Food & Drink

The Definitive Ranking of Classic Drinking Games

Drinking games are the ultimate group bonding experience (aside from facing some sort of mortal danger). Whether you’re shouting your lungs out over Flip Cup in a packed bar, or having a quiet game of King’s Cup at home with a few pals, the classic games will never let you down. That said, some are undoubtedly better than others. Here is the definitive list, in order from best to slightly less best. Game on.

No. 1: Flip Cup

The best drinking games can be played by anyone, anywhere. They’re easy to learn but difficult to master. They’re fast, fun and loose. Flip Cup hits all of these notes, earning it universal approval and the top spot on our list. The original has given birth to several variations, like the Relay Race in which teams race to all complete their flips first; Soccer in which the action moves back and forth at a table rather than in a one direction; and Baseball, which combines the best of Flip Cup and Beer Pong.

No. 2: Beer Pong

You knew this frat party staple would be No. 1 or No. 2. It was only bumped from the top spot because it requires a fairly large table. Plus, Beer Pong—also known as Beirut—has a steeper learning curve than Flip Cup. But to see a master of the game at work is pure magic, as ping pong ball after ping pong ball kerplops satisfyingly into red Solo cups. Like its top-tier brethren above, Beer Pong has inspired many variations, such as the much beloved Dartmouth Pong played with handleless ping pong paddles on a larger table.

No. 3: King’s Cup

King’s is perfect solution when you can’t decide on a single drinking game. With 13 different (and customizable) rules or mini-games—from Categories to Never Have I Ever to the Rhyme Game—it’s impossible to get bored. Meanwhile, the 52-card limit establishes a fairly standard game length—so you may not know exactly what you’re getting into sitting down to a game, but you’ll at least know how long you’ll be there.

No. 4: Quarters

Bouncing a quarter into a cup seems easy enough, until it becomes agonizingly impossible. Every Quarters expert has his or her own tricks to coax the coin into the glass, from a perfect throwing angle to rolling the coin off one’s nose. The sheer frustration involved in this game keeps it out of the top three, but it’s still a quality option for those willing to put in the practice.

No. 5: Slap Cup

Slap Cup is a bit too complicated to explain in a single paragraph (visit the official Slap Cup USA site for all the rules), but it essentially involves drinking beer, bouncing ping pong balls into Solo cups and slapping said cups. The joy of this game comes from the barbaric satisfaction of smacking a cup out from under an opponent and laughing derisively as that player drinks in the shame.

No. 6: 21

Can you count? Good. You can play 21, aka Twenty Plus One, aka Cheers to the Governor. The sheer simplicity of this game earns it a spot on this best-of list, as players simply count up to 21, with the person forced to say “21” sentenced to drinking. It can, however, get complex depending on the creativity of players inventing new rules as the game goes on.

No. 7: Thumper / Viking / Vroom

If you have no cards or ping pong balls or dice or solo cups, you can still play these games, which require only your well-lubricated shouting voice and a good sense of humor. These rapid-paced games require players to pass a catch phrase or gesture around a circle until someone misses a beat. Your preference among these games says a lot about you: In Thumper, people are assigned various animal signs; in Viking players take on roles of Viking captain and rowers; and in Vroom everyone pilots their own personal imaginary car. They’re all utterly inane and stupidly entertaining.

No. 8: Sevens, Elevens and Doubles

Dice games attract a certain type of drinking gamer—namely, those waiting for their turn at the Beer Pong table. It’s kind of like Craps but with chugging, along with a few arcane rules to catch out neophytes. While it doesn’t have many die-hard fans, it’s certainly a great go-to in a pinch.

No. 9: F*ck You Pyramid

Who doesn’t want to sit around and curse at their friends while demanding people drink? That’s essentially what drinking games are all about. In this take on the classic Pyramid game, rows of cards forming a pyramid shape are slowly revealed, prompting players with the same card to lay it down against a target, saying, “f*ck you, Tom/Dick/Harry,” forcing that player to drink—unless someone else plays another of the same card on top. It’s more stressful than it sounds, as players only have a 5-second countdown to decide whether or not to play or f*ck someone over. Don’t worry, this game has probably never ruined friendships.

Honorable mentions: True American (from New Girl) and Chardee MacDennis (from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

While these fictional games may be difficult impossible to play in real life, they certainly deserve a shout out for sheer cult following. Featured in some of the best episodes of their respective shows, both are true classics in our book. True American is described as “75 percent drinking, 25 percent Candyland, and also the floor is lava,” while Chardee MacDennis features fancy wine receptions, requires players eat “the contents of a cake” to escape jail (a dog kennel), and awards the winning team with the chance to destroy the losers’ game pieces.