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.
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.
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).
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.