Sometimes, you don’t want to play on your own, but braving the perils of online gaming can be such a chore. The answer? Party games, obviously. Get some friends over, crank up the console and let some of these classic sate your multiplayer fix…
10. Halo 3
It’s a well known, and well documented, fact, that Halo 3 online multiplayer is full of squeaky voiced, foul mouthed children with severe anger-management problems and deep seated issues with taking defeat, or victory, gracefully. Offline however, it’s the best split screen, 4 player FPS since Goldeneye first graced our screens many, many moons ago. The weapons modifier lets you set the perfect level of action for how much intoxication has been imbibed at your classy soiree. Might I suggest going down the all Grav Hammer route; nothing better than sending a few friends flying to their doom.
9. Castle Crashers
In the olden times, side-scrolling beat ’em ups were all the rage, then 3D came along and ruined everything. Nowadays though, with the retro revival spurred on by Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, Virtual Console and a variety of other sources, the side scroller is making a whole hearted come back. And at the front of that pack is the Behemoth’s Castle Crashers, a rampantly ridiculous four player knight-em-up with magical powers, silly weapons and excellent adventuring. And, if you get bored of the troll murdering, then there’s All You Can Quaff, a button bashing, eating mini game, will take up the slack.
8. Super Smash Bros
If I was Luigi, I’d have wanted to punch Mario in the face for an awfully long time. In fact, if I was any number of Nintendo characters/mascots I’d have wanted to give the smug plumber a good kicking. The Super Smash Bros series gives us all that chance. It’s a nice respite from the more “serious” beat ’em ups, with simple controls and characters that almost everyone can recognise. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that there are so many Nintendo games on this list, because Nintendo, before they started flogging shovelware to non-gamers, were actually quite good at making games. Super Smash Bros is a party essential, and one that proves what a waste Nintendo’s new direction is.
7. Street Fighter 4
What’s a party without a good bout of fisticuffs? Not a party, if you ask me, but for those who are weak in arm or strong in conscience, Streetfigher 4 offers the next best thing. As pass-the-pad beat ’em ups go, it’s entirely unmatched, and whilst others may offer the cheap thrills of an old fashioned button mash, SF4 beats them down with the kind of silky smooth finesse you’d expect from Capcom. Random selections mean even the most hardcore battler will be put in uncomfortable situations, and unless you’ve got two fight sticks, it should be pads all the way to level out the playing field.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
There’s something delightfully simple about the early Zelda games, true, they’re fiendishly difficult in places, but the pared-down control system and top-down graphics make the games accessible to almost anyone. Four Swords takes that old school style, jazzes it up and adds four player co-op through the Gamecube’s Gameboy Advance connection cable. Battling through Hyrule with three friends, each playing a different coloured Link, is an essential gaming rites of passage, so power up the Gamecube and go save some princesses.
5. Virtua Tennis
There is a theory that there are only two video games, Pac Man and Pong, and every other game is just a copy of one or the other. This theory is bonkers, but were it true, Virtue Tennis could be used as proof. Essentially a distilled mix of Pong and, well, real tennis, the four player doubles mode is one of the most addictive multiplayer experiences available. Easy to pick up and almost impossible to put down, even if you neither like nor understand the real sport. The Dreamcast version is the best, but if you’re one of those crazy people who doesn’t own the greatest console ever, then Virtua Tennis 3 on the 360 or the PS3 will do just as well.
4. Super Monkey Ball
What could be more fun than putting a cute little monkey in a see through plastic ball? Well, apart from the obvious ethical problems and the trouble that you’d get in with the animal welfare people. Super Monkey Ball is a bonafide classic in single player, but it’s the multiplayer where Ai-ai and friends really shine. Catapulting yourself off ramps at targets, using your monkey skills to bowl, the mini games that make up the party modes are ingenious as well as hilarious, banana-collecting madness. The Gamecube version is the purest, but if you’ve got a Wii, you should be able to pick up Banana Blitz for pretty cheap.
3. Worms 2: Armageddon
Worms was one of the first true party games, a mixture of madcap, laugh-out-loud humour and giblet-spraying extreme invertebrate violence, and Team 17 perfected the formula with this amazing follow up. The graphics really are a joy to behold, creating a cartoon world that’s as good to look at as it is to blow into little pieces. The simplified RTS stylings just about manage to keep a leash on the chaos, and the four player battles are such a joy that every explosion, every magnificently overblown weapon and every wormy utterance can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
2. Mario Kart
Mario Kart has been the epitome of pick up and play excellence since it first revved onto screens on the SNES. The latest version, incorporating arm-wiggling, casual friendly Wii controls, isn’t the best, but it’s still leagues ahead of its closest rivals. It’s the playability of the game that’s built up the series’ loyal fan base, and it’s the playability that keeps gamers coming back for more. There are races, battles and whatever sort of challenges you can imagine. I mean, the ERSB rating states that the game contains “Comic Mischief”, how can you not fall in love with that?
1. Rock Band/Guitar Hero
It’s almost impossible to separate Rock Band and Guitar Hero, so quite frankly I’m not going to bother; if you’re a particular fan of either, just imagine I’m only talking about that one. Whilst it’s true you look like an idiot whilst you’re playing, for sheer, unadulterated, laugh out loud fun, there really is nothing better. With such a vast amount of content out there, it’s easy to find a song that everyone’s going to enjoy, play badly and sing along to. The peripherals may be a little tacky, the microphone may break, but the fun remains the same; everyone can play, everyone can enjoy themselves, and everyone can have a good laugh when the drummer falls off their chair.