Over the last decade, video games have widened their inclusivity considerably, giving even the most casual players a chance to go on epic adventures and experience the stories only possible in an interactive medium. But the majority of these games still have one thing in common: They’re single-player only. With online features more interwoven into games than ever before, inexperienced players risk missing out on some of the most creative games available if they don’t make the jump into multiplayer. Fortunately, there are still several multiplayer games – both online and local – that are not only competitive, but welcoming to players who might be intimidated by the concept of playing with other people. Here are a few of our favorites.
No company makes better games for “everyone” than Nintendo. With its colorful online shooter Splatoon, it managed to create not only a world full of personality and classic Nintendo charm, but also an extremely polished multiplayer shooter that goes beyond the short “time to kill” and twitch-based gameplay that makes the Call of Duty or Battlefield series so inaccessible to newcomers. With a variety of ink-based weapons to choose from, including machine guns, sniper rifles, and even a paint roller, every type of player can contribute to the team in a meaningful way. Even if your aim isn’t particularly great, you can still slide along the map and spray ink all over the ground to increase your team’s chance of winning. Though the game is only available on the ill-fated Wii U, its sequel arrives this summer on the Nintendo Switch, and with that system’s portability, it’ll be a perfect game for bringing to parties.
A more causal spin-off of the relatively inaccessible Forza Motorsport series, Forza Horizon 3 features races on the wide-open Australian outback that allow you to improve your driving precision, while also forgiving mistakes thanks to its rewinding mechanic and destructible environments. When you decide to join up with a buddy online and explore the country together, you’ll be able to do much more than simple “A to B” races: Stunt challenges and “speed zones” let you get your wheels wet without worrying about coming in first place, but the experience with a friend will still help you tighten your turns and learn how to break ahead of the pack. Once you finally do decide to enter a racing event, the game’s “driving line” feature will help you to learn how fast you should be rounding corners and when it’s wise to accelerate, and the Xbox One’s rumbling triggers help to let you know when to lay off the gas pedal.
As a “hero” shooter, Overwatch lacks the deep customization and personalization options that can overwhelm and discourage casual players from getting into mainstream online shooters. Characters like Soldier: 76 and Reaper provide excellent, easy-to-learn move-sets that allow even the greenest noobs to kill enemies and lock down important areas of the map, while those more interested in helping their allies will have an easy time with Reinhardt’s shield or Torbjörn’s powerful turrets. Of course, healing your friends is just as important as eliminating your enemies, and both Lúcio and Mercy provide newer players with powerful healing and boosting abilities that will help the team capture an objective or move a payload forward. Perhaps the greatest feeling as a new player, however, will come from using an “ultimate” ability like Soldier: 76’s tactical visor to take out a pro Genji player before they have a chance to deflect the bullets. In Overwatch, it’ll never be more than a few minutes before you do something amazing.
Most of our other choices are games that are welcoming to newcomers because they quickly help players improve and become competitive. #IDARB takes a different approach by being universally difficult to understand and impossible to master. This competitive sports game is essentially a mix of basketball and hockey, with teams quickly passing a ball back and forth as they attempt to score on their opponents’ goal. With lightning-fast athletes and a checking system that causes the ball to constantly change possession, everyone will be equally terrible at the game whether you choose to play online or with a few friends by your side. That’s without factoring in the ridiculous “hashbombs” that the community can use to flip the control scheme, flood the arena with water, or invade your game with an enormous image of Iron Galaxy Studios’ Dave Lang.
The Mario Kart series’ unpredictability and simple controls have always made it a great multiplayer choice for casual players, and Mario Kart 8 only improves on the experience with a robust online component that actually works as Nintendo intended. Using the Wii U GamePad or a Wii Remote, it’s quite easy to keep Mario, Yoshi, Peach, or any of the game’s other famous characters on the track throughout a race, all while you throw shells, bombs, and banana peels to take out other racers. The great equalizer – the famous blue Koopa shell – also helps to keep casual players from falling too far behind, as it actually punishes those who have broken ahead from the pack. The game is coming to the Nintendo Switch on April 28 as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, bundling together the original game with all bonus maps and characters, and the console’s detachable Joy-Con controllers mean that you can get in a match or two no matter where you might be.
Nintendo’s universe-colliding fighting game can certainly end friendships when played at the highest level, and it has become a popular choice for eSports athletes, but it also serves as a fantastic introduction to the fighting genre for newcomers. Characters like Mario, Fox, Charizard, and Ike are easy to pick up and play, with a balanced array of moves that you can use in a variety of situations, and when playing against someone of a similar skill level, you’ll find yourself experimenting with attack combinations and special abilities in order to get the slight advantage you need to win. In team-based and free-for-all fights, all bets are off, and the action can get so chaotic that it’s almost impossible to play with any level of strategy or finesse – that works to a newcomer’s advantage, however, particularly with a character like Bower or Link who can quickly knock several enemies off the stage in one fell swoop. The addition of items and the infamous “Smash Ball” will cause every player to simultaneously drop what they’re doing and scramble.
Featuring a deep progression system that encourages customization, but lacking the try-hard community that can make similar games unbearable to play, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is all but guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Character classes like the enormous, hard-charging “All-Star” Zombie and the daring “Kernel Corn” serve different functions, such as holding down a specific choke point or simply breaking up a group of enemies, but you’ll find that they’re all still viable regardless of which map you’re playing on. For those just starting out with competitive multiplayer shooters, simple but effective choices like “Sunflower” or “Super Brainz” will allow you to get accustomed to the game’s fast-paced matches, which regularly force teams to displace and reposition themselves as enemies close in for the kill. After you’ve had your fill of versus-mode action, the game’s fantastic cooperative “Garden Ops” and “Graveyard Ops” modes will let you hone your plant and zombie-destroying skills with a few of your closest friends.
PlayStation’s MLB: The Show series is typically unforgiving to newcomers thanks to its ridiculously difficult hitting system, complicated control scheme, and punishing AI, but MLB: The Show 17 still manages to carve out a niche for baseball fans who might not be familiar with sports simulators. In addition to simplified control choices that can limit swinging the bat to the press of a button — and even let fielders automatically go after batted balls, provided you aren’t playing in an online match — The Show 17 introduces a “retro” mode that strips the game down to its very basic elements. Just sliding a player back and forth in the batter’s box and timing each pitch is all you need to send the ball over the fence. If you’re struggling with a particular aspect of The Show 17, such as pitching, a dynamic system will gradually lower the difficulty in order to offer you a fair challenge. Should you improve, the game will automatically make things tougher, so you don’t get bored hitting homer after homer off your friends and family.