These are tried-and-true bar game ideas from the major categories, with links to more in-depth guides for each game within the article.
Whether you’re a bar-goer, bar owner, or simply looking for fun games to play at home with friends and family, there’s something on this list for everyone.
Of course, there are many great games not included on this list, and so many others we haven’t even tried yet (if you have any in mind, let us know!).
To make this list easier to navigate, you can use the table of contents to find a specific category or game.
Classic Bar Games
When you think of classic bar games, these are probably the first ones to come in mind. They’re always fun and never go out of style.
Pool, aka pocket billiards, is the granddaddy of all bar games. Billiards began as a game among the leisure class back in the late 15th century, and it later became known as “pool” (as in a type of bet) in the late 18th century. This was because billiards tables were commonly set up in betting parlors to kill time between horse races.
The most popular game that’s played in bars and on home tables is eight-ball. But there are some other fun pool games to play at the bar, including 9-ball, cutthroat, bumper pool or one of these lesser known billiards games.
Learn it: For tips, practice guides, equipment reviews and more, check out our complete guide on how to play pool.
The game of Darts gets a lot of coverage on this website. That’s mainly because it is one of the best – if not the best – bar or pub game. You can play a few games of Cricket quietly in the corner with your buddies, join a league and learn the 01 games, or just throw some darts by yourself while enjoying a pint.
Learn It: To get started quickly, check out our guide to the popular game of Cricket, or review the full list of the best dart games. For a deeper dive into skills, tips, equipment and more, see our roadmap on how to play darts.
The great bar game of table shuffleboard was first played in the pubs of 15th century England. Table shuffleboard eventually made its way to the U.S. and gained popularity during the early 20th century, reaching its peak back in the 1940’s. More recently, the game of table shuffleboard has made a comeback in dive bars, brew pubs and game rooms across the country.
The most common way to play barroom shuffleboard is “Knock Off”, where you slide pucks down the table into scoring zones and/or knock off your opponent’s pucks. Most tables have three scoring zones, and a “hanger” at the end of the table is worth 4 points.
Learn it: If you’re interested in learning more about this fantastic bar game, we recommend starting with our complete guide to table shuffleboard.
Another classic table game for the bar, foosball is a fun, competitive, and sweat-inducing table game that can be played with 2 or 4 players. It definitely takes some skill to get really good at foosball. And, honestly, it’s not that much fun to play against a really good player. They pretty much score at will.
Have no fear: If you love foosball and want to get better at this game, start with these 21 tips and tricks.
Learn the basics: An overview of foosball rules for a friendly game.
Throw It, Bowl It, Shoot It
Found in bar-arcades, game rooms and dedicated venues, here are some of the best target oriented and bowling activities to check out.
Reaching its peak in the 1960’s, the heyday of 10-pin bowling may be over, but the game is still played by millions of Americans every year. And new lanes are still popping up in bars, restaurants, and boutique venues around the country. There are other versions of bowling, including duckpin, nine-pin and candlestick, but ten-pin bowling is the linchpin.
The basics: 10 frames of bowling, strikes are worth 10 points (plus the total number of points earned on the bowler’s next two rolls), and you get to wear those shoes. That’s one of the best parts.
The classic bar game of Skee-Ball was invented in 1908 by Joseph Fourester Simpson. It was a very popular game in arcades and amusement halls during the 70’s and 80’s, and now it’s making a comeback as a trendy bar game for the millennial crowd.
Skee-ball is played over 12 frames plus one mystery round that’s worth 100 bonus points. You get nine rolls per frame. It’s great fun in drinking establishments, but it’s also the perfect machine for any home game room.
Hook and ring games have been played in bars and pubs since the 12th century.
You can also play the style of game where the ring is simply tossed around a peg that’s planted on the ground. It’s a simple concept that never gets old. We like the one that’s played in a pub.
The basketball shooting game of Pop-A-Shot may be one of the best 1-v-1 bar games ever invented. It can be found in bars, arcades and amusement centers. You have 40 seconds to score as many baskets as possible. If you outscore your opponent, you win.
Pop-A-Shot was invented by Ken Cochran, a long time college basketball coach, in 1981. And the game is still made by the original Pop-A-Shot company in Salina, Kansas.
If you want a fun, physical, and intense game to play at the bar, this would be one of my absolute favorites. And there are plenty of sports bars that feature this game, like this one in LA.
Axe throwing is a form of combat and competition that dates back to prehistoric times. And now, in its modern incarnation, the sport of axe throwing has become hugely popular at dedicated throwing venues and indoor entertainment centers throughout North America, especially among the younger demographic. It’s a fun group activity for corporate outings and private events too.
The popular bar-arcade concept has revived some of our favorite games from decades past. Here are some of the best arcade bar games to seek out today.
Invented by a group of engineers from Brunswick Billiards, air hockey gained mass market popularity in the late 70’s and 80’s. People still love playing this game at home or in bars. The official length of a standard air hockey table is 8 feet. This is perfect for hours of 1-v-1 competition. Grab your mallets and play a quick game to 7.
Learn it: An overview of how to play air hockey
Bubble hockey, also known as dome hockey, has the potential to be a great bar game, either as a stand-alone featured game or a complement to some of the classic options like darts and foosball.
With bubble hockey you control players who slide and pivot to hit the puck on a mini version of a hockey rink.
The game of bubble hockey is still made and sold by the original manufacturer, Super Chexx. You can learn more about the game on their website.
One of the truly great arcade and bar games, pinball was invented by Sam Stern in the early 1930’s. Pinball is still beloved by vintage game enthusiasts, and many bars feature retro machines along with newer, high-tech versions of some of the classics.
Play it: A few of the most popular pinball games include Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and newer options like Game of Thrones and Deadpool Pinball.
But the most popular version of pinball, and rated at the top of our list of the best pinball machines, is still The Adams Family, created in 1991.
You can check out the “Pinball Map” to find a machine near you
If you’ve played Golden Tee before, you know how addictive this game can be. Playing this game at a bar by yourself can suck up a lot of time that could be spent doing other things, such as socializing.
Yet it’s hard to resist the pull of playing a quick 18 at Safari Dunes, or the 1980’s style suburbia of Mayfield Golf Club.
Big Buck Hunter
The original Buck Hunter was introduced to the bar scene in the year 2000. It quickly gained popularity among the bar crowd, and now there are several different versions of this game available for players. And some players take it pretty seriously. In fact, Buck Hunter has become so popular in bars that there’s now a Big Buck Hunter World Championship.
The modern bar version is Big Buck HD, and it’s awesome. If you are looking for a bar that has this version of Buck Hunter, check out this resource.
Designed to replicate the fun and action of full size table games, these tabletop games come from many different cultures and incorporate some of the best features of classic table games in convenient and bar friendly sizes.
Klask is a two-player Danish bar game that involves angling, banking and plenty of strategy. Klask is very popular over in Europe and it’s now making its way over to North America.
In Klask, you move a ball around a small wooden board using magnetic strikers, trying to score in your opponent’s goal while protecting your goal and maintaining control of the striker. It sounds strange, but somehow it all comes together with this one.
Also known as Dutch Shuffleboard, sjoelbak is a fun tabletop game that involves sliding wooden discs down a board. The object is to slide the discs through one of four evenly spaced arches and compartments at the back of the board to score points.
Sjoelbak is a popular game in Dutch culture and, like table shuffleboard, makes for a great time at the pub playing with friends.
Learn it: You can learn more about this fun bar game right here.
DAGZ (Dice Angle Games) is a new game designed to replicate the fun of games like bags/cornhole and horseshoes in a portable size that can be played indoors or outdoors.
DAGZ can be played with 2 or 4 players. The players try to throw and bank dice off the sides of a beautifully crafted wooden board, trying to reach a scoring area that is obstructed by a small raised barrier. It’s fun, trust us.
Learn it: A full guide to the great game of DAGZ
Carrom is a tabletop game with Indian origins that is played on a square gameboard. It can be played with 2 or 4 players and involves using a larger “striker” disc to move smaller object discs (“carrom men”) into one of four pockets.
With elements similar to air hockey and eight-ball
pool, carrom requires a unique combination of skill and strategy in order to pocket all 9 of your carrom men, plus the queen, before your opponent.
Learn it: You can learn more about the game of carrom at this website.
Crokinole is a fun 2 or 4 player tabletop game from Canada. Crokinole is similar to carrom in that you play by moving discs on a wooden board into strategic scoring and defensive locations.
But unlike carrom, the crokinole board is round, and there is only one “pocket” to aim for for, which is surrounded by three scoring areas. Also, you “flick” the discs directly into the scoring zones, rather than using a striker disc as in carrom games.
Learn it: An overview of Crokinole
Traditional Pub Games
Like some of the games mentioned in the previous section, traditional pub games include international game designs that have been popular for centuries.
These games make great options for the pub, or when you’re looking for a fun and interesting ‘analog’ game to play with your kids at home.
A traditional pub game from the UK, shove ha’penny is one of the predecessors to modern day table shuffleboard. This game is played on a board, approximately twenty inches by fourteen inches. Each player has 5 pennies to ‘shove’ into lined scoring positions at the opposite end of the board.
This is a game of elegant simplicity. And you can still find it in some English pubs. Boards can be made of teak, mahogany, slate or even marble.
Learn more here.
A miniaturized version of the traditional game of Skittles or Nine Pins, the game of Table Skittles was first played in bars and pubs during the 18th century.
It has a few aliases – including bar skittles, pub skittles, and even “the Devil among the tailors”.
There are 9 pins positioned on a small square platform. And a pole in the corner with a ball hanging from a rope.
The ball is swung from the pole, so on its return it hits the 9 pins on the platform. You get three efforts per turn, with a maximum score of 27 points.
Nine Men’s Morris
Nine Men’s Morris is a traditional 2-player strategy game with ancient roots. The goal of the game is to create Mills, or complete lines of 3 men, to remove your opponent’s pieces (tokens) from the board.
Played on a board with three concentric squares, and 8 points on each square, you win when your opponent is either left with no legal moves, or only 2 remaining men.
Mancala is an ancient family of board games with African roots that’s still played all over the world.
Mancala is played on a special board using marbles, or similar game pieces, that are deposited in small pits during each turn.
The pits are laid out on the board in two or more rows, with larger pits known as “stores” on opposite ends of the board.
Two-rank Mancala, also known as Kalah, is a popular version in North America.
Shut the Box
Shut-the-Box is a traditional dice game from Northern France that’s played using a pair of dice and a specially designed box with a series of tiles numbered 1-9 (or 1-12 depending on the version).
In shut-the-box, you roll the dice and try to “close” corresponding numbers on the box based on the total number of each roll. When you are unable to close any numbers, your turn ends and your score is the number of “open” numbers remaining on the box.
Show Me Your Cards
Card games provide an endless number of options to play games at the bar with your friends. The following are some of our favorites.
Cribbage was a popular pastime among soldiers, sailors and fishermen dating back to the 17th century. And still, Cribbage is a simple, fast and entertaining bar game for the 21st century.
Cribbage is a card game played with a board that typically has either 61 or 121 holes used to keep track of points.
The game moves quickly, with hands that can tally up to 15 points or score for pairs, triples, quadruples, runs and flushes. It can be played with 2 or more players.
Spades is a classic trick-taking card game played with two teams of two. During play, each “trick” is a contest of who can put down the highest value card out of the four players. And you must always follow suit if possible.
Spades is played over several rounds, with dealers rotating after each round. If you have 4 people and some time to kill, this is a fun one.
Hearts is a fun and easy card game for the bar that is ideally played with a group of 4. Like Spades, Hearts is played over a series of rounds, with 13 hands played by each player per round.
In Hearts, you must always follow suit if you can, with the goal of having the fewest points in your hand after each round.
Party of Two? Not to worry. Check out one of these 2-player card games.
Gin Rummy is an old favorite that’s still fun to play over a couple drinks. It’s also a fun introduction to card games (that are actually played with a standard deck) for younger players.
Gin Rummy is played over several hands, where each player draws and discards cards by laying out matches of 2 or 3 cards, working their way towards the points goal (i.e more than 100 points).
If you need a refresher on how to win at this game, check out these gin rummy tips and strategies.
Uno is a fun and simple card game to play while you’re at the bar.
The objective of this game is to be the first player to score 500 points. This is done by discarding all of your cards and earning points corresponding to the value of the remaining cards held by your opponents.
There are also “action cards”, such as skip, draw two and reverse, to make the game more interesting.
And when you only have one card left, you get to yell “UNO!”. That’s how you know it would be fun to play this game in a drinking establishment.
Learn it: How to play Uno
Table for one? Check out one of these fun single player card games.
#NSFW Card Games
If you’re looking for serious laughs, check out one of the many new party (aka NSFW) card games available today.
Whether it’s titles like Cards Against Humanity, Unstable Unicorns, Exploding Kittens, Chameleon, or one of the many other new game creations, these games will force you out of your comfort zone, create awkward and hilarious moments, and definitely break the ice with any group.
Learn more: The best adult card games for your next game night.
Dice, Stacking & Tile Games
Dice, tile and stacking games are some of the most popular games around for all ages. These are the essential game pieces for a huge variety of strategy games, building block games, word building games, games of chance, and much more. Below are just a few of our favorites.
A set of Dominoes is like having a deck of cards. You can use the game pieces in countless ways – anything from simple block games, to scoring and trick-taking games. And that’s why every bar should include a set.
A fun way to play is with two players: each player gets 7 tiles, and you take turns matching dots on the open sides, trying to become the first player to lay all 7 pieces to win a round. Another fun way to play is Mexican Train dominoes.
Learn it: How to play Dominoes (A Complete Guide)
Bananagrams is a fast and fun word-building game that you can play anywhere, including a bar. Unlike Scrabble, you don’t need a special board to play Bananagrams. You just need the tiles and some creativity. A good vocabulary helps too.
The first player to use up all their tiles in a word-built grid and shout “Bananas!” wins the game. This game works well with anywhere from 2 – 8 players.
Learn it: How to play Bananagrams
Yahtzee is a classic dice game of skill and chance. It’s perfect for most ages, but adults really seem to get a kick out of yelling “Yahtzee!”, whether or not their actually playing the game.
You can play Yahtzee with any number of players. Each player tries to score as many points as possible per round (13 rounds total) by rolling 5 dice per round. You get up to three rolls per turn to tally up points, and then fill out your scorecard to keep track.
See more of the best dice games.
Most people have played a game or two of Jenga before. Everyone loves it, and that’s why Jenga has become a popular choice at bars these days. Whether it’s the original stacking size or one of the giant versions, Jenga is played by carefully removing and replacing blocks from a tower.
The stack loses stability, and the tension builds, until the whole thing collapses. Then everyone has a good laugh and the player who went last gets to re-stack the tower.
Learn it: How to play Jenga (rules and variations)
Blokus is not as well known as a bar game, but it’s complex, fun and engaging. Plus the pieces will remind you of Tetris, so it makes the cut.
You play by lining up the corners of different “polyomino” pieces on a gameboard with 400 individual squares. It’s usually played with 4 players, but there are 2 and 3 player variations as well.
Board Games for All
It turns out that the board games we grew up playing, in addition to many of the well-known modern titles, were destined for the bar scene. Just look at some of the new board game bars and cafes opening up around the country. Here are just a few of our favorite games to play at the bar.
Backgammon is an excellent choice for a 2-player board game at the bar. It takes a little while to learn, and there’s a lot of strategy involved, but once you get the hang of it you’ll probably want to go out and get your own board.
The board has 24 points (triangles) of alternating color, divided into 4 quadrants with 6 points in each. After arranging your checkers, you take turns rolling dice, trying to move all your checkers onto open points, and eventually to your home board.
Learn it: Here’s a good overview of backgammon rules to get started.
The bar is the perfect place to practice your world domination skills. And since many of us grew up playing Risk with our families, you’ll also get a nice dose of nostalgia with this one.
Risk is a fun game of strategy that can be played with 2 – 6 players. If you like acquiring entire continents and destroying your opponents, this one works well. There are many other games like Risk to check out too.
Think you know everything, don’t you? Well now you can prove it over a couple drinks.
Smart Ass is a really fun game for 2 – 6 players. With a game board, dice and over 400 question cards, you’ll answer questions from the Who am I, What am I, Where am I, and ‘Hard Ass’ categories.
Learn it: Smart Ass (game guide and review)
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a fun family board game that works well with a group of friends too. You really only need to two-players though. And games only take 30-60 minutes.
In Ticket to Ride, you travel across North America by train and earn points by connecting destination cities with your routes. There are plenty of fun variations and expansions you can try as well, including Europe, Rails and Sails, and the 1910 expansion with new destination tickets.
Learn it: How to play Ticket to Ride
The ultimate ‘who dunnit’ board game for the bar crowd. Created in 1944 in Bournemouth England, Clue is a classic board game that is still fun to play. You’ve likely seen the movie and probably played the game as a kid, so you know the cast of characters and basics of the game.
But, just in case, let’s review.
We have 6 suspects – Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Miss Scarlett, and Colonel Mustard – one of whom killed Mr. Boddy.
But who did it? And where in the mansion did it occur? Get a drink and settle in with a few other players to revisit this classic board game.
Drinking Games (Bottoms Up!)
Although not appropriate for all venues, there are some drinking games that any bar games enthusiast should know about. Here are a few classics that will add some fun to your next party or game night.
Rumored to have originated in the frat houses of Dartmouth College in the 50’s and 60’s, beer pong still owns the top spot among popular drinking and party games. It’s simple and fun.
Basically, form a pyramid with 6-10 solo cups on opposite sides of a large enough table, pour some beer in each cup (about ¼ cup should be fine), and try to land ping pong balls in your opponents’ cups so they have to drink. What could go wrong?
Quarters is one of the oldest and simplest of drinking games. And some bars actually let you play this game in their establishment.
Basically, you sit around the table and try to bounce quarters off the table into a cup placed about 10 inches away. When you sink a quarter, you can make another player drink the contents of that cup. Sanitary? Not really. But fun.
Learn it: How to play Quarters
King’s Cup is a classic group drinking game that may result in some serious hilarity. In King’s Cup, you all stand around a table with a cup in the middle, which is filled with some concoction of alcohol. A deck of cards is spread face-down around the cup. Players take turns picking up cards and performing an action based on the card.
Everyone plays differently, but there are some universal rules (i.e. 5 = bust a jive). If you break the chain, you drink the cup.
Ride the Bus
When you need a fast and simple ice-breaking drinking game, don’t forget about good ol’ Ride the Bus. Be careful with this one, though.
In this game, a dealer passes cards to each player and asks a question for each round (i.e. red or black; high or low). If you get it right, you can distribute a drink. If not, you must drink.
As the game progresses, the stakes get higher. If you lose the final round, you must ride the bus. Don’t worry, we explain what that means in the guide.
Learn it: How to play Ride the Bus.
Although it’s a little dated, flip cup is still one of the best team drinking games around. Lining up on opposite sides of a table, players from each team race to drink and then flip empty cups on their lip so the next person can go. The team that flips all its cups first wins.
Some bars even provide designated flip cup tables to encourage these shenanigans. A new and fun variation of this game is called Slap Cup. Read our guide to learn about both.
Learn it: An overview of Slap Cup vs Flip Cup
Take it Outside!
Lawn games, yard games, patio games – whatever you want to call them! Many of the best social games are played outdoors. Here are some classics to review along with a few modern favorites.
People have been pitching horseshoes at family parties, BBQs, and professional tournaments for centuries. The concept is simple: place two stakes about 40 feet apart (preferably in designated horseshoe pits), take turns throwing horseshoes at the stakes, and count the ones that land closest to the stake.
One team scores per round, and a ringer is worth 3 points. What’s not to love?
It’s one of the most popular yard games in the world. And for good reason. Cornhole has become a professional sport, but that doesn’t prevent anyone (and really, anyone can play) from tossing some bags and getting hooked on this game.
It’s based on cancellation scoring, like horseshoes, and works well 1 v 1 or with teams of two. There are cornhole boards of varying designs and sizes, and it can be played pretty much anywhere.
Learn it: How to play Cornhole
Whether you call it ladder ball, ladder golf, or ladder toss, you’ve probably played this one already, or at least seen this game at a party.
To play, you toss a bola (rope with a ball attached to each end) towards a ladder, trying to land the bola on one of three rungs. The rungs are worth different points (top=3, middle=2, bottom=1). Like cornhole, this game appeals to players of all ages and abilities. And it’s just as addictive.
Learn it: The ultimate guide to Ladder Toss
Although it came over from the old country (Italy, that is), Bocce continues to attract new players from younger generations. It’s a beautiful lawn game that can be played on a dedicated bocce court, or in your own backyard.
You play by tossing (underhand) or rolling your bocce balls towards a smaller ball (called the “pallino”). The team that has the “in” ball(s), those that are closest to the pallino, will receive points for each frame. First team to 16 points wins the game.
Learn it: How to play Bocce Ball
The rumor is that Vikings used to play an ancient version of Kubb with the bones of their enemies. Whether or not it’s true, the game of Kubb has spread beyond its Swedish borders, becoming a very popular modern lawn game in North America.
The object is to throw wooden batons across a field towards a line of wooden blocks (aka kubbs). Once you knock down all the kubbs, you can aim for the king in the middle of the field.
There you have it: 50 excellent bar games you can play today. No phones or tablets required; just fun games you can play with friends or family members.
Of course, we have many many more games to talk about on this site, and we are always open to learning about new ones, but the above list should be a good place to start.