Top 5 Retro Board Games – fun, timeless memories

Board games

You guys know how much I love video games but today I am going to switch it up by talking about a different type of game.

Before video games, board games were the go-to source of fun for friends and family for generations. And they are experiencing a bit of a renewed renaissance of late, as new generations discover the fun and magic of getting together with a group of people and playing a game that is a mixture of imagination and structured play.

That is why I would like to share with you some of my favorite classic board games to give you some ideas of not only what is out there but also what you should probably try out if you have not played it before.

Here are my top five retro board games:

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5. Monopoly (Parker Brothers 1935)

Monopoly game board

Monopoly game board

Is there a person on the planet that does not know about Monopoly? From having a relatively simple premise – make more money than everyone else – to its iconic set pieces, Monopoly is the quintessential family and friends board game.

It is totally amazing to watch the houses and hotels sprout up all over the board and watch how intensely competitive people get about the game. Whether you play by the traditional rules or have your own house rules, Monopoly is a game meant to be enjoyed in long play sessions and that is what makes it somewhat intense.

It is even reported that the British royal family has banned the game because it is too competitive. If you are looking for the perfect starter board game, Monopoly is it.

4. Battleship (Starex Company 1931)

My kids playing a game of Battleship

James and Melody playing a game of Battleship

Group board games can be intense and sometimes take way too much time to set up. For those moments, a game like Battleship is absolutely perfect for you and a friend or a loved one to play during an evening at home.

Each player board has a fleet of ships and a coordinate grid. You fire your shots over at your opponent’s fleet by picking out coordinates and hoping that you hit one of the ships on the other side. Once you do land a hit, you will want to keep hitting the ship on a vertical or horizontal line until you sink it with battleships taking the most direct hits to sink.

What really makes Battleship so addictively fun is that it works on an element of the unknown that makes it much more challenging than you might imagine.

3. Scrabble (James Brunot 1938)

A game of Scrabble

A game of Scrabble

Scrabble is another board game that has grown into more of a culture than anything else, in the past couple of decades. From hosting competitions, to pumping out electronic versions of the game, Scrabble is not going anywhere soon – and for good reason.

This game tests your vocabulary but also your ability to strategize and think two or three moves ahead of your opponent. How so, you might ask? Certain letters have higher point values than others and stringing together words by using those already placed on the board is an art and a science. You want to not only get rid of all of your tiles, but also you want to shoot for the highest score possible.

While it is a game that probably favors those with better vocabularies, you can even out the odds by mastering how to use the board and your opponents’ moves against them.
* -Board Games

2. Risk/Risiko (Parker Brothers 1959, Giochiclub 1968)

Risk board game

Risk board game

Two names, same game, different rules – welcome to the world domination game that is Risk. Played out on a map of the globe divided into regions, players build up their armies and wage endless battles against one another until one side triumphs over the other.

Because there are rule variants, a total conquest victory is not always the name of the game. And if you have ever played Risk, then you know how long that type of game can take. No matter what ruleset you are using, Risk relies upon many of the same mechanics that Monopoly does but it is a very different game in mood and feel.

Equally competitive, though not as equally beloved by families and friends because of how long it can take to play one game, Risk is the perfect game for people that want to try more serious fare like Axis and Allies but do not have the time or the energy to memorize endless rules.

For the record, Risiko – which is the Italian variant – appeals to me over its North American counterpart. Its ruleset just makes the game more fun.

Honorable Mention:

Connect Four (Milton Bradley 1974)

A game of Connect Four

A game of Connect Four

A true game for everyone, Connect Four is the perfect diversion for kids and parents looking to keep it light and fun but with a little bit of competition and good, old-fashioned fun in terms of friendly antagonism.

A simple conceit, like many of the best games on here, Connect Four is leisurely and charming. You need to line up four yellow or four red markers either horizontally or vertically in a vertical standing grid, into which you drop your colored tokens.

It is hard to think of a better game to play with your child than Connect Four and it is probably one of the reasons it is a special game for many families.

Alright, below is my last entry, but it is also the number 1 on this list…

1. Clue/Cluedo (Waddingtons NA, Parker Brothers UK 1949)

Clue board game

Clue board game

Like Monopoly, Clue is a veritable pop culture phenomenon, spawning everything from a film to electronic versions of the classic board game. You are tasked with solving a mystery and, in the classic vein of whodunnits, you and a motley cast of suspects have to narrow it down until you find the murderer and win the game.

What most fans really love about this game is how it requires strategy, role-playing, and a little bit of luck. For me, personally, this game was a revelation and woke me up to the huge world of role-playing games and action titles out there. Before Clue, I was mainly a sports video gamer but, after my first game, I was hooked on the complex, multilayered gameplay mechanics on offer.

If you want a board game that is most like a modern video game, Clue should do the trick. I promise you will not find a game more engaging on so many levels outside of a video game.
What about you retro folks? Do you have any board games you think should be on this list? How about memories with family and friends? Tell me your opinions and best memories in the comments section below.

Till next retro ranking!

About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our younger gaming years alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

20 thoughts on “Top 5 Retro Board Games – fun, timeless memories

  1. Chris

    Love all the board games you’ve covered here, and had all of them at one point or another in my youth. But, in my book – Risk is by far the king out of them all! 

    I can remember my dad buying it then teaching me how to play it – I had never played anything like it before and I know a lot of early Spectrum and Commodore strategy games were based on it’s layout and flow. 

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Chris and thanks for your comment. 🙂
      To be honest with you, I was not very keen on Risk initially, at least until I got to play the Italian version.
      Despite this, over the years I started to appreciate the original Risk too and that is why I ranked it second overall.
      And yes I know a few Commodore games based on Risk’s layout and flow. Better said, I know many video games based on the most known board games’ format, and * spoiler alert * an article about the best video games based on board games is in the works. 😉
      Cannot thank you enough for being such an avid reader of my blog, till next post!

  2. Steve

    Great article Andrew!  I love and have played all these games.  I played when I was a kid, and I now play them with my kids.  However, by far, my favorite is Monopoly.

    There was a group of four of us that would play all the time.  We would play for hours!  And it took hours because at the time, we didn’t know how to negotiate and make deals like we do now.  Come to think of it, I’m not sure we ever finished a game!

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Steve, and thanks for leaving a comment on my post.
      I can relate to that and I say that with a smile on my face lol. I remember a game with my then friends, when all of a sudden one of the players (not me) bankrupted and we decided to go all-in to acquire his properties.
      I was the lucky winner, but I could not even celebrate as I had to step in and break a fight between the other two friends who had taken part in the auction.
      Basically, as one was whining over going bankrupt, the other took out some munny from his pocket and said: “I am not done yet!”
      The next thing I know is the former screaming: “You cheater!” and jumping on the latter.
      I am not sure I played Monopoly with them ever again… 😀
      Thanks again for dropping by, till next post!

  3. Steve

    Oh boy, have there been some competitive Monopoly games in my family! Much heartbreak has been experienced at the hands of my wife when she starts putting up houses and hotels. She starts collecting money and it’s not long before it’s all over. 

    I have always wanted to play Risk but never had the chance. The closest one I ever played that was kind of the same concept was Axis and Allies. That was a really fun conquering game and I would recommend it if you get the chance to play. 

    This was a really great list that has me motivated me to bring out some of the old board games and play them with the family. It’s such a great way to bond and create wonderful memories!

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Steve, yours is a very nice comment, thank you very much.
      I am glad I was able to bring back bittersweet memories, hahaha just kidding. 🙂
      I know Axis and Allies, I even mentioned it, but the Italian variant of Risk won me over. Probably, had I not got the chance to play it, A&A would have been my favorite strategy board game and today, it would be featured on this list.
      Thanks again for stopping by, stay tuned for more retro posts!

  4. Dave

    These games are truly timeless. I’ve played them all years ago as a child, and with my own children growing up. Our children are both grown adults now but we still enjoy a rousing game of Clue occasionally.

    Of all the ones on your list I’d have to choose Risk as my favorite. I’ve never heard of the Italian variant Risiko. You’ve piqued my interest and now feel compelled to go check it out.

    Thanks for the reminiscent reviews. I agree, these games won’t be going anywhere soon.

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Dave, thanks for leaving another nice comment.
      It is great that you are still playing Clue with your children sometimes. I hope mine will still consider me cool enough to play with them, when they are adults lol.
      Glad to have enticed your curiosity: If you like Risk, you will love Risiko!
      Thanks again for dropping by, till next retro list!

  5. Todd Matthews

    Each of these games are addicting and the only one I’ve never really played was Scrabble. However, Monopoly was and still is a blast, complete with its many versions. Battleship was great but there is some luck involved. I loved Risk and would be willing to play a game for hours to this day. I never knew about the Italian version and if it’s less complicated than the American version, sign me up. Clue is King, so I think you’re on the right track with the Number 1 game. Again, another game with so many variations; I loved it since Day One. 

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Todd, so pleased to have you as a regular, here. Glad my list resonated with you.
      If you ever get to play Scrabble, I am sure you will like it too.

      Regarding Risk, I would not say the Italian variant is less complicated, it is just that the game is more varied. For instance you have target cards, so that your goal is not only to conquer the world. Another thing that comes to mind is the small tanks. They are even featured on the box cover.

      Thanks for your exhausting comment, stay tuned for more retro rankings!

  6. Matthew

    I love playing monopoly but it has to be the number 1 reason for family feuds and break ups

    I have had so many fist fights with my brother whilst growing up over this game, and it was all down to one of us stealing money from the bank, lol

    Scrabble is another one, how annoying is it when you use up all your letters on a great word for hardly any points just for someone to go after you and add an S to the end of your word on a triple word score!

    So annoying! 

    Thanks for a blast from the past 🙂

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Matthew and welcome to my blog!
      In another comment I told about a fist fight that had taken place during a game of Monopoly, but that was a one-off fortunately. My number 1 fight-magnet is undoubtedly Trivial Pursuit (please see my response to Jordan).

      Regarding Scrabble, I totally empathize with you lol. My father was the “S” guy. His cheeky grin would drive me crazy, hahaha.
      On top of that, he would say: “Use your head!” In hindsight, he was absolutely right: at the end of the day the goal is to score as many points as possible, not to show others that you know and/or can create long, unusual words.
      Fond memories galore, anyway!

      Thanks for taking time to leave a nice comment, I hope you become a regular here!

  7. Harry

    Ohhh, you reminded me of my youth again! I remember sitting in the house during winter with my sister and cousins and playing Monopoly for hours. And then mom brought us warm soup.

    We were also playing Stratego and Hotel with a burning passion. I loved both of those board games! Have you ever played any of them yourself?

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Harry and thanks for visiting my blog again!
      So glad to bring back fond memories, yours is an emotional comment.
      I have played Hotel a few times, but did not really click with it. I have also played Stratego but only once.
      Although I did not dislike it, I did not find it very dynamic… I mean, a lot of strategy but not much decision making. Had it been a little more balanced, I am sure I would have played it again.
      Hope you become a regular here, till next post!

  8. Jordan Smith

    Awesome list you’ve got here, I’ve played all the games on the list save RISK; I would have love it if you add TRIVIAL PURSUIT. I was the best playing monopoly with my siblings then, but others (lol). Good to know little history about this games (the year it came to live, and those who made them).


    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Jordan and welcome to my blog! I am glad that you appreciated my list and found it informative.
      Concerning Trivial Pursuit, I have played it many times, but I have no good memories of it, unfortunately.
      Similarly to Monopoly for others, I associate Trivial Pursuit with unpleasant friend fights. In my experience, people had troubles with losing when it came to answering general knowledge questions, and someone would always end up picking a fight.

      Probably losing at a popular culture game made them feel inferior and they just could not accept it.
      Kid you not, It was an absolute fight-magnet back then.
      Not taking anything away from the game itself of course, it is very fun.

      Thanks you very much for leaving a comment, hope you become a regular here!

  9. Laura

    What a great post, and it is such fun to read about these games that I remember from childhood. I just bought my sister and her family a giant, lawn-sized Connect Four game that they can play outside. Battleship, Risk, Clue and Life were also favorites, and I have not-so-fond memories of my friends in college who were business majors cleaning me out over Monopoly! Thanks for the memories, and I’ll be sure to visit your website again soon.

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Laura and thanks for your nice comment, I am glad my post brought back memories. Your recollection of your Monopoly games in college made me laugh (in a good way of course). 🙂 I think it is something I can somehow relate to. My best friend is a policeman, and while he is poor at video games (please forgive me for telling the truth Max, haha), he is great at playing Clue.
      They call it déformation professionelle… 😉

      Thanks again for stopping by, until next retro article!


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