5 Great Party Games That Can be Played with a Controller or a Phone

These five games are perfect for parties where you'd rather just not share a controller.

Game controllers are expensive, and it's frustrating to try and dig a bunch of them out when you have buddies over to play video games. Luckily, there are a whole bunch of great party games that don't require traditional game controllers in order to play! 

Whether they're controlled by a phone, tablet, or laptop, or don't even require any kind of controller at all, these five party games will get your buddies involved no matter how many controllers you own. 

Jackbox Party Packs 1-6

The mad geniuses behind the Jackbox Party Pack were by no means the first to pioneer the phones-as-controllers trend, but they were definitely the folks who popularized it. 

By now, Jackbox Party Packs are de rigueur at most hip social functions, the same way beer is. And although the games do vary in quality (I can't remember the last time anyone ever asked specifically if we could play Zeeple Dome), games like Quiplash, Trivia Murder Party, Fibbage, and, of course, the original trivia party game, You Don't Know Jack, are all near-perfect party games.

The wild thing is that Jackbox Games doesn't seem to be running out of ideas anytime soon. Jackbox Party Pack 6 is the strongest title from the studio yet, and they're already hard at work on the next one, which will include another entry in the Quiplash series, the best game franchise they've ever created. It's possibly the best party game ever made.

And yes, these games are obvious picks, but they're also not the only ones out there.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a singular gaming experience that was, at launch, held back by requiring a virtual reality rig. Now, it's available across platforms (although if possible, I do recommend trying to play it in VR, even if it's just via Google Cardboard or a Gear VR system).

The gist is this: one player is tasked with defusing a bomb, but they have no idea how to do it. The rest of the players use their phones or tablets to access the bomb defusal manual to help them out. As the timer counts down to the big kaboom (complete with an anxiety-inducing ticking), the players must communicate as the bomb defuser can't see the manual, and the other players can't see the bomb.

How the bomb is defused depends on how the bomb looks, so it isn't long before the game devolves into a hilarious, stressful romp full of "cut the red wire!" "WAIT, NO: CUT THE GREEN WIRE!" "Are you sure?" "No, actually, don't cut any wires!"

It's incredibly unique, and the tense nature of the game is turned up to full if the bomb defuser is wearing a VR headset, effectively trapping themselves in a room with the bomb as it ticks, ticks, ticks away. If you're anything like me, this isn't a game you'll be able to play for more than 30 minutes or so at a time, but even still, those 30 minutes are incredibly fun.

Spaceteam

Spaceteam bills itself as the original "cooperative shouting game" and that's pretty much the best way to introduce it. The game supports between two and eight players, all of whom are tasked with the near-impossible task of flying the universe's worst spaceship ever  together.

Each player's phone displays a different collection of panels, dials, buttons, and switches, as well as an action that must be performed in order to keep the ship running smoothly.

The trick is that most of the time, you don't have the right button to press to perform the action your phone is telling you to. This is where the cooperative shouting comes in.

Quickly, the game becomes exhilaratingly-quick and fun, with just a dash of stress sprinkled in for good measure. And better yet, the game is 100% free, though if you enjoy it, you can join the Admiral's Club and support the developer's future projects in exchange for more content!

Obliteracers

Halfway between Mario Kart and Twisted Metal, Obliteracers is a high-action racing title that allows for a whole bunch of control options including keyboards and gamepads. However, it also lets up to 16(!) players to control their vehicles using a phone, tablet, or even another laptop or computer connected to the same network.

The game itself is no slouch either: it's frenetic, responsive, and sports a variety of game modes perfectly tailored to any environment, whether you want more of a hardcore battle racing experience, or whether you want to kick back with a party mode. Don't sleep on this one.

Use Your Words

Don't write Use Your Words off as a Jackbox ripoff. Yes, it is a party game that counts on you and your friends being funny, but Use Your Words sets itself apart with a distinct visual style and voice.

As with the Jackbox Party Packs, you'll be controlling the game using your phone, but the minigames on display here are different, more bite-sized, and they're more suited for casual-drop-in-and-drop-out party play, from a captioning contest to a wonderfully shameless spoof of Family Feud.

The game supports between three and six active players, but up to 1,000 folks can join the game's audience and participate as well! It's a shame that, despite its quality, it will always be compared to its beefier cousin over at Jackbox. It deserves to be appreciated on its own merits.

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That's it for our list on the best party games that you can play with any controller, including a phone. Are there any we missed that should be on our list? Let us know in the comments below!  

Featured Contributor

RobotsFightingDinosaurs has been writing about games for 10 years and playing them even longer. Despite the millions of hours he's played across multiple gaming generations, his favorite games are The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Robots has written for Polygon, Thrillist, Kill Screen, and more.

Published Apr. 1st 2020

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