The Definitive List of the 7 Best Tailgate Games
Tailgating. An American tradition, dare I say right of passage? A space for people to commune and line up behind a common cause, pinning their hopes and dreams on an outcome that has no realistic stake in their lives. But still, we ride or die for our team every Saturday.
A tailgate is the type of place you’ll see that friend who normally can never get to work or class on time out at 5 AM on the dot, peacefully drinking a pre-coffee Miller Lite in his coveted parking space. It’s the place where your lot neighbors might be the same family who has missed births, funerals, family gatherings and dentist appointments but never once missed a home game in 25 years. The palpable excitement builds as the game gets closer, and win or lose I think we can all agree that the tailgate is usually as memorable and fun as the game itself. It’s where lifelong friends are made, and families become closer (well, unless Dad gets a little out of hand at the grill).
One of the most necessary ingredients any tailgate needs is at least one game. Just because we didn’t make it to the big leagues like the athletes we gather to watch that day doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a little healthy competition. Besides, we need games you can play with frequent beer and hot dog breaks, games you can play even if you’re a bit more than a few pounds past your optimal weight. A tailgate ain’t a tailgate unless you’re rubbing victory in mom’s face over a game involving bean bags. At worst, these games distract from the bone chilling morning from a December game, at best they bring together new friends to make lifelong memories. So we decided to rank these classic games, some old and others fresh faces, to keep making your tailgates as fun as possible.
Ah, Stump. No doubt there will be several readers who have never heard of this game. The main problem with Stump is that it is based around a literal stump. Unless your hick friend is pulling up every weekend with the same stained hunk of wood in his pickup, someone will need to go searching and digging for a tree trunk in some nearby forest. Yes, the games that appear on this list also require equipment, but Stump is a game that fits more at a bonfire than a tailgate.
The game requires each player stick a nail into said central stump, then in a circle players take turns flipping and catching a hammer and slamming it down onto someone’s nail. Once your nail is fully hammered down. Last man standing wins. One of the other big problems with the game is that it’s a bit (okay a lot) less family-friendly than most games. You probably shouldn’t be giving your 8 year old kid a hammer to flip while encircled by rowdy and drinking sports fans, though we won’t judge. The final issue with Stump is that it actually is a little too easy, which can sound crazy if you’ve never actually played the game. Sure, in the beginning you might be putting your fingers on the line trying to catch a hammer, but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually quite easy. Skill goes out the window once you have the technique down, making this a relatively simple game after a round. Plus, if you ever run out of nails you’re screwed!
6) Ladder Golf
Look, ladder golf is objectively the least fun game on this list (yes, worse than Stump). It’s more entertaining to swing the balls connected via string like a weapon than it can be to play the game. Ladder Golf plays very similar to Cornhole, nothing like golf. Players aim to net their balls/string (called “bolas”) onto the rungs of a ladder, canceling out opponent’s throws if they land on the same rung. The game itself is much easier than Cornhole, much more forgiving as the bolas will almost always wrap around the rungs if the throw is halfway decent, and that doesn’t make it very skillful. A big downside is if one of the bolas decides to snap mid-game, then you’re out of luck, Ladder Golf session over for good. Plus, if one of your friends aim really is that bad, a spinning missile could be coming straight in for a shin or groin shot. The game gets a few points for being very simple to learn and easy to play for anyone, just enough merit to keep it from the bottom “rung”.
I can hear the boos already. “How can Cornhole be this low? This is the greatest tailgate game ever, the king, a classic that was the prototype for all games to follow!” And I get it, Cornhole is a true staple of the tailgate. I’m sure you or your friend have a set of boards painted with intricate designs that you whip out every weekend in the fall. But is the game really that much better than Ladder Golf, a game I just spent a paragraph ripping apart?
Cornhole is such a foundational tradition of the tailgate there is an entire governing body to the “sport”. In that sense, it’s almost as important as the football itself. But when you get down to it, there are just more exciting tailgate games to be played. It’s a fine game, if not a very involved one. Being able to casually throw around the bean bags with beer in the other hand make Cornhole a relaxing way to have a friendly competition. And yes, there is skill involved, I’m sure we all have that one friend who seems to have a magnet across from them, a certified bean bag sniper who always talk about how they’d be a three time gold medalist if only this yard game was in the Olympics. Cornhole is a tailgate classic, always will be, but for me it is overshadowed by some newer games making appearances further down this list.
4) Fozzy Football
A total newcomer to the scene, Fozzy Football is a modern update to paper football, made hybrid with shuffleboard. For everyone out there who “would’ve played at State if only coach had put me in the game more”, now you can live out your football dreams with nothing but finger precision. The game mimics a normal football game, advancing the ball on offense, stops and sacks on defense, keeping track of drive yardage, points, and a running clock. Sound complicated? It’s not, so long as you already have the convoluted rules of American Football down. Everything I just listed is taken care of by an app, a smart update to tailgating games for a phone-addicted audience.
Players take turns sliding a metal puck across a gorgeously finished board, aiming to land on their opponent’s side, but not too far just as in shuffleboard (then it would be an “incomplete”). Wherever the puck has landed, that’s how your play just ended! The space underneath your puck (easily visible with its glass bottom) will indicate things results like 6 yard pass, sack, 10 yard run, incomplete, even penalties that will move your drive back! It truly is a complete version of the paper football you used to play when you were bored in class.
Fozzy Football lets you be the complete coach of your game, opting for punts vs going for it, kicking field goals and even taking time outs to stop the clock if the guy across from you is taking his sweet time at the end of the game. All results from the plays are easily kept track of in the app, with individual buttons for every outcome. The score and time is constantly being displayed so you don’t have to remember. While the game is challenging to learn at first, as you and your friends improve you can even place down up to three defender figurines to strategically block the path of the puck! A few pitfalls, however, might include constantly having to teach the rules to new players. And just be careful not to spill beer on your phone, you’ll need that app!
It’s a new game that will hopefully rise up the ranks and become a tailgating staple. Based on freshness lone, we can’t put the game any higher up this list, but Fozzy Football is a fun addition to any gathering.
For more info on this new game: https://www.omnibron.com/
3) Beer Pong
Another classic, beer pong starts our top three tailgating games. A college education will have (hopefully) taught you how to properly play, making it easy for anyone to meet and play, hopefully forming new friendships in the process. With house rules, of course. For fun for the whole family, play with and drink water, trust us you’ll still get that rush out of successfully throwing a ping pong ball into a plastic cup.
What keeps beer pong from rising to the top, though, is that it’s not strictly a tailgating game. No, when you think of beer pong usually your mind conjures images of parties in basements or living rooms, the integrity of the game held away from outdoor elements like the wind. And yes, Cornhole fans, we understand that this is also a relatively simple game with few rules. But beer pong we rate higher for its ability to get people a little bit rowdier, for the versatility to be played anywhere, and the quickness of its games. A true classic, it might rank a little higher if not for these next top tier games.
2) Kan Jam
Kan Jam, a relative newcomer, burst onto the scene around 15 years ago and now you’d be hard pressed to walk around a tailgate without seeing a few games taking place. More likely, the game comes to you in the form of a badly tossed Frisbee careening past someone’s head. Kan Jam reigns supreme over all the games listed previously because you have keep you head on a swivel, so to speak. Yes, the rules are simple (as any tailgate game should be), but aiming a Frisbee tactfully within swatting reach of your partner requires finesse. Cornhole defenders, I’m sorry but you can’t just spend a Kan Jam game casually milling around with your buddies, drinking beer and tossing bean bags at your own slow place (should we stop with the Cornhole slander?). It’s my argument that the best tailgating games are the ones that keep your attention hyper focused on what’s at stake: bragging rights over your friends and the chance to defend your seat at the next game.
Just like real football (remember the game you’ve gathered to watch later?), Kan Jam requires skill, teamwork, a bit of strategy (remember you can’t score over without going back down in points), and occasionally selling out your body and clothing to make a diving play. Worth it though. A bit of basic addition ability is required to keep score, so drunk players watch out. The game can occasionally be frustrating if your partner aims so bad you’d think they have an astigmatism, or if your opponents are so good the game feels over after two turns. But Kan Jam is for many considered the ultimate tailgating game, and it’s hard to disagree with those who would put it at number one.
1) Beer Die
Perhaps to some an interesting choice for number one. For others, they may not have even heard of the game. But if you’ve played beer die and enjoyed even one game, you are probably hooked like we are. In my eyes, it's the ultimate tailgating game.
So simple to set up, requiring only cups on a long enough table and a single die (maybe extras when one inevitably gets lost). Placing the cups in the four corners, teams of two alternate throwing a die on their opponent’s half of the table, trying to either bounce the die off the side of the table without the other team catching it, or landing it directly into the opposing cup for my points. If the die doesn’t leave the table or is caught, no points. Teams have to drink and refill their cups once their opponents reach various point numbers, and I’m sure people have individual rules but the heart of the game remains the same.
What makes this game the best of the field is that it incorporates the best elements of every game thus far listed. Simple rules with an easy set-up, easy to learn but able to be mastered, with a bit of athletics mixed in with the competition. Plus, it’s a drinking game which I’m sure many tailgaters will be happy to hear. Once you’ve started playing, you won’t want to stop. After the game you and your partner will reminisce on tip of the table bounces and last second catches, almost as if you’re real athletes! While each of the games we’ve listed has their merits, and I’m sure you have your own best game we failed to mention, beer die remains king.