Times are weird and being stuck inside sucks. Virtual happy hours have been fun, but a lot of times they devolve into everyone complaining about how awful things are right now. And while I agree and everyone needs to vent a little, when it becomes a 2-hour bitch-fest I get really depressed.
So instead, I decided to host a virtual game night. And it was SO much fun. One of our friends said it was the most he’d laughed since quarantine had started.
So here’s a list of 10 games you can play with friends from afar, and tips on how to host a virtual game night.
Tips for hosting a virtual game night
Tip 1: Figure out which game(s) you want to play beforehand and let your friends know if they need to download an app or watch a YouTube video with the rules so that everyone is ready to go for your virtual game night. Make sure your devices are all charged up—for a lot of these games you’ll need one device for the game, and a separate device for FaceTime/Google Hangouts/whatever your video conference service du jour is.
Tip 2: Snacks! Send out a couple super easy recipes that people can make for themselves at home to enjoy while you’re playing games. This popcorn three-ways is a fav of mine for game night.
Tip 3: Booze! Would you host a game night without booze? I mean maybe you would, I just probably wouldn’t be there. 😂 Here are a few cocktail ideas to get you started, ranging from simple to fancy (but of course, a glass of wine works great too!):
10 Games To Play for a Virtual Game Night
Codenames: Codenames is so much fun! It’s a little confusing to explain so if you haven’t played it before, here’s a three-minute YouTube video that does a good job laying out all the rules. Make sure everyone understands the rules first, and then use this website I found that creates a shared board for everyone to play on. You can have your video call set up on one device, and the shared board on another. We played this the other night and it worked great.
Poker: Back when we could go out into the world, we’d go to a friend’s house for poker nights every so often. We can’t do that now, but we can play poker virtually! There are a lot of options for online poker so I tried to find the best one that is actually and truly free (not download for free and then we’ll try to make you pay for stuff, “free”), and PokerStars looks like a good option. I haven’t tested it out myself yet, but this article does a good job detailing how to set up an account and a virtual poker room that is private for you and your friends.
Jackbox: Remember the sassy computer trivia game You Don’t Know Jack from the 90’s? They’ve come out with other games since then, under the name Jackbox. While they’re usually played on a PS4, Switch, etc. when you have a room full of people, they can also be played virtually. You’ll just need to have one person set up on their computer sharing their screen via Google Hangouts or something similar, and everyone else will join via their phones and use their phones as a controller. They detail how to set up games to play remotely here. Party Pack 6 has some of my favs like Trivia Murder Party.
Heads Up! on Houseparty: I’m sure most of you have played Heads Up! before, but in case you haven’t, it’s like a modern-day version of charades with pop culture topics, and it’s really fun. Instead of downloading the regular Heads Up app, if you’re going to play virtually you’ll need everyone to download Houseparty. Houseparty is a group video chat app, and you can add Heads Up to your video call. Get it on the App Store here and Google Play here.
Psych!: If you’ve played Balderdash, Psych! is basically like that. You make up fake answers to real questions, and then try to guess which one is right. Here’s a quick video explaining how it works. This app version of the game comes to you from the Ellen show. Get it on the App Store here and Google Play here.
Mariokart Tour: MarioKart reminds me of staying up late in the dorms playing on the Wii in college. You’ll need to set up a Nintendo account and link it before you can play. You can play yourself or add friends to a friendly competition. Get it on the App Store here and Google Play here.
Monopoly: I haven’t played Monopoly since I was a kid and I used to steal money out of the bank when no one was looking. With the virtual version, no one will be able to cheat, so the Park Place owner will have won it fair and square. Get it on the App Store here and Google Play here.
Uno: I love Uno, but I think it’s because 90% of the time I beat Omied when we play. You can play the virtual app with friends anywhere, and the app version has different twists than you’re used to. Get it on the App Store here and Google Play here.
Exploding Kittens: If you haven’t played Exploding Kittens before, it’s really silly and fun and it’s purely based on luck—there is zero strategy. It’s brought to you by the folks from The Oatmeal, so you know it’s going to have some weird, funny graphics. Check out the mobile app version that you can play with friends here.
Those are the best games I’ve found that you can play virtually, but if you come across any others, please let me know! We’ve already done a couple of virtual game nights and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come.