Virtual Console hits 100: Multiplayer Essentials

The unveiling of the Wii’s Virtual Console marked an exciting point for Nintendo fans worldwide – an online database chocked to the brim with timeless titles, allowing older generations to redeem themselves from the guilt of having sold their SNES collection, and introducing a younger generation to the boundless joys of four-player N64 games. Europe’s VC has recently hit its first landmark, with 100 titles now available for download on the service. Whilst the Virtual Console has yet failed to live up to the hype, falling short of the promise of providing only ‘handpicked classics’, there’s still a great selection of titles that are genuinely worth your hard earned cash.

Let’s face it, multiplayer games ain’t what they used to be boys and girls, and as awesome as online co-op and worldwide ranking systems may be, there’s still nothing better than sitting down with a few friends and having a night in with some old-school split-screen action. So, to coincide with Nintendo’s VC landmark we’ve thrown together a selection of the few titles that have stood the test of time, providing players with more than fleeting nostalgia followed by a sense of emptiness to match your wallet.

Below you’ll find a selection of multiplayer VC titles with real staying power, the chosen few that’ll keep your Wii from gathering dust until long after the thrill of Wii Sports has faded, so grab a few friends and some points cards and before you know it the summer drought will seem like a distant memory…

F-zero X – N64 – 1000 points
You’ve got BOOST POWER!

While the flow of N64 games onto the Virtual Console has been as stingy as a morphine drip in a rehab centre, it’s also fair to say that unlike many of the other available format releases the games released have been absolutely cracking – and Nintendo’s 100th VC title F-Zero X is no different. Combining OTT cock-rock soundtracks and breakneck speeds with a colour scheme that would make Laurence Llewelyn Bowen wince. F-zero X is shamelessly kitsch fun for all the family. Whilst not as difficult as its Gamecube successor GX, it has to be said that the immediate pick up and play value for multiplayer isn’t as great as Mario Kart 64, requiring you to put a little practice in first before the 4 player racing really comes into its own; but put a bit of time into it, and you’re looking at one of the most entertaining splitscreen racers available.

Bomberman ’93 -TurboGrafx – 600 points
The ultimate party game for easing in non-gamers for the VC session ahead – Essential!

One of the VC’s release titles, Hudson’s classic, never fails to deliver. While not as complex as later Bomberman titles, the TurboGrafx iteration is delightfully simple, sharp, and fantastic fun. The ability to play with 5 people rather than the traditional 4 makes for an unrivalled pick up and play party game. Sure, there’s only one music track for multiplayer, and after a few hours it’ll have driven you slightly mad – but isn’t that part the fun of Bomberman? Doo Dee Doo, Doo Dee Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo…

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – Mega Drive – 800 Points
Perhaps a little pricey, but find a rival and you’ll get your money’s worth on VS mode!

Also available on a Sega compilation disc for the GameCube, Mean Bean Machine is essentially just Puyo Pop with a lick of hedgehog branded paint. There’s not much to say about MBM other than that it’s an absolutely cracking head to head puzzler, with its dark but colourful presentation and grimy soundtrack those looking for a title to maintain a grudge over with someone special should seriously consider picking this up. It’s addictive, tense, and ridiculously competitive. Unless you’ve got access to a copy of Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo, you’ll not go far wrong giving this a pop.

Lylat Wars – N64 – 1000 points
Shaky with a couple of players, but unlock the extra content and get four people in on the action and you’re onto a real winner.

Admittedly much of the glory of Lylat Wars lies in the single player campaign and its immense replay value, but once you’ve unlocked the Landmaster for multiplayer (a tank that rolls and swerves about with a delightfully chunky sense of inertia) the four player deathmatch games start to evolve into pretty satisfying and tense battles. Unfortunately Lylat Wars’ multiplayer graphics haven’t aged well at all, the arenas look particularly sparse and blocky and the fog range in retrospect seems pretty hilarious. Despite all this however, once you’ve got four players who’ve a vague grasp of the controls things really start to heat up, a few games quickly turning into a grudge fuelled session. It is important to note however that as a one-on-one dogfighter Lylat Wars doesn’t make the grade anymore, but as with F-zero X: Get four seasoned pilots and it’s an absolute blast.

Gunstar Heroes – Megadrive – 800 Points
Easily one of the best co-op Megadrive games made: A cult classic that’s not to be missed!

Probably one of the finest two-player action games ever made. Why? An innovative weapon selection system, a perfect control system, excellent character design, and more explosions than you can shake a stick at. Grab another friend and you’re guaranteed a co-op experience that’ll put most of the stuff you’ve played in the past 5 years to shame. Showcasing Treasure’s talents at their peak, Gunstar Heroes is packed full of atmosphere, humour, innovative design, and fantastic characters. Classic.

Mario Kart 64 – N64 – 1000 Points
More pizzazz than a truckload of Fonz.

Despite the fuzzy edges and dodgy sprites Mario Kart 64 remains a fantastic four player racer that’s often able to seduce even the most stoic of ‘non-gamers’ into a few laps. The tried and tested item handicap system arguably works at its best in the N64 iteration, keeping an element of chaos in the proceedings that often result in sudden and unexpected reversals of fortune. Having aged terribly well MK64 still looks great and plays beautifully, and when combined with Bomberman ’93 you’ve got a veritable sandwich of four-player tastiness that’ll keep hunger locked up till September.