Murder mystery games have come a long way since the days of Cluedo. Clever tabletop game designers have added even more suspects, red herrings, and engaging clues to modern murder mystery board games, all so you’ll don your detective hat and hunt for clues. We’ve tested oodles of offerings to create this guide to the best murder mystery games to play in 2023.
The fact murder mystery board games are better than ever also means there’s more choice than ever. Do you want a hardcore puzzler strategy board game your party solves together, or do you prefer a social deduction game where the suspect hides among you, and no one can be trusted? Do you want to close the case in a single evening, or are you after a mystery that’ll keep you awake for weeks on end?
Whichever way your investigatory tendencies lead you, you’ll find some of the best board games for you in this list; we reckon you’d probably get a kick out of our favorite horror board games too. For now, though…
The best murder mystery games in 2023 are:
- Hunt a Killer – the best episodic murder mystery subscription
- Mysterium – solve the murder by communing with ghosts
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf – the original murder party game
- Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective – co-op crime solving capers
- Blood on the Clocktower – a 20-player social deduction spectacular
- MicroMacro: Crime City – murder mystery meets Where’s Waldo?
- Deception: Murder in Hong Kong – Pairs sneaky social deduction with vexing word association
Hunt a Killer
The best episodic murder mystery subscription
Hunt a Killer is the premium option if you’re looking for a murder mystery game that lasts more than a few hours. Each individual box takes between 90 minutes and three hours to complete, but Hunt a Killer offers mysteries that take place over multiple ‘episode’ boxes.
You can keep up with the most recent mysteries by opting for a subscription that delivers episodes incrementally, or you can get a full mystery series in one go by purchasing a box set. Of course, if you prefer a one-and-done mystery game, there are also premium boxes to fill this need.
The downside of all these premium options is they also come with a premium price tag. A quarterly subscription costs $99 / £81.99 a month, while box sets can cost up to $149 / £123.40 . A single premium box can cost anywhere between $32 / £26.50 and $228 / £188.95. Considering each mystery is only playable once, this might be too steep an asking price for some.
Still, Hunt a Killer offers a wide variety of mysteries, ranging from gritty true crime to doughnut-themed mystery jigsaws. The boxes are ideal for a maximum of six players, and it’s recommended players be over the age of 13 (murders do tend to involve upsetting details, after all). If you’re a hardcore crime-solver, the huge amount of content available from Hunt a Killer might just be worth the price of entry.
Solve the murder by communing with ghosts
Mysterium isn’t your traditional murder mystery board game. It asks you to crack codes and find a killer, but you do so by interpreting images given to you by the ghost of the murdered party.
One player takes on the role of this ghost. The ghost cannot speak – they can only give clues to their killer by revealing cards showing abstract pictures. After that, they’ve got to hope the living players can connect their image to the right murderer, murder location, and murder weapon. These detectives are contacting the ghost by supernatural means, and they only have a limited time to make their guesses in.
This is a co-op board game for up to seven players, but there is a scoring system that determines who the ultimate psychic detective is. Mysterium doesn’t offer a narrative or puzzles to solve, but it does have something more conventional murder mystery games don’t – it’s got endless replay value. It’s also one of our favourite board games for adults.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
The original murder party game
We’ve recommended One Night Ultimate Werewolf to tabletop gamers for all sorts of reasons. It’s one of our top funny board games, and it’s one of the games like Among Us that might convert digital gamers to the physical gaming space. Honestly, we consider it one of the best board games around these days – and it happens to be a great take on the bluffing/murder mystery genre.
In One Night Ultimate Werewolf, the killer is at least one of the players. The game begins by assigning everyone a secret role, and one or more of your group will discover they are a werewolf. Gameplay forces everyone to close their eyes and ‘go to sleep’ – and this is when the werewolves strike, killing a hapless snoozer.
Fortunately, some of the villagers get to perform actions during the night too. You might be a seer who can check other players’ roles, or you could be a troublemaker who swaps the roles of others around. Whatever you become, the humans must discover the identity of the werewolves, and hang one the next morning. Werewolves and their minions win if an innocent player gets lynched.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a gallows humour bluffing game filled with finger-pointing and fantastic fun. It can be played by three to ten players in under ten minutes (there are longer versions of the same game, but this is the superior version, in our humble opinion).
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Co-op crime solving capers
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective has everything a mystery fan could want – intriguing stories, papers to analyse, and puzzles to solve. Oh yes, and Sherlock Holmes himself.
Holmes does make an appearance in the series, but he won’t be helping you catch the criminals. Instead, your team must figure the mystery out yourselves – and then you’ll be graded on how close you were to beating Holmes to the same conclusion.
This is perhaps the game’s weakest point. Holmes is nearly impossible to beat, sometimes finding the culprit in just three turns. Your final score suffers if you can’t match these big-brain plays, which feels a little punishing for thorough detectives who like to explore every avenue before making an accusation.
Luckily, this scoring system is easily ignored – the mysteries are compelling enough that getting the correct answers is reward enough. And while the stories aren’t replayable, there are multiple in a single box, and the series now has several different expansions to keep you guessing. This is also a great couples board game for partners who enjoy putting their heads together.
Blood on the Clocktower
A 20-player social deduction spectacular
Blood on the Clocktower has the same core concept as One Night Ultimate Werewolf: a randomly chosen player kills other players at night, and they win if they can eliminate the majority of ‘good’ players without being detected and executed. This game takes place over several nights, however, and it introduces extra mechanics that add the complexity and intrigue the Werewolf series sometimes lacks.
Blood on the Clocktower can support up to 20 players, so it’s ideal for anyone with lots of murder mystery fans to cater for. There aren’t many opportunities to figure out puzzles in this game, but it’s got plenty of bluffing – and perhaps a little roleplaying, if your group is enthusiastic enough.
Blood on the Clocktower is the perfect Halloween board game. There are some downsides, though. Firstly, this is another premium price game – you can expect to pay $145 for a copy. Secondly, it’s currently tricky to get a hold of a physical copy. Delays to the original Kickstarter and a lack of stock mean buying Blood on the Clocktower can be a bit of a mystery in itself.
MicroMacro: Crime City
Murder mystery meets Where’s Waldo?
MicroMacro: Crime City combines a Where’s Waldo? book with a riveting thriller. 16 crimes have taken place in this sketchy-looking city, and the clues for solving each case are hidden on an enormous black-and-white map. The paper represents time and space, so you can follow your suspects on their suspicious journeys with a finger, trying to deduce what really happened in the various case cards.
This coop board game can be a real puzzler. While its concept is simple, the puzzles can prove a real challenge. They’re best experienced with a group and a long evening where you can really chew on the possible motives and murder weapons hidden along every street.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Pairs sneaky social deduction with vexing word association
There’s a killer on the force! In social deduction/murder mystery game Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, you play as investigators trying to solve a grisly murder. Except one of you is the killer!
In Deception, the mystery is solved through word association, with a forensic scientist who knows all the facts trying to lead their teammates to the culprit, murder weapon, and a key piece of evidence, all of which is required to win the case. The wrinkle is: they can’t speak.
Instead, they must wordlessly serve up cryptic clues, placing markers on boards to indicate, for instance, the killers personality (were they arrogant, greedy, or perverted?), or location (was the crime in a park, school, or bank?)
Each player has an array of murder weapon and evidence cards laid out in front of them, and its the good guys’ job to match the scientists’ clues to the right person and cards. The killer, meanwhile, wants to throw them off the scent.
There are other, optional roles that add a bit of complexity – with a witness who knows the culprit but must avoid detection, and an accomplice to help the killer out. A wonderful little detail is that to make a guess, a player must dramatically stake their badge on an accusation.