2016 saw a slew of great online multiplayer games like Overwatch, Titanfall 2 and Battlefield 1. But this year's offline, local multiplayer games are the real unsung heroes. Sure, it may be easier to just wear a headset and play with friends online, but sharing a couch or a spot on the floor at a friend’s place is another bonding experience entirely.
What surprised us was that, with games and consoles increasingly internet-dependent these days, local multiplayer games continued to come out in droves. Better yet, many of them were among our favorite games of the whole year. Some of these games do a very thorough job at testing your friendships — something you might’ve not experienced since the early Mario Party days. Others are pure, hilarious joy, plain and simple.
We've compiled the eight best local multiplayer games of 2016 below, based on how much fun we had physically shoving and screaming at our friends. Some may have flown under the radar this year, but they're 100 percent worth checking out.
Overcooked hews most closely to Mario Party, a game that seems charming and fun-filled on the surface — only to reveal its true intentions early on. Much like Mario Party, Overcooked takes close friendships way up to the edge, threatening to push them off with every dropped dish or ruined burger. As a four-player kitchen frenzy, friends collaborate to make meals that become more complex under increasingly frantic conditions. It's stressful, it's infuriating, and it's amazingly fun. Overcooked provided some of our most memorable moments in 2016, as well as fueled some of our loudest screaming matches.
Enter the Gungeon
Expect to die in Enter the Gungeon. A lot. Good thing you have a friend with you as you traverse through a re-generating set of rooms, shooting through enemies on the way to the boss. Keep in mind that this two-player bullet hell shooter won't go easy on you and your pal. That's what will bond you together, though; you'll always remember who you made it through the most floors of the Gungeon with. Although only two players are supported in this co-op roguelike, Enter the Gungeon was just as much fun for us to sit on the sidelines and watch people blast their way (and die repeatedly) through as it was to play it.
Videoball looks simplistic, but a good multiplayer game doesn't need glossy visuals. It's a simple sports game that supports up to six players, three on each side, as they shoot arrows at a ball to score points. That's it. It's a lot trickier than it sounds, though, and with the rules up to players' discretion, things can get wild fast. The game feels like a combination of several familiar sports, like hockey and football, and mashes them together for a unique competitive experience. But unlike other, more aggressive multiplayer games, your friends will still be your friends at the end of a Videoball match. Learning to play the game together and collaborating on pushing that ball into the goal was one of 2016's more satisfying multiplayer moments.
Ultimate Chicken Horse
Ultimate Chicken Horse hit Steam earlier this year, and it's since become beloved by PC gamers and fans in the indie community. Playing the game with three other people, it's easy to see why: It's fast-paced, totally weird and strangely cute. Everyone plays as one of several types of animals, each of whom is armed with a trap that they place on a platforming level before the clock sets off. Once it does, it's all about being the last player — or animal, as it were — alive, avoiding the sneaky death traps while hoping to coerce your buds into landing in yours. Reaching the end of the level earns you the title of victor, but it also gets you on your friends' shitlist. That's the mark of a truly winning multiplayer game.
Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes
As the name implies, you better brush up on those communication skills. Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes makes you feel like you’re living inside a tense action movie — only one player can see the bomb while everyone else is crowded around a defusal manual. While the clock is ticking, the defuser has to inspect and describe features of the bomb while the other players frantically flip through the manual to guide this person through the disarming process. As you play, you’ll find that some people are better at deciphering symbols, navigating through mazes or matching “if, then” statements. The PlayStation VR version provides the most immersive and nerve-wracking experience, but if you don’t have VR, you can also play it on Windows or Mac (no peeking at screens though!). Few games can really test friendships and reading comprehension like this one.
Push Me Pull You
Does anyone remember the show CatDog? Because that’s basically what Push Me Pull You is, but with challenges. It’s the cutest take on what could also easily be a body horror game, where two players can control each “side” of a worm-like body and stretch or shrink to battle it out with another team. There’s a ball in the middle, and you’ll have to find a way to gain control by wrestling it away. Play long enough and you’ll see a tangle of flesh-colored tubes and hear some uncomfortable squeaking noises. But the discomfort doesn’t stop there! If four people are playing on console, each pair can actually share a controller for even more disturbing feelings. An inevitable tug-of-war will happen with your very own teammate while you’re fighting to crawl like a demon toward the ball. Push Me Pull You makes it easy to lose track of where your team starts and ends, but that’s still part of the fun. It’s definitely one of the weirdest local multiplayer couch games we’ve played this year, but also one of the most unforgettable.
Hide and Shriek
If you have a friend who scares easily, you’re going to want to check this out. Although Hide and Shriek skews more toward a playful Halloween theme and not gut-wrenching horror, it’ll still keep you on your toes. Both players need to be on separate computers as they invisibly hunt around an empty school, laying traps to scare the living crap out of each other. You wander around collecting runes that give you various power ups, traps or abilities. In order to win, you either need to rack up the most points scaring the other person or collect orbs scattered across the map and put them back into your satanic-looking altar. Be prepared to yell and put your face in your hands a lot.
At first glance, it might look like a version Tetris, but it has a couple of tricks and twists up its sleeve. Tricky Towers can be anyone’s game as players race to build towers using falling blocks in various modes of play. The catch here is that each player selects a wizard and can cast spells to either harm their opponents or fortify their own creations. It’s a beautifully designed game that leans heavily on delicate physics to keep the suspense going. Too often have we seen our friends shout for victory, only to see their faces turn pale as a last block topples a multi-colored monolith … and their hubris.