Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Top Ten Local Co-op Games

Two new articles in one day? Well, I wasn't planning on writing the first one which regards a certain loathsome article, so consider that a bonus.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is releasing on the Nintendo 3DS this Sunday in North America. It's a big release as it is most likely following Nintendo's philosophy of putting only one New Super Mario Bros. game per platform. One of the features of the game aside from its gold-digging coin-collecting mechanic is the ability for two players with two 3DS systems and a copy of the game (one game for each person) to play cooperatively with one another through all of NSMB2's levels.

Co-op is the subject of this list. Sure, it's fun to play alone, but what about when you're feeling lonely and/or want a companion to play through a game with? There's always online nowadays, but what about old school gaming experiences? Well, I'm no therapist to help with your loneliness issues, but how about this list of ten games which are some of my favorite locally cooperative titles across numerous platforms? Will your favorites be listed?

10) Super Double Dragon (SNES)

This isn't just Double Dragon. No, it's Super Double Dragon. This side-scrolling brawler was a favorite of mine as a Super Nintendo kid. I am quite sure now I would be more of a Streets of Rage kind of kid had I played the game back then. Regardless, the fistfights against the Shadow Warriors gang with Billy and Jimmy were simple enough. Alongside the kicks, punches, and jumps, players could block attacks. With the appropriate timing, enemies could be put into an armbar, leaving them prone to assaults by your partner. However, even playing counter-cooperatively was fun as you instantly killed your teammate by chucking a knife at them. Ah, the glory days...

9) Resident Evil 5 (PS3, 360)

Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar head to an African village to investigate the mysterious occurrences and biological threat going on there. For the first time ever in the series, there was cooperative play. Two players could control Chris and Sheva, mowing down Majini, guarding each other's backs, and resuscitating their fallen comrades. The game could be played online, but the most fun I had came from local play via split screen. There was also an option for system link gameplay. With two players, running, gunning, and taking out B.O.W.s made for a highly entertaining time.

8) Secret of Mana (SNES)

Sort of like The Legend of Zelda if the games had full RPG elements (e.g. leveling up, stat boosts, etc.), Secret of Mana is a top-down action-RPG where swords, shields, and magic clash in epic real-time confrontations in a fantasy world. Co-op play was not available at the beginning of the game as you only had the hero to work with, but when the first party member joined, the option opened up and good times were had. There is nothing like working together to overcome a foreboding foe.

7) LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)

Not just a platform game but a platform for games, LittleBigPlanet 2 stirred the inner game designer in most of its players. Millions of levels from the first game were transferred over to the sequel, fully editable and able to play. Taking a friend through the story mode or just messing about in some of the created levels by players across the world were some of the activities that could be done. Outside of the platforming elements, you could play various mini-games manufactured using the game's exhaustive amount of tools. Not knowing if the next level you'd enter would be astonishing or awful always possessed a great amount of fun. You could spend dozens of hours exploring the uncharted world of LittleBigPlanet 2 locally with up to three other friends (though you could also play online).

6) Gears of War (360)

My excitement for the Gears of War series sort of fell off a metaphorical cliff with the second installment. The online was absolutely atrocious at the time, and that put me off completely, as did the forced dramatic elements. Regardless, I still hold high regard for the first game in the series, a title that redefined the third-person shooter experience, and one that other developers have been drawing inspiration from since. Playing the game with a buddy is a fulfilling experience, especially on later difficulties as you inch closer and closer to reaching that once futile-feeling checkpoint. Then the grind to master the next section of the act occurs and the cycle continues. But darn if it isn't a blast even in failure. Though, that vehicle section can burn in hell.

5) Gunstar Heroes (GEN) 

Gunstar Heroes is well-known title within hardcore gaming circles as a side scrolling shooter full of sensational boss battles, fast and frenzied gameplay, and multiple levels of accelerated action. A selection of four starting weapons can be obtained, but they can be combined for over a dozen different combinations. The game is enjoyable alone, of course, but the true fun comes when the Gunstar twin brothers team up to dish out some pain. The fast pace of Gunstar Heroes and the reflex-driven gameplay make the game a great one if you are an adrenaline junkie.

4) Kirby's Return to Dream Land (Wii)

The most recent game on this list of ten, Kirby's Return to Dream Land is one of my favorite Kirby games in the franchise's history. The ability to play with four players matches well with the wonderful level design, ease of difficulty (but don't be mistaken -- the game does get challenging, especially on EX Mode), and cute, cuddly, and colorful worlds. The four characters that can be controlled play very much differently from one another. You have Kirby who can inhale enemies and take their powers; Waddle Dee who has a spear that can cut ropes holding platforms up and that can attack through walls; Meta Knight who is skillful with his sword; and King Dedede who can wallop foes and pound wooden stakes down with his hammer. Players can ride one another like a moving totem pole of destruction, and Kirby can inhale teammates and blast them out at opponents. Playing with friends makes certain parts of Return to Dream Land much more manageable (particularly secret areas). It's one of the defining local multiplayer titles I have played this generation.

3) Perfect Dark (N64)

Coming from the first-person shooter that I enjoyed the most by far, Rare's Nintendo 64 wonder, Perfect Dark, took the formula that GoldenEye planted and expanded on it exponentially with awesome level design, cooler weapons, a massively greater multiplayer experience, and yes, cooperative play. Moving through the individual levels, splitting up objectives between friends to achieve the best amount of efficiency possible (which required some cunning strategy to pull off effectively), and rescuing each other when firefights get a tad too heated, Perfect Dark's co-op play is as remarkable as the game itself.

2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (SNES)

The best side scrolling brawler in arcades took things to the home with the Super Nintendo's TMNT IV: Turtles in Time. Konami was on a mission with this game. They fit the experience of the arcade game and they fixed and refined it for home console use. And they made a better game for it (even with the inability to play with four people). The levels like fighting off Foot Soldiers in the Technodrome, a city alley, and a Big Apple skyscraper under construction were absolutely memorable. Chucking your first Foot Soldier into the screen or tossing them left and right like a ragdoll made for some hilarious moments. Turtles in Time is a game that you don't just beat once and shelve it. No, you continue coming back to it as it is a source of endless entertainment.

1) New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Wii)

My favorite local cooperative game of all time is without a doubt New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I consider the game to be on par if not better than even the most classic Mario titles such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. The addition of up to four players in multiplayer allowed friends and family members to move through the worlds of New Super Mario Bros. Wii in ways never seen before. You could be a help (allowing another player to bounce off your head to reach a hard-to-nab Star Coin), or you could be a hindrance (pushing your friend off a platform and into a lava). This is the type of experience that would be impossible and pointless if players couldn't touch one another. Effective speed runs meant all players needed to be firing on all cylinders, rushing through obstacle-laden courses, making perfectly timed jumps, and having stragglers "bubble it up" if they were eaten the leader's dust. A terrific game on its own, but a marvelous multiplayer title, New Super Mario Bros. Wii takes the gold medal for local cooperative experiences.


There are several other games I wanted to put on this list but decided against such as Gauntlet, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, Perfect Dark Zero, Halo 3, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Rayman Origins. What are some of your favorite co-op titles of all time? Let your voice be heard below.

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