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With everything from collectible card decks to trick-taking games, and multiplayer family types to solitaire sorts, played in cooperative style or competitive, today’s most popular games for kids and adults alike are highly impressive.
We researched the best card games for all ages, considering each pick's entertainment value, replayability, and length of play. Our best overall pick is Mattel's Apples to Apples. Perfect for parties and game nights, the hilariously engaging game is suitable for various ages while being extremely easy to learn.
Here are the best card games available online that were vetted by hours of research or suggested by our experts.
Best Overall: Mattel Games Apples to Apples
Suitable for parties
Easy to learn
Winning is subjective to the judge's preferences
What do buyers say? 84% of 2,300+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.
This engaging game is flexible and fun. The deck is divided into red cards (which list people, places, things, and events) and green ones (which have adjectives). To play, the judge flips over the top green card, and the other players must put down a red card that best fits with the green one in play. The judge chooses the best suggestion, and that player earns a green card and gets to judge next. To win the game, you must earn the most amount of green cards.
Note that it's OK if the cards don't fit perfectly together, since the point is to impress the judge, and that might mean creating a funny or outrageous combination. Players are also allowed to lobby for their choices, which can lead to lively banter.
The original Apples to Apples is recommended for kids ages 12 and up, but Mattel also makes an Apples to Apples Junior Edition for children ages 9 and older. Younger children can play if they have a parent or sibling to help them with reading.
Thousands of positive users keep coming back to this game for the hilarious content and high replay value. The game will look completely different depending on who's playing and which cards you draw. One thing to note: some cards reference pop culture events that young players may not understand.
Best Party Game: Anomia Card Game: Party Edition
Great game for all ages
Plenty of variety in each category of cards to keep things interesting
Replayable to an extent
For Anomia, you’ll turn cards over using two unique decks with 92 different category cards, until the symbol on two players’ cards match. A great party game, Anomia is ideal for older kids and up and adults. It also travels easily thanks to its organized box packaging. The instructions are extremely easy to learn, and the content is very family-friendly, for a fun time for all ages.
Best Two-Player: Renegade Game Studios The Fox in the Forest Card Game
Simple and easy to learn
Cards and storage box are beautifully illustrated
Every round is different, so the game never gets boring
Some found the game did not allow enough strategy
Fox in the Forest comes with 33 cards, 17 tokens, 2 reference cards, and a rule book. It's a fairy-tale based game that centers on a woodcutter and his daughter who live in a small village near the forest. Each player has to use the special abilities of either character to win tricks and keep your place in the forest.
The game itself is adorned with beautiful illustrations and comes in a convenient and attractive box for storage and on-the-go fun.
Best for Groups: Gamewright Sushi Go! Card Game
Easy to learn
Included tin makes it portable
Weaker card quality
Jimmy Cooney, owner of Dice City Games in Silver Spring, Maryland recommends this card game to everyone, saying, “This game is loved by all, especially those who love sushi." The cards include adorable illustrations of sushi, and the simple objective makes it an excellent introduction to anyone new to card games. The game comes in a tin and is perfect for ages 8 and up.
Sushi Go! is a fast-playing game in which players try to gather up the most points over the course of three rounds on different combinations of sushi dishes. Over time, the game reinforces cognitive skills like probability, visual discrimination, and strategic thinking.
Best for Families: Exploding Kittens LLC Exploding Kittens Card Game
Luck and strategy based
Some content may be deemed inappropriate for young players
There is no denying that people are serious about Exploding Kittens, which is recommended for children 8 and older, but the concept is simple enough that younger kids will also be able to easily grasp it. Families love it because it's simple to teach and not too much of a time commitment. And as long as you steer clear of the NSFW expansion pack, the subject matter is fairly tame (but be prepared for some potty humor).
The game is similar to Russian Roulette and players draw cards from a pile, hoping to avoid the Exploding Kitten card, which would get them knocked out. To keep things interesting, you can avoid this sudden death by playing cards such as defuse, relocate, or skip a turn. As one parent of a 6-year-old said, "It took a little bit of explaining and coaching to get the kids up to speed, but after that, they ruled the table."
Best Strategic Card Game: Adventure On Games The Grimwood
Compact and portable
Lots of player interaction
Instructions are lacking
The Grimwood is a fast-playing game where players draw from the deck, swindle other players, and send their supernaturals out to do their bidding—all while collecting points until the last card is drawn. Then it’s over, ready or not! The Grimwood is great for families and those who like fast-paced games.
The Grimwood allows two to six players, comes with 68 poker-sized playing cards with breath-taking illustrations, one rule booklet, and four rule cards. It’s easy to learn and to teach others how to play as well.
Best Solo Player Card Game: Giga Mech Games Orchard: A 9 Card Solitaire Game
Rules are clear and simple
Some feel it’s not worth the price
For those who enjoy a great solo card game, look no further. The Orchard 9 Card Solitaire Game has everything you need for a fun, satisfying game for one. You can play it in under 10 minutes and it's a good way to keep your mind engaged—if even for a few minutes.
Essentially, the objective is to harvest the orchard’s fruit by overlapping the cards of the trees already bearing the same fruit. The game incorporates dice as well as cubes to help you keep track of your harvest, rotten fruit, and more. While the game is great for solo players, but you can also play with someone else.
Best for Teens: TeeTurtle Unstable Unicorns Card Game
Magnetic box for safekeeping
Also available is an NFSW pack for adults only
Assembly instructions are a bit confusing
Brought to you by the same brilliant minds that created Exploding Kittens, Unstable Unicorns has a pretty simple goal: Be the first to collect seven unicorns. Throughout the game, you can build your unicorn army and use your magic to upgrade, downgrade, or draw other cards to play.
This strategic game is designed for both teens and adults and it boasts being one of Kickstarter’s 100 most backed projects of all time.
Best Card Battle Game: Magic The Gathering Commander Legends Deck
Can be quite complicated compared to other games
“Magic the Gathering is the best-selling card game in the entire world,” Kathleen Donahue, owner of Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in Washington, D.C. says. "It is incredibly complex—an incredibly complicated collectible card game that has released new sets once a quarter since the 1990s." It's mostly a two-player game, although some formats allow multiplayer.
There are numerous Magic the Gathering sets available, depending upon where you want to start and what themes appeal to you. Many players believe that Commander is the most popular of all the sets, however.
Best Cooperative Game: Thames & Kosmos The Crew - Quest for Planet Nine
Short playing time
Coordinating with team players can be difficult
For smaller, less complex card games, Donahue recommends games that are easy to learn with a lot of competition, or sometimes cooperative playing techniques. The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a cooperative trick-taking card game that takes players through missions while traveling to outer space. In this game, you must coordinate the completion of missions with your team to meet a list of objectives as you go along. There's also a new Deep Sea version of The Crew available now, and they are sometimes sold together.
Additionally, The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine was the 2020 winner of the Kennerspiel des Jahres Game of the Year (a German award meaning expert/connoisseur game of the year). Donahue describes this award as “the Oscars of board/card games”, meaning it's the highest award a board or a card game can win.
Best Living Card Game: Fantasy Flight Games Marvel Champions The Card Game
New content released regularly
Lot of rules to learn
Donahue is a fan of this card game, saying, “It features wonderful themes that intertwine with the mechanics of the game.” You’ll probably want to start with the base game of Marvel Champions, shown above, which is a cooperative strategy game for both adults and teens.
For this game, players must choose a superhero and work as a team to fight off the world's most nefarious villains. First, they must organize the powers of their chosen heroes against their teammates in order to effectively fight the villains. Then they have to decide when to reveal themselves or when to stay disguised, when to fight, and when to wait. There are different levels of difficulty to choose from as well as new additions to toss into growing collections as you play.
Best for Families: AMIGO Don't L.L.A.M.A Family Card Game
Only five rules to learn to play the game
Small pieces are easy to lose
For more family-oriented games, Donahue suggests looking for simple rules with enormous depth of strategy and player interaction. Don't L.L.A.M.A. is one example, and she describes it as a “fun, math, Uno-type game played mostly with younger kids and families.”
It takes two to six players for Don’t L.L.A.M.A. to work well, and it’s designed for ages 8 and up. Each game should take about 15 minutes, or maybe slightly longer if players are beginners at learning strategy. Overall, families with kids have a blast with this game, and it’s likely to quickly become your favorite.
Best Pick-Up-And-Play Game: Looney Labs Fluxx 5.0 Card Game
The company has great customer service
Weaker quality construction
Cooney explains that Pick Up and Play games are built around custom-made cards, fully contained in the box, and have no expansions or extra cards. They can often be played in 10 to 30 minutes, have universal rules, and are usually all-age-friendly. Instead of having an instruction card or booklet, the rules in FLUXX are written on the cards themselves—so the card tells players what to do next.
Like Magic the Gathering, FLUXX comes in a variety of themes like Monty Python, Star Wars, Zombies, etc. The FLUXX Holiday game ties together not only themes from the winter holidays but all preceding games. Cooney also likes the FLUXX games because they’re made in the USA and therefore easy to get from distributors—so any delays in the supply chain can be avoided.
Most Complex: Fantasy Flight Games Arkham Horror The Card Game
Multiple settings for difficulty
Add-ons can get expensive
If you like a complicated, tricky game, a living card game like Arkham Horror may be ideal for you. While some consider it a mystery game, others call it a horror game, and you’ll find it has all the elements needed for both as you and your friends work together as investigators in the spooky town of Arkham, Massachusetts.
Cooney, our card game expert from Dice City Games says, “Living card games like Arkham Horror do not have a collectible element, but sometimes they do have expansion (add-ons you can buy like extra scenarios, weapons, characters, game areas, etc). Usually all the cards are the same, there are no valuable cards, no rarity like the collectibles might have, so you can buy the game and have all the pieces in your hand. You don't need any extra pieces."
Number of Players: 1-2 | Age range: 14 and up | Duration: 1-2 hours
Best Two to Four Player: Again Products Love Letter Card Game
Generous return policy
While other pieces are of high quality, the cards aren't the sturdiest
Another great Pick Up and Play game recommended by Cooney, Love Letter is a game where suitors of all kinds work to impress the princess and win her over. The key objective of this game is outsmarting the others by getting your “love letters” to the princess before they do. This is a new edition of the game, featuring updated artwork, two new character roles, and a cute pouch to carry it all in. Players familiar with the old game find this set to be high quality and fun to play.
Most Impressive Kid-Designed Game: Taco vs. Burrito LLC Taco vs. Burrito
Easy to learn
Fun for adults too
Some cards might be considered gross or inappropriate
While this game is great for all ages, it was designed by a 7-year-old! Inside each pleasant, sturdy box are 32 action cards, 24 ingredient cards, an instruction booklet, and four cardholders. While the game itself is easily learned, throwing in the action cards is said to make things less foreseeable, which keeps it exciting for all players.
Number of Players: 2-4 | Age range: 7 and up | Duration: 15 minutes
For a card game that's flexible, fun, and easy to play, we recommend Apples to Apples (view at Amazon). It's meant for four to 10 players, so it's a great option for larger groups. If you’re looking for a game that’s specifically meant for kids, Sushi Go! is a classic option that has colorful and whimsical designs on each card that little ones will love.
What to Look for When Buying a Card Game
“A good card game is easy to pick up and play, universally fun for all, and warrants repeated play," Cooney says.
Donahue agrees and recommends considering other games and game themes the player usually likes. “Living card games always a good choice," she says, "and for smaller, regular card games, I recommend ones that are easy to learn with a lot of competition or cooperative card game sets."
You'll want to choose a game that you can play over and over again; otherwise, players grow bored once the game play becomes predictable. Look for games that allow for open-ended outcomes or offer various categories and themes.
Length of Play
While most card games don't last as long as board games, there are some that have a longer duration than others. While longer rounds typically involve more challenge and strategy, shorter rounds will allow you to play them more often (or have more rematches).
Why Trust The Spruce?
KJ Callihan writes for The Spruce and has also created gift and shopping guides for sites like AAA Northeast magazine, CNET, and Knoji. She enjoys spending hours on her guides to make sure the products suggested are unique and of the highest quality. To be sure she selected the very best games for this guide, KJ also consulted card game experts Kathleen Donahue, owner of Labyrinth Games & Puzzles in Washington, D.C., and Jimmy Cooney, owner of Dice City Games in Silver Spring, Maryland, for their wisdom and guidance.