Mel’s Holiday Gift Guide: Games, Games, Games!

I love playing games. I love talking about games. And I LOVE recommending the games we love most! These game gift guides are some of my favorite posts of all time (mostly because I love reading YOUR comments and getting new recommendations!). And I’m so excited for today! 

Since I always get asked this question, let me preempt by saying: yes, we play ALL of the games that I recommend. I don’t accept sponsored products for my gift guides; all of these games are ones we’ve bought personally or been gifted by family/friends, and they are the tippity top of the ones we love. I have plenty of games that we buy and play and that don’t ever make the cut (some are just plain awful). The games below are our absolute favorites.

And in case you missed it, here’s proof that games are life around here (this was a before and after game closet overhaul a few months back). I wish it would stay this organized! I just tell myself it’s a very loved and appreciated game closet.

Here’s a quick link to all the gift guides I’ve posted over the years

And here are past GAME gift guides:
Game Gift Guide 2015
Game Gift Guide 2016
Game Gift Guide 2017
Game Gift Guide 2018

Also, at the very bottom is a shout out to a few games that I’ve included in the past that are still going strong as favorites after all these years. The comment threads of these gift guides are golden, so make sure to leave any favorite game recommendations for the rest of us to see!

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Most of the links below are Amazon affiliate links (where I’ve purchased these games), but feel free to shop around for the best deal!


1. Play Nine {aff. link}: this game, it might be one of my favorite games in the history of ever. We play it almost every Sunday night (and usually once during the week if we have time). If you’ve ever played “golf” with face cards, it’s basically the same premise (but with some fun twists). We’ve taught so many people this game…and they’ve all bought it for themselves. It’s easy to learn, SO fun to play, and can go as fast as you want (you don’t need to play all nine holes). Our whole family plays and loves it (even Cam, age 7). If the golf theme has you feeling kind of “meh” – just trust me on this one. I hate golf (sorry) but I love this game.

2. Skull King with Expansion {aff. link}this game is another huge obsession, like unto Play Nine, around here. It’s basically the only game we play with my Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dan anymore (this is huge – they take game playing to a whole new level). And we play it all the time as a family. I recommend learning the basic game before adding the expansion deck…but once you do, get ready for one of the best games ever. It’s frustratingly fun (if you’ve played it, you know exactly what I’m talking about, ahem, the kraken!). 

3. Go Nuts for Donuts {aff. link}: this is one of Camryn’s favorite games…and none of us are mad when she chooses it. It’s really simple and kind of whimsical with the donuts, but don’t be fooled, it can get cutthroat when more than one person is going after the same variety of donut! We super love this one and plan to keep it around for a long time.

4. Skull {aff. link}: this game couldn’t be simpler, which makes it a good option for when you want to teach friends and/or family members a game really quickly. And it is great fun (and really fast to play)! I’m kind of inwardly cringing just thinking about this game – in a good, excited way. There’s a huge surprise element that makes this game awesome, and our whole family loves playing it. (Plus the artwork on the cards is super cool.)

5 + 6. Qwinto and Qwingo {aff. links}Fun, fun, fun. These small, simple dice/number games are staples in our game closet because they are clever, easy to learn, and a great change up to some of our other oft-played card games. If you’ve played the popular Qwixx game {aff. link}, these two are similar…but different enough it’s worth keeping all three of them around. I always throw these ones in our game bag when we go on road trips (or all day wrestling tournaments). 

7. Nuts about Mutts {aff. link}If you are looking for a really simple, great card game for younger kids (but fun enough for the whole family), this cute game is perfect. Also, sidenote, how much do I love all of Grandpa Beck’s games? Seriously, the best card games. I’ve gifted this game many, many times to younger nieces and nephews. It’s really quick and easy to learn and fun to play.

8. Clue {aff. link}throwing it back to the old school days, I had to include this one because my boys are obsessed with Clue. They found an old, old version at my family’s cabin a couple years ago and promptly came home and pooled their dollars together to buy their own game to play at home. They regularly pull this game out to play with their friends and very, very often can be found playing it on Sunday afternoons together. It’s one of their all-time favorites. (Full disclosure: I don’t play it with them, but I DO usually beg the to play Play Nine or Skull Kings with me after they are done.)

9. 3 Up 3 Down {aff. link}clearly I have a thing for card games. And simple, fast card games are even better. This 3 up 3 down game is just that. It has a skipbo-type vibe to it; we love it because it is a speedy game (the faster you get rid of your cards the better). And it’s awesome because it isn’t complex at all. It is straightforward and actually kind of addicting to play. 

10. Skyjo {aff. link}ok, so if you are already a fan of Play Nine, you are going to LOVE Skyjo. It ranks right up there with Play Nine for us and is a Sunday night staple. The premise is pretty similar to Play Nine except there are more cards on your grid and there are some surprise rules that make it different and exciting. This is one of Camryn’s favorites and she giggles the whole time because she always, and I mean always, ends up with all the -2 cards somehow. It’s weird. We love this card game a whole lot. 

11. Tiki Topple {aff. link}: I guess I’ll take a break from card games to say that this Tiki Topple board game is really, really, really fun. The last time we pulled it out, Brian and my brother-in-law, Bart, kept doing the whole “ok, just one more round” thing and before we knew it, we’d been playing for over an hour. It’s such a clever game – and even though it makes me stinking frustrated (my front-running tikis always get toppled, dang it!), I can’t stay away. 

12. Super Fight {aff. link}chalk this game up to another recommendation from my boys. They’d be devastated if I didn’t include it. They think this game is the best thing to ever come into their lives (aside from when I surprise them with a loaf of white bread instead of the boring old wheat bread we always have). This game gets a little loud and slightly feisty (the idea is to convince everyone to choose your mismatched, zany superhero as the winner based on your logic and arguments), but it always, always ends up in a ton of laughter. There are a lot of expansion decks. We have yellow, green and orange. It is a great game for teenagers/tweens to play with friends. 

Past Favorites

It would be impossible to detail all of our past favorites that we still play (I can’t think of many games from past gift guides we don’t still play and love), but here are a few that come to mind as ones that we can’t live without (affiliate links included for all the games below):

Bears and the Bees (I actually don’t think I’ve included this in a gift guide before, but I play it with Cam all the time; super fun)
Code Names (I know I recommend this every year but it is one of my all-time faves)
6 Nimmt (a card game that has made our Sunday rotation for years)
Double Ditto (one of the best group games ever)
Ticket to Ride (such a classic)
Labyrinth (this clever, maze game is different every time you play; we love it!)
Forbidden Island (a fantastic cooperative game – we always really get into this one when we play)
Cover Your Assets (never, ever gets old)

*too many more to mention – so don’t forget to check out all the other past gift guides!*

Disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.