Remember the time when having a video game console was a rarity, and kids flock to their friend’s home who have one for a round of multiplayer action? Or just watch a their friend play through a fantastic singleplayer game? Well, those trends may have died down in replacement of online multiplayer and the abundance of YouTube videos and Twitch streams.
But, for some people who may have non-gamer friends around who still abide to these old traditions, or just want to have a good time together with friends when get all your gamer pals together, your console of choice, or PC, may have some use to it.
Get some spare controllers and try out these list of games. These by all means a comprehensive list, but enough to get you exploring for more couch multiplayer games.
STARWHAL (fomerly known as Starwhal: Just the Tip)
Available on: PC, PS4, WiiU
This is super simple, but brilliant game to introduce to any friends who have limited experience with any sort of games. Your’e a space narwhal trying to pierce the hearts of other space narwhals, it’s as simple as that. Controls would take a while to get used to, so there’s no apparent advantage to experienced players.
It also has an 80’s aesthetic, with neon graphics and synthesizer-heavy soundtrack, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Available on: PC, PS3, PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One
Player count: 1-2
What started as a joke: Fighting is games is just a matter of remembering button combinations and how fast you could pull them. A successful Kickstarter later, and a fighting game that eschews complicated button combos by limiting it to two buttons only- ‘dive ‘ and ‘kick’, is born. Ironically, the game STILL has plenty of depth of any fighting game, and is even played competitively at certain fighting game events for a while.
Fun Fact: The developer has now taken the reign of developing of the Xbox One-exclusive fighter Killer Instinct, they know fighting games, their handling of the second season is well done, and continues to work for Season 3 next year.
Interesting backstory aside: It’s a game about the divekick- a cheap but super effective move synonymous to the fighting genre. Dive is jump, and kick is, well, for kick. One hit and you win the round. The depth comes from the unique mechanics of each character (not everyone dives and kicks the same way), and the mind games involve in playing every match.
It’s good for experience gamers to understand the strategies involved when people in the fighting game community discusses, and easy to pick up for non-gamers as well, just hit two buttons. Even the menus require two buttons.
Available on: PC, PS4, OUYA
Player count: 1-4
Difficulty: Medium- Hard
Towerfall was the only killer app when the microconsole OUYA (Rest in peace) released. Since then, it has sought greener pastures, and found its way to PC and the PS4, and have two expansions made: Ascension and Dark World.
Basically, Towerfall is a 4-player battle using bows and arrows using a platformer style control. Defeat your enemies with your bow (keep in mind, arrows are limited) or just jump on them Mario-style. Then there’s powerups, trick shots you can make, advance dashing techniques, and the Dark World expansion introduces co-op missions. There’s also single-player missions that truly test your skills.
This would be a more advanced game for couch multiplayer. Good if you have people experienced with controllers or platformer games.
Available on: PS4, PC
Sportfriends is a compilation of mini-games. There’s BaraBariBall, a game of putting a ball in a goal with Smash Bros. style control. Super Pole Riders, a hilarious physics-based game
about moving a ball tied to a rope towards a goal using vault poles. Hokra is a 2D simplistic soccer with a King of the Hill twist, where you must be in possession of the ball in a goal long enough for the territory of the goal to expand, and thus win.
My personal highlight is Johann Sebastian Joust. It’s like musical chairs, only you have to ensure your controller don’t move too much when the music is then playing slowly, and stay in place when it stops. Last man standing wins. Shenanigans ensue as everyone tries to force others to shake their controller, or lame it out and hide in a corner.
If it’s hard to imagine, head over here where Kotaku covers the game– with videos of each one in action.
Note: The PC version does not support Johann Sebastian Joust.
Available on: PC
Player count: 1-2
Now for more serious competitive action. Not many games are highlighting the art of fencing, so Nidhogg fills this niche excellently. Don’t let the simple graphics turn you off, this is a great swordfighting game that empahise the back and forth of the dueler’s progress to victory, which apparently is to be eaten by the namesake Norse god/creature/hideous worm thing.
There’s some mind games to be had, where these two fighters are just clashing swords. The said swords aren’t attached permanently to the hands of the fencers, which opens up a depth of fighting options.
When played with both players on a similar skill level, it is joyous to watch the match as each player moves back and forth in progression until one man stands, only to die. Sounds grim, but it’s jolly good fun!
Available on: PC
Player count: 1-4
Magicka is a personal favourite. It’s a game made as a student project before this. It was released with horrible bugs and netcode not working. But after constant updates, it is now a stable game about 1-4 wizards casting powerful magical spells that can kill everyone, even yourselves and your friends.
There’s amazing depth here, you have access to 8 magical elements- plus 2 secret elements, making it 10. Combining them in different combinations makes different types of spell. You can find spellbooks that unlocks magicks, super over-powered spells that require specific inputs to cast it.
Friendly-fire is always on, and you can put your friends and yourselves in danger if not careful. But why be careful when you can spam earth are-of-effect spells to keep everyone from moving, and have one buddy, who is not stuck with the ground-pound spell, to try and cast the powerful meteor shower spell, only to mess it up and killed themselves, and you all panicked and stopped the earth spell spam, and try to it, and succeeded calling the meteor shower only to have it obliterated your whole team, with the enemies fortunately surviving, since the meteor shower strikes are random? Essentially, it will be utter chaos if played with inexperience players, which is part of the fun.
An amazing game to test your friendship.
The game is hard, but I recommend bringing inexperienced players to the game as well. Controls are stupid hard, especially on controllers (casting a spell is mapped on the right stick. You need to do quarter-circles ala fighting games to input them), but don’t let that put them off. Besides, your’e probably going to want to have a scrape goat if all else fails anyways.
There’s also a lot of in-jokes and references to pop culture, and provides some chuckles to those in the know.
There’s a sequel, Magicka 2, that streamlines the controls on the controller, available on PC and PS4, and the original developers had move on and made other games with the same formula, the Gauntlet remake, and Helldivers, which are also good.
Available on: PC
What if Smash Bros. crossed with a ball game? and add in anime-style craziness? That would be something like Lethal League. In this brawler, you only deal damage by hitting someone with the aforementioned ball, and the more hits it got, the faster it would be. If the rally goes well you can see it rapidly increase in epicness, with the ball stopping mid-hit, a swooping sound before the ball travels crazy fast, like a scene form Dragon Ball Z.
Although light on content, the base game is solid and fun, with some cool art and sound direction that will remind you of Jet Set Radio. Great for more experienced players.
Available on: PC
Lastly, we shall end this list with physics-based brawler. What makes Gang Beasts fun is the challenge of controlling your blobby avatar, fighting in dangerous environments such as a wrestling ring, a subway station with subways coming through from time-to-time, inside a factory with a hilarious amount of grinders, on top of two gondolas, on top of two hanging wheels, on top of trucks blazing on a highway, among others.
It requires some skill to control, yet even with little skill it can lead to hilarious moment-to-moment fisticuffs.
These are some personal highlights, and there are more to be discovered. Why not try any one of the above, and see if any of it gets your group of friends going.
Or if you don’t have friends around, there’s plenty of Let’s Plays on YouTube where you could watch people playing them.