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Ah, real-time co-op board games. Start the timer, get stuff done as quickly as possible, and then breathe. Some people love the tension that real-time games bring to the table, while others don’t like that kind of stress. My group really enjoys playing these games, though it’s important that we’re all in the mood for some chaos.
Real-time games aren’t the types of games that I’m going to recommend to everyone, but I do think it’s worth having at least one on your shelf for when you want an intense challenge that requires a lot of teamwork. Plus, real-time games are sometimes the best ones to have on hand when you want to get your friends into modern board games. Oh, and you rarely have the quarterbacking/alpha player problem with real-time cooperative games, which is awesome.
So, here they are… our Top 10 Real-Time Cooperative Board Games!
10. A Tale of Pirates
Year: 2017 | Players: 2-4
A Tale of Pirates is a real-time worker placement game… and everything takes place on a big cardboard pirate ship! Each mission has you attempt to deal with all of the threats around you by activating different parts of the ship, and the missions ramp up in difficulty as you move through the campaign. It has an excellent app and a pretty amazing table presence.
If you like the pirate theme and you want something that can work both as a family game and as a game that adult groups can play, there’s a very good chance that you’ll enjoy A Tale of Pirates.
Read our A Tale of Pirates review
Get your copy of A Tale of Pirates
Year: 2017 | Players: 1-6
Unlock! is an escape room system with very straightforward rules, but each game in the series gives you a wide variety of puzzles to try to solve. Your goal in each Unlock! game is to use the cards that you find to solve the puzzles as quickly as you can.
Unlock! has been a very successful series, which is great because it means that there are now plenty of games to choose from. You can pick the themes that you’re most interested in or you can just pick based on the games’ difficulty ratings.
Read our Unlock! review
8. Slide Quest
Year: 2019 | Players: 1-4
Slide Quest is one of my group’s favorite co-op family games because it has simple rules, it’s loads of fun to play, and it’s unlike any other cooperative game out there. It’s a dexterity game in which you use four levers to move a knight around a map to complete your mission’s objectives. You can play it with or without the timer, but you’ll want to play it in real-time mode after a couple of warmup games.
For my group, Slide Quest works as a great filler game, but it’ll be a go-to family game for plenty of people. Kids can definitely enjoy this one on their own, too.
Read our Slide Quest review
Year: 2015 | Players: 1-5
FUSE is a real-time dice game in which you’re attempting to use your dice to diffuse a bunch of bombs. It’s 10 minutes of pure chaos as you try to get the dice you need while also communicating with your teammates to ensure the dice to go the right people.
FUSE was a pretty big hit with my group when we first played it and we still have a lot of fun playing it after all this time. It’s portable, it’s quick, the app helps to ratchet up the tension, and the theme just works for this type of game.
Read our FUSE review
6. Kitchen Rush
Year: 2017 | Players: 1-4
Kitchen Rush is definitely the game to get if you want a cooperative game with a restaurant theme. You run around the kitchen trying to fill orders by grabbing the ingredients you need, cooking them, and then getting the plates to the customers.
Kitchen Rush is a great combo of real-time and worker placement and is an excellent choice for people who like chaotic and tough co-ops. I honestly haven’t met anyone who didn’t enjoy playing this game.
Read our Kitchen Rush review
5. Now Boarding
Year: 2018 | Players: 2-5
Now Boarding was one of my group’s top co-ops of 2018 because the theme is awesome, the pick-up and deliver mechanism works and makes sense with this theme, and it’s very challenging. You play as pilots in this game and you are tasked with flying passengers around the United States without getting too many complaints. You get to upgrade your planes as the game progresses, but you’ll also have a bunch of unhappy passengers waiting at different airports. It’s a blast.
Read our Now Boarding review
4. Space Alert
Year: 2008 | Players: 1-5
Space Alert was the second real-time co-op I ever played (after Hoopla) and it was a pretty amazing experience because it was so different than anything else I’d played. The truth is that there still isn’t anything quite like Space Alert. It’s just really exciting to try to find the best way to work together to move around your space ship and deal with the incoming threats.
There are plenty of gamers who still say that Space Alert is the best real-time cooperative board game out there, and for good reason. It’s one of the most complex real-time games, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you like the space theme and/or programming games.
Read our Space Alert review
3. Magic Maze
Year: 2017 | Players: 1-8
Magic Maze definitely brought something new to the real-time genre in 2017. You can’t talk to each other for most of the game and everyone is controlling all of the characters. Your goal in this one is to move around a mall and steal equipment in a limited amount of time. It’s chaotic, super fun, and I really like how it introduces new rules and challenges as you get past each scenario.
Anyone who enjoys real-time games should give Magic Maze a try. It’s also one of the best cooperative games at higher player counts.
Read our Magic Maze review
2. Project: ELITE
Year: 2020 | Players: 1-6
To me and most of the other people in my group, Project: ELITE is just pure real-time joy. It’s extremely stressful as you attempt to complete objectives and clear out hordes of aliens, but that also means that it’s very satisfying when you’re able to pull off the wins. It’s a big game with a lot of components, but it’s surprisingly easy to play.
If you’re a fan of real-time board games and don’t mind high-stress games, definitely look into playing Project: ELITE.
Read our Project: ELITE review
Get your copy of Project: ELITE
1. 5-Minute Dungeon
Year: 2017 | Players: 2-5
In my group’s collective opinion, 5-Minute Dungeon is the best real-time cooperative board game and it’s one of the most fun cooperative games ever made. It has straightforward rules, it’s quick, it’s intense, and the narration in the app is fantastic. This is the one game on this list that everyone in my group would be happy to play on any game night.
If you’re interested in getting just one real-time cooperative game for your collection, 5-Minute Dungeon is the one I’d suggest getting. It’s especially good at three and four players, but it’s solid at all player counts.
Read our 5-Minute Dungeon review
Get your copy of 5-Minute Dungeon
What are some of your favorite real-time cooperative board games? Any that weren’t on the list?