Ah, couch multiplayer. Many a Nintendo fan has etched memories of huddling in the living room together with friends and family while playing multiplayer. Be it party hijinks in Mario Kart or competing against each other in Donkey Kong Country, laughs were had and devious schemes unveiled themselves. Even when confronted with its accused neglect toward online multiplayer, Nintendo has always recognized the values of screwing over the player sitting next to you.
With the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, one particular realm of multiplayer is once again in the spotlight: cooperative play, or co-op for short. There’s nothing quite like working together to clear a game campaign… or inevitably throwing each other into bottomless pits. All notorious fun, you understand, but what remain the most notable in Nintendo history?
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Here’s a title most Wii owners should be familiar with. New Super Mario Bros. Wii was a landmark in not only how it was the first 2D sidescrolling Super Mario game for a home console in nearly twenty years, but it was the first to include four player co-op! Starring Mario, Luigi, and two Toads, players could team up to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser while trouncing his goons across the Mushroom Kingdom!
…which would be the ideal, but it’s not a Nintendo multiplayer game without some hilarity involved. For instance, many players instead opted to throw each other into bottomless pits. Or toss Koopa shells at each other. Or knock each other off vines. Or swallow each other up with Yoshis and spit them into the jaws of a hungry Piranha Plant. I wonder how long the Princess had to wait?
Of course, we can’t forget what Mario’s first sidescrolling co-op experience was; in fact, Mario Bros.might be Nintendo’s first co-op game! Also known as the first game to feature Luigi and to introduce the brotherly duo as plumbers, this arcade classic has players fend off turtles, crabs, and oversized flies deep in the sewers of New York. They hadn’t quite figured out the whole “jumping on baddies” yet, though, so players had to bop enemies from beneath another floor and then kick ’em away.
Naturally, I’m certain there’s been at least one incidence where player one sent a Shellcreeper careening into Luigi’s face. Not cool, Mario.
Kirby Super Star
Why is this groundbreaking Kirby SNES title considered the series masterpiece? Well, there are many reasons, but two player co-op is definitely at the top. By shedding his current Copy Ability, Kirby can spawn a partner possessing that exact ability, be it the parasol-wielding Waddle Dee or the piledrivin’ Bugzzy. Kirby Super Star also just so happened to be the most ambitious game in the series from scenario (storming Meta Knight’s Battleship Halberd! Spelunking deep into the depths of Dream Land and collecting treasure!) to control (nearly every Copy Ability had over a dozen functions!), so it was no surprise the game was never topped…well, until its eventual DS remake, anyway.
And before you ask, no, neither player could screw each other over. However, a lazy second player could transform into a star and hide behind Kirby. How shallow.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
This iteration of Smash Bros. caused many controversies, not the least of which was The Subspace Emissary campaign. In retrospect, it’s a shame such an ambitious endeavor had such a divided reaction. With Smash Bros. finally making contextual use of its crossover status thanks to the writing of Final Fantasy’s Kazuhige Nojima, the prospect of Nintendo characters banding together to fight foes new and old alike had massive potential to live up to.
Was it perfect? No, but said prospect still provided a fun venture. Thanks to being helmed by Kirby creator Sakurai, the mode basically played like a glorified Kirby Super Star. Can’t go wrong with that, especially if you have two players! There’s nothing quite like witnessing Mario and Snake teaming up to battle the likes of sentient French horns, evil goats and Grim Reaper baby strollers.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
Huh? The Wind Waker had co-op?!? Well, yes…if you had the Nintendo GameCube – Game Boy Advance Link Cable. Remember that thing? It never quite took off like Nintendo wanted it to, but it still had some fun novelties; particularly, the Tingle Tuner. That’s right, the 35-year-old fairy wannabe Tingle could join Link on his adventures via a device conspicuously shaped like a Game Boy Advance! A second player would use GBA as a controller, with access to a map, bombs, and a treasure radar (which could seek out the elusive Tingle Statues!). Of course, it also included tongue-in-cheek commentary straight from Tingle himself.
However, let us not forget how this infamous moneygrubber irked many a Zelda fan. In the actual game (Wind Waker, that is), the second player was represented by a Tingle emblem that could dot around the landscape. Press the A button, and the game will momentarily halt to spotlight Tingle emitting a high-pitched “Hiiiiiiii!” Nintendo has yet to come up with any co-op function that’s just as insanely annoying and hilarious.
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
For our final game, we can’t forget the precursor to Tri Force Heroes! Once a fun multiplayer game on the A Link to the Past GBA port, GameCube expanded on that concept through Four Swords Adventures! With the help of four GameCube – GBA Link Cables, four players could team up as four color-coded Links across five different screens! Did I mention you could equip four weapons at once and unleash a foursome Spin Attack?
Unfortunately, Four Swords Adventures parties weren’t financially feasible. Hooking up four Game Boy Advance systems with four different cables to one GameCube was, in a word, expensive. While thankfully you could play with less than four people, the concept didn’t prove to be popular with fans, resulting in unusually low sales for a Zelda game.
Bummer, since the game itself brought some hysterical, goofy fun to the Zelda table. Tri Force Heroes may only be something of a spiritual successor, but that it’s far more accessible in multiplayer (online play!) should pave the way for more games of its ilk.
While I’ve listed some of the most notable Nintendo co-op games, there’s obviously quite a few more I left out. Let us know in the comments if any of your favorites missed the cut!