We’re guessing you’re here because you’re planning a party, in which case happy birthday, merry Christmas or just congratulations on having friends (delete as appropriate).
It’s always a good idea to have your party videogames ready in advance, because the last thing you want when everyone’s nicely tipsy is to have to download a load of updates. Also, in the case of some of the more retro games on this list, you’re going to need to go to an actual shop (or, more realistically, order online) because you can’t download Nintendo 64 cartridges. And they call this the future!
The games on this list are of course hugely subjective, and we’re anticipating a bit of rage from people whose favourites didn’t make the list. But these are – after much debate and drunken play (it’s a hard job but we don’t have any other marketable skills) – officially the 10 best videogames to play at a party. Plus some honourable mentions because like Spinal Tap, we just can’t limit ourselves to ten.
Here we go.
1. Mario Party
Everyone has their favourite version of Mario Party, and which one you choose is going to depend a lot on which consoles you have kicking around (unless you don’t have any Nintendo ones, in which case you’d better move on to #2). There are versions of the franchise for Nintendo 64 (the original), GameCube, Wii, Wii U and Switch, all with their own quirks and minigames.
Mario Party is basically a bonkers multiplayer board game, only the board itself has a theme and an objective (like reuniting two Yoshis torn apart by a whirlpool – most emotional moment of the 90s for us). The boards constantly move and change, and different paths open up depending on where you land.
The objective is to collect the most stars and coins by the end of the game, but there’s a hefty slice of luck needed alongside skill in the bizarre and hilarious minigames – you can be just about to get a star when someone lands on the wrong spot and the whole board changes, or some fool sends you all to Bowser.
The game hands out bonus stars at the end for things like landing on the most question-mark spaces, and these can completely change who the winner is, so don’t assume someone’s got it in the bag until Toad squeaks his trademark “Congratulations!” at the very end.
It’s fun, it’s ridiculous, it’s ridiculously fun. [Buy it here].
2. Knowledge is Power
One of the best versions of the ‘game show’ format we’ve ever played, Knowledge is Power sees you take on your mates in a madcap battle to the top of the pyramid. There are plenty of opportunities to screw over your opponents, as well as showing off obscure knowledge gleaned from watching too much Pointless.
It’s a PlayStation exclusive, but uses PlayLink, so you all play with your smartphones instead of needing loads of controllers. Smart.
This is one of those games everyone instantly wants to play again as soon as it ends, especially if you didn’t win but thought you deserved to. It would all have been different if someone hadn’t lobbed a load of ice at you in the last round…! You’ll get ’em next time. [Buy it here].
3. Drawful 2
Jackbox are kind of the Cards Against Humanity of party games – they dominate the space, because they make titles that are just loads better than the competition. However, they do this by throwing loads of game ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks, so quite a few of their titles are duds.
Drawful is definitely not one of them. Like Knowledge is Power, you all use your smartphones to play, so make sure you’ve got a few chargers kicking around for the iPhone types who turn up with 20 per cent battery. It’s available on loads of platforms including PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
As the name suggests, Drawful is all about drawing terrible things. The game will give you a secret prompt on your phone screen, and you have just two colours and your fingers to represent that thing in a way that your friends will get. Then, everyone enters their guess for what you’ve drawn, and you each vote for which one you think is right. The more obscure ones are particularly hilarious, as people scramble for a title that sounds plausible (you get points if people think your answer’s the right one).
Tip: watch your spelling! Typos are a dead giveaway it’s a guess and not the real title. [Get it here, either on its own or as part of a party pack with other Jackbox titles].
4. Super Smash Bros
Another one that comes on a choice of (Nintendo) platforms, although it has to be said that the latest iteration, Super Smash Bros Ultimate for Nintendo Switch is one of the best ever.
If you haven’t played Smash Bros before, firstly we envy you, and secondly all you need to know is that it’s basically just a massive brawl between Nintendo characters. It’s quite forgiving to newbies because you can button bash fairly successfully if you don’t know your character’s special moves, and old hands love it because there are so many tricks to learn for the many, many, many characters. Seriously, even the Wii Fit trainers and Mr Game & Watch are in Ultimate, it’s bananas.
We like playing as Kirby because you can eat other characters and nick their special skills, which is both useful and satisfying as Kirby takes on their physical features when he noms them. [Buy it here].
5. Rocket League
It’s literally football with rocket-powered cars. What could be better than that? Not much, which is why Rocket League has become so popular that it’s now on pretty much all the platforms, and has cross-platform multiplayer as well as local multiplayer (and single-player, but that’s not much fun at parties, is it?).
You and your mates control ridiculously overpowered cars in a stadium, trying to bash the comically oversized ball into the goal while not getting bashed yourself. That’s it really, it’s both as daft and fun as it sounds, and by no means restricted to people who like cars or football. [Get it here].
6. Mario Kart
It’s a good thing this list isn’t in order of preference, because you’d never forgive us for putting Mario Kart this far down if it were. We hardly need to tell you how iconic, infuriating and all-round fun the Nintendo racing franchise is, in all its iterations from the hair-pullingly hard SNES version to the newest and flashiest Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch – and of course the deeply divisive Double Dash!! for the GameCube along the way.
There are numerous drinking games based on Mario Kart floating around the internet, but honestly just the fractious high-speed chases through courses old and new (and endless – Rainbow Road forever, literally), trying to master that bastard of a shortcut on Wario Stadium, and getting banjaxed by a blue shell right at the moment of glory are enough to keep you entertained until your hand muscles give out. A classic for all the right reasons. [Get it here].
7. Goldeneye 64
If you’ve got a Nintendo 64 and enough controllers for everyone (no online play here, obvs), this is still one of the most fun multiplayer games of all time.
There are so many modes to explore that you could happily spend an entire games night just on this, moving between Slappers Only (where you have to kill each other with just your hands), the Golden Gun (one-shot kills), proximity-triggered mines and LASERS. There are tonnes of levels to try as well, some of which are truly labyrinthine and some of which contain loads of glass that you can have fun smashing with your laser for no reason at all.
Another excellent Jackbox title, this one involves lying creatively, and that’s pretty much it. The game gives you a sentence to complete or question to answer, and you come up with the most plausible-sounding but not actually true answer you can in the time limit.
We’ve discovered that some of our friends are terrifyingly good liars through playing this, and also that we’re not very good at spotting literal fake news. The game itself is fun and funny, but let down a bit by its excessive American-ness – the ‘host’ talks way too much sometimes and some of the questions and answers don’t really translate outside the US. That said, it’s still one of our favourites to bust out on a games night and well worth the fairly low price.
Like Drawful, Fibbage uses your phone as a controller, so you won’t need loads of hardware. [Get it here, either on its own or in a party pack with other Jackbox games].
9. Wii Sports
A deserved classic. In terms of being really easy for anyone to pick up and play, Wii Sports is up there with the best in the world thanks to its motion-controlled action. Tip: make sure everyone puts their wrist strap on before you get going, lest someone smash your lovely TV with an over-enthusiastic bowling strike.
The beauty of Wii Sports is that for the most part, you don’t need to learn any button presses or mechanics, you just do what comes naturally – like swinging your arm to take a shot in tennis, baseball, golf or even boxing. The later Wii Sports Resort tried to capture the same magic and somewhat succeeded, especially with the frisbee game, but Wii Sports is still the champion of this kind of gameplay, with the tennis and bowling games yet to be topped for sheer intuitive fun. [Get it here].
10. Super Monkey Ball
While Super Monkey Ball and Monkey Ball 2 for the GameCube (and by extension the Wii) are brilliant games in their own right, the main reason they’re party stalwarts is one of the minigames, Monkey Target. You and your mates each control a monkey in a ball, which you have to launch off a ramp and steer through the air, trying to gather extra points in the form of bananas as you go.
You have to land your monkey on differently-shaped islands, parts of which have different point values. Certain items hanging in the air can help with this, like the magnet, which lets you drop like a cannonball directly onto the island below, rather than falling gradually and rolling when you get there (we’ve all felt the pain of landing on the bullseye, only to roll slowly off it, and then off the edge entirely). You can also spin the Wheel of Danger before you fly, to add a bit of edge to proceedings in the form of bombs, clouds and other hazards.
Honestly, Monkey Target is such a good minigame that it should have become a game in its own right by now. But it’s well worth buying Monkey Ball and/or Monkey Ball 2 just for that, and treating the main maze-navigating game and other minigames as a bonus. Don’t forget you can also play GameCube games on the Wii if you don’t still have a GC. [Get it here].
Like a sillier, even more cartoony version of Super Smash Bros, this daft game involves basically fighting jelly babies played by your mates. There are loads of modes including 2 v 2 football and group fights against gangs, but mostly it’s just about beating up your friends in amusing ways and then throwing them into machinery. [Get it here].
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
In the same hard-to-play-yet-stupidly-fun vein as retro classic QWOP, Octodad: Dadliest Catch involves up to four of you controlling a limb each of an octopus pretending to be a normal human man.
If you laughed at the Quaaludes scene in Wolf of Wall Street, you’ll love this, because the way Octodad moves is much the same. If you’re at all inebriated, you’ll probably laugh until you’re as helpless as Octodad trying to mow the lawn with his flailing tentacles in a man’s suit. [Get it here].
Exactly what it sounds like. [Get it here].
Main image: Drawful 2 via Jackbox Games