Backseat Player

Ten games to make your road trips funner.


This one is Anaheed’s favorite. She tried really hard to explain it to me: “GHOST is where you and someone else (or a couple someones) take turns saying letters aloud, adding the letters to a word that you’re making together. The first person whose addition creates a valid word more than 3 letters long loses. (You also cannot add a letter that doesn’t go toward a valid word, and you can be challenged on this front.) Does that make sense? You play until one person loses 5 times—every time you lose you get one of the letters that form the word GHOST for some reason that is totally arbitrary, then when you have the whole word you’ve lost. Like in the basketball game HORSE. If you’re playing with more than two people you keep going until one last person hasn’t spelled ghost yet. It has nothing to do with ghosts, though! I don’t even think a ghost would like it. Does this make any sense at all?”

Fun-ness Rating: Fun! I just tried this out on a horrible train ride in Chicago where the train was stopped on the tracks for an hour for no reason. It takes a second to understand the rules, but Anaheed’s onto something, here.

Make Out, Marry, Push Off a Cliff

This game has about a hundred different names, some of which are really dirty, but the general idea is the same. You and your car mates pick three celebrities or other people you all know of, then go around in a circle, explaining which one you’d make out with, which one you’d marry, and which one you’d push off a cliff. OBVS YOU DON’T MEAN IT and would never hurt a real person, but it’s fun anyway, especially if you choose three very good-looking celebrities and have to make a Serious Choice, factoring temperament, wittiness when being interviewed, wealth, and fashion choices into your ultimate life-or-death decision.

Fun-ness Rating: Seriously fun! You can agonize over whether Jon Hamm would make a good husband in real life. (Can you picture him playing with a golden retriever in a motor-oil-stained undershirt on the front lawn of your house in the suburbs? I can. And it’s good.) You can mull over whether Tilda Swinton would make out with you and then let you rummage through her closet afterward, or if you should push her off a cliff in favor of Emma Watson, who clearly has a patent on “adorable.” You can endlessly circle around the entire cast of Saved by the Bell—Zac, Slater, Screech? (Seems easy, right? But think looooong and hard about who’s going to really help with the dishes every night.) There are so many options to this game.

Make It Into Something

Both Dylan and Laia suggested this one. Dylan explains: “Make up stupid acronyms for the license plates you see. I’ll type a random one now. FKE923. Ok: Freak Klub Elemental 923. Also I like the game where I just yell at people.”

Fun-ness Rating: No idea. But if Dylan likes it…

20 Questions

A venerable car-ride tradition, 20 Questions is the one car game I absolutely hate, but only because I really, really suck at it. To play, you pick something—anything in the whole wide world—and your partner gets to ask you 20 questions before having to guess what it is. Start broad with your questions, like, “Is it an animal, vegetable, or mineral?” and narrow things down from there.

(To give you an idea of how terrible I am at this game, when I drove to Cleveland last month with my friend Jen, she guessed that I had chosen “stir-fry” after FOUR GUESSES. And…after 47 GUESSES [yes, she kept count], I STILL did not get that Jen had chosen “a dragon.”)

Fun-ness Rating: I hate this game. But everyone else loves it. They perk up in the car and go, “Oooh! 20 Questions!” so I guess we can rate it as Horrible Yet Extremely, Inexplicably Popular.

And finally…

Got an irritating little brother or sister? Here’s a game I fell for for a shamefully long time:

The Quiet Game.

I literally did not understand that the Quiet Game was a “game” designed to make me and my sister shut up until I was 12 YEARS OLD. Now I trust no one.

Here’s how you play: You turn to your noise-making, annoying younger sibling and say, “Hey, you wanna play the Quiet Game?” in a very excited voice. (They are going to want to play, because they love you and look up to you and think you’re so cool and trust you with their little saucer eyes full of love.) The Quiet Game is simple: first one to talk or make any kind of noise loses. The end.

Fun-ness Rating: Blissfully fun. I have played this with young friends of mine for extended periods of blessed silence lasting up to half an hour. You have to be super serious about no noise, and make stern faces at the younger players to keep them interested, but not hearing their squeaky little voices for a few minutes in a row? PRICELESS.

That’s all the car games I know! Hope you don’t need this list anytime soon! (But I bet you will.) ♦


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  • laurenniee August 20th, 2012 7:09 PM

    Guess the Pokemon is a no-brainer for me and my friends, which has led to us sending texts to each other saying “I’m thinking of a Pokemon…” and also nearly resulted in the death of somebody who chose one outside of the original #150.

    • bugaleeto August 21st, 2012 1:08 AM

      That sounds amazing! Loveeee Pokemon

  • Pollyana August 20th, 2012 7:15 PM

    I know this is off-topic but I was just perusing through the past months and reading the articles and I was just overcome with a sense of admiration and itchiness( not related to you guys, my grandma is in the room, she makes me itchy) and I just wanna say how AWESOMELY AWESOME you guys are, and that from the bottom of my tummy I love your website cuz’ its informative, funny,insightful and just full of cheese-flavored awesomesauce. KEEPS IT REAL BROS, ‘KAY? :D

    Oh lordy, I dont think there is even one period in all of that……oh well, grammar is for non-lazy people. >:>

    • lelelikeukulele August 24th, 2012 4:40 AM

      “my grandma is in the room, she makes me itchy”

      HA i am in love with this comment

  • ravenflamingo August 20th, 2012 7:17 PM

    This is so fun! Thank you Rookie!!!!

  • lylsoy August 20th, 2012 7:26 PM

    Haha- the quiet game is fabulous.

  • katrinaexplainsitall August 20th, 2012 7:44 PM

    Yayay! Too bad I won’t be able to use these on any long road trips until spring break D: Make Out, Marry, Push Off a Cliff (or as I like to call it F***, Marry, Kill) is my favorite n_n Especially when you use really unattractive people or inanimate objects as the options. People’s answers always surprise me!

  • rayfashionfreak August 20th, 2012 7:51 PM

    This is such a great list of games! My favourite is this on called Are We There Yet, its a pack of cards which have got things you would see when you’re driving with points. Its especially fun when you get super competitive and start screaming out things like “haha! i just saw a traffic cone! 2 points to me! Now I’m beating all of you!” Its also brilliant when you’ve just been travelling for so long and you just get so giggly at everything, and the card with “Find a driver with a beard” with a little picture of Santa in a car just sets you off into a half hour fit of laughter (sometimes I wonder if we have a leaking canister of laughing gas in the boot, we always seem to go absolutely mental on road trips)

    Another good one is Consequences, although its probably more suited to a train or plane journey, where you write down a girls name on a piece of paper, fold it over to hide the name, then pass it round. You then take the piece you’ve been given and write a boys name, fold it and pass it round again. You continue doing this, writing down what the girl said to the boy, what the boy said to the girl, where they met, and then what happened (or the consequence) The random combination of things you get means endless hilarity, especially if you’ve got some crazy or sick minded friends. Me and my friends have played this every week for about 7 years now and have never been bored!

  • SarahCat August 20th, 2012 8:05 PM

    The Would You Rather choices… *shrudder* Thanks for implanting those visuals into my head, Rookie! But, yeah, these are going into use on whatever my next car-trip is! When I was at camp and we were stuck on a bus, we would play 20 Questions, only the answer was always a musical.

  • noquierodecir August 20th, 2012 8:16 PM

    GHOST is one of my all time favorites! It has led to many a family fight. Usually they are enjoyable fights, though. It is a seriously clever and hilarious one.

  • I Have The Universe Reclining In My Hair August 20th, 2012 9:17 PM

    Ya know, it’s hilarious that you should post this after me and my whole family moved across country. Haha!

  • cleobea August 20th, 2012 9:22 PM

    I just got back form a long car trip to Lassen, and my family plays Alphabet *religiously*. We just play that every one competes to get from A to Z faster than everyone, using words form cars and sings around. We are so competitive about it, it becomes so much fun. Our other game is Contact, which is too had to explain here, but is so much fun! That, and songs to sing at the top of our lungs to, are what makes me love road trips

  • stefx August 20th, 2012 9:43 PM

    This list rules! Thanks!

    My favorite (because I am a loser) is the picnic game.

    “I went on a picnic and brought… Adam Sandler.”

    “I went on a picnic and brought Adam Sandler aaaand… a Bat with which to beat him senseless.”

    And each person has to list the preceding items every time for the rest of the alphabet!

    Come on, Rookies, I know you’ve heard of this one!

  • Adrienne August 20th, 2012 9:48 PM

    I love Ghost!! It’s the best game ever. Here’s another random game my family plays: you go through the alphabet and make up a person who has to have a job, pet, spouse, hobby, and live in place that all start with the same letter. For example, with A, Anna lives in Antarctica with her husband Andrew and has a pet aardvark. She enjoys arithmetic. Yeah it’s kind of stupid, but at least it’s somewhat entertaining. :P

  • Jes August 20th, 2012 10:41 PM

    A really fun, easy, two-player word game:
    On the count of three, both players say a random word. Then both of the players try to anticipate which word the other player would think of as a result of the two words said previously. The two players keep each saying a word on the count of three until they eventually say the same word.

  • Whatsername August 20th, 2012 11:33 PM

    My friends and I’s tactic for KFM {Kill, Fuck, Marry} is to pick three really annoying and awkward-looking people and laugh our asses off when the chosen one finally decides which to fuck.

    Also, 20 Questions isn’t 20 for us. We just keep throwing out questions.
    {Questions that must be asked at one point include:
    “Can you smoke it?”
    “Is it a phallic symbol?”
    “Could you kill someone with it?”}

  • FlaG August 21st, 2012 1:34 AM

    I played the Celebrity Game with some friends from uni, except we used band names. We gained some momentum and went on for a while, but eventually came to a halt after we went through all band names/singers that began with ‘A’. Super fun though.

    Did I mention we were in the student lounge, and not in a moving vehicle?

  • Susann August 21st, 2012 2:38 AM

    Love this! I really feel like playing “Would You Rather” right now..!

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • marmella August 21st, 2012 3:20 AM

    When I’m in the car I like to look out the window and pretend I’m rolling everything up into a katamari.

  • A girl called Alex August 21st, 2012 5:14 AM

    There is something almost magical about roadtrips, that sort of wild abandon and sense of discovery.
    But man, car sickness is the pits

  • sneakybacon August 21st, 2012 5:39 AM

    if you have paper, then MASH?! you write MASH at the top (Mansion, apartment, shack, house) and then in a rough circle you list 5 names, 5 numbers, 5 cars/pets/jobs/hairstyles and then pick a random number which you start from M in mash and count round in that number, crossing off everything that falls under 5, then when one is left in each category, that becomes your future

  • ivoire August 21st, 2012 7:26 AM

    omg what i love to do is stare out the window and pretend a skate boarder is jumping over things and riding the electrical lines omg im so weird

    • karastarr32 August 30th, 2012 12:54 PM

      OMG I thought I was the only one!

  • Marguerite August 21st, 2012 8:14 AM

    When I’m in the US I try to see license plates from all the states even Hawaii and Alaska, I actually found them all on my trip to Yellowstone.

  • NickyLarson August 21st, 2012 8:41 AM

    I love that you imagine cutting everything in half along the road, I do it all the time! In fact sometimes I have trouble stopping it.

    I remember playing a version of the celebrity game with songs instead and words instead of letters (hmmm is that even the same game now?), you sing a part of a song and your travel-mate has to sing another song that contains a word from what you just sang, and so on. It’s quite funny because my friends and I were all terrible singers.

  • wallflower152 August 21st, 2012 9:55 AM

    The license plate acronym game is the best! It kept me and my bf entertained while stuck in traffic for an hour. It gets even funnier if you try to make phrases out of words on signs or names of businesses. Saw a sign for 35 SOUTH–Sometimes Ostriches Undress Their Homies. A game I played when I was younger was: when you first get in the car make a list of random/crazy things you could possibly see on the road, cross them out as you see them. Me and my sister like making funny faces and smashing our faces at other cars and seeing their reactions. And of course f* one, marry one, kill one.

  • lilghostie August 21st, 2012 11:26 AM

    ok, super weird but my best friend and i were able to combine would you rather and marry bury fuck to create this really weird game called triple wheelchair!! basically the point of the game is which combination of two people would you rather be in a triple wheelchair in which you have to sit in the middle for the rest of your life. the game isn’t very p.c. but it can be really fun making up weird combinations of people you know. for instance would you rather be in a triple wheelchair with kim k and paris or a triple wheelchair with both of your parents. obviously these examples are lame but the possibilities are endless!!

  • Lucille August 21st, 2012 12:10 PM

    OH, thank you so much! Now I’ll never be bored in car ever again.
    True, I try to make my long trips shorter by taking pictures of my feet and face and sis(who always freaks out when she take my camera and see herself sleeping with her mouth open) but after taking so many pics I feel sick, so dad always has to stop the car just to let me out to vomit.
    I’ll try all of these!

  • Alex S. August 21st, 2012 1:07 PM

    I love to do riddles to pass the time. My favorite one to play is “I love coffee but hate Tea”.

    You basically can say you love anything as long as it DOESN’T have the letter ‘T’, and you can hate anything as long as it DOES have the letter ‘T’. It’s fun to try making what you say compare to each other in some way so the person trying to solve the riddle doesn’t notice.

    Examples: “I love bugs but haye insecTs”, “I love laughing but hate laughTer”, “I love sex but hate sex educaTion”, you get the gist.

    Warning: This game may cause uncontrollable feelings of power among the game starter while watching people playing suffer and has potential to annoy/frustrate them. Have fun!

  • Yayo August 21st, 2012 7:15 PM

    I love these (:

    I’m also desperate to know more about Dylan’s yelling at people game is. Sounds great.

  • Pashupati August 21st, 2012 7:47 PM

    Jamie Foxx -> Xavier Naidoo
    You’re welcome! I just screwed your winning plans, though, but it made me feel smart.

  • LeatherStuddedFae August 22nd, 2012 2:12 AM

    Ugh! I totally need this. I can’t stand a long-hour drive with my whole family squeezed into an average-sized car while I could feel my butt heating up. XD

  • EmmaAmerica August 22nd, 2012 7:04 AM

    ‘imagine you have a giant scythe or a big laser sword and that you’re cutting everything you drive by neatly in half.’

    OH MY GOODNESS. I totally do that. All the time. So many hours of road trips have been spent doing that. And I’m super happy that I’m not the only one, cause everyone always looks at me funny when I explain it… :) :) :)

  • allycat927 August 22nd, 2012 12:28 PM

    OMG. i thought i was the only one who imagined the giant knife cutting everything in half!

    • Me August 23rd, 2012 9:12 PM

      Me too! Then I read that bit and my jaw dropped. I’m glad I’m not completely weird!

  • Ivory August 24th, 2012 9:02 PM

    OMG! I thought I was the only one who did the cut-in-half thingy when I was driving! How funny!

  • Rae0320 August 25th, 2012 7:49 AM

    I played a game on my road trip across America that involved caravans and trailers with cheesy brand names (they always have names – ‘Storm’, ‘Crusader’, ‘Rapier’, ‘Voyager’, ‘Finesse’, ‘Radiance’ etc etc.)

    Basically whenever you see one on the road you have to shout out the name. And put Anal in front of it.

    Anal Storm, Anal Crusader, and so on. Its childish. There is no point to it. There are no winners. But its fun. It gets even more fun if you are in a camp site full of them.

  • karastarr32 August 30th, 2012 12:52 PM

    Omigosh just got back from holiday. My friend Maddie and I played Make Out Marry Push Off a Cliff- only we played the Geordie version: Tash, Bang, Avoid. Great fun, except for when your 8 year old cousin asks what Bang and Tash are…. :)