Local multiplayer games on Steam that rock

Because multiplayer doesn’t always have to be online.

Local multiplayer games on Steam that rock
Duck Game: One of the best local multiplayer titles ever made.

One of the best things about console gaming is being able to play locally with friends, cooperatively or competitively, on the couch. Valve caught onto this idea quite a while ago with the introduction of Big Picture mode to Steam (which basically encourages players to connect a PC to a TV), the option for streaming games, and the announcement of its soon-to-be-released controller.

Couple this with the reality that a lot of games on Steam now offer controller support, which is explicitly indicated during Big Picture mode, and local play options on PC are big business nowadays. I’ve taken a bunch of these sorts of games for a spin recently and compiled a list of titles that are well worth your time and investment, if you have the urge to play locally.

Hidden in Plain Sight
This little gem started off as an Xbox indie title but hit Steam around this time last year. There’s no option for solo or online play, and it’s also (unfortunately) limited by support for Xbox-compatible controllers, which means it may be a task to wrangle up four of them. You don’t need four controllers to enjoy the game, though, and most of my time has been spent playing one versus one across the unique modes that are both challenging and intense.

The game embraces the proven logic of ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’, as the modes all take place on a single, top-down level where the only (safe) way to determine which character you’re controlling is by moving. Press the attack button or move in a way that makes you stand out from the identical NPCs, and you’re likely to fall prey to a surprise attack, as other players notice non-NPC-like movements. But that’s just one of the modes. Other modes task some players with attacking or collecting coins, while others have to snipe those players with limited rounds. My favourite, though, is a combination of the two called Death Race, wherein players have to cross a finish line before the others, but running makes you an easy target for the single-shot rifle that every player has access to.

How to Survive
Zombie games are a dime a dozen these days, but How to Survive combines head smashing with RPG and survival elements. Players will need to manage hydration, nourishment and sleep while battling against the undead. The game changes between day and night, with different challenges as the lights go out, and it’s incredibly challenging on hard by yourself, even if it’s not a particularly hardcore entry into the popular survival space.

Same-screen co-op is a blast, even if the option for additional zombie bashing is offset by the reality that you need to share resources. Still, it’s the safest best for progressing on the hardest difficulty (something I learnt the hard way). As long as you can get past the corny sense of humour and the odd crafting system, there’s an addictive gameplay loop to be found here.

You can play Nidhogg alone, but it’s really not the best way to play. It’s handy for getting your head around the mechanics of the game and learning the specific quirks of each map, but the real fun is found in battling against a friend. To best each map, you simply need to fight your way from left to right, or vice versa, depending on which side of the map you started. The trick is that if you are killed or fall off a ledge (it happens a bit), you’re the defending player and it’s up to you to stop the other player from making it to the end screen on their side of the map.

While you can use your sword to block between three stances on the 2D fighting plane, fights rarely descend into blocks and counter strikes. More often than not, the outcome of a fight is determined in a single blow, and it’s made all the more exciting by the reality that you can throw your sword, or still manage to kill the other player when you’re unarmed. It all plays out at a frantic pace, and near-instant respawn for the player you’ve just killed keeps it exciting from start to finish.

In terms of pace, this one’s a lot like Nidhogg, except that instead of fighting from one edge of the screen to another, players are racing against each other around the same 2D track. Complete a lap, and the screen size shrinks, which means lagging players run the risk of being taken out of the race by disappearing off-screen.

There are speed boosts along the way, and a handy grappling hook ensures that players with fast reactions or in-depth map knowledge can maintain a blistering pace throughout each lap. Couple this with various offensive and defensive pick-ups that can be collected along the way, and SpeedRunners is the kind of game that can be played in short bursts or for lengthy competitive sessions.

Duck Game
The titles above have all been on Steam for a while, but Duck Game is a recent addition to Steam’s library, and it’s the best of the lot. It’s played on a 2D plane with 8-bit visuals, and it’s fun whether you’re playing one on one, or with up to four players. This one has a bit of a learning curve, as map knowledge and an understanding of how the various weapons work are a great foundation for ensuring victory, but there’s also a lot of luck at play, which helps to level the playing field somewhat.

Each duck combatant is differentiated by the hat they choose to wear, and picking the same hat as another duck puts you on that player’s team. Despite team support, Duck Game is at its best when it’s a frantic free for all, as players race to get the best weapons… and then run for cover if they miss them. I’ve played Duck Game for hours back to back and it doesn’t get old, so if you only want to try one title from this list, make it Duck Game.

Are there any local multiplayer titles on Steam that you can’t stop playing? If so, please let me know so I can add them to my library of party games.

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