Family Game Night

Young mother and father playing a Ludo board game with their daughter in the living room. Daughter w...
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15 Perfect Family Games You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

(Because you can only play so much Candyland...)

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Growing up, I considered myself a big board game fan. I loved Candyland and Clue and Scrabble — I thought I was a real game fanatic. Then I met my husband. While I don’t love that basically all our basement storage space is devoted to his hundreds of games, I do appreciate the many family games he has introduced to our foursome. And whether your partner is a gamer or not, having a collection of the best family games you’ve probably never heard of is pretty great. I mean, there are only so many rounds of Candyland you can play with your kids before you’re ready to move on.

I’ve ordered the family games on this list from youngest players to oldest, but the fun of most of these games is that they’re fun for everyone involved. (My husband and I have definitely played some of these sans kids.) Whether your little one has a short attention span for tabletop games or you do, I’ve also made sure that none of these games take longer than an hour and most take somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes.

There will always be a place for the classics on your table, but next family game night, why not pick up one of these instead?


Slumberkins Feelings Adventure

Age: 3 to 6

Oh no! All the feelings have disappeared in the Slumberkins Feelings Forest! Players take on the roles of Bigfoot, Unicorn, Yak, and Fox to gather the feelings and bring them to the Feelings Tree in the heart of the woods. This cooperative game helps little ones identify and talk about their feelings through affirmations, questions, and calming movements and stretches. It’s a great way to introduce social-emotional intelligence building and the basics of playing a board game to your family’s youngest players.



Age: 4 to 10

In this cute racing game, children roll six dice with different colored dots on them. These colors correlate to the various spaces on a track. Move as far along the track as you can by creating a sequence of connected colors.If you cannot use certain colors, your turn is over. The first player to the finish line wins. This game is fantastic because it encourages kids to learn how to strategize and think ahead.


Monopoly Jr.

Age: 5 to 10

I know that you’re thinking. “I thought you said you were going to give us a list of games we probably hadn’t heard of! Everyone knows Monopoly. It’s the most classic board game there is.”

Friends, there is a reason I’ve listed this game. Come closer... Monopoly sucks.

I said what I said. It’s an exercise in masochism: way-too-long and boring. Everyone thinks they love Monopoly until they’re an hour in and there’s no end in sight. Besides, I challenge any of you to tell me the last time you played a game of Monopoly where everyone stuck it out through the whole game. But most importantly for our purposes, it’s definitely not a game for little kids.

That’s why I love Monopoly Jr. The game play is basically the same, except the game ends when the first person loses all their money, which is basically when you want to end the game in regular Monopoly anyway. The person with the most money at the end wins. This is a great board game for families to “train” for more elaborate or longer games in time.


Rhino Hero: Super Battle

Age: 5+

In this game, you and your fellow players are super heroes who must scale skyscrapers (which you’ll build with a series of cards). The higher the build, the wobblier and more precarious the game play. Hanging spider monkeys on the floors will make balancing more difficult. Oh, and remember: only one hero per floor. If you wind up in the same space you’ll have to roll to see who can stay. The game is over when the card skyscrapers tumble... and they will.



Age: 5 to 10

Oh no! Mrs. Plumpert’s pot pie has gone missing from her windowsill. Which one of the foxes took it this time? Move around the board to gather clues and scan the clues with the special evidence scanner to rule out suspects. But you have to be quick: the guilty fox is heading for the exit. Will you be able to figure out whodunnit, or will you be outfoxed?



Age: 6+

This is another game that’s not really esoteric, but I’m including it because people sleep on this one and they shouldn’t. Move the gemstones through a series of crannies and try to collect the most in your home-board area. Once all gems are on either end of the board, whoever has the most wins. This centuries old game is easy to learn, but to really master it takes forethought and strategy.



Age: 6+

This domino-like game is frustratingly straight-forward: place tiles, each worth a point, by creating runs of either color or shape. Once tiles are placed, other players can build off of what you’ve established. If you can get a row of all six (color or shape), baby that’s a Qwirkle, worth double points! Once all tiles are drawn, players have one more turn around the table. The player with the most points wins.


Happy Salmon

Age: 6+

This raucous party game is an absolute must for parties — the more players the better. Each player is dealt a hand of cards with a series of instructions on them — High Five, “Fish Bump,” Switch It Up, and “Happy Salmon”. But here’s the problem: in order to perform the action, you need a partner to join you. To do this, you call out your action and wait for someone to join you in it. If no one can, put that card on the bottom of your deck and move on to the next.

“But wait,” you ask, “doesn’t that mean everyone is shouting all at once? Doesn’t that get chaotic?”

Extremely, but in the best possible way.

Complete all your cards first and you win.


Exploding Kittens

Ages: 7+

Exploding Kittens is a cheeky card game with hilarious art and a simple mission: draw cards and avoid the ones with exploding kittens on them. As more and more cards are drawn from the pile, this gets tougher and tougher. (Though don’t worry, everyone starts with at least one defuse card, which allows you to put the incendiary feline back in the deck.) Use the special abilities on the other cards to avoid the exploding kittens as best you can. The last unexploded player wins.


Shadows In The Forest

Age: 8 + (In my experience you can play this with a supervised 5-year-old.)

Do you remember playing Manhunt as a kid (aka Hide and Seek at night)? Shadows in the Forest brings that fun to a tabletop, with an extra dash of whimsy for fun. In this game, which is played in the dark by the light of the included lamp, there is one explorer (the seeker) trying to prove the existence of “shadowings” (the hiders), little creatures that live in the forest. The seeker’s goal is to find all the shadowings. The shadowings goal is to gather together in one spot without being found.

This one is a favorite in my house. The camaraderie that develops between players playing as shadowings trying to avoid detection together is what board games are all about.


Gimme That!

Age: 8 +

This game couldn’t be simpler, or more chaotically fun. The goal is extremely straightforward — be the first person to write the numbers 1 to 100 on your sheet of paper — but doing it is anything but. You see, everyone has a piece of paper, but there’s only one pencil.

As if that weren’t challenging enough, the player to your left is rolling a die with lots of distracting instructions, including making lots of noise with high fives and fist-bumps, banging the table, and even switching papers (so one minute you’re writing 47 on one paper only to have that replaced with another that’s up to 13). When they roll the die and it lands on the pencil image, they scream “Gimme that!” and start working on their own sheet. The die is passed and the process starts over again. Whoever gets to 100 first is declared “Spud King” and gets a sticker.

This is a winner with big groups, and I can personally say that folks in my family from 6 to 86 have thoroughly enjoyed it.


5-Minute Dungeon

Age: 8+ (In my experience you can play with a 6-year-old.)

In this game, you and up to four other players are a party of adventurers. Each player chooses a specific character, who comes with a corresponding deck of cards and abilities. Your mission: defeat “the boss” cards, which get increasingly more challenging as you move along. You do this by matching your cards to the ones shown by each enemy. This is a perfect family game because it’s collaborative: you win or lose as a team. It’s fast-paced and super fun and the cards are all highly amusing.

I highly suggest downloading the free app when you play this game. You don’t need it — an ordinary timer will work just fine — but the various voice actors that count you down (from a dramatic narrator to a spiteful sassypants) and the sweeping music add a certain je ne sais quoi to gameplay.



Age: 8+

Have you ever noticed that constellations don’t really look like the thing they’re meant to portray. Like “How on earth (no pun intended) does that look like a dragon to you?” This game celebrates that fact. Part Pictionary, part stargazing, players are given pictures to draw on the dry-erase starscape, but there’s a catch. You have to draw the image by connecting stars via straight lines. Earn extra points if it fits within the included “telescope.” The player with the most points wins!


Dog Crimes

Age: 8+

Who ate the cake? Who knocked over the houseplant? Who pooped on the carpet? Use a series of clues to deduce which pup is guilty in Dog Crimes. With 40 challenges, which increase in difficulty, you can play this game over and over again.

We love this game in my house (along with its sister game, Cat Crimes) for so many reasons. For starters, you can play alone or as a family. We’ve seen our kids improve their deductive reasoning skills while having a great time. And? The little pup characters are super cute.


Castle Panic

Age: 8+

In this cooperative board game, you and your fellow players have to defeat the monsters who are trying to destroy the castle. Play the right cards to fight back, but be wary: more monsters are popping up all the time. If you can defeat the monsters with at least one tower of the castle still standing, you win!

Happy gaming, everybody!