As the next few years of games are shaping up, the main thing the Wii U has going for it over the PS4 and Xbox One is its focus on fun local multiplayer experiences. While nothing truly noteworthy has really made an appearance at the other two systems’ launch, a year of Wii U releases has resulted in a nice batch of games well suited for three to five players. Here’s the best of the bunch, at least to this point!
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:
Super Mario 3D World: This one’s a no-brainer. Super Mario 3D World fixes many of the issues people had with the multiplayer aspect of the New Super Mario Bros. games, and the variety that comes with having different character abilities really makes levels better if you cooperate. Need to get through a place quickly? Leave it to Toad. Need some slick jumping? Peach to the rescue! The fun in this one comes from more than just tripping up your friends.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed: While it’s certainly made appearances on other platforms, Transformed adds a fifth player on the Wii U, and it also feels most at home on a system that’s home to Mario Kart. In fact, it may even out-class its first-party competition in many ways. The drift-based racing has been refined after the first installment, and the air and water sections handle much better than you’d expect.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara: The arcade compilation was a bit late to the eShop after appearances on other platforms, but it’s just as great: the two D&D titles really hold up well, even with multiple plays and infinite credits. How crazy is an arcade game with branching story paths? You should make sure to limit the number of mages in your party if you want to sustain the fun, but as long as you do that, you should have a blast.
Rayman Legends: Another multiplatform game, Legends was designed with the Wii U in mind, and it shows in the game’s Murfy segments. It’s also a blast to run through the music levels with friends, seeing just who can survive the longest, and it’s similarly fun to all take a shot at the game’s time-based challenges. Oh, and Kung Foot, a multiplayer-only sports-themed minigame, isn’t so bad, either!
TNT Racers: Nitro Machines Edition: This one certainly slipped by under the radar for most, but now’s a great time to pick it up. On the surface, it may seem like a racing game, but it’s really more of a multiplayer battle game with a racing theme. Players attack each other, trying to make opponents fall behind enough to not stay on the screen, and jockeying for position and getting in the right spot to unleash the power-up you just picked up can be challenging in just the right ways. This is a port of a WiiWare game, ditching online play in favor of a bit more content, and it’s a trade-off we’re happy to make.
Nintendo Land: Dubious though it may have been as the standard-bearer for the console’s launch, Nintendo Land has a lot of interesting asymmetrical multiplayer experiences, and as of yet, we haven’t seen them fleshed out in a form that’s any better. It’s best when it’s simplest, like in Find Mii, which has you chasing down the GamePad-holding foe by communicating and cooperating with the other players. It’s not the deepest experience you’ll have, but it’s hard to stop playing.
Tank! Tank! Tank!: Though its single-player content is particularly dismal, Tank! Tank! Tank! is just as strong as its arcade predecessor when it comes to four-player combat action. And now, with its free-to-play, piecemeal-purchase downloadable version, it’s a much better deal. Multitap’s recommendation: buy the My Kong mode for one-on-three craziness, or check out more versus maps. Or just play the free map and see if you like it!
Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games: The 2010 Games edition on the Wii was much stronger than its warmer counterparts, due to its focus on actual games instead of Track & Field-style button-mashing and shaking challenges. Sochi iterates on these games in a compelling way, without going overboard with gimmicks like the London installment.
Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party: And now for something completely different. Bumpie’s Party is barely a game at all in the traditional sense: it doesn’t use the TV at all, and sometimes it doesn’t really have much in the way of gameplay. It’s a party game in the social sense, letting you get together with a big group of good friends and have silly fun, whether they usually play games or not. This one’s definitely super-sensitive to the type of group you have to play it, so save it for the right occasions.
Wii Sports Club: While it does very little to distinguish itself from the Wii original, Wii Sports Club still has that addictive quality that made everyone run out and grab that little white box in the middle of the last decade. Whether it’s an intense game of tennis or a more calculated bowling match, it’s hard to not have fun with the simple joys of Wii Sports.
With Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. and more on the horizon, there’s a wealth of multiplayer fun to be had with Nintendo’s system. What do you enjoy the most?
For more fun with friends, check out the Multitap archive.