What are the most sold board games ever? Some might say it’s a thing of the past: board game night, where families across the world pull out tatty cardboard boxes and battle out their skills around the table. But fear not: the digital age does not have to signal the end of days like these, just because many kids choose to play games on their consoles (check out our article on the best selling video games of all time). It is fun to remind ourselves of some of the huge successes that filled our leisure time in days gone by. And that’s not to say they’re not still played today – board games are enjoying a resurgence, with many featuring online equivalents.
A lot of internet sources claim to be ‘the most sold board game’, with grossly exaggerated sales figures, so we have trawled through the data and cross-referenced our sources to ensure we have the most reliable list of the top 11 most sold board games. Now for you to decide: which was your favorite?
Risk was invented by French film-director Albert Lamorisse in the 1950s, under the title La Conquête du Monde (Conquest of the World). The aim of the game is to occupy as many territories as possible, eliminating their opponents along the way. In 2001, a new version (Risk 2210AD) allowed players to extend their colonizing skills to include taking over the moon and beneath the sea. The game, which can last as long as eight hours, is now enjoying further success in its digital version.
Rummikub began almost 70 years ago in Romania, and is a tactile game played with colorful numbered tiles based on the card games of Rummy and Mahjong. It has enjoyed a steady level of success over the decades, and was the best selling game of the year in 1977. Perhaps owing to its simplicity, the game is enjoying a surge in new players and over 30 million copies of the game have been sold worldwide.
Originally called Reversi, this strategy board game for two players originated in 1883 by an Englishman: either Lewis Waterman or John Mollett. Each one called the other a fraud, and it will perhaps never be known who was the true inventor, although it is widely assumed to be based on an earlier game, ‘Annex’, made by Mollett. The game is played with 64 identical discs, light on one side and dark on the other and the aim is to have more of your assigned shade of disc visible than your opponents, when the final playable space is filled. Over 40 million copies have been sold worldwide, and it is widely played online.
A slightly different game in our list of the most sold board games, this one requires you to use your drawing skills as well as your brain. Perhaps owing to its simple premise – sketch the word on your card and your opponent has to guess what it is – Pictionary amazed the industry when it sold 20 million copies in its first year. Creator Robert Angel came up with the idea whilst at a party – he picked out a word at random from the dictionary and the other guests had to draw it. While it has gone on to enjoy success as a TV game show, the original board-game is still enjoyed by budding artists across the globe.
7. Game of Life
The Game of Life was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of U.S. boardgame company Milton Bradley, and was inspired by ‘The Checkered Game of Life’, which inventor Reuben had spotted in the company’s archives. A condensed version of ‘real life’ in which contestants drive their plastic cars around a three-dimensional board, players face a series of crucial decisions including how far to take their studies and whether to have children – all dictated by a roll of the dice! The updated version of 1992 even tests players’ ability to say ‘no’ to drugs, and offers special rewards for recycling and learning CPR! Over 50 million copies have been sold worldwide.
One of the first board games to surpass the magic billion-dollar revenue, British board game Cluedo (a play on ‘Clue’ and ‘Ludo’ which means ‘I play’ in Latin), centers on the unfolding of a murder of Dr Black (Mr Boddy in the North American version known as ‘Clue’) within an aristocratic manor house. The only entry in our list of most sold board games to involve a murderous element, contestants have to piece together the events, and put forward their deductions as to who committed the murder, and with what weapon. The solution is held within an envelope in the center of the board and is only opened when a contestant makes their ‘accusation’. The ultimate murder-mystery game has sold over 100 million copies since it was launched in 1949.
5. Trivial Pursuit
This general knowledge board game where contestants need to answer questions in order to collect ‘pieces of pie’ in each colour in order to win, soared to fame in the 1980s when it sold 30 million copies between 1983 and 1985. Ironically, it was borne out of a failed Scrabble game: two friends, Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott, decided it would be more fun to come up with their own game, and just a few hours later, they created the basic concept for Trivial Pursuit. It was a worthwhile venture, dubbed by Time Magazine as ‘the biggest phenomenon in game history’. To date it has sold more than 100 million copies since its creation in 1981.
While Scrabble or ‘The World’s Leading Word Game’ certainly puts your vocabulary and spelling to the test, its popularity has only increased since its invention back in 1933, with a copy to be found in 53% of British homes. If you’re looking for tips, the highest numbers of points available on your first go is 128, with the word ‘muzjiks’ (Russian peasants). Originally called Lexiko as well as Criss Cross Words, Scrabble initially made a loss but quickly recovered and today has sold over 150 million copies.
Work your way round the board buying the iconic streets of London (in the original version), before building as many houses and hotels in order to bankrupt your opponents: you either love Monopoly or hate it, and believe it or not, this game was actually declined by Parker Brothers back in 1934, when they deemed it too complex and too long. They quickly changed their minds, though, once they saw how quickly it was selling from local stores, and it’s a good job they did – during its first year, Monopoly was selling 20,000 copies a week. Today, there are multiple versions you can play – including a junior version where you receive an allowance instead of a salary. The capitalist’s dream game is now estimated to have sold well over 250 million copies worldwide.
Checkers, (or Draughts as it’s known in the UK) is a game for two players, based on a black and white tiled board. One players has the light discs, the other the dark ones. Players take turns to move diagonally to an empty square, ‘capturing’ their opponent’s discs by jumping over them. Enthusiasts would argue the game’s popularity is due to the number of possibilities on the board: over 50 billion, billion!
And, concluding our list of the most sold board games ever, it’s chess! The very earliest games of Chess can be traced back to sixth century India, while the ‘modern’ version appearing in the 1200s. The popularity of this game has never really waned, with chess competitions being as hotly contested as ever. The aim is to capture the opponent’s king, with many games resulting in a tie. If you’re thinking of playing, allow yourself plenty of time: the longest tournament game lasted over 20 hours – and ended in a draw. The full rules are notoriously complex, with a grasp of the game being seen as a true sign of intellect!