Best Game Shows of All Time
Game shows have been popular since television's early days. In fact, some of them began before television, when radio was the only form of entertainment.
Over the years, many famous broadcast competitions have been reimagined. But only the classics endure. These are the best game shows in TV history.
30. I’ve Got a Secret
Host: Garry Moore
Original run: 1952–1967
Bottom line: One of the earliest game shows to air on broadcast television, "I’ve Got a Secret" had a very simple premise.
Show contestants would tell their secrets to the audience, and the host and a celebrity panel had to guess their secret through a series of questions. The longer it took them to figure it out, the more money the contestants made.
"I’ve Got a Secret" is a peek not only into broadcast history, but also American history. Contestants were as wide-ranging as Colonel Sanders, Ronald Reagan, and a man who witnessed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
29. Win, Lose or Draw
Original host: Bert Convy
Original run: 1987–1990
Bottom line: "Win, Lose or Draw" was loosely based on Pictionary. One member of a team draws doodles on a board while their teammates try to figure out what they're drawing.
"Win, Lose or Draw" was created by host Bert Convy with 1970s A-lister Burt Reynolds. It had a distinctly casual weekend vibe in its informal dress code and living room set, which was said to be modeled after Reynolds' own.
28. Cash Cab
Host: Ben Bailey
Original run: 2005–2012
Bottom line: Passengers don't know that they were contestants until they got in the Cash Cab. Their challenge was to answer a series of trivia questions, which go up in value as they got closer to their destination.
If they got three questions wrong, they were kicked to the literal curb. However, if they reached their destination, they could leave with their winnings or answer one more question — double or nothing.
27. Deal or No Deal
Host: Howie Mandel
Original run: 2005–2019
Bottom line: The process of elimination was the name of the game on "Deal or No Deal." Contestants had 26 sealed briefcases to choose from, which contained anywhere from a penny to a million dollars. It was their job to eliminate them one by one. When they do, they are opened and the amount is revealed.
After several suitcases are opened, contestants can accept a cash offer to stop or continue and win a larger amount of money. Or they can lose it all.
The show's game play is so challenging only two people have won the top prize in its history.
26. Love Connection
Original host: Chuck Woolery
Original run: 1983–1994
Bottom line: Putting your romantic fate into the hands of a studio audience is nearly commonplace now, but it was unheard of in the 1980s.
In each show, a bachelor or bachelorette met three prospective dates, and the audience would decide which one seemed the most compatible. If the contestant agreed, show producers would foot the bill for their first date.
Afterward, the couple would return to share their experience.
Original host: Jack Barry
Original run: 1956–1959
Bottom line: A precursor to shows such as "Hollywood Squares," "Tic Tac Dough" had its contestants play tic-tac-toe and answer questions in hopes of getting three in a row for cash and prizes.
The show was canceled as part of the federal investigation into quiz fixing when it was discovered that a producer attempted to furnish a young contest with the answers and a promise to showcase her singing talent.
"Tic Tac Dough" came back on air in 1978 and is scheduled to make another comeback with "Dancing with the Stars'" Tom Bergeron as its new host.
24. Battle of the Network Stars
Original host: Howard Cosell
Original run: 1976–1988
Bottom line: Back in the 1970s, there were only the "big three" networks— CBS, ABC, and NBC. Everyone watched the same shows, so the "network stars" were household names.
Each network was represented by eight people on their roster with one team captain. They would compete in pretty standard events, with the lowest scoring network eliminated and the two remaining networks left to battle it out in an old-fashioned tug of war.
Before there were a million cable channels and streaming options, "The Battle" gave fans the opportunity to root for their idols.
23. The Joker’s Wild
Original host: Jack Barry
Original run: 1972–1975
Bottom line: The show, billed as "the game where knowledge is king and lady luck is queen," has a title that references its slot-machine game board which randomly determines the categories and questions contestants will answer.
While popular in the 1970s, the most recent iteration of the show featured rapper Snoop Dogg as a host and not only included the slot machine, but massive dice and playing cards.
22. The $64,000 Question
Original host: Hal March
Original run: 1955–1958
Bottom line: The show was the "Jeopardy!" of its day in game play and popularity. It was said that President Eisenhower requested not to be disturbed while it was on, and crime actually plummeted during its time slot.
The show was only on the air for about three years, when it was discovered that it was rigged. A federal investigation ensued, and it and other quiz shows were pulled off the air.
By the mid-1960s, all the big money (over five figures) game shows were a thing of the past and didn't return until about 1973. Despite this, "The $64,000 Question" remains an influence on game shows to this day.
21. Card Sharks
Original host: Jim Perry
Original run: 1978–1981
Bottom line: "Card Sharks" is based on a card came called Acey Deucy, and its title is a play on the term "card sharp," which describes a professional or skilled card player.
Players answer questions to control cards in an oversized deck and guessing if the next card that comes up is higher or lower in value.
The current "Card Sharks" host is Joel McHale.
20. Beat the Clock
Original host: Bud Collyer
Original run: 1950–1958
Bottom line: "Beat the Clock" was one of the earliest stunt shows on TV. Couples and even their children would win prizes by completing tasks or stunts within a specific time, usually 30 seconds to one minute.
The longest-running show of its kind, "Beat the Clock" was first a radio show before airing on broadcast. It continues to air in some form in the U.S. as well as internationally.
19. Supermarket Sweep
Original host: Bill Malone
Original run: 1965–1967
Bottom line: The host (current comedian Leslie Jones) asks contests trivia questions and the winners of that round run around a grocery store to fill their carts with high-ticket items within a certain amount of time. The team with the biggest "grocery bill" wins the top prize.
During its original run, the show was filmed at a real supermarket in New York City. Today, the market is on a soundstage, but the items are real.
After filming, the items are donated to charity.
18. Truth or Consequences
Original host: Ralph Edwards
Original run: 1940–1957
Bottom line: "Truth or Consequences" began on radio before making the move to television. Contestants were selected from the audience to either tell the truth by answering a trivia question or perform a stunt.
If they chose the question, they had just a few seconds before "Beulah the Buzzer" was sounded, and the stunt was all the more embarrassing for the contestant.
17. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Original host: Drew Carey
Original run: 1990–2007
Bottom line: The shows consist of four improv performers who act out scenes from topics based on audience and host suggestions. The host awards points with no particular meaning to whoever gets the most laughs.
Winners are chosen arbitrarily, and their prize is further improv with the host or reading the credits based on a theme suggested by the host. The point of the show was to introduce viewers to the art of improv.
16. Name That Tune
Original host: Red Benson
Original run: 1953–1959
Bottom line: Can you name that tune in two notes? That is the basic premise for the show, which gives prizes to the most musically inclined contestant.
The show hasn't changed much since its original run. Two contestants go head-to-head to name the music the orchestra or band plays to get to the "Golden Medley" bonus round and compete for the grand prize.
Original host: Dick Clark
Original run: 1973–1980
Bottom line: Two teams of two players (a celebrity and contestant) go head-to-head in a game of communication. Six categories are arranged in a pyramid for each team to pick from, with each having seven words or phrases. One person on the team gives clues to the other who has to guess the correct answer.
The show was originally called "The $10,000 Pyramid" when it debuted in 1973. Dick Clark, the producer and most well-known host, also played on the show under nighttime host Bill Cullen and under Donny Osmond, who hosted in the early 2000s.
Original host: Allen Ludden
Original run: 1961–1967
Bottom line: Like "Pyramid," "Password" involves two teams with a celebrity player and contestant each, who attempt to uncover the password using only single-word clues.
Host Allen Ludden met his future wife Betty White of "Golden Girls" fame on set.
13. Hollywood Squares
Original host: Peter Marshall
Original run: 1966–1981
Bottom line: Two contestants agreed or disagreed with a celebrity's answers to host Peter Marshall's questions. The "celebrity squares" could answer correctly or attempt to bluff their way through.
Much like "Match Game," the banter, innuendo, and double entendres between the nine celebrities is what made the show worth watching. Most notable were comedian Paul Lynde's answers — he sat in the center square for most of the original series.
12. What’s My Line?
Original host: John Charles Daly
Original run: 1950–1967
Bottom line: Similar in game play to "I've Got a Secret," the game had celebrity panelists who would guess a person's occupation. There was also a weekly "mystery guest." This was a celebrity brought in to stump the panel, who was blindfolded.
Despite its popularity, "What's My Line?" is one of the few shows that has not been revamped in recent years, although there was a stage show featuring some former panelists in the early 2000s.
11. You Bet Your Life
Original host: Groucho Marx
Original run: 1950–1960
Bottom line: "You Bet Your Life" was mostly a showcase for Groucho's wit. After two contestants were chosen, he would involve them in a humorous, mostly ad-libbed conversation and wait for them to say a "secret word," which was revealed to the audience through a toy duck that looked like him.
The contests were also allowed to chose from a list of topics before the show they would answers questions about to win cash prizes.
The show has since been brought back with Jay Leno as host.
10. The Gong Show
Original host: Chuck Barris
Original run: 1976–1978
Bottom line: This amateur talent show was requisite late afternoon viewing in the late 1970s. Performers displayed their talents (or lack thereof) in front of a panel of judges who rated them on a scale of 1 to 10 — that is if they didn't get gonged first. The contestant with the highest score won the grand prize of $516.32.
Some of the contestants did actually have talent and went on to greater success, including Andrea McArdle (of Broadway's "Annie"), disco singer Cheryl Lynn, and a band called the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, which became Oingo Boingo featuring Danny Elfman.
9. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
Original host: Regis Philbin
Bottom line: "Millionaire" has been clearly influenced by "The 64,000 Question" — the game is very much the same. Contestants must answer multiple choice questions that get more and more difficult as they go. Consequently, their value goes up.
The show is so popular versions of it have been made in over 120 countries.
8. The Newlywed Game
Original host: Bob Eubanks
Original run: 1966–1974
Bottom line: Another Chuck Barris creation, the show asked the question, "How well do you know your spouse?"
Couples were separated and asked questions about their likes and dislikes before rejoining their spouses who were asked the same questions. They would earn points if their answers matched.
The show became famous for its innuendo and for the arguments that took place when spouses didn't know each other as well as they thought they did. In fact, it even led to a few divorces.
7. The Dating Game
Original host: Jim Lange
Bottom line: Creator Chuck Barris also created this groundbreaking show in which a young woman would interview three potential suitors to determine if there was a spark. There was just one catch — she couldn't see their faces until after she chose.
Of course, the questions and answers were rife with innuendo, which made things all the more interesting.
Many now famous faces appeared on the show, including Farrah Fawcett, Tom Selleck, Suzanne Somers, the Carpenters, Michael Richards, Steve Martin, John Ritter, Phil Hartman and Paul Rubens.
6. Let’s Make a Deal
Original host: Monty Hall
Original run: 1963–1976
Bottom line: "Lets Make a Deal" allows costumed audience members ("traders") to make a deal with the host for a chance at a bigger prize. They can decide if they want to keep the item or gamble it all for something that could be much bigger.
The show was created by Monty Hall who served as host for almost 30 years. Today, comedian Wayne Brady is at the helm with some members of the Hall family still involved in the production, and gameplay is still very much the same.
"Lets Make a Deal" was so popular that Monty Hall achieved another level of fame when a probability puzzle was named after him in 1975.
5. Family Feud
Original host: Richard Dawson
Original run: 1976–1985
Bottom line: Two families (or groups of people related in some other way) play against each other to guess the most popular responses to survey questions.
The "Feud" has gone through a variety of hosts during its run, including Richard Dawson of "Match Game" fame, and comedian Steve Harvey, the current host.
It is one of the most well-loved game shows of all time, and it has even hosted the Kardashians.
4. The Price Is Right
Original host: Bill Cullen
Original run: 1956–1965
Bottom line: Game play is simple. Four contestants guess the prices of merchandise, and those that come closest to the actual amount move onto other games for chances at bigger prizes.
Since 1972, the show has awarded over $300 million in cash and prizes, including more than 8,400 cars to winning contestants.
"The Price Is Right" started Season 50 in 2021, making it the longest-running game show in history.
3. Wheel of Fortune
Original host: Chuck Woolery
Original run: 1975–1989
Bottom line: "Wheel of Fortune" began life on NBC with Chuck Woolery, but it really found its footing in syndication with Pat Sajak and Vanna White, who is popular in her own right, particularly with young women obsessed with her wardrobe.
The game, which was created by Merv Griffin, is based the common childhood game of "hangman." The board reveals a phrase with missing letters, and contestants spin the wheel to take their turn and fill in the blank.
2. Match Game
Original host: Gene Rayburn
Original run: 1962–1969
Bottom line: It wasn't difficult gameplay that made "Match Game" so fun to watch. The premise was simple — host Gene Rayburn gave out a phrase with a missing word or phrase, and two contestants, together with the celebrity panel, attempted to fill in the "blank."
"Match Game" was an after-school favorite of many a Gen-X kid, and the celebrity panelists — particularly regulars Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Richard Dawson — made plenty of double entendres that went right over their heads.
That it seemed like they they came back to the set from a hours-long liquid lunch made it all the more hilarious.
Original host: Art Fleming
Original run: 1964–1975
Bottom line: "Jeopardy!" has won more than 30 Daytime Emmys since it began and has been a favorite of fans and critics alike for its entire run.
It reached its peak in popularity with Alex Trebek at the helm. Trebek, who hosted the show from 1984 until his death in 2020, has proven to be a hard act to follow.
Nevertheless, everyone still tunes in to root for the contestants and test their wits against the show's challenging trivia questions.