By Whitney McInTosh
Last month I discussed the many ways that “Plinko” is the greatest Price is Right pricing game of all time, so with that firmly established as the number one pick this month I ranked the other 71 current games as promised. This ranking is pretty subjective, as you won’t see any point values listed alongside each game. However, categories were considered as I decided the order including level of difficulty (too complicated or too pedestrian of a concept got bumped down quite a ways), inherent fun involved in playing, and my own personal enjoyment of each one. Feel free to argue in the comments because after all that’s what lists were made for, to start arguments over game show mini-game quality.
Without further ado, the final list.
I’m So Sorry, You Actually Had to Play That Game? On TV?
72. Bargain Game (Bob’s Bargain Bar)
Short reason this is last is that there is way too much math involved for how long pricing games should reasonably take. Long reason is that the overall concept is so convoluted it seems like something Barker always wanted to be included in the show long after it had stopped being entertaining. It also suffers from unoriginality, seeing as it very much feels like a first draft of what would end up being Showcase Showdown.
71. Coming or Going
I have a real dislike of games that take up less than 10 seconds of show time. It’s an insult to the contestants that play them and not at all entertaining to watch someone guess one thing and either win or lose in a snap.
70. Do the Math
Again, way too much thinking involved for what will eventually amount to a quick decision. Also, games like this tend to limit the level of audience involvement that can happen and also be helpful.
69. Grand Game
Too. Darn. Complicated.
68. Hi Lo
I literally don’t understand how this game ends. I have seen it played multiple times and am at a loss. That’s a problem.
67. One Right Price
Both this and its opposite suffer from being the more boring pricing version of Two Truths and a Lie. Quick, and again, not really that much fun. These should be fun to take part in even if you don’t go home with a prize.
66. One Wrong Price
Contestant is shown a prize with one digit of its price missing. They then have to guess what the missing number is from three options. See above.
Isn’t terrible in concept, but gets too lost in itself as it advances to the later steps of the game. It would be much better if it was as simple as taking the original six bags of groceries and matching them in three pairs of two according to prices. Doing this with only two and then having all sorts of complicated second chance proceedings if that guess is wrong it makes the game much more of a maze than it needs to be.
63. Most Expensive
Put three prizes in order from most expensive to least expensive? BO-RING.
62. Easy as 1-2-3
LITERALLY the same game as Most Expensive, but with blocks. How creative.
One Tweak Away From Being Much Better
61. Danger Price
The title sounds like a Top Gun promotional tie-in, but the entertainment or cheese value of the game unfortunately doesn’t live up to the name. It’s a little complicated to understand without seeing it on the show and once you figure it out it isn’t all that entertaining. Stop writing checks your audience can’t cash, Price is Right.
60. Balance Game
Balance Game at least has a positive piece in that it is more interactive than others that find themselves on the lower end of the list. All in all there are definitely less exciting unveilings than this game for contestants but I never got the full appeal.
59. Ten Chances
Ten chances? A contestant really needs ten whole chances to guess prices that the audience probably yells out all the time? Way too much, and people usually don’t win anyway which is completely pointless for a game with this many opportunities.
58. Swap Meet
Too quick, but at least usually requires a moment of though instead of just a guess outright. Plus at least the contestant gets to move around here rather than standing still and telling a model what they choose.
57. Check Game
Similar to Swap Meet, at least the contestant gets a chance to think and do something during the game but the entertainment value here is pretty low.
56. Magic Number
Harmless, has a lever that earns it some extra love. You would think letting the contestant know which prize is more expensive and which one was less expensive would help them when choosing the “magic number” but I feel like more often than not it just psyches them out.
55. Take Two
Not great, not awful. The upside here is that although you only get to have two quick chances if you succeed you win all four prizes possible, which are usually somewhere in the medium range of prize options.
54. Pass the Buck
One of the few grocery games I am not a fan of, as the groceries here are basically shoehorned into the game as a way to make the name literal. The problem here is that if this game was called anything other than “Pass the Buck” the show wouldn’t have a pun they needed to satisfy with the rules, but is so they do. Overly complicated, but there is a car involved so that evens it out a bit. Separating out the two parts of the game would definitely spawn two quality parts but together it is just a bit too much.
53. Shopping Spree
A little boring, a lot bland.
52. Double Prices
Very happy the current version has been modified from the original 70’s syndication version. This one is boring, but the original was overcomplicated and boring. Some sort of improvement, at least.
Not Incredible, Not Show Killers
This is an audience favorite, presumably because all they have to do is yell “Switch!” or “No!” for a minute straight. Falls into the “too quick” category but the prizes are usually decent enough (bedroom set, treadmill, hot tub) and the switch isn’t ever truly obvious.
Nothing specific against this game but it gets lost in the shuffle a lot of the time. Allowing the contestant a second chance to rearrange the car numbers without knowing if they’re wrong or not seems like a waste of time and not all that helpful to the person playing. Again, when a car is involved it pushes things up the rankings just a tiny bit.
59. Double Cross
Nothing inherently wrong with this game, but it is much harder to win than it should be and watching contestants move the screens around isn’t as entertaining as you’d think it would end up being.
48. 2 for the Price of 1
Why have two prizes if the contestant only has to guess the correct price of one of them? Having three to four numbers missing between both prizes could easily remedy this weird half-game but instead you have a contestant only focusing on one prize. This works if the second prize is a car or a trip, but if the first is pairs of shoes and the second is a dining room set or something the allure isn’t enough to overcome the imbalance.
47. Stack the Deck
More or less the same as a lot of other games on the show, except for the use of cards to represent the missing numbers of the car price instead of just having contestants thinking of them of the top of their heads. Earning the cards/numbers of the price by guessing the price of grocery items could be two over the top but it is done in a more simplified way than other games do on the show.
46. Step Up
Best guilty pleasure movie in the last decade, mostly because of Channing Tatum obviously…oh oops my bad. So…um…the pricing game! “Step Up” is about the most average you can get out of most of these games and the most expensive prize is rarely a car or a trip anywhere special. Average difficulty, average prizes, average game.
45. Money Game
Any game where the contestant automatically wins cash even if they fall short of the grand prize is a fan of mine. Unfortunately, this comes off as a worse version of “Any Number” so points are lost in the originality department. This game is also not played a lot so when it is brought out it doesn’t get a huge fan reaction. It also strikes at the right amount of “second chances” allowed with two wrong guesses acceptable before they actually lose.
Racing to guess whether correct numbers are higher or lower in the price of a car is only entertaining because of the racing. The sound effects that come out of the button they press for correct/incorrect rulings aren’t too shabby either but overall nothing special to see here.
Another game where running is heavily involved and blocks play a role in the price corrections. Running and blocks: your toddler dreams come to life with prizes!
42. Pay the Rent
An original idea and a nice prop to go with it, this game is fun but suffers from the fact that winning it is really difficult and hardly ever happens. Also, the audience help for this game is more often than not wrong because of how hard it is to guess the correct combinations.
41. More or Less
If this game had a shorter running time, it would probably be much lower in the rankings Fortunately, there is usually way too much time spent on the second prize what with the contestant looking towards the audience for help, and a car waits at the end. Another positive is that prizes won stay in the contestant’s possession even if they lose halfway through guessing.
40. Shell Game
Incredibly similar to “Bonus Prize” but with the addition of a carnival-like prop set-up. Weirdly, they use shells in a supposed thimblerig way, but then don’t actually move them around. It would be much more fun if this was actually played like a carnival game and they had to follow the prize, as is it ends up just being a rip off.
39. Line Em’ Up
Pretty similar to “Make Your Move”, but without the color-coded fun. This is clearly the rip off out of the two games and suffers because of it. Eight digits must be lined up to form the middle numbers of a car price (picture a crossword puzzle where three of the across answers form the middle of a down word). One positive here is that the contestant doesn’t have to guess the prices of the smaller prizes, they just have to order them. A great example of how paring down something that could be overcomplicated really helps the final product.
38. Five Price Tags
Similar to “Bonus Game” in that if the contestant guesses all of the small prizes correctly they know immediately they won the car, as there is a 100% chance they choose the correct price tag from the five available. This is basically “Bonus Game” with the addition of free choice by the contestant.
37. Safe Cracker
The set for this game really saved it as far as where it fell in this section. It is definitely an average game, but having a huge oversized safe on stage helps if only because it satisfies the Ocean’s 11 heist fantasy that 80% of people secretly (or not so secretly) have.
36. Spelling Bee
Drew Carey offering players money to walk away from the game is always a nice treat, as it was with Bob Barker. Spelling Bee is fun not only because this happens multiple times, but that it’s happening en route to a possible new car. Even if spelling out “C-A-R” is hard to do with the cards given, it seems easier when people are playing which makes the money that much harder to take and walk away. Enough suspense and Carey-contestant interaction that it adds up to some solid fun.
35. Grocery Game
Very close to the concept of bulls-eye but without the benefit of having an actual bulls-eye on stage. This game is actually harder than it’s grocery sibling, as the contestant has to use all five products and still fall within a very narrow range. I’m not entirely sure I could accomplish this if you asked me to do it in a real life grocery aisle with prices right in front of me.
34. Race Game
High energy and fun to watch, although stressful to play, this pricing game takes the cake for most movement and energy expended by a contestant. Assumedly, if someone could run back and forth and pull the level fast enough they could attempt all combinations of the four price tags on the four different prizes. Granted, there are only 45 seconds for someone to do this but I would love to see a day where someone who is a secretly talented sprinter or something accomplished this. Since most contestants aren’t secretly talented sprinters, the game does take some strategy and smarts (as well as audience help, obviously) while also running back and forth. Simple, high energy, and possibly to win with a solid first try.
33. Dice Game
Not as fun as the other dice-based game but an interesting concept that pans out into a really fun chance at a car. Again, luck does play in here as there have been a few times that contestants have rolled all one’s or sixes and therefore automatically locked in the price. But it also takes a little bit of strategy and thought if the dice comes up as a two through five.
Now You Have My Attention
32. Gas Money
A game with one of the highest possible win totals on the show, giving contestants a car and $10,000 worth of “gas money” if they correctly choose the price of the car from available choices. Having to choose four wrong prices in a row is harder than it looks but I admire any contestant who decides to risk the money they have won already for the car. Especially ones who start out with the $3,000 and $4,000 tags and aren’t sure about their next choice. Courage in its finest game show form.
31. 3 Strikes
This is basically the velvet bag from Project Runway except evil. Pull out a number and you get to decide where it belongs in the price of a car in front of you. But pull out a “strike” (a disc marked X) and you’re a third of the way to losing the game. The suspense involved is basically the only draw for this game but it’s a fun one nonetheless.
30. Secret X
Combines childhood fun with Tic-Tac-Toe into a giant pricing game. Another one where the set pushed it up the rankings a bit, otherwise very average.
29. Master Key
“Master Key” is helped by the crazy fun size of the props. Everyone wants to be able to unlock a comically sized lock with a giant gold key at some point in their lives, and that fantasy is made even better because there is a chance that if the turns a car will be your reward.
28. Push Over
One of the few games in Price’s arsenal that not only has no second chance opportunities, but also doesn’t allow you to change your mind once a decision has been mad. Definitely not a favorite of the commitment-phobes on contestant’s row. The props are a fun touch this game, as the blocks being tumbled off the ledge lend a slight feeling of being a children’s game without the entire thing feeling childish. The other positive that this game has is that it can be tweaked for different price lengths depending on the day. Therefore, it is not always for a car or a trip but could also be for a computer set or something similar.
27. That’s Too Much!
A game that is simple in its strategy and execution, but one where the entertainment value rests entirely on the audience yelling “That’s! Too! Much!” like they accidentally wanted to be at a Set It and Forget It taping instead.
One of the few games that involves moving around by the contestant, “Pathfinder” is basically one of the early 90’s computer game puzzles brought to life. Combining memory games you would play as a child with a trail of prices results in what feels like a kid’s play place activity, only you can win a car. Good old fashioned fun, plus enough second chances that one wrong answer won’t kick someone off the board. This is one game where re-do’s are necessary, as the chances somebody guesses all five numbers correctly on one try are slim to none.
25. Make Your Move
This game was made much better after the show decided permanently that there should be no numbers overlapping. There is definitely a strategy here that the audience is usually very helpful with, increasing the entertainment value and the chances of winning alike. If you have a good feeling about the price of a car the other two prices tend to fall into place but if not the game can be stressful and end poorly. In this way it is a good pricing game because it can either be easy or hard, but you don’t know until the contestant starts going. Definitely a game that lets the audience get excited when they see it, at home or in studio.
24. Lucky Seven
A game that could easily drag on and on if the contestant is slow to decide their next guess, or could also go very quickly if the contestant is incredibly dumb and doesn’t listen to the audience at all. Since this game usually comes down to the final number or penultimate guess the entertainment value is pretty high and the reaction if someone wins a car (throwing their remaining dollars at Drew and sprinting away) is always fun.
23. Bonus Game
If a contestant gets one guess correct for the small prizes, they automatically have a chance to go home with the big prize. There are very few times, if at all, that no one has chosen the right price from the four small prizes offered. Simple in concept, but gives more opportunities to win than games where you get one thing wrong and you go home with nothing. Also, contestants’ reactions when they get all four guess right, therefore knowing for sure they won the bonus prize, are just the best.
22. It’s In The Bag
Simple, but fun to watch at the same time. Matching items to price is harder than it looks as we’ve already discussed, and the inability to quit while you’re ahead or have any sort of second chance puts more pressure on the first round of matching. Also one of the games where watching Drew reveal the prices is the most enjoyable.
21. Triple Play
Three whole cars! This may be a simple and pretty difficult game, but the fact that three cars in one game is a possibility means this game is farther up the list than if there were only one or two available.
20. Range Game
Range game is one of those games that is really popular but not immediately recognizable for how fun it is based on the name alone. The suspense of if the contestant has moved the range past the price of the prize or not yet adds a really fun audience interaction element that isn’t only yelling out numbers (but has a lot of that as well). This game also has the previously discussed pro of being able to offer almost any prize producers would like to give that day and has a nice prop to go along with it.
19. Pocket Change
This game makes me feel super old timey even though it realistically probably shouldn’t. It amounts to “Hey kids, remember when a car only cost $1.75!”, but in game form and something that has a certain amount of suspense until the end. Even if a contestant continuously guesses numbers wrong there is usually a chance they can “afford” the car at the end of the game. The presence of a few $2 slips of paper in the envelopes available at least lends believability to the contestant’s chances of winning the car, even if they have be really luck and pull a lot of high value envelopes just to have a chance.
18. Check Out
I’ve always had a soft spot for this game because for some reason I really like grocery based pricing games. Because the products are based on the national average, it is actually more difficult to guess prices than you would think, especially for the locals who appear on the show via LA or other areas of California (these are not Whole Foods prices, people). This game is incredibly hard to win though, and as such can be a bit of a downer after things are so exciting during game play. A great example of the audience being able to help more than just “yes” or “no” directions and the contestant having to put some thought into the prices without needing a crazy amount of time that stalls momentum.
One of my favorites, but I understand why it might not be as beloved by everyone. Pretty difficult to win due to the narrow range allowed (although the addition of a second chance rule after the guessing is done has helped things). Even a slightly wrong estimation of what a price costs could completely derail your strategy. The design also gives this game a boost in the rankings because having a giant bulls-eye is automatically pretty boss.
16. One Away
An oldie but goodie at this slot, and one that is immediately recognizable for most audience members immediately. A healthy dose of audience participation and the opportunity for a car lends an energy here that isn’t automatic in other games. Also has the benefit of operating the same way that “Cover Up” does in that you can keep guessing until you don’t have a new guess correct. Instead of becoming more and more boring as it goes, this has the benefit of becoming more energized the longer the person keeps guessing.
15. Rat Race
I spoke briefly in the Plinko column last month about how many new games introduced after Barker left the show have been discontinued or played less and less as time goes on due to minimal popularity. “Rat Race” was one of the few that not only stuck around after being introduced; it has a decent amount of popularity that has only increased over the past few years. The set looks like something you would see in a secret underground rat racing gambling ring, what with the track being in the shape of a money sign and each rat color a different shade of neon. There’s also the possibility that a contestant could luck out and win a car, plus another two moderately great prizes. I’ve seen this happen more than once and people go crazy, for obvious reasons (I will stick to my little slot online for real money, thank you very much, all that is too official for me). Some points were taken off because the game is still so new to the show, but I could see my enjoyment of this increasing even further if they still have it in a few years.
14. Squeeze Play
I like Squeeze Play because it’s simple. Which may sound weird because I’ve been railing about overly simplified games this entire time, but this is a great representation of how it is possible to pull off a one-step game without seeming boring or stupid. Also, car.
The Elite Thirteen
13. Cover Up
One of the hardest to win due to the crazy amount of options for the later numbers, but also one of the games with the most second chances and the most “asking the sound guy if you got it right or not” of all Price is Right games. After you get past the first few columns of numbers, audience help tends to die off in regards to success but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop screaming random numbers out. The one thing I do like about this game is that the final column, with the most numbers but the hardest guess, is clearly the most difficult. But if you manage to guess it correctly the first go-around the rest of the game turns into something of a breeze. Luck plays into success here just enough that it doesn’t overshadow the fun but could easily make or break a chance at winning a car.
12. Card Game
I am 85% sure that my love of Card Game comes from the fact that it makes me think of Card Sharks, but it does have a lot of merit beyond that comparison. The ability to stop whenever you want, having aces act as wild cards that can also be saved for later, and the chance to win a car. One of many pricing games that uses the well known “closest to the price without going over” rule which works well here due to the unknown amount that the next increment will be when the subsequent card turns.
11. Flip Flop
A game that has been around for years and has the fan base to prove it (as most games in this section do) and despite the ease of the game and consistently moderate prizes it really is one of the most fun games to watch on the show.
10. Freeze Frame
A nice pair to “Flip Flop”, and a worthy one at that. Like the game ranked above it, “Freeze Frame” requires the contestants to decide which combination of four numbers is the correct one. Unlike the former game however, there are more numbers to choose from than just four. There’s nothing more annoying than when a contestant lets the rotating wheel go around more than once as they ponder what their choice will be, but audience participation tends to limit those instances so it usually works out for the better.
9. Clock Game
Have you ever seen someone guess the correct price for one or both of the prizes in this game on their first try with no help from Drew? I have, and it’s amazing. One of the few, if not only, games on the whole show where the audience is not allowed to help, the player’s quickness in spouting out a dozen prices one after another is the crux of the fun here and it works. It’s like playing a game in the car but on crack and for an iPad instead of bragging rights. Pure energy on display.
8. Any Number
Even if you lose this game, you’ll still leave with enough money for a consolation beer, which is the good news. The bad news is that if you guess enough numbers without winning the car you get either a few dollars or a coffee maker (or something along those lines).
7. Let Em’ Roll
Turning Yahtzee into a pricing game was a genius move and I applaud whoever thought to do just that. That’s really all the appeal that this game has, other than being the only game besides “Plinko” that has the player climb a flight of steps to drop things onto a playing board. Most people take the money unless they have four out of five cars going into the last roll, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.
6. Now… or Then
Ah, the grocery game to rule all grocery games. Thinking about what a gallon of milk or a pack of Oreos cost decades ago is entertaining all on its own, but add to that the fact that three adjacent pieces of a pie have to touch in order for someone to win and it throws just the right amount of difficulty into everything. Based on what year and products are chosen, the answers might surprise you as far as right and wrong goes. Personally, I am notoriously terrible at winning this game. The masterminds behind the scenes are just too smart or me I guess.
5. Punch a Bunch
Punching is a direct requirement for this game; that’s about the beginning and end of the awesomeness involved. Punching paper is generally a pretty hilarious and fun time, winning money is a fun time. The chance of winning $10,000 is a VERY fun time. Therefore, “Punch a Bunch” is ranked 5th.
4. ½ Off
Despite the very Deal or No Deal set design (even though this came first) and way to win, this game is a lot of fun. Again, the opportunity to win $10,000 is a big reason for the ranking here, but also the set design and props. There is something so artistic about 16 pastel colored boxes all lined up in rows on stage, and then half of the number left slowly lowering down from their pedestals with each correct price guessed. I also appreciate whoever designed the grand prize as tumbling out of the box in small bills if the game is won.
3. Hole in One (or Two)
Mini golf alert! They let people play mini golf on television to win money! This is one of the best games and I know for sure I would be a lock if I ever got the chance to play it. Hitting a ball straight from no more than 10 feet away looks easy yes, but I am not underestimating the way that a ball on turf can move. Regardless, a player gets two chances to succeed at an American pastime on national television. Try and tell me that doesn’t deserve this ranking, I dare you.
In this game, contestants are able to win three prizes if they are able to guess the price of all three without being off by more than a total of $25. Well, this ranking must be wrong. That sounds super boring. OH WAIT THERE’S A YODELING MOUNTAIN CLIMBER INVOLVED NEVERMIND. The greatest detail of this game is definitely that the tiny man who yodels and climbs a mountain on the way to possibly falling off a cliff has no official name. Listen next time the game is introduced by Drew, it adds an entirely different level to how much fun the host and players alike have playing this game. Love you Yodely Guy!
If you missed last month’s explanation for why Plinko is the greatest pricing game of all, you can find it here.