Board games for adults prove just how awesome this hobby can be. Dusty old-timers like Monopoly can move the hell aside; the shelves are now rammed with epic strategies, sweeping fantasy adventures, and party favorites that'll keep you coming back to the table for months. In fact, there's enough choice to sink a (Battle)ship when it comes to adult board games.
That's why our experts have put their heads together to bring you recommendations on must-have board games for adults. No matter whether you're looking for something tactical or a puzzler you can tackle at your own pace, you'll find something to suit you below. So far as we're concerned, these are some of the best board games ever made.
We finally have Frosthaven on our desk, so we've been exploring the frozen north in all its glory. To get a better idea of how it is, check out our first impressions.
To make sure that you aren't breaking the bank, we've also made sure to include the lowest available prices below. Our bargain-hunting software is dedicated to tracking down the best offers, so any reductions on board games for adults will appear below each entry.
Curious about how the recommendations on this list are chosen, on the other hand? We only feature products that our writers genuinely believe in. The GamesRadar+ team has had extensive hands-on time with each of the following board games for adults, so we're confident that they deserve to be at the top of the pile.
Board games for adults - top 10
How long do you think you'd last in a horror movie? Betrayal at House on the Hill lets you find out. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell if you're the hero or victim of this story until it's much too late... and that makes it one of the most replayable board games for adults on this list. In fact, we still haven't seen everything after months spent braving those dusty halls.
Taking on the role of horror cliches (like the jock or creepy preteen), who have been drawn here for mysterious reasons, players explore the house turn by turn to uncover the truth. But because you'll be laying down room tiles at random, it's impossible to tell what's waiting for you on the other side of a door. All you know for certain is that a secret mission will soon begin, turning the house - or your allies - against you. Maybe a monster wakes up in the basement, eager to feast on your flesh. Perhaps a teammate tries to sacrifice you in exchange for eternal youth. Either way, your aim is simple: survive.
The result oozes tension, and even though there are similarities to rivals like Mansions of Madness, we'd say Betrayal at House on the Hill is more accessible on the whole. It's weirder, too; we once had to fight a ghost shark that was flooding the house room by room, for example. Sure, there are issues here and there. Yet for the most part, this game is stuffed with enough cool ideas to smooth over any cracks.
Particularly now that the formula has been improved with an all-new version. Although 2010's Betrayal at House on the Hill 2nd edition remains an excellent way to spend an evening, this 3rd edition glow-up gives the artwork an overhaul, offers 50 new scenarios, introduces vastly improved miniatures to represent each character, and finishes with streamlined mechanics that make the whole thing easier to play. As we said in our review, it's a "fantastic update to a beloved classic". Need good Halloween board games? This one leads the pack.
The store may be long dead, but the game it inspired isn't going anywhere. Fast-paced and straightforward, Blockbuster should be your first choice if you need decent party board games for adults. And don't worry, knowing a shed-load about cinema isn't a requirement. At its core, this has more in common with charades than a quiz.
What you will need are your wits. Things kick off with a head-to-head round where two players have to yell out an example from categories like 'superhero movies', but they've not got long - fail to come up with a response in 15 seconds and you lose. This leads to frantic yet fun chaos, and it's a surprisingly good spectator sport as well. We once witnessed a five-minute grudge match where neither side gave in, for instance, and this battle has become near-legendary amongst our friends.
That's when the real game begins. The winner draws six cards and must act out, quote, or describe three of them for their team. The remaining three are left for the loser. (Naturally, these are probably the toughest ones.) Collect enough cards and victory is yours.
It’s a wicked idea in every sense of the word, and always goes down well at get-togethers. Because everyone reacts differently to the card prompts, you won't get bored of it either; unlike a quiz, you can't 'learn' the answers.
- Read more: Blockbuster: The Game review
Easy to get your head around but tricky to beat, Pandemic pits you against an outbreak of coughs and sneezes (by which I mean 'horrendous disease') across the world. Because victory hinges on your team’s ability to communicate, prioritize threats, and stay cool under pressure, it's amongst the best cooperative board games ever made. Actually, we've yet to find anything that can match it in all our years covering tabletop gaming.
Besides keeping illnesses under control, Pandemic challenges you to develop a cure for each one by collecting cards of a certain color. Easy, right? Guess again. New infections drop onto the board at the end of every turn, and if more than three gather in a single location, they’ll start spreading to neighboring cities. This can result in a domino effect of disastrous, oh-God-someone-do-something proportions. Do you focus on making the cure or should you keep those disease levels down? This white-knuckle decision-making is where Pandemic shines, and it's just one of the many crises you’ll need to overcome in what has become a king amongst board games for adults. Other classics like Catan are great, but they can't hold a candle to this.
There's scope to branch out once you've mastered the original version, too. Besides increasing the level of challenge through its many expansions, you can also pivot to the (excellent) Pandemic World of Warcraft spin-off if you'd prefer something fantasy-themed. There's even a Legacy series where the consequences of your actions carry from one game to another, so this is a franchise with plenty to get your teeth into.
- Read more: Pandemic review
Ever wonder what would happen if the bad guys won? Disney Villainous encourages you to find out with barely-concealed glee. Your aim is to give a classic ne'er-do-well their happy ending, all while screwing over anyone that tries to stop you.
Don't be fooled into thinking this is a board game for kids, though. Villainous is surprisingly tactical thanks to characters with their own objectives, playstyles, and cards. That gives each one a unique flavor, resulting in a complexity that's as absorbing as it is satisfying. Particularly if you start to mix in the excellent Disney Villainous expansions. These add-ons are interchangeable with the original game, so combining them leads to match-ups that encourage all-new strategies.
It's a great choice if you're hunting down board games for 2 players, too. While it can accommodate up to six people, we'd argue that Villainous is better when tackled in pairs; it becomes a chess-like battle of wits rather than a scramble to make headway in full, more chaotic matches.
Wingspan is a surprise favorite when it comes to adult board games. Besides being the winner of a well-respected Spiel des Jahres award, it's popular enough that some cheeky retailers charged triple its list price when it went out of print a few years ago. That tells you more than enough about its quality.
As you might have guessed from the name, this one puts birds front and center. Indeed, your aim is to attract the biggest variety to your preserve. You'll do this through clever engine-building mechanics that can be found in many of the top board games for adults; dice are used to get food or eggs that attract new feathered friends, and these often feature abilities which let you amass even more resources, and even more birds. It's a satisfying loop.
The artwork is just as good. With vivid washes of color and a painterly style, it's downright stunning. That's partially why Wingspan is ideal as a chill-out game. (Actually, it's our go-to if loved ones ask for recommendations.) The lack of direct competition and a focus on attracting wildlife turns it into a relaxing, zen-like experience that you'll enjoy regardless of whether you win or lose.
Powered by unique combat and a setting that's reminiscent of The Witcher, Gloomhaven is the fantasy adventure of your dreams. Branching storylines and a kingdom influenced by your decisions produce a quest you can lose yourself in for months.
No, really. Alongside a map you'll permanently alter with stickers earned by journeying across the land, Gloomhaven includes secret mechanics that are unlocked over time, a meaty combat system relying on strategy instead of dice rolls, alternate missions aplenty, and morally gray choices to keep you on your toes. Decisions can and will have consequences, so tread carefully.
If you're anything like me, that'll be enough to get you hyped by itself; there's a childlike sense of wonder powering Jaws of the Lion. Crammed from top to bottom with magic, it leads to watercooler stories that'll more than justify your excitement. Thanks to similarities with the best tabletop RPGs, it's also a great choice if you adore Dungeons and Dragons books.
Even though Cosmic Encounter has been kicking around since the 1970s, it's lost none of its edge. This is a sci-fi classic that's charmed audiences with its unusual gameplay for decades, and there's nothing quite like it even today. If you're a fan of negotiating your way out of sticky situations in board games for adults, this will be your jam.
On the face of it, everyone's goal is the same; set up five colonies on rival planets. That's where any common ground ends, though. Players will take command of one of 50 possible alien species, and they all boast unique abilities that upend the rules in creative ways. Some can only win battles if they lose the fight first. Others are able to reverse card numbers so 17 becomes 71. Yet more can sneak a look at someone else's cards. In other words? Expect the unexpected - and be ready to counter it.
As with so many board games for adults, there are more than a few bonus packs you can use to expand Cosmic Encounters too. You're able to add everything from unknowable creatures to unexpected partnerships with these expansions, so it's easy enough to spice things up if it's starting to go stale.
If you loved the Redwall novels when growing up, Root should be on your radar. It's an asymmetric strategy game featuring bucolic woodland creatures eager to take over the forest, and that includes everything from mice villagers to sword-wielding raccoon adventurers. When combined with eye-catching artwork, it's a delight from the start.
You shouldn't assume it'll be a walk in the park based on those friendly designs, though; this is a layered, complex experience with plenty of depth. As an example, all factions come with their own mechanics and goals for victory. That puts Root amongst the best tactical adult board games, one which only gets better the more you play.
Even though it's a lot to take in (the rules need some getting used to), your patience will be rewarded. Interplay between factions provides plenty to explore, and this is a game that encourages players to think creatively. It's an example of what makes modern board gaming so special, to be honest; although it's not for everyone, Root is the poster-child of what this hobby is capable of.
There was a lot of buzz surrounding this Wild West-themed board game for adults when it launched back in 2022, and it's easy to understand why after a few rounds. While it's set to a familiar cowboy backdrop, its gameplay is anything but tired; you'll be gathering a posse of varmints with unique abilities that are decided by combining different cards (of which there are 3,000 combinations in total), and your aim is to steal gear hidden in safes across the board. Because it isn't possible to see what's inside and collect those goods within a single turn, you'll have to bluff about the safes' contents if you want to keep your opponents off the scent.
These aren't simple odds and ends, either. A traveler from the future has been astonishing locals with their out-of-time technology, be it bionic arms or a simple flat-screen TVs… but they've now disappeared. As such, the race is on to gather all their gear before the Feds arrive. It's a quirky idea that gives 3,000 Scoundrels a stronger sense of identity than most rivals can muster.
Add in a collection of mechanics to juggle (from simple resource management to a reputation system based on whether you get caught out in your lies or not) and unique faction abilities for one hell of a compelling game.
Azul is downright beautiful, and its mechanics are just as enchanting. For those who prefer more relaxed tabletop experiences, we'd highly recommend this one - it's amongst the best puzzle board games for adults by a long shot.
Your aim is nice and simple: place tiles on the board and score points. In fact, a good description would be 'color-based crossword'. You've still got to take care, though. While you'll get better results if you manage to complete sets in this chilled-out pastime, wasting tiles on random formations can lower your score.
That leads to a lot of maneuvering and good-natured competition in an effort to outdo your opponents. Because of this, Azul is more of a personal puzzle game than a head-to-head challenge (which makes it an excellent choice if you fancy something low-key). Much like Ticket to Ride, there's a joy in lining up tiles to make patterns or completing the perfect set.
Board games for adults - honorable mentions
A Legacy game with bite
'Legacy' board games for adults become more popular with every passing year, but this one is still my favorite. Allowing players to see if they can do better than the ill-fated dino-park, your actions have consequences that will follow you from session to session. As an example, the defenses you erect will still be there next time, and you're able to create your own freakin' dinosaurs as well. All this culminates in a board that is unique to you and can be played over and over - unlike competitors, you're encouraged to keep coming back.
A must-have deception game
This game might as well be Werewolf on steroids; it's got all the skullduggery and deduction of classics like Mafia, but with an added framework that provides much-needed structure. Even though its system (where players put down 'policy' cards until one side or another has enough to win) is straightforward, the addition of double-agents sowing dissent and pushing through agendas in return for power makes Secret Hitler a bluffing masterclass. This is always a hit when I break it out with large groups, so I'd definitely recommend giving it a go.
A grand strategy epic
The mashup of mechs-and-farming in Jakub Roszalski's art fires up the imagination in a big way, and it's now spilled onto the tabletop. Set on an alternate 1920s Earth, Scythe is a place where farm-animals and peasants coexist with hulking dieselpunk mechs. Well, we say coexist; everyone in this world is jostling for power, so you'll need to keep your wits about you if you want to get by. Taking a leaf from Civilization's book, it's every bit as interested in building and expanding your economy as it is engaging in battles.
An adorable detour through the forest
Although there's a lot to explain in terms of mechanics, the effort is worthwhile - as our Living Forest review says, it blends different playstyles and deck-building with push-your-luck systems that are reminiscent of favorites such as King of Tokyo. The result is a bold mix that somehow avoids feeling bloated, and this deft balancing-act earned the game a prestigious Kennerspiel des Jahres award (which is worth paying attention to in and of itself). Throw in gorgeous yet haunting artwork and you aren't likely to forget this one in a hurry.
A unique trading game
Brewing whiskey in Scotland might not be your first suggestion when it comes to a great tabletop theme. But trust us when we say that Isle of Skye is one of the most enjoyable adult board games you'll find on any shelf. Although this is a straightforward trading game, it's far from dull. Isle of Skye is defined by land-grabs, savvy haggling, and a journey from clan chieftain to king, so there's plenty to keep you invested. Plus, its rugged northern theme is a breath of fresh air.
A hysterical party game for adults
In terms of adult board games that deserve their mature rating, Scrawl takes the cake. A filthy-minded road trip through the weirder parts of your brain, it's a delight at parties that's best described as a cross between Telephone and Pictionary. Inevitably, it won't end well - but that's all part of the fun. Indeed, the game's closest relative would be Cards Against Humanity; it thrives on the same dark humor. In essence? It's NSFW and utterly brilliant, furnishing you with plenty of in-jokes you can share with your friends.
Board games for adults - FAQ
What is the most fun board game for adults?
The answer to this question will vary depending on who you ask, not to mention the kind of game you actually want to play. As an example, I'd argue that one of the most fun board games for adults right now is Blockbuster. This party favorite always goes down well at get-togethers and won't lose relevance over time unlike competitors, but it isn't going to cut the mustard if you're hunting down a strategy epic.
With that in mind, the right fit will depend on what you want the board game in question to do. Narrowing that down should help you identify the most fun board game for you.
To help kick things off, we've honed in on a few categories below.
- Most fun party board game: Blockbuster (app. $20 at Amazon) (opens in new tab)
- Most fun card game for adults: Exploding Kittens (app. $20 at Amazon) (opens in new tab)
- Most fun 2-player board game: Disney Villainous (app. $40 at Amazon) (opens in new tab)
- Most fun team board game for adults: Pandemic (app. $45 at Amazon) (opens in new tab)
- Most fun strategy board game for adults: Root (app. $70 at Amazon) (opens in new tab)
What is the number one board game for adults?
It's an entirely subjective question, but so far as I'm concerned, the horror-based Betrayal at House on the Hill tops the list. It's not perfect by any means, but it does provide one of the most engrossing experiences you're likely to get in tabletop - it's memorable, tense, and incredibly moreish.
I'd also say that Pandemic comes in a close second. It's one of the most finely-tuned co-op experiences out there and is replayable enough to keep you coming back for months on end.
However, others are likely to have very different answers. I've heard a lot of good things about Terraforming Mars, for example. Even though it's a few years old, this game about colonizing the red planet is still topping charts all over the place. Similarly, the dungeon-crawling Gloomhaven is eternally popular despite costing anywhere up to $140. It's a fantastic fantasy adventure if you have the time and budget for it.
What is the most popular board game for adults now?
If we're talking pure sales, the gong is likely to go to something like Exploding Kittens (which is cheap and cheerful at $20) or Cards Against Humanity (it can currently be found for $25 or so). A quick browse of Amazon's top sellers' list featured the pair prominently, so it seems as if folks can't get enough of these particular board games for adults.
How does GamesRadar+ test board games?
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Our team has been hands-on with every game on this list, so you can rest assured that we only feature recommendations that the GamesRadar+ crew truly believes in. After multiple playtests with a range of players and scenarios, we're confident that they'll hold up as the best board games for adults.
For more information, check out our guide on how we test board games and tabletop RPGs on the site.