The best cooperative board games are perfect if you're put off by competitiveness and general hoo-hah around the table. Offering unique challenges that can only be solved together, co-op board games emphasise teamwork rather than a desperate 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?
The trouble is, there's no shortage of choice. To give you a head-start in finding the best cooperative board games, we've rounded up some favorites right here. You'll find suggestions to suit all age-groups and skill-levels below.
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Best cooperative board games - top 10
Roleplaying games are the last word in escapism, but they often bring players back to earth thanks to complicated rules and systems that require a lot of thought. This is where Descent: Legends of the Dark knocks it out of the park. Thanks to a clever companion app that sorts out number-crunching behind the scenes, it leaves you to enjoy the game instead of becoming snarled up in equations that decide whether your attack hits or not.
Here's another way of looking at it; the app acts as a virtual Dungeon Master. Even though it won't replace a good DM running the best tabletop RPGs, it offers a much-needed sense of mystery by dictating enemy placement and deciding what comes next in your story. Descent also provides beautifully illustrated cutscenes with dialogue options that help you define who your characters are beyond their martial abilities. Because these actions have consequences over the course of the campaign, Legends of the Dark often feels more like a video game than anything else. Being able to leave your mark on the world with friends makes it something truly special.
Fast-paced combat doesn't hurt either, of course. Powered by item cards and a fatigue mechanic that sees you juggling abilities, it's breezy without losing depth - particularly due to the fact that it takes place on 3D cardboard terrain with 40 absurdly detailed miniatures.
If you want the ultimate co-op experience, Pandemic is a strong contender. 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 co-op board game is 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 OK, it's difficult. Yet Pandemic is also engrossing in a way few other games ever manage to be. It keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times, resulting in an excellent group activity or one of the top board games for 2 players.
Tired of the normal version? Once you've conquered the original, 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 set, or the fantasy-themed Pandemic World of Warcraft spinoff.
- Read more: Pandemic board game review
Playing Horrified is like stepping into a pair of comfy old slippers; it practically creaks under the weight of beloved Universal Monsters such as Dracula and the Mummy. But that doesn't mean it rests on its laurels. Instead, Horrified backs up the nostalgia with fantastic ideas to keep you coming back. In short? It's one of the best cooperative board games out there and a very good choice if you're hunting down Halloween board games.
Every session stars old-school boogeymen that are descending on a village with carnage on their mind, and you're the only thing standing in their way. To stop this rampage, you'll have to destroy the monsters before they can feed on any locals. However, that's easier said than done. Each villain has a weakness, and there's a strategy to exploiting them (you'll need to destroy all of Dracula's coffins before staking him in the heart, for instance). How do you manage it without leaving innocent people undefended?
The resulting chaos leads to some memorable moments. More specifically, 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. So what do you do? It's a juggling act that gives this co-op board game an edge.
It isn't stressful, though. You'll have a good time teaming up with your friends or family no matter which monsters you face. What's more, different combinations add longevity to the mix if you become too familiar with Horrified's early missions. It's a masterclass of co-op gameplay as a result, and one of the best board games overall in recent years.
If you love playing detective, Mysterium is the stuff of dreams. It's a classic whodunnit in the best possible way, yet there's one key difference - the murder victim is helping you to solve their own death.
More specifically, someone plays as a ghost. And not the chatty kind; they can only communicate via 'vision' cards, so everyone else must make sense of them in order to track down the killer. Because those cards are surreal and deliberately vague when taken out of context, the result is an engrossing puzzle for that'll keep you more than a little busy.
You can't mull it over for long, either. 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.
Things going pear-shaped isn't a disaster, though. 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 as well. Plus, there are plenty of expansion packs to try once the initial novelty has worn off - Secrets & Lies adds bonus storylines, while Hidden Signs provides extra cards. If you're short on manpower, you can even get a two-player alternative called 'Mysterium Park'. Much like the original, it ranks amongst the best co-op board games out there and is a great choice if you're hunting down board games for adults.
Few board games capture the sense of stalking your prey like this one. Challenging players to learn their quirks and weaknesses, it immerses you in the world of Horizon to an extent you might not have expected. Character progression, skill-trees, and upgradable abilities only draw you in further.
Meanwhile, tactical depth in the heat of battle keeps you there. The Horizon Zero Dawn board game leans hard into positional combat, so figuring out where to set up your attack for maximum damage - while still keeping an escape route open in case things go wrong - is crucial. Misjudge your target and you're in trouble; besides being able to strike back with the force of a speeding dump truck, enemies have unique behaviours presented in a yes/no flowchart that make each type distinct. Rehashing strategies won't cut it with these particular 'bots.
Even though this version of Horizon is a co-op experience, it also manages to shake things up with a competitive edge. Individual players are able to earn 'Glory' points for killing monsters or targeting certain body parts, and while this helps your team progress in the grand scheme of things, racking up the highest score crowns you as winner of the match. The result is a compelling race to the finish.
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 (The Captain is Dead and The Captain is Dead: Lockdown) 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. Accordingly, 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 when it comes to co-op board games.
- Read more: The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet review
Betrayal at House on the Hill is arguably the creepiest but most compelling experience on this list. Thanks to its 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. You put down a randomly selected tile every time you leave a room, so the party is 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 such as Widow's Walk that will enhance your game (including an upgrade kit, a Baldur's Gate spin-off, and a ‘Legacy’ edition that builds up a long-term narrative), Betrayal stays fresh for a long, long time. It's a truly must have co-op board game.
- Read more: Betrayal at House on the Hill review
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 board game 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.
- Read more: Back to the Future: Dice Through Time review
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.
- Read more: Jaws board game review
Despite being almost 40 years old, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective still holds its own as a great co-op board game. It's intriguing, engaging, and deeply challenging - perfect for armchair sleuths, in other words.
Putting you in the shoes of the Baker Street Irregulars (a band of merry men and women who inform Holmes of everything happening in London), you've got to bust numerous cases wide open before Sherlock himself figures them out. Naturally, this isn't a walk in the park. And because those mysteries feature everything from mummy curses to a murder on the Thames, you'll have to expect the unexpected as well.
The addition of a time-limit keeps players on their toes, and it results in a fantastically collaborative atmosphere as you and your partners rifle through reams of props, clues, and case files that contain the answers you seek. These are tremendously immersive, too - they really suck you into the story.
You don't need to be a board game expert to enjoy Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, either. It's got a refreshingly broad appeal that'll appeal to any mystery fan, and this earns it a place amongst the best cooperative board games.
Best of the rest
Anyone that loves Halloween will be right at home with the Hocus Pocus card game. Based on the 1993 Disney movie, it challenges players with banishing all three Sanderson sisters by the end of All Hallow's Eve. What follows is a race to concoct your own witch-beating potion, and it's enough of a challenge to deserve its place on any list of the best cooperative board games.
Despite it cute art style, this one doesn't fall under the 'board games for kids' category either. Instead, it upends everything we take for granted about co-op board games - to be precise, you can't communicate with your team. Because potions are created by filling your cauldron with ingredient cards of the same color or type, it's much harder than you'd expect. You can't even show them which cards you've got in your hand, so it's all too easy for someone to accidentally undo your work.
What follows is a fun perception test, and it's so much more engaging thanks to this twist. It's more satisfying when you eventually win, too; unlike some co-op board games, there's a tangible sense of achievement when you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. While the journey to that point can be brutal, it never feels unfair.
Fans of the movie will also enjoy the ride regardless of whether they win or not. Alongside plenty of references to the film itself (your potion's ingredients include those mentioned in the script, for example), its story is used in clever ways via single-use tokens such as the 'burning rain of death' that provide a much-needed advantage. It's a clever adaptation, and one well worth considering in what is arguably one of the best card games.
- Read more: Hocus Pocus card game review
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. Basically, 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.
- Read more: Arkham Horror: Final Hour review
Gloomhaven is the perfect example of a world you can lose yourself in. Actually, its box is like the wardrobe to Narnia; the damn thing is full-to-bursting with miniatures and over 1,000 cards. Because your actions in one session carry over to the next, you're also staring down the barrel of an ever-evolving story with branching possibilities. In a nutshell, it's one of the best cooperative board games if you love RPGs, the best tabletop RPGs, or the best Dungeons and Dragons books.
Taking place in and around the city of Gloomhaven, its 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.
Still, the real draw is its narrative. You'll make decisions at the end of each mission that influence what you do next, and these choices 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 (no pressure).
Sure, Gloomhaven's price is eye-watering. However, it buys you a game that's staggeringly layered and crammed with details which catapult it above and beyond the norm. For example, every set includes secret characters and a fold-out map with achievement stickers to chart your journey. How many other co-op board games do that? It's magic, plain and simple.
Board games normally challenge you with conquering territory, but Spirit Island flips that trope on its head. Instead, it asks you to defend those lands from settlers.
Putting you in control of nature spirits that must protect their home from invaders, it's a unique idea reminiscent of god simulator video games like From Dust. These spirits have to pool their resources in order to fight off any interlopers, and the land will suffer if you don't oust them fast enough - after entrenching themselves with cities, these settlers will harvest the landscape around them and spread a blight.
The trick to booting them off your island lies in optimising your turn's actions. In addition, combining your spirit's unique abilities with power cards can offer handy bonuses. Although it's a lot to think about, the effort is worth your while.
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 if you're hunting down board games for families.
Hanabi flips standard rules on their head; rather than keeping your hand a secret, everyone can see it but you. And the trouble is, they aren't allowed to say what you have. Enter one of the most unusual co-op board games out there.
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 bit 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” or "two blues"), but there are only a finite number of them available. In essence, you've got to try and remember what everyone else has said about your hand, compare it to the cards your teammates are holding, and see if you can figure out what you've got based on that. It's a bracing mental workout.
There aren't more than two of most cards either, so any wrong move could spell disaster. Hanabi becomes a dangerous balancing act of memory and educated guesswork because of this, and it ranks alongside the best cooperative board games if you want something a little different.
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 cool concept with a brisk pace to match, and that makes Codenames Duet the perfect co-op board game for those who don’t have much time on their hands.
This version plays out in much the same way as classic Codenames, and that's no bad thing - it was already a fan-favorite. However, Duet breaks the mold by having you work with other players to reveal all 15 agents on the table. There's no rivalry here, and that's a pleasant change of pace from the original game.
In addition, working as a team doesn't lower the difficulty. This is a word game about being clever, efficient, and developing a bond with another person. 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, Codenames Duet is the best cooperative board game for you. It's also an essential purchase for fans of word games.
For fans of the turn-based strategy shooter, this co-op board game ticks all the right boxes. XCOM's distinct combat, economy, and management are perfectly translated to tabletop for this adaptation, and each player has a clearly defined role because of that.
Unfortunately, no-one has time to enjoy their promotion - civilisation is collapsing under the weight of an alien invasion, 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 foes.
That free app is one of the biggest selling points the XCOM co-op board game. It decides when you'll be attacked, what the extraterrestrials are going to do, and how long you have to finish any given task. Better get to it, soldier - you'll need to work together like a well-oiled machine if you want to save Earth.
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 on your hands. It's certainly one of the best co-operative board games, anyway.
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.
- Must-have board games: Everyone should have these in their collection.
- Essential card games: Top-tier games for travelling or parties.
- Best classic board games: Revisit old favorites like Monopoly or Clue.
- 2-player board games: Perfect for couples or quiet nights in.
- Family board games: Grab something everyone can play.
- Board games for grown-ups: Choose from a wealth of strategy adventures.
- Board games for children: Get the little ones involved.