virtual game night ideas
CNN  — 

The holidays are going to look a lot different this year for many people — but that doesn’t mean you still can’t have a great family game night from a distance. There are tons of excellent family-friendly video games that can be enjoyed online, whether you’re having a big Zoom party or want to connect with your loved ones over a heated game of Mario Kart.

All of the games on this list are easy to pick up and play, even if some members of your digital holiday bash have barely touched a controller. They’re also ideal for local multiplayer, if you’re keeping the festivities to just your household this year. From wacky trivia games to modern multiplayer classics, here are the best family titles for hosting the ultimate virtual game night.

Jackbox Party Pack (starting at $12.49;

Jackbox Party Pack

The Jackbox Party Pack series consists of various party game collections that are easy to play and can quickly go off the rails in the best way possible. Highlights include Quiplash, which challenges players to come up with the most hilarious answers to various prompts, and Trivia Murder Party, a comically morbid game show. Each Jackbox Party Pack is available on just about every platform out there, and only requires one person to own the game, with up to eight players participating from their phones. That makes it especially ideal for a virtual game night, as the host can easily share their screen over Zoom or Skype for a raucous night of gut-busting, socially distant fun.

Overcooked 2 ($19.99, originally $29.99;

virtual game night - overcooked 2

Overcooked 2 is a great game for family bonding — until you all start screaming at one another before coming back for more. This beloved cooperative (co-op) cooking game challenges up to four players to create increasingly complex dishes while preventing the kitchen from completely falling apart. This can often lead to a delightful level of chaos, but also a huge feeling of satisfaction when you pull together to make it through a hard level. Overcooked 2 is easy enough for just about anyone to play, and it supports online play on Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox and PlayStation.

Heads Up! (free to $0.99; and

Heads Up

This classic game of charades has been a hit on mobile devices and makes for a great way to unwind virtually once everyone’s dinner is done. In this digital take on Heads Up!, players must guess the words that are being displayed on their head via their smartphone screen, with everyone else in the group doing their best to give clues. This often leads to things breaking down in hilarious fashion, and while Heads Up! Is best enjoyed in person, you can easily make it work over a Zoom call (or play it directly through the Houseparty chat app). At just under a dollar to download and with tons of decks ranging from superhero trivia to ‘90s pop culture, this iconic guessing game will bring plenty of laughs to your crew no matter where you’re all located.

Among Us (free to $5;

Among Us

Among Us is the breakout multiplayer hit of 2020, and for good reason. Like the games of Mafia or Werewolf you probably played as a kid, this social deduction game puts up to 10 players on a spaceship, with at least one of them being assigned the role of a nefarious Impostor. The rules are simple: Crewmates must complete a series of tasks to keep the ship running, while the Impostor must kill them all before that happens. But the real game takes place in between rounds, as your ability to deceive and convince will be put to the test when players discuss who they think the Impostor is and vote to kick people out.

Among Us is the type of game that will constantly have you feeling betrayed by friends and family, but it’s all in good fun. The game will cost you only up to a few bucks and has full cross-platform play between PC, Mac, mobile devices and Nintendo Switch (with Xbox on the way), making it incredibly accessible for gamers and nongamers alike.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe ($44.99, originally $59.99;

virtual game night - Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

You can’t go wrong with a family game of Mario Kart, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is easily the best version of Nintendo’s iconic kart racing series. On top of offering dozens of tracks that span the franchise’s history and plenty of game modes and characters, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is especially easy to pick up for younger and less experienced gamers, thanks to a variety of assist features that make things like accelerating and steering easier. And with online multiplayer support for up to 12 players, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a great way to enjoy some friendly competition even when your loved ones are far apart.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons ($49.99;

Animal Crossing New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the type of game you can sink hundreds of hours into on your own, but it also makes for a great way to socialize with people you can’t be with in person. This popular Nintendo Switch life simulator allows for online multiplayer with up to eight people, so you can have friends and family visit your island to exchange items, explore together or simply sit down at your in-game dinner table and catch up. If you’re looking for a way to catch up with loved ones that’s more charming and engaging than a Zoom call, Animal Crossing: New Horizons may be just the virtual escape you’re looking for.

Rocket League (starting at $41.67, originally starting at $49.99;

virtual game night - rocket league

If you’re looking for something a little more competitive while still being accessible enough for family game night, Rocket League is one of the best multiplayer games out there. It’s soccer with cars. Literally. While there’s plenty of competitive depth to be found for those who take it seriously, Rocket League’s addictive driving-meets-sports action is easy enough to grasp for players of all ages and experience levels. Plus, it’s free to play and supports online multiplayer across PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch, so there’s no reason not to give it a shot.