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The key to becoming a great host or hostess is always being prepared, and that goes beyond food, beverage, and a solid playlist. Party games are one of the best, and possibly most underrated, ways to entertain. They have the ability to tackle some of the biggest hurdles that throwing a party can present.
First, party games often require the least amount of effort from the host because the game and the guests do all the work for you. Second, most games are usually very cheap, so it’s an easy way to keep costs low. And third, typically the most daunting task of all—the cleanup—can be kept to a minimum. Depending on what kind of group you’re rounding up, whether they’re your best friends, new friends, coworkers, etc, there’s always a good game that’s sure to loosen up a crowd, break the ice, or bring you closer together.
A word of caution: it’s best to read the room before making your choice. For some, “inappropriate” might be an understatement for some games in this lineup.
Here, the best party games for adults:
Codenames is great for groups of at least 4 to 6 players, and the more the merrier! The game starts with naming two spymasters, one from each team. Spymasters are the only players in the game that know the secret identities of the 25 agents.
The premise of the game is for the spymasters to try and get their teammates to guess the cards that correspond to their spies' codenames using just one word clues. Guess right, and your team gets a point—or more, if you can find a word that encompasses more than just one spy's codename.
Spymasters have to be strategic with their one word clues so they don’t give too broad a clue. Teams who guess wrong may give up a point to the opponent, or, worse, guess the assassin card which ends the round immediately.
"In our experience, the more people, the better the match."—Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
In its most basic explanation, Exploding Kittens is a game of hot potato. The objective of the game is not to draw an Exploding Kitten card, which eliminates you immediately from the game. Unless, of course, you have a Defuse Card or other game-shifting cards that allow you to pass the card or skip your turn. Diffuse cards include laser pointers, kitten yoga, catnip—anything that can distract the kittens.
Once a Defuse Card is used, it’s placed in the discard pile and the player can then reinsert the Exploding Kitten card back into the deck for its next victim—making this game as much about strategy as it is about luck. Players can place cards on the bottom, top, or even count cards down so they know exactly when and who will get the Exploding Kitten card next.
This game comes in six different versions, all in various stages of appropriateness. So depending on who is attending your get together, you can choose the right one. Both the kid-friendly (ages 7 and up) and adult-friendly (ages 30 and up) versions can accommodate 2 to 5 players.
"Game players who thrive on the luck of the draw, as well as the thrill of thwarting opponents and causing their demise, will thoroughly enjoy Exploding Kittens."—Danielle Centoni, Product Tester
Apples to Apples is a classic party game great for large groups and is easy to understand. The object of the game is to select a card from your hand that best represents the card played by the judge.
To play, each player gets seven red apple cards face down to start. In each round, the judge picks a green apple card with descriptive adjectives and reads it aloud to the group. To win, players must win a certain amount of rounds designated by however many people are playing.
This game of comparisons is very similar to games like Cards Against Humanity and What Do You Meme?. However, unlike those games, Apples to Apples relies on more wholesome humor, making it a good pick for new friends or parties with family in attendance.
No list of the best adult games would be complete without Cards Against Humanity. This game is a cult favorite for a reason. Marketed as a “party game for horrible people,” this is one extremely entertaining and wildly inappropriate choice, so it’s important to know the group you’re playing with as some topics are highly sensitive or triggering for some.
If your group is into inappropriate humor, then that is one of the reasons to love it. Like Apples to Apples, a judge is designated to pick their favorite fill-in-the-blank sentence created by the Black and White cards. To play, the Judge draws a Black Card which has a sentence or phrase for all players to see. Once this card is drawn, each player chooses from their hand of White cards that also have words and phrases, most of which are hysterically inappropriate, to fill in the blank. From there, the judge will then choose their favorite outrageous combination.
"Many of us had played the game before, but upon replaying it a few years later, it was clear that some of the cards had not aged well. Many matched cards still drew big laughs...But the insensitive nature of some of the cards was frankly a little awkward—especially among people from differing backgrounds."—Shannon Wells, Product Tester
The Misery Index is based off a game show hosted by Jameela Jamil that shows video clips of awkward events and asks participants to rank them based on how awful they are. Similarly, the card game shows miserable scenarios with rankings from 1 to 100—1 being not miserable at all and 100 being the most miserable scenario imaginable.
To play, players draw a card and try to guess where it fits in on the Index in relation to all of the other cards they've correctly guessed so far. If they guess right, it stays in their scale. If not, the next player gets the card and attempts to place correctly among their own cards.
The game can be challenging because—depending on the scenario—your tolerance level will sometimes differ greatly from what the manufacturer rated. You'll also have to make tougher calls as the rounds progress and your rankings must become more precise.
Suitable for ages 17 and up, this is a game for meme-lovers. Each round, one person is designated as the judge, and everyone else is dealt cards from a deck of potential captions. The judge selects a meme card and displays it to the group. Everyone then competes to create the funniest meme by drawing from their hand of caption cards, and the judge then selects a winner.
This game has a similar structure to Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples, but we would argue that What Do You Meme? is a better bet for large groups because it still covers funny, pop-culture references, as well as raunchy, sexual, and explicit phrases that makes a game like Cards Against Humanity so fun, without some of the more offensive jokes.
"If you’re not sure whether you should break out What Do You Meme? at your next gathering, consider your guests. If you’re not comfortable sharing an extremely dirty, insensitive joke with any of those people, you should refrain from playing."—Sage McHugh, Product Tester
Want to put your close friends on the spot? Similar to the superlative selection process from your high school days, The Voting Game asks you to vote on the “most likely” candidates from your group.
To play, a question card is drawn, for example, “Who would you ask for help if you needed to leave the country?” or as awkward as, “Who snoops through their significant other’s phone on a regular basis?” Players then vote anonymously for the person they think best fits the question. Results are then tallied, and points are earned by guessing who voted for you.
This game is best suited for ages 17 and up, and groups of friends that can keep a sense of humor about themselves.
"The Voting Game offers a fun platform to reminisce and poke fun at one another so I’d highly recommend it for a reunion of old friends."—Shannon Wells, Product Tester
For a competitive crew, Quickwits is going to be your go-to game. This fast-paced card game is suitable for large groups, but works for groups as small as three players. It’s strongly suggested that players be age 17 and up, as the topics can quickly get raunchy.
The objective of the game is to name items within certain categories. Each card has one of six different symbols and when two players have the same symbol on the card on the top of their pile, they both race to give as many examples of their opponent's category as they can without repeating a phrase. The fastest player takes his opponent's card and places it face down in his score pile.
The game is great for big groups because it’s extremely easy to understand and pick up and leave off when players want to pause for a chat or a refill. The game gets lively and tackles fun subjects that get people laughing and yelling loudly.
"QuickWits truly delivers on its promise to make you think faster and yell louder than your friends. Our group of seven loved this game and it was far and away our game night favorite. Just keep in mind that the game moves quickly and is high-energy, so it can be hard to follow—especially if you’ve been drinking."—Shannon Wells, Product Tester
Audience Knowing your audience is the golden rule when choosing a party game. If you’re hosting a sober crowd, a drinking-oriented game probably isn't the best choice. If you have a particularly edgy group, you may want to consider a more off-color option in lieu of a basic board game. However, there are also plenty of games that fall in the middle of the spectrum and can work for any and all players.
Type of game There are countless party games to consider, so thinking about what type you want can narrow things down a bit. Do you prefer something that’s competitive and requires quick thinking, or are you looking for an option that’ll have everyone rolling on the floor with laughter? Think about what vibe fits you and your crowd the best.
Number of players Think about how many people will play your chosen game. Some are designed for smaller groups, while others are great for large parties. However, having a mix of both is always a good idea so you’re ready to bring out the fun in any situation.