Everyone knows that videogames make an already great party awesome. (Everyone except my girlfriend, it seems). What people don’t agree on: what to play. Enter our list of the real top 10 party games of all time.
A lot of factors have to go into the perfect party videogame: time it takes to play, appeal to both genders, appeal across all ages.
And everyone’s going to give you a different opinion on this, and trust me that you can’t trust game magazines or websites on a subject of this magnatude. They’re more concerned about telling you about next month’s mega-hyped AAA release than what’s actually fun (evidenced by one of the games on our list currently having a 5.5/10 on Metacritic!)
So as the expert on videogame entertainment, here are some recommendations to keep in mind the next time you’ve got a shindig to plan and some videogames to mix in: the top 10 party games of all time!
Dial M for Mario – Mario Kart (2-4 players)
Without a doubt, any version of Mario Kart is probably the most popular videogame you can have at any event, anywhere, for any occasion.
Age-friendly. Characters everyone likes (and at worst can tolerate). Competitive, yet anyone can play it because of catch-up mechanics and bad players get great items. Controls are basically “steer”, “go”, “stop” and “use item”.
The Wii U, N64, and Gamecube versions are all good bets. Wii U version is cool because you’ve got wireless controllers and it looks great on an HDTV. N64 has the best “nostalgia” factor. Gamecube is preferred by many as the best in the series. Pick your favorite and it should be the first pick on your top 10 party games.
Dancing Queen – Just Dance (2-8 players)
Popping around on goofy mats has been a videogame party staple since ’80s kids found out how much more fun it was to cheat using the Nintendo PowerPad than it was to play.
While I still play Dance Dance Revolution as professionally as you can do something and not get paid for it, the craze has kind of passed now. Thankfully, with the Wii remote, Playstation Move — and especially the Xbox Kinect — you don’t even need a mat anymore to do instructed dances to licensed music like a gooftball. But it’s just as fun.
The Dance Central series and Just Dance are both mega popular, ubiquitous and have a great mix of classic radio hits and that new stuff the kids listen to.
Dance Central is a bit more serious, Just Dance a bit more casual. We prefer Just Dance at a Games Done Legit gaming party
The Eternal Runback – 007 Goldeneye / Halo (2-4 players)
Mention Goldeneye to any guy born 1978 or later and they probably have memories of playing Goldeneye for hours upon hours. It’s the one of the most popular videogames of all time since it was the first console game to offer deep first-person gameplay and endless 4-player multiplayer and bragging-rights opportunities.
The Halo series took it a step further on the original Xbox, Xbox 360 and now the Xbox One, with a sci-fi universe most console players hadn’t experienced, much smoother multiplayer gameplay, and an enigmatic, laconic hero in Master Chief everyone wanted to imagine themselves as (at least, everyone who didn’t notice he’s basically the marine from Doom or Bungie’s own Marathon). Having both take up a spot on our top 10 party games wouldn’t be fair, so here you go!
At my videogaming events in Cleveland, it pumps me up to see how excited people are when I tell them I have the most popular college-dorm hits of their eras. If you ever need to spark the male competitive gene, either of these have you taken care of. Goldeneye and Halo will forever be regarded as two of the best party games ever!
Season is Always Open – Duck Hunt (1 player at a time)
Don’t ask me why, but Duck Hunt remains as eternally endearing as the sister NES game is was famously packaged with (Super Mario Bros. 1). And Nintendo has finally acknowledged it in Super Smash Bros. 4 for Wii U by putting that cackling canine in as a playable character. Possibly more importantly, Duck Hunt is finally playable on HDTVs, thanks to its release on Wii U.
Duck Hunt is a game anyone can play, but gets very challenging as the game progresses (miss one duck and you’re done!). And it makes shooting ducks (and cursing that dog) a childlike, adorable experience. Easily one of the best party games ever.
Pizza Time – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time (1-4 players)
Weird choice? Well, I might agree if not fact that after one year of running nightlife gaming entertainment, I don’t even wait to be asked, I just toss the Heroes in a Half Shell up on an HDTV and wait for the first controller to get picked up.
Whether it’s a nostalgic affection for the arcade, 4-player Turtles cabinets or the perpetual popularity of their never-ending wave of cartoon series, Turtles IV is the No. 1 requested game in the GDL library.
Secret bonus: in case you forgot, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game is available on Xbox 360 through Xbox Live Arcade for cheap, giving you the four-player action I still wish the console versions of Turtles had. The Playstation 2/Gamecube/Xbox editions of Turtles are OK but don’t have the nostalgic appeal or quick-play arcade charm of the originals.
I Have a Fever. And the Only Cure Is, More … Dr. Mario / Tetris (1-4 players)
I’ve not met a party game enjoyed as equally between genders (and in fact dominated by the fairer sex) than Tetris and Dr. Mario.
Even better, on the Wii you’ll find 4-player versions of both games. Both are two of the best puzzle games ever, games that transcend what a “videogame” even is. They only get better when you’re trying to out think and out react three friends at the same time!
1981 All Over Again – Pac-Man Vs. (2-4 players)
Even if you can’t afford the full-fledged $10,000 arcade machine, Pac Man Battle Royale is finally available for download on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Steam within Namco Museum, which otherwise is a pretty useless buy.
So there are two four-player Pac-Man games now, how cool is that? Even better than Battle Royale though is the response we see from Pac-Man Vs. In this one, one player has a traditional Pac maze on a small Gameboy Advance, and the other players can each see a small part of the maze on the TV – as ghosts!
So the ghosts have to work together to trap and kill Pac-Man. It’s an ingenious twist on one of the most legendary gaming experiences ever, one that anyone can immediately play and enjoy, regardless of their skill or age.
I’ve been setting this up at every bar mitzvah and Games Done Legit gaming party or educational session hosted, and its cross-generational appeal is almost unmatched.
Not many games these days meet two goals: simple enough to be enjoyed parents who grew up in ’80s arcades and also fun enough that young kids want to play them. Pac Man Vs. uniquely has this broad appeal. Bust it out you need a 4-player experience at your next event that anyone has a chance to win.
Not only is it super fun, it makes the top 10 party games list because EVERYone under the age of 60 can play Pac-Man.
Retro is King – NES Remix (1 player at a time)
One thing amazing that amazes me about today’s videogaming: because of the evergreen popularity of Nintendo’s characters, kids who weren’t even born when the Nintendo Entertainment System or even Super Nintendo came out know music and gameplay mechanics of ’80s and ’90s classic Nintendo games.
NES Remix is a mish-mash of the great individual parts of NES classics, smartly fusing nostalgia for old-timey fans with an accessibility so younger fans won’t be tossing their Wii U GamePads in frustration (NES games were HARD).
I’ve sneakily left NES Remix running at events to see if its huge list of NES classics and challenges will entice players to step up to the GamePad, and players love it. I’ve also used NES Remix at multiple special events, using 2 or 3 challenges from the game and offering prizes for the top scores. It’s easy to run (just need 1 system, and you just need to record a player’s final score/time) so it’s something easy to integrate into any event. And no one can resist a Super Mario Bros. challenge!
Wah ha ha! Game & Wario (2-5 players)
There’s a reason Nintendo games feature so prominently on this list: Since the ’80s, Nintendo has made videogames that are easy to learn but hard to master, appealing to all ages in the process.
The long-running WarioWare, Inc. series throws a series of five-second minigames at you, forcing you to rely on old-school fundamentals to advance.
Game & Wario uses the Wii U tablet as creatively as possible while offering games that both gamers and non-gamers alike can quickly master.
The “Sketch” Game is similar to Pictionary, except goofier and more fun. “Fruit” sees the player with the tablet trying to blend in with a huge crowd to steal 4 pieces of yumminess, with each spectator guessing at the end which figure was the player character.
These seriously never get old. And because none of the games need anything except one player using the tablet, casual gamers get involved much easier! Both kids and adults never get sick of Sketch it seems at our events! Game & Wario should actually take up multiple spots on our top 10 party games list but that’s not fair.
Quiplash (Up to 8 players, local and online)
Quiplash is one of the rare games that’s as funny as you are (or aren’t). Much like Cards Against Humanity, the games ask you silly and/or risque questions via your smartphone, with the players themselves providing answers.
At our regular Monday night gaming event in Cleveland, Quiplash is so popular we can’t even run any other videogaming contests on the main screen!
It only takes about 10 minutes to play a round, and what’s cool if you can play with people at physically different locations! Up to 8 players can play in the same game, whether you’re in the same room or across the world. And there’s no app to download, you just go to jackbox.tv and type in your game’s 4-digit room code and your name. That’s it! Easily a top 10 party games experience.
BUT WHAT ABOUT …
Now, there are plenty of incredible party videogames not on this list. I read these top 10 party games lists all the time, and “Are you #&$@*$^ kidding” is usually my first thought. I’m a lifelong gamer, and like all nerds I think I know more than every other nerd in my field of expertise. The SEGA Saturn is my favorite system, so I know what it means to love “obscure” games that are nothing but a footnote on Hardcore Gaming 101, but to me are incredible memories and stories I’ll never forget.
Saturn Bomberman might be on your list. Blast Chamber, Towerfall Ascension, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense are more almost top 10 party games I’ve loved throughout the years.
Not Top 10 Party Games of All Time: Mario Party
Much like Monopoly, Mario Party games usually take forever and produce more salt than a Morton’s factory. The rage I’ve seen spout from a game of Mario Party is almost nothing else in videogames, because you can be doing SO great and either luck or extreme skill can ruin your entire lead you’ve built for 40 minutes in one turn.
For the sake of your friendships, I don’t recommend Mario Party at your actual parties! It’s not ones of the top 10 party games. It KILLS parties.
Do you love or list? Do you hate it? Let us know your favorite party games ever in the Facebook comments, I’d love to hear about them!