As much as the PC can lay claim to some of the biggest AAA blockbusters and sprawling single-player experiences available, it can often be nice to just take a step back from all that epic palaver and get stuck into a quick session of multiplayer goodness with your mates.
Perhaps more than it has ever been, the PC is now a properly viable home for local multiplayer shenanigans, allowing you to get together with a group of mates, get the beers flowing (if you drink) and generally have a splendid old time. Largely propped up by an incredible independent development scene that recalls those fond memories of local multiplayer gaming from yesteryear, we can happily report that there is no shortage of these games available.
With that in mind, here are fifteen of the best local multiplayer games that you can get your mitts on right now.
Last Updated: 10/02/2018
With its pressure cooker style, top-down twin-stick shooter gameplay Circuit Breakers certainly lends itself well to a decent bit of local multiplayer gaming. In a way, playing Smash TV-esque Circuit Breakers with friends feels akin to attempting to plug holes on a leaky ship, as you and up to your four mates struggle to contain the relentless onslaught of robots and screen-filling bosses that seemingly come from every direction.
Embellished by a neat weapon power up system which is almost entirely dependent on your accuracy (a unique dynamic given the genre never usually places any sort of premium on being particularly frugal with your firepower), Circuit Breakers has enough depth and chaotic goings on to appeal to old arcade veterans and newcomers alike. It definitely made an impression on us when we reviewed it last month.
Taking the idea of the disc throwing contests in Tron and making an entire game out of it, Discstorm is roughly as much fun as you might expect when experienced with friends – which is to say a whole ruddy lot.
Viewed from a top-down perspective, Discstorm permits a bunch of players to engage in deathmatch and other modes against one another as they attempt to prove their disc-throwing supremacy. More than perhaps its simplistic might suggest, Discstorm actually packs in a fair amount of tactical depth, forcing players to consider the best way to use the power ups available to them in addition to the unique features of stage to create some truly exciting scraps. We were rather partial to it when Discstorm released a few months back.
Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
A true throwback from the scrolling fighter arcade scene of the early 90’s, Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara combines two games from such an era and faithfully brings them to PC in bombastic fashion. Similar to the likes of genre luminaries such as Golden Axe and Final Fight, Dungeons and Dragons: Chroncles of Mystara has players proceeding from left to right (and occasionally right to left) as they destroy all manner of evil-doing creatures as they attempt to drive some sort of encroaching evil from the land.
While a great story might not be the forte of games in this genre, what actually separates Chronicles of Mystara from other titles in the genre is that the two games embraced an RPG style progression system where players could pick a class and choose which stats and abilities they wanted to level up when enough experience had been accrued to do so. Combine this with branching paths through most of the levels, multiple endings and a whole heap of monsters to smack and loot to hoover up and it becomes clear that Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is a superlative yarn when experienced with friends, so yeah, go do that.
If the Ghostbusters had the range of weaponry available to players in Extreme Exorcism, then Slimer and all his ghoulish pals would have been done in ages ago. A 2D arena battler, Extreme Exorcism has players killing each other with everything from baseball bats and shotguns through to magical staves and trinkets but where things get really interesting is in how the ghosts themselves are used.
Basically, whenever you kill a ghost, the next one will replicate your exact movement and attack patterns and with players able to summon multiple apparitions at a time, Extreme Exorcism embodies the sort of blissful chaos that few other games are able to achieve with multiple friends gathered around a single PC.
Imagine, for a second, that Starship Troopers had a Diablo sized baby and you’re somewhat onto the towering brilliance that is Helldivers. A roaming twin-stick shooter with style to spare, Helldivers has players going from planet to planet destroying bugs, robots and generally anything else that they can wrap their bullets around. Absolutely dripping with Paul Verhoven style satire, Helldivers combines a range of objective-based missions with a nifty gameplay system called ‘Strategems’, allowing players to input a series of commands to call down anything from extra ammo and scout drones through to APC’s and hulking great mechs.
Perhaps best of all, is the fact that game has ample opportunities for friendly fire ‘incidents’ too, enhancing the amount of fun that can be had with Helldivers when played with mates and really putting the game into a class of its own. For local multiplayer shenanigans, Helldivers is as essential as it gets.
Very few games embody local multiplayer chaos quite like Knight Squad by the brilliantly named Chainsawesome Games. Supporting up to eight players who must lay waste to one another using a mixture of middle-age weaponry, guns and lasers, to say that this top-down deathmatch-focused title is influenced by Bomberman and Gauntlet is certainly not wide of the mark at all.
Throw in a whole bunch of different power-ups and additional game modes such as Capture The Flag, Last Man Standing and even Soccer, it soon becomes clear that Knight Squad has sufficient legs to keep a local multiplayer session going strong into the early hours.
A tug of war style affair dressed in the robes of a riotous one-on-one fencing game, Nidhogg’s mandate is twisted, but simple; you have to stab your opposite number up to the point that you can run past their corpse and reach the end of either the furthermost east or west direction of each stage in order to be swallowed by a massive dragon, snake-thing.
With its ultra-responsive acrobatic combat system, Nidhogg reliably impresses with fights which are either over in the blink of an eye or end up becoming some truly lengthy, epic battles. Regardless, Nidhogg’s ease of pick up and play is matched only by the substantial depths of its mastery and should be played by anybody with even a passing affection for local multiplayer games.
Orbital Gear is frantic. In fact, if you were to look up the word frantic (don’t), you’ll see a picture of developer Night Node’s game right next to it. A side-on interplanetary space shooter where up to four players can duke it out locally, Orbital Gear has players using the gravitational pull of different planetary bodies to jump, shoot and evade their foes until just one is left standing.
Complementing the hyper-kinetic nature of the game are a number of special abilities, gear and unique robot types which all serve to add variety to what is an already hugely frenetic and entertaining multiplayer battler. It’s top fun, quite honestly.
As you might well guess, we thought a lot of it when we reviewed it last year.
A staple of any multiplayer get together, Paperbound is a blisteringly paced arena based battler that uses the pages of literary classics such as Dante’s Infernos or the Book of Five Rings, as the backdrop for its twitch-based visceral combat beats.
Boasting a gravitational system that allows characters to walk on the walls and ceiling, Paperbound allows players to engage war with one another using scissors and ink bombs, fashioning an intense yet twee looking form of combat that proves perfectly suited to long multiplayer sessions with friends.
Porcunipine is quite the oddity. Essentially, players are cast as balding porcupines and, naturally, rather than go off and be all peaceful, the name of the game is to instead skewer as many of your opponents as you can until there is just one spiky fiend standing. What makes Porcunipine especially interesting is that once you’ve volleyed a spine towards a foe, you have to go to where it landed and pick it up before using it again – creating a neat little dynamic that prevents folks from just spam-firing ad-infinitum.
Aside from being perilously addictive and hugely colourful to boot, Porcupine is the sort of game that demands very little from the player since its nuances can be picked up really quite quickly and matches rarely cross the two minute mark. Quick, sharp (sorry) and entertaining with mates, Porcunipine is a great choice for anyone looking to whip up some local multiplayer laughs. Just check out our mini-review if you don’t believe us.
As much as Derek Yu’s superb procedurally generated treasure hunting roguelike shines in single-player, so too does it also make an inspired choice for some local multiplayer mischief. Like the endless dungeons cloistered within its boundaries, Spelunky holds a veritable embarrassment of riches for local multiplayer.
Beyond the usual deathmatch modes (complete with bots to make up the numbers if you need to), the core of Spelunky’s charm lies in the not-so co-operative play where players can help or hinder one another on their quest to scoop up as much treasure as they can all the while staying alive long enough to make it to the end of the level. If you don’t own Spelunky buy it now and invite the friends around for a bash – they’ll thank you later.
While Duck Game can be theoretically played alone, this is absolutely geared for local multiplayer. A 2D arena FFA platformer, Duck Game puts players into the shoes - feet, whatever - of small pixellated ducks hell bent on killing one another. Maps are filled with platforms, jump-pads, weapon pickups and boxes. A single hit with any weapon is a kill, and there are no respawns. Individual matches usually take only a few seconds to a minute each, depending on how many players you have.
The game is really fast paced, relying on split-second reactions and quick thinking to be the one who gets in the first and final shot. Melee weapons can be thrown, some weapons can destroy terrain and grenades can be lobbed over cover. Almost everything is a weapon in Duck Game, as boxes thrown at players will disarm them, and if dropped on their head, will kill them. It’s tons of fun, and a perfect party game with simple controls that only take moments to get a hold of.
Though yet another pixel art 2D platformer, Broforce is a very different beast than Duck Game. This parody of gung ho action films lets you take control of characters who are obviously based on your typical line-up of stereotypes such as Rambo, Schwarzi and others who all have their special weapons and traits. You shoot your way through levels filled with cannon fodder enemies and the occasional boss.
Broforce is all about being over the top and going big. Enemies, explosions, vehicles, and the quantity of gore are all huge. In between the explosions and pixellated gibs, you’ll glimpse some fantastic artwork on the backdrops, and the game has a great soundtrack to accompany your murder sprees. Controls aren’t too complex, and this game is best enjoyed with some buddies.
The Jackbox Party Pack 2
Arguably the most offbeat of all the games in this list, The Jackbox Party Pack 2 excels for local multiplayer play with a mixture of crazily conceived mini-games that anybody can play with little effort. From defusing bombs to guessing different sounds, The Jackbox Party Pack 2 is about as far from the traditional local multiplayer fare as you’ll ever likely get.
What really makes this title exceptional however, is that it uses tablets, phones and just about anything else with an internet browser as a controller for its myriad of bizarre game types. Because of this, The Jackbox Party Pack 2 comes uniquely equipped to appeal to non-gamers who have never picked up a keyboard, mouse or joypad before and as such, is a great go-to effort for local multiplayer shenanigans.
No best of list when it comes to local multiplayer efforts would be complete without mention of TowerFall Ascension. A furiously paced arena battler where up to four players take control of different coloured archers with the goal of perforating their mates with a variety of different arrow types, TowerFall Ascension is a riot when played competitively with friends, providing hours of whooping, foot stamping fun in the process. After all, watching someone get killed by their own arrow for the very first time is always funny - always.
Beyond its competitive game modes, TowerFall Ascension also boasts an extensive local co-op story mode which, in the unlikely event that you burn out on the deathmatch modes, provides a nice break from the latter that excellently extends the longevity of the experience. If you don’t already own TowerFall Ascension and you have some mates popping around, you need to sort that out, stat.
Micro Machines in basically all but name, Toybox Turbos recalls the warm and familiar thrills of racing tiny cars across an array of domestic locations styled as race courses with glorious aplomb. In essence, everything that you enjoyed about the Micro Machines games from the 16 and 32-bit eras of the 1990’s is here in riotous form.
Whether you and a bunch of mates are dodging around puddles of sticky jam, jumping off ramps made of toast or hammering each other with retractable mallets and missiles, Toybox Turbos is both wonderfully familiar and fresh to get into, if only because so few developers have been able to mimic the classic Micro Machines formula quite so effectively as this. We loved it and reckon if you have the requisite number of pals around, you will too.
Ultra Street Fighter IV
Capcom’s quintessential one-on-one brawler exists in its definitive form on PC with Ultra Street Fighter IV and if you don’t already know why it’s on the list, allow us to fill you in. Arguably one of the best fighting games ever released, Street Fighter has always prided itself on offering an ocean of strategic depth behind the auspices of the seemingly simple spectacle of folks lamping the tar out of each other.
Ultra Street Fighter IV then, is the pinnacle of this notion. Boasting a massive roster comprising of old favourites such as Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li in addition to many new faces such as Juri, Poison and Rolento (he’s from Street Fighter Alpha but you get the gist), Ultra Street Fighter IV is the ultimate test of tactical scrapping and the spectacle of two skilled players going at it only serves to inspire those around them to reach such heady levels of mastery. Grab a pad or two and get stuck in – this game will swallow up your free time in its entirety.
These are our choices for our a top bit of local multiplayer action – have we missed any, are there any gems that form the backbone of your multiplayer sessions? If so, sound off in the comments below!