We may have already crowned the best games of 2011, but that doesn’t mean we’re quite finished handing out awards! There are a number of titles that still deserve recognition for their mastery of design, and a standard “best of” list is simply too limited to cover every one of their accomplishments. Much like we did with our best music category, then, we’ll be devoting a whole new category to honoring the best multiplayer games of 2011. Which titles did we think were the most fun with friends?
Mario Kart 7
Our pick for best 3DS title also happens to be our favorite multiplayer game of 2011, and with good reason. The Mario Kart series is renowned for its frenetic multiplayer, and Mario Kart 7 is certainly no exception. With the strongest selection of courses to date and a handful of new items to help level the playing field, Nintendo’s racer proved that there were few things as enjoyable as belting a friend with a well-placed shell (especially if it happened to be of the blue variety). More importantly, though, it was the culmination of the company’s progress in the field of online gaming, offering the most seamless wireless play of any first-party title. Throw in leaderboards and the ability to build and join communities (like ours!– 63-6299-4119-1856), not to mention perennial favorites like Balloon Battle and Coin Runners, and you have the recipe for the greatest Mario Kart yet. See you on the tracks.
BEST MULTIPLAYER RUNNERS-UP
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land
2011 may not have been the most remarkable year for Wii releases, but when a title did finally come along for the neglected console, it was one to take notice of. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, the latest co-op platformer spawned in the wake of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, was just such a game, a fun return-to-form for Nintendo’s pink mascot. While not as visionary as 2010’s Epic Yarn, Return to Dream Land was nonetheless another fine installment in the long-running series, taking the hero through a host of familiar environments on his quest to retrieve the lost parts of the Lor Starcutter. The game was certainly enjoyable as a solo adventure, but where it truly shone was as a multiplayer romp. Like New Super Mario Bros. before it, players could team with up to three of their friends to tackle Dream Land’s challenges, helping (or hindering) each other as they saw fit. It never got as chaotic as Mario’s title (the little matter of sharing lives quickly put a stop to any reckless douchebaggery), but it was still every bit as fun, earning the game a respectable second place in our category.
Sure, Swapnote may not be a game in the traditional sense, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Leave it to Nintendo to take something as simple as a messaging tool and turn it into one of the most addictive experiences on 3DS, a perfect marriage of charm and functionality that precious few apps have ever achieved. With a robust selection of messaging options, from hand-drawn notes to postcards and audio recordings, Swapnote gave you plenty of ways to
harass communicate with your cyber pals. As with all great multiplayer games, though, Swapnote truly came to life the more friends you had registered in your friends list, guaranteeing you’d find a new message waiting for you each time you turned your console on. In fact, this “respond-when-you-can” approach to design made it almost the 3DS equivalent of Words With Friends, albeit with more crudely-drawn images of, ahem, certain body parts. It may not be the most technologically impressive game on this list, but it’s one you’ll keep going back to for a long time to come.
BEST MULTIPLAYER HONORABLE MENTIONS
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Rayman Origins
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
Tell us which of the above titles you’d pick as the winner, or if you think another game is more deserving, let us know in the comments section!