The best cooperative board games

best cooperative board games

If your tabletop sessions get ugly because of someone’s competitive streak (don’t worry, we’re not judging), the best cooperative board games are here to help. Encouraging teamwork rather than a mad scramble to glory, they provide a more chilled-out atmosphere that can be refreshing after the usual board game backstabbing. There are still stakes, of course, but these are the kind that bring you closer together as a group. And because Amazon Prime Day is inching closer, you may find a bargain price on some of them as well.

Best deal today

Betrayal at House on the Hill | $29.90 on Amazon (save $20)
This game gives you a different haunted mansion and scenario every time you play. 

With that in mind, we’ve assembled a range of the best cooperative board games out there. You’ll find them below. These recommendations were chosen because they’re memorable, accessible, and replayable; no matter whether it’s through random scenarios or unique boards that are different each time you play, they won’t get boring after a few goes. The best board games are expensive, after all, so we made suggestions that provide maximum value for money (speaking of which, keep an eye on Amazon Prime Day game deals for more price-cuts).

Short on people to play with? Don’t miss the best board games for 2 players. If you have children who’d also like to join in, check out our guide to board games for kids too.

best cooperative board games

©Avalon Hill

Betrayal at House on the Hill

The best bits of horror in board game form.

Players: 3-6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 40-90 minutes | Age: 12+

Hugely replayable
Multiple scenarios
Good camaraderie
Some scenarios better than others

It’s not a coincidence that Betrayal at House on the Hill springs to mind when someone mentions co-op board games. Its unpredictable nature, procedurally-generated map and random scenarios result in very different experiences each time. What’s more, 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, disaster, or one of your own allies turned traitor. This unexpected backstabber receives a secret rulebook and goal of their own, so teamwork amongst everyone else becomes all the more essential. 

With 50 scenarios to work through and a couple of expansions that will enhance your game (including a customizable ‘Legacy’ edition), Betrayal stays fresh for a long while.

best cooperative board games

©Czech Games

Codenames: Duet

Guess Who meets Hitman.

Players: 2—4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 15—30 minutes | Age: 10+

Brisk pace
Clever word games
Complicated to explain

Your goal in Codenames is simple: uncover secret agents without collateral damage or incurring the wrath of deadly assassins. It’s a fun concept with a brisk pace to match, making this 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 together to reveal all fifteen agents on the table. It’s a word game all about being clever, efficient, and developing a bond with another person; you’ll figure out how they think, how they guess, and how they build relationships.

best cooperative board games

©Z-Man Games

Pandemic

Battling the sniffles against the clock.

Players: 2-4 | Difficulty: Hard | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30-60 minutes | Age: 10+

Perfect for team strategy
Excellent sense of tension
It's challenging...
... but perhaps TOO challenging

Death comes quickly in Pandemic, so 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 (no pressure). This makes Pandemic a tense race against time in which every decision counts - the literal fate of the world depends on it. 

With a focus on strategy and coordination, teamwork forms the backbone of the game. This is especially true of character abilities that can turn the tide of a match. As such, Pandemic’s tough enough to be very replayable.

best cooperative board games

©Thames & Kosmos

Exit: The Abandoned Cabin

Until Dawn, with an extra dose of Escape Room.

Players: 2-4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set-up: Under 5 minutes | Time to play: 1 hour

Co-op with a competitive edge
Fun concept
Not as good as a real Escape Room, obviously

It’s a scenario that fills you with confidence right from the start; your car’s broken down and you have to take shelter in an abandoned cabin. When you wake up, the door’s locked, iron bars have slammed shut over the windows, and a crazy madman is leaving you challenges. Mimicking an Escape Room, Exit has you unravelling puzzles as quickly as possible.

There are many different versions of this game to be had, but The Abandoned Cabin in particular shines as a co-op experience. How are your powers of memory and communication? You’ll soon find out.

best cooperative board games

©Gamewright

Forbidden Island

Tomb Raider v Myst.

Players: 2—4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30 minutes | Age: 10+

Light version of Pandemic mechanics
Relatively short
Potentially lacks depth

You should absolutely take a look at Forbidden Island if you like Pandemic; they’re cut from a similar cloth. Rather than stopping disease, this bite-size game sets you on a race against time to save artefacts from a sinking island before it disappears. Basically, you’re Indiana Jones.

The mechanics here are similar to Pandemic’s, but they play out on a noticeably faster timescale (the ocean waits for no-one, after all). Sharing the same collaborative focus on teamwork and strategy, you’ll need your wits about you to make off with the biggest haul of treasure. In a helpful twist, it’s also fairly short.

best cooperative board games

©Fantasy Flight Games

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Pitting your wits against the master detective.

Players: 1-8 | Difficulty: Hard | Time to set up: 15 minutes | Time to play: 60-120 minutes | Age: 13+

Very cerebral
Absorbing and immersive
Detailed props
Damn hard

Do you enjoy solving a TV murder mystery before the hero and feeling properly smug? Good news! Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective allows you to do exactly that, up to and including the “aha! I have it” moment (even if you don’t). You and upt to 7 others play as a Baker Street Irregular who’s been sent to gather evidence, wander the muggy streets of Victorian London for clues, peruse newspapers and case files, and attempt to solve the case before Holmes himself does. Time is your enemy here; every move brings Holmes closer to closing the case without you.

Make no mistake, Consulting Detective is a tricky game. All the same, it’s a memorable cooperative experience that’s different to almost everything else out there before or since it launched in 1981.

best cooperative board games

©R&R Games

Hanabi

A game where everyone knows what you’ve got... except you.

Players: 2-5 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 2-3 minutes | Time to play: 20-30 minutes | Age: 8+

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. Players take on the role of a firework master who’s buggered up their display, and the aim is to reassemble your rockets by ordering sets of numbered cards from 1 to 5. Not knowing what you’ve got makes this a tad difficult, 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 available. Because there are no more than 2 of each card beyond the number 1, Hanabi becomes a dangerous balancing act of memory and educated guesswork.

best cooperative board games

©Flying Frog Productions

Last Night on Earth

Resident Evil and the Walking Dead had a baby.

Players: 2-6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5-10 minutes | Time to play: 60-90 minutes | Age: 12+

Tongue-in-cheek humor
Modular board keeps things fresh
Multiple objectives
Still a bit expensive

The dead have risen and you’ve got to survive until dawn - bad luck, right? Fortunately, doing so is a laugh. Despite the severity of the situation, this isn’t an overly serious game; the characters are tongue-in-cheek tropes and event cards include the likes of an old school teacher appearing from nowhere to save you with a woodworking saw. In other words, it’s stupid and wonderful.

Most players control the survivor team, while another is in charge of the zombie horde. You’ll then select a random objective and try to see it through before time runs out. Thanks to a modular board, the arena is different each time you play as well.

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