You would think that sitting at a bar drinking tasty beverages would be good enough entertainment for mankind, but we’re a species that’s easily unsatisfied. “Good enough” is never good enough for us. And so, in an evolutionary leap not unlike the first fish to walk on a sandy beach, at some point in history, a group of drunkards said, “hey, let’s whittle these sticks then throw them at the wall.” And darts was born. And it was good.
Bar games have evolved since the Egyptians invented beer and then invented throwing sharp things at the wall while drinking beer. You’ve got video games, arm wrestling, checkers…I hear there are bars in the Northeast where people drink and play cribbage. One thing remains constant throughout history, though. In order to be a proper bar game, you must be able to play the activity with only one hand. Because you have a beer in the other. This eliminates billiards. Sorry, but it takes too much concentration and physical commitment to play pool. Ditto foosball and bubble hockey. They’re all fun, but their inherent two-handedness eliminates them from proper bar game status.
While these classic drinking hole pastimes don’t pass the true Bar Game Litmus Test, we’ve found a bunch of others that prove to be ideal activities to engage in while drinking. Behold, nine of the best bar games in America.
The object here is to slide those colorful pucks down the 12-foot long table and get them to rest as close to your opponent’s wall as possible without falling over the edge into the well. Simple, but be careful—bar goers have been lost to shuffleboard for hours on end, ignoring their dates or friends in an attempt to get that puck to kiss the edge. I personally know of three divorces that arose because of shuffleboard addiction.
2. The Ring Game
It’s got a bunch of different names, but basically, there’s a metal ring on the end of a string hanging from the ceiling. You try to swing that ring onto a hook on the wall. It’s a game of fine motor skills, which is ironic considering the amount you’ll drink while playing it.
It’s kind of like shuffleboard, only more social because you stand next to your opponent. So you can really talk some trash here, as you try to get your balls as close to “the jack” as possible. It’s traditionally a lawn game, but a number of bars have installed smaller indoor courts. We call that progress.
4. Golden Tee
Okay, it’s a little bit frat boy/bro-ish, but there’s something undeniably fun about this video game that puts the power of Bubba at your fingertips. The way I see it, golf is the one thing in life where the video game version is actually better than the real life version.
5. Giant Jenga
It’s just like Jenga, but it’s six feet tall with full-sized 2×4’s as bricks. The great thing about Giant Jenga is that when you pull the wrong brick, everyone in the bar hears the crash of the timbers. There’s no hiding your shame.
6. Flip Night
I’m not sure if you’ll find Flip Night at too many bars, but you can definitely find it at the legendary Sink, in Boulder, Colorado. After 10p.m. on Mondays, you can “flip for your beer.” The bartender flips a quarter—if you guess right (heads or tails), your beer only costs a quarter. If you guess wrong, you pay full price. Win/win.
7. Spelling Buzz
I’ve only heard of one bar that does this (the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington D.C.), but every week there’s a spelling bee where drunk adults compete to spell the same words that kids try to spell in the National Spelling Bee. Fun fact: drunk adults are not good spellers.
8. Root Ball
Via Root Bar
It’s kind of like horse shoes but way more fun. You play it on a sandy court (shoes optional), and throw a “root” (it’s a ring) at a horseshoe stake, then try to hit either the root or the stake (or both) with a ball. The game was invented in a dive bar in Asheville (The Root Bar), and as far as I know it’s only played in that bar. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Root Ball takes over the world, and is played in playgrounds and bars across the land.
Via Northwest Houston Dart League
Obviously this is a classic bar game (and I’d argue one of the first ever invented), but I feel it’s become a bit overlooked and underrated in recent years. Just think about the innate awesomeness of this bar game where you drink heavily, then throw a series of sharp, flying objects through the bar. I want to meet the man or woman who invented this game and shake his or her hand.