It’s been over a month since Christmas and New Years Eve, and all of January I’ve been thinking about how games can bring people together. If your family and friends are anything like mine then you often spend time playing games together. Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, reunions, vacations, etc… Card games, board games, video games, we love them all. It’s true that people tend to think of “party games” as being restricted mainly just to card and board games like Apples to Apples, Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity, and so on. And though those are all great games to play with friends, there are so many video games which are great for entertaining groups of friends and family as well. This last Thanksgiving I even got my grandpa to play Mario Kart 8 on my Switch, which was an amazing and fun experience. He wasn’t that bad actually.
I wish that more people knew about the great wealth of multiplayer indie games that have been developed recently. Not only do playing games with friends make for a fun night because of the social aspect of gathering, but there is something powerful about experiencing interactive media with others that is absent in solely visual entertainment like cinema. Even today in 2018 video games often get the stigma “time wasters” or they are at least seen as less valuable than film or other forms of art. However much research has gone into studying how games really affect us, and it’s pretty crazy the good things that games can for us. In fact, a friend of mine named Helen Nichols has a great article about “27 Science-Backed Benefits of Video Games” on her site Well Being Secrets, which I totally recommend you check out. I have gathered a list of particularly frantic and chaotic games that are guaranteed to bring your gaming party some big laughs. For your next party instead of breaking out one of your old board games people have played a hundred times, give one of these games a try for something a bit more unique.
There are a lot of classic party hits like Mario Kart, Smash Bros, or whatever COD game is lying around at the time. This list, however, is comprised of games that are a little less well known and have a certain element of frantic cooperation/competition that makes them both amazing couch multiplayer games, and a kick to watch for those who prefer to sip a cocktail and laugh at their friends. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:
Overcooked is a hilarious, audacious, and generally ridiculous take on a simple teamwork cooking game. Players will be forced to scramble as their food orders pile up, causing them to communicate and strategize to discover the most efficient way to tackle the culinary tasks given to them. Supporting up to 4 players and devoid of any combat mechanics, Overcooked makes for an amazing multiplayer couch game when people want to play something a bit on the silly side. The cooking is pretty normal, it’s the worlds that get weird. Players will be asked to cook in moving cars, pirate ships, on ice floats, volcanoes, during earthquakes, and even in space! Different maps bring different mechanics that the players will have to deal with, for extra zainy fun. Overcooked is probably the most accessible and crowd friendly game on this list. It’s also available on a lot of platforms, being playable on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and through Steam.
Crawl is somewhat comparable to Smash Bros, not so much in the match time, structure, or mood, but rather that one player always comes out on top, there are temporary alliances, crazy frantic arcade action, and everyone starts off equal every time. Though playable with 2 or 3 players, Crawl is at it’s best (and deadliest) with all 4 players battling for 1st. Arcade paced action with full controller support makes Crawl an amazing couch multiplayer game! Teams are constantly changing, and even when you “lose” by dying, you then re-join the other specters to torment the new survivor! This revolving door of alliances makes the already chaotic battle game that much more frantic and fun. Players struggle and race for the good shop items in an attempt to gain an edge against the overwhelming odds stacked against them, making the game fun for spectators to cheer for their hero of choice.
The pixel art in Crawl is simply amazing, and the whole game is a joy to behold (well, it’s also incredibly dark and ominous in presentation, but in that chilling, charming kind of way). Will the top player make it to that last dungeon room to fight the boss and win, or will they fall, leaving room for another t0 rise to the challenge? Crawl is relatively easy for new players to jump into. The game difficulty comes not in learning the controls, but simply with practice, as basically all creatures/weapons have no more than 2 attacks. Players who have played other combat driven games will obviously do better than those who don’t. Even so, it’s not too hard to learn the basics. With a relatively easy entry, 4 player controller support, and fast chaotic action, Crawl is perfect for groups big groups.
Crypt of the NecroDancer
Crypt of the Necrodancer is one of my favorite discoveries of 2015, and even though the game is a few years old now it still remains to be one of the most unique and fun multiplayer game experiences I’ve enjoyed. Though the game is only playable with 2 players at a time, it still makes for a great party game as the rounds can be fast (especially when death comes fast for inexperienced players). The overall vibe of the game is so wacky and fun it makes for a fun spectator game. NecroDancer is effectively half rhythm game, half dungeon crawler, empowering players to dance and fight to the groovy beats. This one is a bit harder for newbies to get used to, but can be very compelling to pass a few controllers around on death, due to the short round/level time. The frustrations that can accompany a unique and new game such as NecroDancer are somewhat relieved by the fact that the game is cooperative. What better way to dance battle against hoards of groovy undead than with a friend to struggle through it with. At any rate, whether you are a master at this odd DDR/D&D mix or a rookie scared to try to moonwalk, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a hilarious, creative, and fun game to share with friends. The sounds track is killer and should be enjoyed with that volume knob cranked up. It should also be mentioned that it’s a roguelike and the levels are procedurally generated, so even for veterans, the journey is new every time.
Invisigun Heroes is one of those games that didn’t seem to make as big of a media impact as it deserves. Though one could argue that operating under the radar is what Invisigun Heroes does best, as all the characters in the game are invisible. Even with the extended clip of gameplay, it’s a little hard to make out what exactly is even happening on screen. To really get the hang of Invisigun Heroes you really do have to just try it. This is certainly the game with the hardest level of entry on this list, but that is kinda one of the things that makes it so good. Essentially the game is a simple shooter with the one exception that everyone is cloaked until they fire, which briefly reveals their location. Players are all essentially just guessing where they are will inevitably bump into things causing trees to shake, leaving footprints in sand and snow, splashing water, and even sometimes run into each other. It’s kinda like playing tag in the dark in a small room, but in a good way!
The pixel art and level design is great, and the creative list of playable characters put unique and interesting abilities in the player’s hands. Invisigun Heroes works just as well with 2 players as it does with 4, and the map list is actually quite impressive, allowing for tons of variety in what is otherwise a fairly simple and straightforward game. As in Overcooked, the different worlds bring crazy obstacles all players will have to be wary of. In Invisigun Heroes though players can use these environmental elements to help them find, trap, trick, and kill other players. Ice levels have yeti’s that will pop out of caves, Egyptian themed levels have switches that toggle obstacles, and some factory stages even have cameras that will reveal players locations making them easy targets. A well-placed shot or trap is hard to master, but so satisfying when you do. Though tricky to get used to, this game is perfect for parties as a match can be over in as little as 30 seconds. Line up 10 matches in a row, or surrender your controller after each kill to keep the action moving. Invisigun Heroes is available on Steam and itch.io.
The Bug Butcher
The Bug Butcher is another game that is only playable with up to 2 players, but it makes for a great heart pounding, high score chasing experience. Quick gameplay and level based challenges make for an easygoing controller passing experience. It’s probably better suited for playing with just one other person and working through the levels in order, but because the levels are so short (under 5 min to beat usually), and the game is so good I thought it deserved a mention here. This game is actually available on mobile devices which is where I played the majority of the campaign, but as far as I know, the multiplayer experience is only available on PC. The hand-drawn style graphics and visual design are awesome. I sincerely hope there is a Bug Butcher 2 at some point in the future. The Bug Butcher is a simple but incredibly fun game, which you can read my full review of here.
And finally, we end our list with the crowning gaming creation that is…yes, Genital Jousting. This game is exactly what it sounds like, a game about dicks. It is hilariously irreverent and not at all ashamed of what it is. This game will at least be a hilarious conversation starter if nothing else. I do know this game can be a little bit divisive however as you really kinda have to know your audience with this one. Many people are likely to be offended, awkward, or even just grossed out by Genital Jousting (which is fair, cause it does get pretty gross). But that’s also part of the fun of it; It’s a crazy game where silly dick things play a ton of silly dick games that are somehow simultaneously sexual and routine. Maybe you want your willy to walk his/her dog (and yes, it’s a wiener dog). Perhaps you and your phallic friends will be racing, or playing soccer, or picking flowers, or a number of other preposterous competitions that real world wieners should never do. This game is awesome for parties because it’s not very technically demanding, and it’s playable with up to an insane max of 8 players! This weird and creative game is admittedly, very gross, but also in the same measure, strangely endearing.
That’s my list of 6 frantic multiplayer indie games for your next party. I hope they bring joy (and a little chaos) to your next Friday night gathering. If you have other great couch multiplayer games you like, let us know in the comments! And as always…
Happy Gaming Friends!