Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from cutthroat competition and play as a team for once. Ever since the massively popular Pandemic, co-op board games have been on the rise, and there are no indicators that this trend will change.
The result is a wide variety of games that pit the players against different challenges, whether you’re chucking gobs of dice to slay monsters or giving each other clever clues to guess a certain answer. While it’s easy to find a co-op with a classic fantasy theme, the abundance of games in the genre has led to unusual themes like the time-travel scenarios in T.I.M.E. Stories or the postcolonial realm of Spirit Island.
Whether your group is looking for a Dungeons-&-Dragons-lite or a puzzly game for bigger crowds, you can find something a bit more cooperative from this list of the best co-op board games below.
See Also: 21 Best 2-Player Board Games
$96.00 (31% off MSRP)
If you’ve ever wanted a game that could send you to the hospital if it fell on your foot, this is the one.
Or, for a more helpful description, if you ever wanted a sprawling sandbox adventure that feels like a DnD campaign in a box, this game is for you.
Isaac Childres’s ambitious creation is currently the #1 rated game on Boardgamegeek.com, where it has sat since a few months after its hugely successful Kickstarter campaign.
Each player takes the role of an adventurer who explores an evolving world throughout dozens of scenarios. The story evolves with player decisions, which can, in turn, impact the world of Gloomhaven.
If you have ever wanted a sprawling dungeon-crawler without the need for a DM, this is the game for your group.
Greater Than Games
$55.41 (31% off MSRP)
This crushingly difficult co-op game by R. Eric Reuss explores a magical island filled with nature spirits that is under attack from dangerous human invaders. The unusual theme is explored through the varied and thematic abilities of the spirits that each player controls.
As the invaders begin to colonize the island, the spirits must fight back and prevent the destruction of the lands they call home. Only through clever planning and powerful combos of spirit powers do the spirits stand a chance of fending off the attack.
This is a meatier co-op game for the crowd that is tired of playing the role of the colonizers and wants to change things up a bit.
$9.87 (24% off MSRP)
Explaining the mind is like trying to dazzle someone by describing a magic trick. It’s just something you have to experience—but I’ll try my best.
In this simple but deceptively challenging game by the prolific Wolfgang Warsch, players have hands of cards that include numbered cards ranging from 1 to 100. The goal of each round is simple: play all cards in order from lowest to highest. The catch is that there are no turns—players simply lay down their cards when they think the time is right—and no verbal communication is allowed.
The result is a ridiculously silly and hilarious game that is perfect for a breather between bigger games or for waiting for latecomers at game night.
The Forbidden Games
2–5 players (depending on the game)
The co-op tension that Matt Leacock created with Pandemic is very much present in all three of the Forbidden Games, which includes Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, and Forbidden Sky. These simple adventures are perfect for families or gamers alike, and though their rules are straightforward, they each present challenging and potentially brutally punishing puzzles.
Each game presents a dangerous environment for you and your fellow adventurers to explore and ultimately escape by collecting tools and artifacts, all while avoiding natural disasters.
In Forbidden Island, you are hunting for artifacts on a rapidly sinking island before escaping (hopefully) via helicopter.
Forbidden Desert picks up from there, after the helicopter has crashed in a treacherous desert with shifting sands. A storm rearranges the barren landscape while players try to build a flying machine using the ancient components they find in the desert.
From there, the flying machine takes players to the mysterious lightning platforms in the sky, where players will construct a working circuit (you read that correctly) to power a rocket that will take them—presumably—to their next adventure.
The Forbidden games are easy to play over and over—especially because you and your friends will lose most of the time. No matter the age range of your game group, these are adventures that are as fun as they are challenging.
$55.99 (20% off MSRP)
Based off of the hugely popular game of global disease, Pandemic Legacy is the brilliant creation of Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau.
With the classic Pandemic at its core, this game tells the story of an evolving world as four diseases spread rapidly, infecting populations in cities around the world. Each player chooses a character for each session of the game, and these characters can acquire traits (and scars) as the story progresses. Because this is a Legacy game, it’s hard to reveal too much without spoilers, but I will say that there are a ton of interesting twists and many exciting boxes to open that introduce new elements to the game.
If you have a group that can commit to 12 to 24 sessions, this can be an incredibly rewarding experience that is unique every time.
A mysterious spirit that is having trouble recalling its memories from life inhabits a gothic Scottish mansion. The spirit is greatly troubled by the nature of its death, and the owner of the mansion has recruited a team of mediums to interpret messages from the spirit to determine just how—and by whom—the spirit was killed.
This clever and creative game from Oleksandr Nevskiy and Oleg Sidorenko puts one player in the role of the spirit while everyone else acts as a medium. The spirit must send messages in the form of beautifully illustrated cards to help the mediums determine a murderer, a location, and a weapon. By guessing correctly, the mediums can narrow down the clues and increase their personal clairvoyance levels, which will help them when making their final guess.
This thematic game of careful clues and heated discussions is best played by candlelight and makes for a perfectly spooky evening.
$21.80 (13% off MSRP)
This party co-op game is perfect for fans of games like Codenames who would prefer to be on the same side of the table.
Designed by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter, Just One is fairly simple but far from easy. One players acts as the guesser, while the other players must give one-word clues to help the guesser determine the word for that round (chosen from the included 110 word cards). Everyone writes down their clue and reveals them to all players besides the guesser. If any players wrote the same clue, their clues are eliminated for the round. As a result, players must think of clues that will be helpful but not too obvious for fear of choosing the same clue as another player. This means the guesser might open their eyes to see only one clue!
Fans of word games will love the simplicity of this little game that is easy to play over and over.
Designed by Peggy Chassenet and Manuel Rozoy, T.I.M.E. Stories is a narrative game in which players travel back in time—often to different realities or worlds—to correct anomalies. Thanks to the corrective nature of time travel, you can make as many attempts as you like, but the aim of the game is to nail each scenario on the first attempt.
Players inhabit the bodies of hosts within the realm of each scenario, through which they will explore and discover secrets that may help them on future runs. After your team’s Temporal Units run out, you are called back to the T.I.M.E. Agency and must attempt again. But with each attempt, you have more information at your disposal to help complete the scenario. The game has a unique setup that allows you to save your progress at any point and return to a scenario right where you left off.
The base game includes one scenario, but there are several different scenarios available through expansions. This is a great game for the group that loves being dropped in the middle of a good story.
Mice and Mystics
Plaid Hat Games
$54.88 (27% off MSRP)
The few loyalists who remain in the king’s castle have been turned into mice and must outwit Vanestra’s minions and traverse the perils of the castle—including rats, centipedes, and other suddenly fearsome creatures.
Designed by Jerry Hawthorne, this is an adventure co-op in which players will fight countless foes as they discover new abilities and explore new parts of the castle. The story drives the game forward and immerses players in a world quite unlike anything else in tabletop games.
Fans of Brian Jacques’s Redwall books will love the theme and style of this highly thematic co-op game of critter combat.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
In a fight against the dark forces that threaten Hogwarts, two to four wizards or witches can play as one of four classic Harry Potter characters as they learn new spells to protect the school. Designed by Forrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, and Andrew Wolf, this co-op adventure takes players through several adventures filled with Dark Arts and deadly spells.
This is a deck-building game—a game in which players have a deck of cards that they improve by acquiring new cards—that gives players several ways to cast spells, regain health, and defeat villains. The game is played over the course of seven years, roughly aligning with the seven years from the book series.
Harry Potter fans will love casting classic spells and playing as their favorite characters, but beneath the theme is a truly clever co-op game that is fun to play through again and again.