One of the best things video games can do is bring people together. Multiplayer has been around for decades, and with a general shift toward online multiplayer being the only way to play with others, local multiplayer and party games have been declining. Despite this, some of the greatest video games created were made specifically with local multiplayer in mind. Recently Nintendo seems to be the only publisher making games to fit in this genre, but there have been dozens of games released over the past years that exemplify the party genre. Here is my list of the ten greatest party games ever!
10. Halo series
What better way to tell someone how much you’re friends than blowing them away with rocket launchers and energy swords? The Halo series has been the go-to series for Xbox owners since the original game came out in 2001, and since then it’s become the game many gamers have played with 15 other friends via LAN setup. When Halo 2 dropped, and every subsequent game thereafter, having “Halo Nights” was a viable alternative to just about any other activity among game nerds. The Halo series is great as a party game because it allows for quick, challenging, fun matches that test skill, luck, and require a variety of different win methods in its different game modes. When it comes to party first person shooters, you can’t do much better than Master Chief’s series.
9. Dance Central series
Keeping things rolling on the system Microsoft built is the Dance Central series. Created after the phenomenon that was Dance Dance Revolution a few years prior, Dance Central was pretty much the reason you were proud to own a Kinect. Using full body motion detection, Dance Central had you moving and grooving to popular music in rhythm to earn a high score. In a party setting it was always a hit. When Dance Central 2 released and allowed simultaneous 2 player co-op the game became even better! To this day, if you’re looking to do something more active with your friends instead of just holding a controller, you can’t do much better than standing up, making a fool of yourself, and having a damn good time doing it.
8. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
An absolute blast on the Gamecube was probably missed by most gamers, even the most die hard of Zelda fans! Four Swords Adventures on the Gamecube required a lot to be enjoyed: a GCN system, a copy of the game, four Game Boy Advance systems, and four GBA link cables for the GCN! Assuming you could get all that, along with three friends, you could play the single greatest multiplayer Zelda game ever. With Link to the Past style visuals, unique dungeons and boss battles, a lighthearted but worthwhile story, and truly chaotic and fun puzzles, Four Swords Adventures is unlike any other party game out there. This game is literally one of the best on the system, and one many will never play!
7. Wii Party U
Wii Party U follows a long line of party games for Nintendo systems (many of which we will get to soon), and at this point the games started to get more and more refined. While Wii Party U doesn’t particularly use the Wii U’s GamePad all too often, it does feature some of the best minigames ever. On top of that, there are several game variants outside of the oft-used “Board Game” theme. In particular I enjoyed the “Balldozer” game as well as the gymnastic team formation game. When the overarching game is as fun as the minigames that make them up, you’ve got a winner! The Wii U is quickly becoming the “Party System”, and games like this make it obvious why.
6. WarioWare: Smooth Moves
This was the game that made me realize just how much fun the Wii can be as a party system. The WarioWare series had been around for awhile, and the previous release on the GameCube was a great party title as well, but it wasn’t until Smooth Moves on the Wii where the series hit its peak. Featuring some hilarious narration and clever uses for the Wii’s motion control, Smooth Moves is a party pleaser to this day! Sadly the series hasn’t really been as great since, with some mediocre DS games and a huge letdown in the followup Wii U title. But there’s always dancing cats and zany minigames to keep your guests entertained in this classic!
5. Rock Band & Guitar Hero
Guitar Hero started it, Rock Band expanded it, and the two rival series’ have been going at it ever since. What started as a simple rhythm game with a cool plastic guitar controller quickly evolved into an entire living room full of instruments. Everyone’s played (or at least knows of) Guitar Hero or Rock Band. And unlike Dance Central, anyone could pick up, play, and enjoy Rock Band or Guitar Hero. You couldn’t take a step into an electronics store or toy store in the early 2010’s without stepping all over these boxes. And for good reason: even today these two games are crowd favorites, even if just for a few songs. The games perfectly create what it would feel like to be a rock legend. They also featured some amazing songs to jam with, which surely didn’t hurt! With the newest versions of each having been released just a few weeks ago, we can probably expect some rhythm game parties to spring up yet again!
4. Super Smash Bros. series
What more could a Nintendo fan ask for than a game featuring every iconic Nintendo character or franchise (as well as a few surprise guests) beating the crap out of each other? Oh yeah, several games doing just that, and with excellent replayability, four player multiplayer, and a professional e-sport fanbase as well! Super Smash Bros. is a must-have for any Nintendo system owner. If you have a Nintendo console that has a Smash on it and you DON’T have the game, you’re really missing out on arguably the best game for that system. And why not? Each game has a lot of fan favorite characters and enough customization and randomness to keep the game as competitive or as party-friendly as you want! Please, just bring back the Ice Climbers…
3. New Super Mario Bros. U & Super Mario 3D World
Multiplayer Mario is such a simple concept it’s a wonder it wasn’t done before. With the release of New Super Mario Bros Wii on the (what else) Wii we got our first taste of what playing a Mario game with a few buds would be like. Then New Super Mario Bros. U showed us how much fun it could be to be a totally jerk to all your friends while using the GamePad. And finally Super Mario 3D World showed up to remind us how great Super Mario Bros. 2 would have been in 3D. All of these games are great because they offer a different expereince than the standard party game mood seen on this list, while still retaining the fun factor and simpleness of other titles.
2. Mario Kart series
The Mario Kart series is without question the most popular Mario spinoff series ever, selling over 100 million copies since its launch in 1992. If you’ve ever played a game in the series then you know why. Each Mario Kart combines simple yet addictive racing, intense Grand Prix modes, a range of fun and challenging levels, lots of characters to race, a variety of weapons to use, and a hell of a good time with friends. When discussing “System Sellers” Nintendo can always bank on a new Mario Kart game to drive sales of the entire console. The most recent game, Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, is arguably the best in the entire series, and with over 20 years of amazing titles to go from, that’s saying quite a lot.
1. Mario Party series
The series that started the party genre (at least to me) is the champion of this list. The original Mario Party on Nintendo 64 not only started a brand new franchise for the Big N, but it also influenced the entire video game market, creating a new type of game aimed directly at casual groups of gamers. The Mario Party games are known for their simple, short, and fun minigames, as well as progressing a giant board game board as you favorite Mario characters. Easy pick up and play mechanics, long term customization options, and a heck of a lot of fun, a Mario Party game should be your first pick when thinking of video games to play with a group.
There you have it, the top ten party games! Some honorable mentions I’d like to give a mention for getting on my candidate list but ultimately being left on the cutting room floor include: Castle Crashers, Dance Dance Revolution, Power Stone, GoldenEye 007/Perfect Dark, Guilty Party, Bomberman, You Don’t Know Jack, Wii Sports, and LittleBigPlanet. Which games would you include in your party list? Let me know so I can try them out with my friends, too!