Tabletop games have had an immense impact on the world of pop culture, and their popularity just keeps on growing. Whether players got into them thanks to their parents introducing them in childhood or after meeting some friends who talked non-stop about it, tabletop games have a special place in people’s hearts.
They also have a special place in entertainment beyond just the medium of games. For one thing, Henry Cavill just announced he would be working with Amazon in an upcoming Warhammer 40,000 movie. Plus, Mike Ponsmith’s Cyberpunk franchise has been going well with Cyberpunk 2077.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the top ten best tabletop games that have been released. For this list, it doesn’t matter if they were adapted from movies, video games, or books. All that matters is that they’re a great tabletop game.
The King of Tabletop Games: Dungeons and Dragons (1974)This original tabletop roleplaying game that is still going strong for nearly 50 years. It’s hard to overstate the impact of Dungeons and Dragons, which frankly set the standard for many fantasy game settings.
With many books and game options, there are endless possible ways to play DnD. One day, you may be exploring a village that has been overrun by orcs. The next, you’ll be in a castle searching for a treasure chest cursed by warlocks. There are even homebrew options to mix up the gameplay, so the dungeon master will always have some game ready for everyone.
There are many video games, movies, and comic books that stick to the tradition that this game carries on. It’s forever altered fantasy worldbuilding. DnD’s even shown up in other media like Stranger Things. To this day, no tabletop game has been able to dethrone DnD as king of the tabletop games.
The Literary Tabletop Game: Call of Chthulu (1981)If you want something a little more scary and mysterious, Call of Cthulhu will fit the bill. Based on the Cthulhu Mythos written by H.P. Lovecraft, CoC takes players to 1920s Boston as they explore mysterious happenings going on around them. From the fish men of Innsmouth to the Serpent people of Valusia, there are many cosmic and supernatural activities at work.
What makes the game so appealing is that sense of curiosity. CoC counts for sanity based on certain skill checks, seeing something, or attempting to open something. Everything around the player is a literal dice roll, and you could die from anything!
There are seven editions over the course of 42 years, as well as some standalone games, that are based around the Mythos. It’s not an understatement to say that Cthulhu has invaded all forms of pop culture, from comic books and movies to anime. Start investigating them… if you dare.
Warhammer 40,000 (1987)Want to experience epic battles in the grimdark universe? Warhammer has been Games Workshop’s flagship title, gaining many loyal fans and players. Among Warhammer titles, Warhammer 40,000 is what really started to make the game stand out interesting. Set in the 41st millennium, players command their own army as they fight for supremacy for their faction.
What makes this game so great is not just the endless battles a player can have with other players, but the sheer scale of these wars. Some games also have a fair amount of lore or narrative to give a backstory to why the player is fighting a particular battle. Plus, the armies are made up of a variety of different fantasy tropes. From Space Marines and Eldar to the Orks and Necrons, there’s an army for everyone.
For fans of Warhammer, there are also a number of books, video games, and the previously mentioning upcoming movie on Amazon. Suffice to say, once someone gets into 40k, it’s hard not to want more.
The Tabletop Game That’s Also A Sci-Fi Dystopia: Shadowrun (1989)Looking for tabletop games that are a little more sci-fi dystopian with a hint of fantasy? Then you’ll love Shadowrun, a game set in 2084. Many corporations and races are trying to make their mark as deckers in this harsh unforgiving world. It combines elements of fantasy and magic with cybernetics and mystery and feels like something out of Bladerunner.
There are a variety of ways to play it. It’s also got classes similar to DnD races. While Shadowrun can get a bit complicated to get into with all the math, the stories and missions are very impressive. If math is your thing, please ignore the previous sentence and get playing!
Shadowrun has gained a cult following that stretches to this day. New editions are added regularly, and there is a list of books and spin-offs video games for fans to play.
Tabletop Games Travel to Space: Star Wars Legion (2018)The galaxy is not so far far away in this war tabletop game. Star War Legion would delight fans young and old alike. It takes beloved characters, factions, and battlefields from the movies and transports them onto your tabletop.
Miniatures of large-scale armies, vehicles, and heroes from the series help make the game feel legit. Reenact iconic battles or rewrite history by taking the fight to the enemy to show what would happen if one side won over the other. Each battle even has its own episode with the outcome based on who won and lost the last game.
Even though it’s a relatively new game, Star Wars Legion has already started making waves. The game is fairly simple to get into and highly addicting for any Star Wars fan. Whether you are a supporter of the Empire or a freedom fighter for the Rebellion, the Force will be with you in your epic battle.
Vampire The Masquerade (1991)One of World of Darkness‘ most popular tabletop games takes players on a journey of cloaks and daggers. Vampire the Masquerade is set in a world where vampires co-exist with humans in the dead of night. Vampires pull the strings while trying to keep their respecting clans alive.
There are a number of clans to join as well as three factions that are in conflict with each other. What makes the game unique isn’t just how it feels like acting out a play, but that it also takes into consideration of a vampire’s thirst for blood and the struggle to control the Beast within them.
The best way to learn about it would be to start with Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. This is not only a great introduction to the series but helps players learn about the mechanics of gameplay. Whatever you decide, however, remember one rule: Never break the Masquerade.
Tabletop Games On The Edge: Cyberpunk RED (2020)Living on the edge is what Cyberpunk RED is all about. A newer edition from the Cyberpunk series, RED takes place in 2045 in Night City. In this high-tech dystopian world, corporations have gone to war with one another and seek to take over each other’s piece of land. You as a mercenary are thrown into the middle of all of this to make a name for yourself.
Missions are exciting, ranging from simple cargo retrieval to car chases in the badlands. Plus, there’s a great deal of individual agency. Players can choose the life path of their character, their weapons, cybernetics, and even their clothes.
Cyberpunk has already made waves ever since Cyberpunk 2077 was released to all systems. If fans want to see what Night City was like before the game or even before the anime, Edgerunners, came to play, this will give them the chance to experience it.
The Newest Of Tabletop Games: Zombicide: Undead or Alive (2022)The Wild West has never been this intense before. A standalone game from the Zombicide series, Undead or Alive has players fight off hordes of the undead to survive the Old West.
What makes this tabletop game unique isn’t the setting but instead how it forces players to think like a survivor. There are four classes for every survivor with their own traits, skills, and abilities. Every dead zombie means more re-spawn on their turn. This is risky because players need kills in order to level up and build their character to their maximum potential.
Zombicide games are really hard for newcomers to get into because the game can be punishing and difficult. However, it can also be really fun and provide a unique twist of a horror classic.
Another Cthulhu Tabletop Game: Dust 1947 (2016)Dust 1947 is what happens when someone asks what would happen if World War II had suddenly gotten mixed up with science fiction and thrown in some the Cthulhu Mythos for good measure. The war has gotten so out of hand that there are numerous fictional many alliances. In addition, the world has had to adapt to new technology.
Apart from the usual Allies and Axis battles, there are also robots, Tesla cannons, ninjas, and Cthulhu worshipers. The whole vibe from this tabletop game feels like it could have come out of a B-movie, and the battles can get really crazy. Think playing as mech-driving mercenaries or Japanese school girls with rocket launchers.
The game itself is actually very easy to get into, making it perfect for beginners. If large war tabletop games feel a little intimidating, Dust 1947 will still give a taste of controlling your own army.
Starfinder (2017)Starfinder is another great tabletop game. Made by the same creators as Pathfinder, it takes place thousands of years in the future of Pathfinder‘s timeline. Starfinder takes all of the fantasy from Pathfinder and mixes it up with sci-fi technology, races, and professions. All players have the freedom to create any character they want from multiple races.
In the Absalom Station, the Starfinder Society began its journey to recruit people and send them on dangerous adventures to find lost technology from before an event called The Gap. This game takes inspiration from popular sci-fi media like Star Wars and Star Trek, putting a space opera in the form of a tabletop game. It manages to do this while keeping all of Pathfinder’s game mechanics, thus making it feel familiar to anyone who has played Pathfinder before.