9 Best Multiplayer Modes in Games

Other people. They exist, and some of them are fun to play games with.

While the world has made many forms of social gaming impractical for the foreseeable future, video games still allow for us to have fun with our friends without the looming threat of infection & death. On a less depressing note, playing a game with friends can make just about anything fun. There have been countless games that I’ve found tedious on my own, but a great joy when played with another person. Over the years, designers have learnt how to hone their multiplayer mechanics to make the most enjoyable experience for people playing games together, so I’d like to take the time to discuss some of the best.

Before I start, I should clarify the kind of multiplayer games I play. For the most part, I prefer the easy-going games that you can just bust out at a social gathering and play a few quick rounds of. There are exceptions to this on the list, but I’m not big on competitive multiplayer, so don’t expect to see games like MOBAs or Halo on this list. They’re not bad games, of course, they’re just not what I enjoy playing.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Overcooked – It’s lots of fun, I just never played enough of it to fall in love with it.
Trivial Pursuit – A personal favourite, but at the end of the day, it is just a trivia game, and it was a board game first.
Rocket League – An absolute blast that I am utterly terrible at.

9 – Portal 2

Co-op modes are hard to get right. So often they’re just the regular singleplayer mode with an extra person. This is a fine way of doing it, but it doesn’t get the most out of what a co-operative gaming experience can be. It’s very rare in a co-op video game that I really get the feeling of proper teamwork and collective achievement as we move towards our goals. Here’s where Portal 2 comes in.

Firstly, it’s a puzzle game, which is great in terms of the ‘sense of accomplishment’ factor. Humans are better at solving a problem together, and the ability to bounce ideas off each other as you work your way through the puzzles. Additionally, it doesn’t assume you know anything about how to play Portal. If you want to introduce someone to the game, they don’t have to go through the singleplayer to understand what’s going on, and because the game explains everything, it removes that barrier where you have to awkwardly try and explain it to the other person.

Most importantly, it lets you be absolute arseholes to each other…in a fun way. There’s no consequence for death in Portal 2, other than having to run through the level again, which usually takes just a few seconds. That lack of consequence means that dying isn’t frustrating, which means that when your friend pulls a dick move on you, it’s funny, not annoying. The light-bridges are the perfect example of this. Your friend is walking along the bridge over a pit of death, while you and you alone hold the power to remove the bridge. You know you’re going to do it, they know you’re going to do it, but it’s still hilarious when you send them plummeting.

It gives you the tools and lets you mess about with each other to your heart’s content, but once you want to get serious, there’s plenty of puzzly goodness, that makes the most of the co-op portal mechanics.

8 – Nidhogg

As you’ll see throughout this list, the kind of multiplayer games I tend to connect the most with are the ones that I can play with someone in the same room as me. Playing games online is great when it’s the only option (see: 2020) but to me, nothing beats the joy that comes from a room bursting into enthusiastic shouting and laugher all around you as you play something.

Nidhogg is great at getting those kinds of reactions out of people. As only a 2 player game, it might not seem the best thing to bust out at a party, but honestly, it’s just as gripping to watch as it is to play. The tug-of-war style of gameplay makes for insane levels of intensity, especially when games get dragged out for a long time. The excitement levels never drop as one person breaks through, only to be stopped inches from victory and be slowly pushed back to the centre of the map.

You find yourself going through phases, as the game progressed. You’ll have some fast-paced kills as you run back and forth, maybe make some progress, until you both suddenly slow down and have a stand-off. The mechanics are simple enough that you can determine the pace of every game and almost tell a story during your fight. Then, when the match finally ends, you feel that emotional sigh of relief, which is an incredibly satisfying feeling, and you want to just right into another game.

7 – Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Confusion and chaos are the order of the day in the best way possible.

A co-operative game where the distribution of information is heavily asymmetrical is a style of game that we haven’t seen much in the video game sphere as much as I would’ve expected. Maybe that’s just because this game got it spot-on first try and nothing could ever compare.

Whenever I play this game with someone for the first time, it’s always a joy to watch them struggle their way through the manual. It plays so well with how people communicate, that the experience is always very different depending on who I play it with. With some people, it’s a relatively calm puzzle-solving experience, while with others it becomes a hilariously panicked shouting match, and both are just as fun to play. Every person develops their own little code for how to describe the weird shapes or a method for communicating each puzzle, it’s great fun.

What’s great is that it’s the kind of concept that you can introduce to anyone. It’s easy to understand even if you’re completely computer illiterate. I’ve given the manual to plenty of people who don’t play video games and we’ve still had a fun experience thanks to the simplistic nature of it. It succeeds as both a unique feature of co-operation and communication in games and as a social game.

6 – Super Smash Bros

Ultimate is my personal favourite, but any of them could fill this slot.

If you have a look through my 100 favourite games series from the summer, one thing you’ll notice a distinct lack of is fighting games, I just don’t play them. Smash Bros is the exception, as it’s the perfect fighting game for someone completely inexperienced in the genre. Many use “kid-friendly” as a negative, but the fact is, Smash Bros is a family fighting game, which is a rarity for a genre that usually has quite a high skill floor.

Straight out of the gate, there’s the appeal of all these characters, from just about every corner of gaming’s past and present. Nintendo characters dominate the scene, but there’s a huge handful of characters from elsewhere, especially with Ultimate’s DLC fighters. There will be a for just about anyone to connect to in there somewhere, even those who don’t play video games. In fact, it’s arguably a good gateway to get people interested in franchises they haven’t tried. People who don’t know the characters will just pick one they like the look of, and then slowly form a connection with them, maybe eventually going on to play some of their games. It’s almost the gateway game for other games in that way.

Outside of that, every match is simply madness. Yes, if you learn what the buttons do, you’ll do better than those who don’t, but you can still have a lot of fun from hitting attacks at semi-random. When a screen is full of a bunch of characters doing all their flashy attacks and moves it’s a sight to behold, and things get even crazier when items are added into the mix. What’s great though, is that there are enough advanced techniques in there for people to play at an insanely high skill-level too. I’m not one of those people, I’m a filthy casual, but for a game to be able to balance both of those types of players is an incredible feat.

5 – Jackbox Party Pack

When a game presents itself as “fun for all the family” what that normally means is that it’s designed for kids, and adults can play it if their kids bug them about it enough. Jackbox though really is fun for ALL the family, and it can be played in any environment. I’ve spent evenings playing Jackbox with my family, with everyone participating in the games and it’s been a lot of fun, but equally, I can sit around with a bunch of friends the same age as me and still get a great kick out of it.

Thanks to all of the games relying on the answers entered by the players, you can perfectly tailor your jokes to the room, meaning everyone always gets to enjoy the jokes. What’s more, is that the player-based responses allow you to form in-jokes during your group. I’m sure all of us who’ve played Jackbox can think of at least one time where one answer that particularly tickled people got repeated later in the night to an even bigger laugh.

I think that’s what makes Jackbox so fun for a group setting, the fact that every game doesn’t overbear too much on the interactions in the group. Instead, it carefully crafts different scenarios that allow the players to make the jokes themselves. This means it works as just about whatever you want it to be, whether it’s an ice breaker, a drinking game, or just some laughs with some friends. With only one person needing to actually own the game, it’s the height of accessibility.

4 – Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Up until now, I’ve been talking about playing all of these games in the context of playing with someone you know – because that’s how I play them – but here’s a game where the fact that you primarily play with strangers is what makes it so brilliant.

The controlled chaos of Fall Guys is something completely unreplicated in video games at the moment. I thought I’d lost interest in battle royale as a genre, that everything that could be done had been done, but then Fall Guys comes along and shows us just how far the genre still has left to go. The light and bouncy aesthetic is a breath of fresh air and fills the whole thing with hilarity. When your bean is being bounced around the place by giant rubber hammers, it’s impossible not to laugh about it.

Every level has such a brilliant sense of variation to it that even when I’ve done it a hundred times, I still enjoy playing through it. Partly because it very rarely goes the same way twice, but also because the simplistic gameplay of ‘jump, dive, grab’ is incredibly satisfying. The simplistic gameplay also means that even when you get good at it, you can never get THAT good at it. No matter how skilful you are at controlling your bean, there’s still every possibility that an unlucky bounce or another player getting in your way could send you tumbling to your death. As such, it really is a game where anyone has a chance of winning every game, another thing that I don’t think any other battle royale game achieves.

Even when you don’t win though, there’s still plenty to enjoy about the match. The gameplay is so intrinsically rewarding, that making it all the way to the finals, only to lose isn’t a slow, agonising journey to defeat like in other battle royales. It’s one of the few competitive games where I genuinely don’t play for winning (even if it is a very good feeling when I do), I just play because the levels are so much fun.

3 – Minecraft

While it’s true that Minecraft’s multiplayer doesn’t actually do anything different to the singleplayer in terms of design, it’s a game where the experience is undoubtedly improved by playing with friends.

When you’re just playing a regular world in survival, adding a friend to the mix makes the whole thing way more engaging. Yes, I still like to play in singleplayer when I want to chill out and build worlds, but adventuring and building while chatting to people brings the true joy out of the game. You can bounce creative ideas off of each other to come up with designs far beyond what you could’ve come up with on your own, and it allows anyone you play with to flourish in exactly the way they want to.

I’ve played Minecraft with just about every close friend that I’ve had at some point in my life and it’s always an enjoyable experience, and we always come up with something new depending on who it is I’m playing with. It’s the perfect game to play when you want to hang out with someone, but don’t want a very intense experience. Over the course of these months in lockdown/isolation, being able to hop on and virtually hang out with friends while building an impressive world has been an absolute God-send.

What’s more, is there’s still plenty of fun to be had playing with strangers. Plenty of game-modes that were innovated on large Minecraft servers eventually got big enough to become their own games, many would even argue Minecraft Hunger Games is the true progenitor of the battle royale genre. To this day the biggest servers allow you to hop online and play hundreds upon thousands of different styles of gameplay. Be it parkour, anarchy, battle royales or even regular survival Minecraft, no game is as expansive for multiplayer opportunities.

2 – Among Us

Before everyone says it, yes, I know Among Us did not innovate this style of gameplay, nor was it the first to bring it to the video game sphere, however, it is the best.

I’ve always loved social deduction games. My personal favourite was Secret Hitler, which I have played A LOT of over the years. There’s a great thrill that I get from hiding my true identity, lying through my teeth and manipulating the scenario so I can execute my master plan. I also have loads of fun being one of the good guys and working with the information at hand to track down the traitors and eliminate them from the game. Once again, it’s a style of gameplay that is entirely driver by the players and their interactions. The fun comes from those debates (sometimes shouting matches) and mystery-solving sessions, so much so, that even when the game ends and you find out you’ve been outplayed & manipulated the whole time, you still look back on the experience positively.

What Among Us does is it takes the most important elements of those games and sees exactly what advantages doing it in a virtual space can afford it. Now, the gameplay becomes more than just having discussions with your fellow players, now you get to wander around a virtual spaceship and do a bunch of fun mini-games. You get to actually run around a big space rather than sitting on your sofa looking at cards; not that I’m saying looking at cards isn’t fun, but doing it this way is making the most of what a virtual space can give you.

Even outside of a pandemic, getting 10 friends in the same room can be quite difficult in the real world, and for just £4 (or free on mobile) this is the perfect way to get around that problem. It keeps the core of makes social deduction games so fun and just adds to it in great new ways. What’s great is that the developers are still looking to improve the game, and hopefully, its success will encourage other developers to make more with their own twists on the gameplay.

1 – Towerfall Ascension

I mean, come on, did you really expect anything else?

Towerfall Ascension placed third in my 100 Favourite Games series, and one of the main reasons for that is because the local multiplayer battling is hands down the most fun experiences I’ve had playing games. It’s easy enough to learn that anyone I’ve played it with you is at least somewhat video game literate picks it up within their first few times playing and from there the possibilities are endless.

The game moves at such a fast pace and yet the level of tension can reach a fever-pitch when a match is close. The precision you can achieve in terms of movement and shooting is incredible and will lead to some of the most exciting near-misses you’ve ever seen. Each different arena design gives you new tactics as you find the best way to place yourself at an advantage. You can stay still and try to outsmart your opponent and they come for you, or you can keep constantly on the move to come at your opponent from as many angles at once as possible. All the while you’ve got to be thinking about your opponent’s positioning, and also where you’re shooting your arrows, as you’ll need to pick them up again if you miss.

On top of that, the game offers a huge amount of variants to mix the game up and keep it fresh, even hundreds of hours in. You can create some crazy and hilarious matches using them that will keep you laughing even watching the replays long after the fact. It’s able to make me laugh hysterically, feel like a God of gaming and create fond memories all in one package. It’s something truly special and easily the best multiplayer mode I’ve ever played.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what your favourite multiplayer games are, either in the comment below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back this time next week, where the end-of-year lists begin with my favourite AEW matches of the 2020!

My 100 Favourite Games of All Time (100-91)

This list was a long time in the making, and finally, it’s here.

Throughout the summer, I’m going to be running down my top 100 games of all time. This isn’t designed to be a definitive ‘greatest’ or ‘most important’ games list, this is going to be personal to me. The only thing that determines what position each game gets on a list is how much I enjoyed playing it. It’s that straightforward.

Some quick background on my gaming history, I’ve only ever owned the following platforms: PC, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox 360 & Nintendo Switch. So, if a game didn’t come out on any of those platforms, I didn’t play it. I recently picked up a PS4, but I haven’t had a chance to play much yet, so don’t expect to see those games on this list.

My usual restrictions on ‘no early access’ doesn’t stand for this one, they’re totally free to go in regardless. The only restriction I’m putting on it is games that I played for the first time in 2020 will not be on this list. My opinion on how much I enjoyed a game tends to shift as I get some distance from it, so I will be covering those in my usual end-of-year lists, instead of including them here.

Finally, before we start. Although this first list is coming out in the usual Saturday time slot, I’m going to be releasing the rest on Wednesday every week, so I can still cover all the other stuff I like to cover on this blog. This also has the happy (and entirely planned) coincidence of meaning the final instalment will release on my birthday.

That’s all the explanation, now onto the games!

100 – GeoGuessr

Release Date: 9th May 2013
Developers: Anton Wallén, Daniel Antell, Erland Ranvinge
Platforms: Web Browser

It’s a game where you work out where you are.

A lot of casual games, such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds, sell themselves on being ‘accessible by anyone’, but I’m not entirely sure that statement is quite true. I think some people wouldn’t quite understand why they’re doing the things they’re doing in games like that, and the attitudes presented in those games can be quite a lousy representation for someone new to the medium.

GeoGuessr is what I would describe as the best possible introduction to video games. The concept is so simple, you’re in a place on the Earth, you have to wander around it and work out where you are. Not only is that easy for anyone to understand, but it brings to the table the core of what video games are supposed to be about, problem-solving. It’s an interesting little toy to use on your own, but where it really shines is when you get a bunch of people involved to start discussing and debating it with you.

GeoGuessr is a game where absolutely everyone can get enjoyment out of it. I’ve played it with my younger siblings, my older relatives and friends similar ages to me and all of them had a fun time playing it. It’s a concept that’s so immediately graspable by just about anyone, and it allows you to put to use the general knowledge that we all gain about the world during our lifetimes.

99 – Toybox Turbos

Release Date: 12th November 2014
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows
Metacritic Average: 78%

It’s a game about toy cars trying to murder other toy cars.

Toybox Turbos took did something quite rare to see in the modern gaming climate, even on the indie scene, which is that they took a form of gameplay that hadn’t been used for almost a decade, breathed new life into it, and managed to create a game better than the original.

Trying to top Micro Machines was going to be quite the task, but the developers of Toybox Turbos managed to replicate the gameplay feel almost perfectly. Then they piled tonnes of charm in the visual design onto it, and you’ve got yourself a winner. It creates the beautiful style of couch co-op that I absolutely love where the learning curve isn’t very steep at all. There’s also a pretty low skill ceiling, which means anyone new picking up shouldn’t have much trouble defeating more experienced players.

Toybox Turbos is one of those rare gems that take an old formula and polishes it up to work in a modern setting. It keeps the sense of fun the original formula had while throwing in a new visual style that ramps the charm through the roof.

98 – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Release Date: 21st August 2012
Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment, Valve Corporation
Publisher: Valve Corporation
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, WindowsMac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 83%

It’s a game where you shoot some dudes.

I’m not the biggest fan of dude-shooting games. They tend to get a bit repetitive for me, and they’ll often drive me away. However, I can’t deny that I occasionally get that itch to play a game where I’ve just got to do some simple dude-shooting and not worry about much else. When that time comes, CS:GO is the game I get to scratch that itch.

The shooting is nice and tight, the guns are surprisingly precise, and there’s a good variety on offer. There’s more skill to it than many other shooters I’ve played, but when I’m playing it casually, I don’t feel constantly pressured to be hyper-aware or always being competitive. Honestly, I have just as much fun wandering around aimlessly shooting at bots as I do playing real matches.

I wouldn’t regard CS:GO as anything special, but I can’t deny that I do have fun whenever I decide to boot it up once a month or so.

97 – Tetris

Release Date: 6th June 1984
Designer: Alexey Pajitnov
Platforms: If it exists, you can play Tetris on it

It’s Tetris.

I don’t care what anyone says, Tetris is brilliant. It’s wonderfully compelling and a little bit addictive. There’s nothing revolutionary or particularly unique about Tetris, and if I’m honest, I can’t really describe why I like it so much, I just do.

I don’t really think there’s much more I can say about it, Tetris is brilliant because it’s Tetris, and that’s all there is to it.

96 – Liero

Release Date: 1st January 1998
Developer: Erik Lindroos
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

It’s Worms but in real-time.

A pretty straightforward, but surprisingly engaging windows game here, as Liero was a game that fully embraced the chaos of what the Worms games could be.

For one thing, there was a wide variety of weapons that could make any game quite tense. The AI wasn’t the smartest, but it was still good for a game, although playing against another person was always much more fun. The mechanic of having to manually dig through the terrain to get to each other is genius, as it means that you’re almost entirely in control of the map. Given that almost every weapon affects the terrain, you’re continually having to think of the consequences of every move, giving the game a surprising amount of strategy.

What really makes this game stand out, though, is the levels of customisation you can give to each time. You can change the amount of blood produced (all the way up to 500%, which is insane) and you can customise your health to insanely high degrees. Easily the best setting is the one that lets you change the reload speed, as you can change it all the way down to zero, meaning there are no reloading times. At this point, every weapon in the game become a ludicrously powerful tool of mass destruction that could obliterate the whole map in seconds.

It’s stupid, ridiculous and insane amounts of fun.

95 – Democracy 3

Release Date: 14th October 2013
Developer: Positech Games, Red Marble Games
Publisher: Positech Games, Tri Synergy
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Metacritic Average: 70%

It’s a game about being the government.

Democracy teaches you a lesson, a lesson in why the people in power do the things that they do. When you see a politician do something that seems to be totally against what they preach, Democracy shows you why the people in power do things like that by forcing you to become that person. You can absolutely play Democracy by just changing everything to be exactly how you personally want the world to work, but it won’t go well. You’ll end up driving the GDP through the floor, spiking crime to an all-time high or just upsetting enough people so that you lose you next election in a landslide, or worse get assassinated.

When playing Democracy, I found myself making decisions that go against some of my fundamental beliefs solely to keep the country afloat. Be it because putting a substantial tax on something because it makes up the extra money we need in our budget or because banning something I think is fine will make the majority of people very happy. CGP Grey’s ‘Rules for Rulers‘ video touches on a lot of these points, but Democracy is a game that shows it to you in action.

Not only is Democracy quite a fun game if you have the patience to bury yourself in it, but it will also help teach you things about how the government works, and what exactly is going on in the minds of those in power.

94 – Mini Metro

Release Date: 6th November 2015
Developer: Dinosaur Polo Club
Publisher: Dinosaur Polo Club
Platforms: Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Web Browser, Windows, Mac, Linux, Andriod, iOS
Metacritic Average: 89%

It’s a game about designing underground train networks.

Mini Metro is a constant balancing act, one that will inevitably spiral out of control, and it’s your job to prevent that spiral for as long as possible. Everything about Mini Metro draws me into it. I’m not one of those Brits who’s in love with the London Underground, but the aesthetic design of the game is an endearing one. It had all the charm in the world, and it’s also an excellent way to display all of the information the game needs to display.

It creates a slightly strange style of puzzle, where you’re not presented with the whole puzzle right at the start, but rather the puzzle slowly forms throughout the game. This kind of puzzle design forces the player to form solutions that aren’t necessarily efficient in the long-run but work for the moment they are presented to you. In that sense, it’s almost like a game that teaches you how to be good at ‘bodge-fixing’ things. Sure, that line you’ve just made will be overcrowded in a couple weeks, but it’s working right now and ‘right now’ is all you’re concerned about.

It means that every puzzle is different every time you play it, and gives the game replayability value that puzzle games don’t often have. Games very rarely use the player’s own inefficiency against them, but Mini Metro creates a scenario that tricks you into making long-term mistakes, without it feeling like the game is deliberately screwing you over.

93 – Organ Trail: Director’s Cut

Release Date: 9th August 2012
Developer: The Men Who Wear Many Hats
Publisher: The Men Who Wear Many Hats
Platforms: Playstation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Web Browser, Windows, Mac, Linux, Andriod, iOS, Ouya
Metacritic Average: 86%

It’s a game where everyone dies of dysentery while you shoot zombies.

Plenty of classic games have been remade and had various adaptations made over the years. Games like Tetris, Pacman and Pong have had too many clones or ‘new takes’ on them to count, but Oregon Trail has never really had that. I don’t know if because it was an educational game, or it just wasn’t popular enough to warrant it, but I don’t think I’d ever seen an attempt at adapting Oregon Trail until this came along.

At face value, Organ Trail takes the gameplay or Oregan Trail, makes a few modernisations and sets it in a zombie apocalypse, except it goes deeper than that. Not only does Organ Trail update the nuances of the gameplay, but it also looks to expand upon it and gives much more replayability value with a massive variety of events and missions you can partake in. Not to mention keeping your crew alive.

All the while, it keeps that feeling of going on a journey and caring about the characters that you created by giving stupid names because you thought it would be funny. It taps into what was compelling about the original Oregon Trail and expands upon it, which is perfect for a homage game like this one.

92 – Westerado: Double Barrelled

Release Date: 16th April 2015
Developer: Ostrich Banditos
Publisher: Adult Swim, Cartoon Interactive Group Inc
Platforms: Xbox One, Windows, Mac
Metacritic Average: 80%

It’s an old western murder mystery.

That sentence alone should be enough explanation as to why it’s on this list, but here are the details.

Westerado gives you a very simple premise that slowly expands over the course of the game. You get taught how to shoot, and then your family gets murdered and you have to find out whodunit. The murderer could be pretty much any random guy wandering about the world, but how you figure it out is the key.

You go around the world doing favours for people in exchange for information. You get told little details about the man bit by bit. These could be what shape his hat is, or what colour his bandana is. Then once you’ve got your full description, you find his location and hunt him down. The game presents itself, both in its narrative and gameplay, like it’s an old western, to create something genuinely unique.

91 – Bejeweled 3

Release Date: 7th December 2010
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: PopCap Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows, Mac, Nintendo DS, iOS, Android
Metacritic Average: 82%

It’s a game where you make the colours line up.

Once again, I don’t really think this one needs much explaining, it’s the game that you play when you don’t want to play anything. Sure, it has various modes of gameplay that change up the formula in exciting ways, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s the game where you swap the colours to make the colours match, and that is in some way useful.

Also, while it didn’t invent the formula, it certainly popularized it to the point where King could take that exact same formula and make one of the most popular mobile games of all time, so it’s got to be doing something right.

And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you think of these games, either in the comments below, or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here on Wednesday for the next entry in this series!