These Classic Board Games Are Still Fun as Hell

When in doubt, whip Clue out.

Mitch Hutchinson/Shutterstock
Mitch Hutchinson/Shutterstock

Before Cards Against Humanity popularized crude humor, before Codenames took word association to new heights, and before Pandemic taught us how to collectively stave off a plague, there were the classics: iconic board games that laid the foundation for screen-free fun as we know it today.

Some classics went out of print far too early, some soon-to-be classics are still proving their longevity, and some classics continue to be enjoyed generations later. This last category is the sweet spot -- we’re talking easy-to-find, easy-to-comprehend, nostalgia-filled games published before Y2K. The golden age of board games ended at the turn of the century, and these are its gold medalists.

First published: c. 1870
Why it’s iconic: It’s one of the oldest board games and a blueprint for countless gameboards that followed.
What it’s about: The game "Pachisi" dates centuries back to medieval India, but it didn’t find its way to the States until sometime in the late 1800s under the name Parcheesi. The object of the game is to get all of your pieces out of the starting point, around the board, and into the center area. Not too challenging, right? Your moves are determined by dice rolls, and in the race around the gameboard, you can get a boost by capturing opponents’ pieces or lose progress if your piece is captured. Once you’ve hit the home stretch, the rules get trickier, but that’s a problem for later.
You’ll also like: Sorry!, Aggravation, and Trouble
Buy it here

Stratego | Rod Zadeh/Shutterstock

First published: 1947
Why it’s iconic: It was the first of many games that made chess look bland.
What it’s about: Stratego is nerdy. It’s similar to chess, requiring deep thought and unwavering focus. In this game you’re on the battlefield, attempting to capture the opponent’s flag while defending your own, much like a Civil War color guard or neighborhood child. Through a series of strategic moves and attacks, you’ll weaken the enemy’s army and clear a path to victory. But can you find their flag before they find yours?
You’ll also like: Risk, Axis & Allies, and Blokus
Buy it here

First published: 1949
Why it’s iconic: It’s the original -- and best -- murder mystery board game that inspired a campy 1985 film adaptation.
What it’s about: No game stands the test of time quite like Clue, also known as Cluedo in other parts of the world. Since the '40s, players have scoured the same mansion in search of a few crucial answers: Who killed Mr. Black? In what room? With what weapon? Everyone is a suspect, one of you is a killer; may the best detective win. In new versions of the classic whodunit game, Mrs. White -- one of the original six characters -- was killed off and replaced with Dr. Orchid, a plant biologist with a direct line to Mr. Black's fortune. 
You’ll also like: 13 Dead End Drive, Betrayal at House on the Hill, and Mysterium
Buy it here

The Game of Life
The Game of Life | Erin Cadigan/Shutterstock

First published: 1960
Why it’s iconic: It gives players a brief escape from their boring, loveless, far-from-glamorous lives.
What it’s about: The Game of Life, which everyone just calls "Life," is the OG Sims. Milton Bradley himself came up with the general game concept in 1860, though his "Checkered Game of Life" was far less cheery than the 20th-century board game we now know and love. With nothing more than paper, plastic, and some binding board, the modern-day Game of Life transports players into a fantasyland where they can build a career, get married, and have a minivan’s worth of kids. As you move around the board, try to avoid negative life events and hope you have enough money to retire rich… that part’s pretty realistic.
You’ll also like: Candy Land, Monopoly, and Chutes & Ladders
Buy it here

First published: 1966
Why it’s iconic: It showed that humans can act as game pieces and gave crushes a more creative way to flirt than Spin the Bottle.
What it’s about: It tests your balance, your strength, your flexibility, your coordination, and above all, your willingness to get tied up and tangled with your opponents. The Twister box only contains one mat and one spinner, yet lacks nothing. On your turn, you flick the spinner and find out which body part you have to place where. Left foot on green? You better hope there’s a vacant green circle nearby or you’ll have to go in for the splits.
You’ll also like: Operation, Jenga, and Mouse Trap
Buy it here

Boggle | scorzonera/Flickr

First published: 1972
Why it’s iconic: It made a game out of brain exercises before they were cool.
What it’s about: There are plenty of present-day smartphone apps that rip off Boggle’s idea, but real ones know which came first. In this timed word game, dice are shuffled to create a grid of letters, and players race against the clock (and each other) to write as many words as they can using chains of letters that touch vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. You need to think creatively because if two people find the same word, it’s crossed out and ineligible for points. 
You’ll also like: Scrabble, Upwords, and Yahtzee
Buy it here

First published: 1979
Why it’s iconic: It’s a game of only yes or no questions that somehow doesn’t get old.
What it’s about:Are they wearing a hat? Do they have white hair? Can I see their teeth? In this game, you have one task: Use the process of elimination to guess which of the gameboard’s 24 characters your opponent is thinking of. The first one to narrow down the options and guess the character correctly wins. So simple, yet so entertaining.
You’ll also like: Mastermind, Battleship, and Codenames
Buy it here

Trivial Pursuit
Trivial Pursuit | John Wright/Flickr

First published: 1981
Why it’s iconic: It’s the Christopher Columbus of trivia: It wasn’t really the first, but it gets a lot of the credit.
What it’s about: Trivial Pursuit transformed trivia from an unpopular cerebral activity into an entertaining household pastime. Players move around the gameboard answering trivia questions from six different categories: geography, entertainment, history, art and literature, science and nature, and sports and leisure. The first player to correctly answer a question from each category -- plus one extra final question, for good measure -- wins the pursuit. 
You’ll also like: Wits & Wagers, Bezzerwizzer, and Smart Ass
Buy it here

First published: 1982
Why it’s iconic: It’s a high-pressure survival game that involves removing tiles rather than laying them.
What it’s about: You're on a big island but it's sinking. If you want to survive, you must retreat to a different island before it goes under. Remember, though, that the ocean is a dangerous place, filled with sharks, sea serpents, and unfriendly whales -- you'll need to be smart when you make your escape. In Survive!, each player's in charge of getting 10 people safely from one island to another. They can either swim across the water or hop on a boat, but if they run into an angry sea creature before reaching safety -- or if they take too long to start their journey -- they'll meet an unpleasant demise.
You’ll also like: Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and Deep Blue
Buy it here

First published: 1984
Why it’s iconic: It gives compulsive liars a harmless outlet.
What it’s about: The task is simple: Write believable fake definitions for actual obscure words. The fake definitions are shuffled along with the real one and read aloud to the group. If you can figure out which definition is true, you score. Better yet, you score any time you trick someone into guessing that your definition is the real one. Balderdash tests your ability to bluff; may the most convincing liar win.
You’ll also like: Loaded Questions, Dixit, and The Game of THINGS
Buy it here

Pictionary 20th anniversary edition
Pictionary | Jun Seita/Flickr

First published: 1985
Why it’s iconic: It became the household name for any form of drawing charades.
What it’s about: Step 1: Pull a card. Step 2: Draw the word on the card. Step 3: Hope someone can comprehend your creation before the timer runs out. Pictionary is a pen-and-paper take on charades, an art form that’s known to get a little rowdy. Silently sketch your way to the end of the gameboard and you’ll go down in history as the Supreme Picturemaker.
You’ll also like: Telestrations, Rapidough, and Hedbanz
Buy it here

First published: 1988
Why it’s iconic: It’s a word game that nobody’s ever accused of being boring.
What it’s about: Scattergories requires quick thinking and a deep vocabulary: Each round is assigned a letter -- as an example, let's say the letter S -- and when the hourglass flips, players have three minutes to respond to a variety of prompts with words that begin with S. A prompt could be anything from "Items in a bathroom" to "Types of cereal." When the timer's up, players compare their answers, and if any people wrote the same thing, they don't get points for it. You'll have to be creative to avoid duplicate answers, so rather than listing obvious words like "sink" or "shower" as items in a bathroom, you'd want to go with something like "shaving cream."
You’ll also like: Outburst!, Double Ditto, and 5 Second Rule
Buy it here

First published: 1989
Why it’s iconic: It’s the adrenaline-boosting king of party games.
What it’s about: Get your teammates to say the word that appears on the card without using any blacklisted synonyms as hints. If you accidentally say one of the taboo words, the other team gets that point. See how many cards you can get through before the timer runs out, and try not to be the one who inevitably chokes under pressure. Even after 30 years, Taboo remains the wildly underrated party game that every socialite should own.
You’ll also like: Catch Phrase, Articulate!, and Password
Buy it here

Guesstures | K Vazquez/Shutterstock

First published: 1990
Why it’s iconic: It’s the highest form of charades.
What it’s about: Can you act out the words on the cards before time runs out? Guesstures challenges players to think on their feet and act on their toes -- cards are propped up on the action timer, and one by one the machine will suck them up. Your goal is to get your teammates to guess the words on the cards before they fall out of reach. Each card is worth a certain number of points that are tallied throughout the game; the team with the most points wins.
You’ll also like: Mad Gab, Time’s Up, and Speak Out
Buy it here

Settlers of Catan
Catan | Oleksandr Zaiats/Shutterstock

First published: 1995
Why it’s iconic: It made German-style board games a fixture in households around the globe.
What it’s about: Invented by a dental technician in Germany, Catan grew to become the gold standard of strategy games worldwide that have torn families and friend groups apart. Hexagonal tiles compose the vacant island of Catan, and it's the players’ jobs to, well, settle on it. Gather resources, strategically trade them as needed, and build your empire. Who will get 10 victory points first and dominate the island? It's anyone's bet.
You’ll also like: Bohnanza, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne
Buy it here

First published: 1998
Why it’s iconic: It combines a little bit of everything -- charades, trivia, sculpting, and drawing -- in a silly, team-building sort of way.
What it’s about: The creators of Cranium introduced a brainful of words to the English language -- words like cloodle, gnilleps, zelpuz, and sensosketch. They may sound like gibberish, but each one represents a challenge that must be completed in order to progress through the game. Challenges vary greatly, and different players will thrive in different areas. One round you might have to hum a tune to your teammates or answer a trivia question, and the next round you could be told to draw a picture with your eyes closed or use your teammate as a puppet to act something out. Decades later, it’s still one of the most versatile and interactive games on the market.
You’ll also like: Partini, Pick ‘N’ Choose, and Spontuneous
Buy it here

Apples to Apples
Apples to Apples | Chapendra/Flickr

First published: 1999
Why it’s iconic: It sparked a movement of hilarious judging games.
What it’s about: Each round, one player assumes the role of judge. The group is prompted with an adjective, and their job is to wow the judge by submitting an object card that matches the adjective in question (and gets a laugh in the process). For example, if the adjective is “lazy” and one of the cards in your hand says “state legislature,” you might submit that card for judgment and hope it’s the funniest one of the bunch. The goal of Apples to Apples is to win as many rounds as you can by having the best sense of humor and the luckiest selection of cards.
You’ll also like: Cards Against Humanity, Superfight, and Say Anything
Buy it here

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Kyler Alvord never loses a game of Taboo. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.