Skip to Content

History of ‘Guess Who?’ (Game): 19 Facts (Inventors, Editions,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Guess Who? is a fairly recent board game that was designed as a two-player children’s game to help children brush up their social and reasoning skills by solving a mystery. The game was widely popular during its launch as it was a very simple game to play that was fun and interactive.

However, during its rather short history compared to other board games such as chess and backgammon that were invented thousands of years ago, Guess Who? has had its fair share of controversies and events.

As such, we decided to scour the internet and found many facts and events about the history of Guess Who? that will leave you bewildered or at the very least surprised. Enough of the suspense; let’s get to it!

1. Who Invented Guess Who?

As we mentioned earlier, the invention of Guess Who? is fairly recent. The classic edition of Guess Who? was developed by Ora and Theo Coster, who were, in fact, professional game inventors in Israel. 

They owned a company by the name of Theora Design, that still exists today and specializes in the invention of games, toys, dolls, novelties, and even electronic games.

2. First Manufacturer?

Milton Bradley, an American company famous for manufacturing toys and board games, was the first to mass manufacture the classic edition of Guess Who? that we all loved playing as kids. The first production run took place all the way back in 1979.

3. European Success

The game was first brought to European or UK shores by a man named Jack Barr Sr. in 1982. Seeing the success of the game in the US market, he sought to test how the British would take to the game. As it turns out, the game was also a huge success in Europe and quickly became the favored game for school kids across the European continent.

4. First Solved

A game that is ‘solved’ essentially means that the outcome of a match can be predicted at any time from any position, given that both players play a perfect game. The first person to ever manage to solve Guess Who? was Mihai Nica in 2016.

5. Hasbro

Guess Who? is owned by Hasbro, one of the largest gaming manufacturers in the world. In 1984, Hasbro absorbed Milton Bradley, and the former company became a permanent division of Hasbro. 

6. Names Of Original Characters/Images

The classic edition of Guess Who? had 24 cartoonish character images, with each character having a first name. During its launch in early 1980, the following 24 fictional people that were first introduced included; Alex, Alfred, Anita, Anne, Bernard, Bill, Charles, Claire, David, Eric, Frank, George, Herman, Joe, Maria, Max, Paul, Peter, Philip, Richard, Robert, Sam, Susan, and Tom.  

7. Changes In Characters’ Features

Since its launch, Guess Who? has undergone many alterations with the addition of new image characteristics and new characters completely. To make the game more appealing to a wider audience, characters’ features were changed slightly to create more subtle differences that, in turn, make the game a little more challenging and fun.

8. Number Of Editions

There are plenty of editions of Guess Who?. From classic versions to special editions featuring characters from Star Wars, Marvel Comics, Disney, and more. To help promote ethnic and gender diversity, different editions can also be bought that focus on empowering women and reinstating ethnic pride. 

In fact, today, you can get customized versions of Guess Who? that are a lot more meaningful than the generic mass-produced versions you can find in toy stores.

9. Advertising Controversy

The original marketing campaign for the game showed the characters on the cards as if they were alive. As advertising laws changed, a disclaimer was added at the end of these ads stating that the “game cards do not actually talk.”

10. Gender Inequality & Ethnic Bias

Guess Who? has had its fair share of criticism since its launch in 1980. Soon after, parents and children alike began wondering why most of the characters in the game were boys. 

A more worrying fact was that there were almost no characters that were representative of ethnic minorities. The faces were all caucasian, and at the time of racial instability, many saw this as a deliberate ploy. 

11. A 6-year-Old’s Email

It wasn’t until a six-year-old wrote an email to Hasbro asking them why they were only 5 females compared to 19 males in the game that really put Guess Who? in the headlines. The girl asked her mother to send an email to Hasbro complaining about how the game was biased towards girls. 

Hasbro’s answer to the question was non-satisfactory, to say the least, and the argument that ensued made headline news. 

12. Popular Variations

There are many popular variations of the Guess Who? game. You can either play the classic or original version, which is a tabletop-style board game. Then there is Guess Who? The Card Game, which doesn’t require a board and is perfect for playing while traveling. Then, of course, you have the electronic variations of the game that can be played with other players or AI (bots).

13. People/Character Additions

Plenty of people or characters have been added after the original 24 characters were first introduced to the world. So far, over 20 new characters have been added to try to make the game more inclusive and rectify the earlier wrongs of not having enough women or ethnic characters in the game. 

The original Guess Who? version only featured one non-white character and 5 women. Versions after the 2000s have seen a lot more racially diverse characters and more women.

14. The Best Strategy

In order to win a game of Guess Who?, you need to guess your opponent’s mystery card before they do. To do this, you need to be more efficient with your questioning and deduction skills than your opponent. 

That is why many consider a binary search to be the most effective strategy, as each time you ask a question, you are seeking to, in turn, at least half the number of possible characters.

15. Guess Who? Tournaments & Championships

Even though Guess Who? is a kids’ game, you will be surprised to know that there have been multiple tournaments and championships in different parts of the world where players have sought to compete with one another to find out who has the best deduction skills. 

In general, these tournaments are for fun rather than prize money or bragging rights and can be a blast with the right people. 

16. Game Time

Guess Who? games are generally quite quick. An average game should last about five to ten minutes which is why the game is perfect for playing at school or in between work.

17. Guess Who? Facial Differences

Characters in the game can all have subtle differences that can help you with your questioning ability. Noticing these small differences such as eye color, hair, mustaches, beards, big noses, weird ears, hats, glasses, and more can help you narrow down your leads faster.

18. One of the Biggest Guess Who? Games

One of the world’s biggest Guess Who? boards can be found in New England. Two giant boards, each with 24 oversized character pictures, make for a fun and entertaining round of Guess Who?. Certainly an experience like no other. 

19. Awards

In 1989, Guess Who? won the Arets Spil Best Children’s Game Winner award.

All in All

Guess Who? is still relatively young in the world of board games. It is a game that is still evolving and adapting to changing social nuances. Regardless of the game’s success, controversies, and popularity, one thing is for certain; the game does help kids learn important lessons such as the importance of observation, deduction, and social interaction. 

In a world where board games can date back thousands of years, the history of Guess Who? is still being written, and as the game continues to change and adapt. Only time will tell if it is able to gain the same popularity and fame as other well-renowned board games.

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.