The best wildlife-themed games to play with family and friends

Read BBC Wildlife Magazine's reviews of wildlife games, including a bird-themed Monopoly, matching butterfly wings cards, and an augmented reality mobile app.

Playing a board game. © Sean Justice/Corbis/VCG

From board games and card games, to mobile and video games, there’s a wide range of fun wildlife-themed games being created.

Board games

Monopoly – RSPB edition

RSPB, £34.99

RSPB Monopoly

I hardly ever win at Monopoly, so this bird-watching themed version instantly endeared itself to me when I triumphed over an avid player (who, unsurprisingly, was less enamoured with the format).

Instead of the traditional London locations, avian species – from gannet and puffin to nuthatch and skylark – and their habitats are accrued as you make your way around the board. Instead of houses and hotels, hides and visitor centres can be constructed to draw more money away from your opponents.

Community Chest cards may see you parting with your hard-earned cash for binocular repairs or reward you for winning second prize in a wildlife photography competition, for example.

While the theme could, perhaps, work a little harder in some areas, it’s a great way to introduce younger players to a variety of species.

Reviewed by Angharad Moran

Ocean bingo

Laurence King, £19.99

Ocean bingo

Hurrah! A board game with no ridiculously complicated rules that drain all joy from the arena before anyone has so much as spun a spinner. This – the latest in a series of wildlife-themed Bingo sets – is perfect for restless kids and rainy days, and requires precious little by way of instruction.

All you have to so is select a game card; cover your 25 (out of 64) sea creatures with yellow discs as they are called; and the first to finish shouts The Word. It’s a great way for children to get to know some of our amazing ocean species, from red lionfish to leatherback sea turtles.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson

I Saw It First! Jungle

Laurence King, £19.99

Jungle board game

A fun spotting game with – hurrah – no complicated set-up or rules. Simply take it in turns to pick an animal counter, and it’s a race to spot said species. There are 300 creatures to find, with interesting rarities, such as Temminck’s tragopan and Sumatran torrent frog alongside gorilla and tiger.

Games can last for as little or long as you like, with as many players as can squeeze around the six-piece board. The illustrations on the counters are small, giving rise to the odd squabble but, on the whole, this was an enjoyable 25 minutes. The eight-year-old pummelled me (and, happily, his brother), coming in at 13 spots.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson

I Saw It First! Ocean

Laurence King, £19.99

Ocean board game

The concept couldn’t be simpler. You have a board with pictures of some 300 species of sea creatures – whales, coral, shellfish, jellies, crabs, et al. And you have a box, from which you draw illustrated tokens. All you have to do is match the picture on the token with one on the board. The winner keeps the token and you draw again from the box. Whoever ends the game with the most tokens is the champ.

The tokens include the species’ names, and as we played, we assimilated oceanic ID knowledge without realising. So far, my son and I have only played a handful of times, but our spotters’ badges are assured – we’ll never fail to identify a terrible claw lobster or googly-eyed glass squid. Simple, but effective.

Reviewed by Paul McGuinness

Jigsaw puzzles

Wentworth Wooden Puzzles, £25.00


Jigsaws have enjoyed something of a resurgence since lockdown. If you’re after something a bit different, try this colourful and absorbing 185-piecer. Like all Wentworth products, it’s UK-made (from sustainable sources) and includes the Victorian-inspired ‘whimsy’ pieces, shaped according to theme – so here, wolves, flowers and ornate spirals.

These aren’t your standard jigsaws. Aside from the obvious quality of the wooden pieces, they are a law unto themselves – middle pieces can have straight edges and no two are the same. I began mid-morning and emerged mid-afternoon – just the right level of taxing.

Reviewed by Sarah McPherson

Card games

Butterfly Wings: A matching game

Laurence King, £14.99

Butterfly Wings game 1

A box full of 25 delicately detailed butterflies awaits players of this game. The challenge? Each species is featured twice, once with wings open, and once closed – all you need to do is pair them up. Though crimson rose and zebra longwing make life easy, those such as blue morpho and gold-banded forester may prove a little trickier.

Butterfly Wings game 2

While Christine Berrie supplies the wonderful illustrations, Mike Unwin provides information on each species in the accompanying ‘key to the butterflies’, which reveals the correct pairings. You’ll soon be able to tell your dead leaf from your sunset daggerwing.

Reviewed by Angharad Moran

Birds playing cards

Laurence King, £8.99

Bird cards 1

Introduce an ornithological element to your game nights. Each of the cards in this delightful deck is adorned with a different bird species illustrated by Ryuto Miyake. The traditional suits are colour co-ordinated – diamonds feature a snowy egret and Bali mynah; a hummingbird and Victoria crowned pigeon are placed within spades; a flamingo and scarlet ibis are part of the clubs family; while a raven and long-wattled umbrellabird are included in the hearts suit.

Bird cards 2

With an educational aspect for younger players and the chance to admire lovely artwork, your games may take a little longer but what’s the rush?

Reviewed by Angharad Moran

Mobile games

Wildeverse May 2020

Internet of Elephants, free


Enter an augmented reality with this new mobile wildlife game. Look through the virtual forests to find and learn about four species of ape, all of which are based on real individuals in the wild – Fio (Bornean orangutan), Chili (white- bearded gibbon), Buka (western lowland gorilla) and Aida (chimpanzee). Working with scientists, you’ll help to conserve the apes through various missions, such as looking for tracks and poo, and finding out what food the apes have been eating.

Working with scientists from real wildlife organisations – Goualougo Triangle Ape Project and Borneo Nature Foundation – the developers had planned for users to play the game outdoors, but with the outbreak and spread of coronavirus, they worked to adapt it for playing indoors.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby

Video games

Bee simulator March 2020

BigBen Interactive, £34.99. Available on PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.

Bee Simulator 2

Explore the world of a honeybee in this fun game. Born to a hive in a world inspired by New York’s Central Park, you’ll gradually learn how to fly, collect pollen, help other bees, dodge spider webs, and even how to fight wasps. The game is educational and aimed at families.

Bee Simulator 1

Though enjoyable to play, the voiceovers are quite cheesy, and controlling the flight of your bee is far more difficult than expected – so it is probably not suitable for first-time gamers.

Reviewed by Megan Shersby

Main image: Playing a board game. © Sean Justice/Corbis/VCG


These reviews originally appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine. Take a look inside the current issue and find out how to subscribe.