Before the advent of services like Xbox Live, and the PSN, the only way gamers could get a competitive fix was to hope that the next greatest game would feature some sort of local multiplayer option. Be it split screen, or simultaneous play, these were the only styles of gameplay around to allow two or more gamers to go head-to-head in some sort of score based competitive mode to prove once and for all who is better than who. Games with local multiplayer options almost always led to boisterous gameplay sessions with friends, and even the occasional name calling contest, or for cavemen-like males, a bout of slap boxing.
There’s no denying the amount of joy and camaraderie that can come out of a local multiplayer gaming session, so it’s kind of sad to see that most modern games forgo this type of mode in favor of the online only multiplayer model that dominates today’s competitive gaming landscape. Luckily, franchises like Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., and a few others still offer local competitive play, so with the release of Mario Kart 8 less than two days away we felt like it’d be fun to take a look back at ten of the best local multiplayer games of all-time. The list features games from the NES all the way up to the PS3/360 era, so all generations of gamers will more than likely identify with at least one game. Head on down below to see which title took the top spot. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts using the comments section.
10. The Madden Series (’94 in particular)
The Madden series of football games kicked off in 1988 and hasn’t slowed down since. Year after year EA keeps churning out new iterations of the game and each new entry sells like hotcakes. This franchise has provided gamers with some of the most intense video football games for decades, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. A majority of gamers, even those who may not play sports in real life, will more than likely have played at least one Madden game in their lifetime, which is a testament to its staying power and fun factor. To this day two gamers can still plop themselves down on a couch and battle it out with their favorite NFL team to see who is the king of the digital gridiron. Its local competitive multiplayer mode has become so popular there are tournaments with big time prizes held throughout the year that some gamers attend as their full time job. The Madden series of games is definitely a champion when it comes to local competitive gameplay.
9. Tiger Woods PGA Tour Series (2001 in particular)
There were golf games before the arrival of the Tiger Woods franchise in 1999, but his series of games are what made video game golf worth playing outside of a bar setting (Golden Tee anyone.) From the insane driver glitches of the early versions, to the challenging dream courses of the later titles, playing a round of Tiger Woods with up to three other friends never got old. If you happened to be in college during this series’ hay-day there’s a great chance you were mixed up in day long tournaments and heated 1 vs. 1 matches between roommates and dorm-mates. If you play real golf there’s no better relief from a crappy round than coming home and shooting a 49 on 18 holes in a game of Tiger Woods against your closest friend. The feat may be unreal, but the satisfaction of sinking a putt to win a match of video game golf against a buddy is as real of an emotion as it gets.
8. NHL ’94
Unlike the previous two EA sports franchises to make this list, the NHL series has one true shining star, and that’s NHL ’94. To this day many consider this hockey title to be the best of all-time, and that’s thanks to its insanely addictive local multiplayer mode. Playing NHL ’94 with friends was all the rage back in the 90’s, so much so that it had a starring role in the movie Swingers. Anyone that was into sports games back then probably played at least one match of NHL ’94, even if it was just an attempt to see if you could score the elusive broken leg/bleeding head animation that occasionally resulted after a nasty cross-check on your closest friend. This title, like the other two EA sports games on this list, most definitely offered hours upon hours of local multiplayer fun that may or may not have led to busted friendships and smashed controllers, so it’s a perfect candidate for this type of list.
7. NBA Jam (Genesis)
NBA Jam started in the arcade as a four person multiplayer game, but due to its popularity it eventually made its way to the likes of the Sega Genesis and the SNES. Just using the secret codes to unlock mega dunks, mystery characters, and other cheats was enough fun with friends to justify its entry on this list, but the true star of NBA Jam is its competitive gameplay. Unlike most sports video games, NBA Jam didn’t take itself seriously whatsoever, so it opened itself up to more than just basketball enthusiasts. Gamers of all types wanted to see if they could go “ON FIRE” on their best friends while laying down gravity defying dunks in their face with the hopes of breaking the backboard. The frenetic gameplay played out perfectly in local matches, and each one usually came down to the wire, so there were always opportunities for some shit talking amongst friends. If you didn’t get to experience NBA Jam back in the 90’s, then you should definitely check out its latest offering for the 360 and PS3.
6. Mortal Kombat (Genesis)
Like NBA Jam, the Mortal Kombat franchise got its start in the arcades, but due to its popularity it also made the transition to home consoles in the mid-90’s. The gore is what made this video game franchise so popular, but it was the satisfaction of pulling off special move after special move on your gaming buddies en route to a gruesome fatality that made it so addicting to play at home. No one likes getting “Toastied”, or their spine ripped out for that matter, so when you would best your opponent and finish them, the taste of victory was oh so sweet. The home version of this game also packed in some killer easter eggs that would require the help of a friend, so it’s local competitive mode even led to some genuine mystery solving with other gamers. There’s no doubt that if you were of age back in the 90’s you probably spent more time than you’d like to admit perfecting special moves and combos against your friends, which is why this title needs to be on this list.
5. Super Smash Bros. Melee
The Super Smash series started on the Nintendo 64, but it hit its stride on the Gamecube with Super Smash Bros. Melee. The thought of using some of Nintendo’s most recognizable characters as fearsome warriors to pit against friends may have sounded sacrilegious at the time, but this franchise has gone on to be one of the most played competitive fighting games on the planet. The 4-player local multiplayer action is as hectic as gaming locally can get, and each and every match between friends would almost always result in someone letting out a raucous victory cry, or a deafening scream of defeat. Thanks to the special moves and interactive level design no player was always guaranteed a win, which allowed gamers of all skill levels to compete and have fun together without feeling like a complete waste of space. If you still haven’t sampled this franchise to see its local multiplayer awesomeness for yourself, you should definitely plan on checking out the latest entry, which will drop this year for the Wii U and 3DS.