The Best Cooperative Board Games to Play in 2024

Sometimes it’s fun to match wits in a board game with other players in competitive matches. But many of the best board games go the other way and embrace the spirit of cooperation. Co-op board games come in a wide variety of themes, with varying levels of complexity so you can find one for players of all ages. Below, we’ve selected our favorites on the market. For more game night ideas, check out our other roundups, including the best board games for kids and the best two-player board games.

TLDR: Best Co-op Board Games

Have no time to read blurbs? The links above lead directly to retailer pages where you can buy the games in question.

Nemesis: Lockdown

Nemesis: Lockdown

Nemesis: Lockdown

Lots of board games have tried to replicate the success of the Alien franchise, but it took this unlicensed homage to perfect it. Players must work together to survive a terrifying incursion of hostile life-forms into a Martian base. You’re on a constant high-wire between staying slow and quiet or getting things done fast but attracting alien attention. It’s full of detailed mechanics that can spin the game out in crazy directions, from literal firefighting to a gung-ho battle against the extraterrestrial foe. The challenge is tough, the narrative detailed and the tension always escalating. But the real kicker is that it’s possible for your friends not to be friends at all thanks to hidden goal cards that could be supportive or could be murderous, or the corporate military wing could be coming to take you all out to ensure your silence.

Sleeping Gods

Sleeping Gods

Sleeping Gods

Narrative-heavy board games have always faced a content problem: there’s only so much variety you can achieve with boards and cards. Sleeping Gods belongs to a family of adventure games that bypassed this problem by putting everything into a huge flip-book, featuring a mix of maps for different quests. Sleeping Gods stands head and shoulders above its peers thanks to two things. First, it’s outstandingly rich storytelling, as you run through a rich mixture of encounters, characters and side-quests as you attempt to guide the lost ship, The Manticore, and her crew home from the strange dimension in which it finds itself. Second, is the detail with which the ship is brought to life, both in terms of strategic resource management to keep her going and her presence in the game world. Such is the wealth of content available that you can easily see a whole different story on a second play through, and such is the fun of doing so that you’ll surely want to try.

Marvel Champions: The Card Game

Marvel Champions: The Card Game

Marvel Champions: The Card Game

This is a “Living Card Game”, which means it’s kind of collectable, like Magic: The Gathering, but there’s no random element. You just buy sets and expansions knowing what cards are in each. And unlike a lot of LCG’s, deck building is easy because it’s modular, seeing players pick fixed sets of cards to create decks for their hero and the villain you’re all working against. The meat of play features some classic concepts like dual-use cards alongside novel ideas like each player being able to flip from their hero to their alter-ego, with different abilities and hand sizes. This sets up some really interesting combo-based play where you pull off cinematic moves as you work together to thwart the villain’s schemes and save the day.

Frosthaven / Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Frosthaven

Frosthaven

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

Playable as a standalone game, or as an expansion to Gloomhaven.

To call Gloomhaven a fantasy adventure game is technically accurate, but a bit reductive. It tells the story of mercenaries chasing different goals in a changing world, and the legacy they leave behind. Gloomhaven takes the legacy system from Pandemic Legacy and weaves it into an epic fantasy campaign that takes place over generations. Each hero comes with a personal goal that, when completed, sends the hero into retirement and unlocks new classes and story elements. Upon retiring a hero, you will take control of another, which results in an impressive sense of time progression. The game includes several sealed boxes that are only opened upon reaching certain milestones, which makes Gloomhaven a game with a grand scale that is unmatched in the board game medium.

This epic game now has a sequel, Frosthaven, with an all-new narrative and fresh subsystems which see you expending and guarding the titular town. And if the price and length of either of the big-box titles turns you off, the excellent prequel Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion has most of the gameplay value at a fraction of the price.

Exit: The Game (Series)

Exit: The Game

Exit: The Game

An escape room in a box, the Exit series of games does a surprisingly good job of simulating the real thing. Players work together to find clues and solve riddles in real time in an effort to complete the scenario. Each scenario tells you to bring some pens and a pair of scissors because you’ll be permanently modifying your game throughout the session, making these games a one-and-done experience.

There are many different scenarios available for purchase, with titles like The Secret Lab, The Abandoned Cabin, The Sinister Mansion, The Forgotten Island, The Mysterious Museum, and a lot more. Priced at around $15 each (and usually cheaper on Amazon), the Exit series is an ideal replacement for a night at the movies and one of the best escape room board games.

Paleo

Paleo

Paleo

At first glance, this game of stone-age survival doesn’t look anything special. You create a deck of cards for the scenario you want to play and distribute them between the players. Then you take it in turns to flip a card from your pile and face the challenges thereon with the skills and stone tools available to your tiny tribe. The magic happens when tribes come together, pooling their resources to overcome one tough encounter, but doing so loses them the chance to interact with the other tribe’s card. All at once, this mirrors a real slice of stone-age life, agonizing over passing up opportunities in order to secure an important prize, while giving players real emergent cooperation in how much they choose to aid each other. The survival narrative and variety of scenarios are just the icing on the rock cake.

Pandemic Legacy

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (Blue Version)

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (Blue Version)

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (Red Version)

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (Red Version)

Pandemic put cooperative games on the map, and for good reason. Much of the genre’s hallmark mechanics originated here, from action point allocation to player roles with unique abilities. It also spawned a bevy of expansions and spinoffs, but Pandemic Legacy is the best and more revolutionary take on the virus-eradicating co-op game.

It takes the core rules of Pandemic and stretches them into a campaign-length adventure played out over several sessions as you race to cure disease and prevent epidemics. This version introduces permanence as a mechanic, as the rules force you to rip up cards, sticker the board and alter the physical components in other ways as things (inevitably) don’t go your way. The only potential drawback is that you must play with the same players each session, but because the game is so good everyone will be eager to jump back in.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Robinson Crusoe Adventures on the Cursed Island

Robinson Crusoe Adventures on the Cursed Island

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is a daunting and dark game, but players willing to wade through the sea of iconography, hefty rulebook and stifling theme will be rewarded with a satisfying survival simulation that rewards communication and teamwork. Based on the 1719 novel, players take on the role of survivors of a shipwreck that are must work together to gather food, build shelters, stave off attacks and explore the island. The combination of different scenarios and player characters ensure good replayability, while the survival mechanics do a fantastic job of selling the theme.

Just One

Just One

Just One

A lot of games on this list are, to a greater or lesser extent, strategy affairs. But cooperation is a great mechanic to use in party games too, and Just One tops the list. All the players bar one get to see a clue, and they have to write down a word related to that clue. Then all the clues get revealed to the remaining player who has to guess the original word. Sounds too simple, except the catch is that if any of the clues are the same they get wiped, leaving the guesser far less to work with. It’s an ingenious idea that leaves players caught in an uncertain vice over just how obscure they cant get away with being, while still being worried they might be the victim of doublethink.

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

You likely know trick-taking games from long time classics like Whist and Bridge. The Crew: Mission Deep Sea cleverly repurposes the concept into a cooperative game through the use of missions, demanding that certain players win tricks of particular types. So you might have to win a trick containing a yellow one, for example, or two consecutive tricks or even no tricks at all. This would be easy if you could show each other your cards, so your communication is limited to one card for the entire hand, recasting the game as a strategic puzzle with plenty of tension as you wait to see whether having to follow suit will tease out a critical card or fail the mission. Fast, fun and with fifty varied undersea missions, this is a pearl of a design. This game earned a spot on our best family board games list as well.

Return to Dark Tower

Return to Dark Tower

Return to Dark Tower

Some of you may have childhood memories of the original Dark Tower, an extraordinary 1981 fantasy board game powered by an electronic gizmo that gave it a real sense of magic and wonder. Most copies of that original no longer work, but it’s been resurrected and revamped in this new edition, which features an all-new, all-tech tower that connects to a mobile app via bluetooth. It allows you to select from a far wider variety of characters and quests, villains and monsters than the original. The board layout and major concepts of the original, such as collecting warriors, are retained, but between the app and a raft of new mechanics, the game is transformed into a narratively rich, strategic challenge where you must prioritise and deal with a series of ever-growing threats: it can also be played cooperatively as well as the competitive setup of the original. The app provides detail such as dungeon exploration, while the tower lights up and rotates of its own accord, spilling deadly skulls out into the kingdoms below.

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring fictional characters of all time, and for good reason. Watching him solve a seemingly impossible mystery with all the confidence and bravado of a stage actor has been a favorite pastime of generations of book readers and television watchers.

With Consulting Detective, you finally get the chance to step into the shoes of Holmes and test your own deduction skills in a series of nonlinear mysteries. What makes the game great is how it refuses to hold your hand; each mystery presents a short setup and then sets you loose on London, leaving you to visit notable locations, interview suspects, and make educated accusations. Be warned, however, that these mysteries are tough, and may make you question your intelligence on more than one occasion.

If you like these types of games, you can also check out our guide to murder mystery board games for similar options.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Arkham Horror: The Card Game

If your co-op group could use an eldritch touch, get Arkham Horror: The Card Game to the table. In this cooperative card game, players take on the role of detectives who are investigating various supernatural occurrences within HP Lovecraft’s world of cosmic horror. It’s a scenario-based experience with each mission at the mercy of an arcane Mythos, a set of conditions that must be met lest the investigators succumb to insanity.

Arkham Horror features customizable decks that are built around each investigator’s special abilities, and most scenarios can play out over a handful of sessions, lending a feeling of progression to the game. As you investigate new location cards, gather clues, and fight monsters, your detective will amass weaknesses that can hinder future games which, thematically, illustrate the mental toll of dealing with arcane horrors. It’s a great horror board game you can play with loved ones.

Spirit Island

Spirit Island

Spirit Island

Protect your island from a vicious mob of colonizers in this heavy co-op experience. Players are spirits of the land, and must use their unique powers to fend off settlers. Every turn, you’ll play a card from your deck of powers. Matching a card’s element with the element of the spirit usually grants a bonus effect, meaning that careful planning is necessary.

As the game goes on, the colonists will inevitably spread and ravage the land, making Spirit Island a race against the clock. They’re predictable, though, and if you plan efficiently you can head them off before they do too much damage. Players’ cards combo off of each other nicely, too, and there are few things in tabletop gaming as satisfying as eliminating a host of settlers in one fell swoop. Spirit Island is substantially more complex than other games of this style (Pandemic, Forbidden Island, etc.), making it an ideal choice for those seeking a meatier co-op experience. This game can also be found on our list of the best board games for adults.

Zombicide: Black Plague

Zombicide: Black Plague

Zombicide: Black Plague

Who doesn’t like to bond over some good old fashioned zombie slaying? Zombicide is a cooperative survival game where players work together to complete scenarios. The Black Plague version puts a fantastical spin on the original game, and drops players into the role of paladins, magicians, and knights to take down the evil necromancers responsible for the zombie outbreak.

You’ll pick up new weapons like crossbows and swords, explore a citadel crawling with the undead, and take on several missions in this dungeon-crawling adventure. It’s a tense and thematically-refreshing take on the tried and true zombie formula with surprisingly easy-to-learn rules.

Cthulhu: Death May Die

Cthulhu: Death May Die

Cthulhu: Death May Die

Cooperative games where you try and save the world from some deranged monstrosity out of the work of arch-racist HP Lovecraft are ten a penny. What makes Cthulhu: Death May Die stand out isn’t just the beautifully horrible miniatures in the box but the way it integrates help and harm. In order to gain new skills, your characters have to also lose some of their sanity, resulting in a clever balance of tactical trade-offs while encouraging you to come up with daring gameplay plans that deliberately expose yourselves to danger. The resulting reel of cinematic action-horror moments doesn’t feel much like Lovecraft but it is a ton of fun.

Upcoming Cooperative Board Games

Since being popularised by Pandemic back in 2006, this is a genre that’s gone from strength to strength, and there are always exciting new games waiting in the wings. Perhaps most anticipated right now is the adaptation of the hugely popular video game franchise Mass Effect, coming in late 2024 from the designer Eric Lang, creator of Cthulhu: Death May Die. It promises narratives that fit in perfectly with the original series and exciting campaigns of quick-fire scenarios that you can play to completion in an evening.

A popular series of tabletop games called Magic Maze just missed out on our top recommendations, but there’s a new one coming soon and it sounds like it could make the grade. Previous Magic Maze games saw players setting up conveyor belts of action chains to complete challenges, and were famous for their hilarious “do something” pawn that you could place in front of another player as the only form of permitted communication. The new game, Magic Maze Tower, combines that classic gameplay with a new puzzle-solving element to replace the real-time pressure of the original for a calmer, more cerebral take.

Games based on other media aren’t a new idea but Luddite is an upcoming roll and write title that takes things a step further by being based on a new graphic novel that’s included in the box. The in-game campaign, which can be cooperative or competitive, then follows the story presented in the novel. It’s a puzzly game where you have to use a series of random dice rolls to thread your way across digital maps, which has picked up quite a bit of buzz from previewers, and the flexibility around game modes and player count are big boosts.

For more ideas, check out our roundups of the best board games for adults and the best trivia board games.

Matt Thrower is a contributing freelance board game and video game writer for IGN. (Board, video, all sorts of games!)

This post was originally published on IGN

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