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Nothing beats a hot summer day with burgers on the grill, beers in a bucket, and family playing games in the backyard.

This kind of Sunday afternoon is a nostalgic American pastime. Just add a white picket fence, and you're living in Pleasantville.

Just picturing a scene like that tends to stir a warmth inside us… For many, it’s a reminder of simple days. Times with no responsibilities, no stresses, and plenty of companionship.

Whether it's a backyard barbeque like that or a rainy evening in the family room, games are often at the center of our most cherished memories.

Some play boardgames. Some play video games. But some – the bold ones – play the games of champions…

I'm talking fast-paced air hockey tournaments, raucous foosball games, and billiards tables (with cigars on the side?).

Full-size table games are great if you have the space and the budget. But you don't need a big game room to bring the same energy (and let's be honest, jealous friends) to your gatherings.

Tabletop versions of these classic games are a fantastic option for those Sunday afternoon barbeques and family nights. There are even miniature options to add some whimsy to your desk at work.

And even better, these things are cheap. Well, they're inexpensive. But they're still quality.

Here are some of our favorites…

Tabletop Air Hockey

We're incredibly picky when it comes to air hockey tables. For the optimal playing experience, you need a strong motor and a smooth playing field. There are a lot of subpar pieces out there that just don't give you the air pressure needed to keep that puck flying.

Tabletop games will never offer as quality a playing experience as the full-size versions. But for the money and convenience, Sport Squad HX40 and PlayCraft Sport are two of the best we've seen.

Both are 40-inch tables that are lightweight and easy to store out of the way when not in use. They are sturdy, giving you a flat, balanced playing surface. And the slightly slower speed from the tabletop motor is ideal for young children. You can expect about two years of play out of either of these models.

Tabletop Foosball

When purchasing a foosball table, some of the most important things to consider are material, player configuration, and even graphics vs stickers on the playing field. There are not as many customizable options for tabletop foosball. But if you're a beginner or just looking for a convenient piece for light use, you can't go wrong with the Sport Squad FX40.

This compact, mini foosball table is perfect for on-the-go play. The rods are chrome-plated steel, which improve movement range and speed. And the handles are rubber, allowing for a firm grip with those trick shots.

Tabletop Pool

The Rally and Roar Mini Billiard Table is as close to a pool hall as you'll get. The custom-made balls are weighted and balanced, which is important when it comes to sending that ball exactly where you're aiming. The cue sticks are also heavier than many competing miniature pool tables, giving you more control.

This 40-inch table is recommended for all ages.

Tabletop Tennis

In this category, we recommend skipping the tabletop ping pong sets. In our experience, they just don't compare to the real thing. Why spend the extra money when all you really need is a net, two paddles, and a ball?

The Halex On-The-Go Table Tennis Set Model #57000 includes an adjustable net, two paddles, and three balls. The net quickly clips onto any tabletop up to 1.75 inches thick. Children can easily set up and break down this set on their own. Our favorite part… this set is often on sale for less than $20. And with its own storage bag, it's super simple to bring along on picnics or vacations.

Tabletop Shuffleboard

We saved the best for last. Shuffleboard tables are what first sparked our love of games. So we are especially particular about recommending only the highest-quality board for the price. Carrom 650.01 is that board.

This is an indoor or outdoor piece made with real wood and lead-free ink. You can play it right out of the box without any setup. (Because really, when you get something this cool in the mail, who has time to wait for assembly?) The board is well constructed and sits level.

The table includes 8 pucks, but if you're playing with kids, we recommend purchasing the replacement set as well. (Replacement set of pucks, not kids. But I guess that's up to you.)


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