The best classic board games still worth playing today

Old board games can still be good board games! Here are the best classic board games and family board games that have stood the test of time

classic board games: a wooden chess set

With so much variety on offer, and new games arriving all the time, the rise of modern board games in the last 20 years has been a true revolution. But that doesn’t mean we have to send all our classic board games to the guillotine. They’re the wrong shape, for one thing.

Indeed, we should respect our elders, these old board games which have been with us through thick and thin. On a holiday (or just a rainy day) with family gathered round, nothing beats a classic board game. There’s a reason these games have remained popular for decades, when boardgaming as a whole offers so many new options. Sometimes you can’t beat nostalgia.

There are many, many classic board games to consider, offering all kinds of different gameplay experiences. But which ones are the very best? Well, to tell you that we’ll have to break a few hearts, we’re afraid – it’s a fair bet that each classic board game is somebody’s favourite. We’ve fetched our own personal picks from the back of the cupboard, dusted them off, and assembled them into the list below for your reading pleasure.

These are the best classic board games:

classic board games: a monopoly box.

Monopoly

Like marmite, tuna, or your more eccentric relatives, Monopoly is one of those games that everyone either loves or hates. You definitely have an opinion on this classic board game’s appearance on the list, don’t lie to us.

When the objective of the game is buying up properties and then taking all your friends’ money, laughing at them as they’re sent to jail, Monopoly is probably the first family board game you played which started a major row.

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Originally designed as a warning to educate its players on the dangers of monopolies, this seems to have backfired spectacularly. Indeed, Monopoly has a strange power to unlock the evil capitalist within. It’s all in the name of good fun though. Just please, please, don’t play with the optional Free Parking rule – it drags the game out horribly.

And don’t play as the thimble. You gotta be the dog or the top hat, or you’re doing it wrong.

classic board games: a hand reaching over a trivial pursuit board for some light blue segment pieces

Trivial Pursuit

Pandemic lockdowns saw the return of trivia with the rise of the Zoom quiz. Yes, it was annoying only being able to see people from their shoulders up, and yes, we all had that one friend who constantly lost connection, or turned into an inaudible, fuzzy blob, but we made do!

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Now that more of us are meeting up to play board games in person, why not keep the quizzing going? There are many quiz board games to try out, with all sorts of different themes and gameplay quirks. But sometimes you can’t beat the granddaddy of them all. The OG trivia game, Trivial Pursuit, is still very much worth playing today.

classic board games: a ludo board

Ludo

Round and round the little Ludo pieces go, and where they’ll stop nobody kno- oh, seriously? Okay, back to the start then.

It’s super satisfying to frustrate your foes in Ludo

In Ludo, up to four players race to get all their pieces around the board and into the safety of the finish. Like most racing board games, it’s very reliant on chance, since your success almost purely depends on how good you are at rolling sixes. Better get your lucky dice warmed up.

What gives this classic board game staying power, however, is the ability to vindictively stomp on your opponents’ pieces with your own, and send them all the way back to the start. This is very enjoyable for everyone except the person getting stomped, which means at any given point, 75% of Ludo players are having a great time.

classic board games: a group of people playing catan with snacks set up around the board on a red background.

Catan

Is Catan, or Settlers of Catan, as it used to be known, really a classic board game? Well, it came out before the turn of the century, in 1995, and we’re super young, so we’re saying it counts. That’s 27 years of dice-rolling, settlement-building fun, after all.

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Catan can be considered a modern classic. It’s the first big box game most people try on their journey into the world of boardgaming: many of us cut our teeth on Catan before we truly entered the hobby and sought out more of the best board games ever. Its competitive, resource gathering gameplay is nicely balanced and remains fun to this day. There are a ton of Catan expansions to enjoy, too.

classic board games: a foldable chess board set up for a game

Chess

Everyone knows chess. It’s one of those classic board games that dates back centuries instead of decades. The official chess world championships began in the 19th century, and the game has millions of devoted fans. Even robots love it!

It may appear intimidating, but it’s super easy to learn to play Chess

Though the skill with which some chess fanatics play can make the game seem quite intimidating, it’s surprisingly easy to learn how to play chess. You can have great fun at a beginner level (provided you’re not playing a grandmaster) but you can also spend your whole life constantly improving and still feel there’s lots to learn.

Chess is also one of the greatest online board games. It’s easy to find an opponent online to get a game of chess going, and there are plenty of sites that can help you hone your skills and teach you good openings and strategies.

classic board games: a connect 4 board with a game in progress.

Connect 4

Tic-Tac-Toe’s younger, overachieving sibling, Connect 4 is easy, but fun. Simply gather your yellow or red counters, slot them into place, and let gravity do the work. Though it’s really a kids board game, it’s surprising how competitive a game of Connect 4 with two well-matched opponents can be. Can you take advantage of a momentary lapse in concentration to walk your opponent into a trap?

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For some reason you always feel like a blooming genius when you win Connect 4, despite the fact that a three-year-old could play it.

classic board games: a risk box.

RISK

All dedicated board game fans will know the challenge of persuading a non-boardgamer to try a strategy board game or war board game, but for some reason Risk never has this issue. Perhaps it’s the exception that proves the rule, or perhaps it’s just brand recognition. But it could also be that Risk packs the fun of whittling down an opponent’s defences and boxing them into a corner into a super simple and easy-to-play package.

In Risk, Diplomacy is as important as tactics

With rules that are so simplistic, there’s plenty of room for the social side of Risk to shine. When there can only be one winner, it’s only natural for temporary alliances to form and then be broken at the crucial moment. Risk’s a game that tells great stories.

As with many classic board games, there are a million different versions of Risk. You can theme the game however you like, as there’s tie-ins with all sorts of properties – from Star Wars, to Game of Thrones, to Lord of the Rings.