2020 was a weird year, for sure, but I thought it was a pretty great one for the cooperative board game genre. Multiple 2020 co-ops quickly became favorites for people in my group and pretty much everyone agrees that it was a better year for co-ops than both 2018 and 2019.
I did include a couple second editions of older games on this list since they were new to me and they are pretty obvious upgrades over the previous editions. One game that I didn’t include, though, was Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (review coming soon) because it is mechanically identical to the original Gloomhaven. Jaws of the Lion is excellent, though, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a more accessible version of Gloomhaven and to those who want to make sure they like the core system before paying $100+ for the original game. Jaws of the Lion would have been #2 on this list had I included it.
I also want to give a special shoutout to Forgotten Waters, which was the best semi-cooperative game that I played in 2020. It’s actually the best pirate-themed game I’ve ever played.
Oh, and I should also point out that there are still some 2020 releases that I need to play, so there’s a pretty good chance that this page will be updated multiple times.
Let’s get to it, then! Below you’ll find my Top 10 Cooperative Board Games of 2020!
SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton Rising is a must-have cooperative family-weight game for SpongeBob fans of all ages. It has just about every popular character from the show and you can add any of them to your teams of heroes. Your goal is to stop Plankton from stealing the Krabby Patty formula, and you do so through a Yahtzee-like dice mechanic. The rules are simple, but you can adjust the difficulty to make it challenging for any group.
If you’re a SpongeBob fan, if you like dice games, or if you just want a fun family game, this one is definitely worth checking out.
Back to the Future: Back in Time does an amazing job of pulling you into the key moments from the first Back to the Future film. Your goal is to make sure Marty McFly’s parents fall in love and to get the DeLorean in place by the end of the game. I really like the art style used on the boards and cards, it’s a lot of fun gaining new abilities throughout, and it’s just really cool seeing all of the movie’s famous scenes on the different cards.
I think most people would say that Horrified is design group Prospero Hall’s best co-op game, but I like Back to the Future: Back in Time quite a bit more.
Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time is an excellent board game port of the popular Kingdom Rush mobile game. It’s a tower defense game in which you attack incoming enemies with the towers that you build and your heroes’ abilities. It has an awesome upgrade system where you pass a tower card to your teammate so they can use an upgraded version of it in the next round. The campaign is a lot of fun to play through, giving you a bunch of unique and challenging puzzles to solve with your teammates.
If you like puzzly co-ops and/or you like the mobile game, chances are you’ll end up enjoying Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time.
Read our Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time review
Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is one of the best escape room games that I’ve played. It uses a very cool system where you combine a character’s number with whatever you want to interact with and then look that number up in the character’s book. It has some tricky puzzles and, best of all, it really does make you feel like you’re playing through a Scooby-Doo episode.
I think most Scooby-Doo fans and escape room fans will get a kick out of Scooby-Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion.
The Stygian Society is a dungeon crawl that has you drop cubes into a big tower to see which actions you and your enemies can take. On top of that, all of the characters in the game are unique to play as and face, so it doesn’t have the feel of a typical fantasy co-op. It has a theme that most people can get into and just about everyone will love throwing those cubes into the tower and seeing what pops out.
I had high hopes for The Stygian Society when I first heard about it and it definitely exceeded my expectations.
Read our The Stygian Society review
Endangered is a fantastic cooperative game in which you use your conservationists’ skills to save an endangered species (otters or tigers in the base game). You do this by influencing ambassadors to help you out and by moving the animals around so they can mate.
Endangered has an excellent co-op theme, it has a great dice allocation system, and it’s a consistently good challenge. If you like the environmental theme, you should get this game.
Read our Endangered review
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures is actually two games (so far) – City Fall and Change is Constant – and both are a blast to play through. The campaigns are solid and all of the characters are fun to play, but it’s the amazing dice-sharing mechanic that made me a huge fan of these games. It feels great to help your teammates and it feels just as great to get the extra dice you need to pull off cool moves.
If you’re a TMNT fan, you really do owe it to yourself to try one or both of these games.
Paleo is a very unique adventure game set in the Stone Age in which you have to find what you need to survive and complete objectives. It has an excellent card-selection system, there’s constant cooperation, and there are a bunch of modules that you can combine to create different types of challenges.
I think Paleo is a must-try game for co-op fans. Had it come out last year, it would have been my #1 game; 2020 just happened to be a great year for cooperative board games.
Read our Paleo review
I’m a big fan of real-time cooperative games, and Project: ELITE is easily one of the best ones out there right now. It’s about as stressful as real-time games get as you attempt to roll dice, move around, fight aliens, and complete objectives before time runs out. I love that type of tension because it makes beating the game feel that much better.
If you think you and your group can handle that kind of real-time stress, you should give Project: ELITE a try.
Read our Project: ELITE review
I usually don’t include second editions of older games on these lists, but Atlantis Rising is an exception because of the fantastic production and rules changes (pretty much the same reasons why Project: ELITE is also on this list). It is a true co-op worker placement game with beautiful artwork, some great tension, and it requires a high amount of communication to beat. Plus, it has an insane amount of replayability.
Atlantis Rising is easily my favorite cooperative game of 2020. Actually, it’s my favorite co-op since 2017. Everyone in my group loves this game and I can see it staying high up on our Top 40 list for a long time.
Expected back in stock in May 2021
What are some of your favorite cooperative board games of 2020? Any that weren’t included on this list?