If you’re on the hunt for a new board game for an upcoming game night, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we’re going to break down the best-selling board games of all time - ranked by decade. We’ll look all the way back to the pre-1920s and work our way forward - so you can see which games generations before you were playing. You’ll notice that while games come and go, many of today’s most popular games aren’t much different from the games being played 100 years ago!
Before we dive into our list of the top-rated board games of all time, we want to give you a quick history lesson. Let’s begin!
A Quick History Lesson on Board Games
As with most things that are deeply engrained in our culture today, board games can be traced back much further than you may assume. In fact, the oldest board game is Senet - and it dates back to 3100 BC in Predynastic Egypt! While a lot has changed over the past 5,000 years, we can look to games like Senet - or other early games like Backgammon, Go, and Liubo - and see common themes still today.
Fast forward to today, and there are a seemingly endless number of board games on the market. It’s fair to say that the vast majority of these new editions gained inspiration from an earlier game. That’s why today, we’re going to hop in a time portal and look back at the best-selling board games of all time. But, before we can unveil the most popular board games of all time, we have to first explain how we selected them. Let’s take a look.
How We Selected the Top Rated Board Games of All Time
Whilst building this list of the most popular board games ever, we took a few different factors into consideration.
These include longevity, nostalgia, gameplay, and accessibility. Along with these four important criteria, there were a few other little things that set certain games apart from the rest and earned them a spot on our list of the best board games ranked by decade. Let’s take a closer look at each of these down below:
On our list of the best board games ranked by decade, you’ll find selections that have been loved by generations before you and will be cherished by generations after you. They create a sense of nostalgia and feature an exciting, captivating gameplay experience. And of course, they’re all available online or at your local game shop. Let’s get into the matter at hand today…unveiling the most popular board games of all time.
The Best Selling Board Games of All Time: Ranked by Decade
Ready to discover the best-selling board games of all time? We can’t wait to introduce you to your new favorite game night choice - even if it’s a hundred years old! You’ll prove that you know your stuff next time you host a game night by pulling out one of these vintage selections. We’re going to kick off our list of the top-rated board games of all time by heading way back to the 1920s - when board games first became popular here in the states.
The Best Board Games Pre-1920
This section will unveil the best-selling board games prior to 1920 as a starting point. As you may imagine, we can look back on this era and find some of the top-rated board games of all time that are still being played today:
- Monopoly (the Landlord’s Game) (1904)
- Bunco (1855)
- Chess (1500s)
- Checkers (3,000 B.C.)
- Backgammon (3,000 B.C.)
The two games we’re particularly fond of are Monopoly and Bunco. Of course, all these games paved the way for others. Backgammon was among the first board games in existence and inspired new favorites that exist today. Chess and checkers speak for themselves - as two of the only board games to have sanctioned competitions.
But, Monopoly is one of our overall top-rated board games ever because it teaches important life lessons - like personal finance, critical thinking, and more. It also has that nostalgia factor - as this is a game we grew up playing with siblings and friends. Now - it’s worth noting that the game in 1904 wasn’t called Monopoly - it was “the Landlords Game”. However, the game known as Monopoly was introduced less than 30 years later - and features the same premise and gameplay.
Bunco, another dice-based game, is still the highlight of many people’s week - as Bunco nights are commonplace around the world. A board game’s ability to bring people together - over 150 years later - earns it a spot in our list of the best board games ever.
The Best Board Game of the 1930s
Looking at the most popular board game of the 1930s you’ll see a familiar face - Sorry. This classic game of revenge was first introduced in 1929 but didn’t pick up steam in popularity until a few years later.
This race-based game is incredibly simple - and this may be one of the reasons people love it so much. While the gameplay is straightforward, the ensuing chaos from that first player’s turn till the very end has earned the game a spot on our list of the top-rated board games of all time. Sorry teaches probability and counting skills - making it great for development in childhood. Make no mistake though - if you get a group of adults in the room playing sorry, you’ll have a blast as well! While new editions have been released - as recently as 2013 - we prefer the classic board and rules.
The Best Board Game of the 1940s
Choosing the best-selling board game of the 1940s was really easy - as there was a clear #1 choice: Clue. This classic mystery game has been the premier choice among many for 80 years and counting - with no signs of slowing down. And again - this original mystery-based board game has inspired countless spinoffs. In fact, many gaming experts credit clue with starting an entire genre of board games! Since it’s a pioneer, it’s only right we award Clue with placement on our list of the best board games ever.
Our favorite elements of the game are the deductive reasoning it teaches players and the storytelling component - making for an interactive experience everyone loves. Now, some detractors claim that Clue is one of those games you can’t play more than a few times - but we disagree. With the right group of friends, you can play this game time and time again with a fun outcome whenever you unbox it!
Honorable Mention: Scrabble is another amazing board game that was introduced in 1949. It undoubtedly belongs in contention with the best selling board games of all time.
The Best Board Game of the 1950s
In the 1950s we saw the inception of one of the most popular board games of all time - and also one of the best-selling board games of all time - Yahtzee! This dice game was created by two wealthy Canadians who, as the name may suggest, developed the game on their yacht. When the two realized how much their friends loved the game, they knew they were onto something. They brought the game to Toymaker Edwin Lowe to aid them in introducing the game to the toy market. At the time (1956 to be exact), the game was known simply as “the Yacht Game”. Fast forward to today, and Hasbro estimates that well over 100 million people still play Yahtzee. And, this pioneer board game has inspired fun new spinoffs like Farkle.
The Best Board Game of the 1960s
The vast majority of board games are played around a table - ideally, a specialized board game dining table. However, the best selling board game of the 1960s was one of the first to stray from this approach. Twister was introduced in 1966 and forced players to get up out of their seats and get active! This creative, social game uses players as the pieces - and allows you to work on your balance, flexibility, and strength. And let’s face it - it’s just plain fun! With that said, many people look to board games as a form of relaxation - and Twister may not align, especially for those who value their personal space.
The Best Board Game of the 1970s
Perhaps one of the best selling board games of all time was introduced back in the 1970s: Connect 4. This strategy-based game requires critical thinking and incorporates logic, despite a rather simple gameplay experience. The goal is obvious - get 4 of your discs in a row before your opponent does. Striking a balance of offense and defense is critical to coming out on top - and this pastime is one of our favorite ways to kill time with friends and family. For us, the nostalgia factor with Connect 4 is high - we grew up on this game.
The Best Board Game of the 1980s
According to Time Magazine, our pick for the best board game in the 1980s was “a phenomenon in the gaming industry”: Trivial Pursuit. While technically conceived in 1979, it really took hold in the US in the early 1980s. Since its release over 40 years ago, countless copycat trivia games have been released - all paying homage to this original. Funny enough, this game was developed by two Canadians who - at the time - were deep in the pits of a Scrabble game! The main reason we love playing this game ourselves is how much you learn - it’s all about trivia, after all.
The Best Board Game of the 1990s
In the 1990s, interactive board games surged in popularity - and one of the top rated board games of all time was born. Cranium requires players to perform an act - whether it be spelling, acting, drawing, or any other task where you can show off your skills. Cranium is great for all ages, but particularly children - as the fast-paced, rambunctious play is one of the best ways to keep kids entertained while the adults play their own game. Don’t scoff at this game as an adult, though - with the right group and maybe a few drinks, your crew will have a blast with this game, too!
The Best Board Game of the 2000s
Perhaps one of the best board games of all time, Pandemic is our choice for the 2000s. It was released in 2008 - and thanks to its popularity, new editions have spawned since then (like Pandemic Legacy - an entire series based on this game). When we say this game is unlike any other you’ve played, we mean it. It also features twists and turns throughout to keep you and your crew guessing. If you’re looking for one of the best cooperative board games ever, look no further than this highly-engaging masterpiece!
The Best Board Game of the 2010s
As time has gone on, more and more games are being introduced. Many of these new editions miss the mark - or resemble another game too closely to have that originality factor we crave. However, there is one new game, in particular, that was released less than 7 years ago - and has already earned favor among many: Codenames. This game has a mysterious style of gameplay and requires critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving. Those who excel at this game have an incredible vocabulary - as the game is based on getting your opponents to guess words without saying the specific words. If you’re looking for a new, fresh party board game - this is one of our very favorites.
Honorable Mentions for the Best Board Game Ever
Trust us - building our list of the best board games ranked by decade was no easy feat. We had to overlook cult classics and fan favorites for each decade - and want to give credit where credit is due. Here are a few honorable mentions for the best board games ever:
- Candyland (1950)
- Risk (1957)
- The Game of Life (1960)
- Stratego (1961)
- Battleship (1977)
- Sequence (1982)
- Balderdash (1984)
- Pictionary (1985)
- Jenga (1987)
- Taboo (1989)
- Catan (1995)
- Apples to Apples (1999)
- Carcassonne (2000)
- Ticket to Ride (2004)
- Bananagrams (2006)
- Cards Against Humanity (2011)
- Exploding Kittens (2015)
Final Thoughts on the Most Popular Board Games of All Time
There you have it - our list of the most popular board games of all time. We hope you find your new favorite game - or games - in this list of the best board games ever. The next time you host a game night, pull some of these off your board game display shelf and see for yourself why they’ve earned placement on our list of the top rated board games of all time!