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The best games to play with Alexa

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By Jenny McGrath


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Amazon’s Alexa has more than 40,000 different skills, from telling you whose turn it is to do the dishes, to helping you choose what to do for the day. Some of the more fun Alexa skills are games, perfect for game night. There are choose-your-own-adventures, trivia, and kid-centric options, as well as official or knock-off versions of TV favorites

Because many of them were developed when only the Echo and Dot were around, they often don’t require a screen, though some have now added features featuring a screen for the Show. Others require the new Echo Buttons, which let you buzz in for more competitive games.

Many of the games work better if you have a piece of paper and pencil to jot down notes. Almost all of them require some patience, as they can be glitchy or Alexa can misunderstand your response. These games probably won’t replace your shelf full of board games, but they can help kill 10 to 20 minutes, get kids off the couch, or assist you in getting tipsy.

Choose-your-own-adventure and story-based games

Magic Door Alexa

Magic Door

If you’ve never played a choose-your-own-adventure game with your smart speaker, you might want to start here, as it can be hard to go back to Alexa’s somewhat emotionless voice after listening to a game with actual voice actors (which we’ll get to later). In this game, you get a monotone Alexa saying things like, “Oh, my, I’m really scared now,” in the exact same tone she replies that she’s turned your lights off.

Still, it’s a good game for beginners. To start, Alexa will ask if you want to explore the mountains, sea, or forest. Each will send you on a magical quest along a path strewn with magical objects, talking creatures, and occasionally creepy sounds. For some reason, you need to turn on notifications to enable this skill.

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

Earplay

Earplay has more stories you influence with your choices. In the demo, a woman sits at your table in a restaurant and asks you to pretend you know her. Every choice you make, from playing along with her ruse to rummaging through her purse, will have consequences. Earplay’s secret agent story, Codename Cygnus, is a seven-chapter interactive fictional world where you are a secret agent trying to accomplish your mission. Earplay now has five additional stories you can choose from, including Jurassic World Revealed and You and the Beanstalk, perfect for the whole family.

Rated: Mature

The Wayne Investigation

When this story opens, it’s shortly after the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. As a Gotham detective on the case, the clues you focus on will direct the course of the investigation. Sometimes you’ll be able to fix your mistakes, but some choices are irrevocable. The game is an odd mix of noirish music, sound effects, voice actors, and Alexa. She prompts you to make your choices but also chimes in her dry voice to tell you when you chose poorly.

“Maybe you’re not cut out for this line of work. Haha,” she says in a jarringly different tone than the rest of the game. It may have been designed as a promotion for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it’s still pretty fun.

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

RuneScape Quests: One Piercing Note

RuneScape is an online RPG, but you don’t have to know anything about the game’s fantastical medieval world to play One Piercing Note. As an adventurer, you’re tasked with solving the mystery of the abbey. It’s a bit like The Name of the Rose, only it’s dead nuns instead of murdered monks.

Unlike The Wayne Investigation, this quest is Alexa-free, helping to keep you in the atmosphere of the secluded abbey, which may or may not contain a demon. Fair warning: Some of the details are pretty gruesome.

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

Bosch: A Detective’s Case

In this quick little mystery, you play an LAPD detective on the hunt for a missing woman. It seems practically impossible to permanently mess up this case, as it lets you rewind when your choice leads you to a dead end. It took us a fast but entertaining 15 minutes to solve the case.

Rated: Mature

Escape the Room

Escape games are all the rage, so it’s not surprising one exists in an Alexa-compatible format. It’s not quite a choose-your-own-adventure game, but more of a verbal hidden object plus puzzle game. A smart speaker may not be the best format for this, so be prepared for some repetition.

There are only a few simple commands to control most of your movement, so if you want to look at objects on a shelf, you have to first be looking at the shelf. If you’re looking at the door and say, “Look at the shelf,” Alexa will tell you there’s no shelf to look at. For some reason, she also had some trouble understanding us in general. We said bucket, not buffet! Despite the difficulties, it’s still a unique game for the platform and will take longer than some of the others on the list.

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

Yes Sire

This isn’t quite a story game, but you are answering questions to determine your fate. You’re a medieval lord just trying to live under the reign of a temperamental king. The monarch isn’t happy if you’re too rich, too poor, too influential, or if you hold no sway. Sometimes you’ll find yourself with too much money and make a move that should empty the coffers a bit, only to find it backfires. Good luck trying to survive with your head intact.

Rated: Mature

Based on a TV game show

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Jeopardy!

When you hear Johnny Gilbert and Alex Trebek greet you upon firing up this skill, you know it’s the real deal. Each day, you’ll get to answer a question from six Jeopardy! categories. Prime subscribers get an extra six from the Double Jeopardy rounds for free; non-Prime members can pay $2 a month for these questions. If you’re having trouble thinking of the correct response, you can stall a bit by not answering in the form of a question, and Alexa will remind you. This is, of course, cheating and wouldn’t fly on the actual game show.

Rated: N/A

Deal or No Deal

This unofficial version of Deal or No Deal is zero stakes. You pick a briefcase to hold onto, then subsequently chose other briefcases to open. Hopefully, you get rid of all the ones containing a cent, $500, $1,000, and so on, without opening the ones holding $1 million or $750,000. You might want to keep a pen and paper handy, or you can open your Alexa app to remind yourself which cases you’ve already chosen. Fun fact: Meghan Markle used to open briefcases on the show.

Rated: N/A

The Price Is Right

Though Bob Barker isn’t there to ask you questions, the Price Is Right skill still makes you feel like you’re on a game show. As with the game show, you will be guessing the prices of items — more specifically, the price of Amazon items. So your slight obsession with online shopping is finally paying off. You can play with people from around the world or just by yourself.

Rated: N/A

Good for a group

Echo Buttons

Song Quiz

With Song Quiz, Alexa will play a snippet of a song, and you can guess either the artist or title. Get both correct for bonus points. You can choose a decade between the 1960s to and 2010s and play with friends in the room or solo. If you’re alone, the game will pit you against a stranger. Don’t worry; you don’t actually hear each other’s answers, just whether they got it right or wrong.

Every once in a while, Alexa will let you know just how skilled you are: We were among the 18 percent that got both the title and artist for Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning.” It helped propel us to victory against Catherine from Georgia. And if you’re going to make fun of us for knowing that Sugar Ray song, shut the door, baby, don’t say a word.

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

Would You Rather Family

This party game makes you choose between two terrible scenarios, then lets you know what percentage of people agree with you. Actually, this is the family edition, so some of the scenarios aren’t too bad. (Would you rather spend the night in an amusement park or a library?) There’s also Harry Potter edition included in this skill, which was unexpectedly entertaining. Would you rather lick Dobby’s freedom sock or share a food bowl with Fang?

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

True or False

The idea of this game is simple: Answer true or false to a series of questions. Some are straightforward, others are tricky. Even if you guess correctly, you might learn something, since Alexa often follows up with more facts. You may know David Letterman was a weatherman, but did you know he once gave a tropical storm kudos for getting upgraded to a hurricane?

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

Word games

Echo Buttons

Word Play

You’re looking for a five-letter word. Alexa will supply the first letter or two, but the rest is up to you. It’s a bit like playing Wheel of Fortune without the light-up letters. Going the “r-s-t-l-n-e” route isn’t a bad idea, because you’ll know when you got a letter in the right spot, when you’ve got the correct letter but it’s in the wrong position, or when a letter isn’t in the word at all.

Let’s say your word starts with “bl.” You could guess “bland,” and Alexa would tell you that “b,” “l,” and “a” were in the right spots, “n” isn’t in the word, and “d” is in the wrong spot. Opting for “blade” next would probably be a good idea.

Rated: N/A

Hanagram

There aren’t a ton of games that work with the Echo Buttons yet, but this is one of them. In the two-to-four player anagram game, Alexa reads out a category, along with clues, word length, and each letter out of order. Players then buzz in when they think they have the answer. Based on the reviews, this is one of the least buggy Echo Button games.

Rated: N/A

Categories Game

Much like in Scattergories, you’ll get a letter, and each word you give must start with that letter. Alexa then reads off the categories, one at a time. The more you play, the more categories the skill will unlock. There isn’t really a competition mode, so you can give the most obvious answer and won’t be penalized. In Scattergories the board game, if you and another player have the same answer, neither of you gets points.

Also, Alexa is comfortable accepting completely wrong answers for questions, as long as they start with the correct letters. Letter: D. Category: Superhero. Answer: Debbie Reynolds is correct. (We actually said Dangermouse, but OK.) Also, we could never get Alexa to accept our (actually correct) answers for the category of the week. We know they’re right, because we Googled “Pokemon characters that start with “r.” Alexa is wrong; we are Raichu.

Rated: N/A

Guess My Name

Though you can play this skill alone, it’s much more fun playing with a group of people. You’ll hear a series of clues in your chosen category. Your job is to guess what you think Alexa is describing before anyone else. For example, if you knew the answer you would yell, “Alexa, you’re Marilyn Monroe!” Categories include countries, animals, historical figures, famous actors, animated characters, and random.

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

Heads Up!

From the beloved app and created by Ellen DeGeneres Heads Up is the perfect game for a group of people. You’ll choose a category and Alexa will provide three fun facts and clues for each card. See how many you can get in 90 seconds, and the person that gets the most wins. The categories you can choose from include superstars, blockbuster moves, animals gone wild, just for families, and more.

Rated: Parental guidance suggested

Drinking games

Editor’s note: Always drink responsibly!

Smoked beer: An introduction
Peter Kim / Shutterstock

Who Drinks

Whether you call it Kings, King’s Cup, or Jug Oval (what?), there’s a fair chance you played some version of this college drinking game. For Who Drinks, Alexa takes over the role of the playing cards. Instead of assigning an action to a particular value — like guys drink when a five is flipped over — simply ask Alexa “Who drinks?” She’ll respond with something like “drink left,” meaning the player to the left of the person who asked has to take a sip. She may also come up with categories, like nap time (last one to put their head on the table drinks), or T. Rex arms (you have to tuck your elbows into your sides when holding your cup). It’s not a bad substitute if you can’t find your playing cards.

Rated: Mature

Party Game

If you do have a deck of cards but want to switch things up, Party Game offers some twists on a similar Kings theme. Players deal out the entire deck and look at their hand to see if they need to do what Alexa commands them to. The person holding the seven of clubs might have to give all their aces to another player, give the person holding the three of diamonds a back massage, or choose between doing a 15-second squat or drinking. One flaw is that if you don’t ask for the next prompt fairly quickly, the game exits. That might be fine if you’re just swapping cards, but asking everyone to touch the ground could take a little longer.

Rated: Mature

Kid games

Keep in mind with kids’ skills, you’ll need to opt into a lot of permissions. These might include recording your child’s voice, so take a look at the terms before agreeing.

amazon echo show family

Silly Things

Designed to get kids moving, Silly Things has Alexa prompting them to perform different actions, from posing for selfies to pretending they’re in an invisible box. You do have to ask for something else to try each time, presumably because kids will likely want to spend more time pretending to ride a broom or acting like a zombie who’s scared of humans than doing an upside down smile.

Rated: N/A

Queen’s Mathematician

This skill is a combination of choose-your-own-adventure and math game. You are tasked with rescuing the queen after she’s been kidnapped by tricky, arithmetic-loving elves. To save her, players must solve problems (fewer than 99) involving addition, subtraction, or saying which number is higher or lower. To launch the skill, you’ll want to say “open” or “start” plus the name of the game, because saying “Play Queen’s Mathematician” prompts Alexa to look for music. To be fair, it does sound like the name of a prog-rock band*.

*We’ve been informed that Brian May is Queen’s mathematician because he has a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

Rated: N/A

Animal Game

This 20-questions-but-just-for-animals game is a bit eerie. You think of an animal, and Alexa asks questions to try and figure it out. Some are yes-or-no (Does it roar? Is it extinct?) while others require an answer: What color is it? How many legs does it have? We tried to stump her with a platypus, but Alexa figured it out after 17 questions.

Rated: N/A

Animal Workout

Another get-up-and-move game, this skill asks kids to do as the animals do. The movements, or, if you’re acting like a cow, moo-vements, range from sticking your tongue out like a giraffe to flapping your “wings” like a butterfly or swinging your arms like an ape. Music plays for about 15 seconds per animal. You might want to move the furniture for this one.

Rated: N/A


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