50 classic games you can play without equipment
Video game consoles cost hundreds of dollars. Online gaming subscriptions come with a monthly fee. Organized sports like hockey and football require mountains of expensive equipment. Many other games can only be played with game-specific sets like board games, jigsaw puzzles, or classic backyard games like bocce ball, croquet, tetherball, and badminton. Then there are the countless games that require just basic equipment like a ball—but equipment nonetheless.
What if a bored group of kids or adults don't have anything—no ball, no jump rope, no bike, no playing cards? The answer is that they'd still have plenty of options.
Using a variety of sources including game-focused websites, parent/children-dedicated blogs, and historical entertainment sites, Stacker came up with a list of 50 classic games that just about anyone can play with virtually no equipment. The list omits the many games that require even the most basic items like previously mentioned balls or jump ropes. Occasionally, however, the list includes games that require easy-access objects like rocks, sticks, or any interchangeable item—one, for example, technically calls for a button, but any small object will do.
Some are played inside, and others require vast amounts of space outdoors. Some are for teams, and others involve head-to-head matchups. Many are competitions that end with clear winners and losers, while others are played just for the sake of playing them. Some require music, and some are clapping games. Some are physical, while others are games driven by imagination. Some are famous favorites that are universally known to nearly everyone, while others might be brand new to some readers.
All, however, can be used to pass the time on rainy days or through extended COVID-19 shutdowns by just about every adult and child looking for something to do. Keep reading to learn about the classic games that just about anyone can enjoy with no equipment at all.
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Tag might just be the most familiar, famous, and universal no-tech game of all time. It's hard to imagine anyone who hasn't at one point or another run from the person who is "it" before being tagged and becoming "it" themselves. Although it's impossible to confirm, there's an old internet rumor that says "tag" is an acronym for "touch and go."
Red light, green light
This tag variation requires whoever is "it" to function as a traffic light, shouting "green light" to a group of kids that begin the game at a pre-chosen starting line a good distance away. The "it" person can stop all the players by yelling "red light"—anyone caught moving returns to the starting line, and play continues until a traffic violator is caught and becomes "it." Some variations involve a yellow light.
Mother, may I?
This classic game can be played between parents and children down to toddler age or between pairs or groups of kids who are much older. The child asks the person playing the role of mother for permission to do something by using the game's title phrase. Mother either grants permission or suggests an alternative.
Truth or dare?
Whether it's played innocently among children, as an embarrassment-based party game for straitlaced adults, or as a raunchy excuse for older teens or college kids to have a licentious good time, truth or dare requires both imagination and courage. Players take turns in order, with one asking "truth or dare?" and another choosing to reveal something honestly or take their inquisitor up on a physical challenge.
Jailbreak is a sprawling outdoor game that requires a lot of space and enough players for two teams. One team hides and the other pursues them, and when members of the hunting party find a hidden opponent, they grab them and yell "one, two, three, you're my man" or something similar, and escort them to a predetermined spot designated as the jail. Someone guards the jail, but if an opponent can slip past the jailor and yell "jailbreak!" then their comrade is freed. When everyone is locked up, the teams switch roles.
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Charades technically requires a pencil and paper to keep score and a watch or timer, but it can be played without. Broken up into two teams, one player acts out a charade that represents a pre-selected word or phrase, and their teammates have to guess the word correctly before time runs out to score a point. It's a game that both adults and children can play together.
In this childhood classic, a group of kids pretends to be on a ship with one designated as the captain and the rest as subservient crew members who must obey the captain's orders, which could include anything from swabbing the deck to avoiding sharks. Whoever finishes an assignment last is out. When the captain boards the ship, a designated yeller shouts "captain's coming!" to saluting crew members, who the captain tries to trick into prematurely lowering their salutes.
In this popular variation of tag, the "it" person chases a scattering group until grabbing someone and yelling, "freeze!" That person remains frozen until a teammate unfreezes them by tagging them—or until the game ends when everyone in the group is successfully immobilized.
This outdoor game also takes a lot of space and enough kids to form into two teams, which line up parallel to each other some distance apart. One team, designated "red rover," links their arms and yells, "Red rover, red rover send (opposing team member's name) on over!" That kid then runs at the human chain and tries to break it—if successful, the runner captures two red rover members and, if not, joins the red rover team.
Duck, duck, goose
In the ultimate schoolyard recess game that is duck, duck, goose, a group of kids sits in a circle except for one who is it. The "it" person circles the perimeter while tapping each player on the head and saying, "duck" with each tap. When the "it" person touches a person and yells "goose" instead of "duck," the chosen goose gets up and tries to chase the "it" person, who, in turn, tries to make it to the open seat first.
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