They don't make 'em like they used to... except when it comes to classic board games. These beloved favorites are better than ever nowadays thanks to revamped designs and improved rules that make them easier to play, so it's a good time to dive back in.
Even without a refresh, most classic board games have aged remarkably well. (In fact, some even sneak onto lists of the best board games despite being decades old.) Plus, more than a few have hit "cultural phenomenon" status with no signs of slowing down. How many versions of Monopoly are there now, for example? We lost count a long time ago.
As such, we've been gathering our favorites right here to brighten your day with a hit of nostalgia. Although there wasn't room to include everything, you'll find a whistle-stop tour of the best classic board games from yesteryear below.
You should be able to save some money along the way, too. Our bargain-hunting software is on the task of rounding up the internet's cheapest offers 24/7, so there's a good chance you'll find a discount when tracking down classic board games.
Wondering how we settled on these classic board games in particular? The GamesRadar+ team only includes recommendations that are genuinely worth your money, and that means our writers or contributors have had extensive hands-on time with all of the products listed below.
Best classic board games - top 10
In the grand scheme of things, Catan is a fresh-faced addition to the best classic board games - it was first published in 1995. However, it deserves to lead the pack. A resource management extravaganza where you're tasked with constructing a civilization from scratch, it sees players trading and building settlements to get the upper hand.
This may sound simple, but you'll need plenty of cunning to achieve victory. Players win points by building towns, and you'll have to round up a variety of resources to do that. Because the board (and the locations that give you those resources) is randomised, this makes clever placement crucial. And while probability-based dice rolls introduce an element of chance, foresight is rewarded.
You'll never have all the goods you need either, so bartering becomes essential. This makes Catan an intriguing balancing act; swapping wood, clay, stone, or sheep may help you in the short-term, but it might also bring your opponent one step closer to victory.
The original HeroQuest was an '80s child through and through; it was populated by loincloth-wearing barbarians, hulking orcs, wizards with dreadful fashion sense, and a classic high fantasy story of good battling evil. It was, in a word, marvellous.
Fast-forward a few decades and the classic board game dungeon-crawl is back for round two. Revised and republished by Hasbro, it gives the original game a facelift for the modern day. Although the core mechanics are largely intact, this version of HeroQuest sports new artwork, updated miniatures, and sturdier terrain to populate your underground lairs. There's even a fully-voiced app for solo play if you want to go it alone. And yes, the brawwwwdswooord is here too.
When combined with gameplay that's not too dissimilar to a Dungeon Master from the best tabletop RPGs (putting one player in control of the game's monsters), HeroQuest is still as enchanting as it was all those years ago. OK, it may have been superseded by flashier alternatives in its absence. But in terms of good old fashioned sword and sorcery, it can't be beaten.
Designed in 1975 and based on the sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes, 221B Baker Street is best described as a souped-up version of Clue. Its mechanics work in much the same way, but everything is tied up in a shiny wrapper of story.
Players work their way through 75 unique cases of murder, and each one begins with a detailed narrative to set the scene (as you might expect from a game that's decades old, there's an expansion pack of 50 new cases to keep you busy as well). You'll then have to figure out who the killer is, their motive, what weapon they used, and more by hitting the streets of Victorian London. Figure it out and you'll rush back to 221B Baker Street before smugly reading out your theory like Mr. Holmes himself. Basically, it's a race to the finish-line.
Getting to that point won't be easy. Each location on the board could harbour a vital clue, but you'll have to work for them; players must solve riddles, word-games, or read between the lines to blow this case wide open. There's even a chance for underhand trickery - everyone can 'lock' a location and hide whatever clue is inside, but doing so draws attention. 221B then becomes a game of bluffing. Is the hidden info useful, or are your rivals sending you on a wild goose chase?
Much like Monopoly, Risk is a classic board game that's been through more iterations than we can count. However, it's still the same excellent strategy epic it was back when it launched in 1957 no matter whether you're sticking with the standard version or branching out with the fantasy-themed The Lord of the Rings edition.
A game focused on conquering regions around the world to create an empire, it revolves around armies and dice rolls that simulate combat. As the name would suggest, you won't get anywhere by being a pacifist; the winners are those who go out on a limb to snatch territory from their opponents. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.
While it doesn't rank amongst the best cooperative board games, this leads to plenty of political tussling with alliances, betrayals, and wins snatched from the jaws of defeat. Rolling dice in battle may not seem exciting, but when your lone unit has managed to hold off an overwhelming army for many turns in a row, it's one of the most satisfying feelings you can get at the tabletop.
For those that love quizzes and tests of knowledge, it doesn't get any better than Trivial Pursuit. This is undoubtedly one of the best classic board games for exercising your gray matter, and it's every bit as good now as it was when it first appeared in the early 1980s. Throw in a variety of licensed adaptations ranging from Harry Potter to Star Wars and you've got a winner on your hands.
The original version listed here plays host to six major categories: Entertainment, Sports and Leisure, Geography, Arts and Literature, Science and Nature, and History. It's a well-rounded lineup that everyone can get involved in, making it ideal for parties or larger family gatherings. A focus on general knowledge instead of niche topics means no-one will feel left behind, either. You don't even need to worry about the questions being out of date; thanks to the game's age, it's been tweaked with more contemporary material.
What we're left with is reminiscent of the best quiz shows. Players answer any questions they land on while moving around the board, and they have to collect 'wedges' that fill up their wheel. Once this is done, they put it all on the line with one final question. Trivial Pursuit is surprisingly tense as a result, and that secures it as one of the best party board games despite having more than a few decades under its belt.
Word games are a much-loved tabletop staple, and it doesn't get any better than Boggle. It's actually proven to be so popular since its 1972 debut that Junior, super-sized, and Folio versions have since been introduced.
The beauty of this classic board game is that it's so simple. Players have to make up as many words as they can from a four-by-four tray of 16 letters, and to up the ante, they only have three minutes in which to complete their search. This adds a much-needed element of pressure to get the heart racing, especially because words featuring the most letters pay out more points. Oh, and if anyone puts down the same word? It's discredited straight away (bummer).
This forces players to think outside the box and stretch themselves. Other quick, portable word games like Upwords and Bananagrams are excellent, but for our money, Boggle remains the winner.
If you like to think of yourself as an armchair detective, Clue - or Cluedo, if you're from the UK - puts those skills to the test. Indeed, it's one of the best murder mystery board games for adults out there despite having been around since 1943.
It's certainly got a good elevator pitch; trapped inside a stately manor that's hiding secrets of its own, players have to uncover the truth and catch a killer. Who murdered the victim, where did they do the deed, and which weapon was used? This classic board game is a race against time to gather evidence before everyone else does. Such methodical gameplay helps you feel like an investigator worthy of Poirot, especially due to its focus on the process of elimination (no pun intended).
Being able to play mind-games with your opponents raises the stakes, too. Seeing which clues they're prioritising lets you connect the dots yourself, and that gives cunning sleuths an advantage. Well, sometimes. This can also be used against players if their foes possess a good poker face. It's endearingly devious.
There's no way we could have a list of the best classic board games without mentioning Monopoly. It's one of the most enduring board games for families ever made, having thrived through numerous updates, revisions, adaptations, and spin-offs since its inception in the early 1900s. And frankly, there's no stopping it - Monopoly has a special edition for almost every pop-culture hit we can think of. Friends? Check. The Avengers? Absolutely. Fortnite? You betcha. There's even a version featuring Super Mario and co, complete with a mystery block that promises to shake up the formula.
No matter which version you get, Monopoly's gameplay remains the same. You know the drill - it's all about buying property and building houses or hotels that you can then charge rent on whenever anyone else lands there. It's brilliantly straightforward, and the game has lasted for well over a century because it's so easy to learn. Even though newer alternatives shake things up, the game never loses that sense of accessibility.
There's a certain collectomania to it as well. Managing to gather and then build on a complete set of locations is satisfying, as is amassing wads of toy money. It's all about scheming your way to the top, and we've got to respect the hustle.
Scrabble has been around for over 80 years, and it isn't difficult to see why. A chilled-out word game that's perfect for whiling away a lazy afternoon, it's meditative and relaxing. What's more, it gives your brain a fair workout.
You know how it works: Scrabble tasks you with making words from the random letters in your possession. Certain combinations - and specific tiles - offer more points, but you can only add to words that already exist on the board. It's a blissfully uncomplicated concept, but still requires flexibility and skill.
Better still, it's different every single time. Because you never know what combination of letters you'll end up with, you'll always need to think on your feet. It's truly one of the best classic board games out there, and perfect for a Sunday afternoon at home.
Much like Monopoly or Clue, you can't have a list of the best classic board games without featuring Battleship. It's existed in one form or another since the 1930s, and it went on to worldwide success after being brought to the tabletop in 1967. There's even an underwhelming movie adaptation featuring the U.S. Navy vs aliens.
Pitched as the 'ultimate battle of wits', players start by secretly placing their battleships on a grid that's hidden from their rival. They then take it in turns to choose coordinates, fire a missile, and see if it hits anything. This makes it a game of elimination in both senses of the word; you systematically hunt down your opponent's craft before they get yours.
Battleship stays fresh no matter how many times you play as a result. Your opponent's fleet will always end up in a different place, meaning you can't ever rest on your laurels. Dogged persistence and a stroke of luck are the only things you can count on, and that's true no matter which version you try. While there are fully-voiced electronic kits, digital equivalents, travel sets, and beyond, they all rank amongst the best board games for kids thanks to ageless mechanics underpinning them all.
Classic board games - FAQ
What is the best board game in history?
Even though the answer is tremendously subjective, we suspect the gong for history's top board game would go to either chess or Monopoly. Chess has been around in one form or another since roughly 600 AD, while Monopoly has racked up more editions than we'd dare count. As such, both are very strong contenders.
What is the most commonly played board game?
It's difficult to answer such a question with any authority because most people don't post an exhaustive roundup of every game they've ever played, but we wouldn't be surprised if Monopoly, Clue, or Scrabble topped the list. Besides having been in circulation for decades, they're all household names that are synonymous with 'classic board games'. It feels as if everyone has a copy of Monopoly somewhere at home, for example.
What are the best old-school board games?
Even though there's always room at the table for old favorites such as Monopoly, we'd argue that Catan is actually a better overall experience. Besides offering broadly similar mechanics (it still features trading, resource-gathering, and building), it arguably does everything better. Crucially, it won't lull you to sleep like Monopoly's slow bleed-out where one player winning becomes inevitable.
We're big fans of 221B Baker Street, too. It plays in much the same way as Clue, but the systems on offer are more complex and they push the idea further with an in-depth narrative. However, this doesn't come at the expense of accessibility. Similarly, HeroQuest is one of the best adventure board games from days gone by - it's still remarkably sound more than 30 years after it first hit shelves.
For more recommendations, don't forget to check out these board games for 2 players or the best tabletop RPGs. You can also find cool additions to a galaxy far, far away with the best Star Wars board games. For a younger audience, on the other hand, take a look at the most highly-recommended board games for kindergartners.