Codenames exploded onto the party game scene in 2015. This classic game has two competing spy networks and a clue giver (a.k.a. spymaster) that attempts to contact all of their “spies.”
This fun deduction game is all about trying to connect seemingly unconnected words.
If you’re looking for a party game similar to Codenames, I like Chameleon for its strong emphasis on clue-giving, social deduction, and fun competition!
In this article, you’ll find several party games like Codenames. I’ve detailed their highlights, features, and drawbacks, so you can find the right Codenames alternative for you.
Games Like Codenames: At A Glance
Codenames the game features many elements that make it so entertaining. The games I’ve reviewed draw upon those elements in their own unique way.
Language and word choice are important in code names. If you enjoy word games, you might like The Chameleon, A Little Wordy, or Dixit.
Playing with children? Consider A Little Wordy, Super Word Spy, or Dixit. Those games have a lower minimum age, making them ideal for kids.
The art of deduction is a key component of Codenames. The Chameleon, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, and A Fake Artist Goes to New York require players to use deduction.
The Chameleon: Best Overall Pick
Playing Time: 15 minutes
If you’re looking for similar board games to Codenames, you can’t beat The Chameleon. This sneaky board game of social deduction requires players to catch the chameleon before it’s too late.
The Chameleon is played in rounds. For each round, everyone is given a gride code card… except the Chameleon, who gets a Chameleon card.
The dealer then turns over a topic card which has a grid of words that fall under a broad category. The category is listed at the top of the topic card. A dice is rolled to tell the players where the secret word is on the grid.
Players use their grid code cards and the dice to determine the secret word on the topic card. But if you get the Chameleon card, you have no clue what the secret word is!
Players describe the hidden word with one-word clues. The Chameleon’s goal is to blend in and not stand out by using carefully chosen words that could fit a lot of words on the clue board.
Players vote on who they think the Chameleon is. Correctly guess to earn points. But if you guess incorrectly, the Chamelon could win the round!
This game is easy to learn, easy to play, and loads of fun. Buyers loved the game and found it to be entertaining, light, and comical. Fair warning, it may not be the best game for kids (lack of context for some clues) or for those who can’t bluff.
- Easy to learn
- Comical and competitive
- Scales well up to eight players
- Fun can depend on teammates
Dixit: Overall Runner-Up
Playing Time: 30 minutes
This edition of Dixit is an updated version of the classic storytelling game. It’s simple, lighthearted, and brings the magic of storytelling right to your table.
This is a creative guessing game that has players thinking up clues. In each round, one player selects a card and forms a clue inspired by the card image. The other players all choose cards that they think match the clue.
The cards and shuffled and revealed. Players secretly vote for the card that best matches the narrator’s story. Players score points by earning votes for their cards or by choosing the storyteller’s card, depending on the scoring conditions.
Players move rabbit markers across the game board to show their point totals. The player with the most points (i.e., their rabbit crosses the finish line first) is the winner.
The game Dixit has beautiful artwork on each of the 84 cards. The original artwork is illustrated by Marie Cardouat, and it depicts fantastical situations that spur the imagination.
Players aim to challenge and delight other players with dreamlike, engaging stories to match the cards.
This game is also easy to learn. The basics are straightforward. Even though players earn points in Dixit, this is not a highly competitive party game.
It’s one of those amazing games that’s so fun to play, you often forget who’s winning. This is a great game for both young and old.
If you’re ready for a new challenge, there is an expansion available. The manufacturer also sells Stella, a game variation set in the Dixit universe.
Buyers had rave reviews for Dixit. They loved the imaginative scenes depicted on the cards. They enjoyed playing with family and friends and confirmed that the game is fun for all ages.
There is a bit of a learning curve to the scoring, but once you get that down, you’re all set. Some groups even forego keeping score so they can just enjoy the game.
- Beautiful artwork
- Fun for all ages
- Easy to play
- Expansions available
- Scoring has a learning curve
A Little Wordy: Best for Two Players
Playing Time: 15 minutes
From the creators of Exploding Kittens and Throw Throw Burrito comes A Little Wordy, a clever word game that doesn’t require a mighty vocabulary to bring excitement and fun.
In this game, players compete to guess their opponent’s secret word from their letter tiles and clues. The word could be complex and impressive, or maddeningly simple.
A Little Wordy is a guessing game that’s easy to learn and fun to play. With a minimum recommended age of 10, it’s perfect for families, friends, and couples.
The game comes with everything you need, including 16 playing cards, 81 letter tiles, 40 berry tokens, 2 drawstring bags for vowels and consonants, 2 dry-erase player shields, and 2 dry-erase markers.
Here’s how it works: Each player receives a pile of letters. From those letters, they form a word and write it down on their dry-erase player shield, keeping the word secret.
Players use clue cards to try and figure out what word the other player chose. The player that uses the fewest clues to guess their opponent’s word is the winner.
It’s not always the player with the most advanced word that wins; it’s the player with the most difficult word to guess.
A Little Wordy is portable and only takes 15 minutes to play, perfect for a one-on-one game night with a family or for camping, travel, road trips, and more.
Buyers enjoyed playing this game, especially those who played it with their spouse/partner. And while other two-player games like Chess and Scrabble can be intense, this game has a more lighthearted feel.
By far the most common complaint was the low quality of the dry-erase boards. Many people complained that the boards look worn out after just one use, and they’re almost impossible to clean.
I recommend having a bottle of dry-erase board cleaner handy to use after each game or using a writing pad.
The good news is that A Little Wordy is inexpensive, so you could easily add a notepad or cleaner without accruing much cost.
- Great for couples
- Quick gameplay
- Lighthearted but competitive
- Easy to learn
- Dry-erase boards are low-quality
Super Word Spy: Best for Kids
Playing Time: 15 minutes
Super Word Spy, from Chalk and Chuckles, is a fast-paced work-making game for beginner, average, and expert spellers. It’s great for kids and adults and can accommodate between 2-4 players.
The spy theme is cute and puts a kid-friendly spin on typical word games. In Super Word Spy, players are secret agents on a mission, with exciting decoder glasses and three types of Mission cards.
To play Super Word Spy, players roll the dice and draw a mission card. The first player to make a word with the letter tokens gets the card. Collect 5 cards to win the game.
This game builds spelling, memory, and reading skills, making it ideal for parents and teachers. Children can practice concentration, strategy, reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving.
It’s fast-paced, so you can keep the attention of younger players. But it’s also designed for those who like anagrams, crosswords, and brain teasers.
But let’s be honest, it’s not much of a challenge for most adults. While some reviewers had good things to say about the game, especially when playing with their kids, others were less than inspired.
Buyers were not big fans of the spy glasses, either. Some said the glasses gave them headaches, while others said they didn’t help reveal the clues. The bad thing is that the glasses are required to play the game, so you can’t just ditch them and play anyway.
If you want a spy game that reinforces spelling patterns with children, you might consider getting Super Word Spy. Otherwise, I’d pass on it and choose one of the many similar games.
- Fun spy theme
- Simultaneous play (no waiting turns)
- Ideal for practicing spelling
- Geared toward kids
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Spy glasses are low quality
- Not as challenging for adults
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong: Best for Large Groups
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong features intrigue and mystery. In this semi-cooperative game, players receive cards with clues and their roles.
The murderer must choose the location of the crime and the weapon of choice, while the other players attempt to stop the criminal in their path.
The forensic scientist knows who the criminal is, but they can only communicate clues by analyzing the crime scene.
Together, the investigation team must solve the mystery and find key evidence to win.
Deception is fast-paced, with an average playing time of just 20 minutes. With a max number of 12 players, it’s also ideal for a larger group.
This game has good player interaction, and a lot of buyers enjoyed the team-based aspect. They also enjoyed the traitor mechanism.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong is not the best game for children, but it’s entertaining for teens and adults.
The forensic scientist plays a pivotal role, so it helps if that person is an experienced player. Of course, it’s random, based on the deck.
- Good for a large group
- Not for kids
A Fake Artist Goes to New York: Best Party Game
Playing Time: 20 minutes
A Fake Artist Goes to New York is a deduction game with an artistic flair. This game is like a mashup of Codenames, Chameleon, and Pictionary.
Each round has a different game master. The game master is the clue giver and hands a word out to everyone except the fake, who gets a card with “fake” written on it.
The players must take turns drawing the word on the card, except the fake artist doesn’t know what they’re supposed to be drawing.
Can the players guess who is the dishonest artist based on what they draw?
Reviewers enjoyed playing this game, although they did find the pad of paper too small. You can always sub a larger paper pad or even use a dry-erase board with different color markers.
Playing distinguish the drawings based on the color of the markers, so this isn’t the best game for colorblind players.
However, it’s an excellent choice for those who enjoy guessing games but not word games. You don’t have to be artistically talented to play, either.
A Fake Artist Goes to New York is expensive for what you get in the box, but it did get positive reviews as far as the game mechanics.
- Great for parties
- Easy to learn
- Lighthearted competition
- Comical, with good player interaction
- Doesn’t require artistic talent
- Not good for colorblind players
What to Look for in Party Games Like Codenames
Games like Codenames might include various elements, but there are some non-negotiables.
First, a good party game must have suspense. This suspense can be created through guessing clues, finding the “fake” or the “mole,” or racing to find answers.
Second, the game must challenge players intellectually. Using logic, the process of elimination, deduction, or imagination are all ways to challenge the brain and make the game more engaging.
Lastly, the game must have quality components. Whether they’re card games or board games, the game pieces should look nice and hold up well over time.
Board Games Like Codenames: Final Word
Which party game like Codenames is the best? My top pick is The Chameleon. It’s one of the best games to play if you enjoy Codenames.
My runner-up would be Dixit. It’s a similar format but would be more appealing to those who enjoy picture story-based games over word games.