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Best classic board games

Best classic board games
(Image credit: Hasbro)

You can't beat the all-time greats, and the best classic board games have earned their hard-won place in the hall of fame. In fact, some have become a cultural phenomenon - they've taken on a life of their own and show no signs of slowing down, particularly with special versions like the Super Mario editions of Monopoly and Jenga.

What would you say are the best classic board games, though? After a lot of debate, we've pulled together a list of what we think are the top-tier games of yesteryear. That includes Monopoly, Risk, Catan… well, you'll see. Despite being many decades old, our recommendations still manage to impress.

This page also features the lowest prices wherever possible. Our bargain-hunting software is always on the lookout for new discounts and reductions, so be sure to check in every now and then if you want money off the best classic board games.

Best classic board games: 1 - 5

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(Image credit: Catan Studio)
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1. Catan

The best classic board game

Players: 3 - 4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 60 minutes | Age: 10+

Strategic
Very replayable
Unusual mechanics
Some rules can be frustrating

Catan is a fresher-faced addition to the best classic board games - it was first published in 1995 - but it absolutely deserves to lead the pack. A resource management game where you're tasked with constructing a civilization, it sees players trading and building to get the upper hand.

It may sound simple, but you'll need plenty of cunning to achieve victory. Players win points by building settlements, and you'll need a variety of resources to do that. Because the board (and the locations that give you those resources) is randomised and subject to probability-based dice rolls, this makes clever placement crucial. And while those dice introduce an element of chance, foresight or intuition are rewarded.

You'll never have all the resources you need either, so bartering becomes essential. This makes Catan an intriguing balancing act; swapping resources may help you in the short-term, but it may also bring your opponent one step closer to victory. Throw in an expansion pack that expands the game to six players and things get even spicier. A must-have.

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2. Clue / Cluedo

The best classic mystery board game

Players: 2 - 6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set-up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 45 minutes | Age: 8+

Satisfying process of elimination
Straightforward
Great in a large group
Simplistic

Everyone loves being an armchair detective, and Clue - or Cluedo, if you're from the UK - puts those skills to the test. In fact, it's one of the best murder mystery games out there despite having been around since 1943, and it's yet to be beaten.

As you'd expect, this one's all about hunting down clues on who killed the murder victim, where they did the deed, and what weapon they used. Players then hurry through a stately mansion in their quest to uncover the truth, and it's a race against time to gather evidence before their opponents do. It's all about cross-referencing and the process of elimination (no pun intended), and this methodical gameplay helps you feel like an investigator worthy of Poirot.

The really fun bit is spying on what your opponents are doing. Seeing what clues they're prioritising lets you connect the dots based on their responses, and that can give cunning detectives a head-start. It's even better if you have more players; you have to be so much more alert, making it one of the best classic board games if a lot of people want to join in.

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3. Monopoly

The best classic board game for families

Players: 2 - 6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set-up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 60 - 90 minutes | Age: 8+

Accessible
Moreish
Loads of different versions
Games can last too long

There's no way we could have a list of the best classic board games without mentioning Monopoly. It's one of the all-time greats, having thrived through numerous updates, revisions, adaptations, and spin-offs since its inception in the early 1900s. And frankly, there's no stopping it - there's a special themed edition for almost every pop-culture hit you can think of. Friends? Check. The Avengers? Absolutely. Fortnite? You betcha. There's even a version featuring Super Mario and co on the way, complete with Toad Houses, iconic tokens inspired by in-game items, and a mystery block that promises to shake up the formula.

When it comes to Monopoly's gameplay, you know the drill - it's all about buying property and building houses or hotels that you can then charge rent for. It's brilliantly straightforward, and Monopoly has lasted over a century because it's so easy to learn. Even though the newest versions feature updates like all-new tokens (including a T-Rex), the game never loses that sense of accessibility.

It then sticks in our collective consciousness thanks to mechanics that can be oh-so punishing. Who hasn't experienced a crushing turn where they keep landing on their opponents' hotels before being sent to jail? There are just as many water-cooler stories to be had from games of Monopoly now as there were in the 1950s. That's a rare feat, and a good indication of why the game is still going strong today.

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4. Trivial Pursuit

The best classic trivia board game

Players: 2 - 6 | Difficulty: Hard | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30 - 60 minutes | Age: 16+

Everyone can get involved
Broad range of categories
Universal appeal
Some questions are too hard

For those who 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 have a winner of 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. 

How exactly does it work, though? Players answer any questions they land on while moving around the board, and they have to collect 'wedges' to fill up their wheel. Once that's done, they put it all on the line with one final question. It's reminiscent of the best quiz shows, and Trivial Pursuit is brilliant as a result.

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5. Risk

The best classic strategy board game

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

Tactical
Dice rolls level the playing field
Lots of licensed versions
Dice mechanics can be arbitrary

Much like Monopoly, Risk is a classic board game that's been through more iterations than we can count. However, it's still the excellent strategy epic it was way back when it launched in 1957.

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 (see what they did there?).

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.

Best classic board games: 6 - 10

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6. Carcassonne

The best classic board game for city-building

Players: 2 - 5 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 2 minutes | Time to play: 40 minutes | Age: 8+

Always different thanks to random tiles
Room for long-term strategy
Satisfying
The tiles you get are down to chance

The most recent classic board game on this list is also one of the best. Although it only came into being in 2000, Carcassonne has already built up a cult following, received numerous expansions, and is now available in digital form pretty much everywhere.

Named after the French city of the same name, its board is created as you go; players put down tiles to create towns, cities, monasteries, and farms. You get points for completing any of these, so long as you control them by having the most meeple - little wooden people - on those tiles. This leads to a competitive tug of war where you're trying to one-up your foes and keep them away from your investments. Although there's an element of chance because tiles are drawn blindly, nothing can beat the satisfaction of planning ahead and stealing a portion of the board from under your opponent's nose.

Not keen on the setting of southern France in the 1500s? No problem - there are versions of Carcassonne set all over the world, including the Amazon and North America during the Wild West Gold Rush.

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7. Boggle

The best classic word board game

Players: 1+ | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 1 minute | Time to play: 3+ minutes | Age: 8+

Quick
Affordable
Portable
Timer adds anxiety

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, Deluxe, Travel, maths, and Twister-esque 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, you only have three minutes to complete your 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.

Other word games like Scrabble, Upwords, and Bananagrams are truly excellent, but for our money? Boggle is the winner thanks to its quick, portable nature.

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8. Battleship

The best classic board game for suspense

Players: 2 | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 15 minutes | Age: 7+

Tense
Methodical
Relies on intuition
A lot of guesswork to begin with

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, of all things.

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 terms to choose coordinates, fire a missile, and see if it hits anything. It's a game of elimination in both senses of the word; you systematically hunt down your opponent's craft before they get yours.

Because Battleship has been around for so long, you can also get plenty of alternative versions to spice things up. There are fully-voiced electronic ones, digital games, travel sets, and beyond.

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9. 221B Baker Street

The best classic board game with a story

Players: 2 - 6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30 - 60 minutes | Age: 10+

Each case has a unique written story
75 cases overall
A more advanced Clue / Cluedo
Some clues haven't aged well

Designed in 1975 and based on the sleuthing of Sherlock Holmes, 221B Baker Street is best described as a souped-up version of Cluedo. 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. How do you win? By rushing back to 221B Baker Street and smugly reading out your theory like Mr. Holmes himself. And because everyone's conducting their investigation in secret, it's a race to the finish-line.

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? 

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10. Scrabble

The best classic board game for relaxing

Players: 2 - 4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 2 minutes | Time to play: 30 - 45 minutes | Age: 8+

Chilled out
Exercises your brain
Can make you feel very smug
Possibility to get a set of rubbish letters

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, and perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon at home.

More board game recommendations

For more board game suggestions - including modern favorites that you won't be able to put down - don't forget to check out our other guides. There are plenty of fantastic games to choose from that will keep everyone entertained for weeks to come, and they're all available at the lowest prices. And if you want something a bit more adventurous? Be sure to visit the best tabletop RPGs or learn how to play D&D online.

Best board games | Best card games | Best cooperative board games
Board games for adults | Board games for 2 players | Board games for kids

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+.