At the time of writing, the holidays are almost upon us. At this time of year we usually have friends over for some food, talk and games. This is where it gets a bit awkward, as most games are one or two player affairs. My wife and I never have trouble finding something to play in our expansive video game library, but when you add another person or two to the mix it can get tricky.
To help both myself and others with this socially difficult situation I thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of the top 10 party games, as recommended by me.
If you break down the elements, Warlords is a simple four player bat and ball game. Each player takes on the role of one of the titular warlords, attempting to defend their castle from an onslaught of fireballs. If you find yourself on the receiving end of an attack you can catch and quickly redirect one of these balls of fire and send them along to another player’s castle.
Each castle is defended by a wall, which will chip away each time a fireball gets through the shield. Once the defences are down, the castle only needs one hit and it’s all over for that player.
Warlords is a pretty easy game to get ahold of, with different versions of the game appearing on both the Playstation Network and XBOX Live. Home-brew coders have also released different versions of the game for both retro and modern platforms. A quick trip to Google should give you a list of both paid and free versions of the game.
9 – Super Smash Bros.
What happens when the worlds of Nintendo collide? Why, absolute mayhem of course! Yes, there are storylines to the games in this series, but who cares? All you really want to do is pit Mario, Link, Fox McLeod, Kirby and more in a 2D brawl fest. Simple in gameplay, even button mashers can emerge victorious, which can be annoying to fans of the Street Fighter series. That’s why the game is so fun though, everyone can be an expert!
Initially released on the Nintendo 64, the game has been released for each successive Nintendo home platform, with the Switch version due for release in December 2018. Later releases have introduced characters from other companies, including Sonic the Hedgehog and Pacman. The latter may have to do with Namco coding the Mario Kart Arcade GP series, in which the pill guzzler was a playable character.
Though many will cite Super Smash Bros Melee for the Gamecube as the best game in the series, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the games. If budget is a factor then you might find that Super Smash Bros Brawl for the Wii or Super Smash Bros for the Wii U are the cheaper options if you have access to these consoles.
8 – M.U.L.E.
If you want a bit more strategy in your party games, then this 1983 classic might have what you’re looking for. In a charming bit of wordplay, the action takes place on the planet Irata (Atari backwards) where you are required to setup a colony and wheel and deal in resources. The Imperial Walker like M.U.L.E.s can be used to harvest different elements. You can in turn, buy and sell with other players and do a bit of gambling on the side to build up your funds.
Random events can quickly make or break the game, with pirates, acid rain and meteorites all conspiring to damage players who happen to be in their line of sight. For people who are used to “quick and dirty” party games, M.U.L.E. might have a bit more of a learning curve than they are used to.
The game has been released on a variety of platforms and it has also received several remakes. The most accessible version of the game is known as Planet M.U.L.E, which can be downloaded for free at www.planetmule.com
7 – Worms
Released by the ever amazing Team 17, Worms and its sequels are 2D strategy games in the tradition of the shareware classic, Scorched Earth. Each player has a team of four worms, randomly scattered around a 2D landscape and armed to the teeth!
On each turn you can move your worms around the landscape, destroying parts of it if they are in your way, all in an attempt to find and kill your opponent’s worms. The game can be frustrating in that the angles and power often need to be just right, depending on the weapon your worm is using. The game has a sense of humour, with ludicrous weapons such as bouncing sheep that explode and voice overs for the worms.
While the series debuted in 1995, sequels are still being released today. The latest, Worms W.M.D can be found on PS4, XBOX One, Switch, PC and Mac. You can also find various versions of the game on the iOS store, Google Play and Steam.
6 – Power Stone
Released in 1999, Power Stone is a 4 player brawler that spawned a sequel and an anime series. Like Smash Bros, the storyline is irrelevant, as the madcap gameplay is what this game is all about.
Both games features 4 player battles that take place on a 3D fighting stage. The titular power stones can be gathered to transform your characters into more powerful versions of themselves. This power up doesn’t last forever, so it’s important to take advantage of the boost in strength and finish the fight as quickly as possible. If there was one criticism that could be levelled at the game it is that it’s easy to lose track of your character. The stages feature different elements, and keeping an eye on that, your character and your opponents can be difficult.
Unfortunately Power Stone is not the easiest game to find. Home versions of both games were released on the Sega Dreamcast, with a port of both games later released for the Sony PSP. Both games are included on the UMD, though the second game in the series is far superior.
5 – Gauntlet
This overhead dungeon crawler finds your team searching for exits in a maze while surrounded by a plethora of monsters. In the initial game you can choose to play as a wizard, valkyrie, elf or warrior, though later games expand this roster. Each character has their own special skills, so it’s important to choose someone who is going to fit your gameplay style.
Gauntlet is one of those games where you can really cause problems for annoying team mates. If someone is giving you a headache you can scroll the maze, trapping them until they agree to stop doing whatever it is they’re doing. The teams will also need to agree on resource management. Players should only take food if they need it, and wizards should be the first players to stockpile magic potions and they make the best use of them.
Though it is difficult to find four player home ports of the game, some of the 16-bit ports do contain this feature. The Atari Lynx and Gameboy releases also allow four players, but you need to have four consoles with four copies of the game. Later sequels, Gauntlet Legends and Dark Legacy also feature four player mode. The remake found on Steam and the Playstation 4 also contains four player action.
4 – Goldeneye 007
It was a toss up as whether to include this or Perfect Dark. While this game was released earlier, Goldeneye is more fondly remembered due to its association with James Bond. At least, that’s why I prefer playing it over Perfect Dark.
In battle mode you can either take control of one of the characters from the movie, or one of the villains from the James Bond universe, including Odd Job, Jaws and more. The game is not without its flaws, the main one being that as all four players share the same screen, you can see what your opponent is doing. The other key thing to note is that Odd Job is given the unfair advantage of being small, thereby being able to avoid many attacks, so it might be an idea to make a rule, omitting him from selection.
If you have a Nintendo 64 then Goldeneye is one of the easier and cheaper games to buy. Due to developer RARE now being owned by Microsoft, and the rights to the Bond series being held by a different company it hasn’t resurfaced on any other consoles, though there was a remake released in 2010.
3 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Unlike the disappointing home computer and console versions, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game was a four player smash, with each person being able to control their own turtle and take on the evil Foot Clan, headed by Shredder and his Dimension X cohort, Krang.
If I had to be honest there is nothing new in this game. It is a side scrolling beat em up that has been seen many times before and many times since. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just contains that extra bit of polish that sets it apart from the rest. The turtles are animated well and extra care was taken to include a minor difference for Raphael, whose sai are unable to swing far enough to be effective, hence his overhead attack was changed to a rolling wheel kick. Though the game only takes roughly 20 – 30 minutes to complete, it’s a fun romp.
At the time the arcade game did not receive any ports, though its sequel, Turtles in Time, was released on the Super Nintendo in modified form. The original 1989 arcade game was available on the Xbox Live Arcade but can also be found as a hidden extra on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus for the Playstation 2, Xbox and Gamecube. However, just be warned that this version contains changes to the music and the omission of the voices.
2 – Mario Kart
While the original Super Mario Kart was a one or two player game, the Nintendo 64 version introduced four player karting action. Since then each edition of the game has contained this feature, even the Mario Kart Super Circuit for the Gameboy Advance.
While the roster of characters expands with each game in the series, the manic kart racing action, that this series kick started, has remained the same. Up to four players battle it out on a TV screen, or over portable devices in either a race or battle mode. The game is balanced so that those players in first place receive average items from question blocks, while those in the rear get better items, like the invincibility granting star man or the blue shell, which will target first place, allowing those behind to catch up.
Four player versions of the game can be found on every Nintendo console since the N64. Mario Kart 64 is available on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles if you want some retro action.
1 – Bomberman
Hudsonsoft’s little white bomber takes the top spot with a simple premise that provides a lot of fun along the way. Debuting in 1983 and being released under different titles such as Dynablaster and Eric and the Floaters, Bomberman has become an institution in party gaming. With most editions featuring 5 players, you can even include that unwanted extra who just tagged along for the free meal.
Each game contains the same basic formula. Your character walks around an overhead maze and drops a bomb, running away before it explodes, hoping the blast will hit the enemy. Power ups can be found that allow you to carry more bombs or increase the blast range. You can also pick up remote controlled bombs, boxing gloves that allow you to punch bombs away from you and more. Each successive game in the series adds more elements, though it never feels like it is a detriment to the core gameplay.
There are plenty of versions of Bomberman out there. Three were released for the PC Engine, while 5 made their way to the Super Famicom. A 10 player version of the game was released on the Sega Saturn. Since Hudsonsoft’s acquisition by Konami there have been less releases, though Bomberman Super R was recently released for the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Windows.