The holidays are here and everybody’s gathering around with family, old friends, and… crap, crummy party games. Don’t let your group fall into the old “Well, I guess we could play old board games” trap again this year. Read through this list of excellent local multiplayer video games, pick out your favorites, and you’ll be prepared to entertain everyone from the hardest of core to folks who still aren’t sure how to hold a controller. Speaking of which, you don’t even need extra controllers to enjoy a bunch of these.

Full disclosure: I can’t guarantee that all of these games will result in less shouting than playing Monopoly. But I can guarantee that it will be a better kind of shouting. 

Overcooked (1-4 players) 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

Why should we play it? If you like playing the kinds of games that get all your friends standing up, pointing at the screen, and shrieking before collapsing into fits of laughter, Overcooked needs to be on your system of choice yesterday. It’s a cooperative cooking game that takes place in a series of increasingly impractical situations, from a melting ice floe to two speeding trucks to a distant space station. Each dish you create needs a variety of ingredients and preparation methods, and your only hope to get it all done in time is divvy up the labor and communicate. You’ll be a well-honed team before you know it! Until then, keep the fire extinguisher handy. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (1-8 players) 

What can we play it on? Nintendo Switch

Why should we play it? It’s Mario Kart. Doesn’t that speak for itself at this point? But most importantly, it’s Mario Kart on Switch. Nintendo’s most adaptable console ever gives you three full ways to enjoy local multiplayer: classic splitscreen play is still available if you just want to play on the TV, but local wireless multiplayer even lets up to 8 players race together at once, with up to two players on each console. Handheld, tabletop, whatever you want – Mario Kart 8 will make it work, and its blue shells and banana peels will make you curse. 

Jackbox Party Pack (2-16 players) 

Best co-op games

Looking for something a little more substantial to play with friends? These 25 best co-op games are just what you need 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Mac, Nvidia Shield.

Why should we play it? Aside from a deck of playing cards, the Jackbox Party Pack series is the best value you can find in party games. That’s not just because they include multiple guffaw-inducing games, but also because you don’t need extra controllers, no matter how many folks want to participate. Everybody can play in the same session by using their smartphones, tablets, or other browser-equipped devices. That has the added benefit of making it instantly more inviting for your non-video-gaming friends and family as well. Oh yeah, and the games themselves are really fun too – even if your group bounces off one, you still have four more to try out.

TowerFall (1-4 players) 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4

Why should we play it? Picture the one-hit-kill antics and madcap self-destructs of Bomberman. Bask in that nostalgia for a bit. Then mix in the fierce dodges and high-speed maneuvers of Super Smash Bros. Whip until firm peaks appear. Bake until golden brown, remove from your mind oven, and you have TowerFall, the most intense-yet-approachable local multiplayer game to grace the world in many years. If you’re newbies, rounds will frequently end with laughter as that one arrow you forgot you fired finds its way into your own back. If you’re experts, you’ll be gripped for sweaty minutes as the back-and-forth plays out through precision dodges and ‘calculated’ kills. Fun power-ups and a rich selection of game modifiers even make the whole thing work surprisingly well for mixed groups. 

Use Your Words (3-6 players) 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Wii U

Why should we play it? Use Your Words has the same premise as the Jackbox games: everybody huddles around the TV with their smartphones out, generally trying to be the smartest, funniest, or most vulgar of all. Rather than a collection of separate smaller games, Use Your Words has one main mode that cycles through a variety of challenges, all of which ask you to write small bits of text in response to prompts. In one round you might make up subtitles for a cheesy foreign film, and in the next you might write a shamelessly sensationalized headline for a bizarre newspaper front page. Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything funny, you can always send out a ‘house decoy’ instead and get points for tricking your friends. 

Gang Beasts (1-4 players) 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4

Why should we play it? Fighting games can be pretty hit or miss as party games, since if one person is too good it tends to be kinda miserable for everybody else. Fortunately, it’s very tough to actually be good at Gang Beasts. Playing like a jelly-physics hybrid of River City Ransom and old-school wrestling games, Gang Beasts lets you, say, bash your friend over the head and throw them into the path of an oncoming train. Though you’ll probably end up tripping and falling in front of the train, too, and both of you will be too busy laughing at the fate of the weirdly squishy cartoon figures to get mad about it. Then you’ll respawn back at the center of the arena for more slapstick fisticuffs with everybody else. 

Nidhogg 2 (1-2 players) 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4

Why should we play it? The original Nidhogg has still never been topped as an intense, one-on-one dueling game. The sequel wisely expands outward rather than tweaking the fundamentals too much, adding in three new weapons (on top of the good old fencing foil) to cycle between with each death. Just as importantly, it clads the bloodsport in a lurid cartoon style that lends a welcome irreverence to the whole production. The cartoon violence will probably be too much for young ones – those fencers have a whole lot of guts in them – but otherwise, it’s fun for the whole family. 

Push Me, Pull You (1-4 players) 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4

Why should we play it? Because you’re into team sports, body horror, and whimsy. Push Me, Pull You is the most potentially disturbing take on soccer that you’ve ever seen, because the two ‘teams’ are actually both human worm… things with a torso on either side. Somehow these hand-walking people creatures can extend and contract their serpentine midsections at will, allowing them to encircle the ball (or the other team) and drag them to the goal. It would be too terrifying to watch if it wasn’t all presented in a cute cartoon style with lovely pastel arenas. The game only needs a thumbstick and shoulder buttons, so you can even share controllers for economical two-to-four player action. 

Rocket League (1-4 players) 

What can we play it on? PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

Why should we play it? You probably already have Rocket League, so consider this entry a reminder to make sure it’s all updated and ready to go in time for your holiday get-togethers. Playing against strangers online is fun, but there’s no comparison to pulling off an unbelievable aerial goal and having your buddy right there to high-five you for it (or to give you some serious side-eye when you try to get too fancy and accidentally own-goal again). You can even take your splitscreen group online for 4v4 competition – maybe you’ll get matchmade with another group of partygoers and you’ll all find out which gathering is best, once and for all. 

For some stellar co-op game suggestions, check out our video below:



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