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Most Popular Board Games in History

Board games have stood the test of time as a foundation for all kinds of fun, from epic family battles and childhood nostalgia to boozy bonding and date nights.

But, while some board games have disappeared and become a distant memory, others have gone on to forge hugely successful franchises with legions of dedicated fans. These games have been adapted to many different platforms, reaching global audiences and becoming a part of everyday life. If you’re wondering what games we’re talking about, here are the most popular board games in history.


One of the most popular board games of all time, Monopoly was derived from ‘The Landlords Game’ created by Elizabeth Maggie. The game was originally intended to demonstrate the negatives of accumulating vast amounts of wealth at the expense of others and monopolizing land. However, Charles Darrow is credited with the modern version of the game after adapting and distributing as ‘Monopoly’ in the 1930’s. Parker Brothers later purchased the copyright and introduced the board game to the masses, making Darrow the first millionaire board game creator. Monopoly has since been played by more than 1 billion people and translated into 47 different languages.

board game monopoly

Monopoly involves players moving around the board buying, selling, and renting property, with a goal of accumulating wealth and bankrupting other players. The game has been licensed and adapted for many different formats including video games (PlayStation, Nintendo, Xbox, and many more), pinball machines, and even a popular McDonald’s promotional game.


Produced in the 1940’s, Clue is an extremely popular murder-mystery game. Players move around a board consisting of rooms, corridors, and passage-ways to collect clues and solve a murder. To win, a player needs to successfully guess the murderer, weapon, and location. Clue is a game of strategy and luck, where different possibilities are eliminated as players move around the board and piece together information about the crime.

board game clue

The Clue franchise has expanded into film, television game-shows, computer games, a musical, and even a slot game. However, the classic board game is still a family favorite, with different versions including Harry Potter, Star Wars, Family Guy, Sherlock, and Downtown Abbey.


The classic naval combat game of Battleship was originally played with a pencil and paper. It’s thought to have originated in France during World War I, although Russian officers say they were playing it well before the war. Either way, it wasn’t until 1967 that Milton Bradley made the game we know and love today. Plastic matrices with holes and pegs replaced the pencil and paper grids, and just ten years later Bradley released a computerized Electronic Battleship. Combining scheming with guesswork, Battleship involves a head-to-head clash, in which you search for the enemy’s fleet of ships and wipe out them out one-by-one by accurately pinpointing their location.

board game battleship

Off the back of Battleships huge success, it became one of the earliest board games to be adapted into a computer game, with the first digital version released in 1979. Since then, the game of suspense and stealth has been adapted by Nintendo DS with “Grid Attack” and has been included in Hasbro Family Game Night by Xbox, Wii and PlayStation. Of course, the highly successful 2012 science fiction film, starring Rihanna and Liam Neeson, was loosely based on the board game.


Dating back to 1938, the intellectually stimulating game of Scrabble has proven popular throughout the ages. People just can’t resist the challenge of forming words from limited letters. There’s an element of strategy that calls upon one’s vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. In addition, there is a mathematical component that requires planning and computational thinking to utilize bonuses and letters with higher values.

board game scrabble

But Scrabble wasn’t an immediate success. The game’s original inventor, Alfred Mosher Butts called the game “Criss-Crosswords” and failed to find willing manufacturers. It wasn’t until James Brunot of Connecticut saw potential in the wordplay game, simplified the rules, and re-positioned the bonuses that the “Scrabble” we know was born. Today, the game is played across 121 countries and is available in 29 languages. It’s most popular in Britain, where more than half of homes have a Scrabble set. Advances in technology have not left this family staple behind either. Scrabble has responded to the 21st century with television game shows, computer and video games, as well as web-based versions, even incorporating artificial intelligence. Facebook released a variant of the game called “Scrabulous” and in 2011 a TV show called “Scrabble Showdown” aired in America. With world record scores still continuing to be smashed, the success of Scrabble has made no signs of slowing down.

Board Games Are on the Rise

In the age of video games, virtual reality headsets, and social media, it’s hard to believe board game sales are up. But, there’s so much to love about an original board game. Not only do they allow us to put down our screens and rally around a common interest, they stimulate our brains in new and different ways, and allow us to forge (or break) relationships. Check out the next big board games for 2018 and start playing!


One Reply to “Most Popular Board Games in History”

  1. This list does not deserve the title of the Most Popular Board Games in History.

    And the Battleship movie was not “highly successful”. It flopped.

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