It wasn’t all that long ago that like-minded gamers would have to physically travel to each other’s homes to enjoy rudimentary multiplayer titles like Street Fighter II or NBA Live. Modern video games, of course, have increased greatly in both complexity and visual appeal; what’s more, with the rise of technology and widespread broadband access, gamers can compete with one another from pretty much any location in the world, as long as there’s a Wi-Fi signal or LAN connection. In addition, with the availability of community chat apps like the messaging platform Discord and the video live-streaming service Twitch, gamers can interact with friends and competitors, sharing texts or videos as they play.
Here are 10 of the most iconic multiplayer games of all time.
Arguably the most popular multiplayer game ever, this title first hit the shelves in 2017. Today, there are three ways to play: Battle Royale, in which up to 100 players fight to be the last one standing; Save the World, which is a cooperative survival game; and Creative, in which you can build your own worlds and arenas. The game is something of a cross between a first-person shooter and Second Life, meaning it’s got drama and feels like you practically live inside it. Preview it here.
This title, the fifth installment of the Super Smash Bros. series, was released in 2018 and offers a melee of battle action between a wide-ranging cast of Nintendo protagonists. Gamers like to play this at parties because many can join in and there’s a wide array of characters. The game is bright, fast-paced and cartoonish in the best of ways, making it family-friendly too. Preview it here.
Also released in 2018, this is the third in the Red Dead series. Set in 1899, players act as outlaws in the Wild West, and the multiplayer mode, known as Red Dead Online, allows up to 32 people to get together in both cooperative and competitive missions. Players can customize a character and explore the world either alone or in a posse, galloping on horseback or running through an old saloon town. The game is on just about every “best of” list for its realism and immaculate graphics. Preview it here.
Released in 2004 (with some 12 million subscribers by 2010), this title is often thought of as one of the originals for the modern multiplayer. Gamers love the options of being able to create detailed characters, engage in myriad missions, combat their foes and explore vast worlds in a group or solo. The screen can get a little crowded in battle mode, so gamers will want to be able to hear each bow-and-arrow shot and sword chop in order not to be caught off guard … making it a real plus if you can listen on a good sound system while playing. Preview it here.
Though this first-person shooter was first released in 2016, the game’s creator, Blizzard Entertainment, adds new worlds, characters and maps with each subsequent version. The title is very much group-focused, assigning players into two teams of six. Gamers then choose which “hero” to control from a large and diverse roster, each with special abilities, and teams must compete in specific tasks during a limited period of time, creating a heart-racing experience. It’s also an easy-to-play game with comic book-like graphics that is today included in “E-Sport” professional leagues. You won’t want to miss the dialogue between competitors in-between forcefield deployments and flame-throwing, so listen with the volume up! Preview it here.
While this title is over a decade-and-a-half old — it debuted in 2007 — it’s also, to many, the gold standard when it comes to multiplayer first-person shooters. Customize your player, complete team-oriented tasks and enjoy the seemingly never-ending battle modes. Unlike its three predecessors, Call of Duty 4 ditches the World War II backdrop and takes place in modern times (well, 2011). A Middle Eastern president has been executed and there’s a civil war in Russia, but Western forces have been sent in to end the fray. Unlock weapons and camouflage as you advance to the sound of loud, whirring helicopters and crackling radio calls. Preview it here.
Just about every gamer knows of and has played a GTA title, and the fifth installment, which was released in 2013, is one of the most popular to date. Set in the fictional locale of San Andreas, players navigate the underbelly of the city as one of three lowlife characters. Hop in cars, planes and other vehicles as you work to complete tasks, or just take down those in your way. Grand Theft Auto Online allows up to 30 players to perform in a variety of different modes, accompanied by the beloved soundtrack and non-stop action. Preview it here.
Based on the 1995 James Bond movie GoldenEye, this became an instant hit upon its release in 1997, with split-screen action that seemed ahead of its time. The original version could only be played as a single protagonist completing tasks or in a head-to-head “deathmatch” mode, but in 2010, an updated version allowed up to eight players to compete remotely. This is one game where stealth matters, so you’ll want to listen closely in order to be able to hear every footstep and weapon reload. Preview it here.
Originally invented to help kids with problem-solving skills, Minecraft is known as a “sandbox” game, which means it allows a great deal of freedom for players to engage however they like. Since its debut in 2011, it’s evolved into one of the most popular games in the world, despite having simple block-like graphics. Depending on the chosen mode, players can fight the computer or cooperate with (or even compete against) each other online. Preview it here.
One word comes to mind when describing this title: addictive. The cartoonish gameplay, combined with familiar characters that include Mario, Luigi, the Princess and Donkey Kong, makes this pure fun: no military-style battling here. Instead, challenge friends by racing go-karts and bikes over the many tracks as you fire banana peels or turtle shells at each other — even fly or dive underwater. Originally launched in 1992, updates released in the 2000s and 2010s allow gamers to play online in competition. Preview it here.