The 8 Best Card Games for Families
We’ve been playing a lot of card games in our house recently. Perhaps it’s because our 6-year-old has recently graduated to really holding his own in competitive card games. In the past - out of necessity - we helped him organize his cards, helped him hold them, helped him read them, and helped him strategize and make decisions during his turn. And now we’re reaping the benefits of all of that working together, because we’re really having a blast going head to head with the little guy.
Just to be clear, the card games I’m talking about aren’t the types of card games you play with a standard deck of cards. I’m talking about completely original cards with original artwork and creative game mechanics. There’s a lot to love about these kinds of games. First of all, they’re generally very quick to explain and quick to play- allowing you to play through as many rounds as you have the desire (or patience) for. This can definitely come in handy with little ones.
Another thing that’s great about card games is how portable they are. Not only are they portable in the sense that you can easily bring them on vacation, but they’re portable around the house too. With very little to no set up required, you can often play wherever you want - on the bed, in the yard, in the bathtub. I don't necessarily recommend it, but you get the idea.
And, because they’re card games, there’s one more element that makes these games really great to play with our kids - the luck of the draw. Yes there are still elements of skill and strategy, but since we’re dealing with cards there will always be an element of luck and chance involved, and that can really level the playing field a lot. It’s more fun for us, and him of course, when our 6-year-old can hold his own and win his fair share of these games. That’s a pretty cool feeling all around.
These are the card games that our family loves the most. If a game is on this list it means that when we play them we all enjoy ourselves - both kids and adults. Specifically, our 6-year-old can play all of them independently, but our almost-3-year-old needs to be on someone’s team. We also end up wanting to play several rounds once we get started. Not only are they a blast, but they all have a certain charm with their theme and design that really makes them stand out. After you check them out, make sure to let us know what you think, and tell us what your family’s favorite card game is!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. These links will take you to view the game’s listing on Amazon.com.
Update 5/2/2019: Added two new card games to the list - Once Upon a Time and Exploding Kittens.
Published by Bear Food LLC and Designed by Elan Lee & Matthew Inman
Bears vs Babies might be just about the silliest sounding purchase I’ve ever made in my life. I don’t know what possessed me to buy it. At the time, I knew very little about it at all, but I heard good things and rolled the dice, and I’m very glad I did!
First of all, it comes in a very attractive fur-covered package. It’s definitely the funniest looking thing on the board game shelf, or perhaps the coolest. And, keeping with the wacky theme, the cards themselves are absolutely hilarious. My son’s favorite card is by far the Uni Pug - a pug with a unicorn horn.
To play this game, you build wacky monsters with your cards. Your monster might have the head of a shark, a body made of sushi, and an arm that is actually a t-rex. If absurd things make you laugh, this game is really funny, and my son gets a big kick out of it. The bigger you build your monster and the more points you add to it, the more likely you are to win any battles that take place between monsters of that particular color. If you win a battle you get to take all of the babies of that color. Does this game make any sense at all? Absolutely not one bit. But that isn’t the point.
Although our oldest son is 6, I mention the recommended age of 10+, because I pretty much agree with it. The cards can be very absurd. The silliness, of course, is the whole point. But there are actually a few cards I would leave out of the game entirely when playing with our son. One of the monster arm cards is made of guns, for example, and I would just toss it out. I should also mention that I’ve heard there is a NSFW expansion on the market, and you should absolutely make certain not to get it for the family.
With all that said, go be silly together now.
7. Love Letter
Published by Alderac Entertainment Group, Designed by Seiji Kanai
Love Letter is a very famous card game now and for good reason. As is the case with most great card games, Love Letter has very simple and easy to learn rules and the perfect balance of strategy and chance to keep you coming back for more.
You simply can’t bulldoze your way through this game with talent or experience, absolutely anyone can win every single time. Just today our 6-year-old played the card that allows you to guess what your opponent has. He correctly guessed my card and I was out of the round on the first turn.
Just so you know, there are many versions of Love Letter. We actually have the Adventure Time version, which I highly recommend if you can find a copy. Since theme is really important to me, I think it is just about one million times more fun to play when the cards are characters from the Land of Ooo. In this version, you’re a suitor for Princess Bubblegum, because she’s a radical dame with a passion for science. It doesn’t change the gameplay at all, but we certainly love it.
All of the cards in Love Letter do something different. And there are multiple ways to be knocked out of a round. To win, you want to be the last one standing each time. If there are multiple people left in the round, it’s the person with the highest numbered card in their hand that wins the round. There is some great light deduction in this game and it’s a wonderful introduction to strategy for the kids. And - bonus! - you only ever hold two cards at a time, so you don’t have to worry about little hands struggling to keep up with their cards.
Published by Gamewright, Designed by Miranda Evarts & Family, and Illustrated by Jimmy Pickering & Red Hansen
This isn’t the only Gamewright card game on this list, and for good reason. Gamewright has a very big collection of awesome card games. The cool thing is that they are super family-friendly. Our 2-year-old can even join in on some of them, and can even beat us sometimes. (I’m looking at you, Wig Out.)
Sleeping Queens is definitely one of our favorite Gamewright card games. There is a perfect balance of luck and skill in this one to make it fun for us all to play together. As long as you know what all of the cards do and play them when you should, you have absolutely just as much of a chance to win as anybody - no matter your age.
Basically what you’re doing here is waking up queens and collecting them. Different queens are worth different amounts of points. If you are the first to 5 queens or 50 points, you win! I personally like to imagine I’m the Ice King from Adventure Time, running around collecting princesses. In fact, I can’t believe there isn’t an Adventure Time version of this game, because it would be perfect.
The game is very balanced and the gameplay is a lot of fun for all of us, but I honestly think the highlight here is the art, or maybe just the names of the kings and queens. It really is fun to see which queen you get - the Ice Cream Queen, the Pancake Queen, the Ladybug Queen? We all have our favorites and it’s like a game within the game to try and find them.
Published by Atlas Games, Designed by Richard Lambert, Andrew Rilstone, & James Wallis, and Illustrated by Omar Rayyan
I absolutely love Once Upon a Time. It’s basically a combination of the two pillars of Dad Suggests - family game night and kids books. It’s a storytelling game, and everybody cooperates to tell the story.
Using the cards in your hand to guide your way, you tell a fairytale until you get interrupted or run out of ideas. There are mechanics that allow the other players in the game to take over the story forcibly, because it’s also a quasi-competitive game. The first person to use all of their story cards and guide the story to their ending card technically wins the game.
But my family views this game much more like a cooperative game. I’m a huge supporter of creativity and the imagination, and there are very few things in the world that are more fun than weaving a story together with our creative little 6-year-old. I highly recommend this game - whether you’re in it for the competition or just a great time with the family.
Published by Exploding Kittens LLC, Designed and Illustrated by Matthew Inman, Elan Lee, & Shane Small
Brought to you by the same folks behind the zany Bears vs Babies, Exploding Kittens is predictably very funny, very absurd, and very awesome. It might be my favorite press-your-luck game of all time.
In this wacky family card game, there are a handful of cards you never want to draw - the exploding kittens. If you draw an exploding kitten and do not have a defuse card in your deck - you’re out. You’ll have lots of cards to help you along the way though. There are cards that let you see the future, some that let you skip your turn, and even some that force your opponents to draw extra cards. My personal favorite cards are the “nope” cards that undo other actions. And don’t forget, you can always nope a nope to make a yup.
You can play with up to 5 players, but it’s legitimately just as fun with only 2. My wife, myself, and our 6-year-old have had many very tense rounds of this game. It’s absolutely hilarious when you get down to only 1 card in the deck, everybody knows it’s an exploding kitten, but everyone’s hands are still full of skip cards and nope cards. Skip, nope, yup, nope, yup, nope, yup, boom!
Published by Iello, Designed by Masato Uesugi, and Illustrated by Paul Mafayon
As we mentioned above, all of the card games on this list have wonderful, creative themes to go along with their awesome mechanics, and Welcome to the Dungeon might have my personal favorite setting. I’m a fantasy geek at heart and I love the concept of going dungeon crawling with warriors and mages and rogues and trying to make it out alive.
This is also the type of theme that sells really well to our son. It’s really easy to get excited about something like this before even knowing how the game works. He loved just looking at the different classes of characters and the great art.
The great news is that the game is just as awesome as it looks and sounds. There are elements of bluffing and pressing your luck that make this game very exciting and different every time. Our son is very good at this one, and makes it through the dungeon a lot. My wife passes a lot. That dungeon is nerve-wracking.
Every turn you either add a monster to the dungeon, or remove a special power from the hero. Both of these actions make it harder to beat the dungeon, and you can pass at any point if you’re worried about your chances. If you’re the last one who hasn’t passed - you’re going into the dungeon.
The good news is, if you make it past all the monsters in the dungeon using whatever special powers you have left, you get the treasure! If you manage to do it twice, you win the game! But if you fail two times, you’re out. That means you can also win by being the last player standing, but more than likely you’re going to need to go into the dungeon at some point to win this incredible game.
2. Home Alone
Published by Big G Creative and Designed by Prospero Hall
If you’re a regular reader, you know how much our son loves Home Alone. We all fell in love with this game very quickly. Partly because of our son’s love of Home Alone and the booby traps, and partly because of the awesome press your luck and bluffing mechanics in this game.
First of all, our son absolutely insists on playing on Team Kevin for obvious reasons (booby traps). That means it’s always Mom vs Dad with our 6-year-old always an honorary member of Team Kevin. And if the kids are asleep, Mom and Dad will happily play against each other several more times. I believe I lost the first seven times that we played. It was an abysmal streak, but I loved the game and wanted more.
Home Alone is a card game, but it comes in a normal board game box. That’s because there are also a couple of player mats and a single die. The player mats look great, but they are absolutely non-essential to the game, so I’m counting this as a bona fide card game for the purposes of this list. If we wanted to take this game on vacation, we could wrap a rubber band around those cards and we’d be good to go.
For an in-depth look at the mechanics of this game and why we love it, make sure to read our recommendation article. Suffice it to say we are in love with trying to steal the loot as the Wet Bandits, or to ruin their day with a wide array of booby traps from the film.
1. Sushi Go!
Published by Gamewright and Designed by Phil Walker-Harding
Sushi Go! is charming, and addicting, and it makes me hungry. I love playing this game so much I bought the app on my iPad so I could keep playing it against computers when everybody else went to sleep.
I love the mechanic of passing your hand and choosing only 1 card to keep each round - just like a sushi conveyor belt. You can play with 2-5 players, and the more the merrier here I’d say.
What you’re trying to do is match certain types of sushi to score points. Some matches are worth more than others and some matches require more cards than others. Wasabi is a score multiplier, chopsticks let you pick two sushi at a time, and pudding is saved until the end of the game. There are lots of cool cards like that, but it’s actually quite simple and elegant once you know what everything is worth. And the gameplay is so much fun.
Memory can come in handy because you will see the hands more than once as they are passed around the circle, and there’s a great deal of strategy as well because you sometimes must choose between blocking what other players are trying to match or scoring points of your own. And there are always multiple ways to try and score.
Sushi Go! is by far the game we always want to keep out the longest, and we’ll be playing it together for a very long time to come.
Have you played any of these games yet? What’s your family’s favorite card game? Let us know in the comments!