Multitap: Handheld multiplayer’s Smashing new era

May 20, 2014


I’ve previously written about the unfortunate history of handheld multiplayer and the occasional experiences that are worth having. The advent of wireless multiplayer in the DS era has certainly made things at least a bit easier, but up until this point, there just hasn’t been that much outside of Pokemon trading to get people to give it a try, and if you can’t get people in the door, there’s no reason to work on more games to keep those who’ve bought in happy.

Now that’s about to change. Now we’re getting a handheld Super Smash Bros. title.

Whether the handheld multiplayer experience will translate well for Smash Bros. is something we’ll discover in due time, but inevitably people will try it. And if you’re in the same place with friends and 3DS systems, it gives you an opportunity to check out some other options. So… what are those options?


Mario Kart 7

Download Play, Multi-Card Play: So Mario Kart is probably the obvious option here, and the closest to Smash a game has gotten to mass gathering appeal. (What it lacked, of course, was a head start on a console version that’s been hyped to death.) It’s obvious because it’s great, and you should play it because… it’s great. It’s sometimes hard to justify gathering in a house with a console Mario Kart to play a handheld Mario Kart, but it has its niche: five to eight players.

Mario Party: Island Tour

Download Play, Multi-Card Play: This may be the game on this list that you’d likely only want to play in this context. Island Tour‘s Download Play mode includes almost the entire game, letting you actually play Mario Party at a, well, party. It feels like a good way to play on the go, even if it doesn’t really trump the experience of gathering around the TV.


Kid Icarus: Uprising

Multi-Card Play: It was in many ways a bizarre tack-on to the single-player experience, but Uprising‘s team-based arena battles brought with them more than just fighting. The “protect your teammate” dynamic means the mode packs much more strategy, and it also allows teammates of varying skill levels to play the right roles and still have fun.

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon

Download Play, Multi-Card Play: People generally forget about Dark Moon’s multiplayer mode, and that’s a shame, because it’s a heck of a lot of fun to explore mansions and take on ghosts with others. You have to work together to get through the floors, but there’s also the competition to see who snags the most. It’s the same push-and-pull that drives games like Four Swords, but with a distinctly-Western twist from developer Next Level.


Kirby Fighters (Kirby Triple Deluxe)

Download Play, Multi-Card Play: The latest addition to the lineup actually may be the worst change-of-pace for a Smash Bros. gathering, but it’s a great way to prep and get excited for when that day comes. Why? Well, it is, in many ways, very reminiscent of Smash. You choose a powered-up Kirby and battle it out in arenas, trying to be the last one standing. It leans more to the sort of chaotic Smash play that pros tend to avoid: stage hazards, silly items and such. Download Play users can only use Sword and Cutter, the sort of silly limitation made to incentivize more purchases, but those two are solid options anyway, so they’ll do.

Tetris: Axis

Download Play, Multi-Card Play: It’s far from the best multiplayer Tetris experience, but Axis sports a high player cap, Download Play and optional frantic power-ups. Oh, and it’s still Tetris; it didn’t mess anything up, really, and you’ll be able to have as much fun as the core addiction usually brings. If you have your Tetris DS card handy, that’s also a great option, even in non-native resolution.


Star Fox 64 3D

Download Play, Multi-Card Play: Multiplayer dogfights were a highlight in Star Fox 64‘s original release, and they remain so in the game’s portable re-implementation. There are certainly some silly features, like opponents’ faces streamed to you as you play, but that just adds to the fun, right? Plus: the 3D actually helps a dogfighting game, making it easier to control than it was in its N64 days.

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate

Multi-Card Play: You’ll notice that the rest of this list consists of first-party titles, and that’s no coincidence: Nintendo’s the one needing to justify its system features, so it’s going to use them more fully. Still, Monster Hunter deserves a spot in your play schedule. It’s by far the deepest 3DS local multiplayer experience, and the kind of thing you can obsess over. (If you want to get started, you should definitely check out our starter guide, Hunter’s Notes.)

For more, check out the Multitap archive.