The Delightful, Simple, Super Kawaii Game for Any Gathering

An ode to Sushi Go Party!

Sushi Go Party! on a pedestal
Photo illustration by Slate

Read Slate’s complete list of the 40 Best Family Games.

My beloved Sushi Go Party!:

I hope this missive finds you well. My sincerest apologies for leaving you behind on the living room bookshelf while I leave for yet another trip, but your dented tin cover, while endearing, is not suited for travel. In lieu of being packed away in my “games for trips” bag, please accept this declaration of my boundless affection for you, the perfect party game.

We’ve not known each other long, but you have come a long way since your 2016 entrance as an expanded variation of the popular 2013 game Sushi Go!, and in the past year you’ve catapulted into the ranks of my top five favorite board games. Your colorful smiling case is usually the first box cracked open when my friends and I gather to play, and you never disappoint.

With your easy-to-learn mechanics (by Phil Walker-Harding), your adorable kawaii aesthetic (by Nan Rangsima), and your variety of entertaining menu options to change the rules, you are the ideal icebreaker, flexible for just about every board-game-playing situation. Do we have new players? Playing you, Sushi Go Party!, is reminiscent of Go Fish in its simplicity: After drafting a hand of cards, all players simultaneously play one card … and then pass the remainder of our hands to the next person, repeating until all cards are played in a round. Each card has a point value and/or special rules associated with it, and the goal is to have the highest number of points once the full “menu” is built out after three rounds. (Check the math every round to keep score, but leave your desserts until after round three, lest you wish to spoil your appetite.) That is the whole of your game, Sushi Go Party!, and it is always simultaneously delightful and refreshing.

Low on guests because everyone’s running late? We need a minimum of two people to play you, Sushi Go Party!, and can accommodate up to eight. Did everyone else arrive in the middle of round two? Well, games go quick, because there are only three rounds to earn the greatest number of points possible. Your handy game board comes with colorful player pieces and a numbered counter along its border so we can easily keep track throughout. The most difficult thing about you, Sushi Go Party!, is checking simple math for eight people at the end of a round—but rest assured, my darling, that problem is much more mine than yours.

Your cards are cute variations on foods and accouterments one might find at a classic sushi bar: nigiri, tempura, dumplings, chopsticks, green tea ice cream, etc. They are so well-crafted and reach deep into my heart with their bashful expressions and sleepy faces. I had no idea sleepy wasabi or grinning shrimp tempura would turn me into a pile of sentimental goo, but here we are.

And though I believe you are as easy to learn as Go Fish, you can be as infuriating and cunning as the most serious game of Settlers of Catan. You aren’t a pushover, SGP!: In the proper hands, those anthropomorphized foodstuffs are out for blood. It is particularly satisfying to snatch a much-needed Pudding after playing a Spoon (which allows me to take one card from another player) and singularly devastating to experience it from the other side. Or to have maintained a steady lead throughout all three rounds only to lose to a dessert-hoarding monster! In Sushi Go Party!, as in life, there is triumph and heartbreak.

For those hungry enough to yearn for a bigger version of the popular Sushi Go!, Party! is filled with seven new menu options, new foods, and an artfully designed game board. (It also expands the maximum number of players from five to eight.) You can use any or all of those new cards, picking from a template or creating your own menu. For the 20 or so minutes it takes to play a game of you, Sushi Go Party!, I am focused only on making the most delicious meals out of your always-happy-to-see-me cards, and nothing else. It is a glorious feeling, and I miss it when it’s gone. But I needn’t remind you of all the ways in which you are amazing. I’ll see you when I get home. Keep the shelf warm for me.

Sushi Go!,

Sushi Go Party!

Types: Cards, Strategy
Players: 2–8
Time: 30 min.
Variations? Y
Expansions? N
Fun without kids? Y