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The best cooperative board games

best cooperative board games
(Image credit: Z-Man Games)

If you're put off by competitiveness around the table, the best cooperative board games would like a moment of your time. Offering unique challenges that can only be solved together, these gems emphasise teamwork rather than a mad scramble to victory. As it turns out, games night is so much more chill when players aren't trying to screw each other over. Who knew? 

Anyway. Where do you start? There's plenty to choose from when it comes to the best cooperative board games, and that in itself is daunting. To give you a helping hand, we've rounded up our favorites below. You'll find suggestions from a variety of genres to suit all ages, and they're as replayable as they are fun. Co-op board games can be expensive, after all, so being able to squeeze maximum value for money out of them is appreciated.

Speaking of which, don't forget to look out for deals. We've included as many discounts as we could find, and these are updated on a daily basis by our bargain-hunting software. Be sure to revisit this page every now and then to see if you can find a price cut.

For something everyone can play, be sure to visit our guide to board games for families.

Best cooperative board games - top 10

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Pandemic board game

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1. Pandemic

The best cooperative board game overall

Players: 2 - 4 | Ages: 10+ | Difficulty: Hard | Setup: 5 mins | Lasts: 30 - 60 mins

Perfect for team strategy
Excellent sense of tension
Very replayable
Occasionally unfair

If you want the ultimate co-op experience, look no further than Pandemic. Although it hits a little closer to home these days, it remains one of the best cooperative board games ever made. Defeat is always a possibility here, and victory hinges on your ability to communicate.

With four deadly diseases having broken out across the globe, your job is to cure and eradicate them before civilisation is overwhelmed. Unfortunately for us, those illnesses spread faster than you can say "hazmat suit." Worse still, they grow more dangerous with every passing turn thanks to Epidemic cards. You're never sure when these will appear, and things can quickly get out of hand if they do. That makes Pandemic a tense race against time in which every decision counts - the literal fate of the world depends on it.

Luckily, this game's a blast from start to finish in spite of that. With a focus on strategy and coordination, it epitomises teamwork - you win or lose together. And yes, it's difficult. However, Pandemic is also engrossing in a way few other board games ever manage to be. 

Tired of the normal game? Once you've conquered the standard version, be sure to give the Legacy edition a try. This adds lasting consequences to each session, resulting in a story that's entirely unique to you. Players wanting to up the ante even further can also grab various expansion packs, including a Cthulu edition.

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2. Betrayal at House on the Hill

The best team-based cooperative board game

Players: 3 - 6 | Ages: 12+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 5 mins | Lasts: 40 - 90 mins

50 unique scenarios
Randomised board
Good camaraderie
Some missions are better than others

Betrayal at House on the Hill is arguably the creepiest but most compelling experience on this list. Thanks to an unpredictable nature, random scenarios, and a procedurally-generated map that's different every time you play, it's one of the best cooperative board games out there.

Modelled after classic horror movies, Betrayal puts you in control of clichés making their way through an abandoned manor. Yet there's no way of telling what lies beyond each door; because you put down a randomly selected tile every time you leave a room, you're creating an entirely new board with every session. This isn't a game about exploration, though. Something evil lurks within the house, and it's hungry for blood. Yours, preferably.

That's because the title isn’t an empty threat. Once you’ve explored enough of the house, a ‘Haunt’ will activate and you’ll face off against a random foe and / or one of your own allies turned traitor. This backstabber receives a secret rulebook and goal of their own, so teamwork amongst everyone else becomes essential. Trust us, there's nothing more satisfying than laying a trap for your opponent and then pulling it off against the odds.

With 50 scenarios to work through and a couple of expansions that will enhance your game (including a ‘Legacy’ edition that builds up a long-term narrative), Betrayal stays fresh for a long, long time.

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3. The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet

The best cooperative strategy board game

Players: 2 - 7 | Ages: 14+ | Difficulty: Hard | Setup: 5 mins | Lasts: 60 - 90 mins

Loads of depth
A tense balancing act
Genuinely challenging
A steep learning curve

It's a well-known fact that redshirts are doomed in Star Trek, but they're your only chance of survival in The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet. As the franchise's third instalment, it builds on the formula in clever, compelling ways. But you don't need to have played its predecessors to enjoy yourself - thanks to push-your-luck mechanics and a generous amount of depth, this is one of the best cooperative board games around.

As the name would suggest, the commander of your away-mission has been killed in action (boo). Now you've got to complete their mission and gather alien artefacts before you're overwhelmed by the planet's bug-like inhabitants. Sadly, those artefacts are hidden deep in some bug-infested tunnels. If you want enough of them to win, you'll need to venture further and further into enemy territory. Basically? Getting out alive requires sound tactics and teamwork to match.

That's because Dangerous Planet has lots in common with many of the best co-op board games. To begin with, it features a randomised board like Betrayal at House on the Hill. It also becomes increasingly difficult, a la Pandemic. As a result, making it over the finish-line is a challenge. Tabletop veterans will adore it because of that.

A quirky art-style and many, many nods to The Next Generation are just icing on the cake. Dangerous Planet is clearly a love-letter to sci-fi, and this pushes it over the edge into 'highly recommended' territory.

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4. Jaws: The Game

The best cooperative board game based on a movie

Players: 2 - 4 | Ages: 10+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 2 mins | Time to play: 60 mins

White-knuckle gameplay
Evenly balanced
Old-school design
Initially overwhelming

In the Jaws board game, you're a monster. A "perfect engine and eating machine", actually. But that's fine by us. Why? Because it knows exactly what makes the 1975 movie special, and capitalises on that for one of the best cooperative board games you can buy.

In this adaptation, one side plays the hungry great white while everyone else takes on three of the film's main characters. However, it doesn't limit itself to one scenario - instead, the game is split into two parts. The first half takes place across Amity Island with a game of cat and mouse. More specifically, the shark has to eat as many beach-goers as possible without getting caught. Meanwhile, the land-lubbers must figure out where it'll surface next and spring their trap. The chase is laced with tension and nails the film's atmosphere perfectly.

The next round will depend on how successful the shark was during that early phase. Chow down on lots of innocents and you'll get bonuses during the final battle, set aboard the good ship Orca. If the humans won round one, on the other hand, they'll get a greater variety of weapons to bludgeon their foe with.

This results in an anxiety-ridden experience, and Jaws is all the better for it. The shark offers a tangible threat you rarely get in tabletop gaming, and it can only be overcome through good communication and a solid plan. It's fantastic.

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5. Gloomhaven

The best cooperative RPG board game

Players: 1 - 4 | Ages: 12+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 10 mins | Lasts: 60 - 120+ mins

Tremendously deep
Lasting consequences
Cool miniatures
Very expensive

Gloomhaven is the perfect example of a world you can lose yourself in. Besides a box that's full-to-bursting with miniatures and over 1,000 cards, your actions in one session carry over to the next. This offers an ever-evolving story with branching possibilities, making it one of the best cooperative board games if you love fantasy RPGs.

Taking place in and around the city of Gloomhaven, your adventures will see you tackling dungeons, seeking glory, and slaying monsters in pursuit of treasure. But you won't use dice to represent those battles. Rather, this game offers a card-based system that's more streamlined and less reliant on stats.

The real draw is its narrative, though. You'll make decisions at the end of each mission that influence what you do next, and these choices can have far-reaching repercussions that alter the world around you. This leads to a different story for everyone and a setting that is permanently changed by your decisions. 

Yes, Gloomhaven's price is eye-watering. Yet it buys you a game that's staggeringly layered and crammed with details which catapult it above and beyond the norm. Every set includes secret characters and a fold-out map with achievement stickers and markers to chart your journey, for instance. Simply put? It's magic. 

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6. Arkham Horror: Final Hour

The best horror cooperative board game

Players: 1 - 4 | Ages: 14+ | Difficulty: Hard | Setup: 5 mins | Time to play: 30 - 60 mins

Unique mechanics
Race against time
Exciting, last-ditch effort feel
Complex

Bad news, everyone - it's the end of the world. Cultists have opened a doorway to an alien hellscape, and now transdimensional gods like Cthulu are about to pour through. Our only chance of stopping them is closing that portal before it's too late. In short? Sh*t just got real.

Based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, Arkham Horror: Final Hour stands apart from other games in the series because the worst has finally happened: the apocalypse has arrived. This raises the stakes considerably, leading to a desperate hail Mary that's both memorable and thrilling.

Although it's similar to other cooperative board games on this list, Final Hour's gameplay is also more creative. Namely, the ritual allowing Cthulu and co into our dimension is powered by two of ten possible symbols. The only way to find out what they are is through a process of elimination, hampered by waves of demons that would quite like to eat you. In addition, you can't discuss your strategy ahead of time; you must communicate via 'priority' numbers that players put down one by one. It's a subtle system which ratchets up the pressure.

The odds seem truly against you as a result, and that makes victory all the more satisfying if your team scrapes a win. Especially because you only have eight turns to do it in.

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Back to the Future: Dice Through Time

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Back to the Future: Dice Through Time

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Back to the Future: Dice Through Time

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7. Back to the Future: Dice Through Time

The best cooperative dice board game

Players: 2 - 4 | Ages: 10+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 2 mins | Lasts: 45 - 60 mins

Smart time travel mechanics
Lots of ways to help
Straightforward to learn
Harder than you might think

Biff Tannen is the worst. After stealing Back to the Future's time-traveling DeLorean, he's scattered various items across all of time and space in the most outrageous case of littering ever. And if we don't put them back where they belong, history is doomed. Cue the music and a lighthearted co-op adventure to save the universe.

As you'd expect, Back to the Future: Dice Through Time draws inspiration from the entire film trilogy. It doesn't waste an iota of that material, either. For starters, the board is split into four eras - 1885, 1955, 1985, and 2015 - that the players must navigate to retrieve every item Biff has stolen. They also have to clear iconic events from the movies (including Marty's skateboard chase around the town square) while watching out for paradoxes that'll end the game if they're not managed. Oh, and two players landing in the same space will have dire consequences thanks to the rule that you should never, ever meet your past or future self. In essence, this is a love-letter to the franchise.

It's not the really fun bit, though. That honor goes to dice rolls which allow you to jump between time-streams, not to mention a rule where you can 'ripple' dice through time. This allows you to leave dice for another player to use in a different era. Hinging mechanics on the trilogy's more abstract ideas like that is rather clever, and it demonstrates how much more there is under the hood than references or Easter eggs.

This leaves us with one of the best cooperative board games of the last few years. Regardless of whether you're a Back to the Future fan or not, it's smart and engaging enough to stand on its own two feet.

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8. Mysterium

The best mystery cooperative board game

Players: 2 - 7 | Ages: 10+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 5 mins | Lasts: 30 - 45 mins

Quirky idea
Beautiful artwork
Surprisingly funny
May be too weird for some

If you love Clue and other games where you get to play detective, this is for you. Mysterium is a classic whodunnit in the best possible way, yet it has one key difference - the murder victim is helping you to solve their own death. 

That's because one player will take control of a ghost. Unfortunately for them, they can only communicate via 'visions' (cards, in this case). Everyone else has to try and make sense of them in order to track down the killer, the murder weapon, and the location in which the deed happened, but doing so is easier said than done. Those cards are eerie, surrealist, and deliberately vague when taken out of context. It's the sort of challenge fans of crime dramas will relish.

Not that they can mull it over for too long; Mysterium has a time-limit, after which the ghost fades to nothingness and all hope of justice is lost. This adds pressure to your investigation, and good teamwork is the only way to overcome it. 

Win or lose, Mysterium boasts a setup which seizes you by the collar and refuses to let go. That puts it amongst the best cooperative board games on shelves right now, and one you'll keep returning to.

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9. Horrified

The best retro cooperative board game

Players: 1 - 4 | Ages: 10+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 5 mins | Lasts: 40 - 60 mins

Universal monsters
Tough choices
Memorable objectives
A bit complicated at first

Horrified is an ode to classic Universal Monsters such as the Wolfman or Mummy, and playing it is like stepping into comfy old slippers. All the same, that doesn't mean it rests on its laurels. Instead, it backs up the nostalgia with excellent gameplay to match.

Each game stars two old-school boogeymen that are descending on a village with carnage on their mind, and you're the one thing standing in their way. To stop their rampage, you'll have to destroy these monsters before they can feed on the locals. Naturally, this isn't a straightforward affair. Each villain has a specific weakness, and there's a strategy to exploiting each one. You'll need to destroy all of Dracula's coffins before staking him in the heart, for instance. But how do you manage that without leaving innocent people undefended?

The resulting chaos leads to some very memorable moments. Horrified's biggest strength is its love of the 'trolley problem', a situation where there isn't necessarily a right choice. For example, Dracula might be swooping in to feast on one unlucky villager. At the same time, a Creature from the Black Lagoon has cornered other civilians. Because you've only got time to save one, someone's going to die. What do you do? It's a juggling act that gives the game an edge.

It isn't stressful, though. You'll have a good time teaming up with your friends or family in this co-op board game, and different combinations of monsters add longevity to the mix if you become too familiar with Horrified.

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10. Articulate!

The best cooperative trivia board game

Players: 4 - 20+ | Ages: 12+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 2 mins | Lasts: 30 - 60 mins

Fast-paced and competitive
Can have 20+ players
Hundreds of cards included
Some won't like the pressure

Having appeared on store shelves since 1992, Articulate! is a bone fide trivia classic. Unlike so many of the best cooperative board games, it can also be played in a massive group of 20+ people. So long as you're divided into teams of at least two per side, everyone can get involved. That makes it a real winner for parties or family gatherings.

Its long life isn't a mystery, either. The rules are easy to get your head around, and the gameplay that follows is satisfying. Plus, anyone can give it a go - the questions aren't too specific, and they're broad enough to avoid going out of date. 

Taking it turns, a member of each team must describe as many words from a category as they can within 30 seconds. Unfortunately for them, they can't say what that word sounds like or rhymes with. This makes for a fun guessing game as everyone else scrambles to figure out what they mean.

Thanks to a broad range of subjects including Nature, World, and Action, you also don't need to be a font of obscure knowledge to win. Instead, this game revolves around your ability to verbalise something. It's a must-have.

Best of the rest

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11. Codenames Duet

The best word-based cooperative board game

Players: 2 - 4 | Ages: 10+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 2 - 5 minutes | Lasts: 15 - 30 minutes

Brisk pace
Clever word games
Develop bonds with others
Complicated to explain

Your goal in Codenames is like a scene from Mission Impossible, minus the improbable gadgets; you must uncover secret agents without collateral damage or incurring the wrath of deadly assassins. It’s a fun concept with a brisk pace to match. That makes Codenames Duet the perfect game for those who don’t have much time on their hands.

This version plays out in much the same way as classic Codenames, but Duet differs by having you work with other players to reveal all 15 agents on the table. Doing so isn't as easy as it sounds. This is a word game about being clever, efficient, and developing a bond with another person.

More specifically, you’ll need to figure out how they think, how they guess, and how they build relationships with others. If you want to see just how in tune you are with your friends and family, this is the best cooperative board game for you. It's also an essential purchase for fans of word games.

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12. Hanabi

The best alternative co-op board game

Players: 2 - 5 | Ages: 8+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 2 mins | Lasts: 30 mins

Easy to understand
Gets your brain going
Extra cards can make it harder
Potential for argument if Knowledge is wasted

Hanabi flips standard card game rules on their head; rather than keeping your hand a secret, everyone else can see it but you. And the trouble is, they can't say exactly what you have. Uh oh.

Players take on the role of a firework master who’s messed up their display, and the aim is to reassemble rockets by ordering sets of numbered cards from one to five. Not knowing what you’ve got makes this a tricky, obviously. That’s where Knowledge tokens come in. These are used to reveal something about another player’s hand (e.g. “you have three ones”), but there are only a finite number of them available.

Because there are than two of most cards, any wrong move could spell disaster. As a result, Hanabi becomes a dangerous balancing act of memory and educated guesswork.

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13. XCOM: The Board Game

The best app-based cooperative board game

Players: 1 - 4 | Ages: 13+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Setup: 10 mins | Lasts: 60 - 120 mins

Tense
Helpful app
Faithful adaptation
May rely on the app too much

For fans of the turn-based strategy shooter, this board game ticks all the boxes. XCOM's distinct combat, science, economy, and management are perfectly translated into this tabletop adaptation, and each player takes responsibility for one of those disciplines. Better get to it, soldier - you'll need to work together like a well-oiled machine to save Earth.

Unfortunately, you're running out of time. Civilisation is collapsing, and everyone must work in tandem if they want to avoid annihilation. It's you against the world (or, in this case, an app that controls your alien foes).

That free app is one of the biggest selling points for XCOM: The Board Game. It decides when you'll be attacked, what the extraterrestrials will do, and how long you have to finish any given task. What's more, a push-your-luck dice mechanic helps to increase the game's tension. Throw in detailed miniatures and you've got a very appealing package here.

More board game recommendations

Want more suggestions? Looking for something specific? Don't forget to check out our range of other board game guides. No matter whether you're hunting down a beloved classic or something for your children, we've got you covered.

Keen to try roleplaying games, on the other hand? Don't forget about the best tabletop RPGs and our feature on how to play D&D online.

As one of our Hardware Editors, Benjamin looks after many of the tech reviews, board game features, deals, and buying guides you’ll see on GamesRadar+.