The Best Texting Games for 2020



Has conversation gone stale? Why not try a fun and exciting texting game to get it flowing again? Whether you’re nostalgic for the simple games of your childhood or you’re just bored, we have an exhaustive list of awesome texting games to play with your friends, family, or acquaintances. All you need to do is send texts to each other!

From classics like Hangman and Would You Rather to wacky games like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, we’ll take a look at the most exciting and fun texting games you can play right now.

Further reading

Emoji Translation

Check this out if you are the visual type and you and your friends have an emoji keyboard. It’s likely that you have some favorite emojis that you use over and over again, leaving hundreds of others out of your realm of conversation. With Emoji Translation, you get a chance to explore different emojis and their often obscure meanings by relating them to your life or your friends. Stringing together emojis to create fantasy scenarios, for example, can be challenging and fun, while communicating only via emoji may give you a new understanding of people you thought you knew well.

Trivia

How much do you know about, well, just about anything? You’ll find out the answer to that question for yourself and your friends by playing trivia, a familiar concept derived from game shows and board games that tests your knowledge of detail and reveals how educated you really are — or not. As an esteemed history teacher once told us: There are things an educated person just knows. So, with trivia, you and your companions pick a topic and take turns asking questions about that topic. The first person to answer 10 right wins. Hey — no Googling.

Example: What was the name of King Lear’s youngest daughter? Answer: Cordelia

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Fortunately, Unfortunately is a simple, fun, improvisational game with few rules and limitless possibilities. Players take turns telling a story, alternating between fortunate and unfortunate statements. As with Exquisite Corpse or other such improv games, Fortunately, Unfortunately forces players to be creative while still working within the framework that has been passed to them. It works best with an odd number of players so that people get to do both fortunate and unfortunate statements.

Example: In a three-player game, Player 1 starts the story, saying “Jeff woke up, showered, got dressed, and left to catch the bus to work, as he does every day.” Player 2 then says, “Unfortunately, the bus engine broke down right as it got to Jeff’s stop.” Player 3 then says, “Fortunately, there was an unchained bike nearby that Jeff stole for the day.” Player 1 continues with an “unfortunate” statement, and the cycle continues.

20 Questions

Twenty Questions started as a 19th-century, spoken parlor game, and it’s stood the test of time, being played in other formats today. It’s a classic game of deductive reasoning and quick-hit creativity, requiring no more than two people and as little or as much time as the players set. The premise is simple: One person chooses an object or person, while the other attempts to guess it in 20 questions or less. Once the subject is chosen, the opposite player sends a series of questions via text, ideally narrowing down the subject through corresponding yes-or-no answers.

Example: Say you choose Morgan Freeman as your subject. The player opposite you asks, “Are you an animal?” You respond, “No,” and they move on to another question, such as, “Are you a human being?” You reply, “Yes.” The game continues in a similar manner until the player guesses the correct answer or surpasses 20 questions, whichever comes first. (Morgan Freeman is far too easy. Pick something harder.)

Would You Rather

Would You Rather (WYR) may not be a game built on the moral and ethical quandaries we face on a day-to-day basis — at least I hope not — but it will certainly reveal the nature of your character. The basic premise is this: One person asks, “Would you rather …” followed by two differing hypothetical scenarios. The options can be as interrelated or as distant as you want them to be, but the two scenarios should carry equal weight, if possible. Try to be creative in your questioning and avoid clarifying questions. Also, remember the best questions are the ones usually depicting two uncomfortable and equally-terrible scenarios.

Examples: WYR possibilities are virtually endless, allowing users to make the game as simple or harrowing as they want it to be. We’ve presented a few potential conundrums below, but Redditors have taken the game to an entirely new level.

“Would you rather fight a hundred duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?” (Here’s the right answer.)

“Would you rather talk like Jar Jar Binks or look like Jar Jar Binks?”

“Would you rather change gender every time you sneeze or not be able to tell the difference between a muffin and a baby?”

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever (NHIE), sometimes known as 10 Fingers, is that borderline-inappropriate game you drunkenly played in the hot tub once with your prospective boyfriend or girlfriend. It usually involves several players and drinking copious amounts of alcohol, but you can just as easily play it sober with two people via text. Begin by setting a specific number of “lives,” often represented by fingers when played in person, and any other additional rules you’d like to include. Players then take turns making statements of things they’ve never done before, hence the title of the game. The opposite player loses a point whenever a statement is made that contradicts his or her own experiences.

Though uncommon, some rules specify the person who loses a point must provide a detailed account of why he or she is doing so. According to one American college student quoted on Wikipedia, NHIE and similar games “reveal interesting things about the participants and help build friendships.” The attribution is questionable, but the game does often reveal deep-seated secrets about your friends that you may or may not want to know. Somehow, I find that the game always manages to have an overly sexual tone, but I advise you against taking gender-oriented cheap shots. A guy shouldn’t lose a point just because he’s kissed a girl — just saying.

Example: Assuming it’s your turn, you might say, “Never have I ever been skinny-dipping.” If the person opposite you has gone skinny-dipping, they lose a point and then make a statement of his or her own. The game continues in a similar fashion until one player loses all of his or her points.

Name Game

The Name Game is rather tedious in the long run, but I’ll be darned if it’s not one of the biggest time-wasters of all time. Played in elementary school classrooms and road-tripping minivans across the United States, it’s a simple spelling game derived from words on a particular topic. Players choose a topic, such as celebrities, and then they select which player will go first. The first player says a word (in this case, a celebrity name). The second player then says a word that begins with the last letter of the first player’s word. The game can carry on indefinitely depending on player knowledge, so it’s often best to set a few ground rules prior to initiating the game. We suggest setting a specific time limit in which players can respond or narrowing the chosen topic to make the game difficult.

Example: The topic is famous actors who have been featured in superhero movies. You say, “Chris Pine,” who had a role in Wonder Woman. Your opponent follows with, “Edward Norton,” who starred in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. The game continues in the same vein until one of the players can no longer name a follow-up person or subject word.

Story Time

They often say two heads are better than one, and collaborative writing can be one of the most intriguing and inventive forms of writing in existence. With Story Time, one person begins by texting a beginning word, phrase, or sentence to his or her collaborative partner. Once done, the other player reciprocates with another word, phrase, or sentence that directly builds on the narrative begun by the first player. Whether the resulting story is terrific or horrendous, a shotgun of a story or an epic, the back-and-forth prose eventually builds a potentially cohesive plotline via a series of text messages. The flow and style are never as eloquent or seamless as they would be if crafted by a single writer, but the capacity for unforeseen twists and the shroud of mystery surrounding the next phrase or sentence is often compelling enough to keep it going. Feel free to add restrictions, such as a specified word count per text or other structural elements hindering people from spouting off the first thing that comes to mind.

Example: Let’s take the classic fairy tale route, for example. You might send a text with one of the most clichéd lines of literary lore: Once upon a time. Building on that, the other player might follow with, “… there lived a lonely typist who never spoke.” I admit, it’s probably not the most exhilarating or enticing story introduction you’ve ever heard, but it’s a start. Afterward, you respond with another phrase, then your partner goes, then you, and so on and so forth.

Take a Trip

Start by writing: I am going to ____, and I am taking ___. Both players have to say this sentence by filling the blanks with words starting with the letter “A,” and working their way through the alphabet all the way to the letter “Z.”

Example: One player can say, “I am going to Australia, and I am taking aspirin.” Then the next player has to think of words with the letter B, and so on. The first player to get stumped loses the game.

Name the Song

In this texting game, you simply text a line from a song to the other player or players, and whoever correctly names it first is the winner. If they don’t get it from one line, you can keep adding until they do or until they have to admit defeat. This is a good way to find out how much of a crossover there is in your musical tastes. This game works with movies and books, too.

Abbreviations

Abbreviations may very well be the most difficult game on our entire list. The series of letters essentially serve as acronyms, formed by the initial components in a particular phrase or word using the individual letters that begin each word. For example, DIY is an acronym for Do It Yourself. With Abbreviations, you first choose a phrase summarizing your current activity or simply a phrase you’d like to utilize for the game. Then, you take the first letter of each word in the phrase and combine them to form an acronym, which you then tell your opponent before letting them try to guess what the newly minted abbreviation stands for. Hints and variations of the game, such as offering more than just the first letter of each word, are often welcome given how hard it can be. The winner is whoever can stump their opponent.

Example: If you’re “grabbing a beer downtown,” present your opponent with the abbreviation GABD. They can then guess what the acronym stands for, and if they fail to do so in an acceptable amount of time, you’re the winner. Again, you may want to offer up hints considering how open-ended an acronym such as GABD is. “Giggling about barking dalmatians,” anyone?

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Even if you don’t think Footloose was Kevin’s Bacon’s finest work, it’s tough to argue the merits of Apollo 13 and the rest of the Hollywood actor’s prolific film résumé. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a renowned trivia game based on the Six Degrees of Separation concept, which stipulates that any two people on the planet can be linked to one another within a maximum of six steps. In the Bacon rendition, one of the two people is Bacon by default. The game, originally created in 1994 by three Albright College students, can be played over text just as easily as any other method. To begin, one player presents his or her opponent with Bacon and another celebrity who can be linked to Bacon within six steps. The opponent then tries to link the two people by specifying their connection, based on their roles with fellow celebrities, in as few as links as possible. Although the entire game revolves around the notion that Bacon is the most connected man in the industry, some claim Sean Connery is actually closer to the center of the Hollywood universe. Regardless, feel free to substitute any actor or actress in place of Bacon.

Example: Suppose your opponent presents you with Kevin Bacon and Justin Bieber. You might say Bieber was recently depicted as an alien in Men in Black III with Mike Colter, who also starred alongside Bacon in Taking Chance, a 2009 historical drama based on on the experiences of a Marine in the Iraq War. That would make the Biebs have a Bacon separation number of two. Google it.

Categories

Categories sometimes goes by the name List Builder, but they’re essentially the same game regardless of which name you prefer. To begin, decide on a particular category or genre, whether it be Japanese car brands or feature-length films starring Ben Stiller, before sounding off different items that fit within the chosen category. You can always implement additional rules if you want to make the game more difficult, such as requiring answers to start with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet or with the same letter as the previous answer ended with. It’s best to choose a category with a finite number of plausible answers, though; otherwise, the game can continue on for ages. As you might expect, the winner is the last person to come up with an appropriate answer that fits within the confines of the rules (without doing any research).

Example: Say you and your opponent settled on the aforementioned category regarding Ben Stiller’s filmography. Whereas your opponent might begin with a cult classic such as Zoolander or Tropic Thunder, you might follow up with Meet the Parents or the severely underrated Heavyweights — the latter of which serves as Stiller’s warmup for his role as the egocentric White Goodman in Dodgeball.

Rhyme

Rhyme may be most well-known to college kids with an affinity for Kings Cup, but that doesn’t make it any less suitable for gaming on-the-go. To begin, one person enters a word or phrase to which the second person must respond. The next person must always follow up with a phrase that rhymes with the previous response. Players continue to go back and forth in a similar manner until one player can no longer come up with an appropriate response that rhymes, thus deciding the victor. Believe it or not, there are words that rhyme with “orange” and “silver,” so try not to feel cheeky quite yet.

Example: Your opponent may begin with the phrase, “Today, I’m taking the bus and riding downtown.” Afterward, you might respond with, “Making my way home and coverin’ some ground.” Sure, our example may not be the best out there, but you get the point.

Breakdown

Texting is all about words, so why not increase your Scrabble-esque vocabulary skills in the process? With Breakdown, players must break apart a word and rearrange its letters to create as many different word combinations as possible within an allotted time frame. There’s not much to it: One player presents the word via text and his or her opponent replies with a series of words that can be constructed using the letters from the aforementioned word. If you find Breakdown too easy or you want a harder challenge, incorporate more restrictive rules, such as point values based on word length. The winner depends on who manages to create the most legitimate number of words within the time frame and a specified number of rounds. Although not always the case, longer words often present a greater opportunity for reconstruction and more resulting word choices.

Example: Imagine your opponent presents you with the word “cornucopia” via text. Rattle off as many words as you can muster that can be configured from the letters in cornucopia (i.e., corn, pun, piano). Continue doing so until the allotted time runs out or you’ve completely blanked on new words. Your opponent tallies the results before you present him with a word of your choice and the game continues.

Hangman

It’s hard to imagine playing Hangman without the crudely-drawn stick figure, the looming gallows, and the unevenly-spaced underscores placed directly beneath. However, the presumed Victorian-era word game can easily be played using text messages if you lay the initial groundwork and rules beforehand. Once the player going first has been determined, he or she texts his or her opponent a series of underscores representing the number of letters in the chosen word. The other player then responds with a letter he or she believes might be in the word. If the guess is correct, the player who chose the initial word replies with the underscores, this time filling in the correctly-guessed letter. If the guess is wrong, the player who chose the initial word replies with the number of guesses that remain based upon the rules specified prior to beginning the game. The game is over when either the word is correctly guessed or no guesses remain. We recommend beginning your guesses with strictly vowels or some of the most commonly found letters in the English dictionary (e, t, a, o, i, n, s, h, r, d, l, and u).

Example: It’s been determined that you are to choose first, and you’ve chosen “jazz” as your first word. Your text would, therefore, consist of four underscores indicating the four letters in the word ( _ _ _ _), to which your opponent would reply with a letter. If he or she correctly guessed the letter “A,” you would respond with: _ a _ _. However, if he or she guesses incorrectly, you would likely respond with, “Four guesses remain,” or something along those lines. The game would continue back and forth until your opponent correctly guessed the word or subsequently ran out of guesses.

Ghost

Ghost is for all the spelling aficionados out there, and it’s one that anyone who’s endured a family road trip likely knows. Like nearly all texting games on our list, it’s played back and forth between two people or a small handful of players. The goal of the word game is to add letters to a growing word fragment without actually completing a valid word. You can set additional parameters, such as a specified word length or category in which the word must fall, but you always must have a word in mind when playing. Each player adds a letter, one after the other, and the person who completes the word receives a “G.” The game continues in a similar manner until one player receives all the letters in the word “ghost,” similar to the game of Horse.

Example: Say you started with the letter “H.” Your opponent may then respond with the letter “U,” to which you reply with “L.” If they then happen to play the letter “K” or “L,” for example, they would receive the first letter in “ghost” or whichever letter comes next when spelling the word.

Lexicant/Superghost

A variation on Ghost, Lexicant (also known as Superghost) works basically the same way, with one important change: Players can add letters to either the end or beginning of the word. This opens up the strategy a lot, which is great, as normal Ghost is a game a lot of people have cracked. If the other player adds a letter and you think that the current string of letters can’t actually result in a word, you can challenge them to finish the word. If they can’t, they lose, but if they do, the challenger loses.

Location

The beauty of cell phones is the sheer amount of freedom they afford — after all, you can use them virtually anywhere with the right network. Also known as Where Am I?, Location is a game that’s built on said possibility, one which requires your opponent to guess your location based on a set of hints you provide. To begin, examine your immediate surroundings and make note of anything that might be unique to that particular environment, such as a chalkboard, a massage table, or anything else that better helps define your location. Your opponent or opponents guess where you might be, using your hints as the premise. You can be as vague or specific as you like when offering clues, or place a cap on the number of allowed guesses. Once your opponent has answered correctly or if you’ve managed to stump him or her, allow them to have a go. It’s essentially like I Spy, only you’re describing a location instead of an object.

Example: Let’s assume you’re sitting in an ice cream parlor downtown. You might mention the sheer amount of candy at your disposal, or the lengthy counter abutting your arm. You may also allude to the group of manic children frantically running around. If your opponent is still stumped, you may mention the Hoth-like temperature of the room. Continue giving similar or more specific clues until your opponent guesses correctly or until they’ve had enough. Afterward, switch positions.

I Spy

A childhood classic for decades, I Spy is just as fun to play through texts as it is in person. It plays out like Location, except in reverse, with a player beginning by telling others where they are. Once they’ve set the scene, they can then say “I spy something beginning with C” (assuming that they’re looking at a chair, for example). You can also play with variations of this basic format, saying “I spy something green” or “I spy something smelly.” The other players then have to guess what you’ve spied, and you can choose to offer — and limit — clues if you want to give them a helping hand. Once someone has guessed correctly, play moves to the next person in your group.

Example: You’re sitting on the bus. You let the other players know this, and then you decide on something to spy — let’s say a window. You tell the other players, “I spy something beginning with W.” The players then have to guess what this is. You can set a time limit for correct guesses or a maximum number of guesses. Players take turns being the one to spy objects.

Correct the Spelling

This is a simple game that you can play with anyone, including your children. The objective is to make a riddle using jumbled words. Give a clue to the other players, and then give them the jumbled word. The other players take turns trying to solve it.

Example: You can give the other players words like aluji btrreso (celebrity). The answer, of course, is Julia Roberts.

Finish the Sentence

First, decide on a time limit. You can make the time limit as short as you want to, but be reasonable. Now, text only part of a sentence to the other player. The other player has to text back the rest of the sentence, but the challenge is that this player has to use the same amount of words that you used. Keep going until the time runs out, and see if you can stump the other player. After the time runs out, you can switch places, and the other player can be the one to start the sentence.

Example: You can start by texting, “My sister gave me ___.” Now, the other player has to finish this sentence using four words. A good reply would be something like, “… a pair of shoes.”

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