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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.