This generation has seen so many amazing titles and most of them for us at least are amazing single-player experiences such as Yakuza 0 and NieR: Automata… But there’s something missing these days especially due to the boom in online multiplayer games, and that’s couch multiplayer. You know, getting together and playing some video games just on one screen with all your friends screaming and talking shit down your ear. It’s something that we haven’t experienced for a while and once we did again we realised how special it is…
Online gaming is amazing. Like, seriously I can play shitty VR games with people online and with my friends just mucking about but I feel like that is a completely different experience from being right there with them. No game series has made me feel this way other than Halo. Halo really started everything when it comes to local multiplayer and sadly, I was not around for the start of all this, since I was introduced to Halo extremely late. I still remember playing Halo: Reach with my best friend on small 20 inch screen with two other dudes. It’s still my favourite memory of playing any split-screen game. And the fact that Halo 5 of all games doesn’t have split-screen is kind of just rubbing salt in the wound that devs will eventually prioritise graphics and other things than living up to a legacy or even just letting the players have some good old fashioned fun.
I see a lot of indie developers making some insane party games but that’s about all I see when it comes to couch multiplayer games these days. I wanna go back to the time where every game had some dumb multiplayer gimmick that somehow we played more than the actual game. Only indies and fighting games and somehow Call of Duty keep up the traditions of local multiplayer and split-screen and I gotta say this ain’t a good thing.
Being born in the 90’s I’ve seen some of the golden years of couch multiplayer, to then see it die all of a sudden. As Salman mentioned, Halo was a huge couch multiplayer game for nearly everyone who ever played the series. Inviting a friend round to play custom games or plow through the campaign together was a blast back in the day. Then Halo 5 being shipped with no local multiplayer what so ever feels like an insult to fans of the series. It feels now that the Xbox and PS4 are doubling down on the online multiplayer aspect of their platforms which isn’t a bad thing to some people. Kids now just want to get online and yell at people, but I feel anyone over the age of 18 is starting to really miss the good old days.
The Nintendo Switch is sticking to its strengths and despite being a handheld console as a feature, it is the best local multiplayer console available today. Games like Mario Kart 8, Snipperclips and Minecraft stand out as some of the obvious ones, but you’ve also got Super Meat Boy which just released with a new race mode to challenge your friends. This console has some of the best functionality when it comes to local multiplayer as it can be played virtually anywhere and set up in a way that is comfortable for the players. Looking through my collection now I realise how many I could just start playing with a friend, including Mario Odyssey, Overcooked and Rocket League.
While I don’t see the immediate future being too friendly towards couch multiplayer, I have some strong faith in Nintendo to keep pushing it on the switch. With the new Kirby game looking like a blast to play with friends I’ll be living in my own small world where couch multiplayer is alive. For now all we can do is remember the great days of Borderlands, Golden-eye, Halo 3 and Left 4 Dead. I’ll miss you couch gaming.