Ever since online multiplayer developed to become a staple of big-budget games, local multiplayer has become somewhat of a rarity.
Sadly, including a split-screen or same-screen mode simply isn’t as worthwhile to developers as it used to be — why bother with letting multiple people enjoy a copy of your game when online multiplayer ensures many will buy their own?
This doesn’t mean the feature is dead; dominating the competition online is all very well and good, but nothing quite beats seeing the look of hopelessness on your friend’s face in real-time as you get your 7th win in a row on FIFA.
After three years in student accommodation, and more time playing video games with my housemates than I’d care to mention, I’ve acquired a pretty good library of local multiplayer games. In no particular order, here are five of the best:
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360
Trials: Fusion is a platform racing game which supports up to four players locally, and, like all of the games on this list, uses same-screen multiplayer — so there’s no need to worry about those annoyingly small split-screen windows.
The base game offers a decent selection of multiplayer tracks for you to play, but thanks to Trials’ support of user-generated content, there is a vast library of fan-made tracks to keep things fresh.
The dirtbike-based gameplay is delightfully intuitive, and the way the scoring system is set up — players lose points if they lag behind enough to fall offscreen — leads to plenty of intensely competitive moments.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360
SpeedRunners is, in essence, the same concept as Trials: players race against each other, attempting to gain a lead big enough to force your opponents off of the screen. The difference is that instead of bikers, SpeedRunners sees you play as superheroes who swing and slide across a variety of cityscape obstacle courses.
The races are always incredibly fun, made twice as enjoyable by the fact you can mess with your opponents using a variety of Mario Kart-esque power-ups such as rockets, grappling hooks and freeze-rays.
Couple this with the nail-biting sudden death mode, which sees the last two remaining players of every round race remaining inside an increasingly-small screen, and you have a local multiplayer experience that’s packed with memorable moments.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Photo: Matt Makes Games
One hallmark of a great local-multiplayer game is its ability to take a group of people who very much like each other and reduce them to red-faced children, bitter in defeat and undignified in victory. This is truer of Towerfall: Ascension than any other title I can recall — a game which, over the two year period it reigned over my student house, wreaked havoc on our housemate relations.
Towerfall is a retro-looking indie game designed specifically for local multiplayer. It sports a great co-op campaign mode, but for us, the fun was always in the competitive deathmatches, in which up to four players compete in a bow and arrow battle royale.
With enough practice, your battles evolve to have more thrill and intricacy than you’d think possible with 8-bit graphics — you can catch your enemy’s arrows from the air, or even steal them right out of their quiver if you can get close enough.
Towerfall boasts the accessibility and immediacy of an arcade game, yet manages to retain an impressive level of depth to its gameplay — a must buy for any local-multiplayer enthusiast.
PC, PS4 (2018)
Photo: Double Fine Productions
Gang Beasts is a silly beat-em-up game with a very simple premise: be the last person standing. The game offers some amusing combat across a variety of memorable levels ranging from a cluster of icebergs to the top of speeding trucks. Whether it’s icy water, meat grinders, or a pit of fire, there’s always something to comically throw your opponents into.
Rarely do you come across a game that’s almost as fun to watch as it is to play; but with its guaranteed laughs and short, fast-paced games, Gang Beasts is definitely one of them.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Photo: Jackbox Games
Quiplash is very different to the other titles on this list; for one, you don’t use a controller to play it. Instead, up to eight people can connect through a browser on their phone or mobile device. The game works sort of like Cards against Humanity for your TV; each round, people anonymously submit answers to questions (e.g. “What did Adam think the first time he saw Eve?”) then at the end of the round the answers are revealed and everyone votes on the funniest one.
This one is probably the best party game on the list, as it requires zero gaming skill or knowledge. Perfect for when you’re hosting a large group, and the reasonably long list of potential questions ensures it stays interesting even after hours of play.