making a special but stress-free meal (or putting together a varied spread of appetizers), popping open a bottle of wine, and setting the scene with a curated playlist that has something for everyone.
Not one for competition? No worries. While you can certainly catch me *aggressively* engaging in all of the games below, when you get down to it, I’m simply happy to be surrounded by my favorite people without any screens among us. And, of course, we certainly don’t need excuses to make that happen. If we’ve learned anything from the past two years (and my goodness, we’ve certainly learned a lot), it’s this: Coming together, connecting, and offering up your presence alone is always enough.
But with that being said, after the greetings and hugs are given, it’s always good to have an activity or two that’ll help you further facilitate the fun. Whether you’re a player who’s all about strategy or someone who loves leaning into their luck, you’ll have your pick of all the best game night games below.
So without further ado, here’s the definitive list of the best game night games that’ll get everyone playing and preparing for some healthy competition.
Cards Against Humanity
You can’t make a game night list like this and not include the mother of all party games. Cards Against Humanity is a ridiculous, adult-themed take on the card game Apples to Apples, and it’s quickly worked its way to the No. 1 best-selling spot in the toys and games department.
Cards Against Humanity, $25
Was trivia night at your local bar the highlight of your week? Bring the fun home with Smart Ass, a game where you have to shout out the answer to each who, what, or where question first to win the round. Sort of like Jeopardy without the manners.
Smart Ass, $19.99
What Do You Meme?
If memes crack you up, you’ll seriously love this game. Think Cards Against Humanity, but with meme captions as the playing cards to make the best photo/text combo. What Do You Meme is our favorite easy game to play with friends (and a bottle of wine or tequila cocktails!).
What Do You Meme?, $29.99
Okay, everyone is familiar with this game since it’s been around since the ’60s, but we think it has been unjustly forgotten over time. The great thing about Twister is that it is just as appropriate at an eight-year-old birthday party as at a grown-up party. There is even a “Twister Ultimate” version with a larger mat for more players.
This all-rounder game is played in teams and forces players to use different kinds of creative intelligence, hence the name. Teams try to complete tasks by doing all kinds of things—getting your teammates to guess what you’re making out of clay, solving a puzzle, acting out a scene, or spelling words backward, for example. Cranium is a game for all ages, too!
If memory serves me correctly, I believe this easy, but strategic (and wildly fun) card game came into my life on my sixth birthday—and I’ve played at least a monthly round of Rat-A-Tat-Cat ever since. While it’s simple enough for young children to enjoy, there’s plenty of skill and intuition packed in. Each player is dealt four cards kept face-down. Cards are numbered one through nine, and with every turn, players draw a card from the deck trying to end up with the lowest score. In this game, memory, luck, and a good poker face will serve you well.
Whether it’s a reunion, holiday, or really any time my family finds ourselves together, you can bet we’ll be playing Mille Bornes. French for a thousand milestones, Mille Bornes is the classic, mid-century card game that has players racing head-to-head. While the goal is to get to 1000 miles first, the deck is full of “hazard,” “remedy,” and “safety” cards, so be ready for your trip to take a few twists and turns.
Mille Bornes, $11.99
Want to get to know your friends better? Then you have to play the Hot Seat card game, which will help you find out who your friends really are—you may even discover a few things you didn’t want to know!
Hot Seat, $9.99
Admittedly, because of my proud cat lady status, I was initially turned off by the name. But because of Exploding Kittens’ popularity, the Russian Roulette-style game piqued my curiosity and found its way into my game night rotation. Contrary to what you might think, it’s a family-friendly option that’s fun for kids and adults alike. And while I love welcoming almost any game into my life, my patience wanes when I have to leaf through ten pages of instructions. Good news: one of this game’s biggest selling points is that you can go from knowing nothing to becoming an Exploding Kittens expert in under two minutes.
Exploding Kittens, $9.99
From naming celebrities to singing to silly accents, Head’s Up is sure to bring a ton of laughs. You have to guess the word on the card that’s on your head from your friends’ clues before the timer runs out!
Head’s Up, $19.82
5 Second Rule
You think it’d be easy to name three types of dessert, but it’s not easy when the five-second timer is going! 5 Second Rule is a simple, yet incredibly fun game where you are challenged to name three of whatever topic is on the card—sometimes you’ll be able to name them in three seconds and other times your mind will go completely blank!
5 Second Rule, $14.79
Only serious game players are allowed! There are two spymasters and each spymaster is trying to get their team to guess which word or picture cards are theirs by only saying one very strategic word. Codenames is a word game that will force you to really use your brain, but it feels so good when you win!
I recently played this game on vacation and it was way more fun than I remembered (it helps that I kept winning)! It’s time to give Sorry! a second chance and bring it out at your next game night.
Catch Phrase is definitely an oldie, but a goodie. If you haven’t played, you try to get your teammates to guess the word or phrase that appears, but you can’t say any of the words on the screen. This fast-paced game will give you a little insight into how your friends or family think under pressure.
Catch Phrase, $40
Ticket to Ride
If you’re looking for a game that’s a bit more strategic than your basic game, but not quite as strategic (and long!) as Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride is the game for you. In this cross-country train adventure game, you and your friends will collect cards and grow your railway across America; if you can connect two cities and have the longest railway, you’re the winner.
Ticket to Ride, $21.98
While I stake my claim firmly in the camp of believing that a queen doesn’t need a king to wake her up, premise aside, this game is good. Some might write it off as being only for kids, but not a family holiday goes by without my sisters and I breaking out the Sleeping Queens box. The game is fast-moving and requires some quick thinking on every player’s part. The game ends when the player who wakes the most queens wins.
Sleeping Queens, $9.99
I’ve chosen to alternatively title this game free-form Scrabble. It’s simple: build your own crossword with the tiles you’re dealt with, and the first player to complete their grid is the winner. Honestly, though, this is one of the few games where I forget all about the competition, rewrite the rules, (hey, it’s my game night), and throw the timer away. Instead, I love focusing on trying to use up the whole bag of letters and seeing all the creative combos people can come up with.
I. Love. Scattergories. End of story. It’s a favorite for a reason. While Scattergories has been around for years, it never gets old. The classic, category-based game puts your creativity to the test. Each round only takes about three minutes to complete, so you can fill your game night full of Scattergories. Have a knack for alliterations? You’re going to love this game.
The Hygge Game
If your picture of a perfect evening is getting cozy with your closest friends at home, here’s the game to make it happen. While it’s less competition and more a game meant to inspire meaningful conversations, it nonetheless gets to the heart of game night: connecting and coming together with family and friends.
The Hygge Game, $20
When The New York Times calls something “The perfect party game,” you believe it. It’s simple to play. In three rounds, players give clues and try to get their team to guess as many of the names as possible from the deck. Round one: Say whatever you need to get your team to guess the name on each card (without, of course, using the name itself). Round two is a little more challenging. Using the same cards from the first round, you can only offer up one word as your hint. Round three? Charades, my friends. A knowledge of history and pop culture will bode well for your chances of winning.
This post was originally published on April 19, 2019, and has since been updated.
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