Ranked!: Top 15 Old School Games

For this week's Ranked!, we decided to take a look at our favorite games where you didn't need batteries, a computer, or a television (although many have made the electronic jump since) to have a good time.

15. Mousetrap

Before there were OK Go videos, there was Mousetrap. Like an intricately choreographed domino arrangement, players carefully assemble the Rube Goldberg machine in hopes that they can maneuver an opponent under the mouse cage. How was it assembled? I can't remember. How did you get your opponent under the cage? Couldn't tell you. Why? Because the whole marvelous point of the game was the machine, a spectacularly fun contraption with boots kicking over barrels, which deposit marbles onto ramps, which eventually trigger a diver to jump off a see-saw into a tub (if you were lucky... it wasn't the most foolproof machine) which would shake the cage off a pole (or halfway down the pole... again, not the most foolproof machine). Hours could be spent analyzing, constructing, and deconstructing the device without a thought to the game itself, which for my parents meant it was a game I could play alone. And THAT, as all parents know, is worth its weight in gold.--CroutonBoy

14. Cranium

You know what makes Cranium a great game? It combines elements from other games, namely Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, and Scrabble. So basically, it's got something for everyone. This is a game that's fun for both creative and non-creative people. Are you a geek who's all about trivia? You're in luck, but there's a good chance you might have to mold something out of clay later.

Plus, I always loved the odd little mascots on the game's box.--Chris

13. Sorry!

In the years following my college graduation, my buddies and I hung out and played a lot of Sorry! Why would a bunch of young adults with the world at their fingers spend so much time on a board game designed for kids, you might ask? It's because Sorry! is a deceptively simple game that brought out our competitive spirit. For the uninitiated, the goal is to get your four pieces around the board to your safe zone before your opponents. Sorry! is more than just a game of chance. There's a bit of strategy as well as a social aspect. Players can sometimes send an opponent's piece back to the start. So it pays not to make enemies around the board. I've played a lot of Sorry! in my days and have recently introduced it to my kids. It's one of those games that has stood the test of time and literally proven to be fun for all ages.--Daddy Geek Boy

12. Life

One of the things that I always liked about the game of Life is that it has a finite end, unlike Monopoly, which you can play for days. It's a fun but simple premise: spin a wheel, move your car, get to the end. There's some light decision making, but nothing too taxing. Some of the outcomes are kind of funny. It's a good game to play with your family as it encompasses all kinds of age ranges. And it translated well to a game on my iPhone, which I really dig.--Archphoenix

11. Scrabble

Every game on our top 15 list is a game that I've played, some more than others. I've been playing all of them since I was a kid. Some fell by the wayside along the way (I was probably six the last time I played Mousetrap). Most of them have a lot of staying power, though--but no game more than Scrabble. I've always loved the game and, thanks to Facebook and Electronic Arts, it's the one game I play every single day. In fact, I usually have at least three games going at any given time. For someone who ostensibly writes for a living, I'm not very good at it--I lose about twice as often as I win. I guess I've never really gotten good at the strategy of the game. But that doesn't stop me from playing. It's a great game and it's the perfect board game for online play.

Which reminds me... I haven't played my turns today.--Dave

10. Pictionary

I love party games. I never shy away from invitations for Game Night with friends. Pictionary remains a party time favorite, but there's one problem: it's solely responsible for breaking up otherwise healthy relationships. Here's what you hear way too often after the time runs out:

"What was that?"

"That's an umbrella!"

"How is that an umbrella?"

"What else could it be?"

"That looks absolutely nothing like an umbrella! It looks like a weird duck or something."

"Are you telling me you don't see an umbrella when you look at that?"

"If you'd drawn anything remotely resembling an umbrella, I would've gotten it, trust me."


Pictionary's great. Just don't team up with someone you plan on going home with later.--Didactic Pirate

9. Connect Four

Once upon a time, before the advent of DVRs, we all used to watch commercials. So when I say, "Pretty sneaky, sis!" there is a generation of people who instantly know what I'm referring to. For the rest of you, I'm conjuring up images of the classic game Connect Four. Connect Four is a tic-tac-toe style game played with checkers held vertically in a plastic game board. Unlike standard tic-tac-toe, there is always pretty much a winner and a loser. And the winner gets to release the checkers from the board, allowing them to fall to the floor or table (it's much more satisfying when playing on a hard surface so that the checkers make a loud crashing sound). What you might not know about Connect Four is that it's a pretty good way to solve conflict. At an impasse? Play a round. The answer will either be decided for you or you'll end up forgetting what you were fighting about in the first place.--Daddy Geek Boy

8. Risk

No board game gives me more nostalgia and more joy than Risk. With all due respect to Diplomacy and Stratego, no game makes geo-politcal world domination more fun. I have vivid memories of playing it at every stage in my life, from learning to play it at a Boy Scout outing to wasting away a day recovering from a hangover in my 20s in central Iowa. It taught me many valuable life lessons, too. For example, never ever give up, even if you're holding onto your last country, Ukraine, because your next card could shower you with armies. It taught me that you can face any challenge with the precise application of overwhelming force. And it taught me to always always always secure Australia early in the game, because it's easy to defend and you get a continent bonus. Writing this has got me all riled up for some conquest. Who wants to play?--CroutonBoy

7. Chess

Chess and I have an interesting relationship. I've always held the game in high esteem. It's elegant and strategic. A thinking person's game. So quiet. So cerebral.

I kind of suck at it.

In high school, when I first started playing on a regular basis, a friend of mine beat me in four moves. I had to have him do it two more times in order to figure out how to defend against it. Yes. I'm that bad. I've just never had the ability to think far enough ahead in the game to master the nuances of the game.

Still, I am absolutely enamored of the game... but I'm even more into chess SETS than I am the game itself. In spite of the fact that I have no one to play against, I have about a dozen sets. I have an awesome set from England, hand-carved sets from Ecuador and Mexico, and even a replica of the Star Trek 3D chess set. Several of them are on display in my house. Most of them languish in the closet with no table to call home. My wife has never complained once about my bringing home a pinball machine or video game, but I get a serious eye-roll every time a cool-looking set catches my eye.

Given my total lack of skill at the game, I'm at a loss to explain why I love it so much. But I do. I really do.--Dave

6. Uno

When our daughter was younger we'd bring a deck of Uno cards with us whenever we went out. It was a surefire way to keep her--and us--occupied while we waited for our food or were stuck on a plane. Years later it's just as popular in our family as it was then, a testament to its simplicity and its appeal. Of course, I started playing it when I was a kid myself, sticking it to my friends with Skips and Draw 2s whenever I had the chance. We'd have a table of eight kids playing at lunch in grade school, and there were always people who wanted in. It's a thrill that something that gave me such joy does the same for my daughter. Even when I'm sticking it to her with a Draw 4. Wild card for the win, baby!--CroutonBoy

5. Yahtzee

For a game that relies on statistics and math, it's odd that Yahtzee is one of my favorites. Maybe it's because along with math, it also relies on strategy and luck—kind of like poker. And kind of like poker, I find Yahtzee addictive. I'm not the only one. Coincidentally, last year I ended up introducing the game to my wife and a few friends, who had somehow grown up never having played it. Now Yahtzee has become a regular part of our lives. (It's also one of the few games from my childhood that, I think, transfers really well to the digital world. I love the iOS app, which I think is as fun as playing the real life version.)--Daddy Geek Boy

4. Battleship

I wish real-life sea battles were fought like they are in this game: the military leaders of two great global superpowers sitting in front of little plastic grids, putting pegs in holes and calling back and forth, "F-2!" "Miss!"

Battleship isn't so much about strategy as it is about random selection. You call out numbers and letters, taking your potshots, until you're lucky enough to strike a spot covered by your opponent's little gray ships. Sounds sort of dull, but I remember playing the game for hours with friends. It just never got boring. Once the battle got rolling, and you watched white pegs surrounded your own ships on the board, the suspense ratcheted up as the race quickened to see who'd blow who out of the water first.

Important note: in the history of the game, no one who's lost the game has ever--EVER--been able to stop themselves from saying, in a perplexed and defeated voice, "You sunk my battleship!"

Usually with a British accent. I don't know why. Must be the commercial.--Didactic Pirate

3. Clue

Clue is my all-time favorite. I've played it since I was a kid, and I bought it for my daughter as soon as she was old enough to play. Not some funky version: not Simpsons Clue, not Harry Potter Clue, not Star Trek:TNG Clue. It's gotta be the classic. Colonel Mustard. Miss Scarlet. Professor Plum. A wrench. A candlestick. A rope. A ballroom. A lounge. A library. And a big mysterious X on the staircase in the middle of the board, where the corpse of Mr. Boddy has been found. (Dum Dum DUMMMMMM!)

I understand the game is basically an exercise in eliminating cards from a checklist. When I was younger we'd play it in a dimly lit room, moving our little colored pieces around the board, and imagining ourselves prowling through a spooky mansion searching for the clues to catch a killer. Like most board games, it was really about what your imagination brought to the table. And for whatever reason, Clue captivated me more than any other game. Play it with your kids and see what happens. (And then watch the 1985 movie starring Tim Curry and Madelin Kahn. I loved that too. I make no apologies.)--Didactic Pirate

2. Monopoly

Everyone loves Monopoly. Until they start playing it.

You'll be cruising around the board, picking up a railroad or two, maybe Park Place or Indiana Avenue, when all of a sudden it hits you why you haven't opened its box in years: you reach a point where everyone playing has at least one property in every color. You're at a stalemate, wishing you could just rot away in Jail, unless you can go all Donald Trump on someone's ass and win the game, which could still take hours.

Everyone loves Monopoly. As long as they're not playing it.--Chris

1. Trivial Pursuit

I love this game, largely because I'm a walking compendium of useless information and I can CLEAN UP at this game. My family hated playing with me, even at a young age because, did I mention, I CLEAN UP at it. Except Star Wars trivia because only HUGE LAME DORKS excel at that game (I'm looking at you, husband).--Archphoenix

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