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Game shows have been a staple of American television for decades, entertaining audiences with their catchy themes, challenging questions, and exciting prizes. These programs have become a cultural phenomenon, captivating viewers young and old. Some of the best game shows of all time offer a break from the monotony of everyday life, allowing people to escape into a world of trivia, puzzles, and competition.

In recent years, the popularity of game shows has only continued to grow, with new shows constantly popping up on networks and streaming services alike. But what is it about these programs that makes them so appealing to audiences? Their popularity can be affixed to the idea that eight in 10 (82%) parents watch popular game shows with their kids, including “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” (39%) and “Wheel of Fortune” (37%). Meanwhile, 71 percent of those parents play the game along with their kids.

This family time spent together watching “brainless” TV might be a saving grace for a dwindling amount of time families spend together – on average only about 6 hours a week! Even TV watchers that are without traditional families are consuming vast amounts of TV every week. On a day-to-day basis, the average adult watches TV for three-and-a-half hours, amounting to 1,248 hours each year. The average TV viewer will watch an astounding 78,705 hours of programming (movies, sports, news, etc.) in their lifetime. 

People are naturally competitive and enjoy the thrill of victory. Game shows provide a platform for people to compete against one another in a friendly and entertaining environment. That being said, StudyFinds set out to do the research for you, visiting 10 expert websites to put together this list of the best game shows of all time. If you’ve got your own suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

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Couple watching TV (Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels)

The List: Best Game Shows of All Time, Per Fans

1. “Jeopardy” (1964 – present)

This quiz show premiered in 1964 and has since become an American institution. It features three contestants who must answer trivia questions in the form of a question, with the winner taking home cash prizes. Its simplicity is its key, “Jeopardy! is fun to watch because it’s a game show you feel like you can play and win. And maybe you could! As a combination of trivia, gambling, and reflexes, it’s the perfect combination of things no one can truly be the best at — just the best in a given room. It’s also easy to overestimate your performance: trivia always feels easy because when you know an answer, you know. This also makes it easy to overestimate your own performance,” explains The Verge.

It’s incredibly popular within the United States as mentioned here by Inside Hook, “On average, more than 10 million Americans tune in to the quiz show per week… it’s still a testament to how captivated we are with the program despite its lengthy run.”

Winning the show is somewhat of an “American Dream.” “It’s a lifelong dream for thousands of trivia fanatics and game show hopefuls, but it doesn’t just confer bragging rights. It can also come with a serious payday. America’s favorite quiz show doles out millions of dollars each year in prize winnings, catapulting legendary champions to fame, fortune, and life without day jobs,” says Esquire.

2. “Wheel of Fortune” (1964 – present)

Also premiering in 1964, this game show has contestants spin a wheel to determine the value of the letters they guess in a word puzzle. The show is known for its catchy theme song and the charisma of its longtime host, Pat Sajak.

WLKY talks about its success and even the host mentions its simplicity, “Wheel of Fortune has been on the air for more than three decades, that’s 32 years of television viewers sitting at home trying to solve the puzzle. ‘The short answer is I don’t have a clue,’ Sajak said. ‘We are playing hangman. It’s a simple game. Why it’s become part of people’s life cycle, I don’t know’.”

Sajak is a big reason behind the show’s success and consistency, “Beloved television program Wheel of Fortune has been airing across American television screens since 1981, and now the game show’s well-known host Pat Sajak is being celebrated for the length of his career. After an exciting 35 years 198 days of seeing contestants take home grand prizes, Sajak officially holds the Guinness World Records title for having the longest career as a game show host for the same show,” writes the Guinness Book of World Records.

The show houses a phrase we all know and love, “Wheel of Fortune is the longest-running syndicated game show in the U.S., but perhaps more interesting than that is the fact that cohosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been around for just about every spin of the wheel and every utterance of the phrase ”I’d like to buy a vowel” since the syndicated version premiered in 1983,” says Entertainment Weekly.

3. “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” (1998 – present)

Originally a British import, this show debuted in the U.S. in 1999 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Contestants answer increasingly difficult multiple-choice questions for the chance to win a million dollars. “This was not simply a means to test your trivia at home while watching someone win a new kettle along with a holiday in Greece. This was the chance to watch a truly compelling drama unfold as real people grappled with the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Medium.

The show is outlined here by Gold Derby, “Answer 15 questions, and win a millionaire dollars – who wouldn’t want to try that? But these questions get increasingly difficult, and even with ‘lifelines’ very few make it to the very top – but, boy, do they leave us on the edge of our seats! There’s been several reboots since the original premiered in 1999, with a variety of hosts, the most notable being Regis Philbin and Meredith Viera, both of whom won Daytime Emmys. The show itself has won two Emmys for Best Game Show, and, as the first U.S. network game show with a potential million-dollar payout, was one of the highest-rated game shows of all time.”

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is intense, and features dark lighting and suspenseful music. Before starting each round, the lights go dramatically down and dim, creating the perfect backdrop for this thrilling show,” says Movie Web.

4. “Family Feud” (1976 – present)

This show has been on the air since 1976 and has become famous for its high-energy host (currently Steve Harvey) and the hilarious and sometimes absurd answers given by contestants. Two families compete to guess the most popular answers to survey questions.

Family Feud is one of the most well-known game shows of all time and beats out many other popular, long-running, still active game shows similar to it when it comes to IMDb rankings. The game, which pits families (and sometimes even celebrities) against each other, is highly engaging and easy to play along with at home, so it is no surprise that audiences have enjoyed it consistently for years now,” explains Screen Rant.

The Top Tens simply says, “Family Feud is awesome. I ALWAYS try to guess the answers with the contestants, and Steve Harvey is quite the comedian. I wish I could be on the show!” and continues with, “This is the ultimate Mr. Average show. It teaches you to think like everyone else. It’s just guessing really basic words as if you were at a kindergarten.”

A couple key factors on the show are, as said by Entertainment Weekly, “The family portraits in the set’s side panels at the beginning of each episode are priceless,” and ” There’s really no way to prep for the show—basically just don’t be brainless.”

5. “The Price is Right” (1956 – present)

A long-running staple of daytime television, this show premiered in 1956 and has seen several hosts over the years, most famously Bob Barker. Contestants guess the prices of consumer goods and appliances for the chance to win cash and prizes.

Gold Derby says, ““Coooooome on down!” For almost 50 years, thousands of contestants have done exactly this after hearing their names called, excitedly rushing to their podiums with hopes that their bid will best the other three contestants and they’ll earn a chance to play the carnival-style games and win big prizes. Bob Barker became an icon of the industry, hosting for an unprecedented 35 years (a record recently surpassed by Pat Sajak), and winning a record 14 Emmys. Drew Carey took over hosting duties in 2007, and although he’s never been nominated as host, the show itself has won three of its eight Emmys since he took over.”

“Drew Carey has done a serviceable job as the show’s current host, but ‘The Price Is Right’ made Bob Barker a legend, with his skinny microphone and welcoming hugs. The funny contestants, sporting goofy clothing at times, Johnny Olson, Rod Roddy and the great games (Cliff Hangers, Price Tags, Hole in One, Three Strikes and, of course, Plinko) have all made it an iconic piece of television,” reminisces Yard Barker.

Oregon Live talks about its evergreen status, “The Price is Right has an easy-to-understand, timeless appeal as contestants guess how much stuff costs. You know a show has staying power when it adds catchphrases to the vernacular. Come on down!”

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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.

About Winston McDaniel

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Bruce Shulman says:

    I don’t know who the so-called experts are who were consulted. Leaving out What’s My Line and You Bet Your Life is criminal. Some people might argue that these two programs were not actually game shows. However, the personalities of those on the shows(Groucho Marx, George Fenniman, John Charles Daly, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Dorothy Kilgallon) made the shows incredibly entertaining.

  2. Christopher Cook says:

    Wheel of Fortune began in 1975, not 1964.