We love playing cooperative board games with our kids. In this article, I will be discussing why you should be playing cooperative games with your kids, and I’ll also recommend several great cooperative kids games.
For these non-competitive kids game recommendations, I’ve made sure to pick games that are actually fun and engaging for adults as well as kids, including many games we will happily play without the kids being there at all.
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Why should you play cooperative board games with kids?
Any recommendations for cooperative games for kids for family games night?
Before I dive into game recommendations I wanted to take some time to talk about why you should be playing cooperative games with kids.
One of the most important things that cooperative games do is remove any competition between the players. In a cooperative game, everyone is working together to try to win and everyone wins together or loses together. This can be a life-saver when trying to play games with kids who don’t like competition or kids that like it a bit too much. You don’t have to worry about a sore loser or poor winner when everyone is in the same boat.
The other big advantage of playing a cooperative game with kids is that the adults can and should coach the kids. Since everyone is working together this doesn’t upset the balance in the game or make the game unfair. Playing cooperative games with open information, like face-up cards, makes this even easier to do. During a cooperative game, everyone is supposed to be helping everyone else. It’s part of the game. When playing with kids, quarterbacking can actually be a good thing.
So now that you know why you should be playing cooperative games with kids, let’s move on to the recommendations Skeeter asked for. Note that Skeeter specifically mentioned cooperative games for kids for family games night. This implies that he’s looking for games for adults to play with kids and not just games kids will enjoy playing amongst themselves. Due to this, the games listed below are all games that I think adults will enjoy as well as the kids, including a number of games that we will happily play with or without our kids being at the game table.
What are the best cooperative kids games that are also fun for adults?
Normally when I create a game recommendation list the games are in no particular order. That’s not the case this time. Instead, I’ve listed these games in order of complexity and difficulty. I originally considered putting them into groups by age, but everyone’s kids are different and learn at different rates. I know some gamer parents who have played Power Grid with their toddlers and other parents whose kids found Catan hard in their teens. You know your kids better than I do, and that’s why I decided to list the games on a difficulty scale instead of by age ranges.
Outfoxed – Outfoxed is a cooperative deduction game for young kids. The players are moving a fox detective around a city searching for clues and trying to figure out which of the animals in the town stole a pie. It uses a pretty cool plastic decoder to randomize whodunit and to give clues.
Note this one is for very young kids and doesn’t require any reading ability. Due to being designed for real little ones, of all the games on this list, this one is going to be the least interesting for parents. That said, the first few games were quite engaging but once you figured out how the clues work and see each of the clues the puzzle becomes less engaging with future plays. Now that didn’t turn our kids off from playing this game again and again, but it became something they played on their own more often than something we played with them.
Robot Turtles – This STEM game was an early Kickstarter success. It’s a programmed movement game that will remind old-timers like me of Logo or Turtle Graphics. To play Robot Turtles, you set up some gems on the board, which is just a huge grid. You also place some obstacles and then players are challenged to program their robot turtles to collect the gems.
While I will admit that at first I was disappointed by the number of scenarios presented in the box, we found the kids love making challenges both for each other and for us, the parents, and we’ve also had fun designing challenges for them. Besides being great as a cooperative game with everyone working together to collect the gems, you can also play competitively where the player with the most gems wins or the player who manages to collect everything in the least number of moves wins.
Rory’s Story Cubes – If you have kids you should pick up at least one set of Rory’s Story Cubes and once you have one set you will probably want to pick up more. Players of improv-based story games and RPGs may also want sets of these as they are great to use for inspiration during play.
There are a wide number of games that can be played with these dice, many of which are cooperative. While each set includes a large number of games you can try, you can also go online to find even more inspiration both in the form of official and fan-made games.
Forbidden Island – To this day I will credit Forbidden Island as the big inspiration behind one of our girls learning to read. Not that there’s a lot of reading in this game, but my daughter really wanted to be able to find the island tiles based on their names and to be able to read off the cards when we played.
This is a great cooperative game for almost any age, due to being able to play with open hands where parents can easily coach the kids. In Forbidden Island, you are searching on a sinking island for four artifacts. Once you find the artifacts you also need to “get to the choppa” and escape. This game features variable difficulty levels that you can scale up as the kids (and parents) gain experience.
For a somewhat more involved game, better for slightly older kids, also check out Forbidden Desert.
The Game – Despite the fact that it features the worst name in board game history, The Game is a really solid cooperative card game. It’s all about playing numbered cards from your hand in order, either up from 1 to 100 or down from 100 to 1. This is a great game for helping kids who are struggling with counting or number recognition. One of the most interesting rules is that you can put a card down that’s exactly ten away from the current face up card’s value, moving the numbers either up or down, as a way to dial back on a deck.
The Mind – The Mind is a follow-up to The Game that I personally enjoy quite a bit more than the original. In this rather unique game, you are trying to play your hand of cards in numerical order from one to ninety-nine. However unlike The Game, in The Mind, you aren’t allowed to communicate at all. The first hand of the game each player will only have one card, the second round they each have two, the third round three and so on.
This game has proven to be extremely popular both with kids and also with just adults playing.
Castle Panic – This is a board game that emulates the popular video game mechanic of tower defence. You are trying to defend the castle in the centre of the board from wave after wave of baddies coming in from all sides. Monsters are drawn at random from a bag so you never know if you are going to face a weak goblin or a horde of ogres.
I will admit I’m not a huge fan of this game but many of my friends with kids swear by it. Once your kids are older, I recommend swapping over to Star Trek Panic which is a much more involved version of the same game. One that’s significantly more difficult and also features an awesome-looking cardboard enterprise and plastic shields.
While I haven’t tried it there’s now a My First Castle Panic version, which may be a cool way to experience this tower defence style game with even younger kids.
Codenames Duet – Codenames Duet is the cooperative version of Codenames and despite what the name may imply and what it seems many people think, this is not just a two-player game.
In Codenames Duet the players split into two teams, which we found is perfect for our family game nights with each parent pairing up with one kid. The kids also like playing this one as kids vs adults.
Each round one team gives a one word clue to the other team, who are trying to guess the face-up words pertaining to that clue. If your team manages to find all the words before running out of clue tokens you win, but watch out for the assassin. If either team guesses an assassin word the entire group loses.
Check out our Codenames Duet review for more information about this great cooperative game.
Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Begins – The newest game on this list, D&D Adventure Begins was introduced by Hasbro in 2020 as a new introduction to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. While mechanically a rather boring game, D&D Adventure Begins shines by prompting players to tell stories as they play and to come up with descriptions both for how they react to the situations presented in the game and for how they manage to pull off their character’s signature attacks.
This is a great way to introduce your kids to structured storytelling and the world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Flash Point Fire Rescue – In Flash Point players play a team of firefighters trying to save people and pets from a burning building. Start off with the family rules for playing with younger kids and add in the advanced rules as they get older and more experienced.
The full rules for Flash Point Fire Rescue have more than enough depth to keep most hobby gamers interested. In addition to this, you can always pick up additional maps and other expansions thus adding more options and complexity to the base game.
Flash Point is just a great cooperative game overall and for many years was my go-to cooperative game of choice.
Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunters – With Creepy Cellar Expansion – Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters! is the best kids game I’ve ever played and is my strongest recommendation out of all the games on this list. This game is great fun for the kids and more than engaging enough for adults. This is a game my kids will break out on their own but also a game we will break out even when the kids aren’t here.
I’ve recommended this game many times before, but this time I want to mention the Creepy Cellar Expansion which we recently reviewed. This is a fantastic addition to Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters that not only adds some new content but also re-balances the game, giving players more options and agency and improving the game all around.
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle – This game is perfect if the kids you are playing with are Potterheads in any way. This gateway deck-building game progresses from dead simple in book one to rather complicated by book seven and gets even more involved once you throw in the expansions.
One thing I like about Hogwarts Battle is that if you hit a book your kids are comfortable with you can just stop there and keep playing with those rules until they are ready to move on. While adults may want to start with book three, this is a great game to play with the full family from start to finish.
Fair warning, the Monster Box of Monsters Expansion for Hogwarts Battle is significantly more difficult than the base games and should probably be saved until the kids are a bit older to prevent frustration due to failing repetitively.
Stuffed Fables – On our previous list of hidden gem cooperative kids games. I talked a lot about Mice & Mystics. I still do think that Mice & Mystics is a good game to play with the family. However, since I wrote that previous list, the same designer has put out an even better storybook game for kids and that is Stuffed Fables. In Stuffed Fables you play Stuffies, animated stuffed animals. The story starts with your girl spending her first night in a big girl bed and you have to defend her from the monsters under that bed. This game features much simpler mechanics than Mice & Mystics and a more kid-friendly storyline. We found that our girls not only got into the story more but were better able to understand and interact with the mechanics without help from us.
Horrified Universal Monsters – While you may think that a horror movie based game wouldn’t be great for kids, this particular one is based on the older, campy, black and white Universal Monsters movies and doesn’t feature any real horror elements in the gameplay.
One of the great things about Horrified is that you can adjust the difficulty based on the players’ skill level. When playing with kids I would recommend starting with only one monster and slowly adding more as the kids learn how to play.
Check out our Horrified review for more information on this excellent cooperative game.
The Crew Quest for Planet Nine – The Crew is a cooperative trick-taking card game for up to five players. Players work together to complete missions that require each character to win tricks containing specific cards, sometimes in a specific order.
The core game contains fifty missions of increasing difficulty. This is another one where if it starts to get too hard for your kids you can always go back and replay the easier missions.
For more information about this great cooperative card game check out our review of The Crew The Quest for Planet Nine.
Wonder Woman Challenge of the Amazons – My girls love the theme on this cooperative board game where the players take on the role of one of DC comics’ Amazons and work together to defend the island of Themyscira from enemies including Ares, Circe and The Cheetah.
This cooperative game does a great job eliminating quarterbacking through a programmed movement system with some hidden information. Players have to program three moves a turn but only have access to two cards while planning their moves together. They then get three more cards but can no longer communicate while they plan out their move. This unique system means this one is best with kids with some significant board game experience.
Read through our Wonder Woman Challenge of the Amazons review for more information about this Wonder Woman themed board game.
Honourable Mentions: More Great Cooperative Kids’ Game
I’m listing these games separately because I haven’t personally had the pleasure of trying them. This shortlist includes games recommended by our fans and a couple of newer games I haven’t had the chance to try but that I think my kids would love.
Mmm! – This was a 2016 Kinderspiel des Jahres winner which I expect to be great as the Kinderspiel is the most prestigious kids board game award in the world. Mmm! is a push your luck dice game about mice trying to sneak food from the kitchen while not getting caught by the family cat.
The only reason Mmm! didn’t make the list is because it didn’t come out until 2016, by which point my kids were too old, having already moved onto more complicated games.
Mole Rats in Space – In Mole Rats in Space, the players are mole rats on a research station that has been invaded by snakes. The players must collect their equipment and escape the station before time runs out. This cooperative game comes from Matt Leacock who designed what’s probably the most popular cooperative game of all time, Pandemic.
Mole Rats came up as a recommendation from fans the last time we covered cooperative kids games and I still think it belongs on the list. This was another game that my kids were too old for by the time I learned of it.
Hoot Owl Hoot! – This recommendation comes from our first ever Patreon Patron, Brian K. This is another game that my girls were too old for at the time it was released. It reminds me of a cooperative version of Candyland with players playing coloured cards to move owls with the goal of getting them all home to their nest.
Brian assures me that there’s much more to this game than Candyland and that your decisions actually matter. In this game when you play a colour card you pick which of all the owls on the board to move, so the entire game isn’t pre-determined during the first draw. Plus there’s the fun rule that if you pass over another owl all the players are supposed to hoot!
Slide Quest – This is a newer cooperative game that just came out in 2019 from Blue Orange Games. Slide Quest is a dexterity game very similar to the classic wooden game Labyrinth. To play this game the players hold paddles on the side of the box and are using them to tip the box to navigate a knight with a metal ball in its base around a maze-like board.
Slide Quest looks like a ton of fun and it’s one I would love to try myself with the kids. This also looks like a great game for playing with my regular game group, and I have a feeling it may be even more fun if some adult beverages are included.
Quirky Circuits – This is another storybook game from the same publisher as Mice & Mystics and Stuffed Fables (though from a different designer). Quirky Circuits is a cooperative, programmed movement game that features limited communication. Here all of the players are working together to program one of four cute-looking robots.
I’m a big fan of programmed movement games as are my kids so I really need to pick this game up at some point as I expect it will be a big hit for our family.
That’s it for my list of great kids’ games that are engaging for adults and thus great for family game night. If you are looking for tips on how to get children into board gaming check out my “Some of the best kids board games and how to get kids to play them article”.