The Wii, more than any system before it, was designed to be a party system. With its easy-to-pick-up style and focus on local play over online capabilities, it became the home for a whole host of new and experimental multiplayer titles. (Of course, it had some normal ones too, and those are also good!) Let’s take a look at the best local multiplayer games the system has to offer.
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:
Wii Sports Resort: We can go ahead and get this one out of the way, yes? The improved sequel to the game that launched 100 million consoles, Wii Sports Resort deserves much praise for its super-polished implementation of these no-brainer uses of the Wii Remote. If you wrote off the game as “too casual,” it’s a shame, because there’s pure fun to be had here, and you can have it with groups of any sort.
Mario Strikers Charged: If you’d like your sports to be a bit more intense, then… well, don’t check out Mario Strikers Charged, because it’s a lot more intense. Despite its accessibility to those who don’t know the nuances of the sport, the cutthroat nature of this game is bound to raise blood pressure levels. (In a good way. Mostly.) You can play competitively, but Strikers is at its best when a team of three is taking on the game’s devious AI.
WarioWare: Smooth Moves: The Wii brought with it a wave of unprecedented silliness, and nothing was sillier than this pose-based party game. Using WarioWare as its base, it made players hold remotes in all possible configurations (like in front of your nose) on the fly as well. Oh, and there’s a 12-player elimination mode! That’s great fun, as even though the play is alternating, watching others play is usually even more entertaining than playing yourself.
Boom Blox: Bash Party: Of the stereotypical “throw your arm out” games in the Wii’s library, Boom Blox and its sequel are the most fun. Best described as “reverse Jenga,” it ends up playing like midway attractions at carnivals… except, you know, fair, and with more interesting scoring systems. Make sure your limbs are rested, then give this one a shot.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl: It’s an obvious choice, but nevertheless a good one. Until we see more of the new Smash Bros. (soon!), Brawl is simply the best of the series at pure party fun. (And maybe everything else, though I know that’s up for debate.) It’s best when it’s at its silliest: make dumb custom levels! Turn items on high! Use some of the weird special modes! Or, I guess, you could play it normally.
New Super Mario Bros. Wii: The cooperative platformer really came into its own in the Wii’s life cycle, with games like Rayman Origins and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, but if there’s one to really bring you back to the Wii, it’s this one. It’s at its best with a full complement of players, and just a bit of griefing.
Tetris Party: Tetris is great, and this WiiWare game (and its retail port, if that’s easier to get) has some interesting modes to get you playing with friends. It’s no Tetris DS, but then again, you only need one system for multiplayer.
Let’s Tap: The Wii was full of out-of-the-box thinking, but what about on-the-box thinking? Let’s Tap was a collection of games designed to be played by placing the remote on a container or surface of some sort and tapping it, reading the vibrations for control. The best one out of the bunch is Tap Runner, as players jump hurdles and balance on ropes between bouts of mindless drumming.
Fortune Street: So unplugged games are great. Except for maybe Monopoly. Square Enix’s long-running Itadaki Street franchise sets out to fix that, with much more choice and different business options (like stock). And hey, it works! It’s still a slower-paced experience, as these games tend to be, but it works well as a change of pace.
Dokapon Kingdom: Would you like your dice-rolling to be a little more combative and brutal? Dokapon Kingdom has you covered. Combining RPG combat with a board is peculiar, and sometimes it doesn’t meld particularly successfully. Still, there’s nothing like Dokapon Kingdom to make you have a little bit of fun and then hate all of your friends for the rest of your life!
NBA Jam: EA’s revival of the classic series was great, and while On Fire Edition fixed many of the first one’s issues, there’s something special about slamming and shooting with the Wii’s motion controls. Seriously. There are also a few inclusions in the original, resulting from a bit more of a budget, that are worth checking out. (Like the music!)
ExciteBots: Trick Racing: One more crazy game before I finish up: Monster Games’ ExciteBots. The follow-up to Excite Truck adds not only bug-like robots, but also poker hands, crazy tricks, secret paths and morphing landscapes. It ends up not being particularly much of a racing game, but it’s kind of like a racing game, I guess. Regardless, check it out if you can.