Top 10 board/table and card games of all time
Here’s our list of the best physical games because even though we’re video gamers, we love all games
Forbidden Bridge. Image Source: RetroJunk.com
Gaming comes in all shapes, sizes and forms.
There are console games, handheld games, mobile games, card games, table games, board games, outdoor games, sporting games and more.
At Shortcut Gamer, we’re not just interested in video games; we love all games. So, we decided it would be a good idea to count down the top 10 board games, card games and/or table games of all time.
Growing up, some of my fondest memories were playing Monopoly, Risk, Sorry! and others with my parents and my siblings. I also really enjoyed playing Scrabble with my grandmother and I was always fond of playing Uno during breaks at school.
I even played a lot of those weird games that were much cooler on the commercials. You know the ones: games like Hungry Hungry Hippos, Operation, Guess Who, and the even lesser-known gems like Forbidden Bridge!
I tried narrowing down my list to games that appeal to larger audiences though. I considered games that can be played with multiple friends and ones that can be enjoyed at any age superior to games like Candy Land that are really for younger audiences.
I’ve separated my top 10 list into two top 5 lists — one for board/table games and one for card games. I just feel that these are separate game categories and shouldn’t compete against one another. It would be like comparing today’s AAA video games to mobile games. They’re both great in their own ways, but comparing them is a bit unfair.
Take a look at the list below and let us know if you agree with the list or have other favorites that we’ve somehow missed.
5. Connect 4 (Milton Bradley/Hasbro, 1974, 1-2 players, ages 6 and up)
Now, Connect 4 may be considered a kids’ game by some people, but I still enjoy it to this day. It’s simplistic, but can also be quite complicated.
There are actually several variations on this game that get pretty intense and if you play with the right opponent, it can get pretty competitive.
When I was a kid, it was more fun to just fill up the tray and then watch all the pieces fall out of the bottom, but eventually I grew old enough to understand the intricate strategies of the game and became very fond of it.
I haven’t played Connect 4 in years, but it remains one of my favorites.
4. Jenga (Parker Bros., 1970s, 2 or more players, ages 6 and up)
Whether it’s “Generic Tumbling Tower” or the official Jenga, this block construction/deconstruction game is one of the best table games ever created.
My wife and I dig out our knock-off brand version of this game every now and then and it’s always a blast seeing how tall we can get the tower before it comes tumbling down.
These days, you can find all kinds of variants, including a huge version meant to be played on the floor, but I prefer the classic game with its plain blocks. I love that it can be played on just about any and all stable, level surfaces too.
It’s one of those games that brings out the laughs, but also requires a great deal of logic and strategy — not to mention some good ole hand/eye coordination and a steady hand — and that is what makes it so awesome.
3. The Game of Life (Milton Bradley/Hasbro, 1860/1960, 2 to 6 players, ages 9 to adult)
The Game of Life
Though Hasbro has gotten carried away with licensing by releasing tons of ridiculous versions over the last 20 years or so, the plain ole classic Game of Life is still my favorite.
I enjoyed some of the variants like “Twists and Turns”, but the classic version will always be the best. In fact, the wife and I recently bought a modernized version, and with updated life events, purchases, vehicles and other game pieces, the game is more fun than ever.
My only complaint about the Game of Life is that the newer versions have cheaper and cheaper game pieces. Such is life these days, I suppose, but it’s frustrating because my family still has a few board games that were purchased when my parents were children and they are in great shape.
Today’s games will never last that long. Nonetheless, this is one of those games that is timeless, and I know I’ll be playing it for the rest of my life.
2. Sorry! (Hasbro, 1920s, 2-4 players, ages 6 and up)
We’ve all played Sorry!. It’s one of those games that could make or break relationships when we were kids.
My mom used to play with us a lot, actually, and she somehow memorized how many spots were between each corner of the board so that no matter what card we drew she instantly knew where our piece was supposed to move. It was really annoying.
Not to mention, we had lost a few green and red pieces and replaced them with houses and hotels from Monopoly.
Still, those are some of my fondest memories from childhood. Playing board games with the family has and always will be something that kids should all experience.
Sorry! is one of the best because it’s approachable by kids of just about any age and it’s one of those games where no two playthroughs are the same. It’s even fun to play a two player game where each player controls two colors.
1. Scrabble (Hasbro/Mattel, 1938, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up)
Scrabble. Photo by J-Faye Photography.
My all-time favorite board/table game is Scrabble. I played this game a lot with my grandmother, a former school teacher and one of the people responsible for inspiring my career in writing, when I was young.
These days, my wife and I spend many hours glued to both the physical version and the digital Facebook/Android version. We’re not too fond of spin-offs like Words with Friends, however, because some of those variants just don’t live up to the simplicity that makes Scrabble so wonderful.
It’s always interesting to see the amount of diverse words I can come up with when scores are precariously close.
It’s also amusing to play with our own house rules because, let’s face it, some of the official rules are extraneous.
The crazy thing about Scrabble is that it has become a much bigger phenomenon than most may realize. There are tournaments around the world where players spell multiple-syllable words that no one else has ever heard of, which end up scoring them massive amounts of points. It’s pretty amazing to watch these Scrabble geniuses play!
Scrabble is even available in other languages and since the game is all about spelling, it’ll never be out of style.
5. Solitaire (single player, any age)
I’m starting off my list of card games with a solo game that most people are familiar with as a digital title. It can actually be played with real cards, believe it or not.
The best part of Solitaire is that, well, as it says in the name, it is played alone. That means you don’t have to wait for your friends to come over, and even if you do, it can be played after they all get drunk and pass out at the Poker table.
4. Cheat/I Doubt It/BS/Bologna (3-8 players, any age)
Deck of cards
Cheat aka I Doubt It or BS/Bologna is a card game all about lying as a means to be the first to get rid of all your cards.
I mean, come on, who doesn’t like to lie? Especially when you won’t get caught and have to face consequences like sleeping in the dog house.
What I love about Cheat is the fact that everyone goes in with a different strategy, and those strategies usually consist of characteristics of the individual’s personality. Yes, this is a game where you can really find out who your friends are and who may screw you over in a tight situation.
3. Blackjack (21) (2-6 players, any age)
Blackjack or 21 isn’t just for the casinos. It’s a fun game to play with friends at home whether you’re betting real money or just playing it because the Call of Duty servers are down.
The best thing about Blackjack is that — assuming no one is counting cards — it’s pretty fair to all players since it’s basically left up to chance.
Sure, there is a level of strategy in that you have to know when it is or isn’t smart to swap cards, but the new card or cards you receive are completely random and this makes the game approachable to players of all experience levels.
Or, at least that’s what they want you to think at the casinos.
2. Poker (player amounts vary, and Poker can be played at any age, but it’s usually an adult game since it almost always involves betting)
Poker is probably the most classic of card games. Like Blackjack, it can be played for money or just to kill time and/or spend time with friends. Poker definitely takes a greater deal of strategy than Blackjack though.
The first time I played Poker was at my uncle’s house when I was probably around 7 or 8 years old. We played for candy since kids were allowed to play and I didn’t quite understand the rules or the winning card combinations until much later, but it was nice being included in an adult game with some of my older cousins and family members.
Poker, in all its forms, is one of those games that people will be playing until the end of time, and that’s why we love it!
1. Uno (Mattel, 1971/purchased by Mattel in 1992, 2-10 players, ages 7 and up)
My absolute favorite card game of all time is most definitely Uno.
If you’ve lived under a rock you’re entire life, Uno is a card with a simple premise: get rid of all your cards first. The twist is that when you’re down to one card, you must shout “uno!” (Spanish for “one”) because if someone shouts it before you, you must draw two more cards and continue trying to get rid of your hand.
There are various special cards like skips, reverse cards and the all-powerful Wild and Wild Draw 4, which allow the color to be changed at the choice of the player who put down the Wild card. The Wild Draw 4 has the added caveat that the next person to play must draw four cards.
What makes Uno one of the best games ever is that rounds can end in a few minutes or last for hours depending on many different factors, including skill level.
When I was in elementary school, my father taught at the school I attended, so I spent many afternoons hanging out with the other children who had parents that worked at the school while the teachers had meetings and other such events. These memories have added a bit of nostalgia for me every time I pick up an Uno deck.
I also am very fond of the many digital versions and variants of Uno, but the original card game is the best.
Uno will forever be my go-to card game because even if an opponent has never played it before, it’s pretty simple to get the hang of in just a few minutes, which makes it the ultimate game for family gatherings.