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Board games have seen a huge growth in popularity in recent years, and certainly make our list of fun things to do at home. But we are particularly excited about the new genre of cooperative board games, where players work together to win the game, instead of competing with each other.
Today we are taking a look at some of the best cooperative board games, that you can play alone or with a crowd in 2023.
Before we proceed, if you don’t have the time to read the entire review, here’s a quick look at our top choices for the best cooperative board games:
Benefits of Cooperative Board Games
The concept of cooperative board games arose in the 1950s, where they were used with children in educational settings, to teach the benefits of working together rather than competing with each other.
In the 1980s, cooperative games started to become popular with adults, as friendly social activities where people could have fun with each other without some of the tension that can arise during competitive games.
In the 21st century, cooperative games have increased tremendously in number, variety, and complexity, so that today there are cooperative games for any player and preference. The benefits of cooperative board games include:
Improving social skills
According to this study by the University of Abertay Dundee, children who played cooperative games had increased classroom interactions with each other, as opposed to students who played competitive games. Teaching children to work together in the context of the game creates a greater sense of inclusiveness and belonging, and improves social interactions.
Improving problem-solving skills
Cooperative games present players with puzzles and challenges they need to solve together. These games involve more problem-solving and strategy than games that rely on random factors like dice, and the games can usually be won in a variety of ways. These games allow players to practice and reward skills like communication, creativity, and problem-solving.
Emotionally rewarding play
We are just beginning to understand the benefits of play, for both children and adults. We have learned that play is an essential aspect of reducing stress, developing creativity, and building relationships. Play time is crucial for our physical and emotional health, and cooperative board games allow healthy play, without the tension and conflict that can arise during competitive games.
27 Best Cooperative Board Games for 2023
1. Best Cooperative Board Game for Horror Fans: Asmodee Ghost Stories
Horror games aren't for everyone, but in this game, horror creates a great environment for cooperative play. In Ghost Stories, a team of 1-4 people play the role of Taoist priests who must protect their village from a swarm of evil ghosts. This game has a ton of versatility and replay-ability, with four difficulty levels, unique abilities for each player, and a variety of village setups.
It's suited for players 10 and over, and takes about an hour to play. It's a game with simple rules, but requiring complex strategy: it's easy to learn, and hard to win. This board game has great artwork, high quality pieces, and optional expansions that increase options, depth, and complexity of the game.
2. Best Cooperative Board Game for Solo Play: Portal Games Robinson Crusoe Adventures on the Cursed Island Board Game
While we love cooperative board games for their social aspect, board games you can play alone also ranked as one of our favorite hobbies because they help to preserve mental sharpness as we age. Robinson Crusoe Adventures are a fantastic choice for solo play, or for cooperative play with up to 4 players.
This survival game has won multiple awards for its versatility and complexity, with seven different missions that take the form of interactive, exciting stories every time. It can be completed in 1-2 hours, but can be replayed for years, and has optional expansions for even more replay. This bestselling game has stunning artwork by Vincent Dutrait, high quality markers and tokens, and a fantastic, detailed rule book. Robinson Crusoe Adventures is an extremely challenging game, and appeals to players who are experienced in RPGs.
3. Best Cooperative Board Game for a Couple: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures Strategy Board Game
A board game is a fantastic rainy day date idea, and a cooperative game is even better for enhancing communication and bringing couples together. The Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective cooperative game series is perfect for couples. While the game can be played by up to 8 players, game play involves closely reading a lot of text and poring over clues, so many people find it's not a good party game.
But for adults who want to take their time reading, thinking, talking, and problem-solving, it's an excellent, challenging game. There are ten cases in the box, and each case takes an hour or two to solve.
The writing is exceptional, perfect for people who already love Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and the game is simple to set up and understand. There are also further games in the series if you want to solve more detective mysteries.
4. Best Cooperative Game for Fast Play: Pandemic
The award-winning Pandemic is a fantastic game, and is another fantastic cooperative board game for couples. In Pandemic, 2-4 players race against time to keep the world safe from epidemics. Pandemic is fun and challenging, but it takes as little as 45 minutes to complete a game. With different player skills, different difficulties, and optional game expansions, Pandemic has excellent replay value, and can be enjoyed by young players as well as adults.
This game is easy to learn, but difficult to master. Although it's rated for kids 8 and up, it may be better for kids 10 and over, because of the complexity of the strategies involved. It's a deeply engaging game, with the fate of the world at stake.
5. Best Cooperative Board Game for Video Game Lovers: Indie Boards and Cards Aeon's End Game
Aeon's End is a cooperative deck-building game that plays like a video game. Designed by professional StarCraft player Kevin Riley, in Aeon's End, 1-4 players have to fight the evil hordes using each player's ability and magical spells, with a variable turn order system that simulates the chaos of real-world battle. This game has endless replay-ability, with different enemies that require different strategies to defeat and constant new challenges. It's rated for players 13 and up, and takes up to an hour to play. Aeon's End has a number of expansions that add more heroes, monsters, and spells.
6. Best Cooperative Board Game for Fantasy Genre: Legends of Andor Board Game
For people who love fantasy and classic RPGs, the Legends of Andor creates a vibrant cooperative game where 2-4 heroes work together to save the land. The game includes five different scenarios, called “legends,” and each character can play as a male or female hero.
Because the scenarios are so complex and strategic, and the game has fewer random elements and options than some, it has lower replay value than some of our other top cooperative board games. However, not only are there expansion sets available with more legends, heroes, and monsters to play, but there is also a thriving fan community that creates downloadable content to get more value from the game.
The game has a full reference manual, but also has a quick-start guide that lets you play the first legend quickly, so you are familiar with the rules and game play before advancing to more difficult scenarios. The game takes about an hour to play, is fun for children 10 and up, and is easier with more players.
7. Best Cooperative Board Game for a Grown-Up Game Night: Dead of Winter
Social time is crucial for our health and happiness, and Dead of Winter is an amazing cooperative board game to play on a night in with friends. Dead of Winter is a complex, psychological game where each player has a secret personal objective, and all players have a shared objective together, creating complex dynamics and a variety of outcomes.
It's for 2-5 players over the age of 13, in a tension-filled survival scenario where each player makes crucial decisions for themselves and everyone. The game comes with several scenarios and has optional expansions, but the base game itself, with the complex and overlapping objectives and the possibility of betrayal, has incredible replay value. It's an edge-of-your-seat, story-centered game like no other.
8. Best Cooperative Board Game for Movie Lovers: Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
You don't have to love the Alien movie franchise and distinctive artwork to enjoy this cooperative deck building game, but it helps. It has beautiful original cards, and players cooperate through storylines based on all four movies in the original Alien film series. Unlucky players may become xenomorphs, and have to fight against the other players. It has multiple playing modes, and cards and scenarios can be mixed for more and different challenges during replays. This game is great for solo play or for up to 5 players, and is best for players over 17.
9. Best Cooperative Board Game for Replaying: Tim Fowers Burgle Bros
If you've ever wanted to plan and execute the perfect heist, Burgle Bros. is the game for you. It's an award-winning cooperative game where you assemble your crew, plan your heist, and try to escape with the loot. It's easy to learn, but filled with complex puzzles, strategy, and excitement.
You can customize the difficulty, and 1-4 players can play up to 9 characters with different skills and abilities. It has a fun, graphic art style that will appeal to fans of classic cartoons, and can be played with kids 10 and over.
Because of the customizable scenario setups, wide choices of characters, and element of chance, it has fantastic replay value and can get more challenging over time. The attractive box also makes this game easy to travel with.
10. Best Cooperative Board Game for the Whole Family: Spin Master Games 5 – Minute Dungeon
5-Minute Dungeon is fast to play, easy to learn, and friendly for 2-5 players over the age of 8. It requires quick thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. It has elements of a fantasy RPG, and was designed for players of all ages, so it's not just a kids game that is fun for adults, or an adult game that kids can play. It's fast and chaotic, and invites playing over and over again. Beginners can play without the timer, to make it easier to learn the game without the time pressure.
11. Best Cooperative Board Game for Young Children: Peaceable Kingdom Hoot Owl Hoot – Cooperative Matching Game For Kids
Cooperative games can be a great way to gain the benefits of play therapy at home, and Hoot Owl Hoot is a fantastic cooperative game for kids. In this game, kids have to get all the owls home to their nest before the sun goes down; if any owl is left behind, the game is lost. The game has a lot of ways it can be customized, with two built-in levels to grow in difficulty and continue to engage growing children.
Adults can also simply remove some of the sun cards to make the game easier to play for small children. It's fun and interesting enough for older siblings to play with younger, and help them with the difficult parts, and is a great way to encourage communication and cooperation between children. It's also fun for an adult to play with a child, so it's a great family game.
It's designed for 2-4 players ages 4 and over, and only takes about 15 minutes to play, so it's perfect for short attention spans. Parents and teachers love this game at home and at school, and it's won multiple awards.
12. Best Cooperative Roleplaying Game: Gloomhaven
Gloomhaven is considered to be one of the best board games ever made, whether for solo or cooperative gaming. Designed with a Euro-inspired setting, this is a roleplaying game (RPG) that lets you hone your tactical combat skills while selecting your own adventure.
The game starts after each team or player draws two cards to play. For every card, there exist special moves called “top” and “bottom” powers. You may use these powers however you like, depending on your strategy. What matters is that you achieve your goal, and that is to defeat as many monsters and beasts as you can before time (the cards) runs out.
Gloomhaven is a “persistent and changing world,” where monsters lurk and skulk in the darkest corners of the world. You play the role of an adventurer seeking to survive and conquer these monsters as you go on. However, the whole story depends on the cards you pick, the strategy you use, and the decisions you make.
If you are looking for a cooperative, roleplaying game that allows you to be a lot freer in choosing your destiny, then you may want to check this one out.
13. Best Supernatural Board Game: Spirit Island
Spirit Island has always been one of the favorite picks when it comes to cooperative board games. It is the perfect choice for those who love playing games that involve magic, spirits, and supernatural events. Here, you take the role of a spirit whose goal is to defend the island from manipulative and deceptive invaders.
As it is a cooperative game, you have to work with your teammates to protect your cherished homeland. Each spirit has its own elemental and unique powers, and so an effective team strategy where everyone gets the best out of their abilities must come into play. These powers vary as well, as some characters are fast while others are slow, so team planning and analysis is a requirement.
What makes this game highly replayable is that there are many kinds of enemies, so the rules change every time you play. Likewise, the level of difficulty increases as the game progresses. It keeps getting more challenging as you reach the end.
We recommend Spirit Island to friends and family members who want to experience exciting and thrilling game nights. It isn’t just a test of your strategic and thinking skills; it is also a test of your bond and relationship.
14. Best Silent Cooperative Board Game: The Mind
No words, no large gestures, everything must be done in silence—this is how the mind and The Mind works. Ingeniously and addictively fun, the game’s goal is to arrange the cards in ascending order without speaking or communicating with the other team members.
The Mind is a test of the bond between you and your teammates. While there are no obvious thinking skills at first glance, you will eventually realize that it actually involves planning, strategy, and wise moves. Small gestures are allowed, like taking glances, furrowing brows, or inventing unspoken languages—but how do you know if these are clues or just reflexes? You have to be strategic enough to know what card your teammate is holding without verbally communicating.
15. Best Treasure Hunting Cooperative Game: Forbidden Island
If you love playing games that involve adventures with treasure hunters, ancient ruins, and gold, then Forbidden Island (and the other Forbidden games) might be a perfect fit. In this game, your main goal is to work together with your teammates to find the treasures of the islands before they disappear into the abyss.
Finding all these treasures before time runs out is the only way to win the game. If the islands vanish before accomplishing the objective, there is no starting over. Your team must strategically plan every single move to win the game.
The game does not require that everyone must survive to the end, but at least one player needs to stay alive and complete the mission. There are times when it will be essential for some to sacrifice their turns and even their game lives in order to accomplish the goal.
Forbidden Island is highly recommended for those who like solving problems and making decisions as a team. After all, it is a cooperative game!
16. Best Psychic-Themed Board Game: Mysterium
Mysterium is a cooperative board game that will make you think deeply and contemplatively. It is a mystery game that requires you to tap into your mind.
In this game, your goal is to discover the truth behind the death of the ghost in Warwick Manor. There are three things you need to find: the culprit, the specific crime scene, and the murder weapon. The game ends and you win once you find the answers to these questions.
Note, however, that there has to be one person among all the players who will take the role of the ghost. This person provides insights, clues, and other hints to help the others investigate. The other team members need to communicate with the ghost via card representations.
This cooperative board game is easy and simple to understand. It doesn’t require expertise in board gaming, so it may be a perfect fit even for kids or teens who want to try out board games. In addition to their critical thinking skills, they will have a chance to develop their interpersonal and communication skills.
17. Best Deduction and Memory Retention Game: Hanabi
We recommend this game if you’re tired of adventure and horror games. Instead, Hanabi is a game of deduction skills and memory retention. The game is named for the Japanese word “Hanabi,” which means “fireworks,” and your goal is simple: to be able to launch a spectacular fireworks display at the end of the game.
You need two valuable attributes to win this game: teamwork and support. These are vital because you don’t get to see your cards. Instead, they can only be seen by your teammates, who have to give you clues regarding their colors and numbers. If they don’t give you the right clues, you won’t be able to pick the right cards.
In this cooperative game you have to help each other in order to win. The minimum number of players is two and the maximum is five, so it is obviously not meant for solo playing.
Hanabi is highly recommended to couples or groups of friends who want a simple yet entertaining game. You may also engage children to help them develop values and skills like cooperativeness and communication.
18. Forbidden Desert
Forbidden Desert is part of the Forbidden series. It was created by Gamewright in an attempt to develop quality games not just for kids, but for the whole family. To date, the company has produced over 150 games and sold over a million copies of each worldwide.
In this particular Forbidden game, your main goal is to “recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient desert city.” This is a cooperative game, so you need to cooperate with your teammates to beat the game and survive until the end. Since the setting is in a desert, you will have to plan with your teammates carefully to avoid the scorching heat of the sun and the dangers of sandstorms.
The Forbidden Desert is a sequel to the Forbidden Island board game. All of the stories within the series are interrelated. This does not mean, however, that you cannot play the Desert if you have not played the others. You can enjoy this game with your friends regardless of whether or not you have played its predecessors.
19. Mage Knight
Mage Knight is rather interesting because it can be played solo or with a group of people. If you play it using teams, you can either make it a cooperative game or a competitive one.
In this game, you take the role of a knight who uses magical powers and casts magic spells in order to reach your goals. In addition to defeating monsters and exploring dungeons, your primary goal is to restore the empire’s former glory by reclaiming lands that have been conquered by enemies. This game requires combat strategy and exceptional decision-making skills.
We recommend Mage Knight for those who like roleplaying (RPG) and deck-building games. It is also suggested for board game experts and veterans. If you are a beginner, we suggest checking out less complicated strategy games.
20. Codenames: Duet
Codenames Duet is more of a competitive game, but you can always turn it into a cooperative one by playing in teams. Most gamers who have played it using teams report that it greatly improves cooperation and camaraderie among friends. And although the goal of the game is quite simple on the surface, it can actually be really challenging.
For cooperative gaming, each team has one simple objective, and that is to catch all the agents that belong to them before the other team gets ahold of theirs. Each team has a spymaster who is the only person to know the identities of the agents. In order for the team to achieve victory, the spymaster needs to provide clues using the words on the table.
The game is called Codenames because the various agents have their own corresponding codenames. The players know these agents only by their codenames. When guessing their real identities, they have to get it right or they will lose points. They also need to be careful not to encounter the assassin and the agents that belong to the opposing team.
We suggest playing Codenames during family reunions and team-building events. It has elements of both competitive and cooperative gaming.
21. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
While this game is intended to be a competitive one designed for one to two players, it can still be a cooperative game if you form teams that compete with each other. The manufacturer recommends having a maximum of four players (two per team) to enjoy the game at its finest.
The game revolves around the story of the very popular Lord of the Rings trilogy. If you are a LOTR aficionado, you may have already heard of it. But for those who haven’t, this board game is a must-have for those who enjoy Tolkien’s classic fantasy tale.
As in the books, your goal is to defeat the evil lord Sauron before he consolidates power and control over Middle Earth. You have to choose your heroes, allies, and armies to accomplish your tasks and achieve your goals. Moreover, you need to have a good strategy, because the game itself is designed to make winning very challenging.
This game comes with tons of expansion packs. While it is ultimately designed for LOTR fans that have extensive knowledge of the books and movies, it is also great game geeks who are new to LOTR.
Onirim is a game for those who like finding solving complex problems like mazes and labyrinths. The goal is to set yourself free by finding the oneiric doors before you run out of cards. You also need to avoid encountering the onerous nightmares that can trap you.
There are eight doors you need to find and collect. You collect these doors by playing cards that go by with the same color, three times in a row. If your strategy allows it, you may also acquire them by discarding your most powerful cards, but you should only do this when you’re running out of moves or when you have a specific plan in mind.
Onirim can be played in solo or cooperative mode. Whichever you end up selecting, it provides the same fun and excitement. But for starters, we recommend playing it with a team, as you may have a hard time solving the problems alone.
23. Mansions of Madness
We highly recommend Mansions of Madness for those who find thrill and excitement in Lovecraftian horror. This cooperative board game is designed for up to five players and takes you to a different world that is full of monsters, adventures, and mysteries. The goal of the game is to stay alive and survive until the end.
Mansions of Madness is a strategic game, meaning you have to create plans with your team in order to defeat the monsters. Your strategy must include how to easily find clues and collect weapons and tools. You also need to figure out how to gather useful information in a timely manner. Most importantly, you have to find a way to avoid two tragic endings: insanity and death.
This game comes from the creators of Eldritch Horror and Arkham Horror, so you can expect a similar experience. It is recommended for veteran gamers, but can also be played by beginners.
This is an app-driven game, so you have to use app when playing it. The app is available for Android, iOS, and desktop users.
24. Betrayal at House on the Hill
From the name of the board game itself, it is clear that it involves broken trust, deception, and betrayal. In other words, if you don’t have the guts to deceive your friends in a game, then don’t even think about playing!
Before the deception begins, your task is to build and design a haunted house. You and your friends must combine the rooms and tiles, which are all dangerous and spooky. Then, once the game starts, you all have to figure out how to survive. Since the game is a cooperative one, you have to do everything with your friends—from building the house to surviving the gameplay.
So where does betrayal come in, you might wonder? One of the players takes the role of the traitor, whose task is to prevent everyone else from leaving the mansion by setting traps, influencing the group’s decision, and finding other ways to undermine the group. The innocent players need to find who this traitor is to in order to win.
We recommend this game to those who are seeking for some thrill and excitement. We also recommend it for friends who have been together for years and have a strong bond that won’t be damaged by betrayal!
25. Time Stories
Time Stories is currently a crowd favorite because of its unique concept and gameplay. In this game, you take the role of a time travel agent who is on a mission to go back in time and relive past events. However, you don’t go back as yourself, but as someone who was present at that moment in time. You will have the chance to see the world through the eyes and body of another person (receptacle).
There is no competition in this game, because you and your teammates (other players) are sent to different worlds and times. The task is for everyone to solve certain mysteries that are taking place in other eras. You have to control the bodies given to you and accomplish your specific missions. You also have to fight and strategize in order to reach your goals.
Remember that you must accomplish your goals before time runs out, so you have to act as fast as you can. Otherwise, you get sent back to the very beginning and have to start again. While there are unlimited chances to go back and start again, you need to manage your time well to keep up with your teammates.
26. Eldritch Horror
If you have played Arkham Horror, then you probably will pick up Eldritch Horror easily, since the rules, goals, and mechanics are the same. The only difference is that you have to leave London to look for the Ancient Ones. Your job is to search the darkest corners of the world to defeat the evil that is lurking around.
Eldritch Horror has four different Ancient Ones. This means that every game offers a fresh and unique adventure, making it highly replayable. The game is two to four hours long, so it is only for serious players who are into strategic and tactical gaming.
This game provides a wide range of locations for you to search and numerous features for you to use. Additionally, the monsters and missions you will face are more challenging than the original game. If you are looking for the Arkham Horror experience, but bigger and scarier, this game is a great choice.
27. Castle Panic
We picked Castle Panic as a great cooperative game because it has tons of features that are suitable for almost every kind of player. In addition to being a wonderful addition to the family collection, it is also highly recommended for first-time board game players. The easy rules and mechanics make it a good fit for everyone.
Your goal is simple: Defend the castle from all sorts of monsters. The goal is to slay all the monsters and keep at least one castle standing until the game ends. Since it is a cooperative game, you have to strategize with your teammates and make sure that all enemies are defeated. You either win or lose together.
Castle Panic is a recipient of many awards, including the 2011 Traditional Games 100, Origins Award, and ToysBulletin.com Best of the Year 2014. It is designed for one to six players, ages 10 years old and above. If you are looking for a no-stress and hassle-free game, we suggest checking this one out.
Final Thoughts on Cooperative Board Games
What we love about cooperative board games is that they are fun and engaging for everyone, and there isn't a bad game on this list. Our overall top pick is Pandemic, because it creates a real sense of excitement and urgency, where players work together to save the world.
It has fantastic replay value, and expansions are available to continue the challenge. There's a reason Pandemic has won so many awards, and remains a bestselling game year after year.
If you prefer a cooperative board game that won't keep you on the edge of your seat, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures Strategy Board Game is a fantastic alternative.
Like Holmes himself, players take their time exploring and deciphering clues, and it's a quieter, more leisurely game. It has less replay value than Pandemic, but the multiple scenarios and available expansions still make this game a great value, and it's an excellent brain-teaser.
And if you're looking for more board games, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 9 Best Cooperative Board Games for Families
- 9 Cooperative Board Games for Kids That Are Actually Fun
- 19 Best 6-Player Board Games