As the weather starts to cool down, the excitement in my house always builds up because it's board game season. In particular, it's spooky board game season, which has become a time-honored tradition soaring to new levels as I've aged. For years, I've been seeking out the best horror board games, which can range anywhere from scary and frightening to games with an assortment of monsters and silliness.
From one horror board game fan to another, here are some of my personal favorites that I look forward to each year. While some have higher age recommendations than others, nearly all can be good contenders for family game night. Maybe one or two of them will make it to your next game night...or your Midnight Society encounter.
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My family has always been a bit of a spooky type family. This quirky gothic card game with assorted family characters is all about making your family completely miserable before killing them. Wait, what? Gloom’s card game with clear cards and cloudy objectives is a family favorite in my house. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make your family as miserable as they can be, while making your opponent's family as happy as possible before killing each other off. You’ll never feel so happy making people miserable...just ask my teenager. (2-4 Players, Ages 13 and up)
13 Dead End Drive
If Mouse Trap was a spooky who-dun-it, it would be 13 Dead End Drive. This game, from the 90s, is a tiny survival game. You have to weave your way through obstacles, hoping to escape the final space before you get killed by assorted booby traps. I remember playing this game as a kid and laughing as my siblings landed on spaces. It was fun to see if booby traps would go off or not as we all fought to literally stay alive. Families will love experiencing a bit of immaturity with their kids during the next family game night. (2-4 Players, Ages 9 and up)
Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
HP Lovecraft was one of the authors to resonate with my gothic childhood, making growing up a little more tolerable. Little did I know these stories might hit closer to home later on than I would think. While the idea of surviving a global pandemic might feel a bit close to home as of recently, it's also part of the fun, right? In Pandemic Reign of Cthulhu, you will work together to combat a global widespread pandemic...with a twist. In this horror version, you work to stop Lovecraftian monsters from destroying the world. Can you save the world in time or will you be yet another tragic tale of R'lyeh? (2-4 Players, Ages 14 and up)
Fans of the game For Sale might dig this spooky bidding game with universal monsters. The game is a bidding strategy war that plays ravenous and classic monsters against one another. After collecting monsters, players will then use their monsters (and associated powers) strategically against the other for three short rounds. This quick game is accessible on multiple levels. My boyfriend and I literally learned and played it for the first time in a bar. It's also small enough to carry in a purse or bag to enjoy anywhere. (2-5 Players, Ages 10 and up)
Aliens. Killer Robots. Man-Eating Plants! A Kraken. No this isn’t Stranger Things or an episode of Tales from the Crypt. You and your friends are the world’s "Last Defense" in this cooperative app-assisted game. This fast-paced, real-time strategy board game is run by a free downloadable companion app. The "Last Defense" app tells you when a monster appears, where to place it, and when it moves to another location. You’ll have 20 minutes to defeat all five monsters before the time runs out. This game can be fun to play with friends, family, or even on a date or at a party. Can you cooperatively win? (2-6 Players, Ages 8 and up)
Scooby Doo: Betrayal at Mystery Mansion
My childhood, like many kids of the 80s and 90s, was filled with watching episodes of the beloved cartoon series Scooby-Doo! If you can related, then you'll enjoy this younger spin on the popular Betrayal at House on the Hill. The game is a battle to find clues and solve the mystery of who the bad guys are. There are plenty of obstacles in the way that will try to lead you astray. Like the series that this version is based off of, the end will serve as a cheery reminder of how the bad guys could have gotten away...if it wasn't for those meddling kids. (3-5 Players, Ages 8 and up)
A new game that recently made a hit in my house is Horrified. Seven of the most horrifying monsters of my childhood (you might be noticing a theme here): Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, are ravaging your town. Each monster requires a different strategy to defeat, and players can mix and match multiple monsters for increased difficulty. This cooperative game is easy to learn and perfect to play with the kiddos too, especially after watching a movie with one of the aforementioned monsters in it. It's a good game to encourage team so you don't have a family fight on game night. (1-5 Players, Ages 10 and up)
The last game on my list is one with a bittersweet twist. When I was a kid of the 90s, this game (originally with a different look) was the scariest and most revered game in my family collection. My sister, brother, and I would fight over who got to put the VHS tape in at night to race against time collecting the keys to destiny and escape death (or the Gatekeeper) in this scary VHS-assisted game.
In the new age of gaming, the game has gone to other more modern mediums. Atmosfear now uses an app to assist with play. Each player uses their own phone to access the app during the game. This change-up creates an extra element of trying to defy death as the Gatekeeper, who previously used to only pop up on the one screen in its VHS and DVD predecessors, can now interrupt multiple players on their individual screens. It ups the challenge for players vying to make their objective before time runs out.
Play it in the dark for an hour to see if you can get the keys to stop death before it’s too late. As someone who lost her sister in real life tragically too soon, you never know when you might not have that opportunity to enjoy and laugh at the irony of it with someone later. (3-6 Players, Ages 12 and up)
If you like mystery games, be sure to check out our recommendations for board games like Clue!