Board games, along with some of the most influential forms of media and modern culture, saw a surge in popularity in the 1990s. Most millennials of the 2000s spent their free time playing video games on consoles like the Nintendo 64 or the newest PlayStation at a friend’s home, while board games remained a fallback for those who preferred unplugged pastimes. Twister and Monopoly were the most popular choices, but they don’t really capture the spirit of the 1990s the way other games do.
Best 90s Board Games
1. Cranium (1998)
Cranium, marketed as “The Game for Your Whole Brain,” is an all-in-one trivia game that combines art with common knowledge. Cranium, which was released by Hasbro in 1998, incorporated the finest components of popular retro games including as Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Rapidough, Scrabble-style puzzles, and Charades.
Cranium offered so many activities that people of all ages could engage and have a nice time. You may be guessing anything on your turn, from which item your teammate is sculpting out of clay to decrypting a jumbled phrase or attempting to identify which music your buddy is humming. It is still immensely popular, having helped the designers win over 130 accolades, and other offshoot versions of the game have been produced over the decades.
2. Titanic: The Board Game (1998)
Despite the late-1990s popularity of the film adaption, this board game based on the ship was not a commercial success.
On the other hand, many people who were there at that era consider it to be a classic board game. Players in the game run to a lifeboat as the ship sinks in an inaccurate recreation of the 1912 disaster. A life jacket, a passport, and a hotel key are just a few of the randomized goods that players will need to gather along the route. A watery death awaits everyone who doesn’t make it to the lifeboat in time.
3. Goosebumps: Terror in the Graveyard (1995)
If you were a kid in the 90s, you probably had a few Goosebumps books, but did you play the board game? Milton Bradley made Goosebumps: Terror in the Graveyard to give kids more good old-fashioned scares and cash in on the success of the Goosebumps books.
The game board looks like a creepy graveyard, with hedges, moving tombs, and a crypt with a ghost without a head. To win, players must beat the headless ghost. The game is controlled by rolling dice, and players try to beat each other by drawing cards that let them turn other players into monsters, steal cards, or move other players into dangerous spaces.
4. Jumanji (1995)
Jumanji is a classic fantasy game based on the 1995 movie of the same name. It was made so that you can relive the magic of 90s movies in the comfort of your own home. This was made by Milton Bradley and came out soon after the cult favorite movie. Both the movie and the board game are based on the 1981 picture book by Chris Van Allsburg.
The game is easy to play, and there won’t be any wild animals running into your living room. Instead, a roll of the dice decides if the jungle will take over before the game is over. The winner is the first person to get to the center before the Doomsday Grid fills up, but only if they shout “Jumanji!”
In 2017, Cardinal Games came out with a new version of this old game. Just keep in mind, “Don’t start the game if you don’t plan to finish it.”
5. The Settlers of Catan (1995)
The Settlers of Catan (often known as simply ‘Catan’ or ‘Settlers’) was a tabletop gaming revolution created by a former dental technician in Germany. You’ll be gathering resources, trading commodities, and creating villages and roadways throughout the game’s imaginary island, represented by hexagonal tiles, in this 3-4 person game. Catan was unlike any other tabletop board game when it was debuted in the mid-1990s, and it has since become a party and game night fixture throughout the globe.
Catan has sold over 40 million copies in 30 languages as of 2022, making it one of the best-selling board games of all time.
6. Fraidy Cats (1994)
Who remembers the Milton Bradley game Fraidy Cats? This exciting board game for kids brought together luck, quick cats, and hungry dogs in one fun package.
You roll the dice, move your cat forward, try to avoid a motorized bulldog that moves erratically, and then you do it all over again. Fraidy Cats had just the right amount of gimmick to make it a memorable 90s board game, even though it seems very simple now.
7. 13 Dead End Drive (1993)
Many kids in the 1990s learned how to bluff by playing 13 Dead End Drive. Aunt Agatha, the rich matriarch of the family, dies in the game, and players compete to get her money.
In order to claim the rich old woman’s estate and win the game, you must avoid the booby traps set by other players and use your own to kill off your rivals.
8. Twilight Imperium (1993)
Twilight Imperium, which came out in 1993 and was made by Fantasy Flight Games’ founder Christian T. Petersen, is probably the best space board game of all time. Twilight Imperium is a space opera that spans the whole galaxy. It is one of those board games that takes a whole day to play.
Twilight Imperium is a complex turn-based PC game where different alien races, like bald blue men and lions in fancy robes, grab planets and build fleets. The real magic of the game, though, is in how many different things you can do and how you interact with other players. To win, you’ll have to persuade and flatter them to get what you want.
Twilight Imperium has a lot of flavor, is beautiful, and has a lot of space. It is now in its fourth edition. If you have friends who don’t mind playing the same game for eight hours, this is a great 90s board game to try.
9. Modern Art (1992)
You can make money by buying and selling expensive paintings. Modern Art, one of the most interesting board games of the 1990s, puts players in the role of gallery owners and art experts who buy and sell valuable paintings to make money. The pieces of art are the playing cards, and each round, each player must auction off one of their cards.
Auctions can have open bidding, fixed-price sales, “sealed” bids that are kept secret, and rounds where players only get one chance to make their best offer. After four rounds, the winner is the person with the most money.
Modern Art was a big hit when it came out in 1992, but some critics said the art in the game was not pretty at all. Some even called it “the ugliest game ever made.” The people who made Modern Art took this into account, and later versions of the game included real paintings by modern artists.
10. Don’t Wake Daddy (1992)
Don’t Wake Daddy was another classic game from Parker Brothers. Players had to sneak around the board to try to get a midnight snack without waking their single father. It was first sold as a toy in 1992, and it quickly became one of the most popular board games for Christmas. You can still buy it today.
There aren’t many rules. Sleeping Daddy is a game that can be played by up to four people. The “sleeping daddy” is in the middle, and you move around the board based on which color the spinner lands on. There are “noise” spaces on the board, like rollerblades, baseballs, a clown on TV, and a cuckoo clock. If your color lands on one of these, the player who made the “noise” must press the button on the alarm clock next to the sleeping parent a certain number of times. If you’re not careful and push the alarm clock too far, it will go off, waking up daddy and sending you back to the beginning. The winner is the first player to cross the finish line and get to the refrigerator. This is the ultimate midnight snack.
11. Monopoly Junior (1990)
Teach your kids how to become rich from real estate. Parker Brothers put out Monopoly Junior at the start of the decade. It was a simplified version of the original game that was supported by a strong marketing campaign.
Monopoly Junior was made for kids who are five to eight years old. Instead of street names, the game has kid-friendly attractions like a zoo, a video game arcade, and the classic 90s pizzeria.
Parker Brothers changed the look of the game again in 2013 to make it look more modern. Today, Monopoly Junior has themed versions based on Frozen, Peppa Pig, Cars, and even Finding Nemo to cash in on every trend.
12. Crocodile Dentist (1990)
Players took turns pulling teeth from a crocodile’s mouth. If you pulled the wrong tooth, the crocodile’s mouth would snap shut on your dental pliers (or fingers, if you like to live on the edge).
Crocodile Dentist was one of the strangest board games of the 1990s, but it was one of the most popular during the 1991 holiday season and won an award from the “Bizarre Toy Awards” in 1992.
13. Pretty Pretty Princess (1990)
Pretty Pretty Princess is a classic jewelry-dress-up game that makes players feel like princesses. Pretty Princess was a simple, fun game for young girls that didn’t need them to be able to read or do complicated math. In each round, players try to get all of the kid-sized jewelry pieces so they can make a full set. To win the game, you had to collect all of your colored jewelry and the coveted princess crown, because every pretty princess needs her crown!
There are still a lot of the board games that were popular in the 1990s. Numerous games have been updated with fresher characters or newer-looking visuals. The gameplay is nonetheless the same, and if you search long enough, you could even come across the vintage board games.