I love video games. And while I will play single player games and enjoy them, there is nothing like multiplayer. There’s an inherent thrill in playing with or against real people, and the shared experiences you have can be amazing. Please note that this list is extremely subjective, as it’s based on experiences that I had. Also, please note that online multiplayer, while cool, is not an adequate replacement for having other people in the same room.
1. Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers, NES
This game has completely defined the way I view co-op in videogames. Ostensibly, you are working together with your teammate. In practice, you keep picking them up and throwing them off the screen. And it’s hilarious each and every time. This is the game that my sister and I used to play together, that I would play with my cousins and neighbors. And we never got past the second level. That’s because we would kill each other and laugh. While we all knew that the game could be beat if we only worked together, it would never happen. It was just way too much fun to pick up the other chipmunk, laugh as they struggled helplessly, and then throw them to their doom. Every time. No matter what our intentions were when we started the match, we would always end up killing each other.
And this is where online games miss out. You do this in an online game and you’re a dick and a troll. Everyone hates you, you’ll get reported for trolling, you might even get banned. In real life, you just call the other player a bastard and punch them in the shoulder. Everyone laughs and you keep playing. I guess the thing that online games really miss is the ability to punch the other player. If they can figure out how to add that to our online experience, I will gladly play every game online.
2. Mario Kart 64, N64
I played the hell out of Super Mario Kart, but Mario Kart 64 changed everything. In Super Mario Kart, I spent about equal time playing single player Grand Prix and multiplayer battle mode. In Mario Kart 64, I always, always, always played multiplayer. And it was awesome.
When my sister and I played, we wouldn’t follow the rules of the game… we would make our own. We played games on Block Fort where we’d fill the lower levels with Green Shells and dare the other one to drive around, dodging the shells. We’d turn Peach’s castle into an impromptu battle ground.
Games need to let players break them a bit, create their own rules and scenarios. It’s why I love the next game so much:
3. Halo 2, Xbox
My college room-mates and I played Halo 2 every day. That’s not an exaggeration. We would play every single day. The flexibility of the game allowed us to play hundreds of different game types, with crazy house rules. We’d race around in Warthogs, joust with energy swords, and hurl plasma grenades across the map. My favorite custom game type was lumber jack. It was a free for all death match, but the 4th player would sit in a turret. The other players were not allowed to shoot the lumber jack, but he was allowed to shoot anyone he could. Games turned into intense cat and mouse and turret games where the players would try and feint the other into the line of sight of the turret. You could share in the joy with the lumber jack as he mows down your enemy, only to curse him the next second as you absentmindedly drifted into his line of sight. The best multiplayer games make you both love and hate your fellow players. That said, there is one game that only fills you with hate, but it’s still fun.
4. Risk, PC
I’m sure everyone is at least familiar with the board game risk. Suffice it to say, that game makes you hate your friends. The PC version is even worse. Whereas the board game is turn based, in the PC version, everyone moves at once and then, after everyone makes their choice, you get to see what happened. This means that you instantly find out that your douchebag roommate broke your truce. That douche.
While the experiences I had with this game were over LAN, we were were all close enough that you could hear the shouts and curses of the other players. This kept that ever important social interaction intact, and made your betrayals feel much more real.
5. Karaoke Revolution, PS2
Sure, Rock Band is fun. But nothing matches up to the Karaoke Revolution series. This is the game that we would play for hours, until none of us could talk let alone sing. We’d have friends over to play. We’d all drink and drink and drink. And then we’d sing some more.
Because the song choice was somewhat limited, people were forced to step out of their comfort zone. You’d get big burly guys singing Brittney Spears. You’d get petite girls singing Frank Sinatra. And everyone that got to witness my stunning evocation of Aretha Franklin is a better person for it.
Seriously, I rocked that song.
There are other multiplayer games I’ve loved (Super Smash Bros, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Bomberman, Goldeneye 007, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Battletoads, Wii Sports, TimeSplitters 2, and Dr Mario among many others) but these five experiences are some of my faves.