Family game night is one of the best ways to keep family life balanced. Whether you have a boy or girl, preschooler or teen, or a mix of ages, playing games is a way to connect and bond as a family.
Teaching your kids general music, piano lessons, flute lessons, or anything else is greatly rewarding and highly encouraged. However, it’s also important to find a balance between teaching and quality family time. Kids need parents to be more than just their authority figures or teacher. They need to be engaged, have fun, spend quality time, and make memories with them too.
So when you’re not teaching your kids, pick up a game and play with them. Grab some snacks or even host a party. Whatever you do, just have some fun.
Family Game Night Ideas
To implement a family game night is simple: pick a night, pick a game, gather some snacks if you want, and have fun. Okay, maybe that is simply said, but not as simple to carry out.
What are great games for kids? What board game or card game could possibly interest my teen? My son is all boy, what game will engage him since he doesn’t like to sit still? My kids fight during family game night so how do I keep it fun?
These might be a few questions running through your mind, but there are answers and games for them all. There are games that encourage one to cheat. Yes, that’s right, cheat. Some games are interactive and played through movement and finger flicking. Then you have your story mode games, strategic games, party games, games based on a movie or comics, cooperative games, and more.
If game night just seemed to get way more complicated, never fear. Here is a brief list, in no particular order, of the top games my family enjoys whenever we have a family game night.
- Ice Cool
- Disney Villainous
- Sheriff of Nottingham
- Flashpoint Fire Rescue
- Trash Pandas
- King of Tokyo
If you want more details on these games and more great games for family game night, keep reading…
Games for Kids and Kids At Heart
Games benefit both kids and adults. Interactive games promote motor skills and strategy games teach kids problem-solving skills. Some games are therapeutic in nature while others teach teamwork. But don’t just buy a game to plop in front of the kids while you play on your phone. Adults have improved brain function, creativity, improved mental health, and stronger relationships as a result of regular gaming. But picking a game can be difficult.
Commonly parents ask, “what are good games for kids that I will enjoy too?” This all depends on the maturity of your kids and what they enjoy as well as your personal tastes. However, don’t get stuck on just games from Walmart. There are many good games there, but if you want to take things to the next level you may have to look online. It’s worth it in the end.
Kids have tons of energy, are learning to work together, tend to be competitive, and don’t know how to lose well. Finding a game that caters to their personalities is key. Here are the top 3 picks any boy or girl is bound to love to play!
Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2
This game made the top ten for our family game night, and for good reason. It is a completely interactive board game. If you are like me, you envision sitting at a table and thinking about your next move when playing a game. Ice Cool is not like that. It’s played by flicking penguins around the board in an attempt to catch fish.
This game can employ a little strategy in trying to figure out the best route to go but mainly is a dexterity game. If the penguin is not flicked well, all the strategy in the world won’t help.
Ice Cool 2 is the expansion for the first but can be played by itself. It’s merely a mirror image of Ice Cool. However, it’s worth getting both games because you can put them together to make mega boards which greatly increases the level of fun. Since getting IceCool 2 We haven’t played either alone. They’ve always been played together as a mega board. Plus it allows you to play with up to eight people.
If you want to see more about Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2 check out this video…
Learn to jump the walls! It can be beneficial especially when you are the catcher.
Learn on either Ice Cool or Ice Cool 2 first, then expand to the combination boards. Also, be sure to take care of the nested boxes!
Flashpoint Fire Rescue
Flashpoint Fire Rescue isn’t meant for just kids, but of all the cooperative games I’ve played, this has a theme any boy or girl would like. However, even if you don’t have kids, get this game! It’s worth it.
To start, a cooperative game is just what it sounds like. It is a type of game where the players all play on the same team which encourages teamwork. It’s the players versus the game itself. Cooperative games are a new favorite of mine. Rather than pitting myself against my family to win, we work together to beat the game.
Back to Flashpoint itself. Players each play as a firefighter trying to put out fires in a building and rescuing victims. After each player’s turn, the fire is advanced. The game is won by rescuing seven victims. It’s lost by having four victims “die” in the fire or by the building collapsing.
There are multiple difficulty levels that can be played. The family version is the simplest and doesn’t use any special firefighter abilities. Then there are three experienced levels.
True confession here, we’ve played this game a few times now (at the time of writing this I’ve only had it a couple of weeks) and we have beat the family version, but not the easy level of the experienced versions.
This is one of my absolute favorites because of the cooperative play and the theme. It seemed a little kiddish and potentially simplistic when I first looked into it. Others had touted it a great game so I gave it a shot. It didn’t disappoint. It’s challenging, fun, and exciting all in one.
Don’t ignore putting out the fires! They will expand fast. In the experienced game, the Generalist and Truck Driver/Operator can be very useful.
Play the family game first to learn the rules. When you feel your family is ready, then move onto the experienced game.
Trash Pandas is definitely on my list of games for kids but it is fun for adults too. If it’s not apparent, the games on this list aren’t just your kiddie games that are played to entertain the young ones. They are equally entertaining for adults. Trash Pandas is no different.
This was a birthday present for my youngest who is in elementary school. When I saw the box I was very skeptical. I’d never heard of this one before and the box screamed “kiddie” when I saw it. But I was pleasantly surprised. This game was not only fun but quickly became one of my favorites.
Trash Pandas is a dice rolling and card collecting game all in one. There is a strategy to it but not so much that kids can’t win. It’s played by rolling a die that has different symbols on it. Each symbol is an action that can be taken.
The goal is to get cards in your “trash” pile and score points at the end of the game. But watch out, if you roll the same symbol twice in the same turn you bust and lose everything you’ve rolled so far unless you can play a card to negate that roll.
Trash Pandas is a quick play. So if you need something that doesn’t take a lot of time this is great and it is fun whether you play with just two people or the whole family.
Get cards, but don’t be afraid to stash multiples. Always keep a Nanners or two and Blammo cards in your hand! They are lifesavers!
Young kids may need help understanding they need to stash cards.
Movie games, or any intellectual property games for that matter, generally leave a little to be desired. However, there are a few good ones out there that are well worth the time and money to play them.
Disney Villainous is based on just what it sounds. The villains from Disney films. The first main game comes with six Disney Villains: Ursula, Prince John, Jafar, Queen of Hearts, Maleficent, and Captain Hook. They have also released two expansions (they can also be stand-alone games) that have three additional villains each. The first expansion comes with the Evil Queen, Hades, and Dr. Facilier. The second expansion has Yzma, Scar, and Ratigan.
Villainous is played by each person selecting a character. That character has its own set of villain cards and fate cards. The characters have different objectives to win the game and their cards don’t mix. The person going first will move their character on their board (realm) to a different space. They can then perform the actions in that space. At the end of their turn, they refill their hand to four cards.
To slow down other players some spaces have a fate action. That is when a player can take cards of another person’s fate deck. The fate deck has heroes based on that movie. The heroes will cover up actions and slow down the player’s attempt at completing their objective.
Villainous is a strategic game. It takes some thought and even reading ability. If you have really young kids they would likely struggle with this game. However, if you have school-age children that can read, they would be able to begin mastering the techniques of Villainous. So don’t shy away from this one, and with the expansions, it could be played with more than six people.
Be flexible, your strategy will likely change as fate actions are played against you or the cards don’t fall your way. Get yourself set up so when the right card does come up you are ready. Read each character’s guide book!
In the original game, Ursula is the easiest character to learn to play with so starting children with her is best.
Jaws the game was just released in 2019. This game follows the iconic 1975 Jaws movie and characters well. The game also has a beautiful set up replicating Amity Island and the Orca. Ravensburger did a great job on this one.
Jaws plays out in two acts. During the first act, one player takes on the role of the shark while the others play as Brody, Quint, and Hooper. Just like the movie, the shark goes around trying to eat swimmers while the three men are trying to find and place markers on him. Each person has a special ability to help locate the shark before he eats swimmers.
The second act begins after the shark has been tagged twice or has eaten nine swimmers. The board is then flipped over to show the Orca and the battle begins between the three men and the shark. They take turns picking a location on the boat to hopefully hit the shark. In return, the shark will attack the boat. If the men defeat the shark, they win. If the boat’s destroyed, the shark wins.
Jaws is a semi-cooperative game. Up to three people are playing on a team while the fourth is playing against them as the shark. This still gives the teamwork aspect I love while adding in a little competition.
I have to admit I haven’t played Jaws yet, but I have researched it quite a bit. It tops my list of games to get and play. So the minute I have the chance to get this one I plan to. If any of my readers want to send me a copy feel free and I’ll give you my thoughts. LOL!
But really, if you want a game that follows the movie and is highly touted, check out Jaws!
Horrified is another game I have to admit I’ve never played, but after doing some research, I would love to play! It isn’t based on one particular movie but I thought it’s close enough to include here. Horrified is a cooperative game based on several of the Universal Studios monsters. It has Frankenstein and His Bride, The Monster from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, and Dracula.
The game uses two to four of the monsters. Players then select one of the specialists. After setting up the board, they take turns completing actions. The actions can be moving around the board, helping villagers move, picking up items that help defeat the monsters, or attacking the monsters.
Following each player’s turn, a monster card is flipped over. The monster cards do different things, one being to allow some of the monsters to move and attack the players.
To win the players must complete the objectives of all monsters they are playing against. They will lose if the terror meter gets to zero or they exhaust the monster deck completely.
This game looks amazing and the play sounds cool since you are going against the classic monsters. As I said before, cooperative games are great family games because you are working together rather than against each other. This is one to definitely check out. If you do, drop me a comment and let me know what you think!
Make Holiday Game Night A Family Game Night
Holidays are a time when families usually get together and spend quality time with each other. What better way to spend time with each other than to play some games. When a larger group is together the party games can be broke out. Unless you have a large family, making it possible to play these games anytime.
So if you are planning to host the next holiday gathering, here are a few game ideas to get started with.
Deception, Murder in Hong Kong
Deception, Murder in Hong Kong is one of the best party games around. If you like a good mystery, this game is a must. Deception is a clue-like game where you are trying to deduce who committed the murder and what piece of evidence was there. But, the trick is the clue giver has to be imaginative as they only give clues on certain panels. The clues are one word relating to the “crime” and the clue giver, or secret agent, can’t talk or make gestures.
Each player receives four murder weapons and four pieces of evidence. The secret agent then hands out the assignment cards. Most will be investigators and one will be the murderer. There are a couple of other roles if there are enough people playing that brings a new element to the game. I won’t get into those just now.
Everyone but the secret agent closes their eyes. When told, the murderer looks up. The murderer then points to one of his four murder weapons and one piece of evidence. The secret agent takes mental note of what the murderer picked. They now want to get everyone else to guess those two cards. The murderer then closes his eyes and the secret agent tells everyone to look up.
The secret agent then begins giving clues on the clue tiles. As clues are being given everyone else discusses what they think the murder weapon and piece of evidence are. If one of the investigators can guess both the cards the murderer picked correctly, the secret agent and investigators win. If they don’t guess correctly, the murderer wins.
The trick is, the murderer will be talking and trying to “figure it out” with everyone else. They are trying to dissuade and throw the investigators off course.
If you are the murderer, play like you aren’t. Don’t just shy away and let others point to you. If someone is guessing another player’s cards go with them but justify it with some sort of reasoning. If you are an investigator or the secret agent think of the story and go with your gut. You may have it figured out but the murderer is just trying to throw you off.
Kids may have trouble giving clues unless they are a little older. Start them out with being an investigator or possibly the murderer until they really get the hang of the game.
King of Tokyo
King of Tokyo has remained on our list of favorites for family game night for a couple of years now. Even with our recent influx of new games, this one still is a go-to game. This is a great game with a small family but is just as much fun during a party. The only downfall in a large group setting is it’s limited to six players.
King of Tokyo is king of the hill meets Yahtzee. Each person picks a monster. They set their board to ten hearts and zero stars. The first person then invades Tokyo and starts the attack.
The set of black dice are rolled. Each person gets to reroll any dice they wish up to two times. Then they do the things on each die. If claws were rolled and you are the monster in Tokyo everyone else lose hearts. Lightning bolts earn energy cubes that buy cards with special abilities. Numbers can earn you stars.
The next person goes. They are now attacking the monster in Tokyo. If they roll hearts they can use them to raise the number of hearts they have. Everything else works the same. If they keep claws and cause the monster in Tokyo to lose hearts, then that monster has the option of leaving Tokyo or staying put.
Once a player loses all their hearts they are out of the game. A player wins by everyone else being knocked out or when they reach 20 stars.
If you can get the points, go for it. Don’t just rely on knocking people out of the game. At the same time, pay attention to your heart level. If it starts getting to five or below it’s a good idea to boost it if possible.
Help your kids watch their meters as it’s easy to forget to add points or subtract hearts. But otherwise, they should be able to figure this one out pretty quick.
Pit is a party game that is high paced, wild and crazy, but not obnoxious. It’s played by dealing out cards that have commodities on them such as corn, wheat, barley, etc. Use one commodity per person playing. Someone rings the bell and announces the market is open. Then everyone starts trading at once. You can trade with someone wanting to trade the same number of cards as you.
The goal is to get all the same type of commodity cards in your hand. Once this happens, ring the bell and announce corner on ________ (whatever commodity you have). You then score the number of points associated with that commodity. The first person to achieve the goal number of points wins.
The trading and frenzy of trying to get your commodity makes this game a riot. I’ve never played this game without everyone having a smile on their faces and laughing wildly. Kids and adults will all love this one.
If no one is trying to trade the same number of cards as you don’t be afraid to switch it up. Trade with different people, especially if you and another player keep giving the same cards back and forth.
Young kids may need to play on a team but elementary-aged kids can easily get the hang of pit.
Family Game Night Ideas for Teens
Raising a teen can be difficult. Connecting with them even tougher. Attitudes will flare. Power struggles surface as they seek more independence. Hormones they don’t understand rage. So how do you stay connected to them during those crucial years? Quality time is one way.
There are ways to spend quality time with your teen. One way is to continue teaching them. Teaching them music lessons will maintain a bond through a creative outlet. But keeping them engaged in the family through games and fun is equally important. But what games will be interactive enough and “cool” enough to keep your teen interested and avoid the eye-rolling?
Here are a few that are highly recommended for family game night when teens are in the house (or any family mix for that matter).
Sheriff of Nottingham
Sheriff of Nottingham is about bluffing and calling a bluff. It’s based on the story of Robin Hood. All players pick a color and take the board and pouch that match. Cards are dealt that have legal goods on them or contraband items. Each player, other than the sheriff, can then go to market and exchange cards for ones in the discard pile or from the top of the deck.
After everyone has a chance to go to market the discards are placed on the piles and bags loaded. To load a bag, each player, except the sheriff, must place a certain number of cards in their bag and snap it shut. Each bag can contain anything the player wants.
Then players go around and declare their goods to the sheriff stating the number of cards in the bag and the legal good they claim is in there. However, all they have to be telling the truth about is the number of cards in the bag.
The sheriff then goes around and decides whether or not to check the bags. If the sheriff checks and the person was telling the truth the sheriff must pay the other player. If the person has contraband or any other legal goods that weren’t declared they must pay the sheriff for those things. Each player is the sheriff twice. The person with the most money at the end wins.
There is also an expansion called Sheriff of Nottingham: Merrymen. It adds a 6th player, Merrymen that can be smuggled into Nottingham, a new black market, order cards, and law cards. The premise of the game remains the same with filling bags and taking them to market, but the expansions (which you don’t necessarily add all to the game at once) add a new dimension.
Don’t go crazy trying to smuggle contraband in. Sometimes you do better being honest. Learn the other player’s tells. Be careful checking every bag as Sheriff cause that can bite you big time! Pay attention to how many of each legal good other players have taken into Nottingham.
Don’t hinder your kids on this one! It’s simple to play and they will learn a lot by just doing it.
Pandemic was the first cooperative game I played and it’s one of the best. This is a great game when playing with a teen because the theme of it is a little deeper, making the story a little better for mature audiences rather than kids.
In Pandemic, players each randomly select a specialist role. The board is then “infected” with diseases. There are four different diseases represented by different color cubes. The game has two decks of cards, one is the infection deck and the other the player deck.
In the player’s deck, there are epidemic cards spread evenly throughout it. After each person’s turn, they draw two cards. If one is the epidemic card they must infect a new city, then reshuffle the infection deck discard pile and put it on top of the deck. Finally, two cards from the infection deck are turned and those cities are infected.
It might seem simple but if any city has three disease cubes on it and receives a fourth it’s an outbreak and all the surrounding cities receive a cube. This can cause chain reactions if you’re not careful!
To win, a cure has to be found for all four diseases. Players lose by having the outbreak meter reach the skull and crossbones, running out of any infection cube color, or running out of all the player deck cards.
This one can also be played with varying difficulty levels which keeps it exciting. I’ve played it several times. I’ve won once or twice but lost several, especially when trying anything harder than the easiest level. And don’t worry if this sounds fun but you only have elementary-aged kids, they can play and enjoy it too.
If the game starts with quite a bit of infection in one color, get on it. Letting it go will likely kill you. Don’t be afraid to do what you can to switch cards and work so different team members can cure different diseases.
This one is a bit deep as the premise is disease outbreaks which may make it more difficult for young kids, or even some adults, to get into. Help the kids be a part of the plan and give ideas, don’t just play for them.
Splendor and Splendor: The Cities Expansion
This game remains one of our family favorites. I discussed it about a year ago on another post called “Splendor: A Great Family Game”. It is such a great game to play with kids, teens, and adults of all ages!
Splendor is played by placing the three different decks of cards on the table. The cards have a picture of a colored gem on them and possibly a number at the top. At the bottom, they have a number and gem colors. The game comes with tokens that match the gems on the cards.
Each player goes around either taking gem tokens, or using the gem tokens to purchase a card. Once a card has been bought, it can be used to buy other cards as well. The goal of the game is to be the first person to 15 points.
That’s all there is to it. Go around the table collecting tokens and buying cards, seems simple and it is, but there is a lot of strategy to it too. That is the fun part. Constantly watching and planning what you can do next to possibly win. But if your not careful your card can be taken by another player and your strategy is out the window.
Splendor: The Cities Expansion
There is also an expansion for Splendor called Splendor: The Cities. Yes, you have to own the base game to play the cities but I highly recommend getting the expansion. It is actually four expansions in one box. Each plays slightly different.
One is very similar to the base game only using city tiles rather than nobles. Another adds more cards to the board. The third allows you to place a tower on a card still on the board after purchasing a card. In essence, allowing you to reserve up to three cards that are still on the playing board. The last gives you bonuses for obtaining certain cards.
Keep your strategy flexible. If you don’t go with the flow and change your strategy as the game goes along it’s difficult to get points.
This is a great game for kids to start learning how to strategize. Multiple strategies can be used to win, so there is no one right way to play. This makes it ideal for kids to start learning with. That, along with the simplistic play and no need for reading, makes it an awesome family game.
Card Games for Family Game Night
Playing cards is just as much fun as board games. Card games take me back to my childhood. Growing up my grandmother was an avid card player. She taught me several games and played them whenever we were together. As a kid I knew how to play Canasta, Pitch, Bridge, Hand and Foot, and Pinocle, to name a few.
My kids have learned to play several of these games as well and they are always great for family game night. I love passing down the traditions and my kids love the games.
Dixit is the only card game on my list not from my childhood. It’s a newer game and not played with traditional playing cards. But, it is a beautifully made card game and fun to play. We love the artwork and the creative thinking it takes to figure out what clues to give.
Dixit has a deck of cards that are pictures. Many are odd and can be interpreted in different ways. Each player is dealt six cards. The first player to give a clue says one word to describe one of their cards.
Each player then picks a card from their hand that they feel best fits the picture and gives it to the clue giver. The clue giver then shuffles the cards handed to them and places them next to the numbered spots on the board.
After the cards are placed, each person votes on whose card they believe is the clue givers. Points are then scored and the first to 30 wins. The catch is, the active player, or clue-giver, doesn’t want everyone to guess their card. But they need at least one person to guess it. This makes it challenging to figure out what clue to give.
Try and think like the others playing. Think outside the box when giving clues!
Let your kids be creative! Help them learn as they get older to give clues that someone might guess but others may not.
After playing many board games recently, my husband decided to break out the cards for family game night. My youngest recently learned to play Canasta and really enjoyed it.
We decided to try it out as a family. It was a hit. Not that it didn’t go without big hands or a little disbelief when one person got all four red 3’s, drawing three in a row. Nonetheless, it’s a game we will be playing many more times.
Canasta is played as teams in a four-player game using two decks of standard playing cards with jokers. It can also be played as individuals in two and three-player games.
Each person is dealt a hand. Two’s and jokers are wild. Every player sorts their hand by like cards (all jack’s together for instance). On their turn, they have the option of taking the discard pile by playing the top card or drawing a card from the deck.
To play on the board, a player must be able to lay down the correct amount of meld the first time, after that they can lay down any amount they wish. Play continues until one team completes a canasta, which is a group of seven of the same card (with or without wild cards), then one person on the team gets rid of all their cards. Points are counted. The first team to 5000 wins.
If the other team has a Canasta get whatever high points, such as wilds, out of your hand. Be sure to pay attention to what’s on the board so you don’t help your opponent.
Play as parent/child teams if possible. This allows you to look at your kid’s hand that isn’t on your team and help them if necessary. They will likely need help sorting their hand and counting meld. Don’t be afraid to help them out, but play your own hand as if you haven’t seen theirs.
Another card game I grew up on was ten point Pitch. My favorite version of Pitch is five-player call for a partner. I’ve played anywhere from two to six player Pitch though and enjoy them all. Four-player Pitch is played as partners. The dealer gives everyone nine cards to start. They sort their hands by suit.
Then the bidding begins with the player to the left of the dealer. Bidding is based on how many point cards the player thinks he can take. After someone wins the bid, a suit is announced and players discard all cards except that suit. The dealer then fills everyone’s hand to six and gives the bidder the remaining cards.
The person who won the bid then leads a card. Everyone must play on that card unless they no longer have any more of the named suit. The person who played the highest card takes the trick and leads next.
This continues until everyone is out of cards to play. If they have equal or more points than what was bid they get all the points they took. If they didn’t get their bid they have to subtract off the bid from their score. The first team to 32 wins.
My grandmother always said you could bid five on an Ace-deuce. I’m generally not that daring, but if you have Ace, two, and a few others you can likely bid and make it. Don’t be afraid to bid and learn what works and what doesn’t.
This one will take some time and patience to teach. It’s a great game but as kids learn how to play they will have to get used to the bidding process.
Some Honorable Mentions
There are games that aren’t as high on our list for family game night these days, but we still do enjoy playing them. So here are a few of our honorable mentions.
Monopoly Cheater’s Edition
Monopoly Cheater’s Edition is a fun version of the old classic. But, as the title suggests, it encourages you to cheat. There are cheat cards placed in the middle of the board. If you complete one you get the bonus on the back. If you get caught you pay for it.
Most people consider cheating a bad thing so it’s fun to make it the main role of the game. If you like to cheat or take on the challenge, definitely check this one out.
Monopoly Gamer has been on our list for family game night for a while now. It only dropped in rank because of discovering the games I’ve described above that we just happen to like a little more.
Monopoly Gamer and Monopoly Gamer Mariokart are Monopoly games based on the Super Mario Bros video games. The play is different than standard monopoly but you are still going around buying properties. This is still a great game and must-have if you like Mario Bros.
Got Game Ideas? Now Schedule Family Game Night!
After selecting the game you want to play, or getting one of the games above to try, schedule your game night. It can simply be grabbing a game after dinner and playing for a little while or making it a grander affair.
Host a game night if you are tired of the status quo. Whether you invite friends and family to come over or host your spouse and kids, make it something memorable. Decorate or gather some snacks everyone likes.
At our house we enjoy things like chips and salsa, chex mix, and other simple snacks for our game nights. Feel free to bake up a storm or just grab a bag of chips. For healthy snacks, set out a fruit or vegetable tray.
Once you’ve figured out the snacks, set the schedule. Plan regular family nights. Connect with your kids through family game night, movie nights, or just hanging out. They need a teacher, but more importantly, they need you and a connection with you.
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