Multiplayer is such an ingrained part of gaming that it’s hard to imagine a world without teabagging. But as nifty as it is to play games with folk from the other side of the planet, there’s something special about local multiplayer that online stuff has never managed to capture. In particular, the option to hurl beer cans at one’s competitors is a joy that just can’t be emulated. So while local multiplayer has taken a back seat to online shenanigans these days, for better or worse, here’s a few games from the last few years that’ll do at least a good a job of entertaining your drunken friends as an app that makes fart noises.
Broforce (Image rights: Devolver Digital)
A game that made me violate my usual rule against buying into early access, Broforce is an outrageous 2D shooter where a selection of iconic 80s and 90s action heroes blow up everything in the name of ‘Murica. One hit means death, but every new life swaps to another character with unique gimmicks. So you might be tearing up scenery with the Terminator’s minigun one second, then making mincemeat with a katana as Blade the next. Naturally this makes for ideal co-op fodder, especially since the most common cause of death is accidentally (or not so accidentally) blowing up other players.
Personal highlight: being the first onto the chopper at the end of a level and watching my comrades sail helplessly into the sea.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Image rights: Square Enix)
Despite being relegated to spin-off status, Guardian of Light is the more interesting game compared to the better-marketed efforts at making a 90s pop icon relevant again. One player controls the titular tomb raider while the other gets to run around as an ancient Mayan warrior, and both have separate abilities that have to be combined to solve puzzles, like throwing a spear that Lara can then jump on to rappel across a gap. This asymmetric co-op makes for an old-fashioned archaeological adventure and adds much-needed personality to an utterly stock setting and story.
Personal highlight: frantically pulling my partner up a cliff as giant spiders bear down on me.
Pixeljunk Shooter (Image rights: Q-Games / SCEE / SCEA)
The ability to kill other players seems to be a common factor among a lot of the best co-op games, and Pixeljunk Shooter’s habit of unleashing lava at the slightest provocation is just another example. Two players have to navigate caves and solve little puzzles involving the interplay between water, lava and other hazards, taking particular care not to incinerate, drown or crush the scientists who’ve managed to hide in the spots most likely to get them killed. The levels aren’t too numerous but they all add to the formula and promptly end once the ideas run out, avoiding the common co-op issue where finishing a game can require a huge time investment, as demonstrated by the wonderful but achingly long Borderlands 2.
Personal highlight: forgetting that the reversal suit makes water deadly.
Obscure (Image rights: Mighty Rocket Studio)
Survival horror games like Dead Space 3 have tried to provide fun co-op splattery, but a fittingly lesser-known game from the PS2 era managed the same thing with more charm. Obscure takes the lovably campy route of high-school kids investigating spooky goings-on and makes for some genuinely panicky moments. It’s quite easy to blow through your ammo supplies and saves are limited, giving a bit of an old-school Resident Evil vibe that lends itself to friendly riffing. Any kind of serious mood tends to be destroyed the moment you introduce multiplayer, so the cheesy attitude was a wise choice. Obscure isn’t terrific but it offers something not many games do and now you can even get it on Steam, so you can enjoy it even if you foolishly sold your PS2.
Personal highlight: blundering into a classroom and letting out an undignified scream as something burst through a window.
If any of the above games catch your fancy, be sure to buy them on their respective platforms and thus support sweet local multiplayer games.