The world of television is unpredictable and, inevitably, some shows get canceled too early. Game shows are no exception to this problem. The best game shows are endlessly entertaining, with just the right amount of suspense to get us hooked. A lot like the best cooking shows, or the best reality shows, game shows are the perfect low-stress TV to kill some major time. All these shows got the ax, but we’d love to see them come back. It’s reboot season, after all — and we’ve seen newer versions of game shows like Match Game and Love Connection get the revival treatment and reach a whole new generation.
31. Weakest Link
This savage show was an adaptation of the popular British original, and it was pretty great. Players were forced to work together to answer trivia questions and create a “chain,” which could be broken when a player answered a question wrong or decided to be selfish. Each round, the team would vote someone out, and that player was deemed the weakest link. Host Anne Robinson is honestly sort of terrifying, and we wouldn’t want her to call us out. The show lasted five seasons in the US, but the British version had nearly 1,700 episodes.
30. Minute To Win It
Sometimes simple is really the way to go with game shows. Minute to Win It featured simple games with household items, but it was just as entertaining as the more elaborate shows on this list. Special celebrity episodes and team editions helped spice things up, and it was one of the best new game shows in a while. With famous hosts Guy Fieri and Apolo Ohno, the show ran for four seasons before its cancellation. It was really gone too soon.
29. Deal or No Deal
When it first premiered in 2005, Deal or No Deal was one of the most popular game shows in recent memory, and with good reason. The glitzy briefcases (and the gorgeous models) quickly became iconic, and million of Americans tuned in to see whether the contestants would get stuck with $0.01. The show aired for a total of six seasons before getting canceled, but it might not be gone forever. CNBC is reportedly rebooting the show later this year, so we hopefully haven’t seen the last of those briefcases.
28. Separation Anxiety
When Separation Anxiety launched in 2016, it was mainly meant as a vehicle for popular standup comedian Iliza Shlesinger. On the show, couples are separated and must both compete for prize money, but one of them doesn’t know the real nature of the game. Honestly, the premise was a little bit confusing. The show wasn’t a huge success, but Shlesinger was a great host, and it’s a shame that she only got the gig for a single season. Maybe she should get a new show, or this one could be retooled into something slightly easier to follow.
27. Family Game Night
Game shows can offer a prime opportunity to expand an existing brand, as was the case with Family Game Night. The show was based on the Hasbro family of board games, and the contestants competed in life-size versions of these classic games. There were dozens of games throughout the five seasons, but some highlights included Operation, Jenga, and Battleship. It’s easy to forget, but board games are just the best. The show was highly entertaining to watch and made you want to play those games yourself. So basically, it did what it set out to do.
Broadcast for one season in 2006-2007, Identity offered a unique look at our first impressions of those around us. On the show, one contestant was asked to match up 12 strangers with statements about their identities. As you can imagine, contestants were often quick to make false assumptions, just like in real life. Game shows aren’t that serious, but they can get you thinking about how you interact with strangers. Celebrity magician Penn Jillette hosted the show, but it was sadly canceled after just one season.
25. Million Dollar Money Drop
There was probably no more heartbreaking show to be on than Million Dollar Money Drop. At the beginning of the show, a pair of contestants is given a million dollars in cash. It’s right there in front of them, but they know they probably can’t keep it all. Answering trivia questions, they have to put the cash on trap doors, deciding how much to risk on each answer. When they get a question wrong, the money disappears through the trap door. It must have been hard to stomach as a player, but it was amazing to watch at home.
Hidden camera shows are usually a lot of fun, and Oblivious was no exception. Airing from 2002-2004, the show followed as the host went in disguise and asked random people a series of trivia questions. The prizes on the show were in the hundreds rather than millions, but the element of surprise kept it compelling. There were also some great reactions from people who weren’t so excited about being on camera, and a few even refused the money. If we’re going to get on this show, we’re going to need it to come back first.
23. Million Dollar Password
Running from 2008-2009, Million Dollar Password was a reboot of the classic game show Password from the ’60s and ’70s. The classic show pairs celebrity guests with average contestants, who are forced to try and guess a secret phrase through clues. Hosted by game show icon Regis Philbin, the guests ranged from Betty White to Serena Williams. The celebrities were mostly just there for fun, but for the other contestants, there was major money on the line. The reboot was pretty short-lived, though, and was canceled after two seasons.
22. Supermarket Sweep
There’s nothing quite like a mad dash through a real grocery store. When Supermarket Sweep premiered in the 1960s, it featured just that. Teams would run around a real store, trying to get the most valuable items in their cart to earn a cash prize. A later version on Lifetime featured a fake grocery store set up just for the show, but the concept still worked like a charm. The show is sadly off air, but a few years ago, there was a great Saturday Night Live sketch starring Melissa McCarthy that spoofed the ridiculous show. We want the real version back.
21. Hole in the Wall
Hole in the Wall was probably never meant to be a massive hit, but man, was it fun to watch. On the show, a massive foam wall with shapes cut out moved quickly at the contestants, and they had to mirror the cutout shapes. If they failed, the wall would break, and they were eliminated. Some of the positions were pretty elaborate, and some of the contestants probably left with pulled muscles from contorting themselves into such extreme positions. This show was 100% silly, but it was still pretty hilarious.
20. Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?
The obvious answer to the question is yes, but most contestants found this show harder than expected. Faced with elementary school-level questions in all the basic subjects, we found that most adults forget everything they learned back in the day. Only two contestants won the top million dollar prize, one of whom was a Nobel prize winner, but most contestants walked away feeling embarrassed. To add insult to injury, the show required that losing contestants look at the camera directly and admit that they’re not smarter than a fifth grader. That’s got to hurt your pride.
19. 1 vs. 100
In any normal fight, these odds wouldn’t even be fair. On 1 vs. 100, the main contestant competes against a group of 100 people known as “the mob” in a trivia battle. With each question answered correctly, more mob members are eliminated, and the money on the line gets higher. To make matters harder, the mob often consisted of extremely smart people, as well as some occasional celebrity guests. The stacked odds made this a suspenseful show to watch, and some of the contestants thrived under the pressure. Unfortunately, this intriguing show only got three seasons.
18. Don’t Forget the Lyrics!
This show required contestants to do what we all try to do in our everyday lives: remember the words to that one song we know. It’s harder than it seems, and it was hilarious to watch contestants beat themselves up over forgetting the lyrics to a song they’ve heard a hundred times. The show only lasted a couple of season on FOX before being moved to VH1, where it was ultimately canceled after three seasons. The top prize was $1 million, and a total of five contestants made it all the way. That’s pretty impressive, but it was also a lot of money for the network to shell out.
17. Hollywood Squares
Of all the classic, iconic game shows, Hollywood Squares might be number one. With an original broadcast run from 1966-2004, multiple generations grew up with the show, and it was a favorite for millions of Americans. On the show, celebrities occupied each square in a 9×9 board, and regular contestants tried to judge the truth of their answers to various questions. Many of the celebrity guests were comedians, and the best part of the show was their hilarious way of responding to the questions. This is one show that is just dying for a reboot, and it’s bound to happen sooner or later.
16. Street Smarts
Street Smarts was a fun, fresh game show idea that was always pretty funny. Hosted by the charismatic comedian Frank Nicotero, the show would follow along as two contestants tried to predict interview answers of people found on the street. This show wasn’t about getting trivia right, but rather figuring out who knew the answers and who didn’t. This premise flipped the script on traditional game shows and led to some pretty great television moments. The show ran from 2000-2005, but it could surely be revived today.
There’s probably never been a more ridiculous game show than Wipeout, but we’re totally here for it. The show featured contestants competing on a giant obstacle course, and most of them fell ungracefully into a giant pool of water. The centerpiece was the giant red balls, which not too many people could get across. Add to that two comedic hosts giving sports commentary, and it was a cooky but winning formula. The show was a summer staple for seven seasons, but it was canceled in 2014.
14. Shear Genius
Shear Genius was more of a reality competition than a true game show, but we still miss it. In this Bravo show, a bunch of hairstylists competed in challenges each week, giving real models lots of interesting haircuts. We’re not sure we’d be brave enough to be a model on the show, but it was great to watch the crazy transformations that could occur. Season one featured contestant Tabatha Coffey, who was a breakout star and received her own spin-off. The show was canceled after three seasons, but Bravo could easily bring it back whenever they want. Please?
13. The Mole
This game show was probably one of the most entertaining to watch because it seems so stressful. The contestants work together to add more money to the pot, but one “mole” is simultaneously working to sabotage the group. It’s a constant struggle to figure out who the evil saboteur is, and it made great TV. This was based on a Belgian series, and the first couple seasons were hosted by none other than Anderson Cooper. Later seasons also featured celebrity contestants, which was definitely a fun element. Really, why not bring it back?
12. HGTV Design Star
Try to find one person out there who really doesn’t like HGTV. Dare you. Much like The Next Food Network Star, this show featured a group of upcoming design talents looking for their big break. The show combined the best of all the regular HGTV shows, and the reality competition shows that we’re all obsessed with. The interior design challenges were satisfying to watch, and the personalities were also pretty great. This show ran for a healthy seven seasons, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t get a few more.
11. Treasure Hunters
Treasure Hunters was a completely thrilling show to watch, but it was probably a major pain for the producers. It was basically like a reality version of National Treasure, combining history with symbols and codes in creative ways. The teams traveled around the country solving difficult, clever puzzles, and ultimately one team won a major prize. Unfortunately, all of those intricate clues must have been really complicated to put together and the show was canceled.
Unan1mous was the kind of show that really messed with your mind. The number in the title might be a little confusing, but being a contestant on the show just sounds frustrating. The contestants were locked in a bunker and forced to vote on who should win all the money. Nobody won until all the votes were unanimous. On top of that, the money was reduced the longer it took them to reach a conclusion. The drama on the show was exciting to watch unfold, but most of the contestants probably weren’t too happy when they left.
9. The Newlywed Game
The Newlywed Game is one of the truly classic game shows that has seen a few different iterations. The show features married couples who must answer questions about one another to see how well they know their partner. Many of the questions are about being intimate, so there were lots of hilarious (and embarrassing) moments. The most recent version of the show was hosted by Sherri Shepherd from 2010-2013, but the show dates all the way back to 1966. With a history that long, it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood reboots it again.
8. Who’s Still Standing?
This adaptation of an Israeli show featured contestants going head-to-head in trivia battles. The show used the popular theme of one person against a group, as the “hero” tried to withstand challenges from 10 “strangers.” Contestants who answered questions incorrectly were dropped through trap doors, which is always a nice touch. The show had the same host as Cash Cab and earned decent ratings, but it didn’t last. It was canceled due to its high production costs, but we’d love to see it back someday.
7. The Singing Bee
The Singing Bee was pretty similar to Don’t Forget the Lyrics!, and everyone knew it. In fact, the Singing Bee premiere was pushed forward so it would air the day before the other show. Maybe that’s why neither show was a massive hit, but oh well, they were still entertaining. Something about watching terrified contestants try to remember lyrics to popular songs is just compelling TV. NBC canceled the show after one season, but it ultimately aired for a few more seasons on CMT.
6. Repo Games
In real life, repo men are the people who take people’s cars when they’re unable to pay for them. Repo Games focused on two actual repo men, who gave the contestants a chance to keep their cars. Contestants were all in danger of losing their cars, and they were given the opportunity to keep their vehicles (with loans paid off) if they could correctly answer three out of five trivia questions. If they failed, their cars were immediately towed from their driveways. This show could really change some lives, but it was also kind of brutal. Either way, it was fun to have a show with some real stakes.
5. Power of 10
Power of 10 was kind of like Family Feud, but with a different format, and the opportunity to win a lot more money. On the show, contestants tried to predict the results of a poll question to the nearest percentage. There were five questions, each with a smaller margin of error, and the money for each question increased by the power of 10. The top prize was a crazy $10 million, but no one ever actually walked away with that much money. The show’s first-ever contestant did, however, win a cool million. Maybe the show got canceled because CBS didn’t want to give out so much prize money!
4. National Bingo Night
Who doesn’t love interactive game shows? Everyone is familiar with the rules of bingo, and National Bingo Night brought the classic game out of the retirement home and into a glitzy TV studio. The original show featured a bingo contest among the studio audience, but those of us at home weren’t completely out of luck. The show was rebooted as Bingo America, which allowed home viewers to compete for prizes. Bingo might not be that interesting to watch, but it’s fun to win. Sadly, the show went off air in 2009.
3. The Million Second Quiz
When The Million Second Quiz debuted, it was intended to be a big event series for NBC. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, it wasn’t just your average quiz show. As evidenced by the title, the quiz lasted one million seconds, which is over 11 days. It revolved around a series of contestants all trying to keep control of the “money chair,” and they made more money the longer they were in the chair. At the end, the top contestants competed for a top prize of $2 million. It wasn’t one of the best game shows ever, but it was a fun concept.
Rather than traditional trivia questions, Idiotest forced its contestants to solve brainteasers and puzzles. Contestants worked in pairs to answer visual questions on touch screens. Teams earned more money for answering the questions quicker, adding an extra incentive to work quickly. The show lasted four seasons, and there was also an online version that fans could play at home. The brainteasers were a lot of fun, and they were a good workout for the mind.
“It’s not just letters, it’s Lingo!” This iconic game show aired on and off from 1987 to 2011 and had international versions in the UK, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and more! On the show, teams of two had to use a letter board to guess a mystery word. While it might seem a little boring, it was seriously addictive. There were tournaments and special episodes, and we’re dying to see this show make a comeback!