Ah, co-op real-time board games. Start the timer, work together to 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 real-time co-ops because they’re usually the most interactive board games. It’s important that we’re all in the mood for some chaos, though.
Real-time games aren’t the types of board 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 games, which is awesome.
Let’s get to the list! Below you’ll find some of the best cooperative real-time board games!
Unlock! is an escape room system with very straightforward rules, but each game in the series gives you a different theme and 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
9. Slide Quest
Slide Quest is a real-time 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 as a timed game after a couple of warmup rounds.
Slide Quest is one of the top co-op family games out there and it’s a very solid co-op game for kids because it has simple rules, it’s loads of fun to play, and it’s unlike any other cooperative game.
Read our Slide Quest review
Illiterati is a real-time word game in which you’re trying to put words together to bind books. Coming up with words while on a timer is very tough, but that also means it’s very satisfying when you’re able to work as a team to pull off the wins.
If you like word games and you think your group would be pretty good at coming up with words on the fly, definitely check out Illiterati.
Read our Illiterati review
7. Kitchen Rush
Kitchen Rush is a real-time game to get if you like the restaurant theme. Throughout the game, you and your teammates 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 tough co-ops. I honestly haven’t met anyone who didn’t enjoy playing this one.
Read our Kitchen Rush review
6. Now Boarding
This is a timed game in which you play as pilots 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.
If you like the aviation theme and you like the idea of trying to work together to fly people around the country, chances are you’ll be a fan of Now Boarding.
Read our Now Boarding review
Check out our Top 10 Co-op Deck Building Games!
5. Magic Maze
Magic Maze brings something different to the real-time genre. You can’t talk to each other for most of the game and everyone is controlling all of the characters, making it a unique puzzle to try to solve.
Your goal in Magic Maze is to move around a mall and grab equipment in a limited amount of time. It’s a chaotic and fun game, and I 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 for five or more players.
Read our Magic Maze review
4. Space Alert
Space Alert is a real-time game that has been around for a while, but it’s still a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s just really exciting trying to find the best way to work together to move around your spaceship and deal with the incoming threats.
There are plenty of gamers who still say that Space Alert is the best real-time board game out there, and for good reason. It’s one of the most complex real-time games, but it’s worth checking out if you like the space theme and/or programming games.
Read our Space Alert review
FUSE is a real-time dice game in which you attempt to work together to diffuse all of the bombs before time runs out. It’s 10 minutes of pure chaos as you try to get the dice you need while also communicating with your teammates to make sure all of the dice go to the right players.
FUSE has been a big winner with my group for years now, and it still hits the table pretty regularly. It’s portable, it’s quick, the app helps to ratchet up the tension, and it has a fantastic theme for a real-time game. It’s one of the top real-time board games and one of the best party games out there right now.
Read our FUSE review
Project: ELITE is just pure real-time joy. It’s extremely stressful as you attempt to complete objectives and clear out all of the aliens that show up, but it feels amazing when you’re able to pull it off. 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. It was one of our top co-op games of 2020, which was a stacked year.
Read our Project: ELITE review
For a long time now, 5-Minute Dungeon has been my group’s top real-time board game, and it’s one of our top co-op board games overall. Unlike most other real-time games, this is one that my group will happily play on any game night.
In 5MD, you try to make it through a horde of enemies and take down the final boss in each dungeon. You do that by quickly using your heroes’ cards and abilities as time is running down. It’s easy to learn, it’s a quick play, it’s very intense, and the narration in the app is fantastic.
If you only have room for one real-time game in your collection, 5-Minute Dungeon is the one I’d suggest getting. It’s one of the better five-player board games out there, but it plays well at all player counts.
Read our 5-Minute Dungeon review
What are some of your favorite cooperative real-time board games? Any that aren’t on the list?
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