The best party apps can breathe life into any gathering, even if your celebration isn't as crowded as usual this year, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions on large get-togethers. Rather than digging up arcane game boards or endlessly shuffling decks of cards, you can use your smartphone or tablet to start the fun with no setup or cleanup required.
If you're wondering what to do this New Year's Eve, check out some of the following apps for Android devices and iPhones. Whether you want to dazzle your guests with song and dance, impress them with your trivia knowledge or make them laugh with your drawing skills, these games can liven up any shindig.
The best party games you can download
Psych! Outwit Your Friends (Android, iOS: Free)
What do you call a group of zebras? What in the world is a mumpsimus? Inspired by party games like Balderdash, Psych has you cooking up the zaniest but most plausible answers to questions with the goal of fooling your friends and scoring points.
Each player secretly submits a funny-but-plausible answer to a question; once collected, the submissions (and the correct answer) appear on screen, and players try to figure out which answer is the right one. If somebody chooses your submission, then you score a point; if you guess the right answer, then you score a point as well.
Zany topics and themes make for a great way to have fun with friends and family at your next get-together.
Bounden (Android, iOS: $1.99)
Bounden is a dancing game that takes advantage of your smartphone's motion sensors to get you to move. What makes Bounden different is that it’s designed to be played with a partner, making this one of the best party apps for small gatherings.
Each dancer takes hold of one end of a smartphone and then tilts the device in order to move an on-screen sphere through a path of rings. Players swing their arms around, twist their bodies, and before they know it, they're both dancing. The app comes with seven dances designed by the Dutch National Ballet and classical music written with dance in mind.
Charades (Android, iOS: Free, with in-app purchases)
The classic party game goes digital with Charades, in which your phone serves up the challenges for you to act out. Draw a card by tilting your smartphone, and you'll be given something to act out, impersonate or even dance to, as your friends try to guess just exactly you're doing.
Charades promises 100 themed decks with 400-plus gameplay cards, so there's usually something new to try. The app is a free download, though in-app purchases can remove ads and give you additional cards.
Heads Up! (Android, free; iOS: $0.99)
A charades-style party game made popular on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show, Heads Up challenges players to guess as many words as possible from a themed deck of charades cards based on their friends' clues.
The guessing player holds their mobile phone up to their forehead, with the screen displaying the word to be guessed. Deck themes include celebrities, movies, animals and more.
Additionally, players can create their own custom decks by making in-app purchases for each new deck.
Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes (Android, iOS: $9.99)
Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes is a group game that has everyone pitching in to help defuse a live bomb within a limited time. The catch? Only the player with the smartphone game can actually manipulate the bomb, while everyone else can only give directions using a set of freely downloadable bomb defusing manuals that come with the game. Naturally, this leads to a lot of garbled directions, all around chaos and hilarity.
Smule (Android, iOS: Free, in-app purchases)
You could dish out $20 per person for a fancy karaoke room rental, or you could just download Smule for some smartphone-assisted karaoke and belt out your favorites in your living room.
Using your phone as a microphone and either a Chromecast or Apple TV as a receiver, you can put lyrics up on a TV screen with musical accompaniment and sing pop, rock, country, hip-hop and more, with a selection of songs available for free or through in-app purchases.
There's a little something for everyone in this best party app, including "I Want It All" by Queen, "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen and "Talk Dirty" by Jason Derulo.
Just Dance Now (Android, iOS: Free, with in-app purchases)
Nothing brings a party together like getting people to dance. Still, not everyone knows how to dance, which is where Just Dance Now comes in. This mobile spinoff of the hit console series brings more than 200 titles to iOS and Android smartphones, including "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson, "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley and (for some unfathomable reason) Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms.
While the game is free to download, you'll need to pay for most songs. However, you can buy a temporary pass for as little as $1 per hour — great for a single night of entertainment. You can also cast it to a big screen via Google Cast or Apple AirPlay.
Party Starter (Android, iOS: Free)
Party Starter takes a series of popular party icebreaker games and combines them in a convenient mobile package. You’ll find offerings like Never Have I Ever, Most Likely To, and King’s Cup in this app, along with rules and visual aides to help you play.
The app has a mode of the week and a selection of available games available; an in-app purchase unlocks all game modes and removes advertising. It may not be an incredibly flashy selection among the best party apps, but if you’re looking for tried and true party games delivered in a handy mobile assistant form, Party Starter delivers.
Triple Agent (Android, iOS: Free)
Triple Agent has you and five to nine friends trying to figure out who among you is an agent of the Service or a nefarious VIRUS infiltrator in this quick-playing game of social deduction. Inspired by social deduction classics like Mafia and Werewolf, Triple Agent brilliantly condenses the deduction game into a single round of clues, with the smartphone app taking on the role of facilitator.
At the start of each round, players pass around the phone to learn their allegiance to the Service or VIRUS, and then the app provides each player with a single Operation that can reveal clues about other players or change the nature of the game. At the end of the round of deductions, players vote on who to imprison, and once the vote is tallied, that player and their entire team loses the game.
Triple Agent is free, with an in-app purchase unlocking more expansions and variant rules.
Who Can't Draw? (Android, iOS: Free, with in-app purchases)
Who Can't Draw takes inspiration from the Telephone game and uses your phone's touchscreen as a drawing pad for some garbled message hilarity.
The first player is given a word to draw in a limited time, and each player down the line is given a brief moment to interpret and copy that image. The last player then has to guess what the word was, and can then nominate players as the best and worst artist for that round.
The app comes with basic word packs, and users can access additional themed packs, like Pokemon, Star Wars, or Big Screen by watching ads or through in-app purchases.
Evil Apples (Android, iOS: Free, with in-app purchases)
A mobile party game that owes a lot to the infamous Cards Against Humanity, Evil Apples is a neat icebreaker game that challenges players to fill in the blanks with the funniest, weirdest or just downright outrageous statements that they can think up.
Every round, one player becomes the judge, reads the question card, and every other player chooses one of their answer cards. Then, hilarity ensues. The judge then awards a point, and the first player to reach seven points wins the game. The base game is free, with additional card packs available as in-app purchases.
Mysterium (Android, iOS: $3.99)
Step into a haunted manor and commune with a restless ghost in the mobile port of Mysterium, a social deduction card game that has players interpreting cryptic clues in an attempt to avenge an unsolved crime.
Each round, the ghost player lays down a series of evocative cards that hint at the killer, the scene of the crime and the weapon used; the other players take on the role of psychics interpreting the cryptic visions.
The app is a faithful adaptation of the board game, allowing you to pass around a single phone or tablet instead of shuffling a deck of cards. Mysterium also includes a campaign mode, as well as solo or online play. The app features the original game, with in-app purchases unlocking expansions sets.
Spaceteam (Android, iOS: Free, with in-app purchases)
Re-attach the Electronic Grabber, activate the Multi-Spoon and set the Contaminant Hypnothruster to 3. Spaceteam is a cooperative party game of science fiction technobabble, in which you and your friends play the role of starship bridge crew racing to avoid disaster.
Every game features chaos, confusion, teamwork and a whole lot of shouting. Each player's screen is composed of an instrument panel of buttons, switches and sliders; as impending doom races toward the ship, players have to execute timed tasks, barking out instructions to others while also paying attention to their own screen.
Conveniently, this party game supports cross-platform multiplayer between Android and iOS devices. How many missions can you accomplish before your untimely demise?