In this age of online gaming, local multiplayer is becoming a thing of the past. It’s gotten to the point where most modern games, even ones with a strong focus on multiplayer, don’t even have support for split screen or any sort of local multiplayer. An example of this would be the downloadable game Skydrift, which I reviewed a few months back. It was a fun arcade racing game, but had no local multiplayer support and a dwindling online community. What this essentially means, is that the most compelling feature of the game, multiplayer, is something that will eventually just disappear when there is no one left online playing it. While I have no delusions about local multiplayer making a resurgence, I can still list off my favorite local multiplayer games of the past. A few of these games have actually been released within the past few years, but the majority are from 10+ years ago. The only criteria for this list are games that are best played with others in the same location. These games can have an online component, as long the best way to play it is locally.
10. Wii Sports (Wii, 2006)
While I’m not really a fan of Nintendo’s direction with the Wii and their focus on motion controls, I can’t deny Wii Sports is a damn fun game. Packing in Wii Sports with the Wii console was probably the best and worst thing Nintendo could have done. On the one hand, it showed everybody just exactly what motion controls were all about, and was an nice incentive to get you buy more Wii remotes. On the other hand, all those super casuals gamers that bought the Wii had no reason to buy any other games, because in their mind, Wii Sports was the Wii. Putting marketing stuff aside, Wii Sports is a really fun party game. While I may not like it when motion controls creep into more traditional kinds of games, games that have worked fine with a regular controller for 25 years, Wii Sports is absolutely better because of the motion controls, and is a fun game to play with gamers of all ages and skill levels.
9. Street Fighter II (Arcade, 1991)
I must admit, I’ve never really been much of a fan of the Street Fighter series, and while this is a list of my favorite local multiplayer games, I have to acknowledge Street Fighter II anyway. Street Fighter II was one of the main reasons fighting games became so popular in the 1990s. You could go into any arcade back then and find crowds of people around the Street Fighter II machines. Whichever of the many different versions of Street Fighter II you played, you could be confident that you were getting a fun and competitive multiplayer game. As much as just local multiplayer in general is dying, arcades are already dead. The awesome arcade experience that accompanied competitive matches back then just doesn’t really exist anymore. Challenging random strangers while a room of full people watched and cheered was simply awesome; even if you weren’t the one playing. This type of competitive experience really only exists today at tournaments like EVO, but most people won’t have a chance to play in something like that.
8. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Arcade, 1995)
The other main reason for the huge explosion of popularity for fighting games in the 1990s was Mortal Kombat, and because I personally prefer Mortal Kombat to Street Fighter, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is one spot higher on my list. Everything I said about arcades in ’90s in regards to Street Fighter II can be said about Mortal Kombat. The arcade fighting game experience was like nothing else before or since, and it really is a shame that it is seemingly gone forever. My favorite game in the Mortal Kombat series is UMK3. It had pretty much every character from the first three games, and was simply the best Mortal Kombat game at the time, and possibly ever (MK9 is pretty awesome though).
7. NBA Jam (Arcade, 1993)
I actually had quite a hard time deciding what game was going to represent the “over the top Midway sports game” genre, but ultimately I decided to go with the original; but I would like to give special mention to the other awesome Midway sports games like NFL Blitz and NBA Showtime. The hallmark of NBA Jam and the other Midway sports games was crazy, over the top action. Even people who don’t particularly like sports video games, or even sports in general, can absolutely find something to like about NBA Jam. You could play NBA Jam against the CPU, but it was best when played against another person.
6. Mario Party 2 (Nintendo 64, 2000)
A Mario Party game was always going to be on this list, it was only a question of which one, and where on the list. I ultimately decided to go with Mario Party 2 because it was simply a better version of the original. I considered Mario Party 3, but the mini-game selection in that game is, in my opinion, inferior to Mario Party 2, and some of the changes made in Mario Party 3 were hit or miss. Whichever Mario Party game you go with (from the N64 era at least), you can’t go wrong. The Mario Party games bring the fun of playing board game, remove the hassle of setting the thing up, and add in some fun mini-games. When you’ve got a bunch of people over, Mario Party is one your best options, and 2 is my personal favorite.