We enjoy regular game nights, but lately, many of our competitive games have been ending in tears and tantrums. The kids have been feeling the pandemic stress more and more, and it’s showing in their emotional resilience and response to stress. So in response, we’ve switched up our game nights to focus mainly on cooperative board games where everyone wins or loses together.
While there’s definitely a time and place for healthy competition, cooperative games help to foster emotional development, shared decision-making, creative problem-solving, and positive self-esteem in a non-stressful play environment. Working together as a team instead of competing against each other has helped make game night fun again and much less stressful.
I’m sure we’re not the only family experiencing this, so I’ve put together this list of highly-recommended cooperative games you might find helpful for your own family game nights. Some of these are from our own game closet, and others come recommended by our Facebook community.
Click on the name or game box to see these games on Amazon.
Keep in mind, the suggested ages really are just suggestions. Many cooperative games by their very nature are easily able to accommodate younger players since everyone plays on the same team. Adults or older kids can help with reading, strategy, or understanding the rules. And if your kids already have experience playing different kinds of board games, they’re likely to catch on quickly to new games too.
Cooperative Board Games for Toddlers & Preschoolers
First Orchard — Haba’s classic toddler game is ideal as a first board game. Players will develop social skills such as taking turns and following directions while reinforcing color recognition, quantities and counting by ones. Roll the dice and work together as a team to pick the matching fruit from the orchard before the raven makes it down the path to steal it all. If the players harvest all the fruit before the raven reaches the orchard, they win together! If the raven gets there first, they lose together. Repetitive play helps teach winning and losing and nurtures little gamers. The large wooden fruit and raven are easily repurposed for imaginative free& play outside of the game as well.
Feed the Woozle — The Woozle loves to eat hairy pickles and fuzzy donuts. Can you help feed him 12 crazy treats before all the snacks are gone? This game comes with three levels so it grows with your child. Kids work together to help feed the Woozle. No reading required, so even the smallest kiddos can participate! Kids learn dexterity, fine motor skills, body awareness, and counting, all while having fun and cooperating.
Wildcraft! — This beautifully illustrated, nature-based, cooperative game is created in the tradition of the classic board games. Grandma needs huckleberries to bake a pie. You and your cousins embark on an adventure up the mountain to collect berries as well as herbs she uses. Wildcraft! teaches 27 important healing herbs and edible plants. The game also teaches teamwork, for you will rely on each other’s knowledge of plants and good fortune to make it to the huckleberry patch and safely back to Grandma’s. The only way to win is by helping each other out.
Dinosaur Escape — In this cooperative game from Peaceable Kingdom, everyone works as a team to help three dinosaurs get safely to Dinosaur Island before the volcano erupts. Work together to move the dinosaur movers around the board and uncover the matching dinosaurs under the fern tokens. Dinosaur Escape teaches kids simple strategy, how to take turns, and how to follow directions. Everyone plays together, no one is left out, and everyone has fun!
Outfoxed! — A cooperative whodunit game that hones deductive reasoning in a non-competitive environment. Roll the dice to reveal suspects or find clues. Use the clue decoder to eliminate suspects. Green means you’re on the culprit’s track. Find the guilty fox and win! As players work together to try and nab the guilty fox, they’ll learn valuable skills such as estimating probability and paying attention to details, as well as the important role that collaboration plays towards problem-solving.
Stone Soup — Based on the delightful children’s story, Stone Soup, this simple memory matching game has players working together to “cook” a soup by making matches of ingredients. If you can match all the the ingredients before the fire under the kettle goes out, then everyone wins!
Dragon Dash — The Queen has called on her fearless Knights to help unite the Kingdom. In this cooperative game, players must work as a team to build a safe path across the green fields of Dragonwood while dashing past diving dragons! Will you make it before you run out of resources? Or will the dragons be victorious? Either everyone wins, or everyone is defeated!
Cooperative Board Games for Elementary School Kids
Gnomes at Night — Twelve of the Queen’s most prized treasures have been stolen! The thief was last seen running through the castle’s stone maze, dropping objects in his haste to get away. Players must work cooperatively as a team to maneuver the magnetic gnome movers around the maze and help the gnomes find the treasures and return them to the Queen before morning.
Cauldron Quest — Aspiring wizards and witches will love helping to save the kingdom from a dark spell. Everyone works together to beat the wizard and create a magical potion to break the spell! While working together, players use strategy and problem solving to find ingredients before the wizard blocks the path. Tokens, dice, and bottles add to the fun.
Zombie Kidz Evolution — Zombies have invaded the school! Gather friends together for this co-operative game and come up with the best strategy to beat back these foul creatures. The more you play, the more the game transforms. Fulfill special missions and mark your progress using stickers. Open mystery envelopes that enrich the game. Give powers to your heroes. Mutate your zombies! Zombie Kidz Evolution evolves with each game you play and each feat you accomplish. In time, you’ll gain new powers, but the zombies will become more ferocious as well. This game has a French version too!
Space Escape (AKA Mole Rats in Space!) — A band of sneaky snakes has infiltrated the Mole Rats’ Space Station in this cooperative version of Snakes and Ladders. Players work together to help the busy Mole Rats gather their equipment and make it to their escape pod before time runs out! Climb up ladders, slip down airshafts… but don’t get bitten by the snakes! If the Mole Rats escape, everyone wins!
Magic Maze — After being stripped of all their possessions, a mage, a warrior, an elf, and a dwarf are forced to go rob the local Magic Maze shopping mall for all the equipment necessary for their next adventure. This real-time, cooperative game, requires rigorous cooperation between the players to pull off their heists simultaneously. If all of the heroes succeed in leaving the shopping mall in the limited time allotted for the game, each having stolen a very specific item, then everyone wins together.
Hanabi — Players work cooperatively in this clever deduction card game with an electrifying twist! Each player is dealt a hand of 5 cards, but the catch is that you can see everyone’s cards except your own. Working together, you must share (and remember!) vital information to play cards in the proper launch sequence. Light them all to create a dazzling display and avoid a fizzling fiasco!
5-Minute Dungeon — A chaotic, cooperative, real-time card game! You and your party of intrepid heroes are trapped in a series of five deadly dungeons. To make your way out, you must battle dangerous monsters, overcome treacherous obstacles, and defeat maniacal Dungeon Bosses – all within 5 minutes! Start by selecting one of ten heroes and the corresponding weapons deck. There are no turns – all players slap their cards down as fast as they can! It takes teamwork and quick thinking to win each dungeon. This fast-moving card game is great to take along on family trips.
Pandemic — Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out. Players must work together playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks. A truly cooperative game where you all win or you all lose.
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters — All players must work as a team to escape the house with all 8 Treasure Jewels before 6 of the rooms become haunted. Moving with skill and strategy through rooms and hallways, you and your team will be picking up and dropping off Treasure Jewels. If there’s a ghost in the room, the team will have to fight it. Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters is the ultimate co-operative game—win or lose, you’re all in it together!
Forbidden Island — Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers as the island sinks beneath every step. Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss! Rich illustrations, collaborative play, innovative rules, and infinite possibilities generated by the tiles and cards make this cooperative game a family favourite. The game comes packed in a small tin which makes it perfect to bring along on family trips and camping.
Forbidden Desert — Gear up for a thrilling adventure to recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient desert city. You’ll need to coordinate with your teammates and use every available resource if you hope to survive the scorching heat and relentless sandstorm. Find the flying machine and escape before you all become permanent artifacts of the Forbidden Desert. This sequel to Forbidden Island comes with an all new game mechanics, such as an ever-shifting board, individual resource management, and unique method for locating the flying machine parts.
Forbidden Sky — The saga continues! What started off as a simple island adventure has evolved into an ever-developing storyline. From ocean, to desert, and now to the sky, this latest installment from GameWright takes you to new heights with several novel challenges, including collectively planning a terrain using only limited information, and constructing a real electrical circuit. Work as a team to uncover a mystical power platform that floats at the center of a savage lightning storm. Connect a circuit of cables to launch a secret rocket – all before you are electrocuted or blown off the bridge and plummet below.
Mysterium — A horrible crime has been committed on the grounds of Warwick Manor and it’s up to the psychic investigators to get to the bottom of it. In Mysterium, one player takes on the role of the ghost and over the course of a week, tries to lead the investigators to their culprit. Each night the team will be met with visions, but what is the ghost trying to tell you? Can the psychics determine the weapon, location and killer or will a violent criminal pull off the perfect murder?
Castle Panic — A cooperative tower defense board game for 1 to 6 players. Work together to defend your Castle in the center of the board, from monsters that attack out of the forest, at the edges of the board. Trade cards, hit, and slay monsters, and plan strategies together to keep your Castle towers intact. The players either win or lose together, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer. Players must balance the survival of the group with their own desire to win.
Cahoots — In this colorful card game, cooperation is key! Play cards to one of four piles by matching color or number. Work together as a team to complete a series of goals without communicating what’s in your hand. Can you make all piles purple or green? Every card lower than four? All cards add up to 10? There’s only one way to win before time runs out – play in cahoots!
Horrified — Imagine living in a place so wretched, that it’s not plagued by one, two, or even three monsters, but seven of the most horrifying fiends (Frankenstein, Dracula, the bride of Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the invisible Man, and the creature from the black Lagoon). In this game, you’ll come face to face with them all as you work together to rid the town of these maniacal or misunderstood creatures before it’s too late. Facing the unique monsters requires different strategies which creates a different experience every time.
Ravine — This survival card game requires both strategy and cooperation. You and your friends survived the plane crash, but will you survive the night? Work together to forage for food, craft a fire, and build shelters, but be wary: every step you take in the ravine could be one step closer to madness.
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle — The forces of evil are threatening to overrun Hogwarts castle! In this cooperative deck-building game, players take on the role of a Hogwarts student – Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville – each with their own personal deck of cards that’s used to acquire resources. Only by working together will players be able to defeat all of the villains, securing the castle from the forces of evil. Includes 7 sequential games, each based on one school year/book and building on their level of difficulty.
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