Popular Board Games

Popular Board Games

  • Chess and Checkers are believed to be the most popular classic board games of all time.
  • Although their historic sales data isn’t available, they are known and played all over the world and are often sold as a set due to sharing the same board.
  • The release of the miniseries The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix in 2020 boosted sales of chess boards by as much as 215%.
  • In terms of modern board games, Monopoly and Scrabble are thought to be the most popular.
  • Monopoly has sold 275 million copies as of 2015 and is known to feature more than 2,000 different editions. 
  • As of 2022, Monopoly has a 31.88% share of the global board games market and 42.54% share of the US board games market.
  • Scrabble has sold more than 150 million copies and there are around 4,000 clubs for the board game around the world.
  • Board games that sell around 10,000 copies are considered to be a success in the industry.
  • At the 100,000 copies sold milestone, a board game is seen as an overwhelming success.
  • The highest valued board game edition ever is for The Jewel Royale Chess Set, which was worth $9.80 million in 2005.

Classic board games

The most popular classic board games have stood the test of time and are well known all over the world. Although accurate sales data isn’t available for these titles, their longevity acts as a solid proof of their popularity.

  • Chess is believed to be the best selling classic board game of all time. 
  • In the US alone, more than 3 million Chess sets are sold per year.
  • Checkers is likely to be the second-best selling classic board game. 
  • Often, Chess and Checkers sets are sold together as they both use the same 8×8 board, which has helped increase their popularity.
  • As they are favored and have existed for around 500 years, it is likely that their total sales surpass those of any modern board game.
#TitleYear Number of players
1Chess14752
2Checkers15352
3Backgammon16462
4Mancala7002
5Go500 BC2

Modern board games

Advancements in manufacturing have allowed modern board games to become widely-accessible to new audiences. Although some people may find recommended retail prices expensive, their social and mental benefits alongside their replayable nature can convince consumers to shell out. 

  • Monopoly is the best selling modern board game of all time, with 275 million copies sold.
  • It has sold 1.83 times as many copies as Scrabble or Clue.
  • 5 titles have sold in excess of 100 million titles (Monopoly, Scrabble, Clue, Battleship and Trivial Pursuit).
  • The newest game in the list is Cranium which was released in 1998.
  • However, the oldest game listed is The Game of Life, from 1860.
  • More than 5,000 unique board games (or expansion sets) are released annually.
#TitleCopies soldYear Number of players
1Monopoly275 million19352-8
2Scrabble150 million19382-4
Clue150 million19493-6
4Battleship100 million19312
Trivial Pursuit100 million19812-6
6The Game of Life70 million19602-6
7Rummikub55 million19502-4
8Candy Land50 million19492-4
9Cranium44 million19984+
10Othello40 million18832
Catan40 million19953-4
12Pictionary38 million19852 teams
13Stratego20 million19612
14RiskUnknown19572-6

One of the most popular modern board games is Scrabble. If you are a new or regular player and are struggling to find the best word for your next turn, try WordsRated’s Word Finder. You can even adjust the word length you are looking for, so you can find those high-scoring 2 and 3-letter words!

Popularity of board games

Using Google Trends data, top board games can be compared with each other in order to determine how they rank, alongside their relative popularity.

  • From 2019 – 2023, Chess is shown to be the most popular board game each year from the given list.
  • It is also the most popular board game on average for the period as a whole.
  • In terms of relative popularity, it is almost as popular as all other listed games combined.
  • Scrabble ranked second throughout the given period and on average.
  • Excluding Chess, Scrabble is more popular than all other listed games combined in terms of relative popularity.
  • Monopoly ranked third on average, although Checkers proved to be more popular in 2022.

By rank

Board game20192020202120222023Average (period)
Chess#1#1#1#1#1#1
Scrabble#2#2#2#2#2#2
Monopoly#3#3#3#4#3#3
Checkers#4#4#4#3#4#4
Backgammon#5#5#5#5#5#5
Catan#6#6#6#6#6#6
Risk#7#7#7#7#7#7
Pictionary#9#8#8#8#8#8
Battleship#8#9#9#9#9#9
Trivial Pursuit#10#10#10#10#9#10

By value

Board game20192020202120222023Average (period)
Chess41.4347.7949.5253.1970.0452.59
Scrabble26.9234.3527.5223.5221.5826.76
Monopoly10.4111.379.837.179.369.62
Checkers6.757.247.347.857.547.35
Backgammon3.053.863.343.453.823.51
Catan1.762.531.841.872.032.01
Risk1.111.331.131.080.841.10
Pictionary0.851.290.990.870.810.96
Battleship0.931.090.630.570.420.72
Trivial Pursuit0.560.780.560.490.420.56

A graph is given below to compare the top board games by their relative popularity from 2019 – 2023:

By generation

In an increasingly digital world, board games are able to bring people together through old fashioned competition. Players of all ages and backgrounds are able to compete against each other in a social setting, such as those seen in times gone by. 

  • 38% of both Gen Z and Millennial respondents feel that board games are very enjoyable.
  • 47% of Baby Boomers feel that board games are somewhat enjoyable.
  • Interestingly, 12% of both Gen X and Baby Boomers find that board games are not very enjoyable.
  • However, 8% of Baby Boomers feel that board games are not enjoyable at all.
OpinionGen ZMillennialGen XBaby Boomer
Very enjoyable38%38%34%31%
Somewhat enjoyable44%41%44%47%
Not very enjoyable2%11%12%12%
Not at all enjoyable3%4%7%8%

What are board games?

Board games are typically designed for 2 or more players and incorporate elements such as a board, cards and a die or dice. Their level of difficulty can vary greatly, from the very simple games with few rules, to extremely complicated games with large rulebooks. Often, board games will have a theme, which can help them gain a following with people who have a particular interest. 

Although board games are designed to be competitive, the level of competition depends greatly on the players involved and the setting. Although they were originally designed for recreational use, many board games now feature official competitions, where players can compete to win money or other prizes. 

When board games were invented

The first board game known to have been invented was Senet, which dates back to 3500 BC and was played in predynastic Egypt. Board games have been created, played and evolved in most cultures and societies over the course of history. Classic board games typically fall into the following categories:

  • Race games in which players must compete to be the first to reach a destination.
  • Space games in which players must compete to dominate a physical space on the board.
  • Chase games in which an opponent tries to capture another opponent to win. If the opponent gets away, they will win instead.
  • Displacement games in which each opponent tries to force their opponent to move in a way that will benefit them.

How board games have changed over time

The earliest board games were typically used for ceremonial or religious purposes or possibly even as a means of teaching life lessons. They were created to be entertaining but also simple to play.

Over time, board games spread around the world to new civilizations and became a popular pastime for people of different backgrounds and classes. In addition to being a source of entertainment, they could be educational and even help players develop their problem-solving abilities and strategic thinking. Later, the invention of the printing press allowed board games to become widely accessible. 

In recent years, developments and changing trends within the board game industry have continued. New technologies have provided a platform for board games to be adapted into digital formats, or even formats that mix a traditional board game format with digital elements. This has opened the industry up to younger generations, ensuring new growth opportunities for years to come.

How to store board games

When storing board games, there are a number of factors to consider in order to keep them in the best possible condition:

  • Location: Make sure to choose a location that is clean and uncluttered, so it is easy to handle and move them in and out as needed.
  • Environment: Cool and dry environments will prevent damage from extreme temperatures, direct sunlight and/or humidity.
  • Keep upright: Storing the boxes in an upright position will prevent damage from excessive movement.
  • Containers: Clear, plastic storage containers will protect the outer box of the game from being damaged and allow you to easily see the game’s contents.
  • Organization: Finally, try to ensure all of the game’s pieces and instructions are kept in the same position as they were when the box was opened for the first time.