Gateway games, sometimes also called simple board games or light board games, are games that are easy to learn, easy to teach, and easy to play.
These are the types of games you get if you’re new to modern board games or you want to ease other people into the hobby. The best gateway games are also great to have in your collection because they’re the easiest board games to just grab off the shelf and start playing right away.
I made this list based on my experiences teaching games to new and casual gamers. If two games were ranked pretty closely and one was easier to learn and teach than the other, I ranked the lighter game of the two higher.
My hope while making this page was to come up with 10 light board games that I would be happy with if I were starting a new co-op board game collection today. Well, I think I succeeded!
Let’s get to the list! Below you’ll find some of the best simple and fun cooperative board games!
10. Marvel United
Marvel United is a superhero fighting game with a unique cooperative card-playing mechanism. You play your own hero’s cards to take actions, but you also get the actions on the card that your teammate played on the previous turn.
I put Marvel United on this list for two reasons: it’s an easy board game for new gamers to learn, and most people will be interested in the Marvel theme. It’s also an affordable board game, so there’s no real risk in checking it out.
Read our Marvel United review
This game is unique because you change the board as you play, and that changes how the story plays out. It also has some fantastic artwork from designer/artist Michael Menzel, who took a lot from his other excellent adventure game, Legends of Andor, and made a lighter board game with the story bits being in a book rather than on cards.
If you’re looking for a simple but very well-made cooperative adventure game to start with, I’d go with The Adventures of Robin Hood.
If you think you or someone you’re trying to get into board games will like playing as detectives and solving crimes, Chronicles of Crime is a great game to start with. During each case, you use your phone to scan QR codes to search for clues and to talk to people. The cases in this game and the other Chronicles of Crime games are very well-written and memorable.
Chronicles of Crime is one of my favorite two-player board games, but it plays well at all player counts.
Read our Chronicles of Crime review
FUSE is a cooperative real-time dice game in which you work together to try to diffuse bombs as quickly as you can. It also has a bit of a dexterity element to it because you often need to stack dice on top of each other.
FUSE and other real-time games are great for new gamers because there’s really no downtime. You get right into the action and you don’t stop playing until the timer tells you to. If that sounds like something you’ll like, chances are you’ll be a fan of FUSE.
Read our FUSE review
Many people end up loving deck building games, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is probably the best one to start with. You get to play through all seven of the Harry Potter books, fighting each of the popular villains along the way.
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter and/or you think you’ll like building your own deck of cards as you play, you’ll probably be a huge fan of Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle.
Read our Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle review
Check out our Top 10 Family Games!
Dorfromantik: The Board Game can work great as a first city-building or tile-laying game. All you do on a turn is place a tile to continue building your city, and the placement rules are easy to wrap your head around after one or two games. It also has a campaign element where you get to unlock more components as you play more games, which everyone seems to like.
Dorfromantik is a fantastic gateway game to get if you love puzzles or just want a more relaxing experience from your first co-op board game.
Read our Dorfromantik: The Board Game review
4. Castle Panic
While I would consider Castle Panic best as a family game, I’ve also played it multiple times with adults who were new to cooperative games. They got a real kick out of it because it was the first game that they played with this type of turn structure, and the art on the components and board made it easy for them to get into the theme.
Read our Castle Panic review
What makes Mysterium Park a great gateway game is that most people have played Clue/Cluedo, and Mysterium Park is kind of like a next-step cooperative version of Clue. One person plays the ghost and the other players are the investigators trying to solve a crime by looking for clues in the fantastically-illustrated Vision cards the ghost gives them.
The original Mysterium can also work for some groups as a gateway game, but I think Mysterium Park will work better for most because it has fewer rules and is quicker to set up. Anyone who likes or thinks they’ll like deduction games will probably get a kick out of both of these games.
Read our Mysterium Park review
2. The Mind
You’re not going to find a gateway game with more straightforward rules than The Mind. Your goal is simple: play cards in ascending order without ever talking about the cards in your hands. It’s an easy game to play, but it’s tough to master. It requires you to read your teammates in a new way, making it an equally unique and challenging game.
Read our The Mind review
This pick was surprisingly easy for me. I’ve probably taught 50 new gamers Forbidden Island and almost all of them continued to play modern board games afterward. That’s what a gateway game is supposed to do!
Forbidden Island is a light survival game in which you work together to find four treasures and then get off the island before it sinks. It’s easy to set up, it’s easy to play, and you can easily adjust the difficulty level to make it the perfect challenge for your group.
If you’re new to modern board games or you’re just looking for a simple and fun cooperative family game that everyone can enjoy, you really can’t go wrong with Forbidden Island.
Read our Forbidden Island review
What are your favorite cooperative gateway games? Any that didn’t make the list?
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