Couch-op bonanza: the best of local multiplayer

Games have existed across mankind’s multiple civilizations for thousands of years, exercising their function of symbolically establishing an alpha male creating bonds between its players and entertaining those involved. If video games have largely been responsible for establishing as common practice to engage in individual entertainment, where you compete against an artificial intelligence or have to accomplish certain predetermined goals, they have also modernized the activity by allowing people to engage in competition or co-operation from across the globe. And yet I’m here to sing praises to its older, pre-internet sibling: local multiplayer games. While playing over the internet is convenient and sometimes the only solution, nothing quite beats being able to shout spit-imbued insults at your friend as you toss him into oblivion in Super Smash Bros. or angrily bitchslap him after he tackles you in PES. Here are some of the best for you to enjoy with the less rage-likely of your friends.

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1) TowerFall Ascension, an arena-based game that benefits greatly from its “easy to learn, hard to master” design, where you can lure your friends into thinking they can compete with you after practicing for a few minutes and then prickle them with arrows using your superior expertise and knowledge of the game’s intricate mechanics. If you want to enjoy it without competing, a Quest mode allows you and a friend to slay hordes of beasts in increasingly difficult waves. Up to four players, local play only.

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2) Samurai Gunn, another arena-based game but with none of the co-op shenanigans TowerFall has. Here, your sole objective is to slice through your foes, severing limbs and heads and painting the levels with their blood, or shoot them down with your gun and its few bullets (if you’re feeling particularly cocky you can hit their bullets back at them). Add to that a dramatic soundtrack that increases in tempo as your anthropomorphic samurai enemies die and a zoom-in effect that will remind you of Kill Bill as the game’s camera draws focus to the person who just killed someone and you have a game that oozes bloody charm. It’s even easier to learn and doesn’t have as high a skill ceiling as TowerFall, so a match against inexperienced players could be less one-sided than in TowerFall. You can have fights with a single opponent or free-for-alls against up to three other people.

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3) Crawl, the dungeon crawling game where you get to play the monster (and the hero). I have a very soft spot in my little red heart for asymmetrical gameplay and Crawl manages it exceptionally. The matches are bit longer-lasting than I think optimal for quick couch games, but if your gathering is a bit more enthusiastic about gaming you could definitely slip in a few matches of Crawl, which supports up to four players.

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4) Ah, Nidhogg. Behind your (I presume) acid trip gone wrong aesthetics lies one of my favorite 1 vs. 1 multiplayer games. Armed with a rapier which you can throw, and a vicious yellow or orange man that tumbles, jumps and snaps necks, your objective is to race to the end of the level and be eaten by a giant horned worm. There’s much fun to be had in piercing the pixelated heart of your foe, as often winning a duel is the matter of positioning your rapier correctly or attacking a quarter of a second faster than your opponent. Supports two players at the same time, but you can hotseat a tournament with even more players.

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5) Redshift Blueshift, or as I like to call it “Pong with lasers”. And missiles. Created during the 30th Ludum Dare, the undeniably simple RedShift Blueshift takes a well known game-concept, slaps on different ships, weapons and speeds things up a notch, offering a polished and easy-to-grasp game to enjoy with a buddy. To add insult to injury you can turn on “taunts”, which makes your character automatically diss your friend whenever you score a point. Local co-op and for two people only.

There are other great local games out there to play, but what I sought to feature on this list were easy to grasp, quick to learn games you could teach the uninitiated in less than five minutes. What about you, anonymous reader, are there any local multiplayer games you think are great?

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