Best Codenames Game Version in 2021 [Updated]

Codenames is one of the most popular tabletop games of the past few years. There’s many Codenames versions, so to help you decide which version to get we tell you which we think is the best Codenames version and why.

Codenames: Pictures is the pictures version of Codenames. The rules are exactly the same: players give one word clues to their team mates to indicate which tiles are theirs. The only twist is that the tiles contain a picture instead of a word.

We like Codenames: Pictures better than the original Codenames. This might surprise some people, given the overwhelming popularity of the original version. But, think about it: is it easier to give clues about a single word, or about a picture of an igloo with a beach chair in front of it? Which sparks more associations? Which entices you to make the better, funnier and more creative clue?

Codenames pictures examplesCodenames: Pictures is also the easier version to play with children. They too have far more associations with pictures than with words. Moreover, to make good clues in the original version you often need to know that words have double meanings, which children often don’t. In fact, young children might not always know all the words in the first place. This doesn’t happen in the Pictures version because even if they don’t know what an object on a picture is it still triggers an association.

I find it hard to express just how much better Codenames: Pictures is than the original version. And I love the original version! So if you like the original Codenames I encourage you in the strongest way I possibly can to get the pictures version.

Codenames: Pictures XXL is identical to Codenames Pictures in terms of content. The only difference is that the size of the cards is bigger. This version of the game is meant for big groups, so that even if you sit kind of far away from the cards you can still see them well.

The XXL version is identical to the normal Pictures version, so it’s just as good. And the bigger cards are nice for bigger groups, but we don’t think it’s a huge deal. We mostly play with 4 players and even with 8 players the cards size of the original version doesn’t bother us too much.

The XXL version is also a bit more expensive, so it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to pay for bigger cards.

Codenames: Duet adds a cooperative game mode in which 2 players together try to guess all the target words before the time runs out. Both players know only a subset of the target words, and they take turns to give each other clues about that subset. This Duet mode is a big improvement compared to the 2 player experience of the original version of Codenames.

Further, Duet introduces a campaign in which players move from country to country to solve maps of varying difficulties. This campaign is quite light and there isn’t a narrative to it, but it’s still very enjoyable. It leads you to feel like you made some real progress after completing 5 different maps.

What’s also great about Codenames Duet is that it’s cards are fully compatible with the original version. So Duet hits two birds with one stone by being both a standalone game and an expansion. That’s why there’s also a Codenames bundle set that offers both games at a slight discount.

All in all, Codenames Duet is the true value pack version of Codenames. It adds a cooperative 2 player mode, a campaign mode and an expansion pack. It’s the biggest bang for your buck you can get!

Codenames: Deep Undercover is the adult version of Codenames. It features naughty words such as ‘Screw’ and ‘Sausage’ (and more explicit ones that I won’t mention in this family friendly post).

Now, I don’t like to admit that I like this game, because that makes me feel like I’m 14 years old again. But I can tell you, there’s lots of giggling going on when I play this sexy Codenames version. So I can’t lie: I am mentally still 14 and I do love saying I’m Deep Under Covers 😉

Naturally, this Codenames version is great for when there’s moderate to above moderate drinking going on. The mixture of liquor and Codenames: Deep Undercover lures out the remaining bits of puberty in people.

So if you’re and adult, but you like to act like you aren’t, Deep Undercover is the Codenames version for you.

Codenames is perhaps the most popular game of our generation, so I’m sure it surprises many people to see this version so low in our ranking.

The truth is, we absolutely love the original version of Codenames. We played it a ton and still play it occasionally. So it’s not like we hate normal Codenames. The other versions are just even better.

It’s just that the original version is never the best Codenames game to play for any given situation. If you’re with 2 players, the Duet version is better. If you’re drinking, the adult version is better. And under any other circumstances, the pictures version is better.

So don’t get me wrong: the original version of Codenames is a great game. It’s just been surpassed by the even better following versions. If you still want to get it though, you can consider getting the Codenames XXL version with bigger cards, for if you mostly want to play with big groups.

Honorable Mentions

There’s some other Codenames versions that we don’t include in our ranking because they appeal to a rather niche audience. But, if you’re a fan of any of the brands below, you should know there’s a Codenames version about them.

Codenames: Disney is a mixed Codenames version with both pictures and words. It features Diney characters such as Alladin and Cindarella, so it obviously appeals to younger children specifically.

Codenames: Marvel is the Marvel super hero version of Codenames. This one is also a mixed pictures and words edition. Most pictures are of superheroes or their weaponry.

Codenames: The Simpsons is a picture version of Codenames set in the Simpsons world. Most pictures are of characters or iconic places, such as Apu’s store.

Codigo Secreto is the Spanish version of Codenames. I assume it’s meant to be played by Spanish speakers, but it occurred to me that it can also be a good tool to learn Spanish. It’s single words so it shouldn’t be too hard to understand, and you can make house rules about whether the clues should be in Spanish too.

Codenames: Harry Potter is set in the J. K. Rowling’s universe. It’s a picture versions and the pictures feature iconic places and characters such as He Who Must Not Be Named.

Rounding Up

We hope our ranking helps you pick the best Codenames version for you.

If you still have further questions, please send them to us through our contact form. We’re happy to help. We also periodically review and update our posts, so any questions you ask may end up in future versions of our ranking. This way, we can help future readers decide which Codenames version to get even better 🙂