Hello there, you beautiful person you. Do you often try to mix video games and friendship in the same living room? As gamers, a good multiplayer game can be a particularly great experience. It can strengthen the bonds between pals and loved ones while exercising teamwork and group strategy. Except when it doesn’t. There are a few games out in the world that may be a lot of fun, but as soon as you commit to playing it with another person, you might as well be committing relationship suicide. Follow me on a journey regarding games that might just kill your friendships if you’re not careful.
See, these are games that might not have meant what they said when they touted their cooperative gameplay. It’s in their best interest for you and your friends to have fun together. That being said, some unfortunate multiplayer experiences suffer. Sometimes it was just tacked onto an otherwise great single player game. Other times, the game in question wasn’t really built with multiplayer in mind. Before you know it, you accidentally yell some obscenity at your significant other and bam, now you’ve started a fight. Sure, that kind of talk is fine when your anger is directed at a thirteen year old stranger on Call of Duty, but there are some occasions when a ‘good tea bagging’ just doesn’t make you the good guy at all.
The NEW Super Mario Brothers Series:
Before the Nintendo Wii came out, if you liked Mario and had friends who also wanted to play, you had to either select a two-player option that swapped player control between two controllers, or just passed the one controller around the living room, like the savages we were. Multiplayer in gaming on consoles was still somewhat new and unrefined and had a few kinks to work out. We had to buy a multi-tap accessory to plug more than two controllers into a SNES just to play Super Bomberman. Even arcade ports, like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 (which was designed for four friends to rub elbows at an arcade cabinet and dump several dollars worth of quarters), failed to implement the multi-tap accessory.
So now you’ve sat outside of a Gamestop early on a Saturday morning because it was a crazy year for Nintendo, and a few years later they release this little gem: The NEW Super Mario Bros Wii. There was a Nintendo DS title before this that brought old school Mario side scrolling into the new generation, but not like this, not like it did on the Wii. Now, we had the option to turn on three more Wii remotes and run the level with friends!
Listen, I have to level with you because you live in the future and you might already know how this ends. That first day I heard that my friends and I could play Super Mario together at the same time, I started frothing at the mouth. That was before I learned what chaos really truly stood for. Chaos in New Super Mario Bros Wii means being able to scoop up another player character, holding them hostage over your head as if that was just a normal and polite thing to do. When you attempt to set them down amicably, you accidentally throw them a few steps away. If you’re lucky they get tossed into an open field, but that is almost never the case. It’s always lava, or purple poisonous goo, or the oldie-but-goodie, the bottomless pit.
Don’t forget that because you are affected by other players hit boxes, you can’t exist in the same space. Floating platforms and see-saw obstacles get crowded fast. As soon as you all pile into a space that barely contains your collective voluptuous bulk, someone decides to jump for the next platform. Few of us are as well coordinated as a team of synchronized swimmers, and so that’s usually when someone else chooses to jump. The first one lands on the head of the second’s, ruining both your trajectories, and now the both of you are dead. You may notice this is the moment your best friend changes your name in his phone to ‘Assbag’
Okay, so this one was hard for me to put on the list, and I’m going to get to why that is in a minute. Let’s remember what the first Portal did for us. To begin, it taught us that not all first person titles needed to include foul mouthed gun toting maniacs who came to kick ass and chew gum. They didn’t need to be gory, and they didn’t even need cut scenes. Portal trained us to look for clues, enjoy the humor in one brutally efficient robot, and certainly made us fall in love with the laws of physics.
Portal 2, as far as sequels went, knew exactly what it wanted to be. As a game it was glorious. If you hadn’t heard of J.K Simmons yet, you were enraptured and entertained by his portrayal as Cave Johnson, the loopy, pulpy, sixties mad scientist who founded the test labs you’ve been running around in. The sequel took old conventions we knew and loved and introduced new ones that melded fantastically, all while letting us feel like we were exploring the same exact test labs and still making it feel new and teaching us without the use of a tutorial level.
Amongst all these praises one could sing, it came with two more mind blowing features. The first was being able to build and share your own test chambers and puzzles. The other was an entirely separate multiplayer campaign. So where’s the catch? You read the title, this isn’t about games that taught us the meaning of teamwork and sharing. Portal 2 had a flawlessly developed multiplayer experience if you could remain in voice contact with your partner. However, the game is not at fault here.
Portal 2 served as a sort of litmus test for all partnerships. You could learn that you and your bros don’t communicate all that well when you get stumped by a hard puzzle. You may realize that the same sort of tomfoolery you and your gamer friends are up to just doesn’t fly with your girlfriend. That time you stepped off of the button as she was jogging her gangly eye-bot across the spiked traps and crushed her to death while cackling like a maniac might also be the time you learned she didn’t quite think that was as funny as you did.
Nothing pushes your buttons as hard as not getting to push buttons. When you are at a dead end and you just can’t quite find how to get to the end of the puzzle, speech devolves quickly into vague wisps of sentences that barely make sense. “Go over to the thing” and “Over there” will be your least favorite phrases. Your only hope is to keep your composure and refrain from patronizing your partner in science by telling them to “Use your words.”
Here’s why this was a hard choice, though. For every bad experience you’ll hear about, you’ll find just as many power couples and best bros just killing it, like they’ve done this before. So here’s the thing: if you really love him/her, just be careful before you start up this multiplayer campaign. Is it worth the gamble of a possible bad time?
Super Smash Brothers:
Oh ho ho, Nintendo. How can you do so well at building games that break us all down? Smash Bros busted apart ye olde conventions of arcade style fighting games, and did two things specifically to achieve this. First, it used characters we already knew from games we’d been playing for at least a decade. Second, it gave the genre new mobility with vertical leaps and bounds while it implemented more simplistic combos to make a fighting game more accessible to more people. This sounds great right?
Honestly, who wouldn’t want to sock or be socked by Mario? In fact this game eventually brought a larger awareness of the Fire Emblem series to North American audiences and played a pivotal role in bringing it to the U. S. of A. How often did you get to play as the infamous Star Wolf in any of the games he was actually in? Now he’s a bonus character, and as far as arch rivals go, he’s a pretty bad dude. There were so many characters to choose from in a successful effort to offer something for everybody. If you like cutesy characters, play as Yoshi and butt stomp the heck out of your pals. If you like cool characters then you had the chance to play as Link or Samus. If you wanted to win, you might consider playing as Metaknight.
This is where Smash Brothers began to fall apart as the fun new family game it was meant to be. Some characters can be exploited to earn cheap victories that feel less than respectable. Metaknight, as mentioned, is even outright banned in some tournaments. There are other characters, however, that have skills and abilities that when utilized in an ungentlemanly fashion, can out pace or even cancel another player’s attacks simply by acting with the correct button press at the correct time. While some of this is technical checks and balances that are common within fighting games, many of these moves did not seem to actually be balanced all that well.
Tournament play, however, is an entirely different discussion. It involves a depth of understanding of the game’s more intricate happenings that, quite frankly, many players don’t even realize exists. Except that one friend. You know the one. The one person who seems to be weirdly good at Smash Brothers. It’s no longer fun to play against him, but no one has a choice because it’s probably his/her disc in the first place. There’s much less psychological torment playing this game with friends. Simply because of the platforming nature of this title and it’s unique kind of fighting mechanics (compared to the the Street Fighters and Dead or Alives of the world), button mashing won’t grant a chaotic justice that allowed the new guys a chance to win. If you managed to get a fair bit of practice and polished your skills, it’s also likely your friends don’t care much to play with you anymore. It may be time to pick up a copy of Mario Kart instead…
Mario Kart has been a staple of both Nintendo’s consoles and handhelds since it’s release on the SNES in 1992. Similar to Smash Brothers, Mario Kart paved the way for an entire genre. Kart racers were interesting because at their core it was just a simple racing game. As the gaming industry grew up, however, other racing games often felt more like simulators. They used real cars you couldn’t afford, gave you the option of manual versus automatic transmissions, and sometimes even let you buy upgraded parts for your fast cars. Mario Kart, in a way, stayed behind, embracing a presentation that would rather keep things basic with this mantra: Choose from a roster of lovable characters from previous Mario games, and win the race. Sprinkle in some pick-ups and weapons, and you have a game with a touch more strategy beyond the previous low speed chase style of game play.
As the series was built upon with more and more installments, new characters and weapons had to be added, because if you had a franchise that was eight games strong and nothing changed between them you might be on the verge of losing your audience (I’m looking at you, Pokemon. Yes you. Don’t deny it). The game had a neat system used for doling out these items too; if you were getting a slow start and near the rear of the pack, you usually received the more powerful, most advantageous power-ups. If you were in 1st place, however, rather than getting unlimited boosts for a short time or heat seeking red shells, you received extra coins which were useless or banana peels.
No one during the history of everywhere has ever gotten into a fistfight because of banana skins. It’s that damnable blue shell that takes that honor. I am willing to bet that you already know, but just in case you don’t, the concept behind it is simple. Among all the random items you can acquire in the Mario Kart games, the most infamous of them all is the dreaded Spiny Shell. Often just called the Blue shell by players, the Spiny Shell made it’s debut on the Nintendo 64 version of Mario Kart and has even cropped up in some of the sports spin off titles as well. It functions as the smartest of all smart bombs, and is easily the most uncouth of all the shenanigans you can partake of within the series. Upon launching, the blue shell will simply fly away, find whoever is in 1st place, and explode directly into them. Up until recently there had been little to no means of evading this malignant missile. Only in the most recent installment, Mario Kart 8, is there a new item that if you are incredibly lucky just to have before someone launches the blue shell, can you repel its unwavering fury.
So imagine this, friend. You’ve battled hard to speed ahead and take first place, and you’re on you last lap around the track. A strange beeping alarm begins to sound as if you were losing altitude in a plane. Those aren’t go-kart problems, so what could it mean? You’ve just enough time to see the blue blur hover over your head before your perfect race meets it’s end. The blue-hued bully spirals in a flourish as if to mock you before crashing down into you with a brilliant explosion. If you were lucky, someone else was caught in the flames, because otherwise you are now being passed by every other racer in the game. You’ve been robbed. You’ve made it where you were with equal parts treachery and actual driving skill and now, you’ve been absolutely deprived of the fruits of your labor. Worse still, you’ve been upstaged by a lesser opponent. Some schmuck who was back in sixth place and just got a lucky break. That rotten monster is now the reason why you’ve body checked your best friend over the coffee table and unplugged the N64.