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Best card games 2020

Best card games
(Image credit: Exploding Kittens)

If you're hunting down the best card games, you've come to the right place. We've gathered our top recommendations below, be it party classics, games for kids, or thoughtful alternatives for a quiet night in. 

Regardless of what you're looking for, the best card games have the advantage of being oh-so portable as well. That makes them ideal for travelling, bringing to a friend's house, or taking with you on vacation; they'll easily fit into a rucksack or coat pocket.

You won't have to spend all that much on them, either. We've gone looking for the most tempting offers on the best card games, and you'll find these deals below. Because they're updated on a daily basis, it's also worth dropping in every now and then to see if you can get a bargain.

Let's get to it!

Best card games: 1 - 5

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(Image credit: Exploding Kittens)
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(Image credit: Exploding Kittens)
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(Image credit: Exploding Kittens)

1. Exploding Kittens

The best card game overall

Players: 2 - 5 | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 1 minute | Time to play: 10 - 15 minutes | Age: 12+

Quick to play
Straight-up bonkers
Easy to understand
A bit simplistic

If you’re looking for a quick and quirky game to pass time with friends, Exploding Kittens is perfect. The premise is incredibly simple: each player just needs to draw a single card from the deck each turn and hope they don’t get an exploding kitten. Because if that happens, you’re out of the game. Sure, you have a hand of cards that will contain various ways to either skip your turn, let you anticipate exploding kittens, or even defuse them… but essentially the game is won by the person who ends up not being blown up.

Each card is covered in adorable/bonkers artwork, and the names of all the various boosts or attacks you can play are suitably on-theme. You can get through a game in about 10-15 minutes, too, so it’s an ideal palette cleanser in between bigger board game or card game sessions. Plus, there are various expansions to help you make more of Exploding Kittens if you get properly hooked.

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(Image credit: Gamewright)
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(Image credit: Gamewright)
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(Image credit: Gamewright)

2. Sushi Go!

The best card game for kids

Players: 2 - 5 | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set-up: 1 minute | Time to play: 15 minutes | Age: 8+

Fast-paced
Very moreish
Easy to grasp
Difficult to master

Sushi Go! is a bizarre and wonderful little game for all ages; it's easy to understand, quick, and supremely moreish too. You'll find yourself coming back time and time again, especially because each game can be wrapped up in under 15 minutes. It's a simple concept but very, very effective.

The game challenges you to create the most appetising 'meal' from a deck of cards being passed from player to player. You do this by collecting sets of items - like wasabi or dumplings - to build up points. Because some are worth more than others (and certain cards only pay up if you've got the most), this results in an amusing battle over the best cards. You'll also need to think on your feet - things change fast in the surprisingly cutthroat world of sushi. Seriously, Gordon Ramsay would feel right at home here.

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(Image credit: Cards Against Humanity)
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(Image credit: Cards Against Humanity)
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(Image credit: Cards Against Humanity)

3. Cards Against Humanity

The best party card game for adults

Players: 4+ | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 1 minute | Time to play: 30 - 60 minutes | Age: 18+

Hilarious
Easy to understand
Memorable
Humor can go too far

There's no way you can make a 'best card games' list and not mention Cards Against Humanity. This deliciously evil pastime has become infamous since it launched in 2011; it has a wicked, often-offensive sense of humor that's definitely NSFW. Crammed with swears and hysterical possibilities, this is one of the more memorable card games out there - indeed, it's a must-have for parties.

The way it works is simple. One of you draws a card with an innocent sentence written on it, but there are blanks that need filling ("Hey Reddit! I'm [Blank]. Ask me anything"). Players then select a response from their hand of cards, and whoever's choice is funniest gets the point. Because most of these responses are inappropriate, lewd, weird, or all of the above, the results are truly something to behold. An avalanche of expansions also make sure it doesn't lose its novelty too fast.

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(Image credit: Atlas Games)
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(Image credit: Atlas)
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(Image credit: Atlas)

4. Gloom

The best narrative card game

Players: 2-4 | Complexity: Moderate | Time to set up: 2 minutes | Time to play: 60 minutes | Age: 10+

Easy to understand
Hilarious
Varied card effects
Requires some improv skill

Gloom is a game about making people miserable. Don't get the wrong idea, though -  playing it is a hoot. You'll be meddling in the affairs of a Victorian family who look like extras from a Tim Burton movie, and everyone uses cards to depress them as much as possible before killing the poor blighters off for points (Mister Giggles might be mauled by manatees, for example). The more glum they are when they kick the bucket, the more points you get. 

So, what's the challenge? Your opponents will be trying to undo your work by cheering up members of your family. It's a delightful twist on the norm, and we're all for it. In fact, what sets Gloom apart is the glee with which it encourages you to foist misery on your victims. You'll tell the story of the unfortunate, implausible events that have befallen them, and most of the fun is making each other laugh by being as sadistic as possible. The word 'macabre' was practically invented for this game.

Read more: Why you should play... the Gloom card game

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(Image credit: Brotherwise Games)
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5. Boss Monster

The best fantasy card game

Players: 2 - 4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30 minutes | Age: 13+

Awesome pixel art
Cool theme
Be the villain
... ugh, math

There's something deliciously evil about Boss Monster. It flips the idea of traditional dungeon crawls by making you the villain at the end. Your objective? Tempt in adventurers and kill them off for points. Even though it features math-based rules, boosts, and multipliers, it's also pretty straightforward to play once you've gotten your head around it. That leaves you room to get creative, screw over other players, and steal their heroes. It's a blast.

Gorgeous pixel art and packaging that seems drawn from the NES heyday only adds to its appeal. In fact, Boss Monster is an unashamed love letter to the 16-bit days of fantasy video games. And while it suffers a little with just two players, a full roster of four is a lot of fun. With sessions running for just 20-30 minutes and loads of replay value, it's a great choice for games night.

Best card games: 6 - 10

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(Image credit: Cyanide and Happiness)
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(Image credit: Cyanide and Happiness)
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(Image credit: Cyanide and Happiness)

6. Joking Hazard

The funniest card game

Players: 3 - 10 | Difficulty: Easy | Time to set up: 1 minute | Time to play: 30 - 90 minutes | Age: 18+

Hysterical
Opportunity for bizarre stories
Great cartoons
Definitely an 18+ game

If you're a fan of Cards Against Humanity, this devilish and NSFW alternative will be right up your street. It follows the same format as that game (fill in the blanks with the funniest response) but uses pictures instead of words to hilarious effect. Based on the tongue-in-cheek cartoons of Cyanide and Happiness, two cards - one random, the other chosen by a player from their hand - begin a story. Everyone else has to finish it with a card of their own. The most amusing response gets a point. It's easy to get into and you'll be playing in no time.

And don't worry, finding something funny isn't hard either. The drawings are snort-out-loud daft and all kinds of inappropriate. What's more, the sheer volume on offer (to say nothing of expansions) gives it plenty of replay-value. Just remember, this isn't a family friendly game.

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(Image credit: Indie Boards and Cards)
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(Image credit: Indie Boards and Cards)
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(Image credit: Indie Boards and Cards)

7. The Resistance

The best deception card game

Players: 5 - 10 | Difficulty: Hard | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 30 minutes | Age: 13+

Oodles of tension
Exciting
Betrayals are a lot of fun
Can destroy friendships

Are you a good liar? Can you tell when your friends are lying to you? This game puts that to the test. The Resistance casts you as a band of freedom fighters who are battling to take down a corrupt government, but there are traitors amongst your crew. The rebels must win three out of five of their missions in order to claim victory, but the anonymous spies will do everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen - all in secret and from within.

This results in tense but thrilling games of cat and mouse. Who do you trust? And how will you know if they're pulling the wool over your eyes? If you're a traitor, would you rather throw a fellow spy under the bus if it means you remain undetected? As the blurb itself reads, The Resistance isn't messing around - "choose your teams carefully or forever lose your freedom".

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(Image credit: Modiphius Entertainment)
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(Image credit: Modiphius Entertainment)
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(Image credit: Modiphius Entertainment)

8. Agatha Christie's Death on the Cards

The best mystery card game

Players: 2 - 6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 2 - 5 minutes | Time to play: 20 - 40 minutes | Age: 10+

Charming artwork
Tactical and devious
A good poker face isn't essential
Isn't all that easy to understand

Ever fancied yourself as an armchair detective? Now it's time to put those skills to the test. There's a murderer amongst you in Agatha Christie's Death on the Cards, and the other players have to catch them before they make good their escape. The catch? You've got no idea who they are. They'll also be working behind the scenes to derail your investigation. That means you'll need help from the likes of Poirot and Miss Marple if you want to bust this case wide open. 

To complicate matters further, everyone's got something to hide. In a very literal sense, that is - each player receives three 'secret' cards at the beginning of the game, and you're out if they all get revealed. The trouble is, uncovering secrets is the only way you can reveal the murderer. Cue mistrust, misdirection, and a whole load of bluffing. Not that you need a good poker face to win; in a pleasant twist, the mechanics are strong enough that tactics alone can earn you victory.

Read more: Agatha Christie's Death on the Cards review 

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(Image credit: Game Salute)
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9. Marrying Mr Darcy

The best card game for social b*tchiness

Players: 2 - 6 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 1 - 2 minutes | Time to play: 60 minutes | Age: 12+

Unique gameplay
Fun event cards
Playable period drama
A bit niche

Stop! I see you scrolling past this game because you think it’s for ‘dreamy girls’ or fans of stuffy old Georgian literature. But if you miss out on Marrying Mr Darcy you are, frankly, skipping one of the most entertaining games on this list. The basic idea is to pick a debutant from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice before attempting to bag yourself a man. If you roleplay it and really get into the historical bitchiness of the whole game, it’s heaps of fun, especially when you start screwing over your opponents. 

You begin by playing the Courtship stage, where you take it in turns to draw event cards that allow you to build up your own eligibility, or ruin the chances of your opponents (spoiling the chances of someone else getting a good marriage is almost as entertaining as getting one yourself). Then you move on to the Proposal stage, which sees you competing for the hand of whichever suitors you qualify to marry. It’s a simple game, but very replayable, and the levels of cunning and scheming you can achieve make it seriously entertaining, even if you have no interest in Georgian literature, social scandals, or getting yourself Mr Darcy. And, if you want more spice, there’s a great Undead Expansion that riffs off the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novel. 

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(Image credit: Fantasy Flight)
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10. Marvel Champions

The best deck-building card game

Players: 2 - 4 | Difficulty: Moderate | Time to set up: 5 minutes | Time to play: 1 - 2 hours | Age: 14+

Cleverly translates superpowers to tabletop
Makes good use of alter-egos
Deep but not overwhelming strategy
Takes a few rounds to get into

Superheroes have conquered almost every medium from movies to audio-books in the last few years, so it's not surprising to see them make the transition to card games with Marvel Champions. Fortunately, this isn't a cynical cash-in. It's a fun but strategic deck-building game that smartly translates its characters' abilities to the tabletop. Because it's developed by Fantasy Flight, you also know you're in for a high-quality product that'll be supported for years to come.

Your aim is to reduce the villain's health to zero before they achieve their nefarious goal, but players will need to make smart use of allies, abilities, and upgrades to do so. Intriguingly, that includes calling upon a superhero's alter-ego. For instance, Spider-Man can interrupt villain attacks while Peter Parker gains resources that are essential for deploying more cards. It's a cool tip of the hat to the one of the genre's most beloved tropes.

Marvel Champions is excellent fan-service, too - it calls upon a broad range of heroes from the classic to the obscure. Although Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and She-Hulk are here, so are the likes of Hellcat. Much like everything else in this game, it's a cool tribute to over fifty years of comic book history fans will love.

Read more: Why you should play... Marvel Champions

More board game recommendations

For more board game suggestions (including recommendations for adults and kids), be sure to check in with our other guides. There's plenty for you to choose from, and these lists are regularly updated with brand new favorites. 

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

Want to get started with roleplaying games? 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+.