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Best card games for adults

best card games for adults
(Image credit: Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens)
Card game of the week

(Image credit: Atlas Games)

Why you should play... the Gloom card game
Make your family miserable, kill your friends, and generally have a dastardly time in this smart, funny card game

You're in the right place if you're hunting down the best card games for adults - we've rounded up the greatest of them below. There's something to suit everyone here, be it a party classic to liven things up when you've got company, a game that'll make you laugh, or more thoughtful alternatives that are ideal for quiet nights in (if that's your bag, don't forget to check out these board games for 2 players as well). No matter what you're looking for, the following card games are also very portable. That makes them ideal for travelling or taking with you on vacation; they'll fit easily into a rucksack or suitcase.

However, that often comes at a literal cost. Because the best card games for adults can get pricey (much like board games for adults, or the best board games in general), we've also gone on a bargain hunt to sniff out discounts wherever possible. These are regularly updated with all the latest prices, and they'll only continue to drop as we march toward Black Friday at the end of November.

Best card games for adults

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(Image credit: Exploding Kittens)
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(Image credit: Exploding Kittens)
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(Image credit: Exploding Kittens)

1. Exploding Kittens

The best overall card game for adults

Players: 2 - 5 | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 1 minute | Time to play: 10 - 15 minutes | Age: 12+

Quick to play
Straight-up bonkers
Easy to understand
A bit simplistic

If you’re looking for a quick and quirky game to pass time with friends, Exploding Kittens is perfect. The premise is incredibly simple: each player just needs to draw a single card from the deck each turn and hope they don’t get an exploding kitten. Because if that happens, you’re out of the game. Sure, you have a hand of cards that will contain various ways to either skip your turn, let you anticipate exploding kittens, or even defuse them… but essentially the game is won by the person who ends up not being blown up.

Each card is covered in adorable/bonkers artwork, and the names of all the various boosts or attacks you can play are suitably on-theme. You can get through a game in about 10-15 minutes, too, so it’s an ideal palette cleanser in between bigger board game or card game sessions. Plus, there are various expansions to help you make more of Exploding Kittens if you get properly hooked.

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(Image credit: Atlas Games)
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(Image credit: Atlas)
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(Image credit: Atlas)

2. Gloom

The best card game for adults who want something new

Players: 2-4 | Complexity: Moderate | Time to set up: 2 minutes | Time to play: 60 minutes | Age: 10+

Easy to understand
Hilarious
Varied card effects
Requires some improv skill

Gloom is a game about making people miserable. Don't get the wrong idea, though -  playing it is a hoot. You'll be meddling in the affairs of a Victorian family who look like extras from a Tim Burton movie, and everyone uses cards to depress them as much as possible before killing the poor blighters off for points (Mister Giggles might be mauled by manatees, for example). The more glum they are when they kick the bucket, the more points you get. 

So, what's the challenge? Your opponents will be trying to undo your work by cheering up members of your family. It's a delightful twist on the norm, and we're all for it. In fact, what sets Gloom apart is the glee with which it encourages you to foist misery on your victims. You'll tell the story of the unfortunate, implausible events that have befallen them, and most of the fun is making each other laugh by being as sadistic as possible. The word 'macabre' was practically invented for this game.

Read more: Why you should play... the Gloom card game

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(Image credit: Cards Against Humanity)
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(Image credit: Cards Against Humanity)
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(Image credit: Cards Against Humanity)

3. Cards Against Humanity

The best party card game for adults

Players: 4+ | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 1 minute | Time to play: 30 - 60 minutes | Age: 18+

Hilarious
Easy to understand
Memorable
Humor can go too far

There's no way you can make a 'best card games' list and not mention Cards Against Humanity. This deliciously evil pastime has become infamous since it launched in 2011; it has a wicked, often-offensive sense of humor that's definitely NSFW. Crammed with swears and hysterical possibilities, this is one of the more memorable card games out there - indeed, it's a must-have for parties.

The way it works is simple. One of you draws a card with an innocent sentence written on it, but there are blanks that need filling ("Hey Reddit! I'm [Blank]. Ask me anything"). Players then select a response from their hand of cards, and whoever's choice is funniest gets the point. Because most of these responses are inappropriate, lewd, weird, or all of the above, the results are truly something to behold. An avalanche of expansions also make sure it doesn't lose its novelty too fast.

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(Image credit: Brotherwise Games)
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(Image credit: Brotherwise Games)
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(Image credit: Brotherwise Games)

4. Boss Monster

The best fantasy card game for adults

Players: 2 - 4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30 minutes | Age: 13+

Awesome pixel art
Cool theme
Be the villain
... ugh, math

There's something deliciously evil about Boss Monster. It flips the idea of traditional dungeon crawls by making you the villain at the end. Your objective? Tempt in adventurers and kill them off for points. Even though it features math-based rules, boosts, and multipliers, it's also pretty straightforward to play once you've gotten your head around it. That leaves you room to get creative, screw over other players, and steal their heroes. It's a blast.

Gorgeous pixel art and packaging that seems drawn from the NES heyday only adds to its appeal. In fact, Boss Monster is an unashamed love letter to the 16-bit days of fantasy video games. And while it suffers a little with just two players, a full roster of four is a lot of fun. With sessions running for just 20-30 minutes and loads of replay value, it's a great choice for games night.

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(Image credit: Big Potato Games)
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(Image credit: Big Potato Games)
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(Image credit: Big Potato Games)

5. Obama Llama

The best charades card game for adults

Players: 4+ | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 1 - 2 minutes | Time to play: 30 minutes | Age: 14+

Easy to understand
Everyone can get involved
Three different kinds of charades
'Act it out' can be embarrassing

This game's bizarre name tells you everything you need to know - it's humorous and loves good old-fashioned rhyme. At its core, Obama Llama is a game of charades that isn't happy with playing it safe. It calls upon miming, description, and clever wordplay to keep you amused, not to mention a memory matching exercise that'll get you points. This makes it great for parties, and anyone can join in.

Gameplay begins by splitting into teams. One member picks a card with a rhyming sentence written on it, and they've got to either act it out or describe it without using those words. If your team guesses the rhyme correctly three times, you can then try to match pairs of face-down cards using memory and a bit of luck (whichever team has collected the most at the end wins, by the way). Because those sentences might include gems like… well, you'll have to find out. Most are family friendly, but a few are amusingly naughty and will have you in stitches if someone tries to act them out. 

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(Image credit: Cyanide and Happiness)
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(Image credit: Cyanide and Happiness)
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(Image credit: Cyanide and Happiness)

6. Joking Hazard

The funniest card game for adults

Players: 3 - 10 | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 1 minute | Time to play: 30 - 90 minutes | Age: 18+

Hysterical
Opportunity for bizarre stories
Great cartoons
Definitely an 18+ game

If you're a fan of Cards Against Humanity, this devilish and NSFW alternative will be right up your street. It follows the same format as that game (fill in the blanks with the funniest response) but uses pictures instead of words to hilarious effect. Based on the tongue-in-cheek cartoons of Cyanide and Happiness, two cards - one random, the other chosen by a player from their hand - begin a story. Everyone else has to finish it with a card of their own. The most amusing response gets a point. It's easy to get into and you'll be playing in no time.

And don't worry, finding something funny isn't hard either. The drawings are snort-out-loud daft and all kinds of inappropriate. What's more, the sheer volume on offer (to say nothing of expansions) gives it plenty of replay-value. Just remember, this isn't a family friendly game.

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(Image credit: Indie Boards and Cards)
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(Image credit: Indie Boards and Cards)
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(Image credit: Indie Boards and Cards)

7. The Resistance

The best card game for fans of deception and deduction

Players: 5 - 10 | Difficulty: Hard | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30 minutes | Age: 13+

Oodles of tension
Exciting
Betrayals are a lot of fun
Can destroy friendships

Are you a good liar? Can you tell when your friends are lying to you? This game puts that to the test. The Resistance casts you as a band of freedom fighters who are battling to take down a corrupt government, but there are traitors amongst your crew. The rebels must win three out of five of their missions in order to claim victory, but the anonymous spies will do everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen - all in secret and from within.

This results in tense but thrilling games of cat and mouse. Who do you trust? And how will you know if they're pulling the wool over your eyes? If you're a traitor, would you rather throw a fellow spy under the bus if it means you remain undetected? As the blurb itself reads, The Resistance isn't messing around - "choose your teams carefully or forever lose your freedom".

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(Image credit: Game Salute)
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(Image credit: Game Salute)
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(Image credit: Game Salute)

8. Marrying Mr Darcy

The best card game for social b*tchiness

Players: 2 - 6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 1 - 2 minutes | Time to play: 60 minutes | Age: 12+

Unique gameplay
Fun event cards
Playable period drama
A bit niche

Stop! I see you scrolling past this game because you think it’s for ‘dreamy girls’ or fans of stuffy old Georgian literature. But if you miss out on Marrying Mr Darcy you are, frankly, skipping one of the most entertaining games on this list. The basic idea is to pick a debutant from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice before attempting to bag yourself a man. If you roleplay it and really get into the historical bitchiness of the whole game, it’s heaps of fun, especially when you start screwing over your opponents. 

You begin by playing the Courtship stage, where you take it in turns to draw event cards that allow you to build up your own eligibility, or ruin the chances of your opponents (spoiling the chances of someone else getting a good marriage is almost as entertaining as getting one yourself). Then you move on to the Proposal stage, which sees you competing for the hand of whichever suitors you qualify to marry. It’s a simple game, but very replayable, and the levels of cunning and scheming you can achieve make it seriously entertaining, even if you have no interest in Georgian literature, social scandals, or getting yourself Mr Darcy. And, if you want more spice, there’s a great Undead Expansion that riffs off the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novel. 

For more tabletop recommendations, be sure to check out the best cooperative board games and board games for kids. As for those who'd prefer to go on a grand adventure, don't miss the best tabletop RPGs.