2014 saw a resurgence of local multiplayer games. Whether you’re looking to hang out with your friends or beat the snot out of them, we had plenty of ways to do that this year. Here are five of our favorites and a few honorable mentions – games we didn’t get to play or that other people seemed to like a lot more than we did.
Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare (Co-Op) – PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Dozens of shooters hit the market each year on any platform with a mouse or analog sticks. Many are military, some are sci-fi, some even make the daring step of doing both.
No multiplayer shooter stood out this year quite like Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, however. While the game does lack a single-player element that could’ve been enjoyable, there’s a solid multiplayer component here that stands on its own as a solid game deserving of your time. Better yet, though, is that you can hop online with a friend right there in the room to do some split-screen cooperative gaming.
If you want to play any shooter split-screen, this is the one.
Crawl (Versus) – Linux, Mac, Windows
Crawl had me from the trailer. You and up to three friends can plug controllers into a PC – just about any PC, this game isn’t pushing any polygons – and delve into some of the darkest dungeons this side of an H.P. Lovecraft story.
Your goal is to defeat the horrible beast that lurks beneath the dungeon, reclaim your humanity, and get back to the surface. But your other friends are all playing as vengeful spirits who can take the form of skeletons, witches, and other beasts – not to mention possessing traps as well. Whomever should be so lucky to strike you down will possess your body – their body. It’s like a deadly, unspeakable game of reverse tag where everyone else but you is “it.”
It’s fast, fun, and one of the best looking pixel art games around.
Gang Beasts (Versus) – Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows
Gang Beasts answers the question, what if a bunch of stuffed animals fought in a deadly wrestling match? The battle royale between a fox, bear, chicken and dinosaur is one of the weirdest and awesomest multiplayer moments I’ve witnessed this year. If you don’t want to be stuffed animals, you can pick out hats, too. Every match is exciting and tense as the four players try to show their opponents what the other side of the railing looks like while keeping their own two feet on the ground.
The game is built from primary colors and some pretty primitive shapes, which allows it to use some lighting that adds an eerie dimension of realism to it.
Mario Kart 8 (Versus) – Wii U
We’d be remiss in not mentioning Nintendo at least once in this list. While PC gamers are rediscovering the lost art of local multiplayer, Nintendo’s never forgotten. Mario Kart 8 is some of the best split-screen gaming all year with gorgeous levels, tight controls, and Nintendo’s awesome stable of characters.
Where other multiplayer games in this list don’t really offer much in the way of options for training without a few friends, Mario Kart also gives you plenty to do alone to memorize courses and hone your skills to make sure that your friend who never plays video games but is somehow a master of Mario Kart doesn’t whup you so thoroughly the next time you get together.
Child of Light (Co-Op) – PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Maybe conflict and shooting aren’t your thing, though. Maybe you’re looking to just chill out. Maybe you have a loved one – significant other, parent, child, or just a really smart pet – you’d like to share your favorite hobby with.
If you’d like to hand a controller over without worrying about the other player’s skill level, Child of Light lets the second player take control of the little ball of light that accompanies Aurora on her journey through the rhyming fantasy world. Your partner can pick up items and heal you while you do the complex work of platforming and fighting. While there is plenty for the other player to do, it’s not so dependent on time that it’s a source of stress like the other games.
Some other local multiplayer games worth mentioning: Super Smash Bros for Wii U, Towerfall Ascension, Gauntlet, Never Alone, Nidhogg, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.