The holidays are traditionally a time for friends and family to get together and play some games. Travel disruption, unpredictable winter weather or simply living in different corners of the globe means not everyone can always gather together in person, though. Luckily, there are a number of great Zoom games out there that will let you play games together over video call even when you can’t be in the same room.
Best Zoom games
- Dungeons & Dragons (or any other tabletop RPG)
- Forgotten Waters
- A Fake Artist Goes to New York
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Video call apps such as Zoom, Skype, Teams and Google Meet rocketed in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought ways to chat and hang out virtually when lockdown wouldn’t permit sharing the same physical space. While lockdown restrictions have now eased in much of the world, many of the additional video call games and services that emerged during lockdown remain available - providing a way for those who still can’t be together for whatever reason to enjoy some fantastic social experiences.
From Zoom games that can be played with nothing more than a webcam (or even just a microphone) to online board games played in your browser and more elaborate solutions that let you play a physical game over the internet, we’ve collected some of the best games you can play over Zoom and other video call platforms. Whether you’re after something cooperative or competitive, a light party game or epic adventure, or something else, this list of the best Zoom games should give you plenty to fill the time before you can get together in person again.
Remember to mute your howls
Social deduction games are perfect for playing over Zoom, especially more traditional games like the original Werewolf that don’t require extra boards or other components.
To play, the game’s moderator simply needs to let each player know which role they are - from innocent villagers trying to hunt out the hidden werewolves among them and the lycanthropes trying to eat them all before sunrise, to more advanced roles such as the psychic Seer and helpful Doctor.
Luckily, Zoom’s chat function lets participants in a call send private messages to other members, so the moderator can secretly hand out roles before the game begins - and provide helpful reminders on how each role works, if necessary. After that, it’s time for the hunt to begin - you can play Werewolf over Zoom without many other changes.
Other social deduction games are also playable over Zoom - some, like Secret Hitler, have dedicated online versions, while others can work with a bit of organisation and familiarity among the players - but Werewolf stands out as one of the best Zoom games thanks to its simplicity and popularity.
Spark heated debate from the safety of your own home
Wavelength has quickly established itself as one of the best party games in years, thanks to its debate-stirring gameplay as players argue over where a clue given by one member of the group falls between two opposing ideas. Is “chilli-flavoured ice cream” more hot or cold? Does a sandwich constitute a meal, or just a snack?
Like many of the greatest crowdpleasers out there, Wavelength is also very simple to set up and play - making it a perfect game to play over Zoom. There’s an official app that players can download for free and combine with their video call, multiple online adaptations that can be played and shared in a web browser, or someone who owns the physical game can even set up the real-life spinner on a webcam if you’re after the full experience.
Wavelength has rules for playing in competitive teams or a cooperative mode that work without changing the core gameplay, so all of the players can choose to work together or compete as they prefer. An absolutely fantastic game in person, Wavelength is just as much of a blast as a Zoom game.
The party game classic is just as good over Zoom
Codenames is probably the biggest party game success of the last few years - and for good reason. If you’re not already familiar, it’s a genius mixture of word association and Minesweeper; players must give careful one-word clues to guide their teammates towards the correct cards on the table, without accidentally picking their opponents’.
The board game has been expanded with numerous spin-offs - replacing words with pictures, or swapping them for Disney/Simpsons/Marvel references - that all work together, letting you try an infinite number of potential matchups. There’s also a two-player version called Duet that turns the game into a fully co-op experience.
Codenames’ easy rules and reliance on nothing more complicated than words makes it perfect for playing over Zoom. While you can play Codenames over Zoom using a physical copy of the game and a webcam, there’s now an official online app that can be played in a browser for free and makes enjoying the game remotely even easier.
4. Dungeons & Dragons (or any other tabletop RPG)
Roll for network stability
Okay, we’ll admit this is a bit of a cheat one. But tabletop RPGs are ideal Zoom games, relying mostly on players’ imaginations and collaborative storytelling - plus a few dice - rather than enormous boxes of components and other gubbins.
While Dungeons & Dragons 5E is the most popular RPG out there and its basic rules can be downloaded for free, it’s not necessarily the best choice for playing over video call due to its more complex combat rules, the length of a typical session and the need to flick through either a physical tome or PDF to seek out specific details.
If you’re new to roleplaying, there are lots of rules-light RPGs that make stepping into the hobby even easier, and are often designed around ‘Theatre of the Mind’ play - meaning that they rely mostly on players’ imagination, rather than moving miniatures and measuring distances on a tabletop. Some RPGs are even designed specifically to be played using online chat apps, such as Will Jobst’s spookily inventive This Discord Has Ghosts In It.
That said, if you are looking to play D&D online, or any other RPG, there are Zoom-like video call apps built to allow dice rolls, interactive environments, characters sheets and other RPG-specific functions, from the ever-popular and fully-featured Roll20 to promising newcomers such as Role, which is built around a more lightweight, beginner-friendly interface.
5. Forgotten Waters
Go on a pirate adventure without leaving your sofa
Forgotten Waters was one of the board game highlights of 2020. A pirate adventure as exciting as it was laugh-out-loud funny, the game saw players become members of a ship’s crew as it sailed the seven seas, discovering islands and the intriguing mysteries buried beneath their sands.
Powering the game’s easy-to-grasp gameplay and top-notch writing was a companion app that provided voice narration and threw up randomised events for players’ pirates to deal with on each turn.
On top of the normal companion app, publisher Plaid Hat Games also released a dedicated Remote Assistant app to help players keep their swashbuckling campaigns going during the pandemic.
Designed specifically for use with video call apps like Zoom, the in-browser tool lets a group of players enjoy the game using a single physical copy of Forgotten Waters. All you need to do is point a webcam at the board (or just take a picture every now and then), have each player use their own character sheet and use the companion app and remote assistant to help track everything else.
Forgotten Waters’ remote assistant is one of the most impressive solutions for letting you play a physical board game over Zoom yet, and helps make an outstanding game stand out that much more.
6. A Fake Artist Goes to New York
Use Zoom’s whiteboard function to root out a pretender
Zoom’s built-in whiteboard function can be used for a number of drawing games, from classic Pictionary to more modern games about doodling silly pictures.
Among the best drawing games to play over Zoom is A Fake Artist Goes to New York, the compact party game gem from Japanese publisher Oink Games.
A blend of picture-guessing game á la Pictionary with the hidden traitor element of social deduction games like Werewolf, A Fake Artist Goes to New York involves each player taking it in turns to add a single line to a shared picture.
The twist is that one player doesn’t know what’s being drawn, so they must try and bluff their way through and avoid being caught as the faker. The rest of the players want to draw precisely enough to make it clear that they’re not the fake artist, but without giving the solution away to the traitor.
Zoom’s whiteboard function allows multiple participants to collaborate on a single doodle, and each person can draw in their own colour - making it ideal for games of Fake Artist.
7. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Solve a murder over video call
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is as much an interactive story as it is a game, with each of the classic mystery game’s standalone boxes tasking players with working together to solve several mysteries around Victorian London.
The gameplay is kept light, with players mostly choosing where they want to visit from a map of London before reading out the connected passages in a hefty tome stuffed with helpful clues, misleading red herrings and atmospheric set-dressing. When the players think they know all the answers, they confront Holmes before seeing how they fared - like all good mysteries, often the solution is not quite what you expect.
Consulting Detective’s audio-driven experience makes it a perfect Zoom game, with players able to take it in turns to read different passages from the book over a video call, just as they would around the table.
Making things even more accessible for those playing over Zoom is the fact that publisher Space Cowboys released dedicated sets of downloadable materials - including PDFs of maps, the London directory of names and the newspapers that players use in their hunt for clues - to make remote play simple. There’s even a complete case from the Thames Murders box if you don’t own the game and want to give a go before you buy in.