I’ve never been the best at parties, which I’m sure will surprise no one. I didn’t attend many as a student and have attended less since I stopped caring if anyone judges me for drinking alone. But sometimes, if you wish to pose as a normal human being, you might choose to hold a party of your own. On these occasions, in order to avoid the awkward conversations, weird hook-ups and peer pressure, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with injecting some of our collective passion into a social gathering. From my experience, gaming can be a good icebreaker at a party, particularly if you have several groups of friends around you and people are finding it hard to mingle.
The list I have concocted is a collection of suggestions for your party, pulled from research, but mostly my own personal opinion.
5.) Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)
Left 4 Dead 2 is a multiplayer first-person shooter set in a dystopian version of the world where the population has been infected by “Green Flu,” turning regular humans into zombies and mutants. There are four different colourful characters to choose from, and your main, if indeed only, goal is to shoot, smash, or chop up the surrounding zombies. What’s not to love!
What convinced me to put this on the list, rather than other shooter games, is because it was the only shooter where my friends and I would end up arguing over who got the melee weapons. There is something worryingly satisfying about running around an expansive game world smashing the heads off zombies while your friends scream for blood.
The gameplay relies on teamwork, making it the perfect shooter game for a party. The characters are very interesting with their own individual backstories, and all the people I game with have their own favourite.
Left 4 Dead 2 is available on Xbox 360 and Steam.
4.) Castle Crashers (2008)
If you’re looking for something a little cheekier than a zombie slasher game, then Castle Crashers is for you! Castle Crashers is a sidescrolling, arcade-style beat-‘em-up game by The Behemoth. The game features four lovable, little colourful knights in a mock-medieval universe who are sent by their king to rescue his daughters and retrieve a magical gem after they are stolen by a dark wizard. Along the journey, the knights encounter many strange and fun enemies ranging from cyclops to ninja pirates and alien invaders!
The artwork throughout the game increasingly becomes beautiful. Despite the violence and silly jokes, I can’t help but be charmed by the game, finding it oddly cute! Like Left 4 Dead 2, a lot of the game relies on teamwork, but also includes "fights to the death," where the players must battle each other in order to win a kiss from a Princess, giving it a slightly more evil edge that one has come to expect from The Behemoth.
Castle Crashers is available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and Steam.
3.) Guitar Hero (2005-2015)
The premise of the franchise is ridiculously stupid, but there is something undeniably fun about it, making it an odd bonding experience with some of my friends. Just in case you’ve been living in Gollum’s Cave for the last decade and managed to miss the franchise, the only way I can sum it up is that you are given a plastic children’s guitar with five buttons on it so you can pretend to play along with professional musicians.
It's a silly concept but a fun one and a chance to drunkenly sing along to old rock songs and cheer on your friends. I can’t really recommend a specific version of the game as they’re all the exact same concept, and it comes down to which track listing you prefer. I had more fun with the earlier versions than the later ones.
Guitar Hero games are available on PlayStation 2 and 3, Xbox 360 and Wii. The latest installment, Guitar Hero Live, is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U.
2.) Super Monkey Ball (2001-2012)
Super Monkey Ball is one of those bizarre concepts which has you wondering what was happening in the Ideas room down at Sega. You play as a small monkey who has been trapped inside a small ball and forced to fight, race and be thrown across the water for the amusement of the almighty humans. But it’s okay because the painted smiles and annoying giggles prove that the monkeys are having so much fun!
The colours are blinding, the animation has gotten worse as the games have evolved, the concept is stupid, and the annoying music makes me want to drill a hole in my skull. But at a party, damn is this game fun! Super Monkey Ball is one of the first games I ever bought and that same game is still a favourite when people come to visit.
What makes it so popular is something akin to the “Cracker Joke Theory.” This theory is that the reason why cracker jokes are bad is because when someone tells a joke, the room becomes divided: there are those who get the joke and find it funny and those who don’t get the joke, don’t find it funny or are offended. By making cracker jokes stupid and cheesy, a situation with them changes from each person as themselves to everyone against the joke. Monkey Ball is so naff, silly and annoying that it brings everyone in the room together as everyone is against the game and having fun playing it together.
Another aspect of brilliance in Monkey Ball is that the variety of games is amazing. I’ve never been good at racing games and repeatedly placed last when playing “Monkey Race.” We would always get pummeled by one particular friend of mine in “Monkey Fight” (you know who you are!). But at "Monkey Target," I always managed to get scores twice as much as everyone else! Other games are introduced in sequels, and these mini-games can be unlocked by playing the game. Even the main game is multiplayer, leaving much variety of fun to be introduced into your party.
Like Guitar Hero, I can’t recommend a specific version of Monkey Ball over the other, but I’ve enjoyed the original GameCube version as much as any of the sequels I’ve played. You should just play whichever one you have the console for. Various versions of the game are available on GameCube, PlayStation 2 and 3, and Wii.
Before I get to number one, I want to slip in a few honourable mentions:
Grand Theft Auto:
Maybe an unconventional choice and not traditionally a multiplayer game, (I’ve never actually played the San Andreas Multiplayer Game, so maybe that would be one for this list). I remember fondly several sleepovers, particularly as a teenager, playing “who can outrun the police the longest.”
Super Smash Bros.:
I left this out of the list because - and I’m really sorry (except not really) - I’ve never gotten into these games. Since they came up so much in my research, I felt it right to give it a mention. The games have been around for a very long time and I suppose could be an essential attribute to a gamer party. If nothing else, it gives the opportunity to beat the crap out of your least favourite characters!
I guess I have to hand it to this game for being a fairly obvious choice to bring out when the music gets boring, since literally everyone I know who owns a Wii owns this game. There is a variety of different games you can play and, for at least the first few rounds, it can convince people to get up and move around.
And now my number one game to bring out at a party:
1.) BattleBlock Theatre (2013)
Another amazing arcade-style platformer gem from those creepy geniuses down at The Behemoth, BattleBlock Theatre was always the obvious choice for me for this list. The game has a story of a group of friends who get lost at sea and become trapped in the clutches of some evil cats, who make your best friend Hatty Hattington their leader. The cats then force the players to go through a series of deadly challenges in a theatre for their amusement. At the same time, Hatty becomes possessed by a hat, which slowly drains his life force, leaving the player to save him.
The game comes with a wonderful story, beautiful artwork, and fantastic gameplay. The controls are fairly simple and easy to handle, making it easy for non-gamer party guests to get into. Although the game may be played single player, I don’t really know why you would! Each level was more fun when engaged with teamwork, and it was a real bonding experience collecting gems and defeating the bosses with that other person.
The only thing I think people would protest about this choice is that traditional adventure mode can only be pursued by two players (apparently you need more than one guest to clarify something as a party. Who knew). However, if you’re lucky enough to have three friends willing to spend time at your house then you can have a go at the competitive Arena Mode where two teams of two battle each other.
BattleBlock Theatre has received a 10/10 rating on Steam, an 85 score on Metacritic and 9 out of 10 on Destructoid, all scores being well earned. It’s a ridiculous fun piece of art to bring out at a party. The songs are so catchy I still listen to them at my leisure, and despite being cute and silly throughout, the ending still makes me cry. Well bloody done The Behemoth!
BattleBlock Theatre is available on Xbox 360 and Steam.
So, to any of you out there planning a party, consider bringing some of these out for a super, fun and chilled-out evening! And, if not, there is absolutely no shame in playing them by yourself in the dark and telling people you went to a party. There are plenty of good multiplayer party games that I was close to including on this list, and I’m sure there are many that I’ve missed, so please do leave your favourite party games in the comments.