The 13 Best Island Board Games, Ranked

The island theme is one of the coolest in board games. Here are our favorite games that take place on an island!
The 13 Best Island Board Games, Ranked

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In board gaming, some themes have truly been done to death, including zombies, Cthulhu, generic fantasy, and European farms. Other themes may feel overdone but are actually uncommon.

The island theme is one such example. You can probably name one or two games right off the top of your head—maybe Catan springs to mind—but it gets hard pretty quickly.

And that's a shame because the island theme is one of my favorites. There's something equally beautiful yet thrilling about being on an island, isolated from the world and surrounded by majestic waters.

The island is a fantastic setting that evokes primal emotions. Here are my picks for the best island board games that play really well!

13. Forbidden Island

Designed by Matt Leacock

Supports 1 to 4 players

About 20 to 30 minutes

6.8 on BGG

Many hobby board gamers shrug off Forbidden Island as too easy, too simple, too uninteresting. But for someone who hasn't played many board games, it's still one of the best entry points.

Not only is Forbidden Island mechanically straightforward, and not only is it a fantastic introduction to cooperative board games, but it really brings the theme of a sinking island to life.

You're constantly trying to save flooded parts of the island, hoping to buy everyone enough time to collect all the treasures and make it to the escape helicopter before it all sinks forever. It's tense and fun!

12. Rapa Nui

Designed by Fabrice Besson and Guillaume Montiage

Supports 2 to 4 players

About 45 to 60 minutes

6.9 on BGG

Rapa Nui is the indigenous name for Easter Island. You know, the famous island with those huge stone Moai statues that were carved centuries ago by natives? Rapa Nui is a board game about that island!

You play as tribal chiefs who are vying to gather resources, erect Moai statues, and make offerings to your ancestors for points.

All of this is done using route networks of villagers to transport your Moai statues, and you can use another player's villagers to aid in transport if you pay them resources in exchange.

Rapa Nui is a relatively fast Euro-style board game with an interesting theme that hasn't been done very often. If you find the history of Easter Island compelling, you should check this one out.

11. Palm Island

Designed by Jon Mietling

Supports 1 to 2 players

About 10 to 20 minutes

7.1 on BGG

Palm Island might just be the most relaxing island board game ever made. It's essentially a resource conversion puzzle with a neat twist: the entire game is only 17 cards.

All of those cards are double sided, and each side has two halves. As you go through the deck, you can use tap cards as resources and then spend resources to rotate and flip other cards to their upgraded sides. The game ends when you cycle through the deck too many times.

What's genius about Palm Island is that it literally fits in the palm of your hand. You don't need a table to play it, so it's one of the best travel board games of all time—doubly so if you're heading to an island yourself.

10. Tavarua

Designed by Cody Miller

Supports 1 to 6 players

About 30 to 60 minutes

7.2 on BGG

Tavarua is a surfing board game—a theme you've probably never seen in a board game before! And while it's technically a coastline rather than a full-on island, it certainly captures the same vibes.

In this game, you're paddling out to sea, catching waves as they break, then riding those waves back to shore while trying to maintain balance on your board. You do this on both a short board and a long board, and whoever rides best is the winner.

While Tavarua has some flaws, it's such a cool concept and it has great artwork and components that successfully transport you to the tropics. You'll feel like you're actually surfing the seas!

9. Jamaica

Designed by Malcolm Braff, Bruno Cathala, and Sébastien Pauchon

Supports 2 to 6 players

About 30 to 60 minutes

7.1 on BGG

Jamaica is a pirate-themed racing game where you sail around the island of Jamaica and earn gold depending on how well you place. But the goal isn't to place first—it's to earn the most gold.

While placing first might earn you gold, you can also earn gold by completing side goals during the race and by stealing gold from other players along the way.

All of this makes for a thrilling experience as everyone sails around Jamaica, pursues side goals, and clashes with each other. Situations can change up to the very end and victory will go to whoever best manages their gold despite all the chaos and incursions.

8. Treasure Island

Designed by Marc Paquien

Supports 2 to 5 players

About 45 to 60 minutes

7.2 on BGG

Treasure Island is a one-versus-all board game of bluffing and deduction. One player is Long John Silver who's being interrogated for the location of his buried treasure. By whom? By everyone else!

The Long John Silver player will need to bluff and misdirect the other players while working on his own escape, at which point he will need to find his own treasure and get away with it.

You'll all be exploring the island and its points of interest, which really feels like a hunt for buried treasure. As a one-versus-all experience, Treasure Island is one of the more unique island board games.

7. Juicy Fruits

Designed by Christian Stöhr

Supports 1 to 4 players

About 30 to 60 minutes

7.1 on BGG

Juicy Fruits is a game where every player manages their own island and tries to build it up into the most successful of all islands—by growing fruit, shipping it off via boats, and building businesses on land.

At its heart, Juicy Fruits is an efficiency puzzle that's built on a mechanic that's reminiscent of slide puzzles: your island is a grid where you can slide fruit tokens around. Every time you slide a fruit, you harvest fruits equal to the number of spaces it slid.

The other half of Juicy Fruits is a balancing act between shipping off boats to open up more space on your island (to slide fruits more freely) and building businesses (which restrict fruits from sliding).

Juicy Fruits is one of the best island board games because you're fully in control of your own island—no one else can influence it—and you really feel like the success of your paradise is in your own hands.

6. Whale Riders

Designed by Reiner Knizia

Supports 2 to 6 players

About 30 to 45 minutes

7.1 on BGG

Okay, technically Whale Riders doesn't take place on an island—you play as whale riders going up and down an icy coast, buying goods from various ports and using them to fulfill contracts at other ports.

But even though it doesn't take place on an island, Whale Riders evokes a lot of the same feelings with its setting. The board could've easily been an island with you riding in a circle around it!

For lightweight game about resource management, Whale Riders is a top pick for me. It feels a lot like Ticket to Ride and Splendor had a baby with condensed gameplay that's done in 45 minutes!

5. Survive! Escape From Atlantis

Designed by Julian Courtland-Smith

Supports 2 to 4 players

About 45 to 60 minutes

7.3 on BGG

Survive! Escape From Atlantis is one of the best take-that board games for families. It's easy to learn, easy to play, and makes for a silly and raucous time—as long as no one in your group is a sore loser.

In this game, everyone has 10 people scattered across a sinking island. The waters around the island are infested with sharks, whales, and sea monsters. Your goal is to get your people off the island and to the safety of the mainland by using boats.

The twist is that is everyone controls their own people AND all the creatures in the water. They can crush your boats and sink your people into the sea—and you can do the same to them!

Not all of your people will survive, but that's what makes Survive! Escape From Atlantis so fun. It really captures the frantic chaos of trying to navigate disaster and make it out alive.

4. Atlantis Rising (Second Edition)

Designed by Galen Ciscell and Brent Dickman

Supports 1 to 7 players

About 60 to 120 minutes

7.6 on BGG

Atlantis Rising (Second Edition) is a cooperative board game where you're all working together to survive long enough and escape the island before it sinks. To do that, you need to gather resources and build the cosmic gate while areas of the island are flooded.

Does that sound like Forbidden Island? It does! But that's where the similarities end. Not only is Atlantis Rising (Second Edition) more complex and demanding, it's more fulfilling when you win.

This is one of the best cooperative worker placement games, primarily because you really feel the tension and pressure to work together. The push-your-luck elements ramp it up that much further!

3. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

Designed by Joanna Kijanka and Ignacy Trzewiczek

Supports 1 to 4 players

About 60 to 120 minutes

7.8 on BGG

Survival board games are a dime a dozen, but none can match the sheer immersion and depth of the classic Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island. Surviving a desert island has never been this hard.

In this epic cooperative game, you'll have to do everything: build shelter, craft tools, hunt animals, endure weather—all for nothing more than to live another day. Then again, there are different scenarios that each twist the gameplay in their own unique ways.

It's true what they say about Robinson Crusoe: the rules are clunky, the gameplay is convoluted, the game takes up a lot of table space. But if you want the ultimate desert island survival experience, this is it!

2. Dinosaur Island

Designed by Jonathan Gilmour and Brian Lewis

Supports 1 to 4 players

About 90 to 150 minutes

7.6 on BGG

In Dinosaur Island, you're in charge of your own island theme park—consisting of extinct dinosaurs brought back to life! It's basically Jurassic Park in board game form without the name.

You'll be researching DNA sequences, collecting DNA samples, and turning DNA into live dinosaurs. Those dinosaurs will be used to make your park more attractive to visitors.

Of course, if you aren't safe and responsible, your dinosaurs may break out and wreak havoc, which will NOT bode well for you! But if you play it too safe, your park won't be thrilling enough.

Dinosaur Island is an epic game with lots of moving parts, but they sum up to deliver an experience unlike any other. It's truly one of the greatest and most memorable island board games ever made.

1. Spirit Island

Designed by R. Eric Reuss

Supports 1 to 4 players

About 90 to 120 minutes

8.4 on BGG

Spirit Island is the ultimate island board game. You aren't just playing on an island—you're playing as the island. Specifically, you take on the role of island Spirits who can manifest their powers in many ways.

Invaders are colonizing the island and spreading Blight across the lands. You must work with the native islanders to fend off the invaders. Of course, it's not that easy—even as you kill them off, they just keep coming round after round like an incessant plague.

You'll grow more powerful with time, which makes it easier to deal with their growing encroachments. Ultimately, you want to strike so much fear into their hearts that they decide to abandon the island altogether.

Spirit Island is thematic, complex, replayable, with rules that aren't too hard to grasp but pave the way for incredibly deep and tough decisions. No other island board game makes you so invested in protecting the very island that is your home.