As the Christmas season winds down and the year comes to a close, one major holiday still looms on the horizon: New Year’s Eve! Yes, New Year’s Eve, the only holiday I can think of where people come together and get completely trashed for the sheer, unadulterated hell of it. If you’re like me, you’ll buy about $75 in Chuck Norrises for friends of friends who you haven’t really met before, and, by the end the night, find yourself noshing on French Dips and cheese fries at an all-night truck stop, weeping silently into your au jus all the while. Don’t ever, ever be like me.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that New Year’s Eve is a great opportunity for a party. I Am A Parade heartily endorses multiplayer gaming as a natural extension of parties, and 2011 was a great year for split-screen fun, whether cooperative or competitive. I couldn’t decide between playing with friends and playing against friends, so I’m doing a twofer for this week. Enjoy!
Five Great Cooperative Multiplayer Games from 2011 for Palling Around With Friends on New Year’s Eve
Gears of War 3
The Gears series has always been known for its cooperative, split-screen action, but Gears of War 3 escalates the scope even further by allowing up to four players to tackle the single player campaign together. True, local co-op is limited to the usual two, but Gears’ usual loud, brash, spectacle-driven gameplay still makes for a great show, even for people who might not be playing at all. Grab an extra controller, and give the Locust a New Year’s Resolution they’ll never forget.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland
Man, Nintendo loves their co-operative platformers. 2009 had New Super Mario Bros. Wii, last year brought us Donkey Kong Country Returns, and this October’s Kirby: Return to Dream Land makes three in so many years. Unlike other recent ventures for Kirby (Epic Yarn and Mass Attack), Return to Dream Land is a traditional Kirby game, complete with the eat-and-copy mechanics we all know, love, and find slightly disturbing. The game adds four-player drop-in/drop-out co-op, allowing you to share health items and tackle tricky jumps as a team.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
Traveler’s Tales’ LEGO games have been some of the best local co-op games on the market, and LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is more of the same. Literally, it’s a continuation of last year’s LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, with the titular 5-7 books being represented in playable form. Of course, the first LEGO Harry Potter was one of the series’ strongest entries, so the opportunity to continue the tale of Harry, Ron, and Hermione vis-à-vis plastic blocks should be no problem for LEGO fans, and the previous game’s two-player split-screen co-op is as fun as ever.
Thought the first game made you feel smart? Wait till you try it with a buddy. Portal 2‘s co-op is a separate entity from the main story, and tasks two players with using teamwork to plow through another round of brain-bending puzzles. Elements like timing are taken into account, though the game does a good job of giving you tools to coordinate your efforts. Perhaps it’s not as drop-in/drop-out as others on the list, but it’s a grand time for anyone looking for a co-op experience different from the usual platforming or shooting fare.
Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One
Though the game has been built from the ground up as a four-player co-op experience, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One is basically a traditional Ratchet and Clank game. The series’ staple elements of huge weapons, imaginative worlds, and whip-smart humor are still intact in All 4 One, and the extra chaos from three other players only adds to the enjoyment.
Of course, there’s more to multiplayer than acting nice towards one another. Keep your friends close and your frenemies on the couch next to you–here are the best titles for literally stabbing your buddies in the back.
Five Great Competitive Multiplayer Games from 2011 for Destroying Your Friends on New Year’s Eye
Goldeneye 007: Reloaded
The king is back, or so Activision would have you believe. Inflationary marketing remarks aside, there’s a lot to like about Eurocom’s updated take on 1997′s Nintendo 64 classic, including a throwback to the original’s four-player split-screen action that wasted so many hours of my youth. Goldeneye 007: Reloaded adheres more to modern shooter conventions than its forbearer (ironsight aiming, rebounding health, etc.), but includes just enough Bond references to feel distinct (movie villains like Jaws and Oddjob, weapons like the Moonraker Laser and Golden Gun, paintball mode, etc.).
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
While we’re discussing throwbacks, here’s an HD remake of one of the most seminal games of the past ten years. Combat Evolved Anniversary still sports two-player co-op through the main campaign (which blew my 14-year-old mind back in 2001), but the real draw is its four-player split-screen deathmatchin’ fun. Included are seven maps from past Halo titles, available in both original and content-added forms, and Halo‘s classic arsenal of weapons (including the almighty Pistol in all of its broken glory). Multi-kill!
It’s only fitting that two years after Street Fighter came back to reign supreme over the fighting game scene, Mortal Kombat would dust itself off and enter the ring once again. Rid of much of the fluff and extra modes it had accumulated over the years, Mortal Kombat celebrates the tight, frantic fighting that made the series great, and adds even more gory and over-the-top Fatalities that fans have come to expect. The perfect fighting game for spectating–it doesn’t matter who wins, as long as the ending is bloody.
While technically a co-operative platformer a la New Super Mario Bros Wii, Rayman Origins stands out by offering more ways to grief your partners than any other game I can think of. Whether it’s slapping players around to prevent them from choosing a certain character, or taking advantage of the infinite-lives respawn system for cheap deaths, Rayman Origins is as much a game about screwing your teammates as much as it is about helping them.
You Don’t Know Jack
Back in the 90′s, when Chandler-levels of snark permeated just about everything, there was a series of trivia games for the PC and PlayStation that perfectly combined being smart and being a smartass. Jack is back and irreverent as ever, with wise cracking questions across a multitude of categories, ranging from history to a more pop culture bent. If board game trivia laced with wise cracks doesn’t sound like a great way to down a couple brews with friends, then you don’t know…