Normally the greatest mystery I need to solve is, “Where did I leave my sunglasses?”. It’s a tough case to crack and often goes unsolved for weeks.
I do get a hankering for a case more stimulating every now and then and for that I, of course, turn to my ever-growing wall of board games, which always begs the question, “Which one to play?”
That’s a mystery in and of itself, but one I’m willing to solve. Strap on your Sherlock Holmes hat and grab your magnifying glass. Today we’re looking at the best mystery board games.
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#1. Clue: Classic Detective Game
Once in my life, I used all of my luck on one single game of Clue. I legitimately was able to guess the correct room, murderer, and weapon on my second turn of the game with 5 players. I’ve since retired from the game and refuse to play again to keep my stellar record intact.
That being said, there are games out there that do the whodunit runaround better but there’s a reason that Clue is a classic. It’s simple, fun, and full of nostalgia. It’s honestly been a few years since I’ve pulled out my clue board. I have a Simpsons version if that tells you how old it is. The thing is that even just writing about Clue filled me with some awesome memories.
I think I’ll be taking it off the shelf to recapture some.
- Retro Series Clue game looks like the 1986 edition
- Game has classic wood tokens, retro weapons and die
- Detective Notes and Solution Envelope are vintage
#2. Betrayal at House on the Hill
This one is a little less Sherlock and a little more Scooby-Doo.
Betrayal is a little bit of everything. True to horror tropes, players control one of the various characters who decide that wandering around a “haunted” house in the middle of the night is a good idea.
As players explore the mansion, they’ll open up new rooms and eventually trigger phase 2 of the game called the Haunt. This is Betrayal’s bread and butter. The Haunt is when the game completely changes and you could theoretically face down every horror stereotype known to man: zombies, vampires, creepy children, or cats. It’s all in there.
Players consult a chart and compare to determine the scenario played and who is going to be the betrayer of the group and how they’re going to do it. It’s a highly-thematic and genuinely fun experience.
One of my favorite games I ever played was a Saw-esque house of horrors in which one of the players tried to murder everyone while staying hidden within the group. Spoiler Alert: It was me. 🙂
- For 3 to 6 players
- 60 minutes of play time
- Designed for 3 6 players aged 12 and up
#3. Mystery of the Abbey
Mystery of the Abbey definitely takes some inspiration from Clue. There’s been a murder at the abbey, but nobody knows whodunit!
Instead of wandering around a spooky house with hidden passages, the monks simply ask each other questions and slowly shuffle around the board.
To help narrow down the search, each monk belongs to a specific order and has 3 identifiable characteristics: fat/thin, bearded/shaved, and hooded/unhooded.
One monk card is chosen as the killer and set aside and the remaining cards are distributed among the players. These specific cards allow the players to narrow down the suspects, however, players can take a vow of silence and refuse to answer.
There’s nothing worse than an amnesiac ghost of a murder victim to put a damper on your housewarming party… Seriously, that’s the back story of the game.
That’s not the important bit though. The important bit is that the game is a lot of fun.
In Mysterium, one player gets to play as the amnesiac ghost that tries to project visions of its own murder on to a group of psychic mediums.
The mediums have to interpret these visions to correctly uncover the crime.
It’s an excellent cooperative experience and a highly strategic one at that.
- Cooperative investigation, everyone loses or wins
- Strong and immersive storyline
- Ghostly fun for 2-7 players with a high replay value,
#5. The Secret Door
The Secret Door is a simple memory game that’s surprisingly simple and fun.
It reminds me of the photo hunt games that I used to play at bar arcade machines.
The Secret Door sets the board up with a mixture of clock cards on the board. Players will need to find pairs and determine which three cards were removed at the beginning of the game, based on what cards are still available and what pairs have been made.
It’s not heavily thematic, but it’s a solid example of a fun kids game that can keep adults entertained as well, making it a solid family game night addition.
- A memory and logic game with a mystery twist for the finish....
- The clocks are ticking! Try to remember the location of every...
- Great for Family Game Night, Great Gift for any child or parent
#6. Beyond Baker Street
Beyond Baker Street takes a bit of a different twist. Usually, in Holmes-themed games, you play as the dynamic duo and are given a case to solve.
In Beyond Baker Street, players instead take on the roles of rival detectives. It’s a race against the world’s greatest detective and if Sherlock solves the case first, then you lose.
Reputations are on the line, and there’s a murder that needs to be solved. Players have several different cases to choose from and need to cooperate with their fellow investigators to beat Holmes and bring the culprit to justice.
#7. Scotland Yard
If you’re looking for a bit more action and hands-on detective work, Scotland Yard may be just what you’re looking for.
It’s similar to Fury of Dracula but just a bit simpler. One player becomes the mysterious Mr. X and races around trying to stay a step ahead of Scotland Yard’s finest by zipping through the city’s mass transit to hide their trail.
Everyone else plays as detectives. It should be super easy to simply corner Mr. X, but unlike the detectives, Mr. X’s movements are largely masked for the most part, and will only pop up every now and then throughout the game. The detectives will need to work quickly before Mr. X can flee from the dragnet.
- One of the players takes on the role of Mr. X
- Job is to move from point to point around the map of London...
- Set includes a playing board, log book, visor, 6 playing pieces,...
#8. Letters From Whitechapel & Whitehall Mystery
Jack the Ripper is hunting tonight and the police have stepped up patrols with a dedicated task force. You’ll need to find Jack and end his reign of terror before he can slink away into the shadows.
Whitechapel & Whitehall both use the same basic mechanics and themes. It’s a 1 vs. all scenario in which Jack sneaks through the streets trying to keep out of sight while murdering his victims. The police force needs to collect clues on his victims, narrow down Jack’s location, and ultimately find his secret hideout to corner him.
Whitechapel is the original version and is overall a bigger board than Whitehall. Whitehall, on the other hand, is a little more forgiving to the police task force and has a much more streamlined set of rules, but both games are built on the same system.
#9. Mystery Express
There’s nothing like a good old fashioned train murder to bring the family around the gaming table.
If you have no special nostalgic attraction to Clue then perhaps Mystery Express will fill the role. It’s similar to Clue but a bit more in-depth.
There’s been a murder and it’s up to the passengers-turned-detectives to solve the crime. Players will need to decipher each piece of evidence to create the whole picture.
Unlike Clue’s one-guess-and-done system, players compete to solve the most aspects of the crime. The winner is the one with the most accurate prediction.
It’s a nice alternative to Clue that adds a bit more depth to and theme to the classic.
#10. Murder Mystery Party
These things were all the rage back in the day.
Kendra’s mom had one sitting in the game cabinet for years. We finally gathered up enough players to make it worthwhile. We made the traditional cheese and veggie platter and cracked open some wine, ready to host our murder mystery party.
Unfortunately, ours was a very old version and needed a cassette player… which we didn’t have.
Luckily, there’s newer versions that use apps and CDs to play. Don’t be like us.
When we finally were able to play, we had a blast. The campy voice-overs set the mood, we all talked in horrible British accents and it turns out that I was the murderer. Murder Mystery Parties really are more of an event rather than just board games.
- The Taste for Wine and Murder Mystery Party Game is a dinner...
- A body was discovered at California vineyard, and you must solve...
- Invite your friends to dress up and play the roles of the devious...
#11. 13 Dead End Drive
This is pure 90s nostalgia for me: stupid gimmicks, loose theme, and a ton of fun.
13 Dead End Drive traps an entire family of heirs in a mansion but only one of them can make it out alive. The board’s signature pitfalls and traps will have you dropping chandeliers, tipping over suits of armor, and kicking relatives down the stairs in no time.
Players have the option to move any character on the board, but have a vested interest in seeing their heir make it out the door alive. Each player will secretly have one character card that they’re trying to ensure lives.
It’s silly and a little gimmicky but I do love a good gimmick every now and then.
#12. 221B Baker Street: The Master Detective Game
My mom actually picked up this game at a Goodwill when we were kids. We played it a ton and it was always a very silent table, until the end of the game. Then we would chatter incessantly about all the different clues we had found.
It functions a lot like Clue but in a much more methodical way. Everyone gets a description of the case and then it’s up to the players to hit the streets of London. Each location has a clue, but not your typical clues. Information needs to be gathered together piece by piece to form a complete story.
A typical clue might be, “Watson noticed that ***** had a black eye covered by makeup”.
By itself, it doesn’t mean much, but when pieced together it’ll help bring to light the true killer and motive. Even when you have all the clues, you’ll still need to figure out what everything means.
- Contents include: 1 Die, 1 Game Board, 6 Tokens, 8 Scotland Yard...
- For 2 or more players.
- Ages 14 and up.
#13. Mr. Jack
Mr. Jack reminded me a lot of the King & Assassins board game when I first played it. They’re different in mechanics but have the same feeling to them and they’re both designed as specifically 2-player only games.
In Mr. Jack, one player controls an investigator, while the other player takes on the role of Mr. Jack (the Ripper). Out of the 8 characters on the board, one of them is chosen to become the hidden Mr. Jack.
By asking questions, the investigator needs to narrow down the suspects to identify which character has been replaced by the dreaded serial killer.
It’s a nice 2 player game that’s easy to pick up and play as a couple.
- 2 player game
- 30 minutes to play
- Murder Mystery solving board game in the misty streets of London
What better time to conduct espionage than Carnival? The authorities have their hands full with revelers and the revelers are too busy to notice the skullduggery going on.
Inkognito has probably the creepiest looking meeples I’ve ever seen. They’re color-coded, but come in 4 different sizes; short, tall, fat, and thin.
In this secretive game, every player controls 4 colored meeples in various builds and a hidden set of secret cards. The secret cards show the true identity of the agent and what they look like.
It’s not enough to just guard your secrets, you’ll need to find your partner hidden among the other players, discover your mission objective, and complete it before the other team does.
- This unique spy game is played in pairs, but players don't know...
- Each player must discover, using a card-based deduction system,...
- Great deduction for ages 13 and up!
#15. Orient Express
Not all famous detectives have silly hats and doctoral sidekicks.
Orient Express is based on Agatha Christie’s famous novel, Murder on the Orient Express, and her own famous detective Hercule Poirot.
In Orient Express, a murder has occurred during the infamous train journey to London. Like the novel, players need to solve the case before the train reaches its destination, or the killer escapes free.
Unlike the novel, however, the solution is never the same. Orient Express comes with several different scenarios that change the outcome of the final murder.
This is one situation where reading the book doesn’t necessarily give you an edge over the competition.
You should probably read the books anyway, though. They’re great.
- For 2-5 players
- 45-90 minute playing time
- The game is very flexible, allowing players to choose which...
#16. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
I absolutely adore this game and I’ve written about it several times.
It’s everything that I’ve ever wanted from a Sherlockian mystery game. Players are given a case where they’ll have to traverse London to collect clues.
That doesn’t sound so original compared to other games on this list, but the game is able to capture so many of those wonderful Sherlock Holmes thematic elements that made the genre so popular to begin with, it just works.
The components from the game are also possibly my favorite. Clues come in the form of newspapers and time period elements that players will need to read and search through the subtext to decipher the mystery.
I seriously cannot praise this game enough.
- A new standalone box for Sherlock Holmes consulting detective
- Cooperate with your friends to solve each case in a shared...
- An utterly unique game structure draws you into the world of...
#17. Mythos Tales
In the same spirit as Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, comes Mythos Tales.
Mythos Tales is instead set in the Cthulhu mythos and standing in for Moriarty is a man named Armitage.
Players will need to unravel the mystery and match wits with the man who looked into the abyss and returned. It uses a similar system to Consulting Detective in which players will need to visit locations and unravel a series of connected mysteries.
Unlike Consulting Detective, players have a time limit that amps up the difficulty.
If Sir Arthur Conan Doyle doesn’t get your blood pumping and your mind racing, maybe give a Lovecraftian mystery a try.
- A cooperative investigation game set in the early 1900's
- Take on the role of investigators in Lovecraft's Arkham
- Solve 8 horrifying mysteries
#18. Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Deception breaks up normal social deduction mechanics by adding a murderer to the group. A forensic scientist acts as the game’s overlord. Every other player is assigned a role card. Hidden among the role cards is the murderer who wins if nobody can solve the murder.
It’s a social deduction game, so the majority of the gameplay actually depends upon the player interaction. I’ve seen former students and friends who I thought were shy and quiet get insanely rowdy and vocal playing these games, and they’re just all-around fun.
- A fast paced murder mystery game in which one of the players did...
- Play with as few as 4 or as many as 12 players
- Show off your sleuthing as the forensic scientist
#19. Dark Stories Real Crime Edition (Black Stories)
Dark Stories is an odd game. Some completely random and unlikely scenario has occurred and it’s up to you to figure out what happened… using only yes or no questions.
That’s the entirety of the game.
The riddle will be something like, “A man goes scuba diving and is burned alive.” It’s your job to figure out exactly what happened. One player reads the card and answers all of the yes or no questions.
It’s been described as more of an activity than a game, but it’s still a pretty fun way to flex your mind muscles.
Finding the perfect game is quite the mystery, but hopefully, we’ve shed some light on the subject.
Did your favorite game mysteriously not make the list? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.