40 Essential Family Board Games (Best tabletop games with kids)
Posted On October 28, 2023
We have evolved as a species and thanks to that we don’t have to suffer through terrible board games anymore. But with so many good family games nowadays it can be tough to choose. I’ve also seen multiple times that my kids actually enjoy games that most tabletop fans would consider sub par. So I’ve made this list, of 40 board games that I think deserve to be in any family’s collection. As much as possible I’m aiming for games that are widely available in retail, with a diversity of genre and age ranges.
This list was also published in video format on YouTube in a series of 4 videos, if that’s more your thing:
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Let’s jump in!
40 – The Adventures of Robin Hood (2021)
My first entry in this list is The Adventures of Robin Hood, a cooperative game that evolves while you play. It’s a game with a strong narrative that could work with children aged 8 or above.
Castle Panic might not work for your family, but it’s been awesome for us. The game sessions are on the longer end of things, so it might not see the table so often. This is a cooperative tower defense game where you have to protect your castle against hordes of enemies that keep appearing each turn.
Zombie Kids evolution is a lightweight game where you play as kids who have to fight zombies and close the school’s doors to protect it. The twist is that it is a legacy game where you add new rules, new powers, and new ennemies as the game prgresses. My kids love the stickers that come at the end of each mission, and I found that this games works well even for a 5 year old.
I’m really not a fan of Toddles Bobbles myself but my kids demanded that I include it in this list. It’s just a somewhat silly memory game where you have to give strange creatures a name, then remember their names the next time they show up. I really don’t know why it works so well for my kids, but there it is, at number 36, Toddles Bobbles.
MicroMacro is a game very similar to Where’s Waldo, but each mission involves finding multiple things on the gigantic map, and actually tells the story of a crime. The gameplay is suitable for all kids, but you might want to tone down some of the mature background stories when you read them to the whole family.
Run as fast as you can to return the cursed gems before the temple traps you forever. The Curse of the Temple is a cooperative game where you have to escape from a temple that is cursed. It’s as simple as that. The theme is great and this game is awesome for kids aged 8 and above.
Scythe is surprisingly simple for a game that on the surface looks so complex, but the games can be a bit long so you’ll want to reserve it for children who are attracted to its theme, ages 12 and above.
In 5 minute dungeaon, you have to Explore a dungeon, kill monsters, and defeat a boss…all in 5 minutes! It’s a real time, fast, fast paced game, which is guaranteed to get you some laughs, even with younger children.
Forgotten Waters is a great game of worker placement with a fun pirate theme. Younger kids might appreciate the silly story and evolution of their pirate but the gameplay might be too complicated under the age of 10. There are also a few mature themes mentioned in the game, even if always in a lighthearted way.
Pull ingredients from your stock to make your pot bubble, but hopefully not explode! The Quacks of Quedlinburg’s theme and art instantly attract the eyes and gameplay is short enough to work well for a family evening. Ages 8 and above.
You might also like: although I really think any kid aged 5 or more can play the regular version, There is a junior edition of Labyrinth that you might want to check out. Minecraft Builders might also work for you if you like moving board pieces.
23 – Mice and Mystics (2012)
Mice and Mystics is a story driven dungeon crawler with a cute theme, that works well with small children who are attracted to Heroic fantasy. It’s a campaign game with a nice story that keeps you coming for more, and the gameplay is simple enough. Luck of the dice might be frustrating for the parents, but the children like it.
I think the theme of treasure hunting in Clank is what makes it a gereat family game. Also the game states it’s for kids aged 12 and more, if your 8 year old is attracted tothe theme I recommend you give it a try.
Azul looks gorgeous and has great table presence, it’s also not overly complicated, but remains a completely abstract game at the end of the day. Children aged 8 and above should have no problem with the fairly simple rules.
Hanabi is a lightweight, cooperative card game where you have to light up some fireworks with your team. It’s a fun card game where everyone except you knows which cards are in your hand. Younger children might struggle with the strategy in the game.
You might also like: There are other racing games you might want to try instead, including Flamme Rouge by the same designer as Heat, or Cubitos and its colorful theme.
18 – Cartographers (2019)
Cartographers is a relaxing roll and write game where you have to draw a Map according to some constraints. Younger children will of course not manage to score the highest points, but might like a game where you get to draw with colored pencils.
I really love the Unlock series, and recommend that you try at least one of the entries in this series with your family. It is an adventure game where you have to solve some mystery, a bit like old school point and click computer adventure games. some of the puzzles can be really hard but in our experience, kids aged 6 and under can remain engaged, looking for clues in the pictures.
The Crew, Mission Deep Sea is a cooperative trick taking game. It is a one of a kind game where you have to work together to find a lost continent. The game comes with multiple missions that create an overall story, which contributes to make the game truly unique. Ages 10 and above.
It’s difficult to not call every single game in this list a clasic. 7 Wonders is a card drafting game where you have to develop your ancient civilization and build its Wonder of the World. Despite its theme, the gameplay is fairly light and ok for a quick family game.
Uno is one of these games that people love to hate, but it is a staple of family board gaming, and it is still fun occasionally. It doesn’t take any shelf space, the rules are super simple, it wouldn’t be an essential list without Uno.
You might also like: Another classic that I like is Jenga, and if you’re looking for some modern classic card game, try Dominion (it has nothing to do with Uno except that it’s a card game)
9 – Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (2020)
Gloomhaven isn’t typically described as a family board game, but if your older kids are into dungeon crawlers, this is the golden standard. My son loves the game and it really clicked for him, so you might want to try it with your family.
You might also like: If the complexity of Jaws of the Lion didn’t bother your family, you might be ready for other heavy cooperative games such as Gloomhaven, Sleeping Gods, or Spirit Island.
8 – Sleeping Queens (2005)
Sleeping queens is definitely not my favorite game, it relies a bit too much on the luck of the draw for my taste, but my kids love it. The game also manages to make math fun for the younger ones, as additions are involved, but not required.
You might also like: Once your kids graduate from Sleeping Queens, you might want to try Dragonwood, with some similarities but longer gameplay.
7 – Sushi Go! (2013)
Sushi go is a quick paced drafting and set collection card game. You compete to get the most points. Younger children might struggle strategy wise, but should have no problem grasping the rules fairly quickly.
Mysterium is a very original cooperative game of clue. One player is a ghost sending dreams to the other players, who have to figure out the killer and the murder weapon together by interpreting the dreams. I’ve found that it works well even for our youngest one, because it’s simply about associating images and using your imagination.
You might also like: If your family enjoys Mysterium, you might also like : Obscurio or The Mind.
5 – Kingdomino (2016)
in this fast family game, you have to Build a kingdom with varied terrains on domino-shaped tiles. The rules are easy to understand, but younger kids might struggle a bit with some of the strategic aspects of the game.
You might also like: Kingdomino has some good Expansions, including Queendomino which can be played on its own or expand the base game. For younger kids, Dragomino is the junior version of the game.
4 – Forbidden Island (2010)
forbidden Island is a game created by Pandemic Designer Matt Leacock. It follows similar mechanics but is silghtly different and has a more adventurous theme. You and your team have to collect 4 treasures before the island sinks. It is a great cooperative game, even for younger kids.
You might also like: The game has been so popular that there are multiple variations you can choose from depending on your preferences. Catan Junior is great for younger kids, the game also has lots of expansions once you get familiar with it, or even standalone versions with themes that might work better for you
2 – Pandemic (2008)
Pandemic is a great cooperative game where you have to contain and destroy a virus as a team of scientists. It might be a bit too thinky for younger kids, but your mileage might vary.
In ticket to ride, you compete with your friends to build train routes. The game is super easy to learn and plays under an hour. It’s what people call a modern classic and in my opinion should be in any family’s collection.