Ridiculously Fun Nerf Gun Game Ideas for Any Situation
One of the best things about Nerf blasters are that there are endless games to play with them. For the most part, all you need are some friends, some extra darts, and some room to move. Then a Nerf war can break out in a moment’s notice!
But what happens when you—gasp—get tired of just shooting darts at each other, and want to spice things up a bit? Or you’re planning a Nerf war-themed birthday party, and need a few game ideas so you can have an organized Nerf war…or at least start off organized before it inevitably goes off the rails? (You know how your kids are.)
In this article, I’ll briefly cover 21 simple Nerf gun game ideas anyone can play. I’ll also suggest some Nerf blasters that would go great with each game. But before we get neck-deep into the list, here is a quick primer on Nerf Wars. (Feel free to skip ahead if you just want the list.)
What is a Nerf War anyway?
A Nerf war consists of two or more players, typically in teams, armed with Nerf blasters of course, where the goal is to outwit, outplay, and out-shoot the other team in a game of points or resources. One of the wonderful things about a Nerf gun war game is that they can occur anywhere if there’s room. Common battle arenas include backyards, neighborhood cul-de-sacs, playgrounds, forests, gymnasiums, barns, and even corporate offices, living rooms and dens.
Another great thing about Nerf wars are that the rules are fluid. As long as everyone agrees to abide by them, there are no “official” hard and fast rules. They are in place for clarity first, and balance second. Ultimately, it’s all about having fun! And making at least one person cry—kidding! KIDDING! That’s not cool.
Basic Nerf War Game Rules
You’ve got to know the rules before you break them. Nerf War rules are ever-changing and evolving. Most of the time, they depend on the skill level, age, and number of players. The types of blasters you have available greatly affect the games too. Some people only have single shot Nerf guns, while others bring in their Nerf Rivals that can shoot dozens of shots at a high rate. You can start with these basic Nerf rules:
- Uneven teams are OK. Usually, the number of players on each team is equal. Due to skill or age however, teams can be uneven. Most foam warriors like to balance teams based on player skill and ability rather than just quantity. For kids, I’d recommend splitting the oldest kids up, perhaps making them opposing team captains.
- No kicking, pushing, punching, or tantrums allowed! No one wants a fight or a hospital trip. Organized Nerf wars are friendly games for you and your friends to enjoy, so treat it like a classic shoot-out and not a prison brawl.
- Players agree on how many hits to take before being considered “out”. Typically, Nerf warriors are only allowed to become hit once before they are declared out. Once a player is out, they must go back to their base to respawn. Otherwise, they can sit on the ground and wait until a teammate comes by and “revives” them by tapping them on their body with their hand. A player’s ability to respawn or become revived by a teammate depends on the amount of agreed upon lives they have. Decide and agree on this all-important rule before—not during– the game.
- Only Nerf (or Nerf-like) blasters are allowed. In any basic Nerf war, it is usually established beforehand that only ranged weapons, specifically foam dart blasters, are allowed to be used in battle. NO foreign objects like rocks or sticks are allowed (obviously).
- Bigger Nerf blasters and other allowed items can be hidden by a non-player. Before the game begins, a non-player (parent, camp counselor, most sober adult) can help set things up to make the war environment more fun and exciting by hiding Nerf blasters and other items randomly around the battlefield. This way, players might luckily find one of these prizes during a match, which should give them an awesome advantage over the enemy.
- Other rules and arsenals can be set. Before the crazy battle begins, all teams should get together to discuss any custom or new rules to put in place. For example, you can allow players to use customized or modded Nerf guns, melee weapons, or faux grenades Or, for a bigger challenge, you can limit the weapon choices to pistols or bows and arrows only.
Now that we have those rules out of the way, let’s dig into this monstrous list of Nerf Gun Game ideas so you can start flinging foam—with a *purpose—in no time!
(*but really, do you ever need a purpose to shoot a Nerf?)
Nerf War Game Ideas for Adult or Kids
Indoor Nerf Gun Game Ideas
Shoot the Cups – Ah, the old classic. Stack some plastic cups in a pyramid shape, aim, and fire! Easy peasy. You could take a marker and write point values on the cups, and tally points for reach cup knock over. Not just knocked off the stack, but knocked OVER on its side. Winner is the player with the most points.
Nerf Jenga – Stack some wooden blocks or cups into a tower about 2-3 feet tall. Players take turns using a single shot blaster (Nerf Jolt recommended) to shoot off one block or cup at a time without knocking over the remaining pieces. The winner is the player who has collected the most pieces before the entire structure topples over.
Indoor Duel – Players are assigned a spot to stand in. After the game begins, the players must remain on their spots. They can duck, jump, and spin, but they cannot move out of their assigned spot. If they get hit or run out of ammo, they’re declared out and must sit down. Whoever has the most amount of tags, once all players are out, wins the round. Some variations allow the players to use couch cushions as shields.
Hit the Radio-Controlled Car – If you have a radio-controlled car, simply have one player drive it around the room while the other shoots at it. After the car is hit 3 times, swap roles.
Sightword Shoot Out – This is probably the most exciting way to work on a child’s word recognition and aim all at once. This is set up similar to the “Shoot the Cups” challenge, but place sightwords that they might be learning in school in front of the targets. Bonus points for being able to both say and shoot which word the child has to hit. After playing this, the kids won’t want to do their homework any other way!
Target Ball – This is a fun mix of indoor basketball and Nerf guns. However, you could also play this outdoors on your driveway basketball goal. Basically, one player shoots the basketball, while the other player shoots a Nerf gun AT the basketball. WHILE IT’S IN THE AIR. (Try not to shoot the other player in this game—aim for the ball!) Players get points for making the basketball shot, or for hitting the basketball with a Nerf dart.
Storm the Beach – Best played inside a gym, a large living room, or outside. Imagine the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, but with Nerf blasters (instead of replica WWII weapons). This game is set up where all the tables or boxes are set up so they’re surrounding a certain section of the gym. That will be one team’s base. The other team will start outside the gym doors. When the Nerf war starts, the team outside of the gym will “Storm the Beach” and try to advance to the enemy’s base. Last team standing wins. Everyone has 1 life.
Outdoor Nerf War Game Ideas
Humans vs. Super Zombies – You had to know this would be on the list. This game, not unlike a zombie apocalypse, has taken over college campuses all across the nation. In this HvZ variant, the team of humans are armed with various Nerf blasters, while the zombies are not allowed to have any weapons at all. Humans who are touched by zombies become zombies themselves. Zombies are allowed to RUN after the humans, but must WALK for 10 seconds—counting down out loud–after they’ve been tagged with a Nerf dart. (It’s extra fun when players count down in “zombie–speak”). After ten seconds, they can resume running after the humans. This game gets quite intense! Since the zombies can’t be fully destroyed, the last standing human “wins”. Before he or she becomes dinner!
Ready-Run-Fire – This is a Nerf-tastic variation of dodgeball. Place a row of loaded Nerf blasters across the ‘half court’ line in a single row. About the width of the playing area. Have one team stand at one side, and the other team on the opposite end of the field. At the sound of the whistle (or “ready, set, go”) both teams race to the middle, pick up a blaster, aim and fire! Each team must stay on their side of the field. A player is “out” after two hits. Last team standing, wins!
Team Elimination – Arguably the most popular type of Nerf war. This is your standard fun and crazy “deathmatch” game (so many darts!), where players must simply tag out the enemy team before they are taken down themselves. Each team has a certain amount of tags, or eliminations, until they are out for good. The last team to have any remaining players wins the match. For an added challenge, play this game in a wooded area.
Stash War – Similar to Ready-Run-Fire, this game has players split into two teams. All weapons and ammo must go in a pile in the center of the playing field. Everyone starts out standing an equal distance away from each other and from the pile. At the sound of the whistle, everyone must rush to collect their weapons in this chaotic brawl. Unlike R-R-F, players are free to run all over the field. They don’t have to stay on the side they started from.
Defend the Core – A really fun game that pits two or more teams (4 is ideal) against each other. Each team has a bucket or Hula Hoop—their core–on the ground. It’s up to the other teams to shoot as many darts into the other teams’ core. The round is over when everybody is out of ammo. Then, you count the darts up, and the team with the least amount of darts in their core wins.
Hula Shoot – Take any sized plastic ring or Hula hoop, and send it rolling fast across the field. Players then run alongside it shooting darts into the ring. They can also just stand and shoot through the hoop as it rolls by them. For an extra challenge for the older kids, have opposing team members run along either side of the rolling hoop, trying to shoot through the hoop to tag the other person. Only darts that go through the hoop and hit the other person counts.
Nerf Capture the Flag – Another classic! Have each team wear the same color shirt, socks, bandanas, or arm bands and give them a flag, ball, Grandma’s purse—any prize that they must protect. Place the treasure at opposite ends of the backyard or den and let them go for it. The goal is for each team to defend Grandma’s purse (or whatever the loot is) while at the same time, trying to steal the other team’s treasure and bring it back to their base. In my opinion, it’s even more fun to hide the prize from the opposing team so that not only do they have to find and capture it without being pelted with darts, but they won’t even know where to look! (Heh heh heh!) Players who are shot can either be in time out, or “respawn” by going back to their base and start again.
Hide vs seek –This Nerf war variant is quite popular. In hide and seek, one team is given a head-start to go and hide. Thirty seconds usually does the trick. This kind of match is best achieved in a wooded, or rural area. The “seeking” team must find all of the enemy hiding team members and tag (shoot) them in order to get them out. The hiding team also has the opportunity to tag out (shoot back at) the seeking team as well. Obviously, the team with the last un–tagged person remaining wins the match. And maybe, just maybe the respect of his or her peers.
Squad War – In a Squad War match, a non-player (parent, camp counselor, etc) is responsible for hiding all the various Nerf guns. One of the weapons should be the “best” most desired one. Players are then sent to find and pick up the weapons. During the game, players are encouraged to form squads with each other. These squads cannot be broken or betrayed, or else the offending player is out. The maximum amount of players in a single squad is three, depending on how many are playing. Players who are eliminated must leave their weapons on the ground and exit the playing field. The other team can pick up those weapons to trade or upgrade their own. A squad can only break if the members are the last one standings. That’s when things get really interesting! The last player alive wins.
Nerf Gun Freeze Tag – A foam dart-filled take on the old classic! Seriously, it’s the dart warfare that makes this so much fun for the kids. It’s recommended that you have at least four players for this one. And rather than having a designated shooter, everyone can be armed with a Nerf blaster. Basically, if you are hit by another person, you are frozen. And I mean “frozen”. This means no moving AT ALL or shooting your gun. Someone must hit you with a dart to unfreeze you. If you are playing teams, you would need your team member to shoot you with the dart to be unfrozen. Hopefully, your teammate won’t shoot you in the face or other vulnerable spot! Friendly fire is real!
Hunter Tag – This is a super fun Nerf war game for adults. (Although older kids can certainly enjoy it.) One player becomes the “hunter”, armed with a multi-shot blaster. The other players have single shot blasters (like a Nerf Jolt) and have to avoid being hit or tagged by the hunter. The hunter can be hit 5 times before they are out, while everyone else is considered tagged after 1 hit. As soon as another player becomes tagged by the hunter, they get to use their Nerf guns and become hunters too! Whoever can go the longest without being tagged is the winner.
Mystery Hunter – Depending on the size of the group, one or two people are secretly hunting the rest of the players. At the beginning of the game, everyone is given a small piece of paper folded up. A red dot is inside one (or two) of the papers. It’s important that nobody looks at their paper yet! Everyone goes and spreads out in the field—not hiding, just spread out. Then, at the sound of the whistle (or someone yells, “go”) everyone unfolds their paper to see if they have a red dot. The player(s) with the red dot is the hunter who goes around tagging the other players. Hunters have 5 hit-points, while prey only have 1. The last person tagged by the hunter wins. Or if the prey team up to tag the hunter 5 (or more) times, they win.
Protect the King (or Queen)! – One player on each side becomes the “king”, who is given a large Nerf blaster and a special badge, bandana, or feather boa to wear. (A hat and sunglasses work too.) The rest of the team act as Secret Service agents, escorting the King from one end of the field to the other, even taking bullets for their king. Whoever tags out the other team’s king first wins. Agents typically have two “lives” while the King only has one. Protect him at all costs!
North vs South – This is perfect for an uneven number of players. Split the players up so that one team has at least two more members than the other. The team with the most players gets the pistols or single shot weapons, while the team with the fewest members get the better or faster Nerf guns. The team with the last standing player wins.
This list is just the tip of the foam dart iceberg. There are infinite ways to make your own unique Nerf war. Have fun customizing your outlandish ideas that your kids and/or friends will love! One idea for a rule: players must stop and do a crazy chicken dance for 10 seconds if they’re tagged! Again, make sure that all the players agree with the rules before starting any epic Nerf battles.
Don’t forget to make an “ammo dump” for each team. You know, for when you run out of ammo and need to reload in a safe spot. A bucket of darts will do. It’s best to put it on high ground, not easily reached by the enemy team, if possible.
One final note: Just because the outdoor Nerf gun game ideas outnumber the indoor ones, doesn’t mean you can’t make a few adjustments and have a great indoor, rainy day Nerf experience.
Good luck, have fun, and don’t forget to help pick up all those darts!
Check out this highly-rated Nerf Rival blaster that you don’t want to wage a Nerf War without!
If you’re tired of getting ambushed in the office, check out this list of Cheap Nerf Guns that’ll help you defend your cubicle.
Finally, check out Amazon’s Nerf Fest for all the latest deals on Nerf blasters and accessories for your Nerf War games!