Board games are still booming, even in today’s digital age. Whether it’s during a game night with friends, or a battle between parents and kids on the living room floor, board games are a beloved source of fun and competition. While classics like “Sorry!” and “Candy Land” are popular among all ages, some of these games are designed especially for adults. They help to reduce stress, promote social interaction, and develop the interests of individuals. So which are the best board games for adults, according to expert reviewers?
First, let’s dive deeper on those benefits you may not realize you’re getting. If you’re looking to reconnect with your partner, one study finds that all you may need to do is dust off your favorite board games sitting in the closet or take an art class together. In fact, scientists at Baylor University say couples experience a high from oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” when playing board games and painting.
There are also incredible brain benefits that come from avoiding screens and turning to the old school activities. A study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland concludes that people who reported routinely playing non-digital games performed better on thinking and memory tests in their 70s. Moreover, study authors also report that even participants who only started playing more board games during their 70s were still more likely to score higher in cognitive assessments than adults who rarely played non-digital games.
All in all, board games are simply great way to connect with friends and family. If you are searching for the best board games that everyone can play, we recommend you check out this list of the top seven game night hits for players of all ages.
With all that said, in our search for the best board games for adults, we examined 10 expert websites and evaluated their popularity, value, and difficulty level to find the most suggested games across reviews. We also considered where these games ranked on their list. Of course, you may entirely disagree with this — and that’s fine! Let us know which one is your favorite game in the comments below.
The List: Best Board Games For Adults, According To Experts
“Catan is an absorbing and engaging game for teens and adults alike. Plus, players unknowingly learn lessons about the importance and consequences of access to resources, odds, the snowballing effect of luck (or lack thereof) on human success, migration, bartering, and other economic issues, says our tester. Players of all ages also hone their critical thinking and strategic skills with every game. The only downside is that the world-building game may take a bit of time to fully understand. Once you’ve mastered the rules, it is sure to take over your next game night,” writes The Spruce.
Games Radar mentions, “Catan whisks you back to the days of settling wild frontiers. There’s an uninhabited island to claim and kingdoms to build on it, so trading and expanding your civilization is top priority. It really is one of the best classic board games around.”
NY Times calls it “a settlement-building strategy game that inspired a board game revolution, Catan provides fun and competitive (if at times frustrating) play.”
“An ideal game for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and designers, adults will appreciate this game more than younger people. Azul is inspired by the ancient practice of azulejo, decorative ceramic art that dates from the medieval period in Spain and Portugal. Each player is the designer of King Manuel’s royal palace, and the pattern that scores the most points wins the game. Completing specific patterns and sets with the tiles means a higher score and everyone has a beautiful pattern that they can admire at the end,” says Game Rant.
Games Radar explains, “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.”
“The work of an interior decorator may not strike you as the most exciting premise for a board game, but Azul makes for a soothing puzzle experience, as you arrange colourful tiles into pretty mosaics,” certifies War Gamer.
3. What Do You Meme?
The Spruce says players should be prepared for hours of laughter when playing What Do You Meme?
“If you like match games like Apple to Apples and Cards Against Humanity, and you spend a fair amount of time online, then you’re the ideal audience for What Do You Meme? It has a similar premise to those beloved games, but with an internet-y twist,” they write. “Answers tend to be as outrageous and silly as the people you’re playing with, so clear your schedule and grab your funniest, most web-savvy friends. A previous tester had a blast playing this with her friends, noting, ‘Most of the memes were hilarious and the crazy combinations had us laughing hysterically.'”
“What Do You Meme? instructs players to match one of the caption cards in their hand with the photo card in play to come up with the funniest meme. The photo cards are taken directly from some of the biggest memes of the moment, from Gunshow’s ‘This Is Fine’ to side-eye Chloe. If you start to feel like you want more photos and captions to choose from, there are several expansion packs, including a Game of Thrones Expansion Pack and an NSFW Expansion Deck. What Do You Meme? Holds a 4.7-star average rating from more than 32,000 Amazon reviews,” notes NBC News.
Hip 2 Save adds, “Ever seen a funny meme that brought you to your knees? This game is packed full of every one of them and then some. Similar to Cards Against Humanity, you’ll choose a card to go with so the more memes you know, the more you’ll appreciate every round. Even better, they make different editions of What Do You Meme? so depending on what you find funny, you can choose the game that’ll be the most fitting for you and your crowd of friends.”
NBC News writes, “In our guide to the best board games for quarantine, Lincoln Damerst, the director of media at BoardGameGeek, noted Wingspan’s ‘fantastic art and production value.’ The game caters to bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike as players must attract and hatch the most diverse bird collection. It has a 4.8-star rating from almost 8,300 Amazon reviewers.”
“Wingspan is a surprise favorite when it comes to adult board games. Besides being the winner of the 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,” says Games Radar.
Game Rant explains, “Wingspan is slow-paced, relaxing, and beautiful, the kind of game a group of people can play on a quiet, leafy patio while enjoying a round of cold drinks. The polar opposite of the kind of competitive, ruthless game that breaks friendships, this board game for adults is fun no matter who wins or loses.”
“There’s no better place to start this list than with one of the most popular and engaging games of the last few years. Wingspan is often sold as a family board game but in truth, it’s a little too complex and challenging for kids. It is pitch-perfect for adults, though, with a perfect weave of tactics and strategy together with a winning theme as you try to attract birds to a nature reserve. Different birds need different foods and habitats but will contribute to your growing ecosystem which becomes a kind of engine, generating resources to allow you to play bigger and more beautiful birds,” writes IGN.
Apartment Therapy says Jaipur is a great game for a couple having a home date night or for friends looking for a fun challenge. “In Jaipur, players take on the roles of two of the city’s most powerful traders seeking to earn their invitation to the maharaja’s court. A blend of strategy and luck, Jaipur is a fast-paced card game that’s equally deep and easy to learn.”
“Its focus on staying flexible is another feather in the game’s cap – the faster you sell an item, the more points you’ll earn. What we’re left with is a masterful balancing act of waiting for your chance while trying to beat your opponent to the punch. It makes Jaipur one of the best card games we’ve ever gotten our hands on,” states Games Radar.
Jubilance mentions, “This is another two person game and is about collecting cards to get invited to the maharaja’s palace. Grab one of these two person games for your next date night!”
What are your favorite board games? Is there a title you are stunned isn’t in the top five list? Please leave your comments below!
You might also be interested in:
- The Spruce
- Games Radar
- NY Times
- Game Rant
- War Gamer
- NBC News
- Hip 2 Save
- Apartment Therapy
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.
Nice article! Can you cover the Philosophy board game by Quality Beast next? It is emerging and likely the material of legends.
Chinatown, carcassonne, coup, secret Hitler and Condottiere are some great games!
Who are these ‘experts’?
No Tokaido? Big miss.
Another list from a random blog poster that knows nothing about boardgames.
I will agree that these games are popular but any serious boardgamer would not sit down and play these.
Azul and Wingspan maybe, what do you meme/catan whilst popular no serious boardgamer would play this I run a meetup as well as my own sessions. Yes a lot of people play catan/ticket to ride but when asked they don’t recognise the other games which is why people keep playing catan.
Let’s all list our favourite games.
Here are my top 5 best games.
Dwellings of Eldervale
Lost ruins of arnak
Lords of waterdeep
Top 5 gateway games,
Ticket to ride
See my instagram below.
I value your points, and your top 5 lists are solid. I’ll caution you against statements like “no serious gamer would play…” Different strokes for different folks. That’s shaming and gatekeeping language that shuts people out/down. Have a good one.
Oh my, this list is totally bullshit. These games are gateways to board games, and definitely not the best. What about Dune? Or, if you really want to address adults, games like Kingdom Death Monster, War of the Ring, Through The Ages, Root,…?
Sorry, but this list is made by someone who isn’t familiar with board games.
You mention BoardGameGeek, but did you take a look at that site? Their rankings completely disagree with your list. Only Wingspan (26th) and Azul (69th) can be found in the Top 100.
All those boardgames are in the top 100 on boardgamegeek (Dune, Kingdom Death Monster, War of the Ring, Through The Ages, Root) except for Dune which is 198 (but 40 thematic)
You didn’t look well before writing your comment M.
To be fair, I think that comment was meant for the OP.
Gatekeeping boardgames now, are we ? These are a fine set of games that are enjoyed by many regular gamers, alongside the heavier games. There is no wrong approach to playing boardgames.
You seem to have missed the whole point of the article, which is to encourage novices to take up boardgames. Playing gateway games is exactly the right approach.
Sorry but these are some of the most popular, award-winning and successful boardgames beyond the entry-level games of Monopoly or Risk.
This isn’t a specialist gaming website, I would argue the ones listed here and perfect for someone looking for a good boardgame to play with family or friends that. Would highly recommend most of them after many great hours playing them!
Yes, there are more complex and very enjoyable games out there, that take longer to get your head around, but these here are not bad games by any stretch of the imagination. Beyond this games start to get much more niche.
No one cares about those pretensious hobby games with hours just to learn the rules. Gateway games are the only games worth playing.
This list is great. Games that are worth playing over and over without needed huge commitment to learn, set up and play. Just pure fun!
Kingdom Death: Monster is an amazingly intense game. I wish it was maybe a 1/4 of it’s price though, but my old game night group teamed up to pitch in on it.
Twilight Imperium is another cool game. And I really like Merchants and Marauders as well. As a fan of the Dune novels, I need to get Dune and give it a whirl.
We also like to include some easygoing cooperative games at the end of a session so everyone isn’t at each other’s throats (ie. forbidden island, sky, desert).
Hahaha thank you for leaving this comment. I scrolled all the way down here to say the same thing!
My favourites are ‘Stockpile’ and ‘Manipulate’.
But these games are perfect for adults too.
This list was gateway legit until #3 “What Do You Meme?” completely destroyed it. Like, what do you…?!
Tell me you don’t know s**t about boardgames without telling me you don’t know s**t about boardgames.
Catan is a well deserved number one. We’ve been playing it for almost 25 years now and never tire of it. There are many additions and scenarios to change things up a bit.
Azul is also one we like.
Our #2 and surprisingly not on the list is “Carcassonne”. A wonderful game with many layers.Our children started it in kindergarten (just placing tiles properly, no scoring) and, just like Catan, we have an entire cabinet full of the various editions.
Catan fell of any legitimate lists 15 years ago. Yes It was a mile stone. By many sites and companies gathering data from BOARD gamer. BoardGameGeek gathers surveys. Some reviewers like Dice Tower look at sales numbers.
And modern bored get gone a Loth further as a hobby.
Most of the sources you use as reference have nothing to do with board games, how are they experts? Video game related companies and NY times are not board game related. The few sources you have that are actually board game focused, you barely seem to have paid attention to.
Sure, most of these are good games, but I wouldn’t call them the best. Before anyone asks, while many of my favorites are more difficult I certainly don’t think a game needs to be difficult to be one of the best.
Try the Crew. It’s a simple card game and is amazing, or betrayal at house on the hill which is no more difficult than Catan.
As someone who has played hundreds of board games I can say these are definitely not the top 5 board games for adults! The official database (BGG – BoardGameGeek) has nearly 20,000 different games ranked and perhaps look at a few in the top 20 on there and their complexity rating and you will get a different top 5. As another reader said above – comments from video game organisations about the best board games are really quite irrelevant!
Catan – yes good game but produced in 1995, there are SO MANY better games with just as good interaction that supersede Catan nowadays. Azul (which is definitely a great game and the biggest selling game in its first 4 years) would be a good replacement or stone age.
Wingspan – definitely one to include up there for newcomers because of its popularity and theme. Jaipur is a two player only game – yes it is pretty good but again there are so many games that could feature here, why not a multiplayer game like It’s a wonderful world (or the two player version Wonderful Kingdom) – or others like Viticulture that brings the world of making wine to the games table that is thematic and designed for two players or four and easily distinguishable on the board. What you meme? Sorry that is miles down the list, many many games beat that now, Just One is a great example. Other games – thematically Obsession should be on this list, such an amazing experience that differs from other board games but not overly complex to play. And there are no cooperative games on this list that you can play together, there are plenty of them out there too, pandemic and star wars the clone wars being prime examples. Top 5’s are always subjective but there would be at least a couple I would toss from this list.
From all the games in the world you choosed five totally average games… There at least 10000 better games…
Me and my roommates recently ditched regular Catan for Catan Starfarers. Not sure why but it’s just more fun!
The best board game for adult would be Axis and Allies.
Any board game enthusiast need to try this, any variant would be fine.
lol! Avid fan of Axis&Allies all versions. I would never impose this game on any non-hardcore gamer.
Axis and Allies Global, baby!!! My favorite game, but not for this list…
Pandemic (Especially the “On the Brink” expansion). Don’t let any real world scenarios affect the way you view this game; it’s fantastic how the mechanics pit the board game against the players!
Commissioned is a very new and up-in-coming board game, so I’m here to help spread it’s status! Based on Christian Evangelicalism, it uses similar mechanics as Pandemic but instead of clearing the board of cubes your spreading them (they represent conversions). It will only satisfy a small demographic of players, but the mechanics and player interactions are still fun!
I do not agree, especially Jaipur i find borring, replace it with Dominion.
Santorini for a 2 player game.
Maybe 7 Wonders as it plays up to 7 players.
This is what 7 Wonders has earned:
2012 MinD-Spielepreis Nominee
2012 Ludoteca Ideale Winner
2011/2012 Boardgames Australia Awards Best International Game Nominee
2011 Vuoden Peli Adult Game of the Year Winner
2011 Vuoden Peli Adult Game of the Year Nominee
2011 Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel Game of the Year Nominee
2011 Spiel des Jahres Kennerspiel des Jahres Winner
2011 Nederlandse Spellenprijs Nominee
2011 Lys Passioné Winner
2011 Lys Passioné Finalist
2011 Lucca Games Best Boardgame Winner
2011 Lucca Games Best Boardgame Nominee
2011 Juego del Año Tico Winner
2011 Juego del Año Tico Nominee
2011 Juego del Año Finalist
2011 JoTa Best Light Board Game Nominee
2011 JoTa Best Light Board Game Critic Award
2011 JoTa Best Light Board Game Audience Award
2011 JoTa Best Card Game Nominee
2011 JoTa Best Card Game Critic Award
2011 JoTa Best Card Game Audience Award
2011 JoTa Best Artwork Nominee
2011 JoTa Best Artwork Critic Award
2011 Japan Boardgame Prize Voters’ Selection Winner
2011 Japan Boardgame Prize Voters’ Selection Nominee
2011 International Gamers Award – General Strategy; Multi-player Nominee
2011 International Gamers Award – General Strategy: Multi-player Winner
2011 Hra roku Winner
2011 Hra roku Nominee
2011 Guldbrikken Best Adult Game Winner
2011 Guldbrikken Best Adult Game Nominee
2011 Gra Roku Game of the Year Nominee
2011 Gouden Ludo Winner
2011 Gouden Ludo Nominee
2011 Golden Geek Most Innovative Board Game Nominee
2011 Golden Geek Best Strategy Board Game Nominee
2011 Golden Geek Best Party Board Game Nominee
2011 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Winner
2011 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
2011 Golden Geek Best Card Game Winner
2011 Golden Geek Best Card Game Nominee
2011 Golden Geek Best Board Game Artwork/Presentation Nominee
2011 Fairplay À la carte Winner
2011 Deutscher Spiele Preis Best Family/Adult Game Winner
2011 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Prix du Jury Winner
2011 As d’Or – Jeu de l’Année Nominee
2010 Tric Trac Nominee
2010 Tric Trac d’Or
2010 Swiss Gamers Award Winner
2010 Meeples’ Choice Award