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Top 10 Party Games for Game Night

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Learn about some fun game ideas for your next party. (Clockwise from top: Trivial Pursuit, Poker, and Ticket to Ride.)

Learn about some fun game ideas for your next party. (Clockwise from top: Trivial Pursuit, Poker, and Ticket to Ride.)

Picking the Right Party Game

When you and your friends gather for a fun game night, picking the right people is half the battle, but engaging in a jubilant activity is just as important. With thousands of board, card, and other party games out there, sometimes it's challenging to know which titles are worth your time.

But don't fret. As an avid gamer, I've experienced games both good and bad and would love to share my thoughts on the best choices of each type.

10 of the Best Party Games

Based on my own experiences, those of my friends, and the general community consensus, here are the 10 best party games to ensure you're never without a fun activity!

  • Werewolf/Mafia
  • Poker
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Taboo
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill
  • Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity
  • Speechless/Charades
  • Scattergories
  • Avalon/The Resistance

10. Werewolf/Mafia

Pros: Fits large numbers of players, simple, interactive
Cons: Needs a moderator/narrator

Werewolf and Mafia are similar games that both rely on the concept of having villains hidden within a set of "good" characters who are trying to uncover the identities of the traitors before they're killed. Werewolves will secretly kill a player each night while other characters scramble to use their powers to unmask the wolves among them. For instance, the Seer gets to guess once per round whether a person is a werewolf or not (which the moderator will confirm or deny), the doctor can grant one player immunity to being killed each round, and so on.

Tricking your friends into believing your innocence is as much fun as deducing who the other good players are, and other games have improved on Werewolf's already-impressive basis—but more on that later. Fun for any aspiring sleuth and easy to fit even on the smallest of tables, Werewolf is one of the cheaper options out there.

A royal flush in Poker

A royal flush in Poker

9. Poker

Pros: Fast, variable, inexpensive
Cons: Heavily luck-reliant, have fun getting schooled by toddlers

You'd be surprised how much fun you can have with a simple deck of cards. Poker comes in many varieties; some players prefer Texas Hold 'Em, while I'm partial to Five-Card Poker. Other variants involve holding a card to your head for your opponents (but not yourself) to see.

But regardless of which edition you pick, Poker is a fast, fun and relatively simple game. I find it extra satisfying when bluffing and gambling elements (of chips, not real money) are included. If you're on a tight budget or just need a quick game that doesn't require a huge time commitment, try a classic game of Poker. Several other card games, like Blackjack, Spoons, or Karma, will also please casual gamers.

Star Wars Trivial Pursuit

Star Wars Trivial Pursuit

8. Trivial Pursuit

Pros: Puts your random knowledge to use, different themes
Cons: I always get partnered with a 3.8 GPA girl who somehow doesn't know who played the Terminator. Get it together, Kirstin!

Ever wish your pop culture knowledge accounted for something? Trivial Pursuit, where you traverse a board by answering questions correctly, is the game for you. With a variety of different categories, usually there's something that gives everyone a fighting chance. I may not excel at the sports questions, but I'll hold my own in science and entertainment.

Trivial Pursuit also comes with a variety of different editions, like one designed for kids or the Star Wars theme shown above. You can even create your own questions or variants—for instance, my group combines trivia games with BeanBoozled, where if you get a question wrong, you spin the BeanBoozled spinner and have to eat a jelly bean with crazy flavors that could be either Strawberry Banana Smoothie or Dead Fish.

7. Ticket to Ride

Pros: Strategic yet simple, fun for all ages
Cons: Uh . . . choking hazards?

If you're in for something meatier than Werewolf or trivia but not quite so much as lengthy war games like Risk, give this award-winning gem a try. Players compete to see who can assemble train routes across the map that give them the most points while also blocking opponents' paths. Trust me, this one's as much about thwarting your rivals as it is assembling your own route. Nothing beats that dastardly delicious feeling of completely obstructing your opponent's desired pathway.

A simple concept and quick rulebook help endear this to casual gamers, while a surprising amount of strategy attracts the hardcore crowd. Throw in some ever-beloved secret objectives, bonus cards, and expansions, and you've got one heck of a board game. The colorful components also make this easy to try with your children in place of boring old CandyLand, Sorry, or Monopoly.

6. Taboo

Pros: Fast, simple, not reliant on luck
Cons: When your team's losing, it's somehow always your fault

If you're familiar with the popular game Password, you have a good idea of Taboo's basis: in a limited timeframe, you frantically give clues to your partner(s) to have them guess specific words. However, Taboo introduces the mechanic of being unable to say a set of five words related to the keyword, meaning you'll have to craftily sneak around the obvious clues. For instance, I might not be able to hint "cold" or "dessert" for ice cream, but I could say "Blue Bunny."