With the world slowly returning to normal, it may be a sensible idea to host a few smaller game nights before venturing into the outer wilds. With a little bit of research, it’s fairly simple to get 4 controllers working on your PC and have an old-school video-game night on one TV. I have collected a range of local multiplayer games over the past few years, and these are my top 10 choices for a local multiplayer night:
10. Crawl (up to 4 players)
Don’t let Crawl’s retro-Arcade style fool you, the game plays much better than it looks. Crawl is a competitive dungeon crawler where one player tries to escape the dungeon while the other players try to kill them by taking control of various monsters and traps within the dungeon. The twist is that if one of the dungeon players manages to kill the human player, they then become the human player – and the crawl continues from there. At the end of the dungeon, the three monster players take control of a dungeon boss in a climactic battle to stop the human player from escaping the dungeon altogether.
Crawl is a longer game (taking approximately 30 minutes per run), and you may only get one or two playthroughs out of it per gaming session. The diversity in monsters and human builds, as well as the procedurally generated dungeon, make the game different and exciting every time. Dungeon players get to upgrade their monsters based on everyone else’s human level, keeping the game roughly balanced and allowing everyone to make progress regardless of their current role.
Dungeon crawlers don’t appeal to everyone, and even with its 8-bit looks Crawl is a graphic game. Crawl is one of my favourite local-multiplayer games, but it can be tricky to suggest to certain groups, and as such Crawl squeaks in at 10th place.
9. Heave Ho (up to 4 players)
Heave Ho is a co-operative game where you all essentially play as a set of arms. The aim is to climb, fling, and daisy-chain your team through a series of platforming levels, where the only mechanics are grab and move. The simplicity of the controls allows the level design to really shine through, usually presenting multiple options for completing each level. It is often more sensible to work as a team to create bridges across the level, but it is sometimes more fun to fling yourself off an object to race to the finish.
Heave Ho is best played with the same group of people, since levels get harder as you progress, but it’s fun enough that introducing a new group to the game doesn’t feel too repetitive. It falls down a little in replayability, as there isn’t much reward for repeating levels, but Heave Ho is still plenty fun to take 9th place.
8. Super Bunny Man (2 players)
Another cooperative game, Super Bunny Man is about as ridiculous as the name suggests. You take control of a bunny man in a platforming game where all you need to do is reach the end of the level (and maybe collect a carrot along the way). Again, the controls are fairly simple, with grab, move, and jump being about all you can do – and this simplicity allows for the hilarious scenarios in which the game shines.
It is difficult to explain how charmingly hilarious Super Bunny Man is without playing it, but it is a game you can’t help but not take seriously. Whether your friend needs help after getting stuck, they’ve kicked you halfway across the level, or they just can’t make a simple jump; Super Bunny Man turns moments that could be frustrating into hilarious moments of awkward teamwork.
Again, the need to play it through with the same players and its limited replayability (though there are a few objectives to complete) are what keeps Super Bunny Man in 8th place.
7. SpeedRunners (up to 4 players)
One of the first local multiplayer games I owned on PC, SpeedRunners is a fast-paced racing game which throws a lot of mechanics at the wall and makes them all stick. Despite just about every button on the controller having a use, SpeedRunners is relatively simple to pick up because everyone understands what a race is. There are a few mechanics which take a bit of time to get used to – wall-jumping and the grappling hook immediately come to mind.
There is a significant learning curve in SpeedRunners, but after a few races most players will feel like they have a chance to win them all. The speed of the game means there’s very little downtime, which is always a boon for competitive games.
Despite this learning curve, SpeedRunners has stood the test of time for me, and I haven’t found a better racing game for my collection as of yet.
6. Nidhogg / Nidhogg 2 (2 players)
Another one where you mustn’t let the simple graphics fool you, Nidhogg is one of the most fun directly competitive games out there. Pitching two players against each other, you must kill your opponent to progress to the next screen; and in a tug-of-war style competition, you win once you complete the “final” screen.
The original Nidhogg was incredible in how so few options allowed for so much variety. Both players have the same sword, run at the same speed, and have the same attacks; and yet you’ll be discovering new ways to outsmart your enemy many hours into the game. Nidhogg 2 added more weapons and level variety; and whilst this means there’s more to learn, I believe it also increases the longevity of the gameplay.
Nidhogg is a great tournament game, and is as fun to watch as it is to play. Its fast-paced action makes even the simplest of moves feel exciting, and it truly deserves 6th place on this list.
Before we get into the Top 5, I want to mention a game which has a great concept, but doesn’t have enough widespread appeal to make it into the Top 10.
Screencheat – I think Screencheat is a brilliantly designed game by taking the “cheating” part of split-screen shooters and makes that the main mechanic. Because all players are invisible, you must peek at your opponents’ screens in order to figure out where to shoot. This makes for exciting and intense gameplay, where you attempt to manoeuvre yourself around your opponents and try and get the shot off first – whilst knowing they are trying to do exactly the same thing to you.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough variety in the gameplay for me to bring it out too often; but amongst the right group Screencheat could be a big winner.
Now onto the Top 5!
5. TowerFall Ascension (up to 4 players)
By far the best shooter out there, and TowerFall is more of a platformer! You play the role of archers looking to eliminate the other archers – it’s that simple. Move, jump, dodge, and shoot are your options; and as with many games on this list, this simplicity is where the game shines.
Its fast-paced action and looping map (leaving from the right-edge makes you appear on the left-edge) make for some crazy scenarios, and I have seen few games make better use of the action-replay feature. TowerFall is very much an “easy to learn, hard to master” game, and even the best players will get caught out by shots using the looping map.
TowerFall has a broad appeal thanks to its fast pace and easy to grasp mechanics, which makes it easy to play with a wide-range of people, and earns it 5th place on this list.
4. Gang Beasts (up to 8 players)
A lot of games try to make use of “jellybean physics”, but few of them do it as well as Gang Beasts – a fighting/wrestling game where you aim to be the last jellybean standing. Movement feels slippery, punches feel floppy, and eliminations feel thoroughly earned.
Gang Beasts dropped off my regular rotation of games a couple of years ago when an update turned the jellybean physics up to 11. Unfortunately, the difficulty of control that the game thrived on became bloated and slow, and the unpredictability of fights moved away from the chaos of the melee and toward each punch having a seemingly random amount of force.
The developers have since fixed a lot of these issues, though the physics still don’t quite feel like they did during Gang Beast’s glory days. Gang Beasts is still a brilliant take on the genre and captures a lot of the feelings of the original console era of local-multiplayer. Were it not for the aforementioned update it would have easily made the Top 3, but as it is, it will have to settle for (a still very respectable) 4th place.
3. Overcooked / Overcooked 2 (4 players)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a chef in a kitchen which didn’t make any sense? Well look no further. The final co-op entry on this list (and by far my favourite) is the Overcooked franchise. The chaos and insanity that Overcooked presents is only matched by the blissful zen when you and your co-chefs work together in perfect harmony.
Overcooked is one of the games that has made me laugh the hardest from its mechanics alone. From slapping a rat, to throwing fully-cooked meals on the floor due to a lack of plates, Overcooked is genuinely hilarious. The only drawback to Overcooked is if you take the game too seriously.
There are a lot of mechanics in Overcooked, so you will suffer from changing co-chefs (players) mid-campaign; though the game is complicated and fun enough that you could have a couple of active campaigns. The game requires focussed teamwork at times (so be aware when introducing it to more casual groups), but given the number of “Overcooked clones” now on the market, it thoroughly deserves 3rd place.
2. Ultimate Chicken Horse (up to 4 players)
A platforming game which blends together co-operative and competitive elements beautifully. Ultimate Chicken Horse is a platforming game where you race to be the first one (or better, the only one) to complete a level. Then you play that same level again, except everyone gets to add an object into the level somewhere. What ensues is a balance of trying to make the level harder for your opponents, whilst also trying to complete that very same level yourself.
Each level brings unique hazards and challenges, compounded with each player adding a new object to that level every round, and no two play experiences will be the same. Platforming games don’t appeal to everyone, but with eliminating your opposition being a legitimate strategy, it can be plenty fun to simply try and make the level incompletable.
I think Ultimate Chicken Horse is the best traditional-style local-multiplayer game today, and would have topped this list if it weren’t for…
1. The Jackbox Party Packs (recommend 6-8 players)
We’ve talked about them before, and that’s because it’s very hard to beat The Jackbox Party Pack series. Unlike every other game in this article, you do not need a controller to play Jackbox games because they all make use of mobile phones (you can use computers or tablets too).
There is a huge variety in Jackbox games, and whilst some are better than others, a majority of them are excellent games with tons of replayability. Whether you’re trying to outwit your friends, or just make them laugh, there’s something for everyone within the Jackbox series.
There are currently 7 Jackbox Party Packs out, with the 8th set to release later this year. It would be an article in itself to discuss which ones are worth buying and why, but it’s safe to say that the more recent packs are generally more highly rated.
Regardless of your setup; the Jackbox Party Packs are fantastic value for money, great at parties and casual evenings alike, and only heighten the enjoyment of any group. I am yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy at least some of the Jackbox games, which is why it wins my vote for best local multiplayer game.
The Jackbox Party Packs also work quite well via Video Call!
Those are my Top 10 picks for the best local multiplayer games on PC at the moment. I’m closing in on 100 games tagged as Local Multiplayer on Steam, and I’m always looking for more! If your favourite local multiplayer game didn’t make this list, maybe it just missed the cut, or maybe I haven’t played it yet! If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them.
All game images have been taken from the Steam Store
This is a bio. I’m making a post here, like and share. It’s hard to overstate the fan reaction. We’re Hexagorgon. We make what we can, because we must. For the good of all of us, except the h8rs and trolls.
But there’s no sense crying over every bad post, we’ll just keep on trying till we all go viral. And the podcast gets done, and you’ll write something fun, for the people who are reading this.