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Storytelling games can challenge your imagination, creativity, and narrative ability, while helping young learners build vocabulary and more experienced ones to connect with friends and community.
We conducted hours of research for this roundup, evaluating storytelling games on their ease of instructions, ability to foster imaginative and critical thinking, educational acumen, and creativity. Storytelling games are designed for children and adults, so we also took into account the age recommendation as we researched, as well as they types of characters and populations represented in each game. Our top pick, Atlas' Once Upon A Time, challenges players of various ages to use cards with different plot points to create innovative and engaging stories.
Ahead, find the best storytelling games of 2022 to help you tell tall tales.
Best Overall Game: Atlas Once Upon a Time
Fun and engaging
Suitable for various ages
Not much diversity in people featured in the cards
What do buyers say? 93% of 600+ Amazon reviewers rated this 4 stars or above.
Once Upon a Time earns the spot of the best storytelling game, thanks to its simple setup that lets imagination run wild. This card-based storytelling game challenges players to test their creative thinking skills and rethink what makes a narrative work, from beginning to end.
Each card is made up with a plot point. Players are dealt random cards, and the first player begins to tell a tale. Other players can take over storytelling by playing a matching plot point card. Each player attempts to steer the story according to their plot cards and, ultimately, toward their ending card. The first player to play all cards in their hand wins. The game challenges players to think about the structure of a story, with rising action, climax, plot twists, and conclusion. We love that it's educational without being didactic.
This game's clear direction and rules make it straightforward enough for players of all ages, including kids. Consumers have remarked that the game is not overly competitive, which makes it ideal for younger players. It's worth noting that some users reported disappointment over the lack of diversity featured in the cards. Perhaps newer editions will solve for this; in the meantime, players will enjoy the challenge of coming up with entertaining scenarios that follow a clear narrative arc.
Best Budget: Zygomatic Rory’s Story Cubes
Fosters spontaneity and imagination
Some consumers report young kids may lose interest
You don't need to splurge on a storytelling game to garner the challenging, educational, and entertaining aspects of gameplay. Rory’s Story Cubes, a game that revolves around rolling a set of six-sided dice to tell a story is a simple, affordable pick that allows for genuine and imaginative thinking. The game dice are decorated with 54 images to allow for hundreds of combinations.
While there are no specific rules on how to use the dice, the aim of the game is to incorporate the images into a cohesive story that earns points for delivery, humor, or creativity. This game allows players to think on their feet and exercise ingenuity and creativity to create a narrative that's never the same twice.
Best True Crime : Hunt a Killer Death at the Dive Bar
Challenges critical thinking skills
Uses realistic evidence for fans of true crime procedurals
Great for parties
Designed for one-time use
Fans of true crime procedurals can play their hand as detectives in this immersive storytelling game that lets players solve a mystery. The popular brand Hunt a Killer, a leader in true crime storytelling games, released the stand-alone game that challenges players to analyze clues, ciphers, and puzzles that progress the story of this game, until its final conclusion.
We deem this an ultimate parlor party game, but keep in mind that there's only one ending—that means that once you solve the mystery, the game loses some of its suspense. However, because you don't destroy any of the game pieces along the way, it can be repurposed again and again.
Best Ice Breaker: Green Card Voices Story Stitch: Telling Stories. Opening Minds. Becoming Neighbors.
Facilitates storytelling between immigrants and refugees and their new neighbors
Great for community building
Excellent for scholastic and office parties
Young children might lose interest
Storytelling games are often used as ice breakers to get conversation flowing, and people engaged with one and other on a deeper level than small talk, whether in the classroom, office, or community setting. If that's your main goal in using a storytelling game, the Story Stitch game is an excellent choice.
Users report that the cards in this narrative game challenge players to step out of their comfort zone and tell stories that can help foster deep personal and community connection. We love that the game was designed for diverse peoples and experiences. It's been featured in the social feed of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who praises the game for its inclusive approach to storytelling.
Best for the Family: SCS Direct Tall Tales Storytelling Board Game
No reading required
Multiple ways to play
Expresses creativity in players
Great for tactile learners
Game pieces can get lost
Tactile learners will benefit from SCS Direct's Tall Tales storytelling board game that features multiple modes of play, an array of fun game pieces, and story cards to facilitate the flow of narrative. This game is ideal for young children and family fun, because it's engaging enough to capture the attention of adults. Players can draw game pieces to inspire storytelling and think spontaneously. Once the story ends, the pieces go back into the bag for another player to draw.
There is not a clear path toward winning the game, which makes this a good choice for non-competitive players. There's the option of crafting your own point system to award each story for creativity and humor. One thing to note about this game is that no reading is required, making it a good option for all ages.
Best Adventure: Red Raven Games Above & Below Board Game
High replay value
Fosters narrative storytelling
Instructions can be complex
For a storytelling game that immerses players in an imaginative world of adventure filled with decisions, Red Raven's Above and Below board game is a top choice. Players have the opportunity to choose their own adventure, collecting points along the way. A clear winner emerges at the game's conclusion, and as a bonus, players can experience a different story each time they play. Because the game presents players with different scenarios, it does require critical decision making skills and an ability to understand complex instructions.
Best Educational: Looney Labs Mad Libs the Game
Makes for hilarious stories
Simple to play
Harder to make funny word combinations than original game
Who doesn't recognize Mad Libs as the original silly storytelling game? This popular throwback has gotten an educational update to make it more of a learning tool, designed for kids to build social skills while exercising critical thinking on their feet, along with logic and narrative skills.
The gameplay is simple: players are tasked with creating sentences with cards dealt to them. You can elect to choose a winner is for most humorous story, or just enjoy the whimsy of having fun with words.
Best for Building Vocabulary : Mrs. Wordsmith Storyteller's Card Game
Aligned to national curriculum
Designed to boost vocabulary
Can foster competition
Storytelling is a fun and effective way to build vocabulary for young learners. Mrs. Wordsmith's Storyteller's Game challenges players to pick the most appropriate words given certain circumstances. Once the Master Storyteller presents a story theme to the group, each player selects a card with a certain group of words. The Master Storyteller is then tasked with picking the card that best fits the theme of the story.
The game can also be played in teams, with each team coming up with story ideas to fit the words on the cards. This game is just as much about patience and critical thinking as it is about building vocabulary—all skills essential to storytelling.
What to Look for in a Storytelling Game
"The format of storytelling games can vary greatly from card games to board games and even simple dice-roll games," says James Zahn, Senior Editor at The Toy Insider. The format you choose will impact how the game is played, as well as how portable the game is. The simplest storytelling games that rely on just a few dice or tokens are a good choice for travel or camping, while more elaborate storytelling board games might be easier to use at home.
"Age recommendations are really important when it comes to the intellectual ability growing kids," explains Zahn. He notes that although it's certainly possible that a younger kid can play a game designed for older kids, they may not connect with it in the best way possible. "Games labeled for ages 8, 14, or even 18+ contain subject matter of increasing complexity and maturity levels," he adds.
On the other hand, since storytelling games generally have few rules and aren't overly dependent on strategic gameplay, players of a wide age range can usually take part in the game.
To find a good match for a storytelling game, consider what type of gameplay experience you prefer. Many storytelling games are collaborative without a firm point system or clear winner. This type of gameplay works well for families with young children or a casual group game designed to be fun rather than competitive.
However, some storytelling games have a more defined objective, such as being the first to put all of your cards in play or to score the highest for your narrative. This type of gameplay is usually a hit with players that like a challenge and the thrill of victory.
What are storytelling games?
"As the name suggests, a storytelling game engages players with a narrative," explains Zahn. He says that it could be an original story unique to the game or inspired by classic literature, pop culture, or even everyday events.
How do you play storytelling games?
Every game is different. Zahn says, "Storytelling could be created in part by the player, or guided through action cards, the roll of a die, or some other set of prompts along the way."
Zahn shares that one big trend of late is skewing toward older audiences. "True crime-inspired games are exploding in popularity this year," he says. "The story unfolds as players work through clues."
What are the benefits of storytelling games?
These types of games have few rules and can be enjoyed by a diverse group of game players, despite a range of age and experience levels. "The biggest singular benefit is that the gameplay experience is seldom ever the same twice," explains Zahn.
Why Trust the Spruce?
This article was written by Jill Di Donato, a lifestyle writer and editor with over 15 years experience. For this roundup, Jill considered dozens of storytelling games, carefully evaluating each game's basic features, extras, and customer reviews. All of the products featured have demonstrated benefits of challenging players to think imaginatively.
Additional input was provided by James Zahn, Senior Editor at The Toy Insider.