The Local Renaissance

It’s no secret that the fighting game genre has experienced a stellar revival in recent years, due in no small part to the success of Street Fighter IV in 2009. But what might surprise you is that another renaissance is happening at the moment, one long thought lost to the advancement and popularity of online gaming: the return of local multiplayer games.

And what’s probably most interesting of all is that it’s happening on the PC. Sure, we’ve seen the odd title with a focus on local play there with the likes of Monaco or Speedrunners, but in the last six months the indie scene has exploded with a focus on casual (and possibly drunken) local multiplayer. Have you got a couple of wired 360 or PS3 controllers ready to hook up to your PC? Then let’s hit the list below!

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Name: Crawl
Price: TBD
Availability: Q1-Q2 2014; PC (Steam Greenlit)

What if you took the invasion mechanic pioneered in FromSoftware’s Souls series and made it environment-based? That’s one way to describe the basic concept behind Crawl, an arcade-like multiplayer dungeon experience where one player controls the “Hero” and the rest command dangerous traps. Players can even level up their heroes and minions while exploring the randomly-generated crypts, testing the effectiveness of new weapons and armour against increasingly disparate monsters. Featuring beautifully-animated pixel art and pitch-perfect arcade audio (not to mention a killer trailer), it’s no surprise that Crawl was Greenlit for release on Steam in less than 24 hours.

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Name: Gang Beasts
Price: Free pre-alpha download (full version TBD)
Availability: Early access/alpha available here; PC

Gang Beasts shot to fame after a surprise appearance on a Giant Bomb “Unprofessional Fridays” segment in February, where the crew’s couch-based multiplayer setup revealed the genius of Gang Beast’s design, even in its pre-alpha state. One part physics-based brawler and one part wrestling homage, the game gives each player full control of the limbs of their candy-coloured avatar, and asks them to punch, smack, grab and throw their opponents in any way that will assure victory. With arenas that include gondolas, meat grinders, burning buildings and even two trucks moving in near-unison (!), the results are almost always unpredictable and most assuredly downright hilarious.

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Name: Nidhogg
Price: £11.99
Availability: Out Now; PC (Steam, Humble Store)

In development for nearly four years, Mark “Messhof” Essen’s title Nidhogg presents an uncompromising – and often brutal – vision of two-person fencing. Playing something like a psychedelic (and significantly tweaked) take on the sword-play from the original Prince of Persia, Nidhogg expertly navigates that critical line between accessibility and depth, leading to moments of emergent gameplay that are hard to replicate. And with mutator-style “variants” that massively mix up the core gameplay, you’ll have to ask yourself: are you for or against Boomerang Swords?

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Name: Samurai Gunn
Price: £9.49
Availability: Out Now; PC (Steam, Humble Store)

Tense samurai encounters are boiled down to their absolute basics in this four-player dueling arena game. Wielding either a katana blade (for melee attacks) or a single chi blast (ranged), players must whittle down their opponents’ life stock to be crowned the victor. And should the match end in a draw, the final two players will face off in one last, epic showdown. Although comparatively simple when examined against some of its competition on this list (and arguably a little pricey), Samurai Gunn nonetheless succeeds due to tight controls, some neat level mechanics and instant accessibility.

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Name: Sportsfriends
Price: TBD
Availability: Q2 2014; PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & PC

A compilation of four unique games, Sportsfriends puts a modern twist on classic arcade experiences. Hokra plays like a manic mash-up of football and Warlords, while Super Pole Riders takes the grand old sport of polo and throws elements of pole-vaunting and QWOP into the formula. Bari Bari Ball, meanwhile, is a zone-based possession game, requiring dedicated coordination and cooperation in teams to successfully score points. In addition, Sportsfriends contains Johann Sebastian’s unusual contact sport Joust, which tasks players – in real life! – with removing a competitor’s PlayStation Move controller from their hands, all the while keeping their own still.

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Name: TowerFall Ascension
Price: £8.99 – £11.99
Availability: Out Now; PC (Steam, Humble Store), PlayStation 4

Originally launching last year as an exclusive for the Android-based Ouya microconsole, TowerFall quickly established itself as the killer app for that platform. Described as a mix of Nintendo’s classic Super Smash Bros. and more recent indie titles like Nidhogg, TowerFall pits two or more players against each other in an archery-based bout to the death, where every arrow and every shot must fly true. The “Ascension” update not only brings the title to the PC and the PlayStation 4, but also introduces an elaborate one or two-player co-op “Quest” mode, as well as adding 50 new maps to the classic Versus mode.

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