Saturday, June 3, 2023
HomeHe Spoke Style23 Best Board Games for Teens: From Cooperative to Cutthroat

23 Best Board Games for Teens: From Cooperative to Cutthroat

Inside: Here are the best board games for teenagers that you’ll both enjoy. Play these games to stay connected while also supporting your teen’s mental health.

When you’re the parent of a teenager, it’s normal to feel a bit wrong-footed from time to time.

Your teen comes to you with a problem, so you try to offer helpful advice, but they get more frustrated. You try to get a laugh out of them, but instead you get an eye roll. You go in for a hug, but they shrug you off.

You know in your bones that if you want to nurture a loving parent-child relationship that will last beyond the teenage years, you need to stay connected right now. But it feels like you can’t seem to do anything right, so you have a knot in your stomach that’s growing by the day. And you wonder: Are they slipping away from me?

The truth is that teenagers gotta teenage. In other words, it’s healthy for your teenager to exercise their independence1Stixrud, W. & Johnson, N. (2019). The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. Penguin Books. and to express big emotions.2Knispel, S. (2019, June 27). Teenagers’ ability to describe negative emotions protects against depression. University of Rochester.

At the same time, if you want a healthy relationship with your teenager, you need to find a way to stay connected during this pivotal time. But they’re no longer toddlers, so you can’t just tell a goofy knock-knock joke, read a sweet picture book, or play pretend with their 798 stuffies and call it a day.

Here’s the good news: You can still play with your teenager in a way that fills both your warm-fuzzy tanks. All you need are a couple of the absolute best board games for teenagers.

This time in your child’s life can be confusing for them.

They want to be independent,3Stixrud, W. & Johnson, N. (2019). The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. Penguin Books. but they still crave your unconditional love4 McAdams, T. A., Rijsdijk, F. V., Narusyte, J., Ganiban, J. M., Reiss, D., Spotts, E., Neiderhiser, J. M., Lichtenstein, P., & Eley, T. C. (2017). Associations between the parent-child relationship and adolescent self-worth: a genetically informed study of twin parents and their adolescent children. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 58(1), 46–54. and warmth.5Abdullah, M. (2020, September 28). When Do Teens Feel Loved by Their Parents? The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. They want to be treated like an adult, but sometimes they still want to be a kid. They want to act mature, but their brain often feels like it’s drowning in a slurry of emotions.6Bailen, N. H., Green, L. M., & Thompson, R. J. (2019). Understanding Emotion in Adolescents: A Review of Emotional Frequency, Intensity, Instability, and Clarity. Emotion Review, 11 (1), 63–73.

While they’d be hard-pressed to admit it, your teenager needs a safe space to set all those burdens down for a little while. And one of the best ways you can give them that safe space is by letting them be a kid again and playing a board game with them.

Not only is playing with your teenager fun for both of you, but it’s exactly what their brain needs. Research shows that while the first eight years of life are critical for brain development, adolescence marks a second critical phase of brain growth:

“The way to make a better brain is not through hours of homework and training, what the brain wants is play; it grows best when it is allowed to play…Play is quintessentially capable of activating the very best that the (brain) is capable of.”7Else P. (2014). Teenagers and Playing: Are Pastimes Like Neknominate a Usual Response to Adolescence? Children (Basel, Switzerland), 1(3), 339–354.

In fact, experts say play is crucial for your teen’s mental health,8McCarthy, C. (2019, November 20). Anxiety in Teens is Rising: What’s Going On? American Academy of Pediatrics. especially in a world where teens are under increasing pressure to succeed and meet high expectations.

Related: The Best Family Board Games for All Ages (No Candyland!)

When you search “board games for teenagers,” you can find list after list of games that are supposedly perfect for teenagers. But there’s one big problem with most of those lists: They weren’t compiled by actual real-life families with actual real-life teenagers.

Unfortunately, a lot of the lists of recommended products these days are written by someone whose boss told them to search Amazon for a few products and slap a list together—or worse, written by an AI tool (i.e. a robot) designed to help companies crank out as much content as possible.

But this list is different. My family has been testing board games with our crew of six for more than 10 years, then roping friends and neighbors into testing our favorites too. Over the years, we’ve uncovered the absolute gems—and rooted out the total clunkers.

In fact, we’re such big board game aficionados that a couple years ago, we opened our own family-owned game shop.

Every game we recommend has been kid-tested and parent-tested. Not just tested and approved by our own family but by thousands of other families who’ve added to their own game collections based on our recommendations over the years.

Related: The Best 30 Games for Family Game Night, According to Kids and Parents

Your teenager has outgrown Connect 4 and Candy Land (thank goodness!), but just because they’re more mature doesn’t mean you have to suffer through a mind-numbing 4-hour session of Risk.

Below, you’ll find the best board games for teenagers that you’ll both enjoy. From cooperative games where you’ll work together toward a common goal to silly games that will get you giggling, this list has something for every teen.

Play these fun games with your teen to strengthen your parent-child bond while also giving them a playful break from the growing stress and anxiety they’re experiencing. (Side note: These games also make great gifts for your teen!)

When you’re short on time and need a quick dose of connection with your teen, these are the best card games for teenagers. These quick games work great before bedtime, while you’re waiting on dinner in the oven, or anytime you happen to find your teen free on the weekend. If you’re sick of Uno, this list is for you.

Time to Play: 20 minutes
Number of Players: 2-6
Get It: Love Letter

This quick strategic card game is so fun that as soon as you finish one game, you might find yourself wanting to kick off another one right away!

Here’s the setup: The Princess is seeking a partner and confidant to stand by her side when she assumes the throne. Each player is a suitor who’s competing to have their love letter delivered to the Princess.

The gameplay is simple, so it’s easy to learn:

Because it’s so quick, this game is the perfect fit for a dose of connection with your teen before bedtime or as a filler in between other games during a family game night. And it’s small, so you can easily tuck it into your suitcase before a family vacation.

This is an all-time favorite for many families because it’s so quick yet still challenging. And out of all these board games for teens, this is the one that’s gotten the most play in my own family. It’s easy to set up and a fun puzzle for your brain!

Bonus: All game orders placed in our family-owned shop get a $7.99 bonus credit after purchase to spend on instant downloads!

This site is reader-supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Time to Play: 30 minutes (or less if you want—see below)
Number of Players: 4-20+
Get It: Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition or expansion packs Glow in the Dark Box and Written by Kids Pack

When you play this card game, get ready for your whole family to collapse into giggles—teens included. The ridiculous question-and-answer combos your family members put together will keep you coming back again and again. This is pure silly fun! (Warning: If your family is not into potty humor, best skip this game.)

The game comes with two decks of cards: the black set contains questions, and the white set contains answers.

Here’s how you play: The first person assumes the role of the Card Czar and picks a black card, then asks that question. Then everyone else picks a white card from their hand with what they think is the funniest answer and hands it to the Card Czar to shuffle together (without showing whose card is whose!). The Card Czar then reads all the answers and picks the funniest one, and whoever submitted that answer wins the round. The next round, the next player becomes the Card Czar, and you keep going as long as you want to.

Because this game can accommodate a large number of players, it makes the perfect party game.

Pro tip: The box says each game takes at least 30 minutes, but if you’re short on time, you can play just one circuit so everyone gets to be the Card Czar once.

The Family Edition includes 600 cards, the Glow in the Dark Box adds 300 more cards to the mix, and the Written by Kids Pack tops you off with 30 extra cards written by real-life kids who love this game.

Time to Play: 20-30 minutes
Number of Players: 1 or more
Get It: SET

Teens love outsmarting their parents, and this fast-moving card game will give them ample opportunity to do just that. To play, you compare patterns on the cards and find a SET of three cards before anyone else does.

Confession: At first, I thought this game looked too simple and that it wouldn’t keep my interest as an adult, but it came highly recommended so I gave it a chance. As it turns out, I was dead wrong. Finding a SET is challenging enough to keep adults on their toes too!

Time to Play: 20 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Get It: Dragonwood

Of all the quick card games for teens in this list, this one and Love Letter are my personal favorites.

In this card and dice game, you recruit adventurers to go off on quests and battle magical creatures including trolls, wolves, and dragons.

This game is a must for teens who love fantasy books or movies. For an extra dose of fun, when one of us captures a creature, we celebrate with a “Huzzah!” or “Take that!” or “A plague upon thee!”

Time to Play: 15 minutes for original; 20-30 minutes for party edition
Number of Players: 2–5 for original; 2-8 for party edition
Get It: Sushi Go or Sushi Go Party

This fun card game is one of our go-to picks on family game night.

To play, you pick one card from your hand to keep for yourself, then pass your cards to the next person. Everyone keeps doing this until all cards are picked. Then you score points based on which cards you picked to keep: Did you get the most maki rolls? Did you dip your nigiri in wasabi to triple its value?

The Sushi Go Party edition is perfect when you want a quick game for a large group because you can play with up to 8 people. You also get fun new cards that aren’t in the original edition, plus you can customize each game to change up the strategy and keep it fresh.

Time to Play: 10-30 minutes
Number of Players: 3-8
Get It: Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza

This twist on Slapjack is more fun the more players you have, so it works best when your whole crew can play together.

Each person takes turns placing a card from their hand face up into a community pile while saying the next word in the sequence of taco/cat/goat/cheese/pizza. For example, suppose it’s your turn to say “goat” and as you lay the card down, you see that the card matches what you just said. Then everyone slaps! The last person to slap picks up the pile and adds it to the bottom of their hand. The first person to get rid of all their cards wins.

The deck also has a few special cards where you have to act something out before you slap the deck, like with the gorilla card where you have to beat your chest like a gorilla before slapping. This game is great silly fun!

But beware: Some teens really get into this game, so everyone might end the game with sore hands from slapping enthusiastically.

Time to Play: 20 minutes
Number of Players: 2-6
Get It: Go Nuts for Donuts

This is a quick card game that always makes us laugh. The goal of the game is to get as many points-scoring donuts as you can and end up with the highest score.

But the magic of this game happens when you go after the same donut as someone else. Because if you both go after the same donut, no one gets the donut. That means you need to think ahead and predict what the other players might be going after—so you can avoid going after the same donut. But then…are the other players predicting the same thing about you and therefore picking a different donut than you’d expect, so now you’re actually going after the same donut after all?!

My husband and I always end up picking the same darn donut turn after turn, so our teen, tween, and younger kids tend to beat us handily.

Most families who enjoy Sushi Go end up loving this quick card game too.

Time to Play: 20-35 minutes
Number of Players: 1-8
Get It: Quiddler

If your teen enjoys word games, you need this card game. Because when you’re in the mood for Scrabble but don’t have time for a full game, this one will scratch that itch!

Each card in your hand features a different letter, and the goal of the game is to use those letters to create words. Creating words scores points, and the person with the most points at the end wins.

Note: The manufacturer says this game takes 35 minutes to play, but that’s for a full eight rounds. If you’d like a shorter game, you can just play fewer rounds and then add up everyone’s points.

These fun board games for teenagers will get you working toward a common goal against a shared enemy—or desperately trying to out-maneuver your opponents so you’re not left in the dust. Tuck your smartphones away for a few minutes, and get ready to have fun together!

Time to Play: 30 minutes for Island; 45 minutes for Desert
Number of Players: 2-4 for Island; 2-5 for Desert
Get It: Forbidden Island or Forbidden Desert

These are cooperative games, which is a great choice when you and your teen have been butting heads. In Forbidden Island, you work together to collect treasure before the ancient island you’re on sinks into the ocean—plus you have to rescue your whole team off the island with a helicopter before you sink with the island.

Forbidden Desert is the sequel to Forbidden Island, and now your team of adventurers is trying to recover a legendary flying machine buried in the ruins of an ancient desert city. You have to survive the lack of water and sandstorms, retrieve all the pieces of the flying machine, and escape before the desert claims you forever.

Even though I know it’s not real, my heart races every time we get to the end of these games! An instant boredom-banisher.

Time to Play: 30-40 minutes
Number of Players: 2-7
Get It: 7 Wonders

This is my personal all-time favorite game to play with my teen.

In the game, each player is the leader of one of the seven great cities of the Ancient World, and your goal is to build your city and erect an architectural wonder that will stand the test of time. You collect cards to accumulate resources for your city, develop commercial routes, advance scientific discoveries, and build your military.

I never get tired of playing this game, and my teen and tween love that they can beat me at it.

However, if we’re short on time and it’s just two of us playing, we go for 7 Wonders Duel, a 2-player version of this fantastic strategy board game.

Time to Play: 30-45 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Get It: Summer Camp

The nostalgia of this game will give you all the warm fuzzies—even if you haven’t ever gone to summer camp. This deck-building game is easy to learn, takes just 30-45 minutes, and is a delightful throwback to quintessential childhood experiences of summer.

During the game, you race against your competition to earn merit badges and collect the most experience points.

But first, you pick three categories to compete in: adventure, arts and crafts, cooking, friendship, games, outdoors, and water sports. That variety keeps the game feeling fresh and different every time.

My teen and tween never tire of playing this game, and playing it always puts a smile on my face too. Plus, ever since we got it, my kids insist that we pack it for every summer vacation!

Time to Play: 60+ minutes
Number of Players: 3-4 or 5-6 with this extension set
Get It: Catan and Catan Extension: 5-6 Player

Previously known as Settlers of Catan, this is one of the most popular board games for teens and older kids, and for good reason. The gameplay is challenging so adults don’t get bored but still straightforward enough that teens and older kids can figure it out.

Your teen will get a playful arena for practicing their strategic thinking and negotiation skills, all while having a blast. Forget Monopoly and play Catan instead!

If you’ll be playing with more than 4 family members, you can add on the Catan 5-6 Player Extension here.

Time to Play: 45 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Get It: Pandemic

In this game, you work together and use your problem-solving skills to find the cure for deadly diseases so you can stop them from running rampant across the world. This has always been one of our all-time favorite board games for teens, and playing it right now has also felt a bit cathartic. It even helped my teen and tween process more of what’s going on in the world, and the pretend aspect helped them work through some of their anxieties about a real-life pandemic situation.

If you’re playing with a wide range of ages, the instructions include variations so you can increase or decrease the difficulty level to fit who you’re playing with.

If you and your teen enjoy a clever game that keeps you on your toes, here are the best board games for teenagers that will engage your critical thinking skills.

Time to Play: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Get It: Splendor

This game is one of my family’s all-time favorites and a particular favorite for my teen and tween. It’s easy to set up and fairly quick to play, and it will make your brain hurt—in a good way! In my family, we’ve been known to finish this game and then immediately kick off another round right after that. In fact, if you forced me to choose the single best game for teenagers, I would be hard-pressed to choose between Splendor and 7 Wonders.

Here’s the setup: Each player is a merchant from the Renaissance, and your life’s goal is to build your prestige. You do that by purchasing gem mines, modes of transportation for your wares, and artisans who can turn your raw gems into jewelry you can sell in a storefront. Collect enough gems and cards to do all that, and you might even receive a visit from a noble, which gives you a mega prestige boost.

When I’m playing this game with my younger kids, I try to keep an eye out for when they might need help thinking ahead, and I intentionally hit the “off” switch on my own cutthroat mode before we start playing—I save that mode for playing against my husband and teenager instead.

Time to Play: 25-30 minutes
Number of Players: 1-100
Get It: Welcome To

Imagine you’re an architect in the 1950s, and your job is to build the best neighborhood. This fast-paced card game feels a bit like playing Tetris on paper—if Tetris also had backyard pools, neighborhood parks, and real estate agents to contend with.

Welcome To is easy to set up, quick to play, and a fun puzzle for your brain. Plus, everyone takes their turn simultaneously, so it’s perfect for a larger group during family game night or other get-togethers.

But if you get the itch to play when the rest of your family is busy, you can also play the solitaire version.

Bonus tip: To help scoring go faster at the end of the game, consider using a bright highlighter to draw your neighborhood fences—that will make the fences stand out more than pencil or pen.

Time to Play: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Get It: Azul

This tile-laying game is the perfect choice for a cozy weekend afternoon with your teen. My teen and I like to brew up a batch of tea, then gather around the dining room table for this quick mind-bender of a game. This is especially perfect for teens who love puzzles.

The game has gorgeous art, and the colorful, chunky tiles look like candy. But the gameplay is where Azul shines: You’re a tile-laying artist, and you’re hired to build a mosaic fit to decorate the king’s palace. As you build your mosaic, you get points for linking tiles together, laying a whole row of tiles, and for using a variety of tile colors. A playful way to exercise your teen’s strategic thinking skills while also giving your mind a workout!

When you’re playing with younger kids, you can choose to take a more laidback approach and be considerate when choosing tiles so that you don’t leave your kids high-and-dry—and vice versa. But when you’re playing with tweens, teens, and adults, the gloves can come off. Every artist for themselves.

Playing this game always wakes up my overtired parent brain, and that feels good.

Time to Play: 30-40 minutes
Number of Players: 1-5
Get It: Wild Space

If your teen loves anything to do with sci-fi or space, you need this card game. Your goal? Recruit a crew of wild animals turned astronauts to help you explore space, kind of like building your own ragtag Guardians of the Galaxy team. The bigger your crew, the more points you can earn. But each player gets only 10 turns, so you’ll need to plan ahead to make the most of every opportunity to grow your team.

You’ll love the bright illustrations of animals—owls, monkeys, rhinos, lizards, octopuses, and bears—and feel a sense of satisfaction as you collect them for your crew. But what really makes this game shine is the possibility for card combos. If you keep your wits about you, you can kick off a chain reaction on your turn and play multiple cards one after the other, opening you up to earn more points at the end.

This game is a delightfully fun mind-bender!

Time to Play: 15-20 minutes for Kingdomino; 25-30 minutes for Queendomino
Number of Players: 2-4; combine both games for up to 6 players
Get It: Kingdomino or Queendomino

In this fun twist on the classic game of dominoes, you’re royalty in search of new lands so you can expand your kingdom. But you’ll need to hurry to snag the best spots before other royalty gets there first.

Kingdomino is simple to learn, quick to play, and challenging enough to keep both teens and adults coming back for more. Queendomino adds some fun details on top of the original Kingdomino game, with buildings you can build on your land to earn more points, knights you can send out to collect taxes, and a dragon you can bribe to burn buildings down. Plus, if your lands boast the most towers, you can host the queen, which means you can purchase buildings for one coin less while you’re hosting her.

Queendomino is a standalone game and does not require Kingdomino. However, both games are in our regular rotation with our teen and tween, depending on how much time we have and whether we want something super simple or a little more involved. Whether you decide on Kingdomino or Queendomino—or both so you can play the “Royal Wedding” variation with up to 6 players—you can’t go wrong.

Time to Play: 30-60 minutes
Number of Players: 2–5
Get It: Ticket to Ride

In this game, your goal is to figure out the best train routes to travel across America.

My teen loves beating me at this strategy game. Who knew geography could be so cutthroat?

Ticket to Ride is so much fun that my husband and I love to play it after all our kids are in bed, just the two of us. This game has been in our family’s regular rotation for years!

Time to Play: 30-45 minutes
Number of Players: 2–4
Get It: Qwirkle or Travel Qwirkle

As with SET, teens love outsmarting their parents at this deceptively simple pattern matching game.

This game is simple enough for beginners but still challenging for adults, so it’s the perfect fit when you need a game that will give your teen a fighting chance.

This game also comes in a compact travel version, so we keep it in our suitcase and take it with us wherever we go.

Time to Play: 45-60 minutes
Number of Players: 2–4
Get It: Rummikub

This classic board game is easy to learn, but don’t let that fool you because it moves fast.

Rummikub is the perfect combination of luck and strategy, so every player has a chance to win. That’s important because if the only games you play with your teen are the ones where you dominate every time, that won’t exactly fill them up in the warm fuzzy department.

When grandparents come to visit, this is a great pick for your teen to connect with their grandparents!

Time to Play: 10-30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-12
Get It: Sequence

This classic strategy game will give you and your teen a workout for your brains.

Plus, you can play a game in 30 minutes or less. And because you can play with up to 12 people, Sequence makes the perfect choice for a family game night.

When you upgrade to the deluxe edition, you get a cushioned playing mat instead of a folding game board.

Time to Play: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 3–6
Get It: Dixit

This storytelling game is especially perfect for creative teens. Not only is the artwork absolutely gorgeous, but you’ll also get to marvel at your teen’s creativity as you play. But to do well at this game, you must be good at keeping secrets, so bring your poker face.

Each round, one player picks a card (without showing anyone else!) and makes up a one-sentence story based on the picture on that card. Then all the other players pick a card that best fits with that story, and everyone puts their cards facedown. The storyteller shuffles the cards and turns them all over, and everyone votes on which was the “correct” card that inspired the original story. The only clues you get are the illustrations on the cards everyone submitted. Then after everyone votes, the mystery is revealed.

I never get tired of seeing what my teen comes up with. It’s like a window into how her brain works!

For even more awesome game ideas, check out:

What are your favorite board games for teens? Share in a comment below!

I'm a mom of four, a Certified Parent Educator, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. I believe if you want a loving parent-child relationship that will last into the teenage years and beyond, the time for nurturing that kind of relationship is now. The good news? All you need is 10 minutes a day. Start here »

Note: All information on this site is for educational purposes only. Happy You, Happy Family does not provide medical advice. If you suspect medical problems or need professional advice, please consult a physician.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *