In January 2014, I started a regular event here in Madrid, a weekly meetup called Gaming At Rob's. It's been our perfect little opportunity to play the types of games together that we wouldn't be able to play apart, and has coincided remarkably with 2014's resurgence of local multiplayer titles of all shapes and sizes.
We wanted to create a list that celebrates the games that we collectively fell in love with. It's been vetted by our community, and doesn't include every game we love playing at GAR - we've been completely spoilt this year, and I really hope it continues in 2015.
10. ClusterPuck 99 (PHL Collective | First Played: GAR 30)
Earl has written extensively about his love affair with what he calls "one of the greatest multiplayer sports games of all time" and we collectively agree - hidden within this game is a thrilling team-based sports game, the control and visuals pared down to a level of simplicity that allows everyone to get involved, get excited, and scream bloody murder as they allow an opponent to slip past them and fire a goal-bound speed ball. One of this year's gaming highlights for us was our ClusterPuck 99 tournament.
9. Hidden in Plain Sight (Adam Spragg | First Played: GAR 27)
Hidden in Plain Sight is a really clever game, and where we were originally unsure of the quality of the full list of game modes, we've now come to appreciate every single one for being another inspired and interesting take on the game's core concept: succeed by blending in with the crowd of AI-controlled characters, but don't let your friends fool you as they try to do the very same. It's the slowest paced game on the list, and really stands out as something you can appreciate both as entertainment and as a showcase for fresh new ideas. Adam Spragg has taken cues from The Ship and Assassin's Creed's multiplayer and made it accessible in a local multiplayer scenario.
8. Sync (Jon Remedios | First Played: GAR 11)
Sync goes so damn far with the simplest of elements. To look at screenshots, you'd probably go in knowing what to expect, but you'd be wrong - it's not a simple 4-player shoot-'em-up, because everyone's thruster and weapon controls have been stuck together. It's a neat little game that we've come back to very often, especially when we have new players join us that haven't seen it before - getting to watch their initial reaction, as panic sets in as they feel like they're not in control.. it's priceless. Tom admits to still not knowing what he's doing even after all this time!
7. Lethal League (Team Reptile | First Played: GAR 29)
I personally fell in love with Lethal League, in my estimations it's doing everything right, with its pace and style mixing together to be a super-impressive spectacle. Every character is unique and really cool, and the game plays well as a 4 player brawl as much as it does as a 1 versus 1 battle of wits. The group really took to it too, and we've held a mini-tournament with it that was as enjoyable to watch as it was to take part in, screaming at the screen as a high velocity ball is about to be let loose on the stage.
6. Gang Beasts (Boneloaf | First Played: GAR 6)
We've been in love with Gang Beasts since the very first publicly released build, 0.0.0. It was immediately apparent that this was a special game, which we were going to look forward to following as it grew. Almost-featureless jelly baby-like creatures involved in drunken brawls with each other, sometimes in very inappropriate places - atop a window cleaning gondola, on a ferris wheel. Its star attraction is the hefty physics applied to the characters, as they muster all their energy to put behind flying haymakers, struggle to cling to a railing as they attempt to avoid getting minced or crushed. Go and check out our gameplay video and you'll get a good idea of why we have such a great time when we sit down to play.
With its Early Access release, new controls, costumes and levels got added in, and it's been picked up to be published by Double Fine, no doubt injecting Boneloaf with the funds they needed to push the game to the next level. We can't wait to see the next incarnation.
5. Sportsfriends (Die Gute Fabrik | First Played: GAR 17)
A selection of refreshing multiplayer games that slot in really well with the rest of our playlist, the group has their own personal favourite and all get represented. Our overall favourite is without a doubt the inventive and original Johann Sebastian Joust. We took it outside, terrorizing the streets whilst slinking around the place with a glowing Move controller. I imagine it's probably the least played game of the collection as it requires physical space and preparation, but if you're sitting on the game and haven't given it a try, you really should give it a try - just don't blame me if you fall over each other or get into trouble with the neighbours!
Outside of Joust, there are 3 unique and well designed 4 player multiplayer titles; Sportsfriends is a neat package that could almost act as a starter pack for those wanting to start up some local multiplayer sessions of their own.
4. Nidhogg (Messhof | First Played: GAR 2)
Nidhogg is a raw, brutal duel between two brave warriors who are battling for the glory of being consumed by a crudely depicted version of a dragon from Norse mythology, and it's just about the most intense spectacle you'll ever get to watch in a local multiplayer setting. You win by killing your opponent and then racing to their end of the level across several screens, as they fight to take you down and be granted the chance to take the fight in the other direction. Whether the match takes a minute or a half hour, it is consistently entertaining, and it makes you feel so badass when you manage to stave off a ferocious attack that takes you to the limit of the level, and then scrape your way back across it, dodging their attempts to put you in the ground. The controls are simple but bouts can look majestic as each player flips, rolls and divekicks around in an attempt to outwit their opponent and gain precious ground.
It has a built in tournament mode, which suits the game just fine, and although we wish there were more than the 4 levels available, when it comes down to it there really is only one battleground that consistently delivers incredible matches: Castle.
3. Mount Your Friends (Stegersaurus Software | First Played: GAR 27)
Our favourite matches of Mount Your Friends usually culminate in two players locked in a head-to-head, as upwards of six others cheer them on, gasp as they attempt slingshot moves up the mountain, and go absolutely nuts when they either just about make it with no time left on the clock, or fall from grace down to the ground.
We recently got our horrific photoshopping skills out to put the GoPlayThat crew and friends into the game, increasing the hilarity exponentially. It was bad enough clasping to the delicate flesh of a wincing default character, but replace the face with that of a close acquaintance and it becomes infinitely more ridiculous and unsettling.
2. The Jackbox Party Pack (Jackbox Games | First Played: GAR 35)
Drawful has been the host of the biggest laughs of the year here at GAR, and that it uses your mobile phones as controllers is a stroke of absolute genius. With 8 players sat around the TV, drawing a crude penis or pooping butt as their avatar, we almost squeal with the joy of anticipation as each player is given a phrase to depict, placing untrained finger to cruelly unforgiving touch screen that won't let you erase your mistakes, but instead force you to just roll with them and do what you can. The game is clever with how it sets things up, and it throws spelling mistakes into the phrases so you're not able to rely on such options as having come from a player. Once you get it, you can start cranking out responses that are really clever and just might fool your friends into selecting them over the correct choice.
Packed in with Drawful are 4 other games, including Fibbage XL, which plays out kind of the same, but although brilliant is clearly inferior 'cos you can't draw dicks, and a slick new version of You Don't Know Jack, which is a fun buzzer style game with a twisted sense of humour.
1. TowerFall: Ascension (Matt Makes Games | First Played: GAR 10)
TowerFall is our most played game, and with good reason: I mean, it's paced perfectly. controls perfectly, and is so accessible that we've seen many an upset as new players rinse their experienced competition. Firing an arrow from across the map into the chest of your opponent is never not satisfying, and getting to watch it again in slow-motion and then save a .GIF of it is an inspired design decision. The game spoils you with content, from it's modification options that can completely change how matches play out, to the long list of environments that feature different conditions and moving parts (and loop from one edge of the screen to the other, Pac-Man style), to the different types of arrows that can make you as much a danger to yourself as you are to your enemies.
It's a really slick package that excites us every time, it's really difficult to pass the controller over once you've picked it up. Unfortunately for you, there are several people waiting for their chance to get into the action and try and hold the TowerFall crown.