The Video Game Critic Presents

The Top 25 Multiplayer Games
of All Time

Updated 1/28/2015

I enjoy playing games alone but some of my fondest video game memories have involved getting together with friends to enjoy some light-hearted, beer-soaked competition. This page ranks the best multiplayer games I've played, and every one is an absolutely blast if you have enough people. Please note that for the purpose of this article I'm limiting the selection to four-player games. I don't expect everyone to agree with the list but maybe it will give you some good ideas.

#25 Super Off Road (Tradewest, 1990)
System: NES
Grade: B+
screenshotSuper Off Road was an arcade racer known for its four-player action. Although each track fits on a single screen, they sport plenty of detail with steep hills, sharp curves, and ramps. The racing trucks look like little toys as they bounce over hills and slide around corners. This NES rendition is arguably superior to its 16-bit cousins. That's because it supports four-player simultaneous action so you can play this game how God intended. Each player is prompted to enter his initials and choose a country. An upgrade screen appears before each race, allowing players to soup up their vehicles. In addition to standard upgrades (acceleration, shocks, tires) you'll want to keep a healthy supply of turbos on hand. The races are rough and tumble as the trucks bump into each other and sometimes even appear to ride over each other. It's advantageous to remain ahead of the pack because you usually have first dibs on power-ups that appear randomly around the course. I've seen CPU trucks double-back to snag these, but wouldn't recommend trying that. A race ends when one racer completes the required number of laps - no need to wait for the stragglers. The victory screen shows the top three winners with babes in arm, but the chicks all look alike. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of tracks. Racing against CPU opponents is good practice but not very challenging. As a pure head-to-head racer however, Super Off Road is a classic, and this is the version to own.

#24 Rally Cross (Sony, 1996)
System: Playstation
Grade: B
screenshotThis off-road racer clocked a tremendous number of hours on my Playstation back in the day, mainly due to its competitive four-player split-screen mode. Rally Cross pits compact cars against pick-up trucks in races through tropical jungles, sandy deserts, icy cliffs, and mine tunnels. The graphics are exceptionally sharp with finely detailed vehicles and scenic, rolling tracks. The physics is best described as "bouncy", so hitting a bump at a bad angle can send you tumbling end over end. When you find yourself flipped over, you need to "rock" your vehicle by alternately pressing the shoulder buttons. To avoid this predicament get used to tapping the brakes around each curve to execute a controlled power slide. Rally Cross was one of the first racers to include a split-screen mode for four players, and my friends and I played the hell out of it. Despite its degraded visuals and choppy frame-rate the contests were consistently fun and exciting. There's nothing better than T-boning a friend or simply plowing straight into a traffic jam. There's no damage modeling but the track designs provide ample opportunity for devastating collisions. I also like how the pixilated water and mud splashes as you slice through it. Rally Cross does have a few annoyances. When using automatic transmissions you'll still need to manually place your car into first gear to begin the race. Usually you forget and just sit there revving your engine as everyone else darts out ahead. It's also necessary to manually shift gears when you need to reverse, which is a pain. The camera doesn't behave well in tight places, and if you wind up facing the wrong way inside a cave, you're really screwed. The mine and jungle tracks are terrific but the garden and snow tracks are too long and dull. The fantastic sound effects include creaking suspensions and crunching metal, but the generic guitar music is a bit grating. You might expect a game like Rally Cross to have aged poorly, but it has not. The pixelation in its graphics adds charm, and that crazy physics just adds to the challenge.

#23 Castle Crisis (Bryan Edewaard, 2003)
System: Atari XEGS
Grade: A
screenshotIf you're a classic gamer that revels in cutthroat multiplayer action, this is the game you've been waiting for all your life (whether you knew it or not). Castle Crisis takes the time-honored gameplay of Warlords and ratchets up the graphics, speed, and overall excitement level. Gamers around the globe owe a debt of gratitude to Bryan Edewaard for programming this gem - from scratch no less! Castle Crisis looks just like the Warlords arcade game, with a walled castle in each corner and a single shield defending it. A dragon kicks off each contest by flying to the center of the screen and unleashing the first fireball. In addition to deflecting it, you can also catch a fireball with your shield and throw it in a new direction. I love how holding a fireball gradually burns away your own wall, discouraging players from holding it for too long. As each match progresses, additional fireballs are added to the mix, and by the time only two castles remain, the action is crazy. The graphics are colorful, well defined, and show no hint of slowdown. But the best part of all is the fact that Castle Crisis uses paddle controllers. Have you even tried to play Warlords with a control pad or joystick? It doesn't work very well. For games like this, nothing but a good paddle will do. Castle Crisis supports one to four players, and you can also select the number of rounds. If there's a flaw with this game, it may be the funky rules that apply to CPU-controlled players in the two and three-player modes. In the two-player mode, when the CPU wins a round, the whole game ends. In the three-player mode, CPU wins simply don't count. I would have preferred the CPU players to be treated like normal players. Of course, these issues don't apply to the enjoyable one-player mode or the outstanding four-player mode. Castle Crisis is a must-have title. If you don't have an Atari XEGS or Atari 8-bit computer, get one. If you do, pick up a copy of Castle Crisis at www.atariage.com.

#22 Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat (Tradewest, 1992)
System: NES
Grade: A
screenshotAs a late arrival on the NES, many gamers missed out on this overhead racer the first time around. With its toy-sized cars, screen-sized tracks, and quick races, Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat is like a dream come true for old-school fans. Despite its small scale, Indy Heat boasts better visuals and more strategy than most NES racers. The tracks are rendered exceptionally well from an isometric point of view, giving them a distinct sense of depth. Each of the nine courses sports a different configuration, and there's plenty of eye candy among the crowds in the stands, trucks, trees, and buildings. A tall scoreboard in the center clearly shows the lap count of each racer, and a tiny man waves the white and checkered flags. There are even men that hold up "PIT" signs when it's time for maintenance. Each race consists of five cars, and if you have a multi-tap, you can connect four controllers and challenge a group of friends! Can you guess who's driving that yellow car that always seems to win? Yeah - that's Danny Sullivan! The controls are simple as can be, but there's plenty of strategy involved with timing your turbo boosts and using the pit stops in the most efficient manner. The tracks tend to be narrow, so there's a lot of bumping going on as you jockey for position. In the pit area, tiny crew members leap out to work on your car, which looks funny but impressive at the same time. This is one of the few games where pit stops really do make a difference! Between races you can easily and quickly use winnings to upgrade your vehicle. Expertly designed and programmed with care, Indy Heat sets the high water mark for old-school racing fun.

#21 Sled Storm (Electronic Arts, 1999)
System: Playstation
Grade: B+
screenshotMy love of snow led me to purchase this game, and it paid off. Sled Storm is a realistic snowmobile racer with blizzard conditions, icy mountain scenery, and good multi-player support. The races deliver white-knuckle thrills as you bound over hills, careen through valleys, and sideswipe your opponents to gain position. A steady frame-rate keeps the action running smoothly - even on the four-player split screen! The controls are simple but you have the ability to lean into your turns. Catching air and performing tricks lets you rack up points for upgrades, but sometimes it's not worth the risk of a wreck. I love how the sleds bounce softly over the slopes and kick up snow behind them. The courses are ideal in length and come in two flavors: snocross and open mountain. The snocross tracks are closed motorcross-style courses with banked turns and bumpy sections. I prefer the mountain tracks that wind through scenic forests and along harrowing cliffs. Ramps and hidden shortcuts are abundant and add replay value. You can destroy obstacles like fences and snowmen for points, and I earned 7500 points for running over a rabbit (and yes, I feel bad about that). The steering feels about right and sliding along icy patches is especially fun. The single-player championship is addictive, and I like how CPU racers tend to wipe out, giving you a chance to come from behind. That's important considering you need to finish first to advance. The soundtrack is dominated by Rob Zombie's blaring "Dragula", but it could be worse, right? Not really! It seems like every "extreme" game of the late 1990's had to license that annoying song. Still, this game is one of the best of its kind. Whether playing alone or against friends, Sled Storm provides ageless competitive winter racing action.

#20 Virtua Athlete (Sega, 1999)
System: Dreamcast
Grade: C+
screenshotVirtua Athlete is similar to Konami's Track and Field for the Playstation, and it makes an awesome four-player party game. There are only seven events, and they include shot put, javelin, long jump, high jump, hurdles, and two running events. The stadium backgrounds are nicely detailed, and the athletes are smoothly animated, but boy do these guys look silly. First off, it looks like they're all wearing thongs! Next, they run like a bunch of pansies! It's hard not to laugh at this game. Before each event, there are some quick instructions flashed on the screen. The controls are simple, usually involving tapping two buttons and pressing a third at the correct time. The trajectory meters are numeric only (opposed to graphical), making it difficult to judge them very well. There's not much lag time between events, and you can breeze through the game in just a few minutes. While I enjoyed the first six events, the final event is pure torture. It's the 1500-meter sprint, but it feels like 15 miles. You really need to pace yourself. If you sprint ahead, you'll find soon find yourself languishing in last place. Virtua Athlete has a unique feature that let you build your own athlete and storing him to VMU, which is pretty neat. Overall this game is mediocre in many ways, but it's an absolute riot if you have four players.

#19 Beach Spikers (Sega, 2002)
System: GameCube
Grade: B
screenshotMy friends all had similar reactions to Beach Spikers: "This is a GameCube game?!" It's not often that you see beautiful, scantily-clad women jumping around on a Nintendo system. The box claims "Beach Volleyball has never been hotter!" and you'll get no argument here. The female athletes are certainly curvaceous, and while there's nothing truly objectionable in the game, my friends did whoop it up pretty good when the gals tenderly embraced to congratulate each other. Apparently the days of having men players in volleyball games are long gone, and good riddance! So, is Beach Spikers any good? Absolutely. As they did with Tennis and Soccer, Sega has transformed an average sport into an arcade extravaganza. And the game's arcade origins are obvious when you see "Enjoy the game" and "Thanks for playing" on the screen. Beach Spikers is simple to play but completely addictive and challenging. The volleys are exciting, and positioning your players is key. Only two buttons are used, and a simple meter determines the power of spikes and serves. Playing modes include arcade, multi-player, career, and even a few mini-games. The idea behind the career mode is to incrementally increase the skill of your inept CPU partner, who you can praise, encourage, or reprimand! The announcer in Beach Spikers sounds overtly gay, so it's hard not to crack up when you hear his lisp. One flaw with the game is the camera, which is constantly swinging around, making it easy to become disoriented. The blocks aren't particularly effective, so most of the time it's best to hang back. Also, this game needs a tournament mode in the worst way. But in general Beach Spikers is a winner, especially with four players. It's not quite up to the level of Virtua Tennis, but it's cast from the same mold.

#18 Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo, 2008)
System: Wii
Grade: A-
screenshotIf you enjoy breathing air, you'll probably enjoy Mario Kart Wii. I doubt there's ever been another racer as inviting or readily enjoyable. Unlike Mario Kart Double Dash (GameCube, 2003), there's only one character per car, but there's a much wider selection of vehicles to choose from. Besides the standard karts, you can drive off-road four-by-fours, dragsters, stock cars, and motorcycles. The motorcycles are unique because they take up less space on the road and have the ability to execute "wheelies" for mini speed bursts. The game borrows some ideas from Mario Kart DS, like the view-obstructing squid ink attack and the inclusion of tracks from classic Mario Kart titles. If the old tracks give you a "been there, done that" feeling, rest assured the new tracks are amazing. I love the shopping mall's dual levels, escalators, and a bright, palm tree-lined parking lot. The mine-cart track is a virtual rollercoaster, and the snow courses feature mammoth half-pipes. A relaxing autumn stage lets you plow through leaves, and the wet-and-wild island track feels like a virtual water slide! The graphics are comparable to the GameCube, but close inspection reveals a lot of subtle details, like your character pumping his fist when one of his weapons hits. Playing solo is madly addictive and the raucous split-screen mode accommodates up to four players. I hear the on-line action is also superb. The motion-based controls are fantastic, providing the most precise steering ever. Although the included plastic steering wheel is not really necessary, it feels comfortable. Mario Kart Wii would have been an A+ title if Nintendo had shown a little restraint with the power-ups, which are far too ubiquitous. Not only are there item boxes along every stretch of road, but you typically get three items at a time! The trailing karts get the best power-ups, and the leader routinely gets pelted with multiple shells - sometimes going from first to last in two seconds. I was never a fan of the unavoidable purple shell, and that new "POW" block is an unwelcome addition. You feel obligated to immediately unload whatever you pick up just so you'll be able to collect the next batch. The squid ink attack is a neat concept, but it occurs too often. Maybe Nintendo went overboard in an attempt to distance this game from Double Dash. It's not perfect, but Mario Kart Wii is undeniably fun and has universal appeal.

#17 Twisted Metal (Sony, 2012)
System: Playstation 3
Grade: A+
screenshotI've been on the Twisted Metal bandwagon since day one, so I know a good car-wrecker when I see it. The series was hugely popular on the original Playstation but the ill-conceived Twisted Metal Black (PS2, 2001) soured a lot of fans. All things considered, it was probably a good time for a reboot. I'm happy to report that this is everything Black should have been and much, much more. It retains the dark themes of Black but its arcade-style mayhem is more reminiscent of the original games. In fact, the classic controls are the same as the 1995 original. The sprawling, high-definition stages include the stormy suburbs, run-down industrial areas, and an amusement park complete with a haunted house. There's a snowy Christmas-themed city stage and a trap-laden arena that's constantly changing in configuration. You can race through the storefronts of many buildings, shattering windows and plowing through furniture. All your favorite vehicles are back and now you can even pilot a helicopter named Talon. Twisted Metals's gameplay is finely tuned, and I love how you can load up on weapons. When you get an enemy in your sights, you can unleash hell by tapping the lower triggers. The ensuing chaos is dazzling, and I love the flying numbers to indicate damage. This, my friends, is some quality violence! You even get the old "special moves" like freeze and shield. The single-player story mode features computer enhanced live-action (!) scenes which are gory, disturbing, and a heck of a lot of fun to watch! A wide variety of challenges include "battle races", "moving cage" battles, bosses, and endurance matches. You can even play co-op with a friend! A fully-configuration split-screen mode supports up to four players. There's the obligatory on-line mode and a challenge mode that lets a single player go up against an army of bots. The musical score is dead-on with appropriately abrasive tunes like "I Can't Drive 55", "Heavy Metal", "Dragula", and even "Straight Outta Compton". I can't get over how much fun this new Twisted Metal is. This is so good, I'm afraid they might not have to make another one!

#16 Hydro Thunder Hurricane (Microsoft, 2010)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: A
screenshotMy friends and I always held Hydro Thunder (Dreamcast, 1999) in high esteem, so there was no resisting this sequel, despite the fact that it's only available via download. This stylish boat racer is pure arcade fun. The undulating waves, colorful boats, and spectacular tracks will absolutely bombard your senses. There's a nice sense of speed and I love the sensation of going over giant waterfalls. Explosions jolt your boat and collapsing cliffs create surging tidal waves. I love how the water sprays your windshield - you can almost feel the mist! The stormy Norwegian track features a giant Thor who looms over the action and attacks with his hammer. Your boat glides smoothly through the water and touching canisters fills your turbo meter. Turbo not only allows you to surge ahead, but also jump to reach hidden shortcuts and power-ups. It's easy to unlock new tracks and modes, and this will provide enough incentive to keep you playing for hours on end. In addition to on-line competition you can play your friends via four-player split-screen (sweet). Extra modes include "rings" slalom courses and a gauntlet mode where you need to avoid explosive barrels. The rings mode is a little tedious but I like how it reveals many of the hidden shortcuts. Getting to know the tracks is crucial, especially since many feature narrow canals and sharp turns. You don't see many pick-up-and-play games like Hydro Thunder Hurricane anymore, and that's a shame. It's also too bad it was delegated to download status, because I would cherish a copy of this on disk. With its eye-popping graphics and non-stop action, Hydro Thunder Hurricane has earned the title of "new summer classic."

#15 Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Activision, 2012)
System: Xbox 360
Grade: B+
screenshotLike the original game, Black Ops 2 weaves a convoluted storyline that's played out over a series of diverse stages. You begin on a battlefield in Angola, where I was instantly reminded how hard it can be to tell the good guys from the bad. As with most recent Call of Duty titles, the game doesn't shy away from exposing the player to the horrors of war. There are some gruesome scenes, but in fairness, the game offers you the option to skip them. The missions are uneven in quality, but Black Ops 2 has its share of white-knuckle scenarios. When you're rescuing a fellow soldier and need to carry him through hostile territory, you'll be holding the controller like a vice grip. The gunfights are hectic but satisfying thanks to the pinpoint-targeting system. There's no shortage of ammo, and it seems like every weapon you pick up is better than the last. The load times are negligible, and frequent checkpoints ensure you won't have to retread too much ground after that lone sniper bullet takes you out. The game's risk-reward dynamic often comes into play as you must decide whether to systematically weed out enemies or make a mad dash for your destination. The variety of locations and missions is pretty spectacular. In one stage you jump off a cliff and glide in a wing-suit down onto some temple ruins during a raging thunderstorm. In another you're avoiding helicopter-like "drones" at night in a flooded city with buses floating down the streets. Real footage, photographs, and historical figures (including Manuel Noriega) add weight to the storyline, but the game often veers into Hollywood territory. The Afghanistan stage borrows liberally from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and some technology looks like it was borrowed from a Terminator movie. The game's more dramatic scenes are heavily scripted, so it's hard to tell if you're actually in control. An unwelcome new addition is the "strike force" missions which attempt to add a real-time strategy element. I found these confusing and unnecessary. Despite the polished look, I did encounter a nasty bug that forced me to restart one mission. In general I found Black Ops 2 less intriguing than the first. Still, the disc is jam-packed with features including a coop action, split-screen free-for-alls, and a bonus zombie mode. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 may be a drama queen, but there's a heck of a lot of content here for shooting fans.

#14 Micro Machines 64 Turbo (Nintendo, 1999)
System: Nintendo 64
Grade: B+
screenshotMicro Machines lets you race tiny toy cars (and boats) around normal household environments including a kitchen table, desk, pool table, and swimming pool. There's even a beach with sand castles! A super party game, Micro Machines allows up to eight players to play simultaneously using four controllers (two people per controller!). Unlike most racers, this game isn't played on a split screen. The camera simply follows the leader, and those who fall behind (off the screen) lose. It's a blast to play, especially with the wacky assortment of weapons available (like the big sledge hammer). The one player modes are less exciting, but they do allow you to unlock bonus cars which you can save and use later. The tracks convey a good sense of humor and attention to detail. The main problem with Micro Machines 64 has got to be its limited overhead view, which doesn't let you see much of the track ahead. If you go too fast, you may find yourself flying off the table before you even see it coming! As a result, success in this game is largely a matter of memorizing the tracks. Still, you can't beat Micro Machines for chaotic, multiplayer racing action.

#13 General Chaos (Electronic Arts, 1993)
System: Genesis
Grade: B
screenshotThis action/strategy game is a precursor to the RTS (real-time strategy) titles (like Command and Conquer) that would take the gaming world by storm in the late 90's. General Chaos pits two armies of soldiers (blue and red) in a series of chaotic battles to conquer land area and take over each other's base. Each battlefield is one screen in size, and it's strewn with bunkers and environmental hazards. There's usually a special landmark like a helicopter or water tower that you can blow up as a secondary objective. Your primary goal is to wipe out the enemy squad, and the skirmishes are short and sweet. With five soldiers fighting non-stop on each side, there's a lot of stuff going on around the screen. You customizable squad is composed of soldiers of various classes, including the machine "gunner", the grenade "chucker", the flame-throwing "scorcher", the rocket "launcher", and the dynamite-tossing "blaster". Each has his own range and firepower, giving the game a nice layer of strategy. The controls are unique in that you only position your troops. They all aim and fire automatically when you hold in the A button. It's fun to watch the action unfold and satisfying to achieve a lop-sided victory, ending with the last enemy troop getting ganged up on. The single-player mode isn't very challenging, but General Chaos kicks into overdrive when it comes to head-to-head action. I originally bought this game because it supported four-players (with EA's adapter), and I was not disappointed. I fondly recall my friend Steve asking, "What a-creege?" after reading the acreage tally after a battle. After recently revisiting this game with a new group of guys, I can attest that it's still a riot! The frame-rate tends to fluctuate, but there are some classic animations like when a soldier takes a direct hit from a rocket and is transformed a standing skeleton! It's also funny when a hand-to-hand battle ends with the loser pulling out a gun and shooting the other guy. Speaking of hand-to-hand combat, it's the weakest part of the game. Not only is it terribly shallow (just mash buttons to trade punches), it halts the rest of the action and totally disrupts the flow of the game. I really wish that could be turned off. It's also annoying when your soldier won't seem to aim in the proper direction. General Chaos may be a little rough around the edges, but if you get some rowdy guys together to play it, hilarity will ensue.

#12 Virtua Tennis (Sega, 2000)
System: Dreamcast
Grade: A+
screenshotJust when you thought Sega Sports was running out of steam, they release the first great Tennis game in AGES. And when I say ages, I'm not exaggerating! You can go all the way back to Activision's 1982 Tennis game for the last truly fun Tennis title. What's even more surprising is how simple Virtua Tennis is to play; there are only two buttons: shot and lob! The key to this game is positioning, and it's amazing how much control you have over your hits. You control the aim, strength, and can even apply spin! As you would expect from the Dreamcast, the graphics are smooth and life-like. You can choose between eight actual tennis players (all men). From a distance they look great, but close ups reveal faces that resemble Frankenstein with Chewbacca teeth. The background graphics and sound are fine but you won't notice them because they take a backseat to the outstanding gameplay. There are several modes, including 4-player doubles matches and a tournament mode which is full of fun mini-games. Here's something you might not notice: when you're playing the game, check out your VMU screen. You can watch the game on the VMU also!! It may not be practical, but it looks amazing! No question about it: Virtua Tennis IS the best tennis video game EVER, and easily one of the most thrilling multi-player games of all time.

#11 NBA Jam Tournament Edition (Acclaim, 1994)
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: A
screenshotCapitalizing on the unbridled success of the first NBA Jam, Acclaim's Tournament Edition retains the fast-paced gameplay of the original while spicing things up with interesting new options. Each team now has three players to choose from instead of two, and you can substitute between quarters. The gameplay places more emphasis on defense, so you can expect to see more steals, blocked shots, and "boings" off the rim. The expanded options menu lets you customize more aspects of the game, as well as enabling power-ups and "hot spots" on the floor that are worth extra points. The new "juice mode" speeds up the action and sends things into overdrive. But the most valuable new addition is the inclusion of a much-need four-player mode. Statistics are now saved via battery backup instead of a long password. NBA Jam Tournament Edition retains the magic of the original game but offers more options, more unpredictability, and more fun.

#10 Mario Strikers Charged (Nintendo, 2007)
System: Wii
Grade: A
screenshotDespite the system's unbridled popularity, one could argue that the Wii hasn't had an outstanding game since Wii Sports. Enter Mario Strikers Charged. I was a bit lukewarm on the original Super Mario Strikers (GameCube, 2005), but Charged won me over from the start. Not only is the single-player mode incredibly addictive and fun, but the multi-player action is the most raucous I've played in years! Making use of the nun-chuck attachment, the control scheme incorporates motion controls without feeling forced or contrived. The thumbstick moves your player, and shaking the Wi-mote effectively clobbers a nearby opponent. These "checking" controls are a great idea, but overly-enthusiastic gamers might accidentally smack their other controller (or hand) in the midst of the mayhem (not that I would ever do something like that). During powered-up "mega-shots" on goal, pointing the controller at the screen allows a defender to move around a pair of hands to block the bombardment of incoming shots. Mario Strikers Charged looks like the GameCube version, but the action is far more chaotic thanks to a healthy supply of weapons and arena-specific obstacles that appear when you least expect. You can lose track of the ball when things get crazy, but you're not likely to lose track of your player since large "player numbers" are displayed over people-controlled characters. Your team is customizable this time around, so you can select teammates with specific physical attributes and skill sets. Team captains possess their own special abilities, but unless you choose an oversized character like Donkey Kong or Bowser, it can be hard to discern your captain from your teammates on the field. Each match only lasts for three minutes, but those are intense minutes! Of course, should you end up in a tight overtime contest, it's not unusual for the match to run over ten minutes. The excellent audio is also worth mentioning, with high-octane music that really gets the adrenaline flowing. That cheesy "elevator music" that plays during the pause screen is pretty funny. Mario Striker Charged is an extremely fun sports title in the tradition of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz. This proves that a Wii game doesn't have to totally rely on motion controls to be a hit.

#9 Crash Team Racing (Naughty Dog, 1999)
System: Playstation
Grade: A
screenshotRealistic racing games are fine, but when it comes to multi-player fun, you can't beat a good kart game. Kart racers have been with us since Super Mario Kart (Super Nintendo, 1992), but the Playstation didn't get its first one until Crash Team Racing (CTR). Fortunately, CTR was well worth the wait, effectively blowing all of its competitors out of the water (including Mario Kart 64)! CTR's comical characters were introduced in the first three Crash games and serve as a nicely diverse set of drivers. The tracks may look rougher than those Mario Kart 64, but these are far more interesting and imaginative. The backgrounds are clearly inspired from past Crash games, incorporating locales like jungles, snowy ridges, ancient temples, and massive sewers. Each track features ramps, shortcuts, and ample powerups. In terms of control, Naughty Dog has succeeded where others have failed. Your kart is easy to control, so instead of struggling to stay on the track, you can concentrate on the racing instead. Naughty Dog also recognized that jumping ramps is fun, so they reward players who catch "big air" with a speed boost when they land. CTR's play modes includes adventure, arcade, versus, time trial, and battle. The addicting adventure mode challenges the solo player to beat each track and collect special items, unlocking new racers and tracks in the process. The versus mode allows up to four players go head-to-head via split-screen, and it's a blast. CTR's frame rate remains consistently smooth, even with four players. The battle mode is just okay, but with so many racers buzzing around the open playing field, it's hard to target anyone in particular. Overall, CTR is an awesome title, one that should go down as one of the best kart racers of all time.

#8 Kings of the Beach (Ultra, 1988)
System: NES
Grade: A
screenshotI've played a lot of volleyball games in my time, and Kings of the Beach is the best classic volleyball game! Its graphics are terrific, with scenic backdrops and well-defined players. Okay, one guy looks like he's wearing a diaper, but work with me here. A brilliant control scheme lets you spike, block, and even dive for the ball. One problem that plagues many volleyball games is the ability to get your player into proper position to hit the ball. Kings of the Beach addresses this issue by stopping your player once he's moved into the correct spot, and that makes all the difference in the world. There's even a training mode to help you learn the moves. Volleyball is all about teamwork, and this game makes it easy to cooperate. Grab a multi-tap to form teams, or join forces with a friend to challenge a CPU-controlled team! Kings of the Beach is easy to play, but mastering it is another story, and the CPU opponents are no joke. So if you're in the mood to run around in the sand and spike a ball into somebody's face, Kings of the Beach is your game.

#7 Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo, 1997)
System: Nintendo 64
Grade: C+
screenshotFirst-person shooters were the rage on PCs in the 1990's, with LAN parties popping up all over so people could engage in multiplayer combat. Goldeneye 007 filled that niche in the console world, offering quality first-person shooting with a four-player split-screen. LAN parties could be logistical nightmares but anyone with a Nintendo 64 and a few controllers could engage in a raucous multiplayer deathmatch. It was great at the time but Goldeneye hasn't aged well. I'm reviewing this game from a present-day perspective, so please don't get mad out there! The framerate is fairly smooth but the maze-like arenas are repetitive and the graphics look muddy. I found myself running in circles, struggling just to locate my friends. And while there's a slew of customization options, there's no way to add CPU opponents. The single-player campaign has aged much better. It reprises exotic locations from the film like a massive dam, snowy Siberia, and an Egyptian temple. The attention to detail is commendable with sophisticated operating facilities, destructible environments, and satisfying explosions. The character models are angular but their digitized faces are notable. The blood is modest but I love how gunned-down soldiers scream and contort their bodies like ragdolls. It's like I'm fighting an army of Pinocchios for crying out loud! The smooth framerate and ability to strafe makes navigating narrow corridors a breeze. Stealth is sometimes called for but it's hard to avoid frantic shootouts. The nifty auto-aim lets you mow down enemy soldiers with ease, piling up bodies in the doorways. The missions are short but the objectives are so specific it often takes several attempts to complete them properly. The audio is outstanding, serving up crisp sound effects and a pulse-pounding musical score. Goldeneye may not be what it once was, but it will remain one of the most celebrated titles for the Nintendo 64. For fans I'd recommend its superior sequel, 007: The World Is Not Enough (Electronic Arts, 2000).

#6 Super Monkey Ball (Sega, 2001)
System: GameCube
Grade: B+
screenshotWith Super Monkey Ball, I think I've discovered the definitive party game for the Gamecube. Rolling monkeys around in clear plastic balls has never been this much fun - and I would know! Super Monkey Ball's electrifying "party mode" features three incredible multi-player games. Monkey Racing plays like a wild "kart" game, with momentum playing a huge role. Monkey Fight lets you punch other players with oversized boxing gloves to knock them off an elevated platform. Monkey Target is the best of all, with airborne monkeys gliding onto distant targets scattered in an ocean of islands. All three games are easy to play, addictive, and fun. But wait - there's more! There are three additional games you can unlock as well: Monkey Bowling, Monkey Billiards, and Monkey Golf. This leads to my one, major complaint. In order to open these mini-games, you have to earn points in the tedious one-player mode, and that really sucks! This single-player mode plays like those old marble games where you tilt a board on both axis to navigate a maze. You have to traverse some very perilous platforms without falling off. The first few stages aren't so bad, but the advanced levels are like walking a tightrope! Opening the mini-games soon becomes a major chore, and you'll be looking up and down for a cheat code. Other than that major flaw, Super Monkey Ball is a fine package that will keep you and your friends occupied for hours on end.

#5 Poy Poy (Konami, 1997)
System: Playstation
Grade: A
screenshotDo the words "best multiplayer game ever made" mean anything to you? If so, you should check out Poy Poy, which also gets my vote for most underrated game of all time! Don't let the silly name and goofy graphics fool you - this game is an absolute riot with four players! Each player controls a small cartoon character on a 3D playing field. Rocks and bombs litter the course which can be thrown at your opponents. It's even possible to grab another player and throw him around like a rag doll! Now that's disrespectful! Toss in some special weapons, monsters, and mystery crates, and the result is total chaos. Rivalries and alliances are formed and dissolved to keep one player from scoring too high. Insanely competitive and often hysterically funny, Poy Poy is one for the ages.

#4 Boom Blox (Electronic Arts, 2008)
System: Wii
Grade: A-
screenshotThis innovative title was designed by Steven Spielberg, and I have to admit it's absolutely ingenious. Boom Blox is best described in three words: "Jenga in reverse". Each screen consists of one or more structures composed of blocks. But instead of gently removing blocks, you toss balls at the structure in an attempt to knock away blocks, or better yet, destabilize the whole pile. Especially if you're a guy, the idea of knocking down large stacks of anything has a certain primeval appeal - it's the essence of fun! Boom Blox sidesteps being judged on its graphics by adopting a simplistic, cartoonish style. To throw, you lock onto your target (via the pointer), and then hurl the ball with a throwing motion. Spicing up the action are special blocks that can explode, vanish, or set off chain reactions. There are dozens of intriguing game variations, including some with point values printed on the side of each block. Boom Blox is absolutely gangbusters when played against one or more friends. As you take turns targeting the teetering structure, there's a sense of excitement, strategy, and anticipation. The suspense really builds as you hope the player before you doesn't notice the devastating shot you've lined up in your mind. You may have a sore arm the next day, but you'll still want a rematch. My friends gave Boom Blox a solid "A" for the multiplayer action, but I found the single player modes less compelling. These offer a more puzzle-oriented experience as you try to take down structures in the fewest possible throws. It's only mildly addicting, and the "goodies" you unlock are mainly just items for use in the "create mode". The create mode is a powerful editor that lets you construct your own stages, but most gamers will only tinker with it briefly. Solo play doesn't do this game justice, but if you have one or more friends on hand, Boom Blox may be the ultimate Wii experience.

#3 Super Bomberman (Hudson Soft, 1993)
System: Super Nintendo
Grade: A
screenshotMost systems have some sort of definitive multi-player "party" game, and Super Bomberman is "that game" for the Super Nintendo. On the surface, it doesn't look like much. The action starts with a short man in each corner of the maze. By clearing out walls and strategically dropping bombs, the goal is to be the last man standing. With multiple explosions leading to massive chain reactions, Bomberman's dynamic gameplay results in some wild and unpredictable battles. Power-ups give players the ability to drop multiple bombs, toss bombs across the screen, or unleash larger explosions. A variety of battlefields introduce complicating factors like trampolines and conveyer belts. Personally I prefer the raw simplicity of first stage, because the fancy ones tend to randomize the chaos more. Super Bomberman's graphics are modest but the controls are right on, and catchy music plays throughout the contests. The single-player adventure mode challenges you to clear out monsters in progressively difficult stages, but the multiplayer mode is "where it's at". You will definitely need a multitap for this one.

#2 Worms World Party (Titus, 2001)
System: Dreamcast
Grade: B+
screenshotWorms ranks right up there as one of the all-time great multiplayer games. The first Worms for the Dreamcast, Worms Armageddon (Titus, 2000), was insanely fun despite the fact players had to share a single controller! World Party addresses that horrible deficiency and delivers the same hilarious, turn-based warfare. There are even crazy new weapons like the "holy hand grenade" of Monty Python fame. A myriad of customization options are available along with support for online play. You can tweak the action in any number of ways including a shopping mall mode that showers the landscape with items, kung food which limits combat to hand-to-hand, and armageddon which takes place in a sinking toxic wasteland. The single-player modes are a little tedious since the computer takes his sweet old time, but the multiplayer action is brilliant. Backstabing is the order of the day, accidental deaths are common, and unholy alliances are formed and disbanded. Trash-talking is optional but highly recommended! The main problem with World Party is the lack of a quick start option. The set-up screen has got to be the worst-designed interface since... well... Worms Armageddon. A series of panels configures various aspects of the game, but navigation is a mess. With so many confusing sub-screens, non-descript icons, and inconsistent controls, set-up is a chore. Half the time you accidentally quit out to the main screen! Recently while struggling to set up a game my friends suggested it might be easier to fax a form containing our social security numbers to the developer so they might generate a 64-character code which we could enter into the game just so we could play it. As with most Titus games, the quality control is suspect, but once the mayhem begins Worms World Party is hard to beat.

#1 Warlords (Atari, 1981)
System: Atari 2600
Grade: A
screenshotLet's get one thing straight: Warlords is the best four-player game ever invented. Period. It looks a little crappy you say? Okay, I'll give you that. Even back in 1981 I was less than enthused about the graphics. But this game is far more than the sum of its parts. Each corner of the screen holds an oddly-shaped "knight" (use your imagination) surrounded by a chunky wall. Using a paddle controller you move a shield around the perimeter of your fortress, protecting it from a firewall that you can either catch or deflect. The ball tends to destroy chunks of bricks, and as holes appear the action becomes more intense. The last knight remaining wins the round, and the first player to win five rounds is the victor. The dynamics of this game are sensational, as new alliances are constantly being formed and disbanded. Naturally players tend to gang up on whoever is winning. From round to round your neighboring warlord can go from being a helpful ally ("you're my boy, blue!") to a bitter rival ("kill that blue bastard!"). Trash talking is pretty much mandatory. Even when a player is eliminated from a round, he can still affect the outcome. By carefully positioning his "ghost" shield, he can deflect the ball enough to facilitate new angles for the remaining players. It could be a bug in the game for all I know, but it really adds a new dimension. In fact, it's the game's quirks that make it unpredictable and exciting. Warlords offers 23 variations, but the CPU opponents are pretty dumb, and variation 1 (four players) is all you really need. Often imitated but never matched, this universally-loved game is the king of multi-player mayhem.