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Word games have broadened widely since the first crossword puzzle showed up in a 1913 British newspaper.
We researched the best word games besides Scrabble, considering the duration, difficulty level, and player count. Our best overall pick is Spinmaster's Upwords, an easy-to-learn Scrabble variation that involves stacking tiles on top of each other to earn points.
Here are the best word games.
Best Overall : Spinmaster Upwords
Rules are easy to learn and understand
Appeals to a range of ages
Plenty of strategy and learning— never gets boring
Some had issues with the quality of their board
What do buyers say? 92% of 1,600+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
This modernized version of the classic old-school 80’s variety of Upwords is fun and challenging for all ages to play. It makes a great Friday night game for the family, a fun indoor activity for a rainy or snowy afternoon, or an occasional break from worksheets and online instruction for school spelling and vocab lessons.
Like Scrabble with a few interesting twists, some folks love to play it without even keeping score. Players compete to build words across or down the board to earn points. But the twist is that you can also stack tiles on top of each other to create new words and increase your score. The game board even spins for easy access no matter where you play.
Unlike Scrabble, players can place one or two tiles down on the board while still earning many points and creating a large word, making it accessible to more ages. However, some may find it difficult to stack the tiles, and the quality of the board is not as high as the original game.
Best Budget : Bananagrams Bananagrams
Works well with adults and kids alike
Great for building your vocabulary
Pouch makes for easy portable play
Not the best quality pieces
Our best budget choice is Bananagrams. For a very affordable price, this word game is a fun way for players to learn all about anagrams while striving to use up their letter tiles to create a word grid. To be Top Banana, you’ll need to get rid of all your tiles before anyone else does.
You won’t need to write anything down for this game, so if you’ve got a steady surface, you can play it on the move, too, with its convenient banana-shaped carrying case.
Best for Teams: Educational Insights Word on the Street
Fast-paced game with strategy
Good practice for spelling, vocabulary, and social skills
Sets up easily and quickly
Some people thought the game was slow-playing and nitpicky
This game is great for teams of up to eight players. Word on the Street players can break large groups (like classrooms or birthday parties) into teams and decide words together for each of their players’ turns. There’s also a Word on the Street Junior for ages seven and older, for anyone with littles who might like to play but aren’t quite ready for the regular version.
Best Word Search : Brain Games Mindfulness Word Search Spiral-bound
Book lies flat, so searching for words is even easier
Helpful answer key included
Varying degrees of difficulty
Some found the letter spacing to be difficult to follow when searching for words
While not necessarily a ‘game’, this word search collection offers a break from the stress of daily life and a chance to calm the mind while focusing on the simplicity of finding words. It would be perfect as a means of relaxing after a long day or way to work your brain while commuting or between classes or meetings.
This word search collection contains 84 pages of varying subjects to softly engage your mind. Inside, there are also several unique puzzles requiring secret answers or hidden clues that aren’t like the average word search.
Best Travel : Melissa & Doug Flip to-Win Hangman Travel Game
Melissa & Doug products come with a 100% Happiness Guarantee
Well made and durable
Heavy, so be prepared to help your kiddo carry it
If you’ve got a trip with the kids coming up, grab a Melissa and Doug Flip-to-Win Travel Hangman Game for some fun along the ride! Yep, it’s the same classic word game you remember, but it’s had an upgrade or two. Kids can practice spelling while learning sportsmanship and enjoying some device-free travel time with this high quality game.
Equipped with a sturdy wooden surface, an erasable whiteboard, a dry erase marker and eraser, you have everything you need no matter where you want to play.
Best for Learning the Parts of Speech : Looney Labs Mad Libs the Game
Simple to learn
Fun for all ages
Family-friendly and educational
Some found it difficult to use the cards dealt to them to fill in all the missing words as expected
Since its introduction in 1958, Mad Libs has created millions of silly word puzzles for us all to enjoy. Today’s game is based on those word puzzles, but instead of just creating hilarious scenarios, now you compete for the craziest and funniest of all.
Brush up on your parts of speech (you remember adjectives, adverbs, nouns, etc., right?) while using cards to make wacky sentences for the most votes. Get the most votes three times and you’re the winner.
Best Timed Game : Hasbro Classic Boggle Word Search Game
New readers get practice without even realizing it
You can practice solo anytime
It packs up neatly into the box for easy storage and transport
Some wish it had room for longer words
If you’ve never played Boggle before, it’s time to grab a friend, shake up some letter cubes, flip the sand timer over and get started! Boggle has been a family favorite since 1972, often played at holiday gatherings, parties, or just after school with friends at the kitchen table. The game takes about 90 seconds per sand timer to play, meaning you can play multiple rounds back to back.
If you're ever not sure whether your partner’s word is actually a word or not, you can keep track in your best dictionary or by looking them up online before tallying up the points—and be sure to double check the spelling, too!
Best Traditional : Endless Games Password Deluxe Edition
Rules are easy to learn
Fun and addictive for all ages
Some folks had trouble reading the words through the red film of the magic word revealers
The traditional game of Password may have been played by your family for decades. The Deluxe Edition of today has the same magic window revealers as always, as well as the same basic rules—but the addition of 2,000 new words makes for an extra fun and significant upgrade.
It’s a cinch to learn: As always, using one-word clues, players have to try to guess the password: If they fail, their opponents get to guess. The game is based on a televised game show that aired in the 1960’s and 70’s, of which old episodes can still be watched on YouTube and other channels today.
Best Mystery Word Game : Pressman Wheel of Fortune Game: 5th Edition
Comes with dry erase markers and erasers for easy reusability
Some find it to be very small and almost difficult to play
We’ve all played it on tv with Vanna and Pat; now play Wheel of Fortune at home with your own friends and family with the Wheel of Fortune board game. Try to guess the secret word or phrase using the letters as they arise. It also comes with an accompanying app, but it is not necessary for game play.
For an authentic touch, all of the puzzles are written by the Wheel of Fortune staff, so you can really feel like a contestant on the show. The game includes 100 new puzzles to solve for hours and hours of playtime. Happy spinning!
Best for Mental Stimulation : Noggin Joggin' Books Joggin' Your Noggin: Fun and Challenging Word Games for Seniors
Written by an SLP
Each book in the series goes up in difficulty
These books are reportedly stimulating enough without being frustrating
Shouldn't be labeled for "seniors"—more appropriate for those with dementia or Alzheimer's
Written by a Speech-Language Pathologist, this book is the first of five in a series designed to improve the quality of life for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Providing vital mental stimulation in a fun, engaging way, Joggin Your Noggin provides more than 70 games geared toward patients in the mild to moderate stages, which can be played either independently or with help. If patients enjoyed word games or similar activities during their pre-dementia life, they will likely enjoy these games, too.
The difficulty levels go up from this very first book in the series to the most advanced activities of Volume IV. Assisted Living staff may find this book useful in their activity planning, and family members may find it enjoyable to play with their relatives. “Fill in the Blank” and “Complete the Song Title” are examples of the types of games described in the book.
Best Replayable: Puns of Anarchy The Outrageous Pun-Making Game
Rules are pretty straightforward
Some have noticed the dry erase ink gets all over everything it touches,
If you’re up for a game that you can play, erase your ink from the cards afterward, and play again, (while simultaneously experiencing side-splitting laughter), look no further than the aptly named Puns of Anarchy word game. Modify punnable cards as you wish to fit into 62 categories, laughing as you go.
A great party activity, this game ends once each category has at least four puns written in and is most fun for creative people. Some say you can easily remove a few “inappropriate” cards from the pack and then the game becomes kid-friendly.
Best Hybrid Word Game : Calliope Wordoku
Comes with a handy drawstring pouch for transport
Add the Expert tiles included if you need to make the game harder
Quite challenging to master, so some find it too difficult
Combine a crossword puzzle with a sudoku and you get Wordoku. This unique puzzle lets players use wooden tiles with both letters and symbols on them to make words. Make as many words as you can, but be sure you balance your symbols along the way too, in order to boost your score. Play three rounds, then tally up the awards each player has earned for high scores and improved scores to find the winner.
Best for Those with Dyslexia : Word WITT The Fast, Fun Dice Game for The Entire Family
The game appeals to all ages
It's compact and travels easily
Created by a mother when her first child was diagnosed with dyslexia, Word Witt is a fun, fresh way to enjoy family-friendly fun while supporting the literacy of struggling readers and writers. Build and reinforce spelling, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, word recognition, and more when you start playing Word Witt regularly.
Each round is over when the sand runs through the one-minute timer. If you don’t like the pressure of the one-minute sand timer included, you can just skip it or replace it with a timer of your own. It plays well in-person or over zoom. Your purchase of the game on the Word Witt site offers a portion of proceeds to the University of Michigan’s DyslexiaHelp program.
Best ASL Word Game : Super Duper Publications American Sign Language Bingo Game
High quality set of materials
Great way for kids to learn ASL easily while having fun
Some found it to be expensive
For BINGO fans who are learning or practicing American Sign Language, this game is ideal. Each box includes 24 double-sided bingo cards, 192 ASL calling cards, plenty of colorful bingo chips in a storage tub, eight different themes (numbers, letters, feelings, verbs, time, family, adjectives, and nouns), and an opportunity to learn over 201 ASL vocabulary words. The bingo cards are double-sided, so you’re actually getting 48 different bingo cards in all for hours of fun and learning.
Number of Players: 2-6 players | Duration: 10 minutes | Recommended Age: 4 years and up
Best for Family Game Night : Repos Just One
It’s fast-paced enough to keep everyone interested
All ages enjoy playing this game
Some thought the game was strange, slow, and not worth the purchase
Great for a family game night or as a party game, Just One is a cooperative game that lets players draw cards, compare, toss out repetitive results, and more to figure out the Mystery Word together. You may find out this game is so much fun, your family (or group of friends) will willingly put aside their devices, turn off the tv, and join together more than one night in a row to play it—all the while expanding their vocabularies without even trying. The game comes with everything you need, including erasable markers, erasers, easels, a storage box, and 110 cards.
Best for Parties : USAopoly Blank Slate Board Game
You don’t have to lean over a table moving pieces around for this game
Easy to learn to play and fun for kids and adults alike
Some feel the game isn't very original
Great for medium-sized groups, small parties, or family game nights, Blank Slate is a word association game perfect for your next birthday parties or game night. It even won big at the 2018 Parents' Choice and Family Choice Awards.
To play, you predict words that you think complete certain phrases while trying to match your guess to others’. You’ll get points depending upon how many others had the same prediction.
What to Look for When Buying a Word Game
Number of Players
If you're going to have a one-on-one word battle, a game requiring four or more players isn't going to work. Try to think ahead about how many people will be playing with you, and pick a game that works best. Maybe you and your friends want to have a word frenzy, or maybe something more challenging and personal is your move.
Are you in search of a game for a specific event? Or something themed? You want to be on the lookout for something that you can either use at home or out with people or something for an event like bridal showers or birthday parties. Some themed games will make the night at parties.
If you are at an event, knowing how much time a full round of a game will take can help you schedule other activities throughout the night. Or, if you're at home, you'll know whether or not a game is going to take up most of the evening or just last for a few minutes. Sometimes quick games are a nice change of pace.
Are word games good for your brain?
While some brain games, like word games, are good for your brain, there is a catch: It has to challenge you. Your brain learns from completing tasks and figuring out problems, so a game where you spout off words you already know may not help your neuroplasticity, or your brain's ability to grow and change. Learning something new, however, can improve your brain's health and neuroplasticity. So, if you're learning during word games, then yes, they are good for your brain!
Do word games improve your memory?
They most certainly can. In fact, the The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study found that word games helped people over the age of 65 had improved memory after completing word games and other brain games consistently. It also improved visual recognition.
Are there word games of varying difficulty?
Yes, there are tons of games for people who want to expand or practice their vocabulary skills. Word games are great ways for children or people learning a new language to learn words and their definitions, but more challenging games are also a great way to learn new words and brush up on your vocab words.
Why Trust The Spruce?
KJ Callihan writes for The Spruce and has created numerous shopping and gift guides for several publications. A former counselor and educator, she loves searching for just the right gift for her friends and family. Additional contributions for this guide came from Austin Fracchia, a freelance writer, avid do-it-yourselfer, and teacher, and Katie Pittman, a lifestyle and digital media writer and expert for MyDomaine.