Multitap: Player 5: Games to play with large groups

July 11, 2012

Planning to have friends over and play some games? Good for you. There are lots of great options, as readers of this column know, and you can jump in wherever you’d like.

You know, until that fifth person walks in the door.

It’s a thing that can cause a train wreck in the head of any gracious gaming host. All those games you planned to play? Either you’ll have an awkward person just sitting around and watching, or you’ll have to split up, which isn’t the best option. But while your options may be limited, they’re not gone: there are some great games that support five or more players.

5 players

This is a category that has a decent amount of support, and you have the sports genre to thank for that. While it doesn’t make much sense in any other context, given rectangular screens and even teams, one sport makes a heck of a lot of sense to play with 5: basketball. Whether that’s the reason or not, the SNES, PlayStation and PS2 had 5-player multitaps, and used them on rare occasion. You also have some support from some TurboGrafx-16 classics (like Bomberman ‘94 and Dungeon Explorer), and the Wii supports all 5 with its Virtual Console versions if you combine remotes and GameCube pads. There’s also LittleBigPlanet 2’s Move support, which still allows four Sackboys along with whoever’s manipulating objects with motion control.

With the upcoming Wii U’s support for four remotes and a GamePad (as seen in Rayman Legends and New Super Mario Bros. U), expect five-player support to grow.

6 players

The PS3 version of X-Men Arcade supports the full six players on one system (and if you have them around, we’ve found Move navigation controllers, DJ Hero turntables and even Blu-Ray remotes to be suitable control devices for games that simple).

7 players

This is a number owned by the PS3, as it’s the maximum number of supported controllers on that system. In addition to many of the system’s traditional sports games, you can play 7-player Bomberman Ultra, PixelJunk Racers 2nd Lap and even the ludicrous split-screen of Cubixx HD. The Xbox 360 makes a rare appearance in this list here, with the multiplatform Rock Band 3’s All Instruments Mode and three-part vocal harmony, but since the vocals aren’t scored in this mode, we’d suggest sticking with one fewer instrument and 6-person play.

8 or more players

Here, you’re left with few options. Buzz! Quiz TV and Buzz! Quiz World for PS3 work with two sets of buzzers and are a blast in short sessions. There’s Bust-a-Move Bash on the Wii, but the game largely breaks the mechanics that make that series fun, so it’s not recommended. Some games support a large amount of alternating players, like Kinect Sports and WarioWare: Smooth Moves, but when you’re at numbers like these, there’s a lot of waiting around and watching. If you want something particularly crazy, B.U.T.T.O.N., a crazy party game for PC and Xbox Live Indie Games that has to be seen to be understood, has an 8-player mode.

We couldn’t end this column without the category’s patron saint (and our title image): Saturn Bomberman. Supporting ten players on two of the system’s multitaps, it’s easily the most frantic multiplayer experience out there.


Jeff DeSolla July 11, 2012 at 10:33 am

I want to throw out an honorable mention for LAN parties in general. The perfect mix of online and local play, sadly they sort of declined as broadband always-on internet expanded.

For specific examples, the best console game for this was probably Halo: Combat Evolved, using System Link on the original Xbox. While I tend to find online shooters frustrating over an online connection, played on a local network, it can be much more enjoyable. It was a logistics nightmare to set up, but the few times I did it, I felt it was worth the effort.

Finally, i’d mention You Don’t Know Jack, both the old PC versions, and the newer console release. Probably the best trivia video game i’ve played. (Though, only four players, and as such does not meet the criteria of the article).

Graham Russell July 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm

System Link is one of those things that’s interesting to me, but only slightly easier to pull together than just straight-up putting all the consoles in one room for an online game. As such, it’s hard to cover. (But I’ll try sometime, and may ask for your help.)

Eric Albuen July 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I’ll even add in the EA version of Tetris for the PSN.

I believe that supports up to six players. There’s nothing like racing against your friends to get to level 15 in the fastest.

Graham Russell July 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Tetris (PS3-N) supports only four players locally, though six online. Given the simple interface of that game, it really could have done six split-screen, but it didn’t.

Not that it’s not fun. It’s part of at least one of the pieces I’m working on for future installments.

Benjamin Lu July 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm

FIFA 12 supports 7 players locally as well. Not sure about previous versions. Having that many players throws teamwork out the window though.

Graham Russell July 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

You’re right! That’s an experience I’d love to have sometime, but I haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet. Simulation sports games tend to have just enough barrier to entry to keep the random-gathering-of-seven-people from wanting to try it.

retrosportsgamer July 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Saturn Bomberman call-out is great. Whenever there’s talk of a retro gaming get-together, someone always nominates ten player Bomberman.

Chris Ingersoll July 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Some multiplayer games that cap at 4 players feature “rotation mode” that automatically cycles players in and out according to criteria. Depending on the length of each “round” it can make waiting around a non-issue. We use this feature in SSB:Brawl all the time. Of course, it helps that Brawl is a blast to watch as well as actually play.