Who doesn’t love a good game show? From the madness of Fear Factor and Takeshi’s Castle to the sedate nature of a series like University Challenge, it’s a pretty wide genre of television and one that has countless fans across the world. The first game shows have their roots in the thirties and were usually question-and-answer based, but now we have shows that are won on pure luck instead of skills or knowledge.
And, of course, there’s always an excitable, loveable (or in some cases, famously unlovable) host to move things along and keep audiences captivated. If you love playing along at home or just want to know more about the cultural history of this beloved television phenomenon, then read ahead to find out the 10 longest-running game shows in television history!
10. Family Feud (24 years)
Although it has been around for a total of 39 years, this famous show that pits two families against each other has only been on continuously for 24 years since it was last brought back in 1999. The original Family Feud run was between 1976 and 1985 on ABC, with Richard Dawson as host. Three years later the series returned on CBS with Ray Combs presenting, although Dawson returned in 1994 for a year before the show was canned again.
However, in 1999 it was revived once more and has been going strong since. The format is simple: two families go head to head as they try to give the most popular answers to survey questions that have been posed to a hundred people, such as “What do you have with your breakfast?” The more popular the answer, the more points are awarded. Winners receive a cash award.
9. University Challenge – (29 years)
Another show that collectively has been on television for a very long time (in this case, over half a century), although the current run is only 29 years. University Challenge first ran in the ’60s for 25 years, before being revived in 1994, when it was hosted by Jeremy Paxman, who retained the role until his retirement in 2023 thanks to his deteriorating health. The show pits two teams from different universities against each other, and the questions are hard enough to earn a degree. A very British institution, University Challenge has seen countless brilliant moments as well as some gaffes that contrast heavily with its refined, highly educated nature. At the end of each series, the most successful teams face off to see who is named grand champion.
8. Noot vir Noot (32 years)
At 32 years, this Afrikaans musical quiz show is South Africa’s (and the entire continent’s) longest-running game show. Each episode has four different contestants, and they have to listen to some musical clues in order to answer questions. Usually, there’s a guest artist or band that performs a song too, so plenty of entertainment for watchers. The winners of the show are then invited to a semi-final, and the winners of that to a grand final. A great watch for music lovers.
7. Jeopardy! (39 years)
The first iteration of this famous game show aired in 1965 and ran for 11 years, before coming back in its current format in 1984. A bit of a twist on the old question-and-answer format, in Jeopardy! contestants select a category and are given an answer that corresponds to that category. To win cash, the contestant must reply in the form of a question that would give the answer the host has just revealed (for example, if someone selected “Professional Golfers” as a category, and the host said “This animal on the course has 14 majors,” the correct guess would be “Who is Tiger Woods?”).
Jeopardy! lost long-term host Alex Trebek in 2020, who had presented the show from its revival until his death that year. He was replaced by a number of rotating hosts.
6. Countdown (41 years)
This British game show has been on the air since 1982 and is an after-school classic for generations of kids. There are two contestants per episode, and three different games are played, each of which last thirty seconds (hence the name of the show). The first is a letters round, in which the contestants take turns choosing nine different letters and both then try to make the longest word possible out of the randomly selected letters. If a contestant manages to find a nine-letter word, they get ten points.
Other than that, it’s a point per letter length of the word, with only the person with the longest word receiving points (unless they both form words with the same number of letters, in which case they get an equal number of points). The number round involves contestants using arithmetic to get to a randomly chosen target figure, from six smaller numbers randomly selected by one of the contestants. The final round is a nine-letter anagram the contestants have 30 seconds to solve, called the Countdown conundrum. A staple of British culture that even made it into one of the best I.T Crowd episodes.
5. Wheel of Fortune (48 years)
A simple concept that’s been keeping audiences captivated for nearly half a century, Wheel of Fortune began life as a daytime show but is now one of America’s most-watched evening programs. The show involves contestants solving a hangman-like word puzzle, with the winner then allowed to spin a gigantic carnival wheel in order to win prizes, cash, and sometimes absolutely nothing. With a number of devoted fans and a lot of awards, this iconic show is one of the nation’s favorites.
4. Des Chiffres Et Des Lettres (49 years)
Translating to Numbers and Letters, this French show is the inspiration behind number six on this list, Countdown. Although the series’ are highly similar, there are some differences in format. However, the basic gist of the show — testing numeracy and literacy — remains. There are more rounds in the original French version than the British copycat too (including Speed rounds and Head to Heads), but all in all, they’re pretty similar, so if you enjoy one you’re likely to enjoy the other (assuming you can speak both languages).
3. The Price is Right (51 years)
The ultimate guessing game has been on the air since 1972. Hosted by legendary personality and notorious fighter of golfers Bob Barker from its inception until 2007, it’s currently presented by Drew Carey and remains one of America’s most popular shows, game or otherwise. The premise of The Price is Right is simple: audience members are selected at random and have to guess the price of various items to be in with a chance of winning them, with the closest guesses earning contestants that opportunity. There are several rounds, and contestants have the chance to win everything from new washing machines to cars. A classic show that’s been adapted by numerous other countries.
2. Question of Sport (53 years)
The world’s longest-running television sports quiz has been on the BBC continuously for over half a century, and since then has seen a lot of changes. Its most famous host is probably ex-tennis player and French Open winner Sue Barker, who was the presenter for over twenty years but was recently replaced by comedian Paddy McGuinness. Contestants are sportspeople (current or former) and television personalities, which has led to some hilarious moments (like former soccer player Ally McCoist not being able to identify himself). Smart, funny, and interesting.
1. Sábado Gigante (Chile & USA): 53 Years
Although its run came to an end in 2015, this variety and game show had been entertaining audiences in Chile and the U.S. (on the Spanish International Network) for 53 years at that point, making it the longest-running game show in history. There were game show elements to the series (including singing and dancing competitions), but there were also plenty of other interesting segments, including parodies of beauty pageants and a Jerry Springer-style lie-detector for potentially cheating spouses. A variety show of the truest nature.