By Neal Taparia - 6/1/2023
Board games: the stuff of a rainy day on vacation, or a cherished family tradition (even if some relatives take it a bit TOO seriously). Most of us have grown up playing games like Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Cribbage and even Candy Land- but which classic board games are our favorites, and which ones are up to the task of entertaining a new generation?
We surveyed Americans of the four primary generations on their favorite childhood board games and also found which remain their favorites now. The data also provides insights into board game playing habits, and how nostalgia plays a role in our favorite leisure activities.
It’s no secret that Americans love board games- in fact, 95% like playing them! Certain games stand out among the crowd as time-honored favorites. When asked about favorite childhood games, Americans wholeheartedly endorsed everyone’s favorite real estate game: Monopoly, with 65% of respondents citing it as a childhood favorite. Other top childhood favorites include Connect Four, Candyland, Uno, and Battleship.
The four main generations, in 2023, are as follows: Boomers (ages 59-77), Gen X (43-58), Millennials (27-42), and Gen Z (18-26). When broken down by generation, Monopoly still reigns supreme. While still popular among the youngest generation, Monopoly placed fourth, while Candy Land is their #1. Connect Four had a strong showing, particularly for Millennials and Gen Z, while it didn’t even place for Boomers. There must be something to the technicolor palette of Candy Land- it landed first for Gen Z. Operation, meanwhile, has a cachet among elder generations, while not a favorite for Millennials and Gen Z.
How many Americans are playing classic board games today? It turns out most of us: over 3 in 4 say they still play board games. Monopoly continues to reign as the most popular board game currently played, with 1 in 2 Americans still buying and trading paper properties for fun. It’s clear some games just have that longevity as Uno, Scrabble, Jenga, and Connect Four round out the top five most popular games today.
Americans spend an average of 3.4 hours per month playing these classic board games, and the chief reason they still play is that it makes over 2 in 5 nostalgic. Other top reasons include playing with extended family, passing the time, or playing with their own kids. More than 1 in 5 (23%) play simply because it’s what’s already at home.
For some, especially Millennials, board games can mean more than a fun diversion. While 32% of Americans consider board games a hobby, one generation shines through as the most serious about board games: Millennials. Nearly 2 in 5 Millennials consider board games a hobby. Gen Z, at 31%, is not far behind, while only 19% of Boomers consider board games to be a hobby.
Board games have a variety of benefits, as well: 79% consider them to be a good icebreaker, and over 3 in 5 say board games help their anxiety. Gen Z especially feels this way with 76%.
If you’ve ever needed inspiration for a gift, look no further: over 4 in 5 feel board games make great presents! While most prefer classic board games, over 1 in 4 prefer newer or contemporary games to their classic peers. On the other hand, nearly 3 in 4 miss the specific games from their childhood. It seems the young miss youth the most: 84% of Gen Z long for their childhood board games, while for Boomers, only 59% do. It’s no surprise most Americans miss these games: over 4 in 5 say they helped strengthen family relationships growing up.
Do board games need to stay analog? Not necessarily, over 2 in 5 play digital versions of classic games on their computers or phones, with Scrabble as the most popular classic game to see a new digital era.
Most Americans (64%) still prefer “analog” games, even though there are many compelling reasons to play digitally; some of the most popular include: passing the time, digital versions are more convenient, they’re fun to play, are able to be played with others online, and no need to clean up at all– or have the supplies in the first place.
Some– 22% – would like to update some board games to more accurately reflect the times we currently live in. Top candidates as voted by those in favor of updating include Monopoly, the Game of Life, Battleship, Candyland, and Clue.
Nostalgia comes from the ancient Greek phrase meaning “to come home,” and that feeling seems to be popular among Americans: nearly 1 in 2 try to recapture the simplicity of their childhood in their leisure time. Board games accomplish this well, considering that 79% say playing board games makes them feel nostalgic.
Some would go far to play the exact games from their childhood: 64% want to play those games specifically, and Americans are willing to spend an average of $39 on the exact version of a childhood favorite game.
Others have taken their hobby to a new level: more than 1 in 6 of all Americans collect board games, but game-enthusiast Millennials are the most prone to collecting, with nearly 1 in 4 doing so. Overall, 38% of Americans have modernized versions of classic games, and 35% have multiple versions of the same game, which might have different gameplay or visuals.
While over 1 in 2 Americans consider themselves competitive at board games, Boomers take this the farthest- 65% consider themselves competitive at board games, and 1 in 2 Americans say their families were competitive growing up.
Board games still have family appeal: 88% of parents with kids under 18 play board games with their kids, and 1 in 2 kids play board games with their grandparents as well. This might change eventually, though: 68% said their children prefer screentime to playing games.
Board games are a cherished pastime for a reason: they’re not only fun but a great way to build relationships and relive some happy memories passing time together. While generations might have different approaches and different favorite games, Americans are truly united in their love of classic board games.
In May 2023, we surveyed 992 Americans about their favorite childhood board games and how they play games today. Respondents were 50% male, 48% female, and 2% non-binary. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 76 with an average age of 41 years old.
When using this data and research, please attribute by linking to this study and citing cribbage-online.net