Whether you are looking for indoor activities that don't involve screen time or want to bond with your kids, it's always wise to have a few family-friendly games on hand.
"The best family games work well with a variety of ages, meaning that younger players can understand the rules and take part, while older players are not bored out of their minds," says Erik Arneson, a game expert and the author of How to Host a Game Night.
We tested and researched the top games based on the age range, duration, number of players, and game type.
Exploding Kittens Card Game
Easy to learn
May be frustrating for young kids
Exploding Kittens has all the elements of a great family game—it's easy to learn, competitive, and provides just the right amount of silly fun, proven through our testing. The objective of this card game (appropriate for ages 7 and up) is to take turns drawing a card from the pile without pulling an exploding kitten, and the process continues until one player is left and crowned the winner.
While it's a luck-based game, each round is still super exciting. There are a few strategies involved, we discovered during testing, which can make it frustrating for young players. The game’s creators recommend ages seven and up, but we think that depends greatly on the seven-year-old. Age, really, is less relevant than temperament. But, the simple concept and minimal reading make it fun for various players, regardless of age.
Contrary to the name, the game doesn't depict or promote violence, but the themes may be inappropriate for some players. It takes a few rounds to remember what the graphic on each card represents, but overall we found that gameplay evoked laughter round after round. Once they get the hang of it, players of all ages will delight in this simple game of chance.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Card | Age Range: 7 and up | Number of Players: 2-5 | Playing Time: 15 minutes
Poor-quality drawing materials
Highly recommended by Erik Arneson, a game expert and the author of How to Host a Game Night, and beloved during our testing, Telestrations is an endlessly fun and funny drawing game. There are a few different versions, but the 6-player Family Pack is ideal for playing among relatives of all ages. Players take turns drawing and guessing the original phrase, resulting in a hilarious display of artistry and interpretation.
A silly take on the classic games of telephone and Pictionary, it comes with over 800 words, plus all the drawing materials you need. And as Arneson notes, "No artistic skill is needed!" Young ones will love the artistic element but may need a little help with some of the phrases. It's equally fun with a group of adults on a game night or birthday party. The drawing materials may not be the highest quality, but you can always break out your own paper and markers for endless fun. We loved how each game felt completely different. This is great when you’re playing with restless kids or just trying to squeeze in a little fun before dinner is ready. We can see Telestrations being a great game for holiday gatherings because it’s so flexible.
Price at time of publish: $33
Type: Card | Age Range: 12 and up | Number of Players: 4-8 | Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Best Board Game
Days of Wonder Ticket To Ride
Easy to learn
According to Cardner Clark, store manager of Guardian Games in Portland, Oregon, the best family board game is Ticket to Ride. "What starts as a fun puzzle of matching colors to build train routes can get cutthroat when you block someone's path," she tells The Spruce. Recommended for ages eight and up and calling for two to five players, this competitive railroad-themed game involves strategy, wit, and a sense of adventure.
The fast-paced strategy game challenges players to build train routes across major cities in North America to distribute different resources. You can intersect and block other players to ensure yours is the strongest and longest in the game.
Price at time of publish: $55
Type: Board | Age Range: 8 and up | Number of Players: 2-5 | Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Best Card Game
Asmodee Spot It! Card Game
Easy to learn
Good for bigger groups
Cards are flimsy
Greg May, founder, and CEO of The Uncommons, a board game cafe in Manhattan, is a fan of Spot It! for families. This simple, yet incredibly fun card game involves memory, matching, visual perception, and quick thinking. Though it's easy to learn, people of all ages will get a kick out of it. "You can play even with young kids," notes May. The premise is simple; players race to find the image that appears on both cards and whoever spots it first wins that round.
Price at time of publish: $13
Type: Card | Age Range: 6 and up | Number of Players: 2-8 | Playing Time: 10-20 minutes
Best Dice Game
George & Company LLC Left Center Right
Easy to learn
Left Center Right is a fast-paced, addictive dice game the whole family will enjoy. The travel-friendly tin houses three dice and 24 playing chips. LCR doesn't call for any decision-making, but it's undoubtedly competitive. All you do is roll the dice to see where to pass your chips, and the last person with chips wins. The simple concept makes it easy for all ages to master and enjoy again and again.
Price at time of publish: $12
Type: Dice | Age Range: 5 and up | Number of Players: 3 + | Playing Time: Not listed
Best for Young Children
Think Fun Zingo!
Easy to learn
Only comes with 24 words
Super easy to learn and aimed at children, Zingo! is perfect for younger kiddos—but that doesn't mean adults won't enjoy it, too. The bingo-style game includes 24 double-sided cards and 72 tiles. Slide the Zinger to reveal images, and fill in your card when there's a match—that's all there is to it. Incorporate small prizes and rewards to increase the competition.
Price at time of publish: $22
Type: Card and board | Age Range: 4 and up | Number of Players: Up to 7 | Playing Time: Not listed
Best for Older Kids
Gamewright Forbidden Island
"My top pick for a family game is Forbidden Island," Clark tells The Spruce. "It's cooperative, so everyone works together to find treasure and escape before the island sinks."
This adventurous game encourages problem-solving and strategic skills. "Every game tends to be exciting, and it's amazing how often they come right down to the wire," adds Arneson. Players work together to go on a fearless mission through a forbidden island searching for four treasures.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Card | Age Range: 10 and up | Number of Players: 2-4 | Playing Time: 30 minutes
Endless Games The Floor is Lava Game
Encourages physical activity
Requires semi-large room
The Floor Is Lava was inspired by the often parodied, imaginative game in which parents encourage kids to pretend the family room floor is, well, lava. Similar to Twister, it's super simple but also incredibly fun—and perhaps best of all, it encourages physical activity. We also like that it can be played with kids as young as five. It definitely requires room to run around, so be sure to clear a space in the living room to enjoy this game to the fullest.
Price at time of publish: $17
Type: Physical | Age Range: 5 and up | Number of Players: 2-6 | Playing Time: 10-45 minutes
Gutter Games Beat That! The Bonkers Battle of Wacky Challenges
Includes physical challenges
Good for larger groups
Can't play year round
Looking for something to play outside? You should definitely consider Beat That! The set comes with 160 challenges, including everything from balancing a cup and stacking dice with chopsticks to floating paper airplanes and shooting baskets with ping pong balls. This backyard game can be played with two to eight players and is suitable for kids about nine and older. While this isn't the best game to play during the winter, we believe you could finagle the rules of this game to play an indoor version as well.
Price at time of publish: $30
Type: Card | Age Range: 9 and up | Number of Players: 2-8 | Playing Time: 30-90 minutes
What Do You Meme? Family Edition
Good for larger groups
Not ideal for younger kids
When playing What Do You Meme?, you compete with your friends and family to create the funniest memes. With each round, a new teammate becomes the judge, offering entertaining and comical moments as family members get a new sense of each other's humor. We also like that you can play with larger groups. The game includes pop-culture references and phrases that young children may not understand, but it's easy to edit out those cards and continue playing for hours on end.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Card | Age Range: 8 and up | Number of Players: 3-20 | Playing Time: Not listed
Skillmatics Guess in 10
Various versions for all ages
No really hard versions for adults
This small card game from Skillmatics easily fits in purses, pockets, or car consoles for passing the time during family vacations. A take on the game 20 Questions, Guess in 10 challenges you to guess the animal, dinosaur, Marvel character, or country with just 10 questions. There are junior versions for ages 3 to 6, while some accommodate kids ages 8 and up. This means there's a version for everyone in the family to enjoy and compete in. Turn the game into a family challenge by asking who can guess the item first, or play with two players as they take turns asking and guessing.
Price at time of publish: $15
Type: Card | Age Range: 3 and up | Number of Players: 1-6 | Playing Time: Not listed
Catan Studio Catan Board Game
Challenging, yet fun
Teaches about human settlements
Beautiful game design
Can be difficult to grasp at first
Once your family is ready for a strategic challenge, reach for the best-selling game, Catan. Named after the fictional island where it takes place, Catan encourages players to earn points by building houses and cities, organizing armies, owning the largest piece of land, and more. Everyone builds their civilization in hopes of being the largest and the strongest. While it's suitable for ages 10 and up, we noted that her five kids ranging from 7 to 15 years old enjoyed themselves playing, some with a little bit of help. Catan is an awesome, absorbing game, and vying to build the biggest settlements is as exciting as it gets, we discovered while playing. Give yourself some grace with mastering this game and its rules, but once you've mastered the concept, you're in store for endless games of challenging fun.
Price at time of publish: $48
Type: Board | Age Range: 10 and up | Number of Players: 3-4 | Playing Time: 60 minutes
Underdog Games Trekking the National Parks
Beautiful board design
Gives back to national parks
May be too simple for older players
Visit the United States National Parks without ever leaving your living room with Underdog Games' Trekking the National Parks board game. Players travel around the gorgeous game board, trying to visit as many national parks as possible and win the game. As you go, you learn fun facts about the different locations, various wildlife, preservation efforts, and more regarding the great outdoors. The setup changes with every game for endless replay value. Created by a couple who visited every national park and developed the game with their son, Trekking the National Parks donates a portion of each purchase to the National Parks Conservation Association, so you can give back to the places you read about as you play.
Price at time of publish: $50
Type: Board | Age Range: 10 and up | Number of Players: 2-5 | Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Our number one pick for family games is Exploding Kittens, a ridiculously silly and easy-to-learn card game—all you need to succeed is a bit of luck and a sense of humor. That said, if you're looking for something that allows for more players, your best bet is Telestrations, a hilarious award-winning mashup of telephone and Pictionary.
What to Look for in a Family Game
When buying a family game, you'll see there are several different types. This includes everything from board games, card games, and dice games to trivia, physical challenges, and activities involving drawing guessing, or building things. Card games, like Spot It! are often ideal for travel and take up little space in your toy closet. They also usually come at a more affordable price than traditional board games but can miss out on some of the vital storytelling elements that game boards provide.
Before buying a family game, be sure to check the recommended age range. The options on this list were selected because they're fun for adults and kids alike, though some may be too challenging for younger children. That said, there are lots of excellent options for ages four or five and older that the whole family will enjoy.
Number of Players
An important option to consider is the minimum and the maximum number of players for each game. Most games need at least two players, though some call for three or more. Additionally, some cap out at five players, while others can be played with eight or more people. For big parties and family gatherings, we recommend What Do You Meme? because it can be played for up to 20 people, and arguably even more if you play in teams.
We also recommend checking the time commitment for each game. Some board games and strategy games take upwards of an hour to play, while lots of card games involve super-quick rounds that take 15 minutes or less. Consider the ages and attention spans of the children playing and go from there. A family full of adults may be more inclined to enjoy hours of gameplay conducive to games like Catan, while families with young kids should search for games with short rounds that can be played over and over again like The Floor is Lava.
How do you have a family game night?
Making game night a regular family activity takes a little planning and follow-through, but once you get it going it can easily become a family tradition that everyone enjoys and nobody wants to miss. First, choose a day and time of the week that works for everyone in your family’s schedule and mark it on the calendar as game night. Next, choose a game that everyone likes to play (guess if you're not sure). Choose a dedicated spot in your home to host the game night, whether that’s the kitchen or dining room table, around the coffee table in the living room, or at a dedicated game table. Turn off phones and other technology to promote concentration and bonding. Depending on what time you are hosting the game, you might want to choose some light snacks that aren’t sticky or wet so that they won’t damage the game if they spill. Play, enjoy, repeat. If everyone is enjoying a certain game, stick with it. Or you can add variation and give each family member a sense of ownership over family game night by taking turns picking games every week. The only rule about family game night is that the rules are yours to make.
What is the oldest board game?
According to the British Museum, that title belongs to The Royal Game of Ur, which can be traced back approximately 4,600 years to ancient Mesopotamia. The museum has an original model from 2500BC 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, and you can watch a British Museum curator show you how it’s played if you’re curious.
How do you store board games?
Board games come in varying sizes, but they tend to come in a short rectangular box of some sort, making them easy to stack. It’s a good idea to store your board games in an accessible spot that will encourage you to play them. This can mean open shelving in your family room, in a storage closet, or in a specially designed coffee table with built-in storage that is made for keeping board games at the ready.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Theresa Holland is a freelance copywriter specializing in commerce, consumer goods, parenting, and lifestyle. Before writing this roundup, she caught up with three game experts who offered specific recommendations and insight into what to look for in a family game. The experts she consulted included the following:
- Erik Arneson, a game expert and the author of How to Host a Game Night
- Cardner Clark, store manager of Guardian Games in Portland, Oregon
- Greg May, founder, and CEO of The Uncommons, a board game cafe in Manhattan
She then pored over user reviews and combed through the recommended age range, time, and number of players for dozens of products, ultimately selecting games that were easy to learn and fun for both adults and kids. Holland is a big fan of board games and has played several hands of Exploding Kittens and Telestrations in recent years. She has been writing for The Spruce since 2019, where she covers recreation, travel, and outdoor living.
Additional research was done by Julia Fields a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.