5 great party games on your phone for Thanksgiving Day

Don't let Risk ruin another holiday. These games will get everyone working together, laughing and having tons of fun.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays -- in part because of the food, and in part because I love gathering with family. What I don't love, however, is playing the same boring games every year. No. More. Monopoly!

That's why this year I'm bringing my phone. Well, I was bringing it anyway, but I'm going to stock it with party games that are perfect for livening up the food-coma crowd.

Heads Up!

If there's such a thing as a classic smartphone party game, this is it. In Heads Up!, you hold the phone to your forehead while everyone else shouts clues as to what's onscreen. If you guess correctly, a quick tilt down produces the next clue. Can't guess? Tilt the phone up to pass (and go on to the next clue). At the end of the round, you see how many you got right. Then it's on to the next player.

Adding an extra layer of amusement, the app records video of the group as it's shouting and acting out clues. You can watch the videos after playing and share them to Facebook. The 99-cent game -- available for Android and iOS -- comes with a smattering of themed "decks," with more available via in-app purchase.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

How can a VR game possibly be social? When one person is trying to defuse a virtual bomb and the other players are the bomb squad. That's the intriguing conceit behind the wholly inventive Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, which began life as a desktop game (one person at a laptop, the others arranged behind it) but is now available for Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream.


Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a surprisingly social (and entertaining) VR game.

Steel Crate Games

The game was designed for two to six players. The VR versions each cost $9.99. Don't have a compatible phone or headset? The Windows/Mac version is currently on sale for $7.49 via Steam.

Reverse Charades

Although it hasn't been updated since 2012, Reverse Charades (free for Android and iOS, with in-app purchases available) remains a smartphone stalwart. It's exactly what it sounds like: charades, but the other way around. Instead of one person acting out clues for a team, a team has 30, 60 or 90 seconds to act out as many words as one person can guess. Needless to say, hilarity will ensue.

Enlarge Image

Oh, my! Reverse Charades makes everyone act out, not just a single person.

Good Knight Games

Like Heads Up!, Reverse Charades offers themed decks to expand your play options: sports, holidays, the 80s and so on. Each one costs 99 cents, or you can pay $4.99 for all the packs.


Enlarge Image

What the heck is an Eigenthrottle? Who knows, but somebody better engage it quick!

Henry Smith

OK. Imagine an episode of "Star Trek." The Enterprise has been crippled after an attack. Only eight bridge crew remain. A star is about to explode. The only chance for survival: Everyone mans a console and pushes buttons, flips switches and turn dials at just the right time.

That's the premise behind Spaceteam, a free cross-platform game (Android and iOS) for two to eight players. Each person has to shout instructions to everyone else while simultaneously acting on instructions shouted by others. It's simple to learn, increasingly funny (technobabble is in full force here), chaotic in the best way and guaranteed to get loud.

Ticket to Ride

OK, this isn't really a party game -- it's just a beloved board game in app form. Up to five players compete to see who can build the most, and longest, railroad routes. Multiplayer options include pass-and-play and online, with cross-platform support across the Android and iOS versions. (Pro tip: It's best played on a tablet.)

The physical version costs as much as $50, but the Ticket to Ride app sells for just $6.99 (with additional maps available via in-app purchase). Granted, playing on a phone or tablet lacks the togetherness of gathering around a table, but it also allows for everyone to kick back on the couch while playing. And that's a recipe for a happy Thanksgiving.

Which party games will you be playing on Turkey Day?