Whether you're hosting a dinner party, or simply enjoying a relaxing night in with your loved ones, a board game is are a sure-fire way to stir up your competitive side.
We tested and researched the best board games aimed at adults, considering the strategy, humor, and number of players involved in each pick. Based on our insights, Settlers of Catan is our best overall pick. The strategy game appeals to a wide audience, has easy-to-grasp directions, and a high replay value for hours of adventurous fun.
Here, the best board games for adults that you'll want to add to your game shelf.
Best Overall: Catan Studio Catan
Fun to play
Well-designed board and pieces
Teaches how human settlements develop
Takes time to understand
Who else recommends it? Good Housekeeping, Today, and The Strategist all picked Catan the Board Game.
What do buyers say? 91% of 28,100+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.
This adventure-based board game requires players to battle it out to collect resources and build the biggest settlements on the island of Catan. In addition to numerous other accolades and being translated into over 30 languages, Catan won The Game of the Century Award at Gamescom in 2015. The board is made up of 19 hexagonal tiles that are arranged randomly at the beginning of each game—making sure that no two games are ever the same. Each tile represents a different terrain that corresponds with a different valuable resource for your civilization.
Each player gets color-coded settlement, road, and city pieces, and earns “victory points” as they build various structures. Setup takes about five minutes, according to our tester, which begins with each player placing two settlements and two roads on the island. Points can be racked up a variety of ways: building houses and cities, owning the longest road or the biggest army and holding point-bearing “development” cards, making this a competitive game up until the last second.
Catan is an absorbing and engaging game for teens and adults alike. Plus, players unknowingly learn lessons about the importance and consequences of access to resources, odds, the snowballing effect of luck (or lack thereof) on human success, migration, bartering, and other economic issues, says our tester. Players of all ages also hone their critical thinking and strategic skills with every game. The only downside is that the world-building game may take a bit of time to fully understand. Once you've mastered the rules, it is sure to take over your next game night.
Price at time of publish: $48
Best Strategy: Indie Boards and Cards The Resistance
Suitable for groups or parties
Perfect for non-gamers
Not as fun with a quiet or less animated crowd
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of The Resistance, it’s a fast-paced board game that relies on strategic thinking. This game pits friends against one another as everyone is forced to scheme and lie to further their progress. The game has a total of five rounds, and in each round, a player becomes the leader and sends players on a mission. If a mission fails, then someone on the team is forced to become a Corporate Spy and routing out these spies is the objective of the game.
It’s a game of strategy, deduction, and good ol’ deception. Each round takes less than thirty minutes. Game plays up to ten, and this one is definitely a “the more the merrier” game to keep tensions high. The game is simple, but the real game is not the game itself, it’s up to the players to be strategic to develop their own secret identity and attempt to suss out the fellow spies through social deduction.
Price at time of publish: $20
Best for Parties: All Things Equal Adult Loaded Questions
Card/ board game hybrid
May be inappropriate for young players
Prepare for hilarious (and sometimes raunchy) questions and answers with this card/ board game hybrid from All Things Equal. Loaded Questions debuted in 1997, but this adult version is ideal for late-teens and adults, who want something a bit more elevated.
Players spin the wheel and read a corresponding question card. The remaining players then all write down their best answer, challenging the lead of that round to match the answers to each player. This a great pick for parties, bachelorette parties, or any social setting when you want to get to know each other better.
Price at time of publish: $18
Best Cooperative: Z-Man Games Pandemic
Educates about public health
Steep learning curve
This high-stakes board game requires a healthy degree of prioritization, communication, teamwork, and creative problem solving. Everyone gets the chance to participate as all players win or lose together in their battle to protect against a worldwide outbreak.
Despite the game’s challenging premise, it’s easy for players to get engaged as each player has a special ability to help cure the pandemic. Part of the fun of this game is developing a strategy as a team and deliberating among each other to figure out what the best approach is and how to best utilize their special abilities making it also great for team building. For instance, should you tackle one strain of disease before moving on to the next or do you attempt to contain an outbreak first?
Price at time of publish: $34
Best for Meme-Lovers: What Do You Meme? What Do You Meme? Core Game
Pop culture references abound
Some memes feel outdated
If you like match games like Apple to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, and you spend a fair amount of time online, then you're the ideal audience for What Do You Meme?. It has a similar premise to those beloved games, but with an internet-y twist. Answers tend to be as outrageous and silly as the people you're playing with, so clear your schedule and grab your funniest, most web-savvy friends. A previous tester had a blast playing this with her friends, noting, "Most of the memes were hilarious and the crazy combinations had us laughing hysterically."
Even those who spend most of their time IRL can enjoy the game, as they don't have to be meme-historians to follow along. And in fact, it may be better that way, since they won't notice how some of the included memes can feel old to those who've been online for years.
Price at time of publish: $30
Best Puzzle: Plan B Azul Board Game
Easy to learn
Includes strategic elements
Not very competitive
A good icebreaker is fast-paced and easy to learn. That’s why we like Azul. It’s a short, engaging game that requires some strategy. The objective of the game is to place tiles on the board and score points, and completion of specific sets are more valuable than others.
This is a good icebreaker because it’s a game that’s more of a puzzle, or color-themed crossword, than a head-to-head challenge. The relaxing nature of the game offers players the opportunity to focus on an activity while also engaging in conversation. It’s less about being competitive and more about pattern making. The design of the game is also visually pleasing which makes it a great gift for friends and family.
Price at time of publish: $35
Best Two-Player: Mayfair Games Patchwork Board Game
High replay value
Unique rules and design
Not suitable for more than 2 players
Patchwork is a great game for creatives. Players are tasked with designing a beautiful quilt out of interesting textile tiles. It’s a two-player game that’s interesting and short enough to keep players engaged and having fun. The game challenges players to strategically collect pieces, but not all pieces fit together.
The rules are simple and each round takes about 15 to 30 minutes with each round typically being close in competition. It’s not an overly competitive game, so it’s nice for couples and anyone who doesn't want to get their heart rate up playing a board game. It’s also a visually appealing board game, which makes it nice to have out on display or keep out at a large party as an activity for small groups to do.
Price at time of publish: $30
Best Competitive: Monopoly Netflix Stranger Things Edition Board Game
Makes a great gift
"Go to jail" and "free parking" do not reference the show
Season 4 references only
Monopoly is a classic, highly competitive game that can take hours to complete and accommodates single players or groups, depending if you want to team up. Truth be told, lots of themed Monopoly boards are available and it was hard to choose just one, but Monopoly’s latest Stranger Things edition is worth mentioning due to the extra details and pop culture relevance. It's entirely customized, and the premise is similar to the original, but this time there's added pressure from Vecna opening gates. Locations are based around Hawkins and beyond, and players can choose from Stranger Things themed tokens like a slice of pizza, Dustin's hat, a Hawkins High School emblem, and more.
The game ends when a player bankrupts their opponents (or Vecna wins). Fans of the show and Monopoly buffs alike will enjoy the subtle twists that the theming brings to the game.
Price at time of publish: $27
Best for Movie Buffs: Big Potato Blockbuster Trilogy: Party Game for Adults and Teens
Collection of 3 unique games
400 movies included
Great for individuals or groups
Mainstream movie knowledge required
For a movie-related game night that doesn't require a screen, it's hard to beat this trio of Blockbuster games. They're structured to include different rounds, so players get the chance to go head-to-head, do Charades-style pantomiming, describe films (while beating a buzzer), and of course, shout out guesses with as much energy as their hearts desire.
Anyone who likes movies or pop culture, or both, will likely find this set right up their alley. The only catch is that players with outside-the-rental-box tastes may find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to certain trivia.
Price at time of publish: $29
Best Escape Room: Avalon Hill Betrayal At House On The Hill
High replay value
Sturdy high-quality pieces
Themes may be too dark for some players
When going to an escape room simulation isn't possible, bring all the thrill and suspense of one right into your own living room. Betrayal at Hill House challenges players to build their own haunted mansion, then try to escape. Unlike other escape-themed games, the players are actually building the escape room, so it will vary every round, making for a high replay value.
Players work together to solve over 50 possible scary scenarios, except for one player, who becomes a traitor along the way. Adults will love the unique game board design and delightfully haunted themes, but be warned, the content may be a bit too dark for some players.
Price at time of publish: $36
Best Trivia: Hasbro Games Trivial Pursuit
Suitable for various ages
Classic design and gameplay
Multiple topics included
Not as many cards as the original version
Sometimes the classic games are the best games, and Trivial Pursuit is a party game that’s stood the test of time, since it covers an array of interesting topics like geography, history, art, alliteration, science, sports, and leisure. It’s accessible to teens, adults, and older players alike—though all generations definitely won't know all of the answers.
The objective of this trivia game is for players to progress around the board by answering trivia questions correctly and earning wedges. The Master Edition includes over 3,000 challenging questions on new topics like entertainment, pop culture, and modern technology.
Price at time of publish: $25
Best Classic: Hasbro Gaming Scrabble
Suitable for various ages
Slightly different board and pieces than the original game
When in doubt, opting for a classic board game that has stood the test of time is always a good decision. Scrabble is suitable for a variety of ages and is perfect for quiet nights indoors or exciting game nights with friends and family.
Each game of Scabble is completely different based on the letters you receive and must try to make words with. Also, everyone has their own strategy, making for a unique experience each time. Get the whole family involved to foster spelling and reading in younger players, or play with all adults for a competitive game that will definitely build your vocabulary.
Price at time of publish $20
Best Drinking: DRINK-A-PALOOZA Party Drinking Board Game
Great with a large group
Leads to hilarity
Combines classic drinking games
Extra judgment required around drinking themes
Combine all the elements of beloved classic drinking games for a board game that is guaranteed to be a good time. The rules of Beer Pong, Flip Cup, Kings Cup, and High/Low merge as players win bottles and fill up their six-pack game piece to try and claim victory. Plus, no alcohol is technically required, so you can substitute mocktails or other drinks of choice based on the ages and comfort levels of your players.
Price at time of publish: $20
Best Mystery: Fantasy Flight Games Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Perfect for parties and groups
Players don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes fan to enjoy this game
Low replay value after all mysteries are solved
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a cooperative, murder mystery game that tasks players with solving a case before Sherlock himself. Each case provides clues and potential locations to investigate using newspapers, maps of London, and case files to solve the murder. Players must work together to interview suspects and piece together the puzzle.
Once your team thinks you have a good theory, you then answer critical questions about the case. Your score based on how many questions you answer correctly, and points are deducted based on how many more trips you took than Holmes and how your theory compares to his. The only downside is that the game only contains ten potential cases to solve (and cases can only be solved once). While it’s nearly impossible to solve the case before Holmes, it’s still very fun to try!
Price at time of publish: $47
Best Disney: Ravensburger Disney Villainous Strategy Board Game
Perfect for Disney fans
Recognizable characters and design
Gameplay can become tedious
Disney board games are not just for kids. Villainous is an immersive storytelling-based board game that teenagers and adults can enjoy just the same. Play as an iconic Disney villain—Captain Hook, Maleficent, Jafar, Ursula, Queen of Hearts, or Prince John—to complete your sinister objectives.
The strategy-based game has clear instructions that are easy-to-follow. Each villain has their own guide to inspire strategies and craft different modes of gameplay for a unique experience each time. Also, there are compatible games in the Villainous universe that can be played together for even more devious ways to pass the time.
Price at time of publish: $35
What to Look for in a Board Game For Adults
Many board games for adults have more sophisticated rules, but that doesn’t mean they have to be so complicated it makes you want to quit before you even begin playing. Opt for games that are both easy to understand and quick to explain (so you don't spend half of the night reading the rules) but still require some serious strategy skills. All the options above fit into both categories: easy to explain and challenging to play.
Number of Players
Games that can accommodate both two players and many players are ideal. While family-friendly games may be designed for more players so all the kids can get involved, many board games for adults are meant to be fun and competitive with as few as two players. Of course, there are party-style games that are great for a crowd, but if it’s just you and a friend playing, choose one of the options built to challenge groups of two.
Who doesn't love to laugh and let loose? Thankfully, many adult board games include an aspect of humor and wit. Unlike games for kids that may play on silly humor or outrageous outcomes, the humor of a board game for adults is usually developed with a more mature audience in mind—one that can appreciate irony or agonize over embarrassment. Look for a game that's aligned with your humor, and you'll be much more likely to play often.
What is the most popular board game for adults?
There’s no definitive answer to this question. The internet is littered with subjective lists of the most popular board games for adults that vary according to who is compiling them. These lists may focus on games that are currently trending or have been around for ages, from ancient but still ubiquitous board games such as Chess to vintage classics like Monopoly to contemporary games such as Catan, which was first released in 1995 in Germany and is trending in the U.S. in 2022.
What was the first board game?
According to the British Museum, the first board game was The Royal Game of Ur, which can be traced back approximately 4,600 years to ancient Mesopotamia. The museum has an original model from 2,500 BC on display in its collection, and sells a modern reproduction of the board game which it describes as “the famous race game played by the kings and queens of ancient Ur.” The two-player game includes a board, two sets of variously colored game pieces, and tetrahedral dice. You can watch a British Museum curator show you how it’s played, if you’re curious.
How do you organize board games?
You can organize board games alphabetically, according to age group (kids, adults, whole family), according to the size of the box they come in, by color, or anything else that makes sense to you. You can organize board games in closed storage like a credenza or a closet, or horizontally or vertically on open shelving. Just be sure to keep them where they are easy to access and put away for everyone who wants to play. While some people like organizing board games in plastic tubs, or emptying pieces into plastic baggies, there’s really no need to load up on all that plastic when they already come in a cardboard storage box.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written and researched by Meredith Hurd, who focuses on digital marketing and copywriting for wellness brands and tech start-ups. Additional research was done by Megan McCarty, a writer for The Spruce and MyDomaine with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.