7 Best Cooperative Board Games in 2021 [Ranked]

Cooperative board games are great because the let our play with your friends rather than against them. Yet, co-op board games are a relatively recent innovation with most of them coming out recently. If you’re looking to buy your first cooperative board board game, or if you’re a co-op veteran, we ranked the best coop board games for you here.

Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is the best cooperative board game of all time on our list. We already wrote extensively about why we love this game in our ranking of all the Pandemic games, and in our article on why Pandemic Legacy is even better than the original Pandemic. Here, let me just touch on why it’s a great coop board game.

Legacy board games are a new fantastic genre in which you play a game multiple times, and in each session you permanently change the game by creating and destroying sections of it and adding new rules. If you don’t have a Legacy board game yet; get one. They’re all the rage right now and it’s because they’re awesome.

Now, the original Pandemic was already a fantastic coop board game. If we wrote this post a few years ago, it would rank number 1. It’s a fantastically stressful game that’s still simple and in which the world almost ends but hopefully doesn’t. And it’s one of the first coop games that’s simple enough that you can understand it right the first time.

Pandemic Legacy is just the fantastic legacy genre mixed with the fantastic coop board game Pandemic. So it’s just Pandemic, but even better (like really, SO MUCH better). It’s an unfolding drama that you play out over probably a few weeks or months in real time depending on how often you play, including virus mutations, tightening lockdown restrictions, and other events that seem familiar in 2020.

So that’s why we think Pandemic Legacy is the best cooperative board game so far. It’s an adventure that you go on with your friends for weeks or months. We can’t recommend it enough.

(And we always recommend starting with Season 1, because it chronologically precedes Season 2, and it’s slightly simpler. And don’t worry about the blue or red edition, that’s just about the color of the box.)

Escape Room In A Box helps you to transform your own home into an escape room. Can you work together with your friends or family to solve the puzzles, put the pieces together, and escape your own home?

Now, Escape Room In A Box is simply our favorite escape room board game, but there are plenty of others. If you’re interested in an escape room board game and want to check out all your options, read our article on the best escape room board games.

What’s so great about escape room games, is that they provide an experience unlike any other board game. There’s time pressure, you don’t know where to look for the clues, everyone is searching for clues asynchronously and yelling when they find something. After you’ve played one, you really feel like you went out and did something.

And escape rooms are also unique as cooperative board games, because you can divide your group up in smaller groups that search in different areas, or you can perform a task by yourself while the others do something else. But, after those periods of splitting up you always have to come together again and have everyone catch up on the latest developments. For us, this splitting up and then coming back together fosters an even stronger group feeling than normal cooperative board games.

Codenames Duet is the best cooperative board game for 2 players in our opinion. It’s simple, short and fun, yet has depth through its campaign.

In Codenames Duet, 2 players give each other clues and together try to guess all their objective cards. How this works is that both players know only some of the objective cards, so each player gives clues about different objective cards. Mechanically, this works very well and provides a seamless cooperative experience.

What we really like about Codenames Duet is that they added an optional campaign mode. In this mode, players move on a map from country to country and complete a game in each country. As you progress through the countries the games get more difficult as well, so there’s a feeling of progression. There’s 5 maps to complete in total, which is plentiful.

As a bonus, you can also use the cards of Codenames Duet in conjunction with the original Codenames. So in effect, Codenames Duet is an expansion to the original Codenames as well. But, of course you don’t need the original Codenames to play Codenames Duet.

We love Codenames in general, and we enjoy playing Codenames Duet so much that we ranked it as almost the best Codenames version.

Codenames Duet is a short and simple game, that you can still just replay endlessly, so it’s certainly the best 2 player coop board game in our book

Robinson Crusoe is a cooperative board game in which your group is stranded on a desolate island. But, the island harbors many secrets and surprises.

This game’s biggest strength is also its biggest potential downfall: it’s huge. There’s so many different things you can do. Initially, you probably want to make a small camp fire and some place to sleep. Later, you’ll expand this to a full grown settlement with walls, farms, armories and what have you. Further, you’ll launch expeditions into the jungle to find lost treasures and settlements, and perhaps discover the island’s biggest secret…

Because Robinson Crusoe is so expansive, it also takes at least an hour to complete a session, and you can replay it very often and do different things every time. It’s definitely a game for go getter board gamers that aren’t afraid to learn separate mechanics for making fire, using weapons and discovering items.

Since this coop board game is quite complicated at first, we recommend getting it if you have a group with which you’ll play multiple sessions. Otherwise, you run into the classic coop board game problem that the more experienced players completely dominate the decisions.

So Robinson Crusoe is a fantastic cooperative board game with endless possibilities, provided that your group meets the requirements we set out here.

Pandemic is the first cooperative board game that rose to popularity among the masses. This game basically started the entire coop board game genre, so we’d re remiss if we didn’t mention it in our ranking.

As we explained earlier, we think Pandemic Legacy is even better than Pandemic. Nevertheless, Pandemic Legacy is only as good as it is because it completely relies on the original Pandemic’s core mechanics.

In Pandemic, you and your team travel around the globe to fight the disease and find the cure. The game is stressful at times and requires coordination between you and your team members. If you don’t all cooperate, you have no chance in Pandemic.

Although Pandemic isn’t quite the best coop board game anymore, it’s still very good. And as we explain in our Pandemic ranking, there are still good reasons to get the original game. For example, if you want to play the game with multiple different groups, the basic Pandemic might suit you better than the Legacy version.

Spirit Island is a classic island defender, in which players join forces to cooperatively defend their island from invaders.

Each player is an island spirit with unique magical abilities. They use their abilities to push back the invaders, who try to invade further onto the island every turn.

The powers of some of the island spirits can be quite complicated. And it can be especially difficult to coordinate everyone’s powers simultaneously to leverage them optimally. Therefore, Spirit Island is best appreciated by experienced coop board game players.

Aeon’s end is the only cooperative card game in this list. In fact, it’s one of our favorite deck building games.

In this game your group works together to defend your fortress city. To do so, you all stack your deck with powerful minions and relics.

We always liken Aeon’s End to Dungeons and Dragons, because it’s a pretty expansive cooperative adventure, and there’s quite a few rules and mechanics to learn. So if you want to play this coop, make sure your group is ready for this.

Rounding Up

We hope our ranking helps you pick the best coop board game 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 coop board game to get even better 🙂