From co-op, to local splitscreen, to massive online, these games provided the multiplayer experiences of the year.
The drive to play with or against each other, in competition or in cooperation, is something that has driven gamers for as long as games have existed. Every year, developers continue to find new and inventive ways to leverage that, providing excellent multiplayer experiences that keep on improving, or innovating, or both, whether that’s between two friends sitting on a couch, or across a hundred people dropped into a map. This year was similarly excellent for multiplayer games, and here, we’re going to talk about fifteen of our favourites from the lot, before picking out a single one as the best amongst all fifteen.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
A WAY OUT
Couch co-op is something that has, sadly enough, become increasingly rare in today’s day and age, but Hazelight Studios’ A Way Out was a reminder of just how great such experiences can be. Narratively, A Way Out was a solid and engrossing ride, aided by strong acting and writing, but what really helped the game stand out was its co-op nature.A Way Out constantly leveraged its core DNA of a splitscreen co-op experience, by putting both players into situations that always seemed to know just how to deliver the most enjoyment to both parties.
Coming as a totally unexpected release with a shadow drop at EA’s E3 press event this year, Unravel Two was a gift we had no idea we were going to receive. But it really was a gift. Imbued with the same charming personality and visuals that made the first game so memorable, Unravel Two was a joyous ride from start to finish. More of an evolution of the first game than anything else, Unravel Two translated the gameplay of Unravel to two player co-op with surprising ease, with enjoyable puzzles that were just the right amount of challenging, and just as varied and thoughtful as you could want them to be. It might not have set the world on fire, but Unravel Two was an experience full of heart and charm that is absolutely worth experiencing.
Year on year, EA Sports’ FIFA franchise continues to be one of the most actively played games, but once you jump online and get into the rhythm of matches against other players, it’s not hard to see why. Competing against other players, whether that’s in standalone online matches, or in Ultimate Team, or against people in the same room, is always a blast in FIFA 19, just as it has been in many of its predecessors, thanks to its strong mechanics and presentation.
WARHAMMER: VERMINTIDE 2
Looter games have a knack for being dangerously addictive, at least when they’re done right- and Vermintide 2 is absolutely done right. Its combination of an addictive lootgrind and brutal, visceral combat gel perfectly with its co-op action, giving players the tool to spend countless hours in its world, while a deep and rewarding progression system makes sure that you’ll keep coming back to the game. Add to that the fact that its multiplayer offerings are completely bereft of any microtransactions or similar shady undercurrents, and it becomes that much more of a compelling experience.
STATE OF DECAY 2
State of Decay 2’s disappointing launch is something that is well documented, but as is so often the case in today’s day and age, the open world zombie survival title has managed to turn things around quite well since its release thanks to patches and content updates. Forming a group of survivors with your friends, or taking on other players’ groups, can be a thrilling experience, one that captures the tone of the game’s setting quite well, while venturing out with a group of friends into the harsh open world to scrounge up resources for your survival is also tense and exciting.
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 4
That Call of Duty would be among the best and most popular multiplayer experiences of the year is something anyone could have predicted, but that it would only be a multiplayer experience came as a bit of a shock- at first. Because once we got our hands on it, we cared very little about what was missing, and very much about what we were being given. Black Ops 4 continues the tradition of Treyarch delivering the Call of Duty multiplayer experiences out of all three developers of the franchise, striking the perfect balance between the speed the series had veered towards in recent years (barring WW2), and the slower and somewhat more methodical gameplay it used to be known for. With a slew of content on offer, all of it stupidly enjoyable and dangerously addictive, Black Ops 4 proved that it could stand very firmly on its own two legs without having to lean on a single player campaign.
Battlefield may have finally started to get single player right in recent years (for the most part, anyway), but as always, it’s in its large online arenas where the real fun is found. Battlefield 5 is, essentially, an evolution of 2016’s Battlefield 1, but thanks to a number of minor yet vital additions and some really smart balancing changes, it ends up being a much more enjoyable experiences. With a stronger emphasis on squadplay than ever before, a handful of excellently designed maps, and the same, solid gunplay and vehicular combat that the series has always been known for, Battlefield 5 is an incredible multiplayer experience. With the co-op mode Combined Arms and the battle royale mode Firestorm slated to be rolled out early next year, it’s bound to get even better.
FORZA HORIZON 4
Forza Horizon 4 is a game that you can get just about as much enjoyment out of if you were to play alone as you would while playing with and against other players, but there’s no denying that if you do play it as a multiplayer title, it provides an experience unlike any other. The simple act of racing against other players is pure bliss, thanks to the game’s immaculate driving mechanics. Shared world features, though not revolutionary, add a lot of interesting things to the game, while things such as challenges and leaderboards also add an extra bit of flavour. With
SEA OF THIEVES
To say that Sea of Thieves launched in a substandard state wouldn’t be an exaggeration, but developers Rare deserve all the credit in the world for having turned the tide as quickly and as drastically as they did. Thanks to a steady stream of excellent and meaningful content, Sea of Thieves quickly became a much, much better game within just a few months of its launch. Roaming the high seas and being a part of the pirate crew of your dreams is something that, thanks to said improvements, Sea of Thieves makes a reality very convincingly.
MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
The best multiplayer experiences are the ones that lend themselves to that structure seamlessly, rather than trying to force it in. While Monster Hunter World is a game that can be played solo entirely without ever sacrificing anything, it’s also a game that gives you so, so much more when you play it co-operatively with other players. It pits you against the most daunting and intimidating enemies, and while you can take on them yourself, the sense of accomplishment in working with a group of other hunters, with teamwork and cooperation, to fell that fearsome beast is unmatched.
SUPER SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s online component is far from perfect (in fact, many would even say that it’s well below average), thanks to a number of baffling issues- but above all, Super Smash Bros. has always been a party game, meant to be enjoyed with a group of friends locally. In that area, this truly is the Ultimate Smash Bros. Whether its tournaments, four-player smashes, eight-player smashes, or just good old fashions 1v1s, with mechanics that have been refined to perfection and a plethora of options in both stages and characters, Smash Ultimate is a game that you can enjoy with your friends endlessly.
For many, the fact that Pro Evolution Soccer is lacking in licenses doesn’t amount to much, because Konami’s series delivers strongly in the areas that matter the most- the on-pitch gameplay. And that’s not an argument without merit, which is something that becomes even clearer as you play with or against friends, or against strangers online. PES 2019 is the most refined and enjoyable the series has been in years, which automatically makes matches against other players that much more enjoyable.
FAR CRY 5
The pure and simple fact that Far Cry 5’s entire campaign is playable in co-op – which sees some much needed improvements over Far Cry 4 – would have been enough to assure a place in this list for Ubisoft’s latest open world shooter, given just how good the campaign is by itself, but Far Cry 5 goes far beyond that. It’s versatile map editor, which is tied with objective based multiplayer gameplay, is a blast, while its competitive online offerings can also be quite enjoyable in their own right.
It was a long time coming, but Soulcalibur finally made its comeback this year- and boy was it worth the wait. Featuring the brand of weapons-based fighting mechanics that the series has made famous over the years, Soulcalibur 6 is a perfect reminder of just how good Bandai Namco’s fighting franchise can be when it really tries. Putting those strong mechanics to use in tense and thrilling battles against other players is, of course, an absolute treat, too.
DRAGON BALL FIGHTERZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ has garnered a massive and devoted audience for itself in a very short time, and while a large part of that is because of its art style and because of how true it is to its source material, like any other fighting game that does well, the main reason is its mechanics. For competitive players, Dragon Ball FighterZ immediately became a crowd favourite almost immediately after its launch, with versatile gameplay that encouraged players to experiment and find whichever style they liked best. Even if you’re looking something more accessible though, thanks to how incredibly enjoyable it is and how amazing it looks, it’s ridiculously easy to find a ton of fun in a round of casual fights against friends.
AND THE WINNER IS…
CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS 4
While it would be inaccurate to say that the Call of Duty franchise had been floundering in recent years, it’s undeniable that the series had plateaued to some extent. Last year’s trip back to the Second World War was a breath of fresh air, and this year, Treyarch’s Black Ops 4 bought it back kicking and screaming right where Call of Duty belongs- at the very top of the pile. Multiplayer is typically strong, with some great maps and changes made to make the experience more balanced; Zombies is more over-the-top and chaotic than ever before, and is probably one of the best renditions of the mode we’ve seen in years; while Blackout, Call of Duty’s own take on the wildly popular battle royale, is perhaps the most polished version we’ve seen of this mode yet. Combined, Black Ops 4 is a game that you can easily sink dozens upon dozens – if not hundreds – of hours into. Not since the days of Modern Warfare 2 and the original Black Ops have we seen this franchise in such good shape, and we’re glad to see this behemoth back at its absolute best.