Our final answer: TV's 25 greatest game shows
Survey says these are EW's favorite game shows
Game shows have been a TV staple since before TV was TV, going all the way back to the days of radio. Clearly, we haven’t gotten sick of them — many of the formats and shows from those early days are still being watched and enjoyed in some form. But which of the many, many panels, sweeps, puzzles, and quizzes out there rank among the best of the best? Here are EW’s picks for the best game shows of all time.
Card Sharks (1978-1981, 1986-1989, 2001, 2019-current)
One of the more convoluted game show setups — though no less delightful for it — Card Sharks sees contestants trying to guess answers to questions like “How many of the 100 married women we surveyed lived with their spouse before they tied the knot?” One contestant guesses a number; the other guesses if it’s higher or lower. Whoever wins flips over a series of playing cards on the game board, trying to guess if the next card will be higher or lower in value than the last. ABC also brought back this show recently, with the amusingly smarmy Joel McHale as host.
Cash Cab (2005-current)
What if Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but in a taxi? That’s basically the premise of Cash Cab, which sees New Yorkers attempt to answer trivia questions for dough while host Ben Bailey drives them up or downtown. It’s an entertaining and potentially profitable way to pass the time in traffic — but if players give three wrong answers, they’re kicked to the curb. Still, we probably know some New Yorkers who’ve had worse cab rides.
The Chase (2013-2015, 2021-current)
Despite what the title might seem to indicate, there’s no physical exertion required on The Chase — but mental exertion is another story. Each episode pits three contestants against a trivia expert, known as the Chaser, in a fast-paced game of knowledge. Each player must answer enough questions correctly to stay ahead of the Chaser on the game board and bank cash for their team, or they leave empty-handed. And then whoever is left competes in the Final Chase, answering even more questions, before the Chaser attempts to answer the same number of questions correctly to "catch" the team. We promise it’s much easier to follow in practice. A new edition of the series featuring Jeopardy GOATs James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter recently debuted on ABC, but the earlier Game Show Network version is a delight as well, if mostly thanks to the sharp tongue and merciless demeanor of Chaser Mark “The Beast” Labbett.
Classic Concentration (1987-1991)
Yet another one hosted by Alex Trebek! In order to win this game show, which was an update of the 1958-73 version called Concentration, contestants had to match cards on a screen that would subsequently reveal a picture puzzle (a.k.a. a rebus). Whoever solved the puzzle got a chance to win one of the cars placed prominently on display in the studio.
The Dating Game (1964-1974, 1978-1980, 1986-1989, 1996-1999, 2021-current)
Another gem from Gong Show creator Chuck Barris, the much-revived Dating Game features eligible bachelors or bachelorettes questioning three anonymous contestants, and selecting one for a date at the end of the show. The original version, which ran on ABC from 1965 to 1973, sometimes featured established performers, including Dusty Springfield, Ron Howard, and Sally Field, as well as future stars before they were famous, such as Farrah Fawcett, Burt Reynolds, and Suzanne Somers. An upcoming reboot, hosted by Zooey Deschanel and Michael Bolton, will air on (you guessed it) ABC and consist entirely of celebrity contestants.
Deal or No Deal (2005-2009, 2018-2019)
Double Dare (1986-1993, 2000, 2018-2019)
The messiest — or should we say slimiest? — of all the game shows on our list, this Nickelodeon hit combined physical challenges (like spraying whipped cream into a cup your partner held in his mouth) and obstacle courses (which included sliding down a life-size tongue and spinning in a human hamster wheel). Ah, the good ol' days before shows like Wipeout were introduced!
Family Feud (1976-1985, 1988-1995, 1999-current)
We surveyed 100 people and asked, ''Name the top five reasons Family Feud belongs in this gallery'':
- 5. The family portraits in the set's side panels at the beginning of each episode are priceless.
- 4. There's really no way to prep for the show — basically just don't be brainless.
- 3. From Richard Dawson, to Ray Combs, to Louie Anderson, to Richard Karn, to John O'Hurley, and, most recently, to Steve Harvey — the game show has seen more hosts than Hugh Hefner has girlfriends.
- 2. Who doesn't get a cheap thrill out of chucking inanimate objects at the TV every time a player gives an idiotic answer?
- 1. We still have no idea who exactly these ''100 people surveyed'' are, or how the show finds them, but we're okay with that.
The Gong Show (1976-1980, 1988-1989, 2017-2018)
This Chuck Barris production is like America's Got Talent's granddad. Contestants, often displaying dubious performance skills, were rated by a panel of celebrity judges drawn from the rung of the showbiz ladder that included Arte Johnson, Jamie Farr, and Rip Taylor. While Talent judges use a buzzing ''X'' to boot performers, The Gong Show judges ''gonged'' bad talent off the stage.
Hollywood Squares (1966-1989, 1998-2004)
It's human tic-tac-toe! With celebrities! The goal for the two contestants — a male and a female, better known as Mister X and Miss Circle — was to win three squares in a row by deciding whether the star in the square was telling the truth when asked a trivia question.
Related: Hollywood Squares turns 30
Jeopardy! (1964-1975, 1978-1979, 1984-current)
Clue: It's the game show that inspired one of the funniest parodies ever on Saturday Night Live.
Answer: What is Jeopardy?
The quiz show — which first aired in 1964 and consists of three rounds where contestants try to answer clues in the form of a question — has cemented its impact on pop culture by providing constant fodder for SNL.
Let's Make A Deal (1963-1986, 1990-1991, 2003, 2009-current)
Game shows have always been about making a deal, but this was the mother lode! Longtime host Monty Hall did his best to trick contestants in the audience — who wore crazy costumes to try to get his attention — into taking a deal that was worse than the prize in their hands. Players, natch, were hoping to get more out of their deals.
Love Connection (1983-1994, 1998-1999, 2017-2018)
It was kind of like The Dating Game, but better. Before the show, a bachelor or bachelorette would choose from one of three members of the opposite sex to go out with, then the studio audience would pick whom they wanted the person to go out with. Original host Chuck Woolery would interview the daters, and if the audience's pick matched the bachelor's or bachelorette's, the pair got another date for free! Ah, corporate-sponsored l'amour.
Related: Chuck Woolery's Love Connection
Match Game (1962-69, 1973-79,1979-82, 1990-1991, 2016-current)
Name That Tune (1974-81, 1984-85, 2021)
Given a few notes from famous songs, contestants were challenged to, obviously, ''name that tune.'' This kind of format is certainly popular, as Name That Tune seems to have spawned Don't Forget the Lyrics and The Singing Bee.
The Newlywed Game (1966-1974, 1977-1980, 1985-1989, 1996-1997, 2009-2013)
Newlywed couples answered questions to see just how well they actually knew each other. The show became famous for arguments between couples who maybe didn't know each other as well as they thought; it led to more than one divorce.
Press Your Luck (1983-1986, 2002–2003, 2006, 2019-current)
We have nothing to say except: No whammies! No whammies! Just in case you have no idea what we're talking about, we'll explain. So, on the game show, which first aired in 1983, there were two rounds: In the first, players answered questions, and then in the second, they faced a big game board where they tried to have a rotating flashing light stop on a dollar or prize square and not on a ''whammy'' space, which would wipe out the prizes they'd earned
The Price Is Right (1956–1965, 1972-current)
As host of the show for 35 years, Bob Barker made The Price Is Right — with iconic games like Plinko, Triple Play, and the Showcase Showdown — an institution. Even though he retired in 2007, opening the door for new host Drew Carey, the answer for ''What did you do when you were home sick from work or school?'' remains the same: ''I watched The Price Is Right,'' of course!
Pyramid (1973-1988, 2012, 2016-present)
On this game show, two teams — each with one celebrity and one unfamous person — faced off. One teammate gave the other clues for a certain category, such as ''Things That Are in Egypt.'' Clues would be words like ''pyramids,'' ''sphinx,'' and ''Cairo.'' Each round had six categories that, when stacked up, created the famous pyramid. Over the years, in many different incarnations, the total prize money ranged from $10,000 to $100,000.
Singled Out (1996-1998)
Remember when contestants on a low-budget MTV matchmaking show whittled down possible mates by physical traits such as eye color? And remember when cohost Jenny McCarthy would yell at male players, yank their ears, and just be all-around crude on said series? No? Well, we do, and we secretly wish Singled Out — and the obese naked cupid who served as the face of it — would make a comeback. (But this time on something longer than a Quibi.)
Supermarket Sweep (1965-1967, 1990-2003, 2020-current)
Long before players raced around the globe for cash on The Amazing Race, they were racing around a grocery store on Supermarket Sweep. The game show, which originated on ABC in 1965, had teams of two answer grocery-related questions (e.g., unscramble this popular brand: "TUAN EJMAIM") to earn money toward a big sweep, where they were let loose in the store to stock up their carts.
To Tell the Truth (1956-1978, 1980-1981, 1990-1991, 2000-2002, 2016-current)
To Tell the Truth put a new spin on the What’s My Line? format with an intriguing twist: a celebrity panel is presented with three contestants, and must guess which two are impostors and which is the real person described by the host. That real person is sworn to tell the truth (hey… that’s the name of the show!) while the other two do all they can to deceive the panel. Another classic of game shows’ golden era, To Tell the Truth was recently revived at ABC with black-ish star Anthony Anderson hosting.
What’s My Line? (1950-1975)
A true classic of TV’s first Golden Age, What’s My Line? saw a panel try to guess contestants’ occupations through a series of yes or no questions. The show also featured a “mystery guest” round, where the panelists would be blindfolded and attempt to determine a celebrity guest’s identity. What’s My Line? remains incredibly entertaining more than a half-century on; you can find a trove of classic episodes on YouTube, featuring such showbiz icons as Julie Andrews, Alfred Hitchcock, and Louis Armstrong.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (1999-current)
Using lifelines (50/50, Phone-a-Friend, and Ask the Audience) contestants attempt to answer enough trivia questions to reach the million-dollar grand prize. Sure, it sounds pretty simple, but when host Regis Philbin (replaced by Meredith Vieira in the daytime version) inquires, ''Is that your final answer?'' even we viewers at home feel nervously unsure.
Wheel of Fortune (1975-current)
Wheel of Fortune is the longest-running syndicated game show in the U.S., but perhaps more interesting than that is the fact that cohosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White have been around for just about every spin of the wheel and every utterance of the phrase ''I'd like to buy a vowel'' since the syndicated version premiered in 1983.