As much as we’re looking forward to going home for Thanksgiving, we know there’s always a chance the day takes a turn for the worse real fast. Whether you’re looking to avoid heated political shouting matches or just dodge questions about why another year is passing without you bringing home a girlfriend, these apps can help keep everyone’s attention blissfully glued to something other than your shortcomings.
1. Heads Up!
Maybe the best 99 cents you’ll ever spend, Heads Up! is the smartphone version of that game from Inglorious Basterds where you hold a card on your head and everyone else gets you to guess what it says. Like Inglorious Basterds, it’s probably a good idea to be drinking while you play. Unlike the movie, the room shouldn’t turn into a bloodbath when the game is over. We hope.
2. SongPop Party
Available on iOS, Android and Facebook, SongPop is a digital take on Name That Tune. We highly suggest playing family-style on the big screen if your family happens to have an AppleTV since the game gets even more competitive when everyone has their own controller (the controller app is a free add-on for any iPhone or iPad.) Maybe just avoid any of the hip hop playlists if you want Grandpa to have a chance of keeping up.
3. SketchParty TV
There are plenty of drawing games out there, but this is the best one we’ve seen because it’s less Pictionary and more Win, Lose or Draw. If you do have an AppleTV and iPad, they’ll combine to let each team’s drawer work easily on the tablet while the rest of their team can guess the drawing on the TV itself. If you don’t have an AppleTV/iPad combo with you for Thanksgiving, you can get a similar experience from the Draw Something app instead.
The official Scrabble app has always mimicked the board game exceptionally well. Using a tablet as the board and pairing phones as your letter shelf, the essential Scrabble experience translates to the app perfectly for some in-person scrabbling because, let’s face it, Words with Friends just won’t work when you're home with family.
5. Touch Hockey
In all likelihood, there’s an air hockey table kicking around somewhere in the depths of your parents’ basement, but you just know that thing is warped to hell and air probably only comes out of half the holes. You can get that same experience from the Touch Hockey app for your phone. Using your finger instead of the full-body force of slamming a puck with a tiny, plastic cowboy hat is a bit of a change but peer-to-peer play between two phones means you can still have all the satisfaction of beating the snot out of your little cousins.
6. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
This Android app actually requires one of Samsung’s phones and a GearVR headset but, in terms of defusing the high tensions of a family gathering, making your family work together to defuse a virtual bomb will definitely do the trick. Arm the group with the free, downloadable pdf bomb manual and let them walk the person in VR through dismantling a variety of different explosives.
7. Worms 3
Cute enough to include the kids but strategic enough to be competitive for adults, Worms 3 is a turn-based strategy game where each player controls a set of worms, each with different abilities and power ups. Use your worms to launch attacks that take out your opponents or the ground on which they stand. Last team with worms alive wins. It’s a great game on consoles and it translates to phone and tablet exceptionally well.
8. Trivia Crack
The 1999 version of Trivial Pursuit at your parents house is so outdated it doesn’t even realize that Ben Affleck has now, in fact, played the role of Batman and is oddly full of questions about Y2K. Trivia Crack plays similarly to Trivial Pursuit but has up-to-the-minute questions and doesn’t require you to search for tiny plastic wedges all the time.
9. Strike! Ten Pin Bowling
Available for iOS, Android and AppleTV, Strike! Is a finger bowling game that feels a lot like the old Wii Sports Bowling but with a lot less flailing and controller-throwing. Simple gameplay makes it fun for everyone but getting really good takes some time and practice. Plus it’s a shitload easier playing on your phones than trying to find a bowling alley that’s open on Thanksgiving.
10. Just Dance Now
One of the most sophisticated app setups has been created for a game that’s as simple to play as shaking your ass. Just Dance brings the pedigree of years of motion-controlled dancing games to phones, using your smartphone as the sensor and showing off the dance moves you’re supposed to copy on anything from an AppleTV to a tablet to a laptop. Maybe make sure to tell your aunts in advance that no one wants to see them twerk to "Get Low."