This list of the best mystery games for kids that are bound to have both your children and yourself excited about game night. Once you decide which game will be ideal for your family, settle in and be prepared for a night of twists, turns, and suspense.
For each game you can add your own variations and twists to make it more interesting or unique. The bottom line is to have fun and use your head.
Best detective games for kids
1. Cat Crimes
Cat Crimes is a board game made by ThinkFun, a world leader in brain and logic games, that combines increasingly difficult challenges with a quirky, fun theme. This game is a single-player, mysterious deductive thinking board game and is suitable for those aged 8 and over.
Included in the box are the game board, 6 cat pieces, 6 crime tokens, a well-written, clear instruction manual and 40 challenges, along with their solutions. The scenarios on the challenge cards range from beginner to expert level, so as you progress, so does the difficulty.
The aim of the game is to identify the culprit of the crime. The six suspect cards feature different cats with varying characteristics and the board game supplies supporting evidence to help you figure out who the cat criminal is.
How to Play
- Select a challenge card.
- Put the corresponding crime token onto the game board.
- Your chosen challenge card will have a multitude of clues on it to help you solve the crime — you should read it now.
- Using deductive reasoning, you will then narrow down where each of the cats was sitting when the crime happened.
- Once you have correctly identified who was sat in front of the crime token, you win!
2. The Secret Door
The Secret Door, made by Family Pastimes, is an award-winning co-operative mystery game that has been constructed to be suited for ages 5 and over – perfect for the entire family!
It can be played with between 1 and 8 players but it has been stated that 2 to 5 players are best for maximum enjoyment. Included in the box is the full-color game board, rule book, clock cards, set of valuables and the elusive secret door.
Valuables have been stolen from the mansion and your task is to find them. You will adventure around the mansion’s rooms to try and find the valuables behind the secret door before midnight.
If the clock strikes 12 – it is game over and the thieves will have made off with all of the hidden treasure!
You and your family will absolutely love playing this game, as each time it brings fresh and exciting mysteries to work together to solve. Not only will it promote teamwork, but it will also encourage creative thinking, decisive reasoning, and memory usage – a brilliant, fun tool to promote cognitive growth in your children.
- Remove three object cards from the deck.
- Mix in the rest of the object cards with the 12 clock cards.
- Place these onto the spots on the game board.
How to Play
- Play then starts with one person turning over two cards, wishing to form a match.
- Each player then takes it in turns at this point to continue turning over two cards and achieving matches.
- If a clock card is turned over, add it to the time row.
- Once the 12th clock card has been revealed, the game ends.
- At this point, all players need to decipher which three cards were removed at the beginning, based on which cards have been spotted and any pairs that have been created.
3. Betrayal at House on the Hill
Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game for those aged 12 and over. It is a perfect game for parties and family gatherings as it is designed to be played with 3-6 people.
This has been carefully crafted for those who love the build-up of suspense and excitement, as players create their spooky version of the game every time.
It is a tile game that enables you to make your own very own haunted house, each room at a time. Along the way, you will come face to face with spirits and terrifying tellings of your fate – Wizards of the Coast, the company who produced this game, has achieved the thrill of real-life haunted houses exceptionally well.
Each player will be acting as one of the 6 possible characters and, without knowing it, one of your circle will have betrayed everyone and the aim for the innocent ones is to figure out who the traitor is before time runs out.
The box includes everything you will need for gameplay namely the intricate game pieces, 6 double-sided character cards, 6 painted plastic figures, 8 dice, 30 plastic clips, rule book, 2 haunt books ( Secrets of Survival and Traitor’s Tome ) and finally, special tokens.
Taking a closer look at the components of the game, you shall notice that the ‘intricate game pieces’ come in a variety of forms which are: 44 room tiles, one entrance hall tile, 1 turn/damage track, 13 omen cards, 45 event cards and 22 item cards.
Alongside all this, the special tokens also hold many different forms too, these are 204 monster tokens, 14 event and room tokens, 12 larger monster tokens, 43 item tokens and 18 trait roll tokens.
Gameplay, as you may imagine, is fairly lengthy at roughly an hour – again, this is why it is ideal for parties and gatherings.
- Place the Secrets of Survival and Traitor’s Tome haunt books off to one side, you will not need them to start with.
- Everyone should now select a character card.
- Put 4 plastic clips onto the side of your explorer card. Ensure the clips point to the character’s starting numbers ( the green ones ) for their characteristics of might, knowledge, sanity, and speed.
- Shuffle omen cards and place face down in the middle.
- Shuffle item cards and also place face down in the middle.
- Again, shuffle the event cards too and put them face down in the center.
- Put the ‘basement landing’, ‘entrance hall’ and ‘upper landing’ room tiles left to right, suitably far apart from each other.
- Shuffle the remaining room tiles together and place face down in a large stack.
- Everyone should then find the corresponding plastic figurine and place their one in the entrance hall.
- Ensure all 8 dice are accessible for everyone.
- Find out whose character has the next birthday ( it will be written on the cards ) and this player will go first – play will then continue clockwise.
On Your Turn, You Can Either:
- Find a new room
- Roll the die
- Use items or omens
- Attack (only after ‘the haunt’ starts)
You can only move the number of spaces that is exactly equal to your character’s denoted speed rating. However, if a game effect forces you to draw a card, you cannot move again for the rest of that turn.
2. Finding a New Room
If you have moved through a doorway that doesn’t lead to another room, you need to look at the room stack’s top tile. If this tile states the name of the floor you are currently on, turn it over and add it to the doorway you have just moved through and then enter that room.
However, if the tile cannot be positioned on the floor you are on, discard it. You will then need to continue doing this until a tile appears that you can work with.
All doors are constantly open, except for the front door which you can never use unless game effects state differently.
3. Rolling The Dice
At points during gameplay, you will be asked to roll a dice. If a card explicitly says to roll a certain number of dices, do it and add the number of spots on all dice to get the final number.
Simply follow the card’s instructions after that. The same goes for if a room tile says to roll for one of your explorer’s traits except you will role the number of dice that is equal to your character’s trait figure.
4. Using Items or Omens
You can use an item once per turn and the majority of omen cards are for you to keep – except for one. During your turn, you can either drop some items and then leave an ‘Item Pile’ token in that room so other characters can pick them up, give an item to another player or pick any number from a pile.
Remember, you cannot attack until after ‘the haunt’ starts but once it has begun, you can combat once per turn with another character that is in the same room as you.
When attacking, both counterparts roll the number of dice that is equivalent to your character’s ‘Might’, whoever has the highest result is the one who inflicts the damage on their opponent.
If you have been unlucky and are the one who has taken damage, you move your ‘Might’ or ‘Speed’ trait down a number of spaces equal to the damage figure.
The game ends when one side – either the traitor or heroes – has completed their goal. At this point, someone from the winning side would read the ‘If You Win’ section of the book to the rest of the group.
There are, of course, many other rules and unique twists and turns to this game which is why it is aimed at the older child and their families. Once everyone has got the hang of it though, it truly is an intensely fun and suspenseful game for all.
4. Escape the Room Stargazer’s Manor
Another game by the brand ThinkFun! This time it is for 3-8 players who are age 10 and over, rather than a single-player gig. Not only does this provide hours fun, but it also develops children’s critical thinking and decision-making skills which will set them up well for the future.
In the box, there is everything you will need to play including the clear instruction booklet, scene card, 5 sealed envelopes with secret items hidden inside and the solution wheel.
The storyline takes you on a journey where you were, at one point, employed by the famous astronomer but were unfortunately fired after many years serving him. In the present day, your old employer is a recluse who has been holed up in his mansion with nothing but odd noises and alien-like lighting escaping from the windows.
You and your team of investigators will enter the manor in the hopes of uncovering the secrets that have been held behind these doors for so long.
How to Play
- You will find clues and solve puzzles that held in the envelopes and across the various cards.
- The game ends once you have escaped the room and solved everything or when the timer runs out.
5. Jumanji Escape Room
Jumanji Escape Room was developed by Cardinal Games and has been designed to be suited for anyone aged 10 and above. It has been made to be enjoyed by between 3-5 people at any one time and cooperative focused game.
Inside the box, you will find an electronic Chrono Decoder that provides sound effects and the timer function, a 15-minute intro game ( named The Drumming Closet ), two 60-minute adventures ( named, The Search for Jesse and Break the Curse ), hint card decoder, 8 keys, 2 sets of 8 hint cards and the rulebook.
The aim of the game, as you might imagine, is to escape the room within the allotted time frame.
How to Play
- Decipher codes to move further along in the adventure.
- Slot the correct keys into the Chrono Decoder to advance. Watch out though because if the wrong ones are entered, you will lose time!
- The end comes once you have either escaped or run out of time.
Now, for those of you who have younger children who want to be a part of a mystery game, Outfoxed! is for you. It has been designed to be played by those aged 5 and above and can be played with no less than 2-4 people at one time.
The game lasts for around 20-30 minutes so is fantastic for those children with shorter attention spans.
In this game, you will need to catch the fox before he escapes with Mrs. Plumpert’s award-winning pot pie. You will all be working together to solve the mystery by eliminating suspects one by one until you catch the naughty guy!
You will find everything you need inside the box including 16 suspect cards, 16 thief cards, 12 clue markers, 4 detective hats, 3 custom dice, 1 fox, 1 clue decoder and 1 beautifully-designed game board.
- Open out the game board and ensure everyone can reach it.
- Everyone will choose a detective hat and put it in the center of the board.
- Position the fox figurine on the start space.
- Randomly put the 16 suspect cards face down around the outside of the board.
- Turn any two of these face-up.
- Shuffle the thief cards and slide them one into the clue decoder – make sure you don’t peek! – and place all the others back into the box.
- Stack all the clue markers face down into a pile.
- Make sure everyone can reach all three dice.
How to Play
- Find out who has most recently eaten pie – this person will start and then, from then, it will continue clockwise.
- Pick up all the dice and state where you want to ‘search for clues’ or ‘reveal suspects’.
- If the dice show that you can’t do one of those two things, then the thief moves three spaces forward!
- The end of the game comes when either you think you know who the thief is and have said it aloud, you have discarded all bar one suspect card from the board or the fox arrives at the foxhole space.
Choosing ‘Search for Clues’
If all three dice show the clue icon ( paw print ) after you have taken your allocated three attempts, then you will be able to search for the clues.
To do this, add up all the footprints on the dice and move your hat that number of spaces along the board. If the space you land on shows a paw print, pick up the top clue marker and put it in the clue decoder.
Once you have done that, open it and have a look to see whether the color showing through is green or red. Green means you haven’t found a clue, whereas red means that you have. You will then be able to eliminate a face-up suspect based on what you’ve seen.
After that, you will need to close the slider and place the clue marker on the space where you landed, thus, ending your turn.
Choosing ‘Reveal Suspects’
If all three dice show the suspects icon ( eye ) after you have taken your allocated three attempts, then you will be able to reveal them.
To do this, you will turn two facedown suspect cards to the face-up position. Once this has been done, you can look at all the clue markers that are face-up and check whether or not any of them are wearing the items.
7. Spy Alley
Spy Alley has won 12 national awards including Australian Game of the Year and MENSA Select. The game was made to be played by 2-6 people aged 8 and over – it truly is fun for everyone.
You and your family will be deceiving and second-guessing all your friends and family with this one! Both the children and adults in your party will be using their deductive reasoning, body language reading and logic skills to become the best spy in the world.
Included in the box are 6 spy identification cards, scorecard, pens, cards, money, game board and finally, game markers. Everything you need to play is inside!
How to Play
- Each player assigns themselves a secret identity at the beginning.
- Everyone will then need to collect a codebook, disguise, key and password that fits their secret identity and then land on the winner’s square.
- Once you have purchased an item, you put a peg in the designated hole on your scoreboard.
- If someone states your identity before you win, you are completely out of the game. On the other hand, if they are wrong, they are totally out of the game.
- The element of bluffing comes in when you start purchasing things that you don’t need to win.
So, now you know the best mystery games for kids, you are fully equipped to go out and host the best game night ever! If you are looking for more fun games check out our would you rather questions or our charades ideas.
8. Secret Spy party
A fun game for elementary students where you can have them act as spies with 7 secret missions to finish the game.
Prepare in advance 7 brown official looking envelops and in each one write down a special secret mission for the kids to complete. A few good ideas could be:
|Finding the missing cat in the house||Who left mud in the play room|
|The missing school teacher||The mystery of the ruined flowers|
|A math quiz mission to save the day||Where does the school mascot is hiding|
The missions should not be too hard, but they do need to be played out, for example if you are playing the missing school teacher, you could have the kids follow a trail of clues around the school until they find the teacher waiting in the final destination.
The idea is to have them follow a set of clues, rules and have them thinking and trying to solve clues.
9. Easter egg math mystery game
A fun game to teach the kids about math and numbers. Use a hundred chart and a few easter eggs with random numbers inside each one. The kids need to search the house, or school and when they find each egg, they need to match the numbers inside onto the hundred chart.
A fun and easy game to set up and play with your students to help them recognize numbers faster and better.
10. Top secret
A fun game for kids to play in the class room. Have them divide into two groups, one team is the thieves and the others the agents. At the start of the game the thieves group will take candy and hide it around the class.
Once they are finish, the other group, the top spies will try and find the missing candy by asking questions and finding out clues. This is a great game to encourage team work and collaboration between the students.
11. Kids escape room challenge
We all know by now escape rooms. The idea where you are stuck in a room with a lot of different clues that you need to solve in order to escape the room.
So this is a lite version of the same, more suitable for kids, the clues should be easier and faster to figure out, but still challenging enough to make them think.
A great experience for kids and students to play together as a group and collaborate with each other.
12. Secret message
A fun and very easy game to set up and play. Basically have the kids prepare secret messages to each other using invisible ink and some papers.
The kids then need to use the techniques of revealing the ink to show the message and the one who guessed it first wins the game.
- Invisible ink pens
There are many variations of this game, but you can also use glue and sand. The way it works is that when a kid uses the glue on a white paper to write something down, because the glue is transparent, it is almost invisible.
Once they pass the papers with the messages to the other kids to try and understand the message, they can take the sand and slowly pour it on the paper, what will happen is that the sand grains will stick to the glue and reveal the words written on the paper.
13. Beach day mystery
If you can, take the kids to the beach, and have them follow the many footsteps you usually find on the wet sand to see where it leads.
Some might be of small birds or even dogs running around the beach playing, or even human foot prints that just walked around. Easy activity for kids to enjoy.
14. Backyard treasure hunt
Use one of the many printable sheets online to create a treasure map for the kids to walk around the yard and try and solve clues that will lead them to the prize at the end.
Make sure the clues are doable so they won’t give up midway. For example, leave a note next to a bathing suit that reads ” When it’s hot, I like to swim in the…” and obviously lead them to the direction of the pool for the next clue.
15. Clue board game
This is for kids who are a little older, like 8 or up. The very popular board game basically features a mystery about one of the characters being killed and the aim of the game is to collect clues and make educated guesses until you are ready to call you solved it!
The player who calls it first and gets it right will win the game.
16. Detective party
Not really a game, but more of an activity. Throw a spy theme party to the kids, ask them all to dress with their best spy outfits, have the room decorated with spy gadgets or even play the Inspector Gadget TV show theme song in the background.
Maybe throw a riddle or two in the middle of the party to make things more interesting. Just get creative about this. It’s a party.
PRO TIP – You can actually make the invitations a secret code as well that the kids need to figure out to understand the details of the party.
17. Regular puzzle game
As simple as it sounds, a regular puzzle is also a form of mystery, as you put each pieces together, you slowly reveal the entire image when all pieces are formed.
A fun activity for the kids or a family to pass some time together relaxing and having fun.
18. Secret code game
Who doesn’t like to solve secret codes. You can search online for ready made codes or just create your own and have the kids try and figure it out.
For example, you can use simple math tasks and have the result be the number of the letters to form a word.
For example: 20/2 = 10. 10 + 5 = 15. so the 15th letter of the alphabet is the letter O. and you keep going until you decode the entire word and figure out the secret message.
19. Words search game
The old familiar word search game, you can print out sheets of paper with the tables and word search on them, and have the kids try and locate as many words as possible on the sheet.
To add another element to the game, set a timer to put on a little bit of pressure on them.
20. Hide and seek detective game
A spin on the regular hide and seek game. This time though, the kids need to find hidden objects across the yard and bring them back to the counting spot.
They can only bring one object at a time, and you can also place a timer on the game to make it more hard.
Each item needs to be hidden in a place around the garden while the kids count to 100 with their eyes closed. Once they start searching the timer starts counting down to zero.
TIP – Make sure the timer is set to enough time so they can actually succeed but not too much time so it’s too easy.
21. Laser maze fun
This is a fun one! Create a maze out of lasers! Well, not real lasers obviously, but you can take pieces of confetti paper or even just colored toilet paper and stick it to each side of the room or wall creating a maze of obstacle course that the kids need to pass though.
The idea is to have them pass through without breaking the maze, each time a kid is stuck or break the maze, they are disqualified and need to start over.
A few tips to make the games more fun
- Try and add your own twist to familiar games so the kids will be surprised or challanged in new ways.
- Most games can be played with a timer or a time limit to make them more challenging.
- Don’t be afraid to let the kids solve things on their own, when kids use their brains and figure things out themselves, it’s not only a great experience, it is actually helping them to improve their problem solving skills and the more they do it, the better they will become at it as young adults.
- Remember to have fun, these are still games that meant to be fun. Don’t overdue it.