1930s games

Games from the 1930s Are Making a Comeback

Before tablets and iPhones, before Play Station and Xbox, before LOL and Dota 2, what did people do for fun?


And as the saying goes, “History repeats itself.” The types of games people choose to play today are no different.

Gamers are going retro. They’re going analog. Some of the favorites topping the charts are 1930s games.

According to the NPD Group, a market research company, the sale of board games in America grew by 28% last year. And Euromonitor International, a business intelligence company out of London, reported that, “Global sales increased to $9.6 billion in 2016 from $9.3 billion in 2013.”

Take a journey back in time as we look at some of the hottest “new” old games people play for fun. Many of them will bring back wonderful memories.

Board Games from the 1930s

It’s hip to be square. Or in the case of some board games, rectangular!

These classics never get old.


This game needs no introduction. If you haven’t heard of it, you’ve been held a prisoner in the Red Keep all your life.

As the (incorrect) story goes, a family man invented the now most popular board game in the world. John Darrow is credited with developing the game.

He was attempting to take his family’s minds off their struggles. He lived during the Great Depression.

Well, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, right?

What Really Happened

Enter Mary Pilon. Pilon spent 5 years researching the well-loved game. She uncovered information that it was an unknown — Lizzie Magie — who first developed the concept behind Monopoly.

Despite its questionable beginnings, the money-grubbing, may-the-best-landlord-win game defies the ages. The game has undergone few changes since it’s adoption in 1935 by Parker Brothers (now Hasbro).

Wondering how relevant it still is today?

Hasbro’s most recent Token Madness contest (a worldwide vote for which 8 game pieces to use for the latest game edition) garnered a whopping 4.3 million votes on social media.

As far as 1930s games go, Monopoly still monopolizes.


Just like Demi Lovato sings, “Baby, I’m sorry (I’m not sorry!)” neither should you feel regret when knocking a player’s piece back to home base.

Like many games from the 1930s games, Sorry! is a variation on an older game. It’s an adaptation of Parcheesi, which has its roots in India.

This non-apologetic board game became popular in American in the 1930s. Specifically, 1935 when Parker Brothers began production and it went mainstream.

Despite being around for generations, the rules haven’t changed much over the years. The continued popularity of the game is evident through the multiple “Collector’s Editions” available. These include themes like Spiderman, The Simpsons, SpongeBob SquarePants, and most recently the Moana Edition.

Just like Disney, the game of Sorry! is timeless.


Although not new to the 1930s, checkers was popular, especially during the Great Depression. It was easy to create a homespun version of the game, using materials found around the homestead. The game has been played using everything from colored rocks to gold and silver coins.

Fast forward and nothing has changed about the game. Unless, of course, you consider life-sized playing boards and checkers squares painted onto tabletops.

We won’t mention that the most recent checkers world champion is an AI machine. That’s just not fair!


Since ancient times the origination of most games did not revolve around good ‘ole friendly competition. Games were used to flex strategic and intellectual muscle, to prove your superiority over your opponent.

Is that why Scrabble remains popular today?

Originally titled “Criss-Crosswords” by inventor Alfred Mosher Butts, the popular word game is found in about one-third of American households. Sales surpass 100 million game sets globally.

Trivia Tip: Playing all seven tiles is officially called a “Bingo”

More 1930s Games: Cards and Dice

Not to be outdone by the gameboard counterparts, here are a few games with no board required.


Strategy, anticipating a player’s next move, and minor deception. No, we’re not talking about Wall Street. We’re talking a 52-piece deck of pure competition. Card games are not for the light of heart. There’s a reason they brought out the competitive spirit in sweet little ‘ole Nana!

Considered chic, the 17th-century offshoot of whist was very popular within the British upper-class. As with many of these games, the derivation played today came straight from the 1930s.

Contract bridge — the one Nana plays — caught on due to requiring partnership play. Invented by American, Harold Vanderbilt, it grew steam and rose to popularity in the 1930s.

A rekindling is evidenced in the growing membership of Bridge clubs across the states.


A simplified mash-up of Bridge and Whist, Spades is another card game played with partners. And from consensus accounts, it popped up right out of the Midwest.

Developed by college students out of Ohio, the game literally took off during WWII. The same card-playing college students were now at war and passed the time by playing cards.

Spades, unlike poker which was also popular, had the advantage of being “interruptible.” When called away, GIs left their game and could pick up right where they left off when they returned.

Maybe that’s the reason it’s enjoyed by Millennials. A status update, selfie moment, or tweet does not affect continued play.


Dice games have been around since cavemen started throwing sticks and stones into a pit. (Okay, not that far back, but they do date back to ancient times.)

A lot of 1930s games involved dice. Twenty-Six is a dice that made its start in the Dust Bowl. The object is to choose a number between one and six and throw that number (using 10 dice) either exactly 13 times or 26 times. You have thirteen rolls to try.

The betting standard from tavern to tavern? The winner was paid in drinks, of course. In fact, many retro dice games are the inspiration for the college campus drinking games of today.

It’s an added bonus when retro gets a new-age twist. Products like dice rolling trays by Easy Roller Dice Co. add a level of sophistication to your dice play.

The one rule of a good bar game? You must be able to play it with one hand.

Are You Game?

Board games are now considered social events.

Millennials are being “blamed” for the resurgence. The generation raised by on-screen games now looks for inexpensive ways to have face-to-face interaction with friends.

Want the best of both worlds?

Go ahead. Enjoy thes fun 1930s games. Play some Monopoly or Spades with friends.

Then before you retire to the solitude of your console, check out our top action-adventure game picks for 2017.

We won’t tell.