Grillist

Backyard Games You Should Be Playing Instead of Cornhole

There are flying hammers involved.

games you should be playing instead of cornhole
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Welcome to Grillist, our annual celebration of all things smoke and fire. Join us all summer long as we get up in your grill with expert BBQ advice, insightful interviews, and bad grilling puns -- but mostly those first two.

Look, croquet and badminton are for white fancy boys named Chauncy who wear socks and sandals to the beach. Beer pong is for unimaginative frat bros. Cornhole -- while still a perfectly nice game, don’t get me wrong -- has just become a little... boring. The best part of summertime grill-fests, aside from the copious piles of meat, should be the outdoor games.
 
Luckily, society has developed at least 16 worthwhile pastimes to occupy your non-drinkin’ hand after you finish stuffing your gullet. There’s something for every style of BBQ: the backyard mega bash, the subdued patio grill-out, and even the “oh crap it’s raining and now we have to cook 70 hot dogs inside my garage” shindig. No athleticism required.

giant beer pong
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Giant Beer Pong

While playing beer pong post-25 may be a little gauche, playing giant beer pong is a little more acceptable, and lets you avoid saying the word "gauche" out loud. It's the Giant Jenga rule, right? While Jenga is for kids, Giant Jenga is a prime, perfectly acceptable adult outdoor activity for your non-beer drinking hand. For mega beer pong, all you need is a bunch of trash cans, a volley/soccer ball, and enough beer to fill each one of those trash cans to the brim. Just kidding on that last part. But hey, it's your money. 

Spikeball

Spikeball is, by popular consensus, the most fun you can have on a mini-trampoline without taking your clothes off. It rose to prominence on Shark Tank after the sharks stopped being fame-hungry schmucks for a minute and realized they actually had something cool in their laps. It's basically a 360-degree hybrid of handball and ping-pong, and it can be played pretty much anywhere with a floor -- and you don’t need a ton of room, so it’s a perfectly adept game for patio or deck-based BBQs. You'll almost certainly see people playing it this summer, probably while shirtless. Now, you know what it is.

high noon
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High Noon

High Noon takes its inspiration from the tumbleweed-laden duels of Wild West fame. But it features six-packs in lieu of six-shooters, and has little to no chance of bloodshed. This is a two-player game where you and your opponent stand back-to-back, take 10 paces, turn around, chug your beer, crush it, and throw it at each other. The first to make contact wins. Oh wait, there might actually be a little bloodshed. And this one is definitely not safe for BBQs with kiddies around.

Egg Roulette

A game embraced by late-night host Jimmy Fallon, egg roulette has the potential to get messy. You have a group of identical eggs, and all but one hard-boiled. You take turns breaking these eggs on your head till one ends up exploding. The egg-head person is the loser. As the saying goes, you need to crack a few eggs on your head to have a nice summer BBQ, right?

KanJam

Out of any pastime on this list, KanJam may have the most legitimate chance to dethrone cornhole as the game you're most likely to play post-BBQ. And it deserves it. Like cornhole, you line up with a teammate on opposite sides, over a can, with a hole in the side, and an uncovered top. If you get the Frisbee in the slot in the side -- you win! Otherwise, you can hover over the can, and slap your teammate's shot inside when the moment is right. They sell pre-made sets you can buy, or you can just put those old industrial oil drums laying around your place to good use.

Beer Pong Golf

If you are angling to work on your short-game whilst taking shots of beer (and really, why wouldn't you?) beer pong golf is the hybrid backyard activity of your wildest dreams. Basically, it's beer pong, using golf clubs. You have two cornhole board-style planks, set on an incline, with cups set inside the faux-grass surface. Your duty is to sink 10, individual holes before your competitor (chipping mat included). The one drawback: this one requires some slight experience with golfing. If you don't know how to properly chip, you might not have fun with this one. Sorry, Tiger. 

kubb
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Kubb

Kubb is Sweden’s second-best import (No. 1 is ABBA, obviously), and is essentially a game of tossing large wooden blocks at other large wooden stakes, in an attempt to knock said blocks off their footing. Think of it this way: If horseshoes, bowling, and those hand-carved artisanal toys that crunchy granola parents buy their kids had a misshapen Swede of a baby, it would look like Kubb. It is fun, though... despite sounding like a table from IKEA. But, it’s best played on sand, or loose soil. So it might be best-saved for beachside BBQs.

The Bag Game, aka Bite the Bag

Gloriously simple for kids, an extreme feat of calf-distressing contortion for adults, the concept here is pretty simple: Put a paper bag in the center of a ring of people. Each person must balance on one leg, bend down, and lift the bag with their mouth. If you fall, you're out. Each round, you cut an inch off the bag, making it hard for even the most ardent yogi to bear. That's good clean fun. Except for the grass stains. This is an essential episode of distraction for BBQs filled with obnoxious kids that need something to occupy their time. They will love it. It’s like 10,000 fidget spinners with Pokémon on them.

Dodgebeer

If only gym class had been this fun. “Dodgebeer” is fun to say out loud, and a viable swap for those looking to drift away from the Fratastic trappings of beer pong. Essentially, you assume regular pong position (two teams of two, on each side of a table), with one can of beer on each side. The opposing team’s objective is hit your team’s beer with a ping-pong ball, and while it ricochets into oblivion, your team has to sip till you get the pong ball back on the table, and yell “Stop!” Obviously, this game tends to go quicker than most (especially if you are in a big space), so best two out of three is a good move -- or, you can deviate from the “Classic” version detailed above, and opt for some more advanced rules. All this just means more beer. It’s a win-win-win. That’s right: three wins.

drinko
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Drinko

It's like Price Is Right's Plinko!, but instead of winning cash and not getting neutered or spayed by Bob Barker, you get to drink whichever beverage the plink of fate bestows on you. If you've never left your drinking choices up to fate before, you don't know what you've been missing. This is an ideal game for limited space... and people who want to have fun while not exerting themselves, physically. And here is your inspiration.

Washers

Washers is an old-timey country game that plays like a scaled-down cornhole, with the rules boiled down a little bit. You toss washers into a tin can. That's pretty much it. But again, this is a good cornhole alternative for smaller spaces, like the inside of a garage when it starts to rain. Or the bottom of a mine shaft, when you are tired of searching for precious gems and need a breather.

Stump aka Hammerschlagen

Stump is a game popular both in the American Midwest... and Germany (if you couldn't tell "Hammerschlagen" is a decidedly German name). For this, you need a hammer, nails, and... well, a stump. If you really want to play, you are going to need a thorough breakdown of the rules (find a great explainer, here) but essentially, the game involves flipping your hammer a full 360-degrees, then hammering in a set nail into the stump, all in a fluid, one-handed motion. Sound hard? It is! But once you get the hang of it, you can start incorporating tricks. Which is a part of the game, too. Despite the semi-steep learning curve, this is probably one of the most fun, rewarding, and entertaining games on this list. Just be super careful. You are tossing a hammer around, of course. 

The Dunk Tank

For a mere $250, you can turn your backyard BBQ into a county fair, with this pre-made, scaled-down dunk tank. This will definitely keep the kids occupied for a few hours. Carnies not included... but will probably show up if you ask them.

flickin' chicken
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Flickin' Chicken

By default, you should be inherently into any game that requires the tossing of rubber chicken at a target. And this summer’s potential lawn phenomenon, Flickin’ Chicken, gives you the chance to do just that: You toss floppy, hilarious rubber chickens at a target. It’s cornhole, poultry style (Gonzo would certainly approve). And the best part is going rogue and making up your own games with the chickens. They are ridiculously fun to toss around, and the options are limitless. Flickin’ Chicken Beer Pong, anyone? It’s a little messy... but the chickens don’t mind. They are plastic.

Beersbie

A re-shuffled version of the classic “Polish Horseshoes,” Beersbie requires two fairly high poles (along with a Frisbee and beers, obviously), making this is a game made exclusively for the outdoors -- or defunct gentlemen's clubs. The extended rules get a little complicated, but in essence you are trying to knock your opponent’s beer off its pole, in the name of drinking. If you want to play KanJam, but are stuck with nothing but chest-high metal poles, this is a stellar and functional alternative.

Floating Beer Pong

If you have a pool in your backyard (or apartment complex), your cookout is likely already leveled-up, so why not raise your beer pong game too? GoPong is basically a big, floating pool raft equipped with a built-in cooler and holes for plastic cups arranged in the traditional beer pong formation. Sure, you’ll have to change your game a little if you employ bounces in your strategy, but it’ll help you get better aim. If beer pong’s not your thing, it also functions as a great in-pool drink tray, provided you want to float around with 20+ cups of rapidly warming beer. For an even more intense game, try bringing it in the ocean during high tide. 

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Wil Fulton is a staff writer for Thrillist. He'll spend his summer playing Beer Monster, thank you very much. Follow him: @wilfulton.