Lately, I’ve been buying games with other people in mind. I’ve gotten great use out of Injustice and Rayman Legend’s “Kung Foot” mini game. However, I can only enjoy those games with one or two of my friends, as they are too nuanced when trying to introduce a new player to the game. I consider a game a good investment if I can play with my friends. From Nintendo Land to Game & Wario, Nintendo‘s exclusive lineup has proven that local multiplayer can be an exciting way to bring a group of people together in one room.
I got Mario Kart 8 at launch last Friday and have already put 15 hours into it. And I’d say that only about three hours of that experience has been played solo. My friends were eager to come over when I told them I bought the game. All of them, familiar with previous entries in the series, jumped right in with only minimal instructions of the controls and new mechanics.
One of my friends warned the group that he wasn’t good at Mario Kart games only to win the majority of the races. Another one of my friends proved what a formidable opponent he was after besting me in the first race, attributing his Karting chops to GameCube’s Double Dash. This is one of many recent memories with bonding over video games with my friends.
When I think back to my fondest gaming moments with other people, usually a Nintendo game is paired with it. I can recall countless races with my neighbor across the street with Mario Kart 64, or being the man to beat in the original Smash Brothers whenever someone came to my own dojo. I never saw my peers so connected as to when Pokémon: Heart Gold and Soul Silver first came out. Everyone walked around my high school with those ridiculous Pokéwalkers which was awesome in itself. For the two weeks following the release of the acclaimed remake, it was okay to be nerdy and childish. My friends from high school still meet up twice a year for N64 parties, where we eat spaghetti and meatballs and duke it out with the mini games on the Pokémon Stadium games. And lest we forget the countless memories of my time as a traveling competitive Super Smash. Brothers Brawl player.
That’s not to say, that Nintendo is the sole provider of fun local multiplayer games. Xbox Live Arcade’s Mount Your Friends provided my fraternity brothers and I with some hearty laughs and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for the original Playstation has left me nothing but fond recollections underscored by Goldmember’s Superman. Still, I invite anybody to suggest a party game comparable to Mario Party on a non-nintendo console.
Last night, I had some of my fraternity brothers over. We played Mario Kart 8 for a while with the last place finisher passing off their controller. We played really competitive races, most of which came down to one poor drift or a red shell. Then I loaded Game & Wario where one of my brothers gawked, “You can play 5 players with this game?!” My reply: “You can with Wii U”. The biggest Wii U skeptics in the group were the ones having the most fun and I’m looking forward to more nights like these this summer.
I think one of the main reasons Nintendo does local multiplayer so well is because their games are accessible but never dumbed down. The Smash Bros. series is highly technical and layered with depth, especially Melee, as any competitive player will tell you. However, it is just as much fun for the casual player who likes to button mash and use items on High. The exception to the “simple not stupid” gameplay model could be Wii U’s Nintendo Land which is a collection of single and multiplayer minigames. Some games in the collection, like Mario Chase requires only that one player run around and tag the runner. I would counter that what a game like Mario Chase lacks in depth, it makes up for in the overall experience of having to talk to your teammates verbally in order to succeed in flagging down the runner.
That’s what it really comes down to. Local multiplayer is fun because they allow you to enjoy a game with other people. Laughter is shared and different personalities affect how the games are played. I think the Big N thrives in their continued success for making the living room a place for connecting with loved ones and creating memories once again. My Wii U has become my all-in-one family game night and proves that Nintendo is still King of the Couch.