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Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: The best offline multiplayer games

Before online gaming, multiplayer meant huddling round a TV or monitor, either taking turns playing or on split-screen.

Some of my earliest gaming memories were playing Donkey Kong on the Colecovision, and two-player mode just meant taking turns as Mario to jump over barrels and save princesses.

Next was the Spectrum 48K and 128K. The multiplayer games on these were a bit more advanced, with sports games like Daley Thompson’s Decathlon, Track & Field, and Hyper Sports (say goodbye to your keyboard buttons) and then turn-based games like Laser Squad and Lords Of Chaos. Me and my brother used to play these, and we had a no-peeking rule so the other player had to hide round the corner of the bedroom until it was their go – we used to constantly complain that the other player was cheating…

The two-player scrolling beat ‘em-up games like Renegade and Target: Renegade were excellent and they were played a lot too. The Spectrum version of Double Dragon was a
shocker though, such a classic coin-op arcade game but such a terrible port. It’s worth watching on YouTube to see how bad it really was!

We had a Commodore Amiga next but we had more single-player type games on that really. There were some cracking multiplayers that stood out though, like Worms, Micro Machines, Super Cars II, Speedball 2, Sensible Soccer, Chaos Engine, and also the remakes of Laser Squad and Lords Of Chaos (called Lords Of Midnight). The less said about the Amiga version of Street Fighter II the better.

It was with the SNES for me that multiplayer games really made their mark. From the obvious ones like Super Mario Kart, Super Smash Tennis, and Street Fighter II, to less well known ones like Uniracers and Street Racers. There are way too many to list here!

The amount of hours put into games like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II must be pretty considerable. The latest version of Mario Kart on the Wii U is one of the best games of all time, and it can have offline and online multiplayer blended into one mode. You can play split-screen when you are online, which for me is a big factor. Beating the world is great fun, but it’s even better when you also beat the person sat next to you!

On the PS1 the Tekken games got a good hammering. Six people playing winner stays on, on Tekken 3! The big fat old Xbox was all about driving and shooting. The Halo and Burnout games were fantastic, and these games carried on to the Xbox 360, and included Gears Of War too. You can tell that certain games are made with offline multiplayer in mind and the Gears Of War series being a great example (you can play it as online too though).

Split/Second has to get an honourable mention because that is game that my kids still play today (and me when I can finally get hold of a pad). The FIFA games are still played a lot too. (I leave that to the kids as I’m pretty bad at it.)

Getting to the situation today, a worrying sign that offline multiplayer is getting squeezed out was when the latest Halo became online multiplayer only. For such a flagship game to go online only is a pretty big statement. I do enjoy online gaming, especially first person shooters like Battlefield, but when you can play against someone in the same room then I reckon it really adds to the experience.

The above example of Mario Kart 8, where offline and online multiplayer can be in one mode, has got to be the best way for offline to still flourish in future. And I hope, like offline multiplayer gaming 30 years ago, it’s still here in another 30 years.
skipsville 1977 (gamertag)/dadisawesome77 (NN ID)

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