Text away: 20 free texting games you can play with your friends - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Text away: 20 free texting games you can play with your friends

By Will Nicol

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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 clich 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.


Abbreviations may very well be the most difficult game on our entire list. The series of letters essentially serve as acronyms, formed by the initial components in a particular phrase or word using the individual letters that begin each word. With Abbreviations, you first choose a phrase summarizing your current activity or simply a phrase you’d like to utilize for the game. Then you take the first letter of each word in the phrase and combine them to form an acronym, which you then tell to your opponent before letting them try to guess what the newly-minted abbreviation stands for. Hints and variations on the game, such as offering more than just the first letter of each word, are often welcome given how hard it can be. The winner is whoever can stump their opponent.

Example: If you’re “grabbing a beer downtown,” for instance, you would present your opponent with the abbreviation “GABD.” They would then attempt to guess what the acronym stands for, and if they fail to do so in an acceptable amount of time, you’re the winner. Again, you may want to offer up hints considering how open-ended an acronym such as “GABD” is. “Giggling about barking dalmatians,” anyone?

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Even if you don’t think Footloose was Kevin’s Bacon’s finest work, it’s tough to argue the merits of Apollo 13 and the much of the Hollywood actor’s prolific film rsum. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a renowned trivia game based on the Six Degrees of Separation concept, which stipulates that any two people on the planet can be linked to one another within a maximum of six steps. In the Bacon rendition, one of the two people is Bacon by default. The game, originally created in 1994 by three Albright College students, can be played over text just as easily as any other method. To begin, one player presents his or her opponent with Bacon and another, arbitrary actor or actress that can be linked to the former within six steps. His or her opponent then tries to link the two people by specifying their connection, based on their roles with fellow actors and actresses, in as few as links as possible. Although the entire game revolves around the notion that Bacon is the most connected man in the industry, some claim Sean Connery is actually closer to the center of the Hollywood universe. Regardless, feel free to substitute any actor or actress in place of Bacon.

Example: Suppose your opponent presents you with Kevin Bacon and Justin Bieber. You might say Bieber was recently depicted as an alien in Men in Black III with Mike Colter, who also starred alongside Bacon in Taking Chance, a 2009 historical drama based around on the experiences of a Marine in the Iraq War. That would make the Biebs have a Bacon number of two. Google it.


Categories sometimes goes by “List Builder,” but they’re essentially the same game regardless of which name you prefer. To begin, one or both players decide on a particular category or genre, whether it be Japanese car brands or feature-length films starring Ben Stiller, before sounding off different items that fit within the chosen category. You can always implement additional rules if you want to make the game more difficult, such as requiring answers to start with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet or with the same letter as the previous answer ended with. It’s best to choose a category with a finite number of plausible answers, though, otherwise the game can continue on for ages. As you might expect, the winner is the last person to come up with an appropriate answer that fits within the confines of the rules (without doing any research).

Example: Say you and your opponent settled on the aforementioned category regarding Ben Stiller’s filmography. Whereas your opponent might begin with a cult classic such as Zoolander or Tropic Thunder, you might follow up with Meet the Parents or the severely underrated Heavyweights — the latter of which truly only serves as Stiller’s warm-up for his role as the ego-centric White Goodman in Dodgeball.


Rhyme may be most well-known to college kids with an affinity for Kings Cup, but that doesn’t make it any less suitable for gaming on the go. To begin, one person enters a word or phrase to which the second person must respond. The next person must always follow up with a phrase that rhymes with the previous response. Players continue to go back-and-forth in a similar manner until one player can no longer come up with an appropriate response that rhymes, thus deciding the victor. And believe it or not, there are words that rhyme with or “orange” and “silver,” so try not to feel cheeky quite yet.

Example: Your opponent may begin with the phrase, “today, I’m taking the bus and riding downtown.” Afterward, you might respond with: “making my way home and coverin’ some ground.” Sure, our example may not be the best out there, but it’s still a million times better than Little Wayne’s 2010 flop of an album, Rebirth. You get the point.


Texting is all about words, so why not increase your Scrabble-esque vocabulary skills in the process? With Breakdown, players must break apart a word and rearrange its letters to create as many different word combinations as possible within an allotted time frame. There’s not much to it — one player presents the word via text and his or her opponent replies with a series of words that can be constructed using the letters from the aforementioned word — but you always incorporate more restrictive rules, such as point values based on word length, if you find it too easy or seek a greater challenge. The winner depends on who manages to create the most legitimate number of words within the time frame and a specified number of rounds. Although not always the case, longer words often present a greater opportunity for reconstruction and more resulting word choices.

Example: Imagine your opponent presented you with the word “cornucopia” via text. You would begin rattling off as many words as you can muster that can be configured from the letters in cornucopia (i.e., corn, pun, piano). You would continue doing so until the allotted time runs out or you’ve completely blanked on new words. Your opponent would then tally the results before you present him with a word of your choice and the game continues.


It’s hard to imagine playing Hangman without the crudely drawn stick figure, the looming gallows, and the unevenly spaced underscores placed directly beneath. But the presumed Victorian-era word game can easily be played using text messages if you lay the initial groundwork and rules beforehand. Once the player going first has been determined, he or she texts his or her opponent a series of underscores representing the number of letters in the chosen word. The other player then responds with a letter he or she believes might be in the word. If the guess is correct, the player who chose the initial word replies with the underscores, this time filling in the correctly guessed letter. If the guess is wrong, the player who chose the initial word replies with the number of guesses that remain based upon the rules specified prior to beginning the game. The game is over when either the word is correctly guessed or no guesses remain. We recommend beginning your guesses with strictly vowels or some of most commonly found letters in the English dictionary (e, t, a, o, i, n, s, h, r, d, l, and u).

Example: It’s been determined that you are to choose first and you’ve chosen “jazz” as your first word. Your text would, therefore, consist of four underscores indicating the four letters in the word (” _ _ _ _”), to which your opponent would reply with a letter. If he or she correctly guessed the letter “a,” you would respond with “_ a _ _,” but if he or she guesses incorrectly, you would likely respond with “four guesses remain” or something along those lines. The game would continue back and forth until your opponent correctly guessed the word or subsequently ran out of guesses.


Ghost is for all the spelling aficionados out there, and it’s one that anyone who’s endured a family road trip likely knows. Like nearly all texting games on our list, it’s played back-and-forth between two people or a small handful of players. The goal of the word game is to add letters to a growing word fragment without actually completing a valid word. You can set additional parameters, such as a specified word length or category in which the word must fall, but you always must have a word in mind when playing. Each player adds a letter, one after the other, and the person who completes the word receives a “g.” The game continues in a similar manner until one player receives all the letters in the word “ghost,” similar to the game of “Horse.”

Example: Say you started with the letter “h.” Your opponent may then respond with the letter “u,” to which you reply with “l.” If they then happen to play the letter “k” or “l,” for example, they would receive the first letter in “ghost” or whichever letter comes next when spelling the word.


A variation on Ghost, Lexicant (also known as Superghost) works basically the same way, with one important change: Players can add letters to either the end or beginning of the word. This opens up the strategy a lot, which is great, as normal Ghost is a game a lot of people have “solved.” If the other player adds a letter, and you think that the current string of letters can’t actually result in a word, you can challenge them to finish the word. If they can’t, they lose, but if they do, the challenger loses.


The beauty of cell phones is the sheer amount of freedom they afford — after all, you can use them virtually anywhere with the right network. Location is a game that’s built on said possibilities, one which requires your opponent to guess your location based on a set of hints you provide. To begin, examine your immediate surroundings and make note of anything that might be unique to that particular environment, such as a chalkboard, a massage table, or anything else that better helps define your location. Your opponent, or opponents, then guess where you might be, using your hints as the premise. You can be as vague or specific as you like when offering clues, or place a cap on the number of allowed guesses. Once your opponent has answered correctly, or if you’ve managed to stump him or her, allow them to have a go. It’s essentially like I Spy, only you’re describing a location instead of an object.

Example: Let’s assume you’re sitting in an ice cream parlor downtown. You might mention the sheer amount of candy at your disposal, or the lengthy counter abutting your arm. You may also allude to the group of manic children frantically running around, or if your opponent is still stumped, the Hoth-like temperature of the room. Continue giving similar or more specific clues until your opponent guesses correctly, or until they’ve had enough. Afterward, switch positions.

Correct the Spelling

This is a simple game that you can play with anyone, including your children. The objective is to make a riddle using jumbled words. Give a clue to the other players and then give them the jumbled word. The other players take turns trying to solve it.

Example: You can give the other players words like aluji btrreso (celebrity). The answer, of course, is Julia Roberts.

Stack Words

This game can last for days or even weeks. You choose a category and text the other players a word that fits into the category. The next player has to text another word to the group that starts with the last letter of the word you texted. After that, the third person texts back a word that starts with the last letter of the word the second person texted, and so on. As players get stumped, they lose their place until there is only one player standing.

Example: Let’s say that you’ve chosen fruit as a category. You’d start by texting the word Apple. The next player can text Elderberry, and so on.

Finish the Sentence

First, decide on a time limit. You can make the time limit as short as you want to, but be reasonable. Now, text only part of a sentence to the other player. The other player has to text back the rest of the sentence, but the challenge is that this player has to use the same amount of words that you used. Keep going until the time runs out and see if you can stump the other player. After the time runs out, you can switch places, and the other player can be the one to start the sentence.

Example: You can start by texting: “My sister gave me ___.” Now, the other player has to finish this sentence using four words. A good reply would be something like “a pair of shoes.”

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