Multitap: Best of the PC’s local multiplayer library

April 22, 2014


As the PC’s Big Picture era progresses, the viability of the computer as a local multiplayer machine increases at a steady clip. Looking to jump into your own Steam-powered setup? Here’s the best the PC has to offer for fans of local multiplayer titles.

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:


Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony: The best place to start is Final Form’s scrolling shooter, set in a sci-fi Mars with a silly take on the story of colonial America. Unlike most games in its genre, it’s not broken by multiplayer, and it’s both nostalgic in its aesthetic and modern in its structure.

Samurai Gunn: One of a new trend of minimalist multiplayer titles, Samurai Gunn lets players be, um, samurai with guns. Positioning and quick reflexes are key here, but it’s as much fun to watch as it is to play.

Magicka: Pure chaos. Playing a cooperative run through the Magicka campaign is a lot like herding cats, and that’s what makes it so fun. Oh, and the humor’s fairly spot-on, too. At this point, there’s a wealth of content through add-ons and updates, making it more than it was at launch.


Heroes of Might & Magic III: You’re going to need to carve out some serious time for a hotseat game of Heroes, but it’s a deeply rewarding experience worth the scheduling investment. You can play competitively, but it shines when it’s a cooperative effort against AI opponents; specialization and tactics come into play in a big way when you’re outmatched and holding a fragile front line.

Dungeon Defenders: Speaking of time, Dungeon Defenders will eat up quite a lot of it, though it won’t be too obvious about it. The hybrid tower defense-action formula works really well, and the split-screen functionality (likely designed for the console iterations) remains in the much-more-content-rich PC edition.

Really Big Sky: The appeal of Really Big Sky may be psychedelia rather than mechanics, but that doesn’t mean that its underlying gameplay isn’t thoroughly compelling. The weirdness does a good job of keeping things going, but it takes a group of skilled players to make it very far. That said, it’s also really fun to fail.


Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine: A heist is an addictive idea in media, both active and passive. Monaco boils it down to its simplest elements, but that doesn’t mean it’s not complex; it takes real strategy to clear levels completely. Of course, if you’re not feeling particularly serious, you can cause total chaos and see if you can scrape by.

TowerFall Ascension: Very similar to Samurai Gunn in both mechanics and appeal, TowerFall puts the focus on archery, with variety brought in through power-ups and different stage hazards and elements. It sold many Ouyas, and… well, now you don’t have to buy an Ouya for it. Which is probably better for most.

Forced: The Gauntlet/Diablo formula has certainly been done to death at this point, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun, and there’s still room for innovation. Forced implements puzzle-solving elements and leans into the action, making it less of a progression quest and more of a fun game.


A Virus Named TOM: There are very few cooperative puzzle games, so it’s a surprise that TOM manages to build out its experience so well in untrodden territory. It takes a lot of practice to complete levels well, but it’s rewarding. Oh, also: there’s a cutthroat competitive mode, which works great at parties.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator: Okay, okay, so you’re going to need a lot of computers for this one. But if you can swing it, do it, because Artemis is an experience like no other. You run your own starship, with each player manning a station and handling specific tasks. Even if you’re not a Star Trek fan, running a bridge with your best buds is still really cool.

For more fun with friends, check out the Multitap archive