Multitap: Best of the PlayStation 3’s multiplayer library

January 9, 2013

The PlayStation 3 has its own particular flavor of local multiplayer games. First-party experiences tend to focus on family-friendly entertainment, while downloadables on the platform like to experiment with various concepts. Sometimes a developer even takes advantage of the system’s 7-controller support! (Just not that often.) Here’s the cream of the crop on the system, including some that should work for any group.

A good multiplayer game has to have at least one of these four aspects, and the more it has, the better:

Party-friendly: This one’s easy to pick up for newcomers and enjoy the first time even against stiff competition. It’s also good for spectators.

Deep: Multiplayer games tend to be rather evanescent. These games have more meat on their bones, and stand up to multiple sessions or lots of consecutive hours of play on content variety alone.

Competitive: These are the games you play against your friends, build up skills and keep on challenging each other as you go. They’re addictive because of the rivalries they create.

Cooperative: There’s something about working together with friends that can really make an experience special. These do it, and they do it well.

Games can have smaller bits of these elements, and for those, I’m giving them these minibadges. I didn’t forget about these parts of these games, but they may not define the core experience.

Anyway, onto the list:

LittleBigPlanet 2
Ah, the bottomless platforming sandbox. LittleBigPlanet never does any one thing particularly well, be it the too-floaty physics or the never-tight level design, but it can sure be a heck of a lot of fun, and when you’re jumping into random community levels, it can be a wild (if inconsistent) adventure. Oh, and slapping people with your Sacklimbs is basically the best.

Chime Super Deluxe
Chime is one of those games that can really draw you in and absorb you in simple mechanics for a play session, making you unaware of the outside world. Super Deluxe takes the formula and adds in the multiplayer we like to see around here. Competitive modes are hectic, but the true magic comes with cooperative play. Skilled players working together like clockwork to make blocks and fill the board is among the most exhilarating game experiences I’ve had.

Slam Bolt Scrappers
I mentioned that experimentation, right? Slam Bolt Scrappers is part-puzzle game, part-arena battler, part-tower defense. It works, somehow. With a fully-four-player-capable campaign and multiple difficulty levels, Scrappers stays around long enough to let you learn its mechanics and create your own strategies. A good team has attackers, builders and collectors, but there are viable paths with different configurations.

Comet Crash
A cooperative-competitive take on traditional tower defense, Pelfast’s Comet Crash puts a premium on coordination. Jumping into the free-for-all mode can let you learn the ropes, and the 3-player campaign lets you plan strategies and take on roles in your assault against the enemy.

Buzz! Quiz World
If you’re looking to play with a large group, Buzz! will do it, with its support of two buzzer sets for an 8-player game. (It only comes with one, but supports the PS2 buzzers, and those bundles can be found for super-cheap prices now.) It’s not sporting the smartest set of questions, but keeps it varied enough to keep you on your toes. The humor… we could do without the humor.

Tales of Graces f
While certainly not party-appropriate, if you can find three friends to fight in battles with you, Tales of Graces f‘s attack mechanics are streamlined and polished to make it a good time. There’s a bit of sitting around, as one player does the overworld tasks, but some cooperative decision-making and possibly some trading off on P1 duties can bridge the gap.

Cubixx HD
Laughing Jackal’s 7-player split-screen arcade game may be the mascot for this column. The game takes Qix and adds just a bit more complexity with the 3D concepts. But seriously, 7-player split-screen co-op. If you can scrounge up enough controllers, please try the full complement; nothing’s more insane and hectic than having more players than sides of the cube.

Sports Champions
The PlayStation Move didn’t quite catch on as intended, but (until the release of Sportsfriends, at least) its original pack-in remains its most compelling showpiece. The sequel included more popular sports, but the first entry has the ones that make the most sense for the technology, like disc golf and bocce.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
If you’re a fan of River City Ransom, or even just Castle Crashers, you owe it to yourself to check out Scott Pilgrim‘s game adaptation. The game references are everywhere but subtle enough to still be enjoyable, Anamanaguchi’s chiptune soundtrack brings the fun and the purchased upgrades keep you going for longer sessions.

NBA Jam: On Fire Edition
With no new contender in sight, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition remains the best arcade sports experience on any platform. Kitzrow’s announcing antics can be a bit much after a while, but it doesn’t matter when you’re drowning out the TV with your own smack-talk.