Two-player co-op is great and all, but why not up the ante and double your fun? There are a few games (besides sports titles) that have embraced this play style and nailed it. If you missed out on any of the below, it’s not too late to track them down. And since I can’t reasonably play everything out there, feel free to add your own to the list in the comments.
First we have Armada, which represents an interesting and under-appreciated melding of four-player shmup (overhead space shooter) with RPG elements and progression on the Dreamcast. I played it and played it and when my thumbs finally stopped hurting, I played it some more. Upgrading weapons, gaining money and experience, then cashing it in to delve deeper into the depths of the unknown vacuum….it was fantastic even as a solo endeavor, but add to that the four-player co-op aspect, and you’ve got a hit. All it was lacking was online
multiplayer, something a modern-day sequel could easily remedy, capturing that lightning in a bottle all over again. While it could easily be viewed as a grind for numbers just to get better loot, it’s a grind that’s difficult to tire of. It even managed to make escort missions engaging and fun instead of frustrating.
Next we have Newgrounds/Behemoths Castle Crashers (PSN/XBLA), a stylized tribute to beat-em-up gems like Golden Axe and Final Fight. Again, it brings four-player co-op to the mix — online or local — and adds to that established formula of “walk to the right, kill everything, fight boss.” There are upgrades in weapons and skill points that you can allocate however you see fit between strength, magic, defense, and agility. The style, humor, and ridiculous storyline and characters will entertain, and the simple controls will have even novices slinging spells alongside melee and archery attacks with the greatest of ease. Outside the main campaign are Arena mode (think survival against ever-increasing waves of baddies) and Volleyball. Each is fun in its own way, and is built around involving as many players as possible.
Borderlands came out of almost nowhere to surprise the heck out of more than a few players. Again joining previously dissimilar game play styles, it manages to combine first-person shooting with RPG customization and Diablo/World of Warcraft-esque weapons, where there are a base number of types, but a near infinite number of combinations of statistics they can have. Sniper rifles that set targets ablaze on impact? Revolvers that fire electrically charged bullets? Submachine guns that throw corrosive acid all over their targets? Yes please. Up to four-player online play (or two-player split screen on PS3/360) is how it’s best experienced. What’s more, if you’re the tinkering type, download WillowTree to customize your save files and characters on any version of the game — PS3, Xbox 360, or PC. While you can’t transfer saves directly from one platform to another, you can use WillowTree to build your character on another platform and save time with all that grinding and leveling! You can even build custom weapons with it to use in the game.
There are so many more we could talk about: Zelda’s Four Swords (DS), Rainbow Six Vegas’ four-player campaign (PC/PS3/360), Boom Blox (Wii), Monster Hunter Tri‘s four-player online beast slaying (Wii), Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast/GameCube/PS2), Ghostbusters (PS3/360/Wii)…I could go on and on. What are some of your favorite co-op titles?