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The Best Nintendo Multiplayer Games of All Time

Over the years Nintendo has prided itself as being a family system, so of course, they would make games that the entire family can play. The NES and SNES were restricted by technology that only allowed two players to play at once. As time went on, that technology got better and systems were no longer restricted to a set amount of players. With the introduction of online play, people could interact with countless amount of players all over the world.

Starting with the NES and moving up to today we’re going to list the best multiplayer games per Nintendo console. These games will be specifically for those that can be more than one player at a time. For example, while Super Mario Bros was great, and could be two players, only one can play at a time so it won’t be counted.

NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

Bubble Bobble

Bubble Bobble
Photo Credit: Taito

Not only was Bubble Bobble a great multiplayer game, but it was also one of the best games on the NES. In each level, Bub and Bob blow bubbles to trap enemies. When an enemy is trapped either character can touch the bubble and the enemy will be defeated, sometimes dropping score increasing bonuses. When only one enemy remains that enemy will turn pink and start moving really quickly around the stage. Removing all enemies will complete the level and move on to the next.

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Playing Bubble Bobble alone is still fun, but working together with a partner makes the levels much easier to accomplish. Plus it adds a little competition for who can pop more enemies.

Contra

Contra
Photo Credit: Konami

Players were thrilled when Contra made it out of the arcade and onto their home consoles. The game was difficult and unforgiving so spending numerous quarters was a thing of the past.

Two players could play simultaneously which made the game a little easier (if you had a partner you could rely on). There were six total power-ups to help you on your way, four were weapons, and two were auxiliaries. The player would lose a life in various ways including getting shot, touching an enemy, falling into a bottomless pit, or running out of time.

Dr. Mario

Dr Mario
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Dr. Mario may have borrowed some gameplay mechanics from Tetris but changed up the goal to keep it fresh. Dr. Mario stands at the top of the screen and tosses pill capsules down to match on top of viruses. A match of four of the same color will remove the virus. Remove all of the viruses to win.

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The multiplayer pits players against each other. The same game as the single-player, only now players compete to see who can clear the board faster. Players are given the exact same board and the same capsules fall. It’s all about planning ahead and making the right move.

River City Ransom

River City Ransom
Photo Credit: Technōs Japan

River City Ransom follows two friends Alex and Ryan who are on a mission to rescue Ryan’s girlfriend from the villain Slick. They fight several gangs along the way and collect cash to upgrade their fighting abilities and for spa treatments to heal themselves.

The game can be played alone or in co-op mode, but when playing single player, you play as Alex…rescuing Ryan’s girlfriend. What a good friend.

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Tecmo Bowl

Tecmo Bowl
Photo Credit: Tecmo

Tecmo Bowl laid the groundwork for all future NFL video games. It’s still considered one of the best sports games ever made. It featured 12 NFL teams with fake names and each team had nine players with real names from those cities. The team on offense could pick one of four plays to run and the defense had to try to guess which play they were doing to stop the drive.

There were three modes to play. Single-player would have you playing against the computer, two-player and coach mode had the players picking the plays.

SUPER NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM

Super Street Fighter II Turbo

Super Street Fighter 2
Photo Credit: Capcom

Still one of the best fighting games to this day. Super Street Fighter II Turbo introduced a few new characters and crisper graphics. Players could now choose from a roster of 16 characters and several different stages. There were also four different speed settings to choose from, so you could set the pace on how fast you wanted to beat up your buddy.

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Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart
Photo Credit: Nintendo

This was the first-ever Mario Kart, and Nintendo just kept making them better and better. Players could pick one of the eight most notable Mario characters and use them to race on any of the 20 unique tracks. They could go head to head, do a Grand-Prix against the remaining six or seven computer-controlled characters, or they could duke it out in battle mode trying to be the first to destroy the opponent’s three ballons.

The game was an instant hit and led to at least one iteration on each following system. It is forever a staple in the Nintendo library of games.

Mortal Kombat 3

Mortal Kombat 3
Photo Credit: Midway

After Mortal Kombat 1 and 2 got criticized so harshly for the graphic content, Midway thought, “cool, let’s do it again”. This time around they added new characters new types of fatalities and interactive levels. Now players could be punched through ceilings and other walls. They also introduced Animalities where the player could turn into an animal and kill their opponent as that animal.

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The game was a success aside from some criticism from players that Scorpion and Kitana were removed from this version. Even with all the griping, Mortal Kombat 3 was the best-selling SNES game of 1995.

Kirby’s Dream Course

Kirby's Dream Course
Photo Credit: HAL Laboratory/Nintendo

Ok, so it’s basically golf. But it’s golf with a pink marshmallow. Kirby’s objective here is to eliminate all enemies on the course in as few shots as possible. The final enemy remaining on the course will turn into the hole. The multiplayer follows the same system as regular golf, the first player to sink their Kirby in the hole wins that round. As per a usual Kirby game, there are powerups that can be collected by destroying enemies. These powerups will help Kirby finish the course quicker and can be used against the other player as well.

The game was labeled as “wacky” and a “unique spin” on mini-golf. Due to its originality, it was considered one of the best games on the Super Nintendo.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time

TMNT Turtles in Time
Photo Credit: Konami

Originally an arcade game made for four players the Super Nintendo version could only accommodate two. Players would pick from any of the four brothers each with their own special abilities. The Statue of Liberty has been stolen and the turtles are sent through a time warp to fight Shredders Foot Clan. The turtles go through different eras of time in the past and future to recover the Statue of Liberty.

Aside from being considered too easy and short, the game got good reviews. Most critics gave it 9 out of 10 for the fun gameplay and the cartoon style that mimicked the show.

NINTENDO 64

Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark
Photo Credit: Nintendo/Rare

Arriving three years after Goldeneye kept players hooked to their N64s for hours on end, Perfect Dark came along and did so many things that Goldeneye didn’t. First off you could play multiplayer with computers. There was also a co-op main campaign, more weapon choices and the graphics were slightly better too.

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Perfect Dark received a lot of praise for its gameplay but was criticized for its inconsistent frame rate and being too similar to Goldeneye.

Star Wars Episode I: Racer

Star Wars Racer
Photo Credit: LucasArts

LucasArts decided to capitalize on the best part of The Phantom Menace by making a game out of it. Racer puts the player right in the driver’s seat of a pod-racer. Every racer from the movie makes an appearance with a few extra specific to the game. There are also several worlds and tracks to race on. For its time, the game was beautiful and really gave an authentic sense of speed. If players used the optional Expansion Pak it ran the game in higher resolution and increased the frame rate for smoother gameplay.

The game had mostly positive reviews and held a world record for the Best Selling Sci-fi Racing Game. It’s been remade in HD for current-gen consoles that features up to eight players in online multiplayer.

Goldeneye

Goldeneye
Photo Credit: Nintendo/Rare

While the single-player campaign followed the movie pretty closely and had some solid gameplay, the multiplayer is where Goldeneye really shined. Many hours were spent in a 2-4 player deathmatch that featured several options to change the way you fought your friends. There were numerous levels from the movie (and some made-up levels) to battle in, with characters that were featured in other James Bond films as well.

The game was commended for its realistic animations and attention to level detail. It’s been featured in numerous lists for the Greatest Game of All Time and it helped pave the way for other first-person shooters.

Mario Kart 64

Mario Kart 64
Photo Credit: Nintendo

After the success of Super Mario Kart, Nintendo went 3D and made Mario Kart 64. They kept the same 8 character roster but with 16 new tracks made in three dimensions. Four-player multiplayer wasn’t the only new thing, they also added slipstreaming and the ability to carry two items instead of one. Both of those additions are now staples in the Mario Kart franchise.

Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros
Photo Credit: Nintendo

If you ever wanted to play as Mario punching Pikachu or shoot Link in the face with Samus’s charge shot, then Smash Bros was the game for you! Taking 12 of Nintendo’s most popular characters and making them fight is what Smash Bros. was all about. Four players can fight at once on several different stages themed after worlds in the Nintendo universe.

In a stock match, the object is to knock your opponent off the stage to be the last one standing. In a timed match, the objective is to get as many opponents knocked off the stage as many times as possible within the time limit. The N64 version is mostly recognized as a party game, but the later renditions in the series became tournament-worthy.

GAMECUBE

Mario Kart: Double Dash!!

Mario Kart Double Dash
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo did something with Double Dash that they’ve never done again, unfortunately. They put two players in one kart. One player drives and the other handles the items. It was a very unique spin on the Mario Kart series. Many more characters were introduced this time around, a total of 20 – twelve of them being new. There were new items including a special item specific to each character, which became another staple in the series.

Double Dash received a few perfect score ratings and was the fastest-selling Gamecube game at that point.

F-Zero GX

F-Zero GX
Photo Credit: Nintendo/Sega/AmusmentVision

F-Zero GX was easily one of the most graphically beautiful games on the Gamecube. The cutscenes were stunning and the level design was incredible. The story mode was unusually difficult for a Nintendo game but the multiplayer was lots of fun.

With numerous cars, characters, and tracks to choose from, it was one of the best racing games on Gamecube.

Super Smash Bros Melee

Super Smash Bros Melee
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo took the winning formula from Super Smash Bros and brought it over to Super Smash Bros Melee. Now featuring 25 characters and 18 stages, there was no lack of things to accomplish. Unlocking new characters and stages took a while, but once that was done that’s when the competitive nature of the multiplayer took over.

Super Smash Bros Melee had a massive tournament scene following. It was one of the longest-running tournament games in Nintendo history. Even after the next two iterations of Smash Bros were released and in tournament rounds, Melee still held a spot in those tournaments. It is still considered by some to be the best version of the Smash Bros franchise.

Super Monkey Ball 2

Super Monkey Ball 2
Photo Credit: Sega/Amusement Vision

With twelve multiplayer games to dive into, Super Monkey Ball 2 was made for parties. It features the original six games with six more to unlock by playing the single-player campaign. Most of the games are built around sports (tennis, soccer, golf, etc), but a few are originally designed, such as Monkey Dogfight and Monkey Target.

Super Monkey Ball 2 won Best Parlor Game at E3 in 2002. Most reviews praised the multiplayer as well as the single-player calling it addictive and simple.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures

Four Swords Adventures
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Four Swords Adventures can be played alone as one person controlling all four links, but it’s much more fun with four actual players. This is where the game strays from the typical Zelda formula. Most of Link’s adventures are alone, but in Four Swords, Link and his clones are forced to work together. They will complete puzzles and defeat enemies as a team, all in the interest of saving Hyrule.

One of the few games to use the Gameboy Advance Link Cable, players could use their GBA as a controller while it was linked to the Gamecube. This was actually required for multiplayer use as the character would transfer to a player’s GBA if they moved off of the TV screen.

WII

Wii Sports Resort

Wii Sports Resort
Photo Credit: Nintendo

When the Wii was released the console came with a copy of Wii Sports. It was five minigames that were made to show how the motion controls worked, plus they were a lot of fun. A few years later Nintendo fine-tuned the Wii remote with the ‘Wii MotionPlus’, an attachment that made the movements of the controller more sensitive.

A game came bundled with the Wii MotionPlus; it was a second, better version of Wii Sports, called Wii Sports Resort. This version was more of the same, but it had 12 games instead of five. Each game can be played with multiple players, some are competitive and some require working together.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Super Smash Bros Brawl
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Definitely one of the less popular Smash Bros games, Brawl still did some revolutionary things for the franchise. First of all, they added a very in-depth story mode called the Subspace Emissary. This had beautiful computer-generated cutscenes that moved the story along. It was also the first Smash Bros game to include third-party characters, Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake. This led to many more non-Nintendo characters being added to future games (more on that later).

The multiplayer was disappointing to many fans because of the much slower pace than Melee. A new random tripping mechanic was also introduced which could completely turn the tides of an intense match. For casual players, this wasn’t much of an issue as the game was still highly rated and enjoyed by most.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii

New Super Mario Bros Wii
Photo Credit: Nintendo

New Super Mario Bros. Wii goes back to the Mario story roots of Peach being kidnapped by Bowser and Mario coming to rescue her. This time around Mario has some help from his brother Luigi and two Toads with nothing better to do. The game looks like a typical side scroller but it has 3D models throughout. This was the first Super Mario game to feature simultaneous cooperative multiplayer gameplay. There are eight worlds total for players to conquer as a team or by fighting each other to the end.

Overall critics liked the new multiplayer aspect. Since it hadn’t been done on a Mario game before, it made it feel fresh. It got positive reviews and sold over one million copies, breathing new life into the slowing sales of the Wii.

Wario Ware: Smooth Moves

Wario Ware Smooth Moves
Photo Credit: Nintendo

The Wario Ware series has always been a fun, quirky, fast-actioned party game. Each Wario Ware is made up of tons of five-second microgames with very few instructions (if any). The Wii version was no different. The player is shown a quick picture of how to hold the remote and then the microgame starts. The multiplayer can have up to 12 people using one Wii remote. Each player does their microgame then passes the remote to the next person. The games get faster and faster cranking up the difficulty.

While Smooth Moves got favorable reviews for the most part, some critics said it didn’t have enough content and was far too short. Others claimed it was one of the best Wii games yet.

Mario Strikers Charged

Mario Strikers Charged
Photo Credit: Next Level Games/Nintendo

Do you like soccer? Do you enjoy over-the-top arcade-style soccer? Then Mario Strikers Charged is the game for you! Mario Strikers Charged is the sequel to Mario Strikers from the Gamecube. The game is basically soccer but with power-ups and special abilities. Players can choose from 12 captains and eight sidekicks to form a team of 5 players. The player plays as the captain and is the only one that can use the special abilities and power-ups.

It lacked a more robust single-player campaign, but the reviews did love the art style, the multiplayer, and the solid online play. Fun fact: It was the first Wii game to be played online in Europe.

WII U

Yoshi’s Wooly World

Yoshis Wooly World
Photo Credit: Nintendo/Good-Feel

Yes, it’s super cute but also super fun, and even better with a partner. Wooly World is a typical platformer where Yoshi, all his pals, and their entire world have been turned into yarn. Instead of throwing eggs in the typical Yoshi style, they produce balls of yarn that can tie up enemies, fill gaps in the world, and knock down or destroy objects. Players can also eat and throw each other if they run out of yarn and need something to throw in a pinch.

It wasn’t the highest-rated Wii U game, but reviewers did love the co-op mode and the clever level design. They also commented on the beautiful visuals and fun gameplay.

Super Mario 3D World

Super Mario 3D World
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Up to four players can play Super Mario 3D World at once. Either in a group effort or in competition for the high score and the privilege of wearing the crown. This was a great family game with upbeat music, bright levels, and a welcoming atmosphere. The game is a direct sequel to Super Mario 3D Land and plays the same way in the 3D environment. There are only a few minor differences aside from the simultaneous four-player campaign. The most notable is the ability to turn into a cat. Each character can collect a bell and be transformed into a cat version of themselves. The cat moves faster, can climb walls, and scratch enemies as an attack.

The game won Game of the Year from several media outlets and received no lower than a 90% from the majority of reviewers. It is the second best-selling Wii U game with over 5.8 million copies sold.

Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Still the best and most current Mario Kart in the series. It follows the typical Mario Kart mechanics but adds more tracks, more characters, and anti-gravity racing. In anti-gravity sections of some tracks, the racers can race along walls and on ceilings. There are also special speed boost pillars that can be triggered when hit. With a total of 48 tracks across 12 cups and 36 characters to pick from, there’s no lack of content in this Mario Kart.

Super Smash Bros Wii U

Super Smash Bros Wii U
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Eight fighters at once! This game was pure chaos, in the best way possible. Nintendo really pushed the limits on Super Smash Bros Wii U. Not only could eight players play at once but there were 51 characters with seven more added later as DLC. Nintendo did a full rebalance this time around and found a happy medium speed between Melee and Brawl, they also removed the tripping feature that angered so many players before. Two other third-party characters were added – Pac-man and Mega Man – to the delight of many players.

Reviewers loved the game as much as hard-core Smash fans. The game was balanced so well that it was the new Smash Bros headliner at tournament venues knocking Melee out of the ranks.

Splatoon

Splatoon
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Splatoon is a third-person shooter that features characters known as Inklings and Octolings. These two factions are in a constant four versus four territory control war it seems, covering levels in their own colored ink. While in their human form they use weapons that shoot and produce ink. They can then swim or hide in said ink when in their cephalopodic forms.

Splatoon has been credited with reinventing the third-person shooter. It won numerous game of the year awards from many magazines and websites.

SWITCH

Super Mario Party

Super Mario Party
Photo Credit: NDcube/Nintendo

Definitely not the highest-rated Mario Party in the series, but it still had its moments. The game follows the typical Mario Party play style. The player rolls a dice and moves along the board. Some spaces have special actions such as giving or taking coins, or good luck and bad luck spaces that will either help the player or be very unhelpful. When all players have played their turn one of 80 minigames will begin at random. Winning mini-games will grant coins. Coins are needed to purchase stars as they appear on the board. If a player lands on the space where a star is located they need the proper amount of coins to purchase it.

The standard board game isn’t the only way to play though. There were five other multiplayer games including Star Rush, Partner Party, River Survival, Toad Scramble, and Sound Stage. Each of them has its own twist on the game and offers plenty of replayability.

This was the second-highest-rated Mario Party game since Mario Party 2 on the N64. The reviewers enjoyed how most of the games now relied on skill instead of randomness.

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs Brain

Brain vs Brain
Photo Credit: Nintendo

This is a wonderful family game, especially for those with youngsters. But it’s not just for families, this can easily be played as a party game too. There are 20 games with 6 difficulties each. Every player can pick their own difficulty, this helps level the playing field some. You’re good at computing? Do the Elite Class difficulty for that game choice. Not so good a memorizing? Try the Beginner Class for that one. Each session ends when one player reaches 100 points. The amount of sessions is decided before the games begin.

As of this writing, the game is pretty new, so there aren’t any professional reviews yet. In my personal opinion after playing for about two hours, I would highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys party games, or maybe just wants to get their brain in better shape.

Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Splatoon 2 has the same mechanics as its predecessor but added a few things. There are new weapons, including Jetpacks (Inkjets technically). They’ve added Dualies which can be dual-wielded, and Brellas which act like a shotgun and come with a shield. Along with the original game modes, a new mode was introduced called Salmon Run. This mode has two teams working together to destroy groups of Salmonids to collect their eggs.

In 2016 the game was so popular it became part of the eSport collective sponsored by Nintendo.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Photo Credit: Nintendo

Ok, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is essentially the exact same game as Mario Kart 8 from the Wii U, except it includes all of the DLC. However, the popularity carried over to the Switch and it is [currently] the Switch’s best-selling game. There are a few minor differences between the two though. The graphics are enhanced to full HD on the Switch version. The Battle Mode has been expanded adding specially designed battle stages and three new variations for battle. Two items that were absent from the Wii U version have been readded on the Switch, and five new characters were included as well.

The game received over 90 percent rating in almost all reviews, and together the games have sold over 47 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling racing game, ever.

For more on the best-selling racing game ever, best sure to check out our rankings of all Mario Kart 8 tracks.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Photo Credit: Nintendo

82 characters. That’s just…insane. 22 years ago (or in 1999, depending on when you read this) the first Super Smash Bros was released with just 12 characters. In that time each iteration has released more fighters. They took away a few as well. But now they’re all back, and then some!

It’s sad to say, and we hope we’re wrong, but this may be the last Smash Bros we see. It is called Ultimate after all, and ultimate by definition means that it’s final. Masahiro Sakurai hasn’t retired yet, but he did mention he didn’t want to do any more Smash Bros. He could hand it off to someone else, but why? When Ultimate is so good in every way. Each character has been balanced a rebalanced over the last three years and there is so much content to get through. Even though Nintendo has stopped the updates for it, the multiplayer will live on for many, many years.

Written by Donny Long

Donny has been in the game design industry for over 15 years. Starting in QA he’s worked his way up to Game Design. He’s played video games since he was old enough to hold a controller and has passed that passion on to his daughters. While a Nintendo fanboy at heart and grew up only playing Nintendo consoles, he has since expanded his horizons.

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