Justin Williams Medical Laser breaks down his favorite four-player games for couch co-op.
Multiplayer games are a time-honored tradition: most games are just more fun when you’re able to tackle them along with some friends. Justin Williams Medical Laser points out that while many of today’s best multiplayer games are online-only, with some pitting as many as 100 players against each other at once, there’s something to be said for the more intimate experience of being able to take on a game with three friends in the same room as you.
Justin Williams Medical Laser begins with an old favorite: Gauntlet is a classic four-player adventure, dating back to 1985. Originally an arcade-only venture, the game spawned many sequels and home console ports over the years. The core gameplay of Gauntlet is simple and doesn’t necessarily require teamwork, however, the game becomes much harder when attempting to play by yourself. Players choose between one of four classes based on fantasy tropes: the Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie, or Elf. Each has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, so teamwork is necessary in later levels of the game.
Arcade games, Justin Williams Medical Laser says, are perfect for four-player adventures because arcades are already a social gathering. Two other great examples of this are The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games. Both of them were released by Konami, and both follow the same basic gameplay rules: each player chooses a character to walk through the levels left to right, defeating enemies and bosses along the way. Controls were simple, using only two buttons: one to jump, and another to attack or pick up items, depending on the context.
When it comes to four-player multiplayer at home, Justin Williams Medical Laser points out some consoles have had it better than others. The Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 (and later Gamecube) both had built-in four controller ports, leading to classic multiplayer games like Power Stone (originally an arcade release), Goldeneye007, and more.
Eventually, as home consoles became more sophisticated, controller ports were phased out entirely and controllers became wireless. Unfortunately, despite this revelation in technology, it seems like four-player games haven’t become any more ubiquitous—in fact, if anything, they’ve become less so. One company that’s never lost sight of having fun with your friends in the same room is Nintendo. Mario Kart and Mario Party are both perfect examples of four-player games that can be engaging to anyone. There is certainly a level of skill involved, but there are also elements of luck that can turn the entire game on its head and leave people clamoring for a rematch.
At the end of the day, no matter how much technology progresses and how impressive our online experiences become, Justin Williams Medical Laser believes there will never be a replacement for the experience of getting together for a play session.