Everyone knows that you’re not actually tailgating until you’ve busted out a few classic tailgate games. Whether your go-to game is the immensely-popular Cornhole or you prefer a lesser-known game that’s unique to your alma mater, challenging your friends to a friendly competition before the big game is a key part of American tailgate culture.
One of the reasons people go nuts for tailgate games is because of their simplicity and ease of play. The best tailgate games can be enjoyed by all ages (and at various levels of inebriation) and are ridiculously easy to integrate into your existing tailgate setup.
So, which games should you bring to a tailgate? If you’re looking for a solid mix of classic and new, here are 12 tailgate games that are guaranteed to be a good time for all.
Having a hard time figuring out what to bring to a tailgate? Just bring the game of Washers. A fan favorite amongst tailgaters everywhere, this game is both fun and slightly challenging. Here’s a breakdown of how the game is played:
- Two boards with three holes are placed 20 feet apart from each other.
- Players stand next to one box and take turns tossing small, metal discs into the holes of the opposite board.
- The first person or team to reach 21 points wins.
Washers is the less-dangerous version of Horseshoes (not a good idea to throw those in a crowd, trust us) and doesn’t require any pegs to be nailed into the ground, making it a practical choice for any tailgate. It’s not uncommon to see this game at The Grove at Ole Miss or being played by those wearing Georgia Bulldogs shirts.
Cornhole (aka, Bags) is a game for those who aren’t skilled enough for Washers—just kidding. Sort of.
But in all seriousness, Cornhole is by far one of the most popular tailgate games in the country and can be found on nearly every college campus. It’s especially common at Kentucky tailgates, where Cornhole is about as essential for the Wildcats as a big serving of game day burgoo.
To give you an idea of how to play Cornhole, here is the gist of the game:
- Two to four players face off against each other.
- Two Cornhole boards with one hole in each board are set up, spaced exactly 27 feet apart from the front tip of each board.
- Players line up next to the Cornhole board and attempt to throw a one-pound bean bag into the hole in the opposite board. If the bean bag goes in the hole, the player earns three points. If the bean bag hits the edge of the hole, the player earns two points. Getting the bean bag on the board scores one point. (If the bean bag is on the board but touching the ground, the player earns zero points.)
- In order for points to count, the player must score more points than their opponent in that round. So, the total score for the winning team of each round is calculated by subtracting the lower score from the higher score.
- Whoever reaches 21 points first wins.
Ready to give Cornhole a try? You can start by checking out the American Cornhole Association to get the lowdown on the official rules.
The game of Kan Jam has come a long way over the last three decades. Originally started in Buffalo, New York, the game first began by throwing a frisbee into your average garbage can.
Today, the popular tailgate game has evolved significantly, and now involves throwing a flying disc into a sleek, typically plastic, can with a tiny slot in the front. Here is how the game is played:
- Two “kans” are placed 50 feet apart from each other.
- One player stands next to the kan and throws the frisbee in the direction of the opposite kan.
- Meanwhile, their teammate is free to move anywhere and can redirect the frisbee to hit the goal.
- The first player to reach 21 points wins. Getting the frisbee into the direct slot is an instant win. But it’s like, really, really hard to do.
These days, Ladder Golf goes by many names: Ladder Ball, Ladder Toss, Hillbilly Golf, etc. No matter what you call it, this tailgating game is always a hit and is simple to play (even with a drink in your hand).
Like many tailgate games, the goal of this game is to reach 21 points. Here is a quick breakdown of the game:
- Players take turns throwing three bolas (two golf balls connected by a short piece of nylon rope) at a ladder with three rungs.
- The goal of the game is to wrap your bolas around each rung, which have different point scores.
- The first player or team to reach 21 without going over wins.
You’ll want to read the official rules of Ladder Golf before you play. If you’re playing with kids, the rules explain an official toss line that kids can use to get closer to the game ladder.
Stump is definitely one of the more unique tailgate games that is making the rounds across college campuses. It’s particularly popular in the northeast, especially at Penn State, where students are often seen playing the game in the parking lot of the MetLife Stadium.
The setup and premise are both simple:
- Get a relatively large tree stump, a hammer and a box of nails.
- Hammer a nail for each player into the stump just enough so that it can stand upright.
- Take turns throwing a hammer (gently) in a 360-degree motion and attempt to hammer your nail in the same, fluid motion. There are also tons of cool tricks you can do.
Although it’s often played with beer, it can just as easily be played without- and it might be better to play without since it’s kinda dangerous. Just remember that it is a hammer you’re playing with, so try your best not to end up in the ER before the big game.
As much as we love the new and improved tailgate games, throwing a football around is the classic game that started it all. The beauty of this game is that you can play with multiple people and get the kids involved. Not to mention that it’s a total breeze to transport—just throw it in your car on top of all your other tailgate essentials.
If you want to make your game of catch more exciting, consider getting your buddies to play 500. This game of catch is simple:
- One person yells out a number ranging from 100 to 500 and throws the ball into the group.
- The player who catches the ball earns the points.
- The first person to reach 500 points exactly (no going over, otherwise you go back to zero) is the new tosser.
This game can be played on either grass or pavement. Just be careful if you’re playing on pavement and getting rowdy with your friends. The guys especially can get competitive with this game!
Not to be confused with the actual definition of a pocket passer in football, the game of Pocket Passer is a fun way to liven up any tailgate and show off your quarterback skills. Although the board is rather large, it’s a great game if you have the space for it.
Here is how to play Pocket Passer:
- Two players stand behind one board, while your opponents stand behind the other. The two boards should be spaced 15 feet apart.
- Each player throws the football into one of three holes in the opposite board. Each hole has a point value ranging from one to three.
- The first team to reach—yep, you guessed it—21 points exactly wins.
- If you go over 21 points, your turn is over and you must remain at your previous point value until you get 21 exactly.
Giant Jenga is exactly what it sounds like: regular Jenga, only it’s played with giant-sized blocks. Not only is it a hilarious game that draws in random spectators, but it’s also easy to bring to a tailgate and takes up little space (until everything falls down, of course).
To top it off, you can play Jenga with a drink in hand, which is honestly key to any decent tailgate game. Plus, it’s a blast to watch because the tension ramps up once the structure starts resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
A newcomer to the world of tailgate games, Rollors is an outdoor yard game that is the perfect combination of skill and chance. The game is also easy to transport, which is a must when you’re already hauling Yeti coolers full of drinks and food to your tailgate.
The game is relatively simple:
- Players set up two goal posts paced 25 feet apart.
- Players take turns tossing their rollors (a wooden disc) towards the goalposts. Each rollor has a point value attributed to it.
- The player with the rollor closest to the goal post adds up their points and scores in the round.
For more on the official rules of Rollors, be sure to check out the Rollors website and pick up the game for your next tailgate.
Remember that annoying carnival ring toss game you could never win at? Tailgate Ring Toss is sort of like that, only the game isn’t rigged (we know, total game-changer, right?). All you need to do is buy a Ring Toss set—heck, you can even make your own ring toss if you want—and simply toss the rings onto the pegs.
Although each game is different, most Ring Toss games have different point values for each peg or rung. After each player takes a turn tossing their rings, the points are added up. Whoever has the highest score is the winner of that round.
Another newcomer to tailgate games, Spikeball is an exciting game that is sure to get your heart rate up! This two-on-two game is similar to volleyball in that you have three hits before you need to return the ball to the other side. It can be quite the workout, so make sure to dress in your comfiest collegiate tailgate apparel and flexible pants or shorts.
Here is a basic breakdown of how Spikeball works:
- Four players stand around a small, trampoline-like structure (the net) set in the middle of the group.
- A player serves the ball by hitting it with their hand and bouncing it on the net.
- The opposing team has three hits to return the ball. If the other team fails to return the ball, it’s a point for the opposing team.
The one downside to Spikeball for tailgating is that it’s best played on a soft surface (i.e., not a parking lot). If you have a grassy area to play on, it’s an absolute blast trying to dive for the ball. Just be sure to bring a Tide pen along or consider leaving your new Alabama t-shirt or Clemson t-shirt at home.
Sometimes called the “next-generation Cornhole,” BULZiBUCKET is a simple game that can be played anywhere, anytime—with or without drinks. It’s also new to the tailgate world, but we think it has a lot of promise.
Here is how BULZiBUCKET works:
- Divide four players into two teams.
- Place the two BULZiBUCKETS (three-level bucket structures) 15 feet away from each other.
- Take turns throwing four bean bags into the three buckets.
- The last bag you toss is considered the “BulziBag” and is worth double the points.
- The first team to 21 points wins.
BULZiBUCKET is particularly fun because it allows different styles of play. For example, you can do simple tossing like Cornhole, or you can play in a style that allows your teammate to assist. When you toss the bag, your teammate can do a hackysack-like move to help the bag get into the bucket.
Choosing the Best Tailgate Games for Your Crew
There is a lot that goes into a perfect tailgate. Along with grilling tasty meals and figuring out what to wear to the big game, you also need to think about which tailgate games your crew will best enjoy.
While you can’t go wrong with a simple game of catch, newer tailgate games can potentially maximize the fun on game day. If you’re having trouble deciding which of these tailgate games to bring along, consider taking a new game (such as Bulz-I-Bucket) and storing your faithful pigskin in the car—just in case. Happy tailgating!