The Jackbox Party Pack games are a lifesaver when you need to socialize, whether you do so in-person or online. They can revive a dying house party, or keep a whole family, separated by thousands of miles, in peals of laughter.
There are six different Jackbox Party Packs available, and each one has a collection of five different party games, ranging from trivia, to drawing, to hidden roles, to outright trickery. They’re incredibly fun, particularly if you have some good food and drinks to go with them.
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These fast, quirky, slightly risqué party games began life in 1995 as an off-kilter PC game called You Don’t Know Jack. The developers wanted to prove that a video game could successfully replicate the feeling of an adult board game night — and the fact that the series is still going strong 25 years later demonstrates that they succeeded.
The Jackbox Party Pack games are some of the most accessible titles out there. They’re available for every console, as well as PC, iOS and Android. The games support between four and eight players, and you don’t need any extra controllers; everyone plays on his or her own smartphone. They generally cost $25 or $30 for a single pack, but are frequently available on sale for half that amount, or less.
Of course, if you’ve never picked up a Jackbox Party Pack before, knowing where to start might be a little intimidating. After all, it would cost more than $150 to buy the whole series; you’ll probably want to start with just one collection, work your way through the games, and continue from there. Here’s a brief overview of each game, and some personal recommendations.
The Jackbox Party Pack
The first Jackbox Party Pack contains the following titles:
You Don’t Know Jack: A pop culture trivia game with competitive social mechanics
Drawful: A drawing game, where players need to guess a phrase based on the pictures you draw
Word Spud: A word association game where players vote on the best answers
Lie Swatter: A true/false guessing game about bizarre factoids
Fibbage XL: A social deception game, where players try to fool each other into believing bizarre “facts”
Fibbage XL was my go-to party game for years. It’s almost infinitely replayable, because each new group of players brings their own sensibilities and biases to the table. The mechanics of the game are a little hard to describe, but it takes approximately 30 seconds to learn, and a round seldom ends without a refrain of “Let’s do it again!”
You Don’t Know Jack is also just a solid, funny trivia game. I love trivia games, but opinions among your friends and family may vary.
The Jackbox Party Pack 2
The second Jackbox Party Pack contains the following titles:
Fibbage 2: See Fibbage XL above
Earwax: A sound association game, similar to Word Spud
Bidiots: A drawing game where players “bid” on the best artwork
Quiplash XL: A word game where players write their own “quips” in response to a prompt
Bomb Corp: A cooperative game where players work through bizarre instructions to defuse a bomb
Fibbage 2 is just as good as the first, while Quiplash is an extremely engaging game in the same vein. I don’t have strong opinions on the other three games, although Bomb Corp is a fairly different kind of experience than you’ll find in other Jackbox Party Packs.
The Jackbox Party Pack 3
The third Jackbox Party Pack contains the following titles:
Quiplash 2: See Quiplash above
Trivia Murder Party: A trivia game where one wrong answer can “kill” a player
Guesspionage: A guessing game about player preferences
Fakin’ It: A hidden roles game in which all but one player are given an action to perform; the remaining player has to figure the action out
Tee K.O.: A drawing game where players design their own t-shirts
Trivia Murder Party is great for those who don’t have the patience to sit through an entire round of You Don’t Know Jack, although the rules can be pretty punishing. Fakin’ It is surprisingly fun, and Tee K.O. is solid, although neither one is great for extended play sessions.
The Jackbox Party Pack 4
The fourth Jackbox Party Pack contains the following titles:
Fibbage 3: See Fibbage above
Survive the Internet: A version of “Telephone” where players deliberately twist one another’s arguments
Monster Seeking Monster: A hidden roles game in which players try to connect with each other based on limited information
Bracketeering: A competitive game that pits players’ answers against one another in tournament-style brackets
Civic Doodle: A drawing game where players compete to mimic designs in real time
Fibbage is a hit, as always, and Survive the Internet can be fun, albeit a little too close to home sometimes. The others aren’t personal favorites of mine, although your group’s tastes may vary.
The Jackbox Party Pack 5
The fifth Jackbox Party Pack contains the following titles:
You Don’t Know Jack: Full Stream: See You Don’t Know Jack above
Split the Room: A fill-in-the-blank game where players vote on solutions to bizarre scenario prompts
Mad Verse City: A rhyming game in which players try to come up with hip-hop verses
Zeeple Dome: A combat game where players fight aliens with slingshots
Patently Stupid: A drawing game where players design and pitch their own silly technologies
Zeeple Dome wears out its welcome amazingly fast. But every other game in the Jackbox Party Pack 5 is an absolute gem. Split the Room is stylish and clever, Patently Stupid is well worth the effort and Mad Verse City is simply the best Jackbox game I’ve ever played. If you can go through a session without at least one player physically doubled over in laughter, my hat is off to you.
The Jackbox Party Pack 6
The sixth Jackbox Party Pack contains the following titles:
Trivia Murder Party 2: See Trivia Murder party above
Role Models: A matching game in which players sort themselves into categories
Joke Boat: A writing game in which people make jokes based on random words
Dictionarium: A writing game in which people create their own fake slang and sayings
Push the Button: A hidden roles game where players need to discover an “alien” who gets different prompts from the rest of them
Trivia Murder Party 2 is solid, and Role Models can be surprisingly replayable. I don’t think there’s a bad game in this bunch, although Joke Boat requires a lot of brainpower. Push the Button is more intricate than most Jackbox games, and well worth the time investment, particularly if you have a very suspicious group of friends.
Which Jackbox Party Pack is the best?
While every Jackbox Party Pack has its ups and downs, if I were going to buy just one collection, I’d make it the Jackbox Party Pack 5. The game selection is excellent, and really has something for everyone. On the other hand, the Jackbox Party Pack 5 doesn’t have Fibbage, which is one of the very best Jackbox games overall. If Fibbage is a must-have title, I’d recommend either the first or second Jackbox Party Pack. I personally prefer the first, as I like You Don’t Know Jack, but Quiplash is also an excellent game to have.
How to play the Jackbox Party Pack online
If the Jackbox Party Pack has one major stumbling block, it’s that playing together in real life is ridiculously simple, but playing online can be complicated. Granted, Jackbox games were designed to bring people together in person, but there are still certain situations (a global pandemic, for example) where that’s simply not possible.
The good news is that the Jackbox team is well aware of this limitation, and has offered some clever solutions to overcome it. In a post entitled “How to Play Jackbox Games with Friends and Family Remotely,” Jackbox's own Brooke Hofer offered a number of solutions, including Zoom, Google Hangouts and Steam’s extremely convenient Remote Play Together option.
The Tom's Guide staff has recently experimented with Discord’s Go Live feature, which also works. If you have a means of sharing your screen via a video chat app or streaming online, you can get a Jackbox Party Pack game going online without too much trouble.
Hofer offers video tutorials and step-by-step instructions for streaming on both Twitch and YouTube, which are worth checking out. Suffice it to say, while Jackbox games aren’t optimized for online play, the company very much wants to help you out.
Furthermore, there’s a Jackbox Party Pack 7 on the way, so I wouldn’t count online play out entirely just yet. We could all use a little laughter in our lives lately.