Best TV game shows of all time

Written by:
December 19, 2018
Columbia TriStar Television // IMDb

Best TV game shows of all time

Audiences have long been drawn to the participatory aspect of a good game show—competing at home alongside friends and loved ones, or dreaming of one day auditioning. There's even an entire cable channel dedicated to game shows.

Stacker set out find which ones were the best of the best in U.S. history, pulling user data from IMDb to find the list of the top 50. Each show was (or is) broadcast in English and had more than 800 votes on the database website as of Dec. 20, 2018. Ties were broken by shows with the higher number of votes.

Covering everything from the general premise of each game, to the hosts and prizes, this list breaks down what makes audiences want to root for these game shows. Some of the top programs—such as “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “Family Feud”—are on the list multiple times thanks to multiple iterations of the game.

ALSO: The 100 best TV shows of all time

1 / 50
OMG Network // YouTube

#50. I Love Money

IMDb user rating: 6.3

Year(s): 2008–2010

Contestants who failed to find love on VH1 shows “Flavor of Love,” “I Love New York,” or “Rock of Love” reappeared on “I Love Money.” The contestants competed in challenges both physical and mental in order to win a $250,000 cash prize.

2 / 50
Buena Vista Television // IMDb

#49. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

IMDb user rating: 6.4

Year(s): 1999–present

In this show, contestants answer increasingly harder questions to earn more and more money, with the goal of reaching reaching $1 million. The show is still on the air, hosted by Chris Harrison as the latest in a line-up of other hosts. In order, they are Regis Philbin (1999-2002), Meredith Vieira (2002-2013), Cedric the Entertainer (2013-2014), Terry Crews (2014-2015), and Chris Harrison (2015-present).

3 / 50
Mark Goodson Television Productions // IMDb

#48. Family Feud

IMDb user rating: 6.6

Year(s): 1988–1995

“Family Feud,” where families compete in a quiz game, has a long history stretching back to 1976 with just a couple of breaks in between. The series ran 1976–1985, then 1988–1993, and finally 1999–present. Hosts have included Richard Dawson (1976–1985 and 1994–1995), Ray Combs (1988–1994), Louie Anderson (1999–2002), Richard Karn (2002–2006), John O'Hurley (2006–2010), and Steve Harvey (2010–present).

4 / 50
Buena Vista Television // IMDb

#47. Win Ben Stein's Money

IMDb user rating: 6.6

Year(s): 1997–2002

In a unique twist, one of the hosts of this show—Ben Stein—actually played the game, too. The goal was to win his money; each game started with a $5,000 pot. In rounds two and three of the game, contestants played against Ben Stein.

5 / 50
American Gladiators // YouTube

#46. American Gladiators

IMDb user rating: 6.6

Year(s): 1989–1997

“American Gladiators” was the game show of choice for '90s kids, running from 1989 to 1997 and starting up again in 2008 for two more seasons. Contestants played against a group of “gladiators” to win different events in a tournament setting.

6 / 50
Cinema Vehicle Services // IMDb

#45. Wipeout

IMDb user rating: 6.6

Year(s): 2008–2014

One giant obstacle course, a handful of contestants, and a $50,000 prize for whomever made it through the fastest—“Wipeout” was a fitness enthusiast's dream while it was on the air. The show had several hosts throughout the years: John Henson, John Anderson, Jill Wagner, and Vanessa Lachey.

7 / 50
MGM Television // IMDb

#44. The Voice

IMDb user rating: 6.6

Year(s): 2011–present

“The Voice,” a vocal competition show, features as-yet-unknown talent going through a series of performances, with the best singer winning a recording contract at the end of the season. The current hosts and judges are vocal powerhouses Adam Levine, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Blake Shelton. The show has won seven Emmy Awards.

8 / 50
One Potato Productions // IMDb

#43. MasterChef Junior

IMDb user rating: 6.7

Year(s): 2013–present

This is the kid-sized version of popular cooking show “MasterChef.” Here, children aged 8 to 13 participate in cooking challenges for a $100,000 prize. Through the season, contestants are coached by chef Gordon Ramsay, pastry chef Christina Tosi, and restaurateur Joe Bastianich.

9 / 50
Columbia TriStar Television // IMDb

#42. Wheel of Fortune

IMDb user rating: 6.8

Year(s): 1975–present

Wheel of Fortune” has been on the air since 1975, and for more than 30 years, Pat Sajak has hosted. The game involves spinning a wheel that allows you to guess letters in a word puzzle, Hangman-style. Co-host Vanna White joined the show in 1982.

10 / 50
20th Century Fox Television // IMDb

#41. So You Think You Can Dance

IMDb user rating: 6.8

Year(s): 2005–present

It's like “American Idol,” but for dance. “So You Think You Can Dance” brings together incredibly talented dancers between ages 18 and 30 to participate in a series of dance-inspired challenges. The show has earned 16 Emmy Awards and 64 nods, including nominations for host Cat Deeley.

11 / 50
Fremantle // IMDb

#40. Family Feud

IMDb user rating: 6.9

Year(s): 1999–present

Occupying three spots on this list for the various iterations of the show, “Family Feud” has also become a treasured part of the pop culture zeitgeist. The contestants sometimes say ridiculous things under pressure, and those moments are immortalized on YouTube videos—such as responding to “name something that follows the word ‘pork'" with the answer "upine.”

12 / 50
KC Film Office // IMDb

#39. American Ninja Warrior

IMDb user rating: 6.9

Year(s): 2009–present

“American Ninja Warrior” is similar to “Wipeout,” but without the water. Contestants run through a series of obstacle courses in order to compete in the national finals, with the winner taking home $1 million—but only if they successfully finish the course, which only two people have done in the history of the show.

13 / 50
The Weinstein Company // IMDb

#38. Project Runway All Stars

IMDb user rating: 7.0

Year(s): 2012–present

As a spinoff of the popular “Project Runway,” “Project Runway All Stars” pulls competitors in from past seasons of the former show. Alyssa Milano hosts, but 2019 will be her and the show's last year.

14 / 50
Kitchen Nightmares Hotel Hell and Hell's Kitchen // YouTube

#37. Hell's Kitchen

IMDb user rating: 7.1

Year(s): 2005–present

Chef Gordon Ramsay isn't always in his own kitchen—he's also in a competition kitchen annually, hosting the cooking show “Hell's Kitchen.” The current season sees old contestants facing a group of newbies, all vying for $250,000 and a head chef job at the Las Vegas Hell's Kitchen restaurant.

15 / 50
MGM Television // IMDb

#36. Survivor

IMDb user rating: 7.1

Year(s): 2000–present

Heading back to Fiji for the most recent season, “Survivor” puts 20 contestants on an island in an effort to see who can—you guessed it—survive the longest. Jeff Probst hosts. Many of the contestants have competed multiple times and fallen in love with other contestants.

16 / 50
Rick Baker // YouTube

#35. Figure It Out

IMDb user rating: 7.2

Year(s): 1997–1999

“Figure It Out” was a Nickelodeon panel show in which four Nick celebrities would attempt to guess a contestant's secret talent or achievement. The show originally aired from 1997 to 1999, but was later revived from 2012 through 2013.

17 / 50
Food Network // YouTube

#34. Cutthroat Kitchen

IMDb user rating: 7.2

Year(s): 2013–2017

Food Network favorite Alton Brown hosted this cooking show, where four contestants got $25,000 each at the outset to sabotage the other competitors throughout the course of the competition. If they won, they got to keep the money left in their stash.

18 / 50
Food Network // YouTube

#33. Iron Chef America

IMDb user rating: 7.2

Year(s): 2005–present

Based on the Japanese version, “Iron Chef America” has a group of celebrity chefs compete against working chefs using a secret ingredient. Alton Brown hosts, and the chefs have included Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Masaharu Morimoto, Cat Cora, Jose Garces, Michael Symon, Marc Forgione, and Geoffrey Zakarian.

19 / 50
American Broadcasting Company (ABC) // IMDb

#32. Family Feud

IMDb user rating: 7.2

Year(s): 1976–1985

“Family Feud” is persistent, and it continuously shows up on this list as one of the best game shows of all time. From 1976 to 1985, Richard Dawson hosted, signing off with a touching monologue when the first run of the show ended.

20 / 50
Discovery // YouTube

#31. Cash Cab

IMDb user rating: 7.2

Year(s): 2005–2012

What starts out as a normal taxi ride quickly becomes a brightly lit trivia competition for people entering the “Cash Cab.” The contestants get the length of their cab ride to answer questions with prizes ranging from $25 to $400 each. Ben Bailey has been both the host and the cab driver for the length of the show, which was revived in 2017.

21 / 50
25/7 Productions // IMDb

#30. Ultimate Beastmaster

IMDb user rating: 7.3

Year(s): 2017–present

This Netflix original series is an obstacle course challenge, similar to “Ninja Warrior.” Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson host, and the winner receives $50,000.

22 / 50
David Carey // YouTube

#29. MasterChef

IMDb user rating: 7.3

Year(s): 2010–present

Chef Gordon Ramsay and restaurateur Joe Bastianich are joined by chef Aarón Sánchez to host and judge the adult version of the "MasterChef" cooking competition. Home cooks run through a series of elimination rounds, and the winner gets $250,000.

23 / 50
MTV Networks // IMDb

#28. Double Dare

IMDb user rating: 7.4

Year(s): 1986–1988

“Double Dare” was a classic Nickelodeon kids game show. Contestants ranged in age from 9 to 13 years old and had to answer questions and complete various messy physical stunts. Marc Summers hosted this iteration of the show, which inspired the spin-offs "Family Double Dare" and "Super Sloppy Double Dare." It was revived in the new millennium as "Double Dare 2000" and yet again with host Liza Koshy in 2018.

24 / 50
Hazy Mills Productions // IMDb

#27. Hollywood Game Night

IMDb user rating: 7.4

Year(s): 2013–present

Forget typical game nights with your friends—“Hollywood Game Night” pulls two normal people into a celebrity-infused gathering to play party games. Jane Lynch hosts, and the winner can get up to $25,000.

25 / 50
Bravo Cable // IMDb

#26. Project Runway

IMDb user rating: 7.4

Year(s): 2004–present

“Project Runway,” the long-running fashion design competition show, recently shuffled networks. Lifetime dropped the series after its producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment allegations came to light, but it has since been renewed and is moving back to its original network, Bravo. Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn are out, and new hosts Karlie Kloss and Christian Siriano are in.

26 / 50
De Mol Gemist // YouTube

#25. The Mole

IMDb user rating: 7.5

Year(s): 2001–2008

Anderson Cooper was the first host of this game show, which was essentially a series of challenges in locations across the world completed by different teams. The twist of the show? One of the members of each team was a mole. The contestants could win up to $1 million.

27 / 50
Bunim-Murray Productions (BMP) // IMDb

#24. The Challenge

IMDb user rating: 7.5

Year(s): 1998–present

“The Real World” and “Road Rules” were fixtures of MTV's glory years. “The Challenge” mashes the two series together as contestants from both series compete for up to $1 million in prize money.

28 / 50
Comedy Central // IMDb

#23. @midnight

IMDb user rating: 7.5

Year(s): 2013–2017

This game show, hosted by Chris Hardwick, had three comedian competitors on each episode completing social media-themed challenges. There wasn't really a prize, though—the winner symbolically “won the internet.”

29 / 50
Nickelodeon Network // IMDb

#22. Guts

IMDb user rating: 7.5

Year(s): 1992–1995

For four seasons, "Guts" was a Nickelodeon hit. Three kids competed in sports-related activities, culminating in a fake mountain climb. Winners received a trophy meant to look like part of the mountain.

30 / 50
Funny or Die // IMDb

#21. Billy on the Street with Billy Eichner

IMDb user rating: 7.6

Year(s): 2011–present

Comedian Billy Eichner hosts this pop culture game show on the streets of New York City. He stops people walking by and gives them a chance to win cash by answering themed questions. Eichner was nominated for an Emmy for the show.

31 / 50
44 Blue Productions // IMDb

#20. Deadliest Warrior

IMDb user rating: 7.6

Year(s): 2009–2011

“Deadliest Warrior” was a non-traditional game show in the style of “MythBusters.” Essentially, in each episode the hosts and special guests recreated two of the deadliest warriors in history to see who would win in a battle.

32 / 50
Magical Elves Productions // IMDb

#19. Top Chef

IMDb user rating: 7.6

Year(s): 2006–present

This cooking competition takes chefs out of the kitchen and puts them in the real world, cooking for celebrities and local people. Padma Lakshmi hosts, and the winner gets $125,000.

33 / 50
Neue Vitaskop Film // IMDb

#18. The Amazing Race

IMDb user rating: 7.6

Year(s): 2001–present

Emmy-nominated host Phil Keoghan sends 11 teams of competitors on a scavenger hunt-style race around the world. Each team has to complete challenges at each location to obtain clues of where they'll be heading next. The winners get a $1 million prize.

34 / 50
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) // IMDb

#17. Never Mind the Buzzcocks

IMDb user rating: 7.7

Year(s): 2002–2002

“Never Mind the Buzzcocks” was a wildly popular U.K. panelist show based around pop music. When Marc Maron attempted to recreate the show in the United States, it only lasted five episodes before getting cancelled — though it earned strong ratings on IMDb.

35 / 50
Fremantle // IMDb

#16. The Price Is Right

IMDb user rating: 7.7

Year(s): 1972–present

This is the game show that made Bob Barker famous, asking contestants to “come on down” to compete in a series of challenges based on consumer goods pricing. Drew Carey hosts now. Contestants can win cash and prizes such as cars, vacations, and home goods.

36 / 50
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) // IMDb

#15. Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

IMDb user rating: 7.8

Year(s): 1991–1996

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” had contestants solving geography puzzles and clues to find where a thief and her henchmen were hiding stolen loot. Greg Lee hosted the show cult hit, and the show featured an a capella theme that's become part of the '90s pop culture lexicon.

37 / 50
117 Productions // IMDb

#14. Penn & Teller: Fool Us

IMDb user rating: 8.1

Year(s): 2011–present

Famous magicians Penn and Teller host this game show, where aspiring magicians compete to stump the duo. The goal is to keep how the trick was done a secret; if Penn and Teller can't figure it out, the contestant wins a spot on their Las Vegas show.

38 / 50
Nickelodeon Studios // IMDb

#13. Legends of the Hidden Temple

IMDb user rating: 8.2

Year(s): 1993–1995

Each episode of kids game show “Legends of the Hidden Temple” started with six teams. They all competed in challenges, knocking out teams until only one was left—and that team had to obtain a mysterious artifact from a temple, in the style of Indiana Jones.

39 / 50
Columbia TriStar Television // IMDb

#12. Jeopardy!

IMDb user rating: 8.2

Year(s): 1984–present

Alex Trebek has hosted this quiz game show since its inception, and he's thinking of retiring in 2020. A panel of three contestants earn cash prizes by correctly answering increasingly difficult questions in different categories.

40 / 50
Mission Control Media // IMDb

#11. Face Off

IMDb user rating: 8.2

Year(s): 2011–present

In each season of “Face Off,” a new set of special effects makeup artists compete in challenges to beat elimination rounds and be crowned the best. The winner receives a cash prize and money toward work materials.

41 / 50
Geek & Sundry // IMDb

#10. TableTop

IMDb user rating: 8.3

Year(s): 2012–present

Wil Wheaton hosts this game show focusing on board games. He invites three celebrities on each show to play their favorite tabletop games, with the winner receiving a trophy

42 / 50
AJ Foss // YouTube

#9. Match Game

IMDb user rating: 8.3

Year(s): 1973–1982

The original iteration of “Match Game,” where contestants played to match fill-in-the-blank answers with celebrities, was hosted by Gene Rayburn. The show was recently rebooted and is now hosted by Alec Baldwin.

43 / 50
Whose Line Is It Anyway? // YouTube

#8. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

IMDb user rating: 8.3

Year(s): 2013–present

In this improv game show, everything's made up and the points don't matter. Comedian Aisha Tyler hosts this reboot of the original show, which was also wildly popular.

44 / 50
World of Wonder Productions // IMDb

#7. RuPaul's Drag Race

IMDb user rating: 8.3

Year(s): 2009–present

RuPaul hosts “Drag Race,” a competition to find the best drag queen of them all. Each contestant competes in different challenges, and the winner walks away with a cash prize and other winnings designed to bolster their performance.

45 / 50
HISTORY // YouTube

#6. Forged in Fire

IMDb user rating: 8.4

Year(s): 2015–present

This unique game show challenges a group of bladesmiths to use raw material to forge to recreate historical weapons. Weapons expert and veteran Wil Willis hosts. The winner receives $10,000.

46 / 50
National Geographic Television // IMDb

#5. Brain Games

IMDb user rating: 8.4

Year(s): 2011–present

“Brain Games” isn't a traditional game show—it's more an introspective look into how our brains work, explained through illusions and challenges. Jason Silva hosts, and he explains why our brain processes and reacts the way it does.

47 / 50
Cancelled2Soon // YouTube

#4. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

IMDb user rating: 8.5

Year(s): 1998–2007

The original version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was hosted by Drew Carey, and it always featured Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady, and at least one other guest in improv challenges. The points weren't relevant and Carey decided who won each episode.

48 / 50

#3. What's My Line?

IMDb user rating: 8.6

Year(s): 1950–1967

This was a popular guessing game hosted by John Daly. Four panelists would ask yes or no questions to determine the jobs of each of the contestants and then guess the identity of a mystery guest.

49 / 50
Most Extreme Elimination Challenge // YouTube

#2. Most Extreme Elimination Challenge

IMDb user rating: 8.7

Year(s): 2003–2007

This popular show wasn't an original series at all. The show used footage from a Japanese game show called “Takeshi's Castle,” where contestants competed in weird physical challenges. In the U.S. version, the challenges were shown but with an English overdub.

50 / 50
High Stakes Poker // YouTube

#1. High Stakes Poker

IMDb user rating: 9.0

Year(s): 2006–2011

High Stakes Poker” was exactly what it sounds like: a televised poker game. Except in this show, it was a real game and all the contestants used their own money.

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