30 Old-School Games Your Kids Will Love (with Commercials!)

It’s family game night so you decide to take a trip to Target and check out the board game aisle. Except that aisle has so many new games you don’t know what to pick. What about the games we all grew up with? There were so many great games we played as kids.

That thought triggers the nostalgia of all those board game commercials we saw while watching Saturday morning cartoons. (Do kids even know what commercials are anymore? My kids call them all ads now. They will never know the stress of going to the bathroom during a commercial break and getting back quick enough and not missing anything.)

So as you peruse this list and go down memory lane of your favorite childhood board games, check out the commercials that went along with them. (It’s surprising how often we thought making a “rap” was a good way to advertise….)

Note: I know “board games” usually suggest games that include an actual board. I’m including non-board board games because this is a silly thing to be pedantic about.

If you’re looking for card games to play with your kids, check out 15 Card Games to Teach Your Kids (That Don’t Suck).

1. Connect 4

I introduced Connect 4 to my youngest and he hasn’t stopped playing. He’s getting so good I need to keep my wits about me when I play him now. No more guaranteed slam dunking in his face to put him in his place.

Luckily Connect 4 has been around long enough that it’s at the local dollar store or Five Below. It’s also pretty inexpensive to buy online (at around $8 on Amazon at the time of writing).

2. Battleship

Battleship is another game that’s become so classic you can find a themed version for just about anything that was popular in the last 10 years. Love Star Wars? There’s a Star Wars edition. Are you all about the newest MCU movie? Check out the Black Panther edition.

Going on a road trip? Get the travel version. Instead of one large connected board, this one comes with two smaller, closable boards for each person to play on.

Considering how far we’ve gone with technology, can’t Hasbro remake the talking Battleship game that works right?

3. Chutes and Ladders

Also known to some of you international readers as Snakes and Ladders. This super easy game takes little to no explanation and requires little to no skill. Great to play with younger kids or when you don’t feel like dealing with strategy. Another classic game that has lots of versions, but my favorite is the renewed classic board.

Are the kids complaining about being bored (again)? Check out 6 Tips for Getting Kids Past “I’m bored!”.

4. The Game of Life

This was a personal favorite of mine, but I learned to play at a very young age and without the help of any adults. We may have modified the rules some (or just made up our own). Playing again as an adult and knowing the rules better, it’s even more fun.

But be warned. If you have fond memories of the game, Hasbro has made a much more simplified version. It’s probably easier for kids to figure out on their own, but I don’t think it’s nearly as good as the classic version. Check out eBay or Goodwill if you’re looking for the old version. Winning Moves Games has also made a reproduction of the original 1960 1st edition.

5. Operation

Playing Operation, I learned I would never become a surgeon. I think it’s the source of my anxiety issues (that and Perfection…). But if you have a steady hand and want to learn how to handle pressure, this game is for you. It’s also a great investment in your retirement portfolio (I’m talking about having your kids becoming surgeons to support you during your twilight years).

It’s pretty fun too. Just don’t let your kids lose the pieces.

6. Perfection

They should call this game Anxiety…it’s likely the source of most anxiety issues for Millenials. And it’s a great game to introduce to your kids. Just be warned, if you hear a random scream from the other room, it’s probably your kid losing to this game and having a mild heart attack. Ah, memories…

Perfection is great for all ages. Younger kids learn shapes, and older kids learn to hustle. Now available for two players!

Need something else to do with the kids? Check out Model Rockets with Kids (What to Get and Where to Launch).

7. Clue

AKA Cluedo to anyone across the pond. Clue is a classic murder mystery game where you figure out who did it. It’s like an Agatha Christie book but a game. It’s also a pretty great movie (rated PG if you’re interested in including it for movie night)!

8. Sorry!

Sorry! is a super easy game a great to play with little kids. No need for dice, just draw a card to find out how many spaces to move. You also get to bump other people out of your way. But since it’s part of the rules and left up to chance, you’re not being mean about it.

9. Kerplunk

“Start with the sticks, like so. Makin’ a bed, where the marbles go. You don’t want those marbles, not at all. So take a stick, but don’t let ’em fall. ‘Cause if it goes Kerplunk, your s-s-s-s-sunk.” Sorry. Watching this commercial brings back memories (and now I want to go listen to “Whoomp! There it is” and “Rump Shaker”.)

Super simple game and my kids still love playing it!

10. Mousetrap

One of two things will happen with Mousetrap. 1. The kids just set the trap over and over again and have a blast. 2. The kids play the game and someone gets mad. Either way, prepare to be engaged (at least in the beginning).

For starters, set up and clean up are tough without parental help. Second, inevitably someone gets mad when the trap doesn’t work right or someone is particularly vindictive when stealing cheese. This game goes much more smoothly with your help to establish solid ground rules of play and sportsmanship.

11. Risk

Admittedly Risk is a little more advanced and better suited for a teenager than your 5-year-old. Be prepared for a long game night, but it’s awesome! Lots of strategy but battles are solely determined by chance.

Two things to remember. It’s super hard to hold Asia, and always keep an eye on whoever takes over Australia early.

You may also be interested in 18 Tips to Survive the Summer Break with Your Kids

12. Hungry Hungry Hippos

Super easy game to play and takes very little explanation. Keep pressing your hippo-lever and eat up more marbles than everyone else. The hard part is not losing all the marbles…

13. Trouble

A lot like Sorry! but without the sliding. Super easy to play with little to no strategy. You don’t even need to worry about losing any cards or dice. The die is enclosed in a dome popper. All you need to do is press it down and it rolls for you.

I like the old-school single-die version, but you can get the new version with a fancy second “power die.”


14. Guess Who

While some see this classic game as gender bias and racial insensitivity, others see it as an opportunity to teach math and statistics (check out Mark Rober’s BEST Guess Who Strategy- 96% WIN record using MATH).

Regardless, we all had fun playing it. Check out the newer more diverse version (with a new fancy loading frame), or get the classic version with the original faces.

Need more help with bored kids? Check out The Boredom Jar: 30 Activities for When Your Kids Are Bored

15. Yahtzee

Yahtzee is a great game that goes back to the ’50s. It’s a chance game with just enough strategy that it’s fun to play with young kids. It’s also a great game to play at your local brewery and still be able to keep your wits about you (that’s what we do).

16. Stratego

An epic strategy game to catch the other player’s flag. Because each player can set up the pieces however they want and the opponent doesn’t know, the whole opening game is trial and error. This makes it a good entry into strategy games.

17. Jenga

A classic game of stacking blocks. If you’re not super into card games or strategy, this is the game for you. Also, a fun game to play when you had a couple of drinks (not with your kids though. That would be horribly irresponsible.).

What was it about the ’90s that we thought a rap would suddenly make things sound cooler? And is anyone else hearing “The Scarn” from Threat Level Midnight (The Office)?

18. Scrabble

A classic game that always felt a little like learning. But after your brief addiction to Words with Friends, you don’t mind so much.

If you’re going to buy a new board, get the tile locking board. Trust me, the regular flat board gets really annoying.

19. Boggle

Super fun word game. If you really like word games and want to expand to more letters, check out Big Boggle (which is a 5×5 grid) or Super Big Boggle (which is a 6×6 grid).

See also: 50 Ways to Say “Poop”: How I Got My Son to Go No. 2

20. Monopoly

I will confess that Monopoly is not my favorite. In fact, I don’t like it. It’s just too long. If you agree, consider setting a 30-minute time limit and count up your wealth to see who wins. Monopoly Jr. is a much better version to play with young kids.

If you’re super into Monopoly, you can get one of the many different versions, including Monopoly the Mega Edition (with even more spaces) or one of the many different themed versions (check local stores for a version of your hometown).

21. Twister

The older I get, the more dangerous Twister sounds. But if you’re super into yoga, prepare to dominate.

Need a break? Find out 3 Ways to Play with Your Kids (While Sitting on the Couch)

22. Rummykub

So is it “Rummy-cube” or “Rummy-cub”? According to the US commercial, it’s “cube”, but in the British commercial (like the one below) it’s “cub”. Regardless, it’s a fun game!

If you grew up somewhere in the Midwest or played a lot of card games, you’ll feel right at home. Collect tiles that are either the same number (but different colors) or a sequence of numbers in the same color.

23. Blokus

I’ll confess, I always skipped over this game when I was a kid. Compared to Mousetrap, which is really a Rube Goldberg Machine, Blokus looked a little… boring. Then I grew up. Blokus is awesome! You get to use expert-level Tetris pieces to block out the other players.

24. Candy Land

This is a great first board game for little kids. No dice and no counting. Just pick up a card and go to the next color square that matches. It’s easy enough a 3-year-old can play it. Seriously.

Related: 6 Secret Codes and Ciphers to Teach Young Kids

25. Let’s Go Fishin’

Sadly, there’s no commercial, but I couldn’t leave it off the list. It’s a classic game with little fish popping up and down as you try to catch them with a plastic fishing rod. So much fun (until you start losing the fish of course).

26. Cootie

This is a great easy game for young kids. Simply roll to die to see which parts you get to put on your cootie. The first one to assemble the whole cootie wins!

Apparently, Cootie, Don’t Break the Ice, Ants in the Pants, and Don’t Spill the Beans had a pretty low advertising budget. All four had to share a commercial.

27. Don’t Break the Ice

Apparently, Don’t Break the Ice wasn’t worth patenting (maybe they did, but I don’t know anything about patents) because there are a lot of generic versions of the game. Some more interesting-looking than the original. Hasbro has a newer version (the classic one in the photo below may be discontinued), but there are also a couple of generic “Save the Penguin” versions with hexagonal pieces.

28. Ants in the Pants

Another classic William Schaper game that eventually got sold to Hasbro. A super easy game great for kids as young as 3 years old. Simply flick your color ants into the “pants” bucket. The first person to get them all in wins! (If you buy this at the store, you might find the older packaging. Same great game, different box)

29. Don’t Spill the Beans

The last of the four Schaper ages 3+ games (but certainly not least). Take turns placing a bean on your side of the balanced “jar”. The first person to get all the beans to get off balance and spill onto their side loses.

30. Barrel of Monkeys

Another great, really old-school game. Although it does tend to be that game you got as a gift when you were young and never really learned how to play. Simply pick up one monkey and use it to pick up a second, then a third, and so on to see how long of a chain you can make.

Admittedly it’s not super sophisticated and can go by pretty quickly. But if you raise the stakes (like, the loser does the dishes), then things get interesting quickly.

(Watch to the end of the video. What happened to the 4-in-1 Master Workshop? That looks AWESOME!)

Gregory Grabowski

Greg Grabowski is the principal creator of DadStuffSite.com, a website for dads by dads. Inspired by his two boys Ben and Sam and his wife Dianna, Greg loves to make things, learn things, and loves doing fun stuff with his family.

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