Here’s our nostalgic list of the best 80s and 90s board games that the whole family will enjoy!
Back in the 80s and 90s, board games were a staple of social gatherings and family nights everywhere. Later, digital gaming became the go-to way to play games with others, and board games struggled to compete. Today, you can boot up a PC, one of the many consoles, go to an arcade (yes, they still exist), play on a tablet, or even play games on a phone.
With so many ways to game, one might think board games are just relics of a bygone era. Not true! If the millions of dollars going into Kickstarter campaigns for board games, not to mention the large section of board games at all big box retailers, are any indication, board games are booming! And many of the 80s and 90s games we grew up with are now being reissued or reimagined for today’s generation, making this the perfect time to share board games you loved as a kid with your kids. So, gather family and friends around the table and get ready for hours of analog awesomeness with our list of the best board games from the 80s and 90s!
Perhaps you’re looking for more modern, fantastical board game options? Be sure to check out our list of fantasy board games that parents can enjoy playing with their kids!
Now then, the deck is shuffled and everyone has their player token, so let’s begin!
Let’s start strong. Settlers of Catan set the board game world on fire, with acclaim from tabletop gamers all over since its debut in the 90s. The quest to become the greatest civilization on your island, trading resources, and building roads might seem a bit advanced for kids. If that’s your worry, this junior edition will be perfect for easing them into strategic gaming. Besides, who doesn’t love a pirate-themed adventure?
Trades don’t only happen on tropical islands. While it might seem just as ancient to today’s kids, before the age of Amazon, people used to go to the mall. Sure, malls aren’t as prevalent in the online order era, you can still have a simulated mall crawl in this classic Hasbro board game.
Speaking of mall crawls, who could forget the iconic sounds that’d play on repeat over the speakers? Well, this custom 90’s pop-themed Guess Who will bring those nostalgic feelings flooding back. Even if your kids aren’t familiar with the stars of yesteryear, each of their iconic looks will still ensure a fun guessing game, no matter how young the players are. By the way, if you like this, the Etsy shop that produces them has many different versions available. Be sure check them out!
When it comes to guessing-based board games, there’s one word we all know but can’t say. That’s right, Taboo! This Kids vs. Parents edition comes with two decks, a parent’s edition, and a simpler kid’s edition. So, you and your kids can compete on a relatively equal playing field without a six-year-old trying to guess “Watergate.”
While guessing games are always fun, maybe you want a little more intensity. A one-on-one showdown between you and your little captain? Well, then Battleship is tired, true, and tremendously fun. The satisfaction of finally getting to press a red peg into your board can’t be beaten, and who doesn’t what to hear an exasperated “You sunk my battleship!”
Operation: Nightmare Before Christmas Collector’s Edition
Battleship isn’t the only game that demands calm determination. Every kid from the 80s and 90s knows the heart-wrenching BUZZ as they fail to remove a funny bone with tweezers. This edition is based on the 1993 cult classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. So, if you or your kid are a bit macabre, fascinated by creepy-crawlies, or super into a certain October holiday, this game is perfect.
If board games like this are your jam, hop on over to our list of classic board games for families.
Jenga: Godzilla Extreme Edition
Calm under pressure? Confident in your steady hand? Do you and/or your kid just like to watch things fall over? Then, Jenga is the game for you. This edition ramps up the intensity by having the monstrous Godzilla on the scene. Godzilla ups the ante as he gets closer by forcing you to remove even more blocks. Can you keep the tower upright in the face of such a threat?
Sometimes, it’s more fun to build something than it is to destroy. For example, in a game of Mouse Trap, you and your kids can set up complex Rube Goldberg machines, as seen in 80s classics like The Goonies, Back to the Future, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The goal of this game is to gather cheese while forming nefarious traps for the other players. As the chain of cause and effect unfolds, so will hours of fun.
Instead of trapping mice, this game has a ghost trying to trap you! A classic of 80s board games, this has you and your fellow paranormal investigators attempting to escape the titular Ghost Castle. Can you avoid all of the diabolical traps, or will you become the newest resident of Ghost Castle? Ooooooo, spoooooky!
Variety is the spice of life. If that’s true, Cadoo is the spicy curry of board games. You could acting one turn, then, solving puzzles, drawing, or even sculpting on the next turn! This is a great way to engage your kid’s artistic side, letting them learn and have fun. Not to mention, you can let your own inner child loose and get creative too!
Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul Kar
Are you ready for an island adventure? In this reboot of the classic 80s board game, Fireball Island, you’ll explore a 3D island, gathering treasures and visiting scenic locations. New action cards simplify the need for dice rolls and allow for some strategy. This game is easy to get into, but with enough possibility to keep every game fresh. Just watch out for those rolling marbles!
Step into a deadly factory where robots face off for survival! In Robot Rally, two to six players can face off in a destruction derby. But this is far from a mindless game. You’ll need to plan your moves, upgrade your robot, and interfere with other players if you want to be number one. If you want to get your kid thinking ahead or just love the idea of robots bashing each other to bits, this game will be a blast.
For a less destructive form of racing, we have Downforce. In this game, you’ll bid to get the best car and racer possible. After that, you race, moving not just your cars but every car color on your card. It’s not just about driving as fast as you can but also forcing your opponents into bad positions. Drive fast and think faster!
If you want a great way to introduce your kids to swords and sorcery fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons style combat, then look no further. They call this a “Game System” and that tracks because you are given everything you need to create your own stories and quests—the perfect toolbox for any budding Dungeon Masters. Did i mention it comes with over 65 miniatures?
If your kids are a little older, they might balk at Candyland. That’s fine. If taking a stroll through the Lollypop Woods isn’t exciting enough, what about becoming a warlord by fighting samurai? Ikusa has an excellent pedigree, and this latest rendition, published by Wizards of the Coast, lets the whole family go into a feudal frenzy as they fight to take over the map or take out all opposing players!
The Oregon Trail: Journey to Willamette Valley
To wrap things up, we have a board game version of one of the most enjoyable, yet soul-crushing, experiences of 80s and 90s computer labs everywhere. So, pack your supplies, pray you avoid dysentery, and set out on the Oregon Trail. This game can be unforgiving, but that’s part of the fun. As you and your family make the historic trip across the American frontier, it can be an excellent opportunity to learn about history, as you attempt to manage the chaos and try to survive. Good times!