Strong suit

Ranking iconic card games


Photo by Oren Smith

Junior Cameron Alcorn focuses on his hand of cards. He is currently playing Speed, a quick-paced and competitive card game.

Story by Zane Johnston, staff writer


Growing up, this was a word often uttered and more often heard with just a twinge of disdain. However, no matter who was saying it, it always sparked a rush of adrenaline and excitement. A similar satisfaction could always be obtained by telling someone to “go fish,” and nothing can top the rush of exhilaration I always got after declaring war.

Now that I’m older, I do not get the same thrill from those games, but I can still rely on the buzz of stealing the last spoon out from one of my friend’s desperate grasps or the sense of fulfillment after catching someone “cheat.”

We all love card games, but few can agree on which is the best. Here is a comprehensive list of the top ten most iconic and fun card games in existence, complete with a link to the rules for each.

Phase Ten

Could there be a more fitting rank for this game? Phase Ten is a great card game to play if you have a lot of time on your hands. It can drag on, but it is a game full of strategy, along with a little luck. In Phase Ten, each player tries to get through ten rounds, each with their own distinct requirements, usually involving making runs and sets.

“There are a lot of different tactics that you get to use in [Phase Ten],” sophomore Joshua Lauterbach said. “It’s also a multi-step process — you don’t just have one goal.”

Phase Ten is a fun game if you have enough time to play, but it loses points because it is a little lesser-known, and because you cannot use regular playing cards for it.


War was one of my favorites growing up; I always got so excited when I won a war. Both players start out with half of the deck, and they compete in a series of “battles” in which both flip over the top card of the deck, with the owner of the higher card taking both. If the cards are equal, the players begin a “war,” risking three cards each on a single card game. When there are few wars, this game can drag on for a long time. Despite that, war is a great way to kill time. But its complete reliance on chance along with the fact that it is almost always solely a two-player game, are reasons why it only places ninth in this ranking.


Rummy does an amazing job of staying competitive while managing not to get too intense. As the game Phase Ten was based on, it gets bonus points for being a classic. The objective is to get rid of all of the cards in your hand, usually by creating runs and sets using the cards you draw — or those that your opponents discard. You can have many players, or you can only have two. These games do have a tendency to drag on, but when they don’t, they are incredibly fun and fast-paced.


A co-op classic, spades is a great game to play when you’re feeling cooperative, rather than competitive. In this game, you and a partner get to absolutely destroy the other team, or teams, using a little strategy and a lot of luck. You and your teammate bid on how many tricks you can win, and that is how many points you will get if you do, or how many you will lose if you fail. Tricks are won by playing the highest trump card for that round or by playing the highest spade, which is a universal trump. The team that gets the most points wins the round.

This game is extra rewarding to win because you are winning as a team. However, you do need at least four players to play, and you have to have an even number. If you do have the proper amount of players, this game is fun, just make sure you have a good partner.


When no one else was there for me, solitaire always was. In all seriousness, this is a great way to stay entertained when you are not alone and do not have much else to do. You start with many of the cards face down in front of you, and you need to move the cards on top of them, with the end goal of stacking all of the cards in order, by suit. It also gains points for the convenience of not being restricted to actual playing cards, as you can easily play it on a phone or computer as well.


If the last game was a bit too slow for you, or too uncompetitive, this is a game for you. Speed is a great game for two players with short, fast-paced and extremely competitive rounds. The goal of the game is to get rid of all of the cards in your stack by placing them into one of two stacks in the middle, on top of cards above or below them in order.

This game is great if you are in a hurry and cannot take the time for a longer, more in-depth card game, or if you only have two players. However, its two greatest strengths are also its biggest weaknesses: it can only be played by two players, and it does not allow for a long game you can get really into. However, if you are looking for a shorter, faster game, you have certainly found it.

Go Fish

Can you get more iconic? We all played this game as kids. Go Fish is played through many rounds of asking a specific player if they have a certain card, with the end goal of having the most sets of matching cards. If they did not, you would “go fish” and draw one from the center. Go fish was my primary form of entertainment all throughout elementary school. Nothing could top the satisfaction I got from drawing the card I had just asked for, and I was convinced that I was the best, most strategic go fish player to ever live. Nowadays, however, most rarely do I play go fish, as it is not nearly as cutthroat or fun as most card games, but it will always hold a special place in my heart for constituting the entirety of my childhood.


Cheat is a fun, fast-paced card game centered around deception. Play goes in a circle, with each player playing the number they are required to play facedown. However, if they do not have the card, they cannot pass. They need to lie and say that they are playing the card while playing a card of a different rank. If you believe someone is lying, you call them out. If they are, they take the stack; if not, you do.

“[Cheat] is a lot of fun. It requires bluffing, which I really like,” senior Liz Formby said. “It’s a great way to spend time with a bunch of people.”

This game requires you to be tactical and tricky, and it is almost mandatory to take risks at times. This is why it’s a favorite of many, especially with large groups of people. Cheat can get very intense; nothing tops the satisfaction when you win (from a lie or otherwise), but it can be absolutely crushing to have to pick up the entire stack of cards. All in all, Cheat is a great game to play with a fairly large group of friends, especially if you only have time for a quick game.


Contrary to the name, the spoons can be replaced by about anything, just try not to lose a limb. Spoons is probably the second most intense and cutthroat game in this list, after the number one. Each player begins with a hand of four cards, with the dealer having the deck. Then, players pass cards one by one in hopes of getting four of a kind. The first to do this grab a spoon, and as soon as they do that everyone tries to do the same, with the player failing to get a spoon becoming out.

This game becomes exponentially more fun with a large number of players, but it can be incredibly fun with just three or four. This game is a fan-favorite for its intense, fast-paced nature and the high stakes of a potentially long wait if you get eliminated early on. However, this wait can also make this game pretty boring if you are not very skilled at it, as you will likely be waiting only to get out very quickly once again. Despite that, this game is incredibly fun and is especially great for large groups of people. And nothing tops the feeling of stealing a spoon right from someone’s fingertips.


Uno is number one. It is no surprise, given its continued popularity with everyone since childhood. The goal is to get rid of your hand by matching the number or color of the top card on the stack. However, this is spiced up by the addition of wild, draw two, and reverse cards to add more drama and make the game much more intense.

It is incredibly cutthroat and competitive, and it is indubitably a classic. On top of that, there are a ton of different ways to play. You can traditionally go for a slower, more classical game, which is great if you’re playing with kids. Or you can add stacking, jump-ins, and many more additional rules for a more intense, fast-paced game, as long as you’re willing the to risk the possibility of drawing sixteen cards at a time. Almost everyone has fond memories with this game, and almost everyone still loves to play it. Its only low point is that you cannot use normal playing cards for it, but that is a low price to play for such an amazing game. Uno is competitive, fast-paced, and flexible, which is why it places número uno in this list.