In this Versus Games article we asked our resident gamer and ranter to give his opinion on the best two player games out there. We expected a happy article reflecting what many have termed the Golden Age of Gaming. Instead, it sounds like we triggered a very frustrated gamer…
Why I Hate “Two Player” Games Today
I’m getting on a bit in my years. I’m not old, but whenever I sit down and then try to get up again, my children laugh and my bones sound like they need oiling. I recently started doing the thing that signifies that you really are old, saying phrases like, “In my day” and “Things were better when“.
Bear in mind, I’m not even 35. I’m just really unhealthy and sick of the way certain media is heading. It’s not about music. I’ve always had a contempt for pop music and beyond a few Nu Metal bands from the early 2000s, all of my favorite bands started making music before I was born. It’s video games I have the issue with.
The main problem is the switch to online play, downloadable content and other cheap extras designed to get you paying subscription fees and buying content. It never used to be that way. Games had extras you could unlock, but you had to be good at the game to get them. They were incentives, not bank-busting extras. And while we had multiplayer, it was split screen. You would invite friends around and everyone could play the same game on the same console.
These days, split screen is a thing of the past. Even if you want to play your brother in the next room, you both need the same console and the same game. So, I’m taking this old-school in this Versus Games article. I’m ignoring all of those fake multiplayer games and focusing on the classic two player games of old, as well as a few that have kept the tradition alive.
These are my pick of the top Versus Games, AKA split screen / two player games.
Best Versus Games
First up, I have to mention sports games. I have always been a big fan and will happily play any sport game. I didn’t start watching American Football (yes, I’m English) until I was in my twenties, but I happily played it in my teens and my childhood, even though I was oblivious to the rules. Same goes for many games really. I even had a horse racing game. It was probably the only copy ever purchased.
They have aways been some of the best two-player games and they remain that way today. There are some deviations though, including the obsession with Ultimate Team on EA and the move towards single-player stories on FIFA. Still, you can’t beat a good two-player battle.
For me, one of the true game-changing football games (or soccer games if you prefer) was International Superstar Soccer for the N64. It was one of the few games I truly obsessed over for its 2 player mode and that stayed with me for years. The same goes for games like Football Manager, which have always excelled in that area. These are not true split-screen games, so they haven’t been included below, but they are worth a mention.
Goldeneye, Nintendo 64
There were two games for me on the N64. ISS (mentioned above) was one, and Goldeneye was the other. This was the first game to really do the thing that COD and countless other titles have emulated. After this, Perfect Dark did much the same thing but also introduced “bots” for people who didn’t have any friends.
It looks like an antique now and is so clearly dated, but it still has some legs and it is deserving of a legend status in the gaming industry, as well as a place on any list of the best split screen games.
Gears of War, Xbox
This is one of the only modern franchises that has been based around a local multiplayer setup. It is essentially a souped-up version of the Goldeneye game, except of course for that it is different in every possible way (but you know what I mean).
There are four titles in this franchise and all of them have stuck to their guns with regards to the split screen setup.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare (Playstation and Xbox)
This franchise gets a lot of stick, even from me. It is no doubt responsible for the shift towards online multiplayer in first-person shooter games. But at the same time it has always offered some local multiplayer action mainly through its spit screen zombies mode. This was the original and best of that mode, but it continued throughout the franchise.
This game redefined the puzzle game genre. It was beautiful in its simplicity and it was adored by fans of all gaming genres, myself included. This was made even better by the addition of a split screen mode that let you solve those puzzles with friends, before you could both rage quit together at the noticeable lack of cake.
Not quite fitting for a list of versus games, I know. But it is one of the best split screen games every made.
There are so many Tekken games and other fighting games out there, but this is the one that stole the show for me. It was launched at a crucial time, when consoles had taken a huge leap into the next generation. It was like nothing that had gone before and it looked beautiful. The same goes for a Soul Calibre title that was released at the same time, only that game never quite agreed with me.
Tekken would go on to release a 7th title in 2017 and no doubt there will be many more to come. But this was one of the most important games in the franchise and one of the most important games for this genre.
I am not a big fan of Nintendo (with the exception of the N64). For me, it’s all about Zelda, which definitely doesn’t belong on a list of the best versus games. However, you can’t ignore the split screen fun of games like Super Mario Bros and Mario Kart. Nintendo has always been a developer that wants to bring the family around the console, and in an age of online play, where everyone is disconnected from each other and plugged into their own virtual realities, that is commendable.