Photo via Ken Banks/Flickr

The best text messaging games you can play anywhere

Come and have some SMS fun.

Feb 29, 2020, 5:52 am*

Internet Culture


Josh Katzowitz

Given the explosion of games you can play with friends who aren’t sitting next to you, one wouldn’t necessarily think that much fun can be had over text messaging. Why would you limit yourself to a texting game that might eat up your phone’s battery while forcing you to type on a tiny surface when you can play a game online using an Xbox, an iPad, or a computer?

But text-messaging games still exist, and for many, they’re still innovative—even if only by SMS standards. And they’re still a blast to play.

Here are seven of the best text-messaging games you can play (even if you still possess only a lowly flip phone):

Twenty Questions

This game is made for long car rides to Florida with your parents in the front seat listening to Simon & Garfunkel and with many hours to go before those Disney World billboards along the highway turn into reality. But you don’t need to bore your sibling, who’s already probably sleeping with headphones solidly applied anyway, by trying to come up with a person, place, or thing that another person needs to guess. That’s the idea, by the way. Think of a person, place, or thing. The other player texts you questions—up to 20 of them—about what that person, place, or thing might be. Eventually, your opponent either figures out the answer or uses up the 20 queries. Either way, you’ve successfully passed the time by simply using your brain and your thumbs.

Rapping Rhymes

This game is simple, and you wouldn’t have to worry about your texting partner cheating. Type out a rap line—preferably something make up yourself—and then press ‘send.’ Your partner responds with a line that may or may not make sense, but must rhyme. Then, you reply with another rap rhyme, and you go back and forth. Fair warning: You definitely want to avoid playing this game with Fezzik from The Princess Bride.


This is a game that actually can’t be played if two people are in the same place, but with the advent of mobile communications and camera phones, this contest to figure out the location of the person you’re texting can be a fun way to pass the time. Describe your location in general terms or excruciating detail—send your texting buddy a picture of said location if you want—and have them try to determine where you’re standing at that very moment. Bonus points if you can creep out your opponent with your location (the inside of a public bathroom, on his or her front porch, etc.).

Strip Poker

For those couples who want a little PG-13 in their lives, this game is a good option. Despite the title of the game, you’re not really playing poker. Instead, ask your partner a personal question about your relationship (where was your first date, what was the first meal you cooked together, what’s the name of the first child you had together?), and if he or she gets it wrong, a piece of clothing must be removed. Continue until one or both of you is naked. And that’s when the camera phone can come in quite handy (though, for goodness’ sake, delete anything you wouldn’t want the whole word to see).

Name That Tune

Normally, for this game, you’d hum a song to somebody in the same room, but for text-messaging purposes, this game is all about typing out a line of lyrics from a song to see if the other person knows it. The downside to this one: If the person you’re playing against has a smartphone with Googling capabilities, it gets real easy real fast.

I Spy

If your 7-year-old likes to play texting games, this is probably the perfect choice. As parents know, playing I Spy—in which one person says, “I spy (with my little eye), something that is [insert color name here]” and the other player has to identify something that is that color—becomes rather tedious after only a few minutes. Obviously, there are more challenges playing I Spy on your phone with somebody in a different location. But a creative set of people (or any 7-year-old) could make this work. 

Never Have I Ever

Technically, you could play this game over text messaging. But let’s be honest, this game is so much better when alcohol and a dozen other people are involved. That’s because whenever a participant says, “Never have I ever [fill in the blank]” and you have done said [fill in the blank], you must drink. Yet, it’s possible to play this game while text messaging. You just have to be like George Thoroghgood and decide you like to drink alone.

Share this article
*First Published: Jun 5, 2016, 10:00 am