Since 2014, house parties everywhere have been dominated by one game series: Jackbox Party Pack. Jackbox Party Pack games, released annually, are bundles of five mini-games, all playable via phones. Players log into a "room" via their phone's web browser, and are easily able to participate in whatever game is on the screen. (It's also helpfully available on most platforms, including smart TVs.) As the years have gone on, the Party Packs have pivoted toward having useful streaming tools, from audience participation to screen hiding. Young adults these days can't host a party without playing at least some Jackbox, it feels.
At USgamer, we count ourselves among the Jackbox Party Pack forever-fans. Even in their weaker packs (2019's Jackbox Party Pack 6, we're looking at you), there is always some fun to be found in some tucked away corner. Knowing that this year's Jackbox Party Pack 7 features Quiplash 3, as well as a new new addition called The Devil is In the Details, we're already gearing up for more laughs with friends. (Even if, at the rate things are going in this pandemic, it'll have to be played exclusively remotely.)
With 30 games within six party packs, spread out over six long years (not including the standalone releases Jackbox Games have released, like Drawful 2), Senior Editor Caty McCarthy and News Editor Eric Van Allen—perhaps USG's foremost Jackbox experts—collaborated to definitively rank the party games for USG's Play Together Week, from best to avoid this at all costs. Refer to this list the next time you're deciding whether you really should play Fibbage for the hundredth time, or if you're curious about one of Jackbox's underrated games hiding out in one of its many Party Packs. And without further ado...
The Best of the Best
- Fibbage 2 (Jackbox Party Pack 2)
- Tee K.O. (Jackbox Party Pack 3)
- Fibbage 3 (Jackbox Party Pack 4)
- Mad Verse City (Jackbox Party Pack 5)
- Drawful (Jackbox Party Pack)
- Quiplash XL (Jackbox Party Pack 2)
To me, Jackbox Party Pack does not exist outside of these select few. When friends are over, we're playing a Fibbage game and telling lies, or designing ludicrous shirts in Tee K.O., or coming up with stupid raps in Mad Verse City. We're drawing crude things in Drawful, or spewing the silliest quips ever heard in Quiplash XL. These games represent Jackbox at its pinnacle.
It's because they all have the components that make up a truly great party game, in that 1) the rules are loose, and 2) it's all up to everyone's creativity. When my friends who dabble in art come over, we steer toward Tee K.O., the game where you come up with slogans for shirts and, divorced from those slogans, draw an assortment of designs. And then players randomly match them together, not knowing who did what. We can even buy the winning shirt IRL in the end. When it's a more comedic crowd, we happily whip out Fibbage 2 or 3, a game about making up silly lies to trick your friends; or Mad Verse City, which is keeping the long dead "diss rap" alive.
Forming this list has really got me thinking about what makes a Jackbox Party Pack game truly great. What is it that has me reaching for these games, above, say, Trivia Murder Party? It's really simple. While a question or two is repeated after many sessions, games like Tee K.O. never truly get old, because they rely on the players themselves to generate the humor. It's all our dumbass thoughts flowing from phone to screen, and that's all a party really needs to keep going. —Caty McCarthy
- You Don't Know Jack 2015 (Jackbox Party Pack)
- Fibbage XL (Jackbox Party Pack)
- Quiplash 2 (Jackbox Party Pack 3)
- Fakin' It (Jackbox Party Pack 3)
- Patently Stupid (Jackbox Party Pack 5)
- Trivia Murder Party 2 (Jackbox Party Pack 6)
If the first tier of games are the best of the best, the gold standard of Jackbox, these are the alternatives. This batch of games is the list we run down when a break is needed from the classic Jackbox experience. And where else can you start but with You Don't Know Jack, the trivia game that started it all? Players go through round after round of multiple-choice trivia in a traditional format, but with a few extra twists, including "screwing" opponents to answer fast.
Trivia Murder Party 2 is similar to Jackbox but with a horror theme, with players living or dying based on correct answers to trivia, before one final sprint for the exit. Though the trivia options have never quite translated perfectly (some mild phone lag can really mess with You Don't Know Jack), the elaborate theming of questions and answers, as well as the jokes and jests each round, make both You Don't Know Jack and Trivia Murder Party 2 fun "once-in-a-while" games.
Quiplash 2 falls a hair short of its predecessor due to The Last Lash, the addition of a final round that doesn't produce quite as many laugh-out-loud moments as a typical Quiplash prompt. Fibbage XL hits the same problem of being surpassed by another version of itself.
Patently Stupid is a solid game, and one worth playing a good few times thanks to the novelty of pitching each invention. Set up like a hotel ballroom weekend seminar, players invent problems and then pitch solutions, complete with cocktail napkin etchings they have to convince other players to invest in. It's not quite Tee K.O., but it's still quite good.
The secret MVP of this tier is Fakin' It, one that maybe doesn't translate well to social distancing but has been an extremely fun game in-person. Players are asked to answer questions with different non-verbal responses, but one person is asked a different question; they're the Faker, and they have to pretend like they were in on it, while the others try to suss out who's faking. It can be the life of the Jackbox party, so long as you've got a good group of liars. —Eric Van Allen
The "Okay, We'll Play These When We're Desperate" Games
- Split the Room (Jackbox Party Pack 5)
- Word Spud (Jackbox Party Pack)
- Earwax (Jackbox Party Pack 2)
- Survive the Internet (Jackbox Party Pack 4)
- Bracketeering (Jackbox Party Pack 4)
- Trivia Murder Party (Jackbox Party Pack 3)
Here we give way to the outliers of the packs, those that can still make it into the rotation but are rare compared to the hits. Trivia Murder Party falls down here mostly by virtue of its successor being so good, and this particular Murder Party not having as many interesting ways of punishing each round's losers.
Both Bracketeering and Split the Room are solid, but really shine with larger groups of not just players but audience members as well. The former lets you build a March Madness-style bracket and vote for winners, while the latter has players pitch answers that would split the vote as much as possible, rather than derive a consensus. They seem a little more geared to the streaming audience and larger participation, which makes for good Twitch-facing content, but aren't as solid for small groups.
Word Spud is fun, but ends up feeling a little like a collaborative Quiplash—best described as sentence construction by committee, it's fun but feels barebones. Similarly, Earwax has some great ideas but is mostly limited to the capabilities of the system, rather than the creativity of players. You build responses to situations using prebuilt sound bites, creating the most interesting (or funniest) combination of audible reactions. Both are good for one-off laughs, but get repetitive fast. Survive the Internet is like an odd game about building fake article headlines that can result in some good laughs, but more often than not, seems to fall a hair short of either improv games. They're all worth a few plays, but these aren't going to hit the regular rotation. —Eric Van Allen
- Guesspionage (Jackbox Party Pack 3)
- You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream (Jackbox Party Pack 5)
- Lie Swatter (Jackbox Party Pack)
- Dictionarium (Jackbox Party Pack 6)
- Bidiots (Jackbox Party Pack 2)
- Bomb Corp. (Jackbox Party Pack 2)
Here are the Jackbox games that range from once-in-while runs to games that just won't see play after the first few rounds. The Party Pack 5 version of You Don't Know Jack, Full Stream, suffers from bloat. Even multiple playthroughs in, players often have to remind each other of the rules, or stop laughing or chatting to carefully listen to prompts. In my experience, the best Jackbox games can run along at a leisurely pace that doesn't demand heavy attention.
Guesspionage is the weaker part of the otherwise-stellar Party Pack 3, as it skews more towards large audiences than small groups. Players guess percentages and play almost a Price is Right-style high and low with global statistics, which is novel but feels limited by its own systems. Lie Swatter is an impressive technical feat, able to host a lot of players all at once, but it's mostly just swapping fake responses, and like most Jackbox games that rely on speed of response, it doesn't pan out well. Dictionarium is a cool idea that I'd like to see explored more, but ends up feeling like it stretches one good idea—creating funny definitions for new words and then using them in a sentence—just a hair too far.
Bidiots is ultimately one of the least engaging drawing games, especially due to how long the rounds can go and how complex the economy aspect gets. It's a version of Drawful with too many bidding and money systems layered on top. Bomb Corp., a collaborative bomb defusal game with a corporate facade, is a really interesting idea, but I have a feeling most groups will feel about it the way mine did: the ideas are neat and novel, but it won't take long for everyone to switch back over to Fibbage or Quiplash. —Eric Van Allen
The Very Bad
- Role Models (Jackbox Party Pack 6)
- Civic Doodle (Jackbox Party Pack 4)
- Joke Boat (Jackbox Party Pack 6)
- Push the Button (Jackbox Party Pack 6)
- Zeeple Dome (Jackbox Party Pack 5)
- Monster Seeking Monster (Jackbox Party Pack 4)
These are the worst games Jackbox Party Packs have to offer. They are the games you'll never reach for when in a crowded room with fold out chairs and people sitting on the floor. They are the ones you never want to play again after dabbling with them once.
Now, what makes a bad Jackbox game? Too much direction, for one. Sometimes the narration, always a little bit grating, gets to be too much. In the case of Role Models, it's just not a funny game. As test subjects for a "mad scientist," you choose which friend is most like a character under a given category. It plays out awkwardly, with only polite chuckles every time. Meanwhile, Civic Doodle is too dependent on each player's artistic ability, as you're tasked with drawing everything from emojis to a portrait. The loose one-liner-making of Joke Boat doesn't have the tools to cultivate actual good jokes. The wacky "tests" in Push the Button have too much going on; the "dating" game Monster Seeking Monster is woefully dry.
And then there's possibly the worst Jackbox Party Pack game of all: Zeeple Dome, a party game that's actually just… a video game. Players fling their characters across an arena as obstacles and attacks try to take them out. With it being played via phone, the flinging doesn't feel good, and it just has you aching to go back to the simple "Draw Funny Things" or "Answer Silly Questions or Prompts" that makes other Jackbox games really sing. It is the worst offender of all because it's plainly a boring time. I never want to touch Zeeple Dome ever again.
All of the above Jackbox Party Pack games are victim to what's symptomatic of a bad Jackbox game: they offer both too much, and too little. And they are the ones that come with zero recommendation from us. —Caty McCarthy