Pub games through the ages

Pub games through the ages

Have you ever been to a pub and played a game of darts or pool? Perhaps you’ve challenged your mates to a game of foosball. But did you know that the best pub games – and some of the oldest – date back centuries, even millennia?

Whether you like digital games or the more traditional games, there is plenty of skill-based and luck-based games across history to get you out and about.


Arguably the world’s oldest pub game, horseshoes is a popular pub pastime that has been played for over a thousand years. It is not known where or when horseshoes first started being played, but the earliest evidence of the game dates back to 10th century China.

In horseshoes, the idea is to throw a horseshoe so that it lands completely surrounding a stake that has been stuck into the ground. Each player has two attempts at throwing a horseshoe. The winner is the player that can throw the horseshoe closest to stake.

Ringing the bull

A twelfth-century game, ringing the bull consists of throwing a ring, which is tied to the ceiling so that the ring goes over a bull’s horn that is mounted on the wall.

Bar skittles

Not all pubs had a lot of room for gaming. This has led to the creation of games taking less space. Bar skittles is a good example. The game consists of 9 pins and a ball held onto a pillar by a piece of string. Each player has 3 attempts to knock the pins down by swinging the ball.

Eight Ball Pool

Invented in the early part of the 20th century, eight ball pool is a very popular pub game and can be played by pretty much anyone. There are fifteen balls, seven stripped, seven coloured and one black ball, which is also known as the eight ball. Players start the game and depending on whether they pot a stripped or coloured ball determines which set of balls that player needs to pot. The object of the game is to sink, or pot, all of their balls finishing with the eight ball.

Pinball machine

Pinball machines, which were originally known as ‘flipper’ games, were not very common in pubs for a long time after their initial introduction to the market in the ’20s. During the ’60s and ’70s, they became popular again, becoming extremely popular with pub-goers.

Arcade machines

Arcade machines have been popular in pubs for decades and are still a great way to pass the time in a bar. Whether you’re playing classic arcade games such as Pacman or newer releases, pub arcades offer entertainment to patrons of all ages.


Originally an arcade game had only one game and took up a lot of space. Today arcade machines have evolved so that players can choose from a range of games, and pub owners can choose to install a bartop arcade machine, a wall-mounted version, or even go for a coffee arcade table.


Still, one of the most popular pub games to play, darts, has been played in pubs for hundreds of years across the world, including China and England.

In its current form, the game of darts was invented by Brian Gamlin in 1896. However, darts have been around for much longer and are thought to have origins as far back as the 1300s.


Skittles has been played for over a thousand years, with the first known evidence of the game being played dating back to 1097. Skittles is a bowling game that requires players to throw wooden balls at skittles which are set up on a wooden frame. The game shares its ancestry with similar bowling games and is related to games such as bowling and billiards. The skittle can trace its ancestry as far back as ancient Eygpt.


Backgammon, a board game, is a very old pub pastime that is thought to have been played as early as 2000 BC. Backgammon is played against an opponent, and the aim is to move all of their pieces from the board before your opponent can do so with their own pieces!

Shove ha’penny

Shove ha’penny is a pub game that has been played for over a thousand years and is similar to bar skittles. It requires a shove ha’penny board and some coins to play with. Each player has three attempts to knock all the coins off of the board before their opponent can do so, too!

The sheer range of gaming options, either digital or traditional should encourage you to get out and try games from throughout the ages.