You don’t need to download apps to play with friends on your smartphone. Text games can provide hours of fun on their own. There are plenty of games to play over text worth exploring, and in this article, we’ll help you find the best.

Most of these text messaging phone games are simple in nature. And they can provide free entertainment for family and friends, regardless of age or interest. Below are some of the best text based games that you can play right now without having to download or install anything.

The rise of mobile games

Not too long ago, we argued that there were good reasons not to buy a smartphone. However, smartphones are here to stay. Feature phones like the Nokia 3310 are just a relic of the past.

The rise of smartphones has turned mobile gaming into an unstoppable force of nature. Everyone knows such big names as Angry Birds, Candy Crush Saga and Pokemon GO. And you can even play those classic Sega games on your smartphone. now.

But wait. What if you don’t want to download another new app? Or are you tired of watching ads? What if the endless lure of in-app purchases left you broken and frustrated? Luckily, there are plenty of text-based games that can be played instead of all those modern mobile games.

1. Narrator

Book text close up
Image credit: Laura/Flickr

As a writer (stop giggling from behind), I tell stories for fun. But even non-writers who find it difficult to create worlds, characters, and plots could enjoy this simple text-based game.

By using Story Builder one of you starts the story by sending a text sentence to the other. The other person then sends the second sentence in the text back to the first person. Slowly but surely, the two of you are building a story over the course of several texts.

Variations include sentences containing a certain number of words or characters, or even sentences of exactly 160 characters. Although the latter is extremely difficult to deal with, as anyone who uses Twitter will attest.

2. 20 questions

Question mark
Photo Credit: Alexander Henning Drachmann/Flickr

These are classic 20 questions which originated in the US and spawned both radio and television shows. The concept of this game is elegantly simple, but it requires a certain level of intelligence to succeed.

One of you is thinking about an object or person, while the other is asking them questions via text message. Your answers Not really help the fortuneteller narrow down until he can make an educated guess about what you were thinking.

Variations include limiting the subject matter thought to to a specific genre. Or you can increase/decrease the number of questions the fortuneteller can ask.

3. I’m a spy

This is a classic game I Spy a game that has been a favorite among families for generations. I whiled away many long car trips as a kid playing endless rounds of it. And the version played by text message is just as fun.

Start by describing to your opponent where you are at least giving him a fighting chance. Then look around your surroundings until your mind is focused on something specific. Then your opponent must guess what exactly you noticed, and only the first letter of the object must be guessed.

Variations include providing hints after each negative answer to an incorrect guess, or limiting the number of guesses allowed.

4. Lyrics

Musical note
Image credit: Michael Coghlan/Flickr

Assuming you’re not solely interested in instrumental music, you will know certain lines from certain songs. Whether it’s because of an emotional attachment or simply because they sound good together, most people have been touched by the lyrics in one way or another.

The game Song Lyrics plays on this when one person quotes lines from a song to another via lyrics. The other person then has to guess the song the lyrics are from. It helps if it is played with someone you are close to or with whom you share similar musical tastes.

Variations include classic lines from movies or plots from games. An incorrect guess may mean that you need to call and sing a song to the opponent.

5. Abbreviations

Abbreviations are everywhere from company names to phrases abbreviated for ease of use. You can even shorten your entire life by describing what you do with just the first letters of every word in that description.

To play Abbreviations one of you cuts what you conceive. For example: «At a coffee shop in the city» becomes «IACSIT», while others try to restore the abbreviated sentence to its original form. Be prepared for some rude answers.

Variations include giving more than just the first letter of each word, and abbreviating something other than your current activity. For example, what do you really think about the person you are playing against.

6. List Builder

We all make lists. They detail everything from our day-to-day activities to our overall goals in life; from what products we need to the gadgets we want to buy in the future. When turned into a game, making lists can be a lot of fun, especially with text.

List Builder is a competitive game in which each player takes turns naming something related to a particular genre. This could include capitals, actors from certain movie series, or anything else your mind can remember. The winner is the last person to be successfully added to the list.

Variations include going through the alphabet one letter at a time, or requiring that the next answer start with the same letter that the last answer ended with.

7. Where am I?

inflatable globe
Image credit: Steve Cadman/Flickr

The reason we all carry smartphones is because we are not always at home. What makes this game perfect for playing on mobile devices.

Where I am? each player takes turns describing one feature of their environment while the other tries to guess where they are. You can make it as easy or as hard as you like by changing the level of detail you give your opponent.

Options include limiting it to the house, with the room you’re in as the correct answer, or asking which city store you’re in. You can also change it to «Who am I?» and describe the person or people who are there with you instead.

8. Kiss, marry, kill

Pair of shadows
Image Credit: Jeremy Wandel/Flickr

you may know Kiss, Marry, Kill like something else. A kiss, for example, can be a little more intense than just a kiss on the cheek. However, the basic concept is the same and it’s fun if the answers don’t give any offense.

One person names three people, whether they’re celebrities or people you both know, and asks the question, «Kiss, marry, kill?» The other must determine which of the three they will kiss, whom they will marry, and whom they would kill. It’s all a joke, you know.

Variations include adding certain names to the mix, which you know will upset your friend. Or completely changing the question. As long as there are three options and three names in the mix, the sky is the limit with this one.

9. What if…?

I sometimes dream, especially in the shower. It is in these quiet moments what if? Scenarios may pop into my brain and I spend the next few minutes figuring out which option I would choose in that scenario. Which is the perfect fodder for text games.

One of you texts the other, what if? scenario and asks what they will do in this situation. There are no right or wrong answers. Not only is it fun to see the answers, it can also give you insight into your friend or family member’s outlook on life.

Variations include leaving the question open with any possible answer, or providing multiple choice answers and forcing the other person to choose one of them.

10. Easy Quiz

Pub Quiz
Image credit: James Cridland/Flickr

Any test can be fun, even if it’s supposed to test your IQ. I’m particularly partial to quiz publications though. Partly because of the company, partly because of the consumption of alcohol, and partly because I enjoy demonstrating my knowledge in certain subjects.

As a text game Simple Quiz requires one of you to send a text question to the other. The other person should then try to give the correct answer, or if they are too stupid for that, the funniest answer imaginable.

Variations include switching to testing your web browsing skills as they try to find the answer on the internet in the shortest amount of time.

What text games do you like?

These text based games range from simple to more complex. But they are all eminently playable between any two (or more) people with phones in hand. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a smartphone or a special phone.

By using 160 characters at the same time, you can have fun between you and a friend or family member. Even your old nanny with her original Nokia 3310 can join in the fun.

Just remember to be safe if you’re writing on foot. when texting and walking when sending text messages and walking text messages while playing these multiplayer games.

Image credit: Art Studio / Shutterstock

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