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USgamer Community Question: What's Your Favorite Local Multiplayer Game?

When it comes to playing side-by-side with friends, which game tops your list?

Article by USgamer Team, .

Whether it's competing against friends in versus battle, or joining up with them to work your way through a game as a co-op team, local multiplayer can deliver some of the most enjoyable and memorable gaming experiences around. What we want to know is - what's your absolute favorite?

While you think about your choice, here are the local multiplayer games that the USgamer team most enjoy playing.

Jeremy Parish Editor-in-Chief

As someone who hates competitive gaming and loves co-op, I have to give a nod to the original co-op extravaganza, Gauntlet. Sure, there were co-op games before Gauntlet, but none that let you team up with three other people at once. Plus, Gauntlet in the arcades had zero setup overhead; you didn't have to worry about owning multiple systems and link cables, or even making sure you had enough controllers. Everyone just stood at their respective corner of the cabinet and took control of a hero (or heroine — Atari's Valkyrie, not Samus Aran, was the first female character I ever specialized in stomping video games with... not counting Ms. Pac-Man, of course).

Gauntlet embodied the best and worst of cooperative gaming — by which I mean it demanded teamwork, and it inspired anger when someone played badly. Jason, you idiot, you shot the food again! I needed that! There's never really been a Gauntlet sequel that worked as well as the original, because follow-ups have lacked its accessible immediacy (that spirit instead transferred over to all the Konami and Capcom four-player beat-em-ups that followed in its wake). Later Gauntlets added RPG leveling systems and advanced character classes, which was missing the point. Gauntlet was fun because of its idiot simplicity, and the fact that you relied on your buddies to stretch your limited supply of quarters as far as possible. That, folks, is true friendship.

Jaz Rignall Editor-at-Large

Over the years I've played so many great local multiplayer competitive and co-op games, I just don't know which one to choose. The arcades are where it all started for me. Back in the very late 70's, I used to play Sprint II a lot - that's a two-player, top-down racing game where you're competing with other players against the clock. Then there are other classics like Combat, Track and Field, Bubble Bobble, Gauntlet, NBA Jam, co-op beat 'em ups like Double Dragon, and of course competitive fighters like Street Fighter II. All highly enjoyable games that I played incessantly with my arcade-going chums.

However, the more I think about it, the more I realize that while I've had a lot of fun in the arcades, it's home games that have delivered the most enjoyment. Working as a journalist has resulted in a lot of competitive office gaming, and over the years I've played in office leagues for Super Mario Kart, Genesis John Madden football, and Kick Off on the Amiga. At home, I remember such diverse titles as Goldeneye, Bust-a-Groove, Diablo III, Super Bomberman, and PGA Tour Golf all providing a huge amount of gaming fun for my friends and I.

What I'm noticing is that with each of the games I'm mentioning, there are vivid memories associated with playing them - the time, the places, the people. When I really think about it, many of my most memorable gaming experiences have been with multiplayer local co-op and competitive games, playing with friends late into the night and just having a good time. And now I think about it, some of the most fun I've ever had is playing Rock Band at social gatherings. It's the perfect party game - pretty much anyone can join in, and you can all play at a level that you're comfortable with. Whether you're singing, drumming, or just strumming along to the music, Rock Band connects people in a way that few other games can, and that's what makes it a favorite for me.

Kat Bailey Senior Editor

Geez, am I the only one here who is going to pick Super Smash Bros., only one of the most influential local multiplayer games of the past 15 years? I mean, I'd really like to highlight a quirkier choice like Animal Crossing Sweet Days (yes, really) or Towerfall, but I suppose I'll have to go to bat for Smash Bros.

Like many Smash Bros. fans, I got hooked on the series with Melee. I played hundred of hours in my dorm room in college, my favorite characters being Marth and Blue Link. I never got into the budding tournament scene like some people, but I did take some pride in my abilities, even if I had no clue what Wavedashing meant until much later.

Melee will always be my favorite in the series, if only because of how much time I spent with it back in the day, but I've been pretty impressed with the staying power of Smash Bros. for the 3DS/Wii U. Its community has grown to the point that it's become a viable eSport, which would have been crazy to contemplate even a few years ago. Its enormous roster also brings with it a huge amount of variety, which helps to keep it from growing old or repetitive.

I'm a much more casual Smash Bros. player now than I used to be, mostly because I know that I can't compete with the truly hardcore players, but the series retains a special place in my heart. I can't think of a better tribute to the history of gaming than Smash Bros. - a game that is a true love letter to the medium.

Bob Mackey Senior Writer

Though I don't have the opportunity to do it much these days, over the years I've played my share of local multiplayer games, and have some great memories of Goldeneye, Mario Kart, and even a bunch of N64 wrasslers. But for this community question, I'd like to highlight something that's slightly off the beaten path: Sega's arcade light-gun shooter, The House of the Dead 2. I played plenty of it in the arcade, but it wasn't until the 2008 Wii re-release (because why not) that this sequel entered my local multiplayer rotation.

And it's kind of the perfect game if you want to have some silly, non-competitive fun: Just blow apart zombies for 30 minutes, and it's basically over. But HotD2 wouldn't be one of my favorite local multiplayer games if not for its cheesy trappings. I'm sure Sega intended for it to be a little silly, but the localization--if you could call it that--makes for one of the most unintentionally hilarious video game experiences I've ever had. From people repeatedly shouting "No! Don't come!" at zombies, to the antagonist who's clearly reading his English lines phonetically, there's a lot of charm in House of the Dead 2's ineptness. Add in the fact that your group of protagonists consists of crude approximations of Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, and Demi Moore, and you've got the perfectly bizarre '90s Japanese gaming vibe I absolutely love. And of course it's better with a friend.

Nadia Oxford Staff Writer

Easy-peasy: Secret of Mana for the SNES.

On its own, Secret of Mana is a wonderful but flawed action RPG that’s kind of like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, but with better graphics, a better soundtrack (WARNING: I’ll fight you to the death over this), and about ten million more bugs. You acquire two companions early in the game, and their AI script is evidently written on wet toilet paper. They’re stupid, they’re slow, and they get stuck behind every tree the Mana Goddess deigned to put on the planet.

But when you play Secret of Mana with a friend -- or two friends, if you have an SNES Multitap! -- you suddenly have competent companions at your side. Hah! Those Rabites don’t stand a chance! It’s also a great way to include a friend who otherwise might not try an action RPG without your guidance.

If you don’t have any friends, go ahead and enlist your dog and your cat to play Secret of Mana with you. Tape the controllers to their paws and let them chase each other. They’ll still wind up being more productive than the AI-controlled characters.

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Comments 43

  • Avatar for mobichan #1 mobichan 2 years ago
    My friend and I were ADDICTED to Warriors of Fate / Tenchi Wo Kurau II on the Saturn for nearly a year. The extra Saturn mode made it worth the import fee. Runners up would be Final Fight CD (Sega CD) or LA Machineguns (arcade).
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  • Avatar for Vaporeon #2 Vaporeon 2 years ago
    DDR! I've recently been playing with a new friend who has the old PS1/2 games and dance pads in his basement. Once he noticed I was easily breaking all of his old records, the competition was on! Unfortunately for him, I'm 8 years younger (31) and used to go to sleep with arrows cascading through my head back in high school. Nothing like healthy video game competition that doubles as exercise! Also, love Nadia's AI description.
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  • Avatar for JLateralus #3 JLateralus 2 years ago
    I have a bunch of games in the NES and early SNES eras that I played with my mom. Super Bomberman, Secret of Mana, and Goof Troop are a couple favorites. For me though, my fondest memories are probably of the NES port of Bubble Bobble. One of those easy to learn types with a fair bit of depth. Somehow, the background music never seems to get old either.
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  • Avatar for ronaldaugust28 #4 ronaldaugust28 2 years ago
    Magic: The Gathering
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #5 SatelliteOfLove 2 years ago
    Inordinate amounts of SF2 on the Genesis.

    "Guile wants you to jump at him. Stop jumping at him!"
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  • Avatar for jjmahoney3 #6 jjmahoney3 2 years ago
    The first, and last, game I played any significant local multiplayer in was Mario Kart 64. My roommate and some friends used to play it a few evenings a week. We each had our favorite character (I was always Donkey Kong). The battle arenas were the best. I still wish Mario Kart 8 had that.Edited April 2016 by jjmahoney3
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  • Avatar for Mega_Matt #7 Mega_Matt 2 years ago
    Lot of good games to choose from. Secret of Mana is one of my favorites, if not, my favorite. I'm actually breaking out my multitap tomorrow night when two of my buddies come over to play it. I don't care that the game is kind of broken, I have so many good memories playing it with friends.
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  • Avatar for themblan #8 themblan 2 years ago

    Game: Super Smash Bros. Melee
    Developer: HAL
    Platform: Gamecube
    Year: 2001

    Melee. I am never happier than when playing Smash with my friends, 4-player FFA, items on, and any stage. Sadly, all my friends moved away and Smash online is full of 'Taunt Parties' where 3 people gang up on one. Edited 2 times. Last edited April 2016 by themblan
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #9 kidgorilla 2 years ago
    When my girlfriend (now wife) moved in way back when, our first joint purchase was a Wii. A few weeks or so afterward, we grabbed some beer after a hard week at work and we rented WarioWare Smooth Moves. I can probably pick another game that would be my favorite for couch co op, but that's too good of a memory
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  • Avatar for Happy-Mask-Salesman #10 Happy-Mask-Salesman 2 years ago
    I have to go with a game I feel has a bad reputation: New Super Mario Bros. I used to have friends drive over from 40 miles away just so we could all play that. If a level ended because we all went into a bubble everyone had to drink. Another favorite was Robotron 64. One person would move the character & the other would shoot. It was awesome & I've never seen another fame with that mechanic
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  • Avatar for ojinnvoltz #11 ojinnvoltz 2 years ago
    Chocobo Racing. Played the hell out of it back in the day. Now whenever my old chums and I are together, we get sucked in and play it for hours. It's an okay racer with great ideas that weren't executed well. A shame that 3DS sequel was scrapped.
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  • Avatar for camchow #12 camchow 2 years ago
    I want to say Secret of Mana but I mostly played that single player (tip: you can change the AI to be more aggressive because otherwise your partners just run away from everything and become useless anchors, I didn't realize how important this was until I replayed it as an adult).

    My real answer has to be Turtles in Time. I played that co-op more times and with more friends than any other game I can think of. Even today it's still the first game I think of when I think about playing a quick and fun co-op game.
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  • Avatar for bobbel20 #13 bobbel20 2 years ago
    Sensible Soccer on the Commodore Amiga. Maybe it's still the best soccer game, because it balanced just the right amount of control assist with necessary player skill. I think I played thousands of games with my friends and it never got boring.
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  • Avatar for GaijinD #14 GaijinD 2 years ago
    Street Fighter. Just about any one but the first. I just love fighting games in general, though I otherwise prefer co-op. Honorary mention goes to side-scrolling beat-em-ups. Why yes, I would like to walk right and punch people with one or more friends, thank you. I have bought Final Fight and Streets of Rage 2 multiple times, and am prepared for just such a situation.
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  • Avatar for InsertTokenz #15 InsertTokenz 2 years ago
    Despite having such incredibly great memories of playing Super Bomberman at my friends' birthday parties, along with all-night marathons of Mario Party 1/2, the favorite multiplayer game has to go to Legend of Zelda: Four Sword Adventures. The way that it took the fundamental gameplay of a great 2D Zelda game and adapted it to work amazingly with four players simultaneous was a hell of a blast to go through. Sure, there was some effort that needed to be put forth on the hardware side to make it happen, but to be fair, it was the only way at the time to make such an experience possible.

    Four Swords Adventures still stands today as my third favorite Zelda game of all time, mainly due to being a fantastic multiplayer romp.

    EDIT: If I can, I would also like to give an honorable mention to Legend of the Mystical Ninja. An often overlooked SNES title that had some of the best co-op play on the system with the awesome 2D platforming stages and all the mini-games both players could take part in.Edited April 2016 by InsertTokenz
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  • Avatar for shurn #16 shurn 2 years ago
    Dungeon explorer for the TG-16. My first 5- player experience, I wasn't impressed by it when the system debuted, but when my cousins brought it over one vist it blew my mind. My sister's and me conspired to convince our parents to get one for us.
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  • Avatar for shurn #17 shurn 2 years ago
    Dungeon explorer for the TG-16. My first 5- player experience, I wasn't impressed by it when the system debuted, but when my cousins brought it over one vist it blew my mind. My sister's and me conspired to convince our parents to get one for us.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #18 pdubb 2 years ago
    My college years would have been completely different without Powerstone. That game was guaranteed to get all of my buddies to drink and laugh and occasionally actually fight each other.

    I'm convinced that Powerstone just needed to be marketed as the Super Smash Brothers for people who dont care about Nintendo characters and we'd have new games in the series to this day.
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  • Avatar for Macuelos #19 Macuelos 2 years ago
    I've never been one much for multiplayer, let alone locally, so the only experiences I have with it are the games that were on my high school's network: Soldiers of Fortune 2 and some Battlefield and Call of Duty games. They're not really my thing, though, so that leaves me with another oddball answer.

    JAZZ JACKRABBIT 2. Yes! Jazz Jackrabbit the first is kind of tough to play these days, but the second game is still a lot of fun. Of course, the only local multiplayer involves shooting your opponents with the various guns the game gives you, so... Still not exactly my thing, but the crazy weapons help.

    While waiting for my last exam in college I was sitting in an area with a bunch of computers, and three guys were playing the game. That was unexpected, but very amusing still.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #20 VotesForCows 2 years ago
    @GaijinD Well you've pretty much covered my answer. Street Fighter, closely followed by Streets of Rage.

    @bobbel20 I have very fond memories of Sensible too!
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #21 SuperShinobi 2 years ago
    5-player Bomberman on the PC Engine is an easy pick for me. Runner-up would be the chaos of Nba Jam with 4 players.
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  • Avatar for ghostsandgoblins #22 ghostsandgoblins 2 years ago
    @NiceGuyNeon Nice write up re Halo. I agree.

    Other than Halo, my best multiplayer memories are from arcade games.

    Other favorites: Double Dragon, Gauntlet, Contra, NBA Jam, Madden, FIFA
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  • Avatar for BellyFullOfHell #23 BellyFullOfHell 2 years ago
    Late teens/early twenties, my friend and I had a routine before we went on a night out. ISS64, WCW vs NWO, Rock n Roll Racing, and Children of the Atom. Alongside SFII, they're still the most two player fun I've ever had.Edited April 2016 by BellyFullOfHell
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #24 Toelkki 2 years ago
    I'll probably go with Streets of Rage 2.

    Honorary mentions: Probotector, some of the cave fliers of the 90s (AUTS, Tappo 2) and Worms Armageddon. I never got into Scorched Earth.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #25 The-Challenger 2 years ago
    So many games immediately come to mind. If If I had to chose one game it would be Mario Kart: Double Dash. Runner Up: Hearts for PC.
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  • Avatar for robertchesley19 #26 robertchesley19 2 years ago
    I'm going to list 3 because it is so difficult to do so.

    1. Rock Band. It is so much like playing in a "real band" without having actual music training. It's always fun to play with people.

    2. SNES Bomberman series. Any of the Super Bomberman titles you can play for hours and hours. It's fun because you can mix bots with live players and it was basically the "arena FPS game before FPS games." It's still fun today.

    3. Super Off Road. One of the best racers IMO. I loved playing this with 3 people in the arcade.
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  • Avatar for robertchesley19 #27 robertchesley19 2 years ago
    @ronaldaugust28 Unfortunately, none of the MTG computer games really support local multiplayer. Also, I've lost more friendships over rules arguments in this game than I have ever gained. It also has too many variants and too many stipulations IMO to be considered a good local multiplayer game. I think it is a good competitive game. But in every group there is always someone who takes the game way more serious than it needs to be and causes less fun. IMO. This is speaking with someone who has played for 20+ years.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #28 cldmstrsn 2 years ago
  • Avatar for daverhodus #29 daverhodus 2 years ago
    Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
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  • Avatar for ghostsandgoblins #30 ghostsandgoblins 2 years ago
    The first really big multiplayer game I remember was track n field. I was still in early elementary and that was a game for teenagers, so I mostly watched, but people would bet on it at the pizza shop after school. Great times.

    Some other early big games: Karate Champ, Double Dribble, Yie Ar Kung Fu
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #31 Captain-Gonru 2 years ago
    Kind of surprised to not see Goldeneye from anyone.
    But, that classic aside, I'd say Command & Conquer: Red Alert Retaliation on PS1. My buddy had taken the normally 6 (or 8) foot link cable, and spliced in some extra, so that we could link up in separate rooms. Nothing quite like dropping a nuke, then a second or two later, hearing "Oh shit, you asshole" drifting in from the next room.
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  • Avatar for SOUP32 #32 SOUP32 2 years ago
    Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

    I've put more time into the local co-op terrorist hunt in this game than pretty much any RPG (including FFXIV).

    I really wish they'd just make another one. 3rd Person cover mechanic included.
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  • Avatar for cd86 #33 cd86 2 years ago
    Return Fire. So much fun
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #34 touchofkiel 2 years ago
    I've never been much of a couch co-op type of gamer... the multiplayer games I enjoy are online shooters or MMOs, neither of which I consider my 'main' genre. It seems hard for me to get people in the same room, with the same interest in games - much less the same genre. But a few experiences stick out in my mind... I love brawlers, which I could usually play with my brother or a cousin - TMNT2 on NES being the most played. For whatever reason, these games just held greater lasting appeal than, say, Contra.

    I also have to give the nod to Halo, which came out when I was nearing high school. I would often be lumped with the kids of my parents' friends at get-togethers - since all of us owned an X-box, it made them not only bearable but actually enjoyable.

    And we have to mention Wii Sports - pretty much the only game my parents, and my entire family, have been interested in.
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  • Avatar for mannycalavera #35 mannycalavera 2 years ago
    mario kart 64 and the first gears of war, co-op campaign
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  • Avatar for buckupprincess #36 buckupprincess 2 years ago
    I've had the extremely fortunate luck of being the owner and operator of the local 'everyone hang out' house for the last five years or so and the co-op games that have been played and raged over more than any are;

    Mario Kart 8 since there's always been one of us who is head and shoulders above the rest so the black controller of 1st place is always coveted,

    Uniracers with its amazing rubber band keeping everyone in line and choosing winners by hundredths of a second. Seeing six grown men gathered around an old flat tube yelling as vigorously as those playing has a very Street Fighter 2 put your quarter up feel.

    Finally, my favorite of the bunch, Balloon Fight. We have been playing this for the last three years at any gathering we have. Much like Bubble Bobble, the co-op and screw your friend line is very thin so it makes for one hysterical ride both for the players and the onlookers. We even had to go so far as to keep a whiteboard with everyone's score until my roommate and I realized that it caps at 999,950 and hit the roof. I think my NES and I are going to have a proper weekend and see if I can't hit the score ceiling again.
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  • Avatar for NukaColaClassic #37 NukaColaClassic 2 years ago
    So hard to pick just one, so I'll list the ones that come to me:

    - Contra (NES)
    - The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (yes, with all 4 GBAs connected to a Wii and/or Gamecube)
    - Secret of Mana (SNES)
    - Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS
    - Rock Band 3 (PS3)
    - Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
    - Power Stone 2 (Dreamcast and/or PSP)
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  • Avatar for ajhopwood #38 ajhopwood 2 years ago
    My childhood friends and I grew up playing local multiplayer games on the SNES, N64 and GameCube all the time. Now that we are all in our 30s, the tradition continues and we still find ourselves coming back to mostly the same series over and over again:

    - Super Smash Bros (Brawl has been the most played over the years, but we've especially enjoyed the new 8 player mode in Wii U, since there is usually 5 of us)
    - Mario Kart (64 is our favorite, but we've been known to pull out Double Dash, Wii and 8 as well)
    - Goldeneye 007 (this one hasn't aged well, but nostalgia brings us back to it over and over again)
    - Mario Party (personally, I'm not a fan of this series, but my friends love it for some reason)
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  • Avatar for Hero-Protagonist #39 Hero-Protagonist 2 years ago
    Funnily enough, Crash Team Racing.

    While it was shamelessly derivative of both Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing, it was wonderfully executed with tight controls and great tracks. And it is to this day the only title I've ever used the ps1 multitap with.
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  • Avatar for emremotan #40 emremotan 2 years ago
    So many - SSB, SSBM, Goldeneye, SF2, NES classics like Double Dragon 2, Arch Rivals, Tecmo Bowl...

    A couple scenarios jump out at me, though:

    1. Halo 3 circa 2007-2008. I probably played four player local deathmatch every weekend with my buds.
    2. The "N64 Gauntlet" as I like to call it, preferably two player:
    a. Goldeneye
    b. Super Smash Bros
    c. NFL Blitz 2000
    d. NBA Hangtime
    e. Mario Tennis

    I am generally a nice, respectful person, but local multiplayer really brings out the trash talker in me :) All in good fun.
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  • Avatar for docexe #41 docexe 2 years ago
    Thinking about it, some of my fondest memories of gaming involved local multiplayer with friends and/or family: From the 2P beat’em ups and fighting games of the NES and SNES eras, to the 4P extravaganzas of the N64 era, to the party games at which the Wii actually excelled.

    If I have to give a nod to a particular game or franchise though, it would be Smash Bros. It’s difficult for to me to single out one of them specifically. Melee tends to get the most accolades as a fighting game, but every single game in the series since the first one for the N64 have provided me with lots of fun. They are simple enough to play that they are accessible for most players, yet have enough depth that matches at higher level play can be really exciting, and they are just a blast to play with four people (or even more than four nowadays, thanks to the Wii U version).
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #42 DiscordInc 2 years ago
    There are so many games I could pick from. Back when I was in college we would have D&D on Sunday and then after the game we would all stick around and play video games. There were so many games we would play for hours, but I can narrow it down to two.

    The first is Super Smash Bros. Melee. The skill level between all of us was pretty similar so we could have a ton of fun. There were so many good matches I'm having problems picking out a singular moment. I love current Smash, but I will never quite have the same memories of Melee.

    The other big one was Castle Crashers. My younger broth actually was the one who got a 360 and initially wasn't sure what to get for it. I'm not sure what prompted him to get Castle Crashers since he wasn't a fan of Alien Hominid or beat-em-ups in general, but I'm glad he did. I played the hell out of that game with friends. We even beat it multiple times trying to unlock some of the weirder characters (the Beekeeper knights were awesome) and seeing what the higher level spell look like.
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  • Avatar for KakiOkami #43 KakiOkami 2 years ago
    I've got a few I've loved to play with friends back in the day:
    Secret of Mana, Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, FF: Crystal Chronicles, Timesplitters 1,2,3.

    And I remember getting so far in NES Gauntlet with my brother back in the day. I still own it but haven't played in over 20 years. I'd probably get owned straight away. No clue how we ever got very far in that game.
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