While players of traditional board games may see them as purely competitive, the cooperative board game genre has been gaining momentum and mass popularity since the early 2000s. I’ve picked out some of the best cooperative board games on the market below.
Top cooperative board games of all time
I’ve bent the description a little to cover more ground, also including some great examples of team games and all-versus-one games. Whether you love sprawling thematic epics, short puzzle games, or family classics, there’s something for everyone in the cooperative board games genre.
10. The Resistance
If you’ve ever played Werewolf, The Resistance is a neat take on the idea. It’s a small box sci-fi card game (for a fantasy version, check out The Resistance: Avalon) in which players are crew on a ship going on missions. However, several players are secretly trying to scupper the missions.
Through chat and deduction, you try to root out the traitors before the mission fails. For a much longer, deeper board game version of the experience, check out Battlestar Galactica.
9. Scotland Yard
This is one of the first cooperative all-versus-one board games on the market. Released in 1983, it is still in print today. If you already know it and want to take the next step up, try Letters From Whitechapel or Fury of Dracula. For the uninitiated, one player is a robber trying to escape London, as the rest try to trap them before they escape.
The board is played on a large grid of locations, with the robber able to use different forms of transport to traverse the map. They note their moves secretly, with the other players using clues they gain to narrow down the potential location as the tension builds.
8. Exit: The Game
Fans of escape rooms should be all over this excellent series of cooperative puzzle games. Each one is basically an escape room game in a small box, giving you a bunch of puzzles you need to collectively work out to complete them.
Each is a one-and-done game, as you may need to cut and fold pieces to solve clues. But the low price point and high fun factor make them worth it. Each game in the series is standalone and has a difficulty level on the box, so you can start easy and work up to the hard stuff. I suggest starting with The Sunken Treasure.
7. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on Cursed Island
I’m convinced this game hates me and if you play it, you’ll probably think it hates you too! This cooperative board and card game sees you trying to survive on a desert island, making shelter, finding food, and battling both beasts and the weather.
The problem is that you never have enough actions to do things safely. Taking risks means you may get injured, or worse, with failed events, adding others to the deck that will come back to haunt you later. Think that injury is bad now? It’s only going to get worse…
6. Mansion of Madness
Horror fans are well served with Cthulu-based cooperative games such as Eldrich and Arkham Horror, but for my money, Mansion of Madness is the most fun. You each play a unique investigator trying to stay alive as you explore cursed mansions for clues, solving puzzles, and battling monsters.
But what really makes Mansions come alive is the brilliant app that comes with it. If you can beam it onto a decent-sized screen it massively adds to the experience, adding great visuals as well as taking care of some of the slightly fiddly admin.
5. Marvel Champions
Superhero fans often have to suffer weak franchise tie-in board games (although some Marvel video games are awesome), but that’s certainly not the case with Marvel Champions. Play as your favorite Marvel heroes as they take on notorious villains from the series in this cooperative living card game.
Once you’ve worked your way through the base game, there are multiple new packs to buy that add new heroes, villains, and scenarios. But this isn’t a CCG, meaning you know what you’re getting when you buy each new add-on, so don’t worry about rares, shinies, and the like.
If you love RPGs, whether on computer and consoles or the tabletop, you should try Gloomhaven. An ingenious card mechanism means the game itself is the dungeon master, so you can each be a player.
You each have unique skills that will help you through the campaign, leveling up with stronger abilities and gear as you go. Plus, each game you play will be different depending on the decisions you make. The game uses quite complex euro game mechanisms, but you can learn as a group as you go.
Codenames is an excellent cooperative word game. The box says up to eight players but I’ve played with more, as it's a group-think game with no real top end to the player count. You split into two teams, each of which chooses one player to be Spymaster. There’s also a cooperative two-player version, Codenames Duel, which is also excellent.
Related: Best Board Games for Nintendo Switch
The two spymasters sit together and can see a grid of 5x5 squares no one else can, with each space equating to a word on a randomized grid everyone can see. The spymasters give clues by batching these words (say, animals 3), and their team needs to guess them. However, wrong guesses may be the other team’s words or the assassin's words that end the game. For a shorter, lighter word game, check out Just One.
2. The Crew: Mission Deep Sea
If you’ve ever played a trick-taking card game, you’ll be on familiar ground here. However, in The Crew, you’re playing cooperatively to beat a number of increasingly difficult challenges. Cards have the numbers and colors you’d expect from a trick-taking game, but you’ll need to play them in the correct order with limited information to succeed.
The game starts out pretty easy as you work out how things work, but it soon gets incredibly challenging. For the original sci-fi version, which is just as good, also check out The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine.
1. Pandemic Legacy
There have been more than 20 games in the phenomenally popular Pandemic series, but Pandemic Legacy took the series to another level. The board games see you teaming up to get on top of multiple disease outbreaks spreading across the globe. Each player has a unique ability, making them better at one of the game’s simple mechanisms.
The legacy aspect means that at the end of each play, more rules are introduced, and physical changes are made to the characters and the board, making it a genuinely evolving experience where you’ll create your own unique board as you play.
For more board game-related lists, check out Best Online Board Games here at Pro Game Guides!