6 Challenging Party Games With Paper Cups

1. Yank Me

A game of steady-handed stacking and precision demolishing of paper-cup towers. Can be played solo, as a race, or in teams.

You will need:

  • Three medium sized index cards per player. They need to be big enough to fit a paper cup on top of. If you can’t find index cards, try and find A4 paper of a similar weight that you can cut up into thirds across the width. You want fairly thick paper, at least 150gsm, or it won’t hold the cup.
  • Four paper cups per player


The challenge for each player is this:

  1. build a tower of upside-down cups that is four cups high, with an index card between each cup.
  2. from top card to the bottom, remove the index cards so that the cups fall onto each other in a stack.

If you stacked the cups poorly, or you don’t pull the cards in the right way, the cups will tumble off the tower and you will have to stack them back up to their full height before you can try again.

The first player to build and collapse their tower is the winner!

To play this as a team race, get into teams of two and assign one person as the builder (who builds the tower) and another as the collapser (who removes the index cards). If the collapser causes cups to fall away from the tower, the builder must take over again to restack the tower to it’s full height before the collapser can try again. The first team to finish wins!


2. Moving On Up

A game that asks player to try to be a little ambidextrous, as they alternate hands to hastily cycle through a tall stack of cups.

You will need:

  • Lots of plastic cups! 40 per player, in fact.
  • One cup of each 40 should be a different colour to the others. If you don’t have multiple colours of cup, you could simply colour one of the cups with marker pen.

(To save on plastic cups, instead of having everyone play simultaneously, you could use only one stack of 40 cups and time each player when it is their turn.)

Set Up

For each player, stack all 40 cups with the differently colored odd-cup on the bottom. Give one stack to each player to hold at the bottom with one hand.


Players will take the cup from the top of the stack and move it to the bottom of the stack. With their other hand, they will now reach again to the top of the stack and move that cup to the bottom. This continues, with players alternating hands with each cup moved, and the odd-cup slowly moving up the stack.

The winner is the first player to get the odd-cup to the top of the stack and move it back to the bottom, completing the cycle.


3. Flip Your Lid / Cup Ballet

Here’s a challenge with a plastic cup and a bottle that is very satisfying to pull off.

You will need:

  • One bottle (glass or plastic) per player.
  • One plastic cup per player.

Set up

  1. Place the bottles about 30cm away from the edge of the table.
  2. Turn the plastic cup upside down and place it over the edge of the table, so about one third of the opening hangs over the edge. Each player should have a plastic cup set up in this way facing their bottle.


Use your fingers to flip the plastic cup into the air towards the bottle. The first player to get their cup on top of the bottle (upside down) wins!

You can also play in teams. Have one player hold the bottle. They will stand on the opposite side of the table. The player flipping the plastic cup will now have further to flip it, but their teammate will actively move the bottle to try to “catch” the cup. The first team to do so, wins!


4. Pass The Water

A relay race of passing water from cup to cup. The twist? You pass the water over your head, without looking. If your teammates get overexcited this could be a wet game.

You will need:

  • A plastic cup for each player.
  • Water.


  1. Split your group in half. Arrange them into two lines, all players facing the same direction, one behind another.
  2. Give each player a cup.
  3. For the player at the front of the line, give them a cup that is filled to the brim with water.


Without turning, the players at the front of the lines must raise their cup over their head, then pour the water in the cup backwards, while the player behind them will (hopefully) catch as much of the water as they can.

Repeat until the water has reached the last player in the line. The team with the most water left in the last player’s cup wins!


5. This Blows

Commit the air from your lungs to a balloon then skillfully wield it, like Storm from the X-Men, to topple paper cups. Or waste it as your balloon pathetically deflates.

What you need:

  • A balloon per player.
  • 15 cups per player.


  1. Place the plastic cups in a line at about 15cm from the edge of the table. Each player should have their own separate line of 15 cups.
  2. Take hold of your balloon and prepare yourself.


Inflate the balloon, then hold the opening closed with your finger. Face the opening towards the first cup in the line on the table. Release the air from the balloon so that it pushes the cup, until the cup falls off the table. Repeat with the next cup in the line. You should be able to get several cups off the table before you have to reinflate the balloon.

The first player to blow all 15  cups off of the table wins.

6. Cup Stacking

This game, that seems the simplest in the list, is in some ways the most competitive. There are even cup stacking championships. The world record for “sport stacking” is 1.33 seconds. How fast can you do it?

What you need:

10 cups per player. That’s it!


The challenge for each player is this:

  1. Build a pyramid of cups. Start with a line of four to make the base. On top of these, above the gap between the cups, place another three cups, each resting on two cups below. Repeat this with a line of two cups on top of that, and a final cup at the top.
  2. Collapse the pyramid into a single stack of cups. Instead of doing this one cup at a time, you can take the top cup and carefully work it down one side of the pyramid, collecting one cup at each level, then take that stack back up to the new top cup continue collecting cups. You can collapse a pyramid of cups very quickly this way, but don’t go so fast that you knock the whole thing down.

The first player to collect all their cups back into one stack wins.

Competitive cup stacking uses more complex patterns, but the challenge above is a good place to start. If you want to learn more about cup stacking, speedstacks.com/learn/ might be a good place to start.

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