The best texting games

Smartphones are more powerful than ever, and that means gaming on phones has never been better. It wasn’t always possible to play graphically intensive games on a phone. In fact, believe it or not, there was a time SMS texting games were all the rage, and they still are for some.

Whether it’s because of finances, availability, or stubbornness, many people have chosen to forgo the commonplace smartphone in favor of more traditional offerings from major retailers. Just because you possess a so-called “dumb phone,” though, doesn’t mean you can’t tap into social gaming on the go. Even primitive devices come equipped with text messaging.

But what are the best texting games? Here are our picks for the best texting games to relive your adolescent youth or simply enjoy the underwhelming simplicity of SMS messages. If you decide you want to play something more graphically intensive, check out the best Android games or the best iPhone games for some great suggestions.

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Fortunately, Unfortunately is a simple, fun, improvisational game with few rules and limitless possibilities.

Players take turns telling a story, alternating between fortunate and unfortunate statements. As with Exquisite corpse or other such improv games, Fortunately, Unfortunately forces players to be creative while still working within the framework that has been passed to them. It works best with an odd number of players, so that people get to do both fortunate and unfortunate statements.

Example: In a three-player game, Player 1 starts the story, saying “Jeff woke up, showered, got dressed, and left to catch the bus to work, as he does every day.” Player 2 then says, “Unfortunately, the bus’s engine broke down right as it got to Jeff’s stop.” Player 3 then says “Fortunately, there was an unchained bike nearby that Jeff stole for the day.” Player continues with an “unfortunate” statement, and the cycle continues.

20 Questions

Twenty Questions was a 19th-century, spoken parlor game well before the radio and television show hit American airwaves decades later. It’s a classic game of deductive reasoning and quick-hit creativity, requiring no more than two people and as little or as much time as the players set. The premise is simple: One person chooses an object or person while the other attempts to guess it in 20 questions or less.

Once the subject is chosen, the opposite player sends a series of questions via text, ideally narrowing down the subject through the corresponding yes-or-no answers. Example — Say you’ve chosen Morgan Freeman as your subject. The player opposite you may ask, “Are you an animal?” You would respond negatively and they would move on to another question, such as “Are you a human being?” Considering you’re Morgan Freeman, you would reply with “yes.” The game continues in a similar manner until the player guesses the correct answer or surpasses 20 questions, whichever comes first.

Morgan Freeman is far too easy. Pick something harder.

Would You Rather

Would You Rather may not be a game built on the moral and ethical quandaries we’re forced to face on a day-to-day basis — at least I hope not — but it will certainly reveal the nature of your character. The basic premise is this: One person asks “would you rather …” followed by two differing hypothetical scenarios.

The options can be as interrelated or as distant as you want them to be, but the two scenarios should carry equal weight if possible. Try to be creative in your questioning and avoid clarifying questions. Also, remember the best questions are the ones usually depicting two uncomfortable and equally terrible scenarios.

Examples: The WYR possibilities are virtually endless, allowing users to make the game as simple or harrowing as they want it to be. We’ve presented a few potential conundrums below, but Redditors have taken the game to an entirely new level. Pssh, and I thought I was creative. “Would you rather fight a hundred duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?” (Here’s the right answer.)

“Would you rather talk like Jar Jar Binks, or look like Jar Jar Binks?” “Would you rather change gender every time you sneeze, or not be able to tell the difference between a muffin and a baby?”

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever, sometimes known as 10 Fingers, is that borderline inappropriate game you drunkenly played in the hot tub once with your prospective boyfriend or girlfriend. It usually involves several players and drinking copious amounts of alcohol, but you can just as easily play it sober with two people via text.

Begin by setting a specific number of lives, often represented by fingers when played in person, and any other additional rules you’d like to include. Players then take turns making statements of things they’ve never done before, hence the title of the game. The opposite player loses a point whenever a statement is made that contradicts his or her own experiences.

Though uncommon, some rules specify the person who loses a point must provide a detailed account of why he or she is doing so. According to one American college student quoted on Wikipedia, NHIE and similar games “reveal interesting things about the participants and help build friendships.” The attribution is questionable, but the game does often reveal deep-seated secrets about your friends that you may, or may not, want to know. Somehow, I’ve found the game always manages to have an overly sexual tone, but I’d advise you against taking gender-oriented cheap shots.

A guy shouldn’t lose a point just because he’s kissed a girl — just saying. Example: Assuming it’s your turn, you might say: “Never have I ever been skinny-dipping.” If the person opposite you has gone skinny-dipping, they would lose a point and then proceed in making a statement of his or her own. The game continues in a similar fashion until one player loses all of his or her points.

Name Game

The Name Game is rather tedious in the long run, but I’ll be darned if it’s not one of the biggest time-wasters of all time.

Played in elementary school classrooms and road-tripping minivans across the United States, it’s a simple spelling game derived from words on a particular topic. Players choose a topic, such as famous actors and actresses, and then select which player will go first. Once chosen, the first player chooses and says a word.

Following suit, the second player says a word that begins with the last letter of the opposite player’s previous word. The game can carry on indefinitely depending on player knowledge, so it’s often best to set a few ground rules prior to initiating the game. We suggest setting a specific time limit in which players can respond or narrowing the chosen topic to make the game difficult.

Example: Say your opponent and you have chosen the topic of famous actors who have been featured in superhero movies. You might begin by saying “Chris Pine” — an obvious nod to his role in Wonder Woman — while your opponent might follow with “Edward Norton,” who starred in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. The game continues in the same vein until one of the players can no longer name a follow-up person or subject word.

Story Time

They often say two heads are better than one, and though I don’t always agree, collaborative writing can be one of the most intriguing and inventive forms of writing in existence.

With Story Time, one person begins by texting the beginning word, phrase, or sentence to his or her collaborative partner. Once done, the other player reciprocates with another word, phrase, or sentence that directly builds off the narrative begun by the first player. Whether the resulting story is terrific or horrendous, a shotgun of a story or an epic, the back-and-forth prose eventually builds a potentially cohesive plot line via a series of text messages.

The flow and style are never as eloquent or seamless as they would be if crafted by a single writer, but the capacity for unforeseen twists and the shroud of mystery surrounding the next phrase or sentence is often compelling enough to keep it going. Feel free to add restrictions, such as a specified word count per text or other structural elements hindering people from spouting off the first thing that comes to mind. I mean, have you read any self-published ebooks recently?

I think you catch my drift. Example: Let’s take the classic fairytale route for example. You might send a text with one of the most cliche lines of literary lore,”Once upon a time.” Building on what you said, the other player might follow with “there lived a lonely typist who never spoke.” I admit it’s probably not the most exhilarating or enticing story introduction you’ve ever heard, but it’s a start.

Afterward, you would respond with another phrase, then your partner, then you … and so on and so forth.

Take a Trip

Start by writing “I am going to ____, and I am taking ___.” Both players have to say this sentence by filling the blanks with words starting with the letter a, and working their way through the alphabet all the way to the letter z.

Example: One player can say “I am going to Australia, and I am taking asprin.” Then the next player has to think of words with the letter B and so on.

The first player to get stumped loses the game.

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