Too Cold to Go Out? Hunker Down With Loved Ones and Enjoy One of the Best Family Board Games
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If you were born in the age before our smartphone and video game-centric society, we bet you spent hours playing some of the best family board games. Monopoly, the Game of Life and Scrabble likely lined your bedroom shelves, waiting for their time to shine on holiday get-togethers or a cold winter evening. And no matter whether you played with friends or family, you always knew these games would never fail to provide entertainment for all.
Sadly, as the years passed and the dominance of smartphones and the best new video games grew, board games fell by the wayside. In the early 2000s, board game popularity fell hard. However, recent times have seen the best board games make a resurgence. In addition to pandemic-enforced time at home, things like board game cafes, modern board games and many people’s active choice to avoid technology-based entertainment have seen these games come roaring back into our lives — and for good reason.
The Benefits of Playing Board Games
Good family board games provide both adults and children with a number of benefits. From greater social interaction to breaks from our technology-dominated existence, the top reasons you may want to consider sitting down for a session with one of the best boards games include:
- Screen Breaks – Any time spent playing the best family board games is time not spent looking at a computer, a smartphone or a TV screen.
- Time Together – For families, board games are a great way to boost together time. While there may be times when the competition becomes a little too competitive, a good board game session can be an ingredient for making some truly long-lasting and treasured memories.
- Education – Word or education-based board games can act as the building blocks for improving children’s vocabulary and math skills. Adults can also benefit from these games, too. For example, did anyone really have extensive knowledge of two-letter words until they started playing Scrabble or Words With Friends?
- Sociability – Whether you’re playing with friends, your family or people you’ve only just met, board games are a great way to become more social (Monopoly-induced anger tantrums aside). It can also be a fun way to make new friends who share an interest in board games.
How We Chose the Best Family Board Games
While it would be easy to simply pick the winners through numbers of units sold alone, choosing the best family board games involves a more complicated process. In addition to general popularity, we looked at other elements to determine whether each game is worthy of the title of “one of the best family board games.” Here’s how we decided on our top games.
- Ratings & Reviews – When people find a game they love, they often become passionate and protective over it. This effect can usually be seen in thousands of positive ratings and reviews from people who have taken the time to write down why they love the game and why they think everyone else will love it, too. Almost every game on our list maintains a five-out-of-five rating after thousands of reviews from customers.
- Experience – We have, or someone on the SPY team has, played all of the games on this list. This ensures we have first-hand experience of each pick, allowing us to be sure it is worthy of its place among the best games. And to ensure there’s something for everyone, we have included a range of games from across the board. This means you’ll find everything from word games and strategy games to the best card games and problem-solving games.
- Longevity – A lot of board games come, have their moment in the sun, and go. For a board game to make it into the category of one of the best family board games, longevity is definitely a noteworthy factor. For example, names like Monopoly, Scrabble, Catan and Clue have remained favorites with families across the ages, and continue to do so even today. However, longevity doesn’t mean you won’t find a few more recently released modern board games that we think may eventually earn this sought after reputation.
What Is the Best Family Board Game of All Time?
Answering the question of what is the best family board game isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. After all, not all people or families are the same, so declaring a single game as the best game for everyone isn’t particularly helpful. So what are the best family board games of all time? Here’s a selection of games which always make any top 10 list and are highly unlikely to be a purchase you regret:
- Ticket to Ride
Below you’ll find 28 of the top family board games available online. Here are some of the best board games out there, whether you’ve got a brood of children to entertain or just want to get closer to your friends and family on game night.
Sequence is one of the most popular games on Amazon, but it’s entirely possible that you’ve never heard of it prior to this article. The complicated-looking board may have put you off trying it until now; however, the game is actually quite simple. It’s a cross between tic-tac-toe and cards. The point of the game is to draw cards and match them to markers on the board while trying to get five in a row. This is a great board game for ages seven and above and can even be used as a STEM learning tool.
2. Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan, also known simply as Catan, was recently named the “Game of the Century.” If you haven’t tried it already, you should gather up your friends for a game night ASAP. In the game, players act as adventurous settlers taming the Isle of Catan. Through rolls of the dice, trades and cards, you work to develop the land and gain resources, but you’ll need to watch out for monopolies, robbers or other players blocking your roads. Thanks to the ability to change the board, the game is different virtually every time you play. This strategy game encourages players to cooperate, strategize and compete to build the strongest civilization and provides hours of fun.
BEST CLASSIC BOARD GAME
Love it or hate it, Monopoly is a game that should be found in every household. The game that takes forever allows you to “buy, sell, dream and scheme your way to riches.” Although this is technically the classic version of the game, it does include the new line up of tokens. The rubber ducky, a tyrannosaurus rex and a penguin join the family. Of course, if classic Monopoly isn’t for you, you could always buy Monopoly: Pokémon Johto Edition, Avengers Monopoly, the Star Wars Monopoly or a Monopoly game based on pretty much anything you can think of.
BEST FOR PLAYING ANYWHERE
4. Exploding Kittens
Exploding Kittens remains one of Kickstarter’s most backed projects of all time, and it’s easy to see why. This fast-paced card game is all about not getting blown up by a kitten, and using all of the other creatures at your disposal to do so. It’s the perfect card game for all ages, and the best part? It’s easy to play, and only requires a small deck of cards, making it one of the most portable options on our list. Play it in the park, outside a café or in the car on a road trip. We promise you won’t regret it, even if a kitten does get detonated all over you.
BEST RIDE-BASED GAME
5. Funko Disney The Haunted Mansion
Hitchhiking ghosts, Madame Leota’s Séance Room and an endless hallway all scream one thing to anyone who has visited Disneyland or Walt Disney World — The Haunted Mansion ride. In this Funko Disney The Haunted Mansion – Call of The Spirits: Disneyland Edition Game, players get to move around the ghost-infested manor for themselves to collect ghost cards. And like the actual ride, players need to watch out for unexpected ghosts which may try to hop on board at any moment. Each version of the game is suitable for two to six players, ideal for players above the age of nine and lasts around 30 minutes per round.
BEST TEAM GAME
One of the best newer games on the block is the multi-award-winning Codenames . In this word game, two teams race to reveal the identities of 25 secret agents. One teammate knows the agents only by their code names. The other person on the team has to get the first player to guess the agents’ identities using one-word clues. This is a fun, themed game that can provide hours of entertainment.
BEST FOR DOG LOVERS
7. Asmadi Games Good Puppers
If you love dogs and like the sound of a dog-based game that is quick to play and easy to learn, you need Asmadi Games Good Puppers on your game shelf. Each round, which averages about 30 minutes, sees players collecting pup cards. Every pup card features a unique dog with special abilities, that loves nothing more than digging holes and burying bones. Card examples include Crafty Lab, Caring Maltese and Playful Husky. Furthermore, this 2021 release is made for players over the age of nine and can be played by two to five players.
BEST GUESSING GAME
8. HUES and CUES
This HUES and CUES Vibrant Color Guessing Game is all about a player’s ability to guess an answer from one or two-word clues. Using clues, such as “apple,” players must decide which color on the 480-color board is right. After each round, players are rewarded for how close their guess was to the correct answer. This award-winning game is ideal for between three and ten players who are over the age of eight, while games generally last around 30 minutes.
BEST FOR DEVELOPMENT
It just doesn’t get better than Scrabble. If you love Words with Friends, you absolutely need to invest in a Scrabble board. This classic board game can open your eyes to new word possibilities. It’s also ideal for families ages eight and up as it can teach new vocabulary and reading skills in a fun way. This set includes four tile racks, 100 wooden letter tiles, one game board, a drawstring letter bag and a game guide.
Even more than 20 years after its original release, Carcassonne is still as popular as ever with board games fans, both new and old. The two-to-five-player strategy game lets you take on the roles of knights, monks, farmers and thieves as you decide on tile types on the ever-expanding board. Plus, while the original game is more than capable of providing players with hundreds of hours of fun, it’s worth noting that there’s a wealth of expansion packs that can be added for even greater gameplay variety. Popular expansions include The Princess & The Dragon, Inns & Cathedrals and the Count, King & Robber.
BEST DICE GAME
“There is no skill in rolling dice” is what all Yahtzee losers say. If you’ve never played this fast-paced battle game before, get ready to become addicted to the art of rollin’ dice in just the right way. Each game comes with five dice, 100 score cards, and a shaker which doubles up as a handy storage case for the game. And, because of the easy-to-understand and follow rules, it’s a great choice for playing with younger family members. Furthermore, if you want a change from the traditional, mix things up by trying this YAHTZEE: Disney Hocus Pocus version, which comes with its own unique dice and movie-themed pieces.
BEST FOR NATURE LOVERS
12. Stonemaier Wingspan
This is a beautiful board game that’s a bit more expensive due to the intricacy of the parts, so it’ll make a great gift for board game enthusiasts. This particular game includes a Swift Start package with ten promo bird cards and four first-round walkthrough guides. It’s a great game for bird lovers or those who appreciate a beautiful aviary, once they’ve passed through all the levels and built it.
BEST YOU VS GAME PLAY
Instead of a game in which you are trying to beat the other players, Pandemic is a game of teamwork in which you work with the other players to beat the game and save the world. In Pandemic, each character is a member of an elite disease control team trying to keep four deadly diseases at bay. Together, you must move around the world and play to your character’s strengths to cure diseases and save the planet from a pandemic. This thought-evoking game flips the competition of normal board games on its head and provides endless evenings of entertainment. Plus, it hits kind of close to home these days, huh? Alternatively, if that hitting is a little too close to home, give this Pandemic-inspired Star Wars The Clone Wars Board Game a try.
Reignite family time with the childhood classic Sorry!. The aim of the game is to get all three of your color pawns from start to home and bump your opponents’ pawns en route. In this updated version, some of the rules have changed, allowing a younger generation to fall in love with the game. In addition, Hasbro has also included interactive digital content for a fully immersive gaming experience.
15. Hasbro Clue
Like Monopoly, Risk and Scrabble, Hasbro’s Clue Game is worthy of a place on the best board games of all time list. For the unfamiliar, the game of Clue creates a new mystery for you to solve during every game. In addition, this is one game that has established itself as a part of modern culture, inspiring nicknames and phrases. If you don’t have Clue already, you really need to add this classic version, or the Retro Series Clue 1986 Edition Game to your board game shelf.
16. Ticket to Ride
With more than 8,500 reviews on Amazon with a 4.5-star rating, there can be little doubt that people enjoy playing Day of Wonder Ticket to Ride. This cross-country train adventure game takes around 60 minutes to complete for two to five players. The fast pace of play ensures everyone remains awake and involved as you work to connect some of the iconic cities from across North America. You’ll earn additional points for connecting two far-away cities as you construct new train routes to travel on.
BEST FOR COLLEGE KIDS
17. Secret Hitler
Funded by a recent Kickstarter, Secret Hitler is like a cross between a board game and a murder mystery. At the beginning of the game, players are secretly assigned to either the fascist group or the liberal group. One player is randomly assigned the character of Hitler. Then through a series of government-like decisions, players have to decide who is who, eventually killing the “Secret Hitler” before it’s too late. Plus, as the game is set in 1930s Germany, older children and college kids can glean a deeper understanding and awareness of politics from this particular board game.
BEST FOR MARVEL FANS
18. Space Cowboys Splendor Marvel
If you’ve ever wanted to be part of an Avenger superhero team to prevent Thanos from ending the world, you need this Space Cowboys Splendor Marvel Board Game in your life. Offering an alternate playing experience to the original version, each player in this two-to-four-player game is tasked with recruiting familiar heroes and locations in an attempt to claim the Infinity Gauntlet before Thanos does. Avenger cards in the deck include heroes and villains, such as Taskmaster, Dr Strange, Loki, Doctor Octopus and She-Hulk.
BEST BIDDING GAME
19. Zillionaires Road Trip USA: Family Board Game
The Zillionaires Road Trip USA: Family Board Game puts $49 zillion in each player’s hands, igniting a competition to acquire some of the weirdest and most wonderful real attractions from across the US. As these attraction cards, such as the ‘Museum of Bad Art’ or the ‘Igloo Hotel,’ are drawn, players bid and bluff their way to ownership, placing a ‘sold’ chip down when a bidding war is won. The ultimate way to win this two to five player game is to achieve a row of four chips up, down or across the board.
BEST FOR FOUR
To succeed at Blokus, players need a good offense, a good defense and the ability to forward-think. In this way, it’s similar to chess. However, with its easy-to-understand rules which can be explained in minutes, bright color pieces and ability to accommodate between two and four players, it’s a game that is far better suited to family funtime. Games generally last around 30 minutes, helping to ensure younger players don’t get bored. It also comes with the backing of more than 8,000 five-star ratings from Amazon users.
BEST FOR MILLENNIALS
21. The Game of Life
For many people, The Game of Life was responsible for hours of entertainment growing up. Now, Millennials and younger players can experience the same enjoyment from these updated versions of the classic game. In the Game of Life: Quarter Life Crisis, players win the game when all crippling debt has been paid off. Players will likely need to be working two jobs, renting overpriced accommodation and staying with a partner they don’t love — but, hey, that’s life in the 21st century. Alternatively, for something a little more light-hearted, child friendly and less hard-hitting, try The Game of Life: Super Mario Edition version.
BEST STRATEGY GAME
Risk is probably one of those board games that your parents always had around, but you never wanted to play with. That’s because the outside of this game hasn’t been updated in decades. However, that doesn’t mean the game is boring. After all, the board game Risk is still being produced after years and years on the market. The aim of the game is to conquer your opponent’s territory with your army. Take over the world, and you win. If you want something with a more modern spin, try one of the TV show or game-based options, which include Game of Thrones, Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings versions.
23. Spot It!
Want a game that takes seconds to learn, minutes to play and delivers fun for all ages? Then Spot It! Classic Card Game could be your answer. This outstandingly popular card game ticks all the right boxes, including a budget-friendly price, and asks nothing more from players than observational skills and fast reflexes. Simply identify the matching symbols, say it out loud, and the round is yours. If you’re after something different from the original, try one of the alternate Spot It! versions, which include Harry Potter, Pixar and other animal-inspired options.
BEST FOR WORDSMITHS
For fast thinkers and game players who love competition, this traditional party game is still unbeatable in creating memorable fun. Coming up with answers to the category on the card may sound easy, but the trick is to match the first letter with the letter rolled on the die! To win, the team must have the best word not used by the other players. To mix things up, make things more interesting and accommodate more players, it’s possible to play the game in teams rather than as individuals.
BEST PATTERN BUILDING GAME
Plan B Games Azul Board Game calls for you to pit your mosaic-building skills against your fellow competitors as you race to finish decorating the king’s royal palace. Each game takes around 40 minutes to complete and involves collecting tiles, creating patterns and placing them on the board to score points, depending on the complexity and style of the pattern. The game comes with high-quality components and can be played by two to four artisans who are over the age of eight.
26. Disney A Goofy Movie Game
The Disney A Goofy Movie Game is another movie-inspired option. And, just like the 1995 musical comedy-adventure film, players have to journey across the US to see Powerline the band live in concert. As players road trip their way across the map, the goal is to make the most memories and score the best seats for the big finale. This fun is made for two to four players over the age of seven. And even if you choose to play in pairs, this short yet fun-filled game is sure to deliver a fun time for the whole family,
BEST FOR HAUNTING
27. Betrayal at House on the Hill
If you want to leave the game feeling scared to be alone, this might be the right midnight game for you — “Take a deep breath before you enter. It might be your last.” Betrayal at House on the Hill is a chilling game of strategy and horror. A character-driven game, you will find something new in every room that you must overcome or it will overcome you. A game of skill, this haunted house will leave you feeling breathless.
BEST FOR HORROR FANS
In this ever-shifting world, the game almost never ends — and that’s the point. Best played over several sessions, Gloomhaven is a scenario-based game where players must make decisions that will alter the course of play. Who has the most skill in every scenario and who will survive on the ghostly edge of the world?