26. Earth Defense Force
Without diving into the well of Earth Defense Force sequels in order to come away with a specific entry to recommend above them all, we’re going to give you a general recommendation to play just one of the games in this series at some point.
Earth Defense Force is an indescribably over-the-top shooter that supports co-op play. Each game in the series requires you – and friends – to defeat waves of ‘50s sci-fi and anime-inspired enemies using a variety of absurd weapons.
It’s hard to think of another cooperative action game that embraces insanity quite like the EDF series. We guarantee you will never forget experiencing this franchise with your friends.
25. Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
Mercenaries is another series that is generally underrated, but in the interest of staying on topic, let’s talk about the co-op mode in Mercenaries 2: World in Flames
Imagine a slightly smaller and less open version of the Just Cause series that you can play in co-op, and you’ll understand what made this multiplayer mode so special. There’s nothing quite like bouncing around the game’s sizeable world and utilizing a series of incredible weapons and vehicles to destroy encampments and take out high-priority targets.
The idea of true co-op in an open-world game was pretty ambitious at the time of Mercenaries 2’s release, and we still can’t think of many games that utilize that concept as well as Mercenaries 2.
24. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Metal Gear Solid 4 wasn’t the first Metal Gear game to utilize an online mode, but its take on multiplayer is the best that we’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.
First off, MGS4 combat worked surprisingly well even in basic deathmatch modes. However, what truly sets MGS4 apart is the way that it allowed players to customize their characters. Not only could you outfit yourself with clothes that could genuinely provide organic camouflage in certain areas of the map, but you could even unlock unique skills like “Instructor” that let you oversee the training of new players.
Unfortunately, MGS4’s online play was eventually ruined by hackers. Given the current state of the MGS franchise, we also doubt that we’ll ever see a mode like this ever again.
23. Natural Selection 2
Natural Selection 2 was one of those games that occasionally came up in conversations around the time of its release, but it’s not a game that many people seem to have actually played. If you are one of those gamers who has heard of this title and hasn’t tried it, we recommend you do so as soon as possible.
If you’re not familiar with Natural Selection 2, the first thing you need to know is that the game allows you to play one of three roles. You can be a human soldier, an agile alien, or a commander who views the multiplayer map from above and helps his or her team win by issuing orders, researching technology, and deploying resources.
That makes Natural Selection 2 one of the few games to successfully combine the RTS and FPS genres. Even better, the developers have historically been quite active in terms of updates.
22. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
Crystal Chronicles is perhaps best remembered as the game that required players to use multiple Game Boy Advances and link cables in order to properly utilize this GameCube title’s multiplayer mode.
While many people rightfully criticize Crystal Chronicles‘ absurd hardware requirements, the game itself has been widely praised by those who were fortunate enough to play its multiplayer mode in the intended way. Crystal Chronicles applies many familiar Final Fantasy mechanics and design elements to a slightly more action-oriented RPG experience.
It’s tough to imagine the modern gamer who would be able to assemble all the hardware pieces required to play this game in its optimal format, but we would love to see another title explore Crystal Chronicles‘ gameplay in a slightly more traditional way.
Windjammers has actually drawn some more attention in recent years due to the game’s re-release on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, but there are still too few gamers who know about this true gem.
The game has players compete in a fictional, arcade-style sport that most closely resembles air hockey. By utilizing a deep, but simple to learn, series of shots and defensive strategies, Windjammers nails that “easy to learn, tough to master” style of gameplay that we rarely see in sports titles. Nearly every Windjammers match is a nail-biting rush of adrenaline.
This game was tragically overlooked when it was released in 1994, but we remain hopeful it will one day attract the following it deserves.
20. War of the Monsters
War of the Monsters proved to be a surprise hit when it was released in 2003, but it seems that many people have either forgotten about this game or just haven’t found a reason to mention it that often in recent years.
While War of the Monsters’ single-player tribute to the monster films of the ‘50s was the star of this show, the game’s multiplayer mode proved to be a shockingly good time. It allowed players to pick their favorite monsters and duke it out across destructible environments. One of the mode’s best features was a dynamic split-screen camera that split the screen when players were divided and then combined their halves of the TV when they were close enough to battle.
This game deserves a remake, but the original is still a good time if you can get your hands on it.
19. Crimson Skies
Yet another game on this list that is perpetually underrated, Crimson Skies for the Xbox was an Indiana Jones-style adventure featuring an alternate history in which society has taken to the skies. It’s quite simply one of the best games ever made in the eyes of many of its fans.
The game’s multiplayer was also quite good. Plane-based multiplayer battles can sometimes devolve into everyone circling around each other, but Crimson Skies‘ arcade-like movement system meant that dogfights felt appropriately tense. It certainly didn’t hurt that the game’s respectable selection of planes accommodated a variety of playstyles.
Crimson Skies’ incredibly poor sales mean that we’ll probably never get a sequel or remake to this game. If we do, though, then its multiplayer mode must return.
18. Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force
The geniuses at Raven Software are responsible for some of the best games ever made, but in terms of multiplayer, Elite Force might be their best work.
Elite Force launched with a stunning 32-player multiplayer mode to compliment the game’s exceptional single-player campaign. The shooting is spectacular, but what really sells the multiplayer is the additional variants introduced in the game’s first expansion pack. From a mode that sees one player control a Borg who is trying to assimilate everyone else to a disintegration mode that arms players with a slow-firing (but devastating) weapon, Elite Force offered so many creative options.
The bad news is that Elite Force is not currently available through any digital retail platforms due to apparent licensing issues.
17. Crash Team Racing
There’s some room for debate regarding whether or not Crash Team Racing is really underrated. The game sold quite well, is generally well-remembered, and is part of a very popular franchise.
Still, we can’t help but feel that not enough people really got to experience this game’s brilliant multiplayer races. While CTR certainly borrowed quite liberally from the Mario Kart series, it also featured the kind of complex maps and innovative weapons that we wouldn’t see from the Mario Kart series for quite some time.
Truth be told, if you told us that you genuinely preferred CTR to the beloved Mario Kart 64, we’d be pretty tempted to agree with you.
16. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$!
This is another tricky entry to justify simply because WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$! was actually well-received at the time of its release. However, the game has all but vanished from memory except for those who played it.
While most of Mega Party’s multiplayer brilliance stems from the fun of those classic WarioWare minigames, this title also features a few special modes designed to take advantage of a party atmosphere. For instance, Wario’s Outta My Way saw one player try to complete a minigame while the other players performed on-screen actions designed to distract them. Orbulon All For One forced players to complete minigames in the dark while another player shone a light on the important areas.
While not the last WarioWare game to feature multiplayer, no other game in the series did it as well as this one.
15. ChuChu Rocket!
Part of the reason why the Dreamcast is such a beloved system is that it played host to quite a few unique games. Sega used the Dreamcast to see whether a series of bold concepts were viable or just pipe dreams. Few games exemplify that philosophy better than ChuChu Rocket!
ChuChu Rocket! was developed, in part, to test the online functionality of the Dreamcast so that Sega could get Phantasy Star Online working properly and because the Sonic Team wanted to see if they could get 100 character sprites to move on-screen at once. While largely a technological test tube, ChuChu Rocket’s incredibly simple concept – you and other players lay down arrows to guide mice into color-matched homes – is addictive.
ChuChu Rocket! was briefly released on iOS and Android, but now that those ports are no longer available, it’s hard to find a good non-Dreamcast copy of this game.
14. Typing of the Dead: Overkill
Typing of the Dead features one of the most bizarre premises we’ve ever seen in a video game. It essentially plays just like the old light gun House of the Dead games, but instead of shooting at zombies, you’re required to type out the words that appear under the undead in order to kill them. It’s basically the world’s most violent typing tutor. Typing of the Dead: Overkill retains that bizarre concept but paints a thick coat of grindhouse aesthetics on top of the whole affair.
Regardless, that sweep typing gameplay remains largely unaltered. It’s oddly entertaining to bring a partner along and duel to see who is the best typist of them all. It might sound like an odd cooperative/competitive experience, but you’d be amazed at how fierce the competition for best typist becomes.
13. Sega Soccer Slam
If there’s one thing we love, it’s wacky sports games. Titles like NBA Jam and Mutant League Football capture all of the fun of sports simulators but are largely free of the sometimes crippling realism.
While such titles have a tendency to be underrated, Sega Soccer Slam has managed to go almost entirely unnoticed over the years despite being one of the most entertaining arcade-style sports games ever made. This 3v3 take on soccer features wacky characters and ridiculous special power shots, but what really makes it special are the surprisingly solid mechanics that can hook any player in minutes regardless of whether or not they are a sports fan.
We highly doubt that this game will ever get a sequel or reboot, so try to find a copy for Xbox, GameCube, or PS2.
12. Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is another game that might be too popular to be considered underrated. However, the game gets a nod here just because we get the impression that not nearly enough people played this title’s many excellent multiplayer modes.
RDR worked surprisingly well as a standard deathmatch game, but it really shone in specialty modes like Race, Stronghold, or even the cooperative horde mode added to the game by the brilliant Undead Nightmare expansion. The game’s free roam options may have been bare bones, but the pre-set multiplayer modes were almost universally entertaining.
We’re not entirely sure why more people didn’t give this game’s multiplayer a chance, but it certainly stands the test of time.
11. Pikmin 3
Some of the best cooperative add-on modes are able to play off of a core aspect of the “main game” in order to offer an experience that is both familiar but impossible to achieve without the presence of multiplayer players. It’s a tricky concept, but if you ever want to experience the virtues of that approach, play Pikmin 3’s co-op modes.
Pikmin 3’s main cooperative modes retain the fundamental goals of Pikmin campaigns but are designed in such a way as to ensure that only players who are able to truly work together will ever be able to beat them. Of course, you could also just play the incredibly fun Bingo Battle mode that requires you to find items to place on a randomly generated board so that you’re the first to score four in a row. It’s much more fun than it sounds.
10. Mass Effect 3
There’s a very good reason why Mass Effect 3 is remembered by most people for its controversial ending. Some go so far as to say that Mass Effect 3’s finale has forever tainted the legacy of the franchise. We also can’t help but feel that all the noise the game’s conclusion generated prevented many Mass Effect 3 owners from realizing they had a pretty great multiplayer game in their collection.
While Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer was little more than a horde mode, it altered the horde mode formula just enough to incorporate elements unique to the Mass Effect franchise. For instance, players had to complete a randomized objective at the start of certain waves that required all party members to prove they were truly able to work together and not just kill the most enemies.
Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer honestly does a better job of exemplifying the series’ best gameplay attributes more than many of the story missions do.
9. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Spies vs. Mercs. Either you know it, love it, and lost many hours of your life to it, or you haven’t a clue what we’re talking about. Even if you belong to the former group, though, you might not know that Spies vs. Mercs made its triumphant return in the stellar Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist.
Spies vs. Mercs sees one team assume the role of spies and the other play mercenaries. For spies, the game plays out much like a traditional game of Splinter Cell. Mercs, however, play the game via a first-person view that limits their range of sight. The trade-off is that mercs are heavily armed while spies must rely largely on gadgets and guile to complete objectives.
It’s an astonishingly realized gimmick that is way more balanced than it conceptually has any right to be. The fact that Splinter Cell: Blacklist also features excellent co-op modes is just the icing on the cake.
8. Star Fox Assault
Star Fox: Assault was a largely disappointing attempt to freshen up the Star Fox formula that ultimately failed to recapture the fun of the original titles. However, it also happened to feature a multiplayer mode that tragically got dragged down with the rest of the game.
While not much more than a simple competitive shooter-style battle, Star Fox Assault brilliantly combined on-foot shooting with vehicular action – featuring multiple types of vehicles – to offer a competitive experience that was chaotic, to say the least. Games often saw players bounce between vehicle and battle on foot as they desperately tried to get those last few kills.
Supposedly, Star Fox Assault began its life as a multiplayer-only title. We kind of wish that the developers had stuck with that concept and abandoned the game’s forgettable single-player offerings.
7. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory boasts the strangest origin story of any game on this list. Originally designed to be an expansion pack to Return to Castle Wolfenstein, it was later determined that it was good enough to warrant a standalone release. However, when developer Splash Damage (the folks responsible for Brink) encountered problems with the single-player campaign, the studio decided to just release the multiplayer as a freeware game.
We’re glad Splash Damage did what was necessary to get this game out into the world because it is a brilliant piece of multiplayer game design. In fact, Enemy Territory‘s use of class-based teamwork is still one of the best examples of that concept we’ve ever seen. While Enemy Territory still feels like a deathmatch game of its era (2003), the ways in which it weaves together the abilities of various classes is just beautiful. This game isn’t talked about as much as classic titles like Unreal Tournament, Quake III, and Halo, but it’s one of the best.
6. Power Stone 2
“What are you talking about?” says someone who doesn’t understand just how obscure Power Stone 2 is. “Everyone loves Power Stone 2!”
Everyone who played Power Stone 2 may love it, but not many people got to play the game in the first place. This 2000 Dreamcast title featured Smash Bros.-esque battles across dynamic levels that would change as the battle waged on. While that Smash Bros. comparison gives you a good idea of the kind of fun that Power Stone offers, it doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s because Power Stone 2’s included certain features that have never really been replicated. For instance, some levels in the game featured bosses that required players to temporarily cooperate – or not – in order to defeat the looming shared foe.
Aside from an arcade release in Japan and a PlayStation Portable port, the only way to play Power Stone 2 is on the Dreamcast. What we’re trying to tell you here is that you should really own a Dreamcast.
5. The Warriors
We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when someone at Rockstar Games suggested that the company should develop a game based on a largely obscure ‘70s cult classic movie. It’s not the kind of project that would get pitched – or greenlit – at most major studios today.
While The Warriors sold reasonably well, its multiplayer options were tragically underrated. That’s especially true of the game’s co-op mode, which let two players battle their way through the game’s surprisingly lengthy and varied campaign.
The truth of the matter is that such co-op brawler titles just aren’t nearly as common as they used to be (or should be). If you love games like the old Ninja Turtles SNES titles, Final Fight, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Warriors needs to be on your must-play list.
4. Grand Theft Auto IV
The final Rockstar game on this list is another title that is somewhat difficult to classify as underrated. After all, GTA IV sold just under 4 million copies in under 24 hours and many of the people who eventually bought the game did try out the multiplayer at some point.
In terms of legacy, though, the success of GTA V’s multiplayer has undermined the quality of GTA IV’s multiplayer. We respect what Rockstar has done with GTA V, but the truth is that there are some GTA IV multiplayer modes that we’d choose to play over GTA Online on most days. That’s especially true of the brilliant Cops and Crooks mode, in which a team of cops pursued a team of crooks across GTA IV’s incredibly designed city as the crooks tried to reach an escape point.
GTA IV’s pre-set gameplay modes and its smaller – but customizable – lobbies may appear technically inferior to what GTA V offers, but we believe that both games multiplayer offerings are different enough to be worthy of co-existence.
3. Driver: San Francisco
At this point, there is a nearly 0% chance that Driver: San Francisco’s multiplayer will ever receive the mass love that it deserves. Within the reasonable relativity of any discussion concerning video games, we’d have to classify that realization as a tragedy.
Driver: San Francisco featured some of the most creative multiplayer modes ever seen in a driving game – few boil down to simple racing. Tag, for instance, was a high-speed version of the playground classic across an open-world city. Blitz was a driving game take on traditional base defense modes that required you to infiltrate an opponents scoring zone. Even the game’s single-player challenge mode – in which you had to avoid vehicles randomly tossed at you while pursuing a target – could be turned into a competition.
Given the rather stale state of the driving game genre, we don’t know if we’re ever going to get another multiplayer driving game quite as inventive as this one.
2. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Let’s just skip past trying to explain how this brilliant South Park-like parody of mascot platformers came to be and get right into why you missed out if you never played Conker’s multiplayer.
None of Conker’s seven multiplayer modes were the same. Raptor was a surprisingly deep caveman vs. dinosaurs game that required players to master two very different playstyles. War was a team deathmatch game with several twists involving chemical weapons. Heist had everyone compete for a bag of money at the center of the map.
You just never see modern games that boast such a variety of multiplayer options out of the box, and we haven’t even taken a dive into the various ways that the game allowed you to customize every mode. Tragically, someone decided to turn Bad Fur Day’s brilliant multiplayer modes into a more generic online shooter by the time that the game was ported over to Xbox. As such, you need to dig out your N64 if you want to play this game’s classic multiplayer.
1. The Last of Us
To this day, we don’t understand how The Last of Us didn’t accidentally become a multiplayer sensation. Over 17 million copies of The Last of Us have been sold across PlayStation 3 and 4, but we’re willing to bet that only a fraction of those players have ever taken the game’s multiplayer for a spin despite the fact that you can beat the single-player game in about 10 hours.
The Last of Us’ brilliant multiplayer modes inject single-player elements like crafting and survival gameplay into various competitive modes. Because health is limited and death often comes quickly, a competitive Last of Us match often feels spiritually closer to Rainbow Six than an Uncharted game. Victory in this game is awarded to those who truly learn to work as a team as well as players who have mastered the various in-game items and perk combinations.
There’s never been a multiplayer mode in a single-player-oriented game that has done a better job of recreating every gameplay element that makes the single-player game so notable. The Last of Us offers some of the best competitive matches you’ll ever experience in a video game. Considering that there’s a very good chance this it’s sitting on your shelf right now, we highly recommend you give this game’s multiplayer a shot.
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