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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 ways to entertain, and there's always an outrageously fun one that's sure to break the ice and bring friends and family closer together.
To find the best adult party games, we researched top-rated brands to scour through classic best-sellers and new, trendier games. We purchased several game sets for our five testers, then had each tester play the games for several rounds for two weeks with family and friends. While playing each game, testers kept design and durability in mind, assessed setup time and level of difficulty, and took note of how engaged each player was. Each category was ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, with the more points the better.
After the final round of picking our top picks, we added up the numerical points for each category and came up with an overall score for each game. You'll see why some games scored higher in some categories than others in the descriptions below. 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. We also included two additional picks that we found online when researching top-rated games.
Here, the best party games for adults for your next Christmas outing, birthday celebration, or house party.
Best Team Building: Czech Games Codenames
Play time: 15 minutes | Age Range: 10 years and up | Number of Players: 2 or more
Fun strategy game
Word game might be a turn-off for some
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.
In road testing the game, it took even the youngest players about two minutes to understand and set up themselves, earning Codenames a full five points for setup. Some players weren't exactly hyped at the educational aspect, and some of the one-word clues are tricky to play out, so this would left players feeling defeated from time to time, causing us to take one point off from entertainment value. But overall, this is a fun game for anyone who loves a good word challenge!
"In our experience, the more people, the better the match."—Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester
Best for Families: Exploding Kittens LLC Exploding Kittens Card Game
Play time: 15 minutes | Age Range: 7 years and up | Number of Players: 2-5
Incredible easy to learn
Younger players can play too
In its most basic explanation, Exploding Kittens is a game of hot potato, and it's really easy to learn—which is why our testers gave this a perfect score for setup. 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.
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 two to five players.
Our testers gave the game high scores design, thanks to the cards' hilarious graphics and sturdy and glossy finish. Because it's not really action-packed and there’s quite a bit of downtime as you wait for each player to make his or her choices, the actual play duration can make the game feel long, which is why our tester took off two points off from entertainment value.
"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
Best Funny: Cards Against Humanity Cards Against Humanity: The Main Game
Play time: Not listed | Age Range: 17 years and up | Number of Players: 4-20
Pushes creative thinking
Feelings can get hurt during play
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. Because of that risk, we had to take off two points off for entertainment value.
That said, 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
Best for Large Groups: What Do You Meme? What Do You Meme? Core Game
Play time: Not listed | Age Range: 17 years and up | Number of Players: 3-20
Perfect for pop-culture fanatics
Players take turns being the judge
Becomes predictable after a couple rounds
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. It doesn't take long to explain and understand the logistics of the game, so we gave it a perfect rating for setup.
This game 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. It scored fairly well overall, but our testers noted that as time went on, the plays became more predictable—we took just a couple points off since replayability was low.
"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
Best for Friends: The Voting Game The Voting Game: The Adult Party Game About Your Friends
Play time: 30-90 minutes | Age Range: 15 years and up | Number of Players: 4-10
Great bonding activity
Easy to learn
Becomes predictable after a couple rounds
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.
In testing, we found that this game is best suited for a close group of friends or family members around the same age. Our testers noticed however, that after a couple rounds, the game became more and more predictable, so we had to lower the score for entertainment value.
"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
Best Competitive: Quickwits Quickwits Party Card Game
Play time: 20-30 minutes | Age Range: 17 years and up | Number of Players: 3 or more
Great for big groups
Can be hard to follow
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.
After testing, this game proved great for big groups during house parties because it’s fine to leave off when players want to pause for a chat or a refill. The game scored high for entertainment value since it gets lively and tackles fun subjects that get people laughing and yelling loudly. However, we took some points off for setup since instructions were tricky to understand, plus the fact that it could be difficult to follow in the hustle.
"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
Best Scenario: Games Adults Play The Misery Index
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.
Best for Coworkers: Mattel Games Apples to Apples
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 coworkers, new friends, or parties with family in attendance.
What to Look for in Party Games for Adults
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. "A bit of silly humor can be great fun, but avoid going too risqué if you're not confident all of your visitors will be in on it," says Amanda Gummer, board game collector and toy expert at The Genius of Play.
If you're ever in doubt, Gummer suggests opting for luck and chance based games, as they're fast-paced and work for larger groups with a variety of interests. "Most people enjoy even the simplest of games, so you don't risk some players losing interest," she says.
The initial first minute of the game matter, because this is the time that players get a sense of whether a game is engaging and most importantly, easy to follow. "Classic favorites like charades are great choices because most people roughly know the rules, so it's simple to get playing," says Gummer. She adds that newer and trendier options are game too, but stick to those with simple rules and instructions so you don't lose actual play time.
Longer games are an excellent option for older kids and adults, if you have the time. On the other hand, Gummer says that shorter games that last around 15 minutes are likely to work best for house parties, because you can play multiple rounds or easily switch to another game on hand.
How We Tested the Games
We had five testers spend several nights over the course of two weeks playing these party games with friends and family members. For some of the games on this list that can also be played by kids, our tester panel included players aged 8 and up, while games marked specifically for mature players were tested by large groups of adults.
Each tester made sure to take note of design and durability to see if each game was built to last. We also took account of entertainment value, measuring whether or not players stayed engaged throughout and if the gameplay ever started to become predictable. Lastly, we made sure to pay attention to how quickly it took to set up and learn the instructions of each game.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Shanon Maglente has been editing and writing for The Spruce since September 2021, covering toys, holiday content, and gift guides. Even before The Spruce, she has worked on hundreds of best-of product roundups across multiple categories, including kids' products and gear, beauty, home appliances, decor, and more. Shanon's also a huge fan of board and card games herself and plays them regularly with her sisters and friends. She also consulted toy expert Amanda Gummer of The Genius of Play, and who comes from a family who invented their own board game for their get-togethers.