The 15 Most Iconic Board Games That Defined the 80s

Playing a board game

The 1980s remain the best decade for toys and games, especially for those who lived through them as children. They had the best action figure lines, countless dolls, and teddy bears, while home video gaming became a prominent fixture in our lives.

It was also a fine decade for board games, which TV commercials relentlessly advertised – and we all enjoyed playing them with our families, whether on special occasions like Christmas or random evenings.

15. Mouse Trap

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Mouse Trap was one of the first mass-produced three-dimensional board games. The game sees two to four players cooperating to build a working mouse trap in a Rube Goldberg machine style. Afterward, they turn against each other and try to trap their mouse-shaped game pieces.

Ideal published it in 1963, but Milton Bradley and Hasbro have made it since then. In the 1980s, the game on sale was a version redesigned by Sid Jackson in 1975, and it was more popular than ever.

14. Game of Life

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The Game of Life is a board game that simulates an individual's journey through life, from early adulthood to retirement. Each player is assigned a small plastic car piece, which takes them on their journey. Incorporated events can include college, jobs, marriage, and children. Depending on the version, up to six people can participate in a single game.

Created in 1860, the modern version of the game has been around since 1960 – an entire century after its creation. Milton Bradley (MB) published the game, but Winning Moves Games currently markets a classic 1960s edition.

13. Game of Knowledge

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The Game of Knowledge is a trivia game in which players attempt to travel from Earth at the center of the game board, through space, via the other six planets (including Pluto back then), to the fictional planet Galaxia by answering a series of questions correctly.

This game makes trivia interesting with a fun concept incorporated into it. It's designed for children aged seven and upwards but has tiered questions to enable adults to join in. Two to ten players can play.

12. Battleship

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Battleship is a game that combines strategy and luck that first existed in the 1930s as a pencil and paper game. In the game, two players have battleships marked on ruled grids, and they must take shots (in the form of guesses) to destroy each other's fleets.

It's a two-player game that anyone aged eight and up can play, but this one can get highly competitive. Expect to hear “You sunk my battleship!” repeatedly.

11. HeroQuest

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HeroQuest is an adventure board game in which four players can take on the role of either a Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf, or Wizard and fight their way through dungeons and monsters and, ultimately, attempt to defeat an evil wizard called Morcar or Zargon (depending on the location).

It's quite a complicated game for two to five players (whereby one player must play the part of the evil wizard) and should only be played by players 14 and over, but it's a lot of fun if you understand it.

10. Risk

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Risk is a strategy board game involving diplomacy, conflict, and conquest. The board is a political map of the world, and players control armies of playing pieces with which they attempt to capture territories from their opponents, with results determined by dice rolls.

It's been around since 1957 when French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse invented it, and Hasbro manufactured it, and its most popular era was arguably the 1980s. In 1986, the first new version of Risk came to be, called Castle Risk.

9. Trouble

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Trouble (or Frustration if you're in the United Kingdom) is a game where players race to be the first to send four playing pieces around a board. The pieces are moved based on die rolls using a contained device called a “Pop-O-Matic.”

It's a straightforward and enjoyable game that can be very frustrating (hence the name) – especially when your pieces get sent back to the start. Two to four players as young as five years old can play.

8. Scrabble

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Everyone knows Scrabble, right? It's a word game in which players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a game board divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The words created must be in the dictionary and should be placed horizontally, left to right, or vertically from top to bottom.

It has existed since 1938 and is currently a trademark of Mattel in most of the world, except in the United States and Canada, where it is a trademark of Hasbro. Like every other decade, it was a popular game in the 1980s.

7. Monopoly

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Monopoly is arguably the most famous board game ever made. It's an economics-themed game in which players roll a pair of dice to move around the game board (which, classically, represents London), buying and trading properties and developing them with houses and hotels.

Derived from 1903's The Landlord's Game, Monopoly went on sale in 1935, and Hasbro, Parker Brothers, Waddingtons, Winning Moves, and Funskool have manufactured it. Like Scrabble, it would make its way into any decade's most popular list of board games. There are countless versions, from different cities to different media franchises (such as Star Wars).

6. Go For Broke

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Several unlicensed Monopoly variants appeared following the original version's success, one of which was Go For Broke. In the game, each player receives $1,000,0000 from the bank, and they must race to be the first to spend all of their money and go bankrupt. Money can be used in casinos, at the racetrack, on the stock market, or donated to charity.

Go For Broke hit shops in 1965, and Milton Bradley (MB), Alga, The Games Gang, El Greco, and Hasbro have all manufactured it. The 1980s was its most heavily marketed and most popular decade.

5. Go For It!

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Go For It! is a game in which players compete to collect status cards in four categories: House ‘n Home, Wheels, Feelin' Good, and Goin' Places. Each player takes their turn in moving the shared “timepiece” around the board, which represents a calendar year.

Parker Brothers brought the game out in 1986, and it's the game that feels the most “1980s” on this list. It was a top-rated and popular product at the time.

4. Ghost Castle

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Ghost Castle is a British board game and a variant of the game Which Witch? Although its popularity was mainly in the United Kingdom, it's such a fantastic game that we had to include it. In the game, players must go through a haunted castle as evil beings try to stop them.

It's for two to four players aged six and above. It's ideal for playing in the dark (it has glow-in-the-dark game pieces) and perfect for spooky occasions like Halloween. You can create an eerie atmosphere around a game of Ghost Castle.

3. Trivial Pursuit

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Trivial Pursuit is a quiz game in which the winner is the player who demonstrates the best ability to answer general knowledge and popular culture questions. There are six categories, and players must navigate the board, collecting wedges from each “category headquarters” before returning to the center of the board to answer a question selected by the other players to win.

The game came out in 1981, but the idea sprouted in 1979. Selchow and Righter licensed it initially, then Parker Brothers and Hasbro. It was a massive hit when it first came out in the 1980s. There are now numerous versions of the game suited to different audiences.

2. Taboo

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Taboo is a word game whereby a player must have their partners guess the word on their card without using the word itself or five additional words listed on the card. It was first published in 1989 by Parker Brothers, but Hasbro purchased it later. Despite its late emergence in the 1980s, it was still prominent in the final months of the decade.

Taboo is excellent as a party game for large groups of people, but as few as two players can enjoy it. The recommended age range for playing is 13 and older (though that's not a strict ruling by any means).

1. Guess Who?

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Guess Who? is a board game in which players each guess the identity of the other's chosen character by asking questions about their physical characteristics. Is your character male? Does he have a mustache? And so forth.

Milton Bradley (MB) first manufactured it in 1979, but it was undoubtedly at its peak in popularity in the 1980s. Hasbro owns it today, but Winning Moves Games produces the classic edition.

Author: Kev Stewart

Title: Writer and Editor


Writer and editor with ten years of experience working full-time in this capacity. I've written over 2000 pieces of published work and managed teams of 50+ writers. I've produced content for some of the world's most prominent entertainment and sports platforms. My published work includes feature articles, news and opinion pieces, listicles, quizzes, voice-over scripts, viral content, and more. I'm a British 80s kid who loves movies (horror, superhero stuff, and all things 80s are my favorites), boxing, and football (soccer), a former business owner and executive headhunter, and a Tottenham Hotspur FC fan for my sins.