uno cards spread on top of pictionary, taboo and catch phrase games

Inside: 20+ best games for family game night – games that both kids and adults can play together (and the adults won’t be bored to tears). 

I grew up having family game nights. I remember…

Rowdy games of Spoons – the ones where I stood back and laughed hysterically as my siblings dived over the table, fighting for sole domination of over that one.last.spoon.

Epic games of Pictionary – the ones where the other teams laughs at the one person on the other team who’s incredulously demanding how the designated drawer could ever possibly think that scribble resembled the term “road trip”.

Hilarious games of Balderdash – the ones where I couldn’t read my fake definition without guffawing because my dad’s lying radar was impossibly good and I just couldn’t keep a straight face!

Even the endless, pull-your-hair-out, “I just can’t take playing this game anymore!!” games of Monopoly – the ones where we secretly let my brother win (again) because we were just so tired of playing – are fond family memories for me.

We laughed hysterically during every single family game night and made some of my fondest family memories, memories only outdone by the ones made on family vacations.

We played card games, board games, games passed down for generations and new games we picked up from parties and close family friends.

Years later, even though we are all very different people with sometimes polar opposite opinions and ideas, playing games is still one of my very favorite ways to spend time with my family.

But why use family nights to play games, as opposed to the hundreds of other options vying for that same time?

What makes family game nights so magical, anyway?

Related: The Best Educational Board Games That We Play All The Time

family playing games together on family game night, with text overlay, "best 20+ games for family game night - many games under $10"

Why Is Family Game Night Important?


Movies and outings have their place for family time, but there’s something special about playing games together.

If you need convincing about starting a family game night in the first place, here are two reasons to start playing games as a family.

1. Games are fantastic relationship builders.

Why? They connect people without the need for common ground or deep conversation.

Family life isn’t always easy. Every parenting stage has its sweet side…and it’s NOT so sweet side. (Puberty, anyone?)

Especially if you’re in one of those seasons where relational dynamics are particularly challenging, family game nights allow you set aside your differences and conflicts for a little while.

Games help you laugh and relate to each other on a level that isn’t deep or frustrating or divisive (like religion or politics), even if life after game night goes back to being just plain hard.

Even during the worst of times, family game nights can create family memories that will last a lifetime. I’m serious – they really will.

2. Games (especially card games) are a relatively cheap way to spend time as a family.

In a day and age where the cost of family experiences is going up, card games and board games are cheap! Especially for bigger families.

SO many of these games are card games – many are less than $10!

A card game plus some good snacks?

And you can play that game again and again and again.

Keep an eye on Amazon for their 50% game day deals OR make an Amazon wish list called “Games for Family Game Night” and check back periodically for sales.

You can find some of these games at your local thrift store (but word to the wise: check for all the pieces before purchasing – ask me how I know!).

How to Introduce Family Game Night

1. Start having family game nights as early as possible.

Ideally, you would have a family game night tradition in place before you hit to the tween/teen years. You know, before you get the eye rolls and sighs at the very suggestion of a) Family Time or b) Games + Family Time.

I mean, you could hold car keys and time with friends hostage in exchange for family game night participation. Parents: you do what you gotta do.

BUT it’s probably not the best long-term strategy for family health and happiness.

The earlier you establish family game nights as part of your family culture, the more likely they are to be a loved and cherished tradition.

2. Decide how often you want to have family game nights.

Setting a high bar of a weekly family game night probably isn’t realistic.

Holidays, extracurriculars and school functions, without even factoring in family illness, all need to fit into the family calendar these days. Plus, you need to make room for other ways to spend time as a family.

Start small. Aim for one family game night a month.

Try to choose a memorable and consistent time – the first Friday night of the month for example. Consistency helps build anticipation and solidify the tradition.

3. Include good food!

This is just a suggestion, but personally, my best family game night memories always included a tasty snack.

What are good snacks for game night?

Savory ones were my favorites:

  • Chips and French Onion Dip
  • Nachos
  • Bread and Spinach Dip
  • Potato Skins
  • Breadsticks & Dip

Anything cheesy and delicious, or simply not-your-usual fare, can make game night especially attractive to the more reluctant game night participants. Get creative!

If you must go healthy (to each his own), you could do:

  • Carrots & Dip
  • Pita Chips & Spicy Hummus
  • Peppers & Guacamole
  • Popcorn

You get the idea.

Food + Games = Especially Memorable!

How to Choose the Best Game for Family Game Night

You’re going to want to choose a game that both kids and adults can play together and both will actually enjoy it. That can be a tall order, especially for the elementary set.

(If I have to play one more game of Candyland….)

You also want to consider the amount of time it will take to play. You’d much rather have everyone begging for more after a 45-minute game than dragging their feet or quitting half-way through a two-hour one.

Because of varying attention span, many of the “best games for family game nights” on this list are fast-packed card and dice games.

Bonus: these types of games are usually low budget and under $10 each.

The best family game nights are also the ones the whole family looks forward to.

You don’t want to twist anyone’s arm to be there (although if you have a stubborn tween/teen, you might need to for the first one or two).

When an old friend polled her Facebook parent community for games that won’t bore adults to death, but elementary school kids can actually play, they gave so many fabulous suggestions!

I’ve included some of their suggestions, along with many of our own family favorites and games on our wishlist.

Keep in mind that many of these can be modified with house rules or made accessible to younger players or beginning readers with teams, composed of one beginning reader plus one adult/confident reader older sibling.

May many happy family game nights be in your future!

Related: 25 Geography Board Games & Card Games

20+ Games for Family Game Night 

1. Spoons

I’ll start with the absolute cheapest and funnest game of all time: spoons.

Spoons is a hilarious (and potentially violent) game involving spoons, a dining room table and a regular deck of cards

You can play with as many people as will fit around the table you’re using.

Grab a deck of cards, spoons from the silverware drawer and head HERE for how to play spoons.

2. Monopoly Deal

Love Monopoly but not enough time (or patience) to play the real deal on family game night? Try the card version instead!

3. Ticket to Ride

This is our favorite family game right now! My 10-year-old, 8-year-old, and 6-year-old (with help) can all play and sustain attention for the entire game.

Choose 2-3 route cards and build sections of track to complete your routes. Get points for building tracks (more points for longer sections of track), completing routes and having the longest continuous route).

Recommended for ages 8+, 2-5 players. Game play takes 45-60 minutes.

You can get the kids’ version, but I think you will quickly outgrow it. I personally recommend the original version.

4. Exploding Kittens

We gave this game to our kids for Christmas last year, and it’s the perfect quick game that can be played multiple times as players desire.

The main card deck contains one or more “Exploding Kitten” card that you do NOT want to pick up. If you do, you’d better hope you have a “Diffusion Card”, or else you’re out of the game!

“See the Future” in the deck of cards (to avoid Exploding Kitten cards), take cards from each other at random, and hope you are the last one standing to win.

Recommended for ages 7+. 2-5 players can play, unless you pick up an Expansion deck. One round of game play takes 15 minutes, give or take.

5. Sushi Go

This card and dice game gets 86% 5 star ratings for over 2,000 reviewers. That’s saying something!

A unique “pass and play” game, each player chooses one card in his deck to play, then passes the rest of his cards to the right at the completion of his turn.

Everyone is playing at the same time and passing cards quickly, so the game is fast-moving and no one gets bored. Points are totaled at the end of the game, and the player with the highest score wins.

Recommended for ages 8+. 2-5 Players (Sushi Go Party is up to 8 players). Game time takes 15-20 minutes.

6. Balderdash

This was a family favorite, with many a family game night ending with tons of laughter!

Players must make up a definition of a real word. Only one player, the player who draws the card, writes down the true definition.

Once everyone writes down their definition, the player who drew the card reads every definition out loud. The other players must choose determine the true definition from the fakes!

Recommended ages 8+ (I recommend ages 10+).

7. Catch Phrase

Split up into teams and try to get your team members to guess the words on your card, as many as possible before the timer runs out!

Recommended ages 8+. You need at least four players to make up the two teams, but could really play with several teams or bigger teams to accommodate a bigger group.

Game play can take as long or as short as you want depending on how high you set the “winning” score.

8. Taboo

Another personal favorite, taboo is like Catch Phrase in that you are trying to get your team members to say the designated word on your card. The more words you can get your team to say, the more points you get.

The catch? There are five words per card that you cannot say. If you say a “taboo” word, you lose a point, instead of gain one!

Lost points for cards where you say the “taboo” words, and gain points for cards you get your team to guess without saying the “taboo” words. Make sure to go quickly before the timer runs out!

Word to the Wise: if you have younger kids, keep the buzzer far, far away from them. Ours may or may not have ended up thrown into the woods in a moment of parenting insanity weakness.

Recommended ages 8+. Teams can be as large as you want! Set a score that determines the winning team – higher or lower depending on how long you want to play.

9. Pictionary

I don’t think Pictionary will ever go out of style. You can easily find a copy at a local thrift store.

Play with the board according to the rules, or just use the Pictionary cards and play more informally.

Again, set a winning score depending on how long you want your family game night to take, and go from there!

If you can read, you can play. And readers from the opposite team can help non-readers decipher their clues.

10. Yahtzee

This is another current favorite game of ours!

This dice game comes with five dice and a shaker, along with 100 Yahtzee score cards. Roll three times a turn and try to get every different combination listed on your card.

Choose carefully where to put each dice combination. As the slots fill up, you may have to take zeros….

Recommended ages 8+. Flexible number of players.

11. Cahoots

Looking for a cooperative card game for your family game night?

In Cahoots, players work together to complete a series of goals involving four stacks of cards in the middle of the table, but you can’t reveal to one another what’s in your individual hands!

A race against the clock, you need to move quickly to accomplish the overall objective.

This game comes with 56 cards and 50 goal cards.

Recommended ages 10+, 2-4 players. Game play takes about 20 minutes.

12. 7 ate 9

Another fast card game, but NOT cooperative. Players are racing to get rid of their card pile based on one simple calculation – add or subtract 1, 2, or 3 to the number on top of the pile in the middle.

But everyone is playing at the same time, so the middle deck is constantly changing.

If you don’t move quickly, you’ll need to recalculate!

Recommended for ages 8+. 1-4 players.

13. Uno

A classic, this card game never gets old. Even my 3-year-old can play it (except when he wants to disregard bend the rules of course)!

If you haven’t played Uno, where have you been?! This is a staple for any family game collection.

While it can get old for adults after a while, I still find that game play moves fast enough for me to stay interested in the game.

Play based on card color or number, and get rid of all of your cards to win. But don’t forget to say, “Uno!” the second you’re down to one card, or you have to pick up!

Recommended for ages 7+ (but 4-5+ from experience). Up to 8 players.

14. Quixx

My friend Mary (formerly Not Before 7) who has four teenagers constantly sings this game’s praises! It’s on our wishlist.

Includes 6 dice and scorepad, players work to check numbers off their scorecard. The more numbers you check off, the more points you get.

Super simple to learn, this is perfect for family game night as again, it only takes 15-20 minutes per round.

Recommended for ages 6+. Multiple players can play at one time.

15. Sleeping Queens

Another card game that can be played in 15-20 minutes, making it a perfect addition to family game night. Play multiple rounds or switch games when the family gets bored.

Twelve queens fall under a sleeping spell, and the object of this fast-paced card game is to wake everyone up!

The game comes with 79 cards and instructions.

Recommended for ages 8+, 2-5 players.

16. Phase 10

A rummy-style card game, this one takes longer to play than the many of the card games in this list. If you choose this one, make time for a longer family game night.

Each player must complete each of ten phases (run of 4, for example). If you miss a phase during a round, you have to keep trying until you get it.

The first player to complete all ten phases wins!

Recommended ages 7+. For 2-6 players.

17. Loonacy

Quick card games seem to be a theme in this post, mostly because you can keep playing or shut family game night down early!

Loonacy is ridiculously easy.

Everyone is trying to get rid of their cards at the same time by matching to the pile in the middle, which again is constantly changing because everyone is playing at once!

Be faster than the rest and keep up to empty your hand and win.

Recommended for ages 8+. 2-5 players, give or take. The only problem reviewers mentioned with increasing the number of players was the ability to reach the middle pile quickly.

18. Skip Bo

We have this card game in our game collection, and now that I mention it, we need to break it back out for an upcoming family game night. It’s fun and easy to learn.

Create a sequence of cards and empty all the cards in your stockpile to win!

Recommended for ages 7+. For 3-8 players, can be played in teams.

19. Apples to Apples

I haven’t played this in years, but it’s going on our Family Game Night Amazon Wishlist.

Ridiculously easy to play, in this card game one player – the “judge” – puts down a description card. The other players choose one of their seven cards they think is most similar to that card (or what they think the other person will think is most similar). 

Collect the most description cards to win!

Recommended ages 12+. 3 or more players.

Have a younger age group? Try Apples to Apples Kids 7+. You can always add the original later as there are no duplicate cards between the two versions.

20. Pandemic

I cheated a bit because this game is not for the younger crowd.

We have this game on our list of “games to purchase when the kids get older” – I can’t wait until they are old enough to play because it looks sooo fun!

If you like strategy games AND cooperative games, Pandemic is a great choice.

A disease has broken out around the world, and you need to work together to stop the spread and find a cure. 

Recommended ages 13+. Designed for 2-4 players.

Game play takes about 60 minutes.

21. Password

Similar to Catchphrase, players need their team members to guess the password.

What makes this game more challenging than Catchphrase or Taboo? You can only use one word clues.

The fewer clues you need to give for your team to guess the password, the more points you get!

Recommended for ages 8+. For 3 or more players.

22. Leaps and Ledges

A fast-paced game that holds everyone’s attention, this strategy and math board game from Mindware offers the perfect blend of strategy and luck that will keep both kids and adults interested on family game night. Get all four of your pawns to the top of the tower before other players send them back down!

One reviewer described it as, “A lot like the board game Sorry, but vertically.”

Comes with a sturdy base, 15 platforms, a tower crown, 15 pawns, and 72 playing cards. Recommended for 2-4 players, ages 8+.

What do YOU think are the best games for family game night?

Did I miss any awesome games? Share in the comments!

Related: 30+ Science Board Games for Kids (Organized by Age Level)

Help a friend out: share this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *