This year has already been a bountiful one for fans of local multiplayer games. From heavy hitters like Diablo III and Rayman Legends to scrappy indies like Legend of Dungeon and BombSquad, there’s been a lot to enjoy. But the year’s not over yet! Here are the titles that should be on your radar for party play this holiday season.
PS3, Fall TBA
We’ve been anticipating this one since the successful Kickstarter campaign last year, and early alphas and demos have reinforced our expectations: the collection of experiences in Sportsfriends will be more than worth it for any local multiplayer fan. The Move-based party game Johann Sebastian Joust may be the centerpiece here, but the rest of the collection keeps up and may even surpass its longevity. Hokra is all the fun of sports games boiled down to its simplest form. BaraBariBall makes you really focus on teamwork and tactics. Super Pole Riders is just straight-up silly, as you’d expect from QWOP creator Bennett Foddy. It doesn’t have a firm release date yet, but frankly, we’re having trouble waiting.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
360/Wii, October 22
We feel a bit like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football every time we get excited about a new TMNT game; after all, the last solid releases were what, 20 years ago? And this one, the second-most-prominent 2013 title for the franchise and one headed for a budget release on dying platforms, doesn’t exactly sound like the best shot at redemption. But we’re hopeless optimists. It looks like it’s taking the right direction, with shared-screen co-op beat-’em-up action and a focus on mechanics over flash. So… look. That football’s totally right there. Lucy isn’t going to pull it away at the last second again, right?
Wii Party U
Wii U, October 25
Don’t sleep on this one. While not much attention has been paid to it and it’s getting sold as a $50 bundle with a Wii Remote Plus, everyone who has tried out its innovative GamePad games and fun new challenges seems to come away intrigued, and that means us too. It could turn out to be Wii U Tech Demo Showcase #3 behind Nintendo Land and Game & Wario, but we’re hopeful that it’ll follow through on the early signs that it will bring enough fun to support the gimmicks.
Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games
Wii U, November 15
It may seem like a simple minigame collection, but the last Winter Games installment proved to have less feverish button-pressing and more actual games with real cooperation and mechanics. Whether Sochi 2014 will prove to be similar is yet to be seen, but with more Dream Events and refined versions of returning challenges, it seems to be headed in the right direction.
Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I DON’T KNOW!
360/PS3/Wii U, November 19
Given how prolific WayForward has been as of late, as well as its focus on classic game types, it’s a bit surprising that Explore the Dungeon is its first real foray into four-player action. It’s a fairly standard dungeon-crawler in the same way the last Adventure Time release was a fairly standard Zelda II clone, but those who love the humor of the show will likely enjoy having it mixed in with group combat and loot.
Super Mario 3D World
Wii U, November 22
This is the holiday season’s big release for multiplayer fans. Nintendo has been working out the kinks with multiplayer platforming dynamics in the New Super Mario Bros. games, and this is the first shot and taking those into 3D environments. Our time with the game has us worried that it could have balance issues related to its new power-ups, but it’s bound to be fun when you’re not taking things particularly seriously. Our favorite part, though, is the return of character differences from Super Mario Bros. 2. Peach can hover! Peach can hover. So basically assume that, if you’re playing with us, you will not be Peach.
360/PS3/Wii U/PC, December 5
Namco Bandai’s bundling all its classic Pac-Man arcade games into one package, from the classic original to acquired tastes like Pac-Land. While most of this release doesn’t support multiplayer, the key to this one is a home version of Pac-Man Battle Royale. This arcade title made a competitive Pac-Man experience that’s compelling and easy to pick up. One thing Pac-Man Museum doesn’t include (yet) is Pac-Man Vs., but it really should, given the Wii U GamePad, Vita and SmartGlass making it much more feasible on modern systems. This year’s other big Pac-Man release, Ghostly Adventures, also sports multiplayer modes, but we’re just not yet sure how those will turn out.
What are you looking forward to playing with friends most this holiday season? Is there anything we missed that should be getting our attention?