The best local multiplayer games on PC

Competitive games

Jackbox Party Packs

There are now four Jackbox Party Packs, each jammed with great party games (and their sequels) like You Don't Know Jack, Fibbage, Drawful, Quiplash, and others (plus a few not-great ones like Word Spud and Lie Swatter). You don't need to worry if you've got a crowd and are short a few controllers: you can connect to the game server on a browser with your smartphones. If you're looking for fun trivia challenges, quiz shows, drawing games, bluffing games, and other assorted party games, pretty much any pack you pick will give you something great. While the series has been tilting more toward streaming games for an audience, they're still great to play at home.

Oh My Godheads

There are five different modes you can play in Oh My Godheads, each with their own unique twists. ‘Capture the Head’ is like capture the flag—if the flag was a head that occasionally fights back while you're carrying it. King of the Head challenges you to hold onto a struggling, angry Godhead longer than anyone else. Meanwhile, you battle other players using swords and exploding pies, plus collectible power-ups that allow you to freeze players or squash them with a giant foot. It's a fast-paced and fun twist on capture the flag, because the flag doesn't want to be captured.

Crawl

A competitive dungeon crawler with a top notch retro styling. Crawl is a four player asymmetrical hack-n-slash where one player is a hero fighting through a dungeon, while the others inhabit the monsters and traps scattered throughout. Whoever gets the last hit on the hero takes their place, and the game ends when either the hero manages to defeat the dungeon’s boss (also player controlled) or the party loses to the boss for a third time. You get new items and improve your hero while also leveling up and improving the monsters you can control, so you’re growing stronger no matter which side of the struggle you are on.

Another great (and free!) little co-op game from developer Powerhoof is Regular Human Basketball, which is exactly what the name implies. 

Worms W.M.D.

The Worms series has always been a gem of competitive local multiplayer, but I was less than thrilled with many of the recent 2.5D entries. Worms W.M.D. gets back to good ol’ fashioned 2D animation, and it’s absolutely lovely. It’s one of the best Worms games in a very long time, with all the physics-based skillshots and tricky ninja ropes you may remember alongside some cool new tricks. The series has also struck a great balance between randomization and skill, making it great to either just have some fun with or settle hard-bitten scores. 

Brawlhalla

Wish you could play Super Smash Bros. on PC? Well so do I, but I’ve learned to live with the crushing disappointment that that's literally never going to happen. Luckily, Brawlhalla is here to ease the pain a bit. It’s a fighting game that shares Smash Bros.’s percentage-damage system and screen-launching deaths, but it’s also based around picking up different weapons that each have a unique moveset. It doesn’t have the recognizable characters of Smash Bros., but it’s still got some nice character design that does a good job of letting Brawlhalla stand on its own two feet. Brawlhalla is also free-to-play, making it easy to hop into with some friends if you want to give it a shot.

Another good Super Smash Bros. stand-in is Rivals of Aether, which has been in Early Access for less time, but has more of a focus on unique characters with special abilities than weapons. 

TowerFall Ascension

A lot of single-screen deathmatch games are content to offer a single way to play, offering a lean, lightweight experience by doing one thing very well. TowerFall Ascension is a much more comprehensive offering than most. In its basic form, up to four players jump around 2D levels pinging lethal arrows at one another. A finite quantity of ammo makes it important to snatch arrows from the bodies of fallen foes—or grab them out of the air, if you're quick enough—and powerups, environmental hazards and shifting maps keep this process interesting. But there's much more to the game than that. In two-player co-op you take on a series of survival challenges against increasingly varied and interesting enemies. A page full of special rules and mutators allows you to create new game modes on the fly, from giving everybody bouncing arrows to creating a single invisible super-player who the others have to hunt.

Often mentioned in the same conversation as TowerFall is Samurai Gunn, which keeps the one-hit-kills but trades bows-and-arrows for, you guessed it, samurai swords and guns. Matches are a bit quicker and more frantic, but every bit as fun.  

Duck Game

In the future—1984, in this case—pixelated ducks compete in a violent, ever-changing bloodsport. Join your friends in team deathmatch and blast each other with shotguns, lasers, grenades, and tons of other weapons. The matches are quick, with a single shot taking you out, and the map changes after each round which never lets you get comfortable or bored. Plus, there are mini-games that serve as intermission from the carnage, and a button dedicated solely to quacking. It's a fun, silly, and frenetic game that's hard to stop playing.

Gang Beasts

It's still—still—in Early Access, but Gang Beasts is already a hoot of a party game, featuring a series of deadly arenas in which to awkwardly punch, kick, drag, pick up, and throw your friends around. Struggle to control unwieldy balloon characters as you and your friends fight to the death in levels containing meat grinders, moving trucks, Ferris wheels, and speeding subway trains. The difficulty of steering your character is part of the appeal, and making things harder is the fact that you'll be laughing uncontrollably as you fight to climb back up the side of the ledge you've been thrown off, or struggle to free yourself from the clingy grip of another player.

Nidhogg

Nidhogg is one of the best one-on-one competitive games on PC. As a fighter, it’s a Bushido Blade-like struggle for one killing blow as two pixel fencers advance, parry, lunge, dive kick, and disarm each other with staccato bursts of button presses. It’s beautiful (you really have to see the sprites in motion), weird, and takes great skill to master. It’s also a lot of fun to watch, especially thanks to the tug-of-war competition format. Rather than a best-of-three series of short bouts, the players are competing to advance across a stage. Kill your opponent, and you get the right-of-way to dash toward your side of the level. When they respawn, they have to return the favor to gain the right-of-way and take back territory. On top of the drama of each duel—which usually ends suddenly—each match is an easy-to-read struggle for progress, with lots of opportunities for comebacks and upsets. When the winning player makes it past the final room, a crowd cheers, and the titular dragon gobbles him up. Congratulations!

A sequel, featuring multiple weapons and a grotesque claymation art style, is expected later this year

Ultimate Chicken Horse

Isn’t the name clear enough? It’s a platformer combination of Horse and Chicken. You take turns placing platforms, obstacles, and traps around a Super Meat Boy style level, trying to make it too hard for your opponents to complete but not so hard that you can’t complete it either. As the map fills up with ways to die, you can eventually remove blocks or rearrange them, so it sort of balances itself through the course of a game. It’s not the easiest game to just jump into with friends as platforming skill will seriously come into play here, but it’s easy enough to pick up for people unfamiliar with the genre. And frankly, it’s an awesomely unique concept that you won’t really find anywhere else.

Invisigun Heroes

A newer take on the one-hit-kill same-screen deathmatch that was pioneered by the likes of TowerFall Ascension and Samurai Gunn, Invisigun Heroes mixes things up by making everyone invisible, appearing only when they shoot. Matches are tense, as it's as much about tracking your enemies' locations as it is keeping a bead on your own. Certain terrain types help with that, showing footprints or splashes of water when you walk, and bumping into a crate lights it up in the color of whoever made contact. There's also a variety of class types, each with it's own unique abilities—an exploding recon sensor and a complex doppelganger power are two highlights alongside more standard fare like a terrain jump, bullet-reflecting sword, and boring-but-effective dash attack. Various game modes also help keep things interesting, ranging from territory-control to a somewhat weird coin-collecting scheme—but nothing beats the standard deathmatch.

Sportsfriends

A compilation of quirky competition. Sportsfriends envisions four ridiculous new sports—although one, Johann Sebastian Joust, is only compatible with Mac and Linux. That's a shame, but not disastrous, as the remaining package is still great. The best of the bunch is Super Pole Riders, created by QWOP's own Bennett Foddy. It's entertainingly chaotic, as two teams of pole vaulters attempt to move an overhead ball towards their goal. Primary tactics include performing a proper pole vault, or using the pole to guide the ball along its rope. You can also play defence, using the pole as a barricade to smack an opponent away, or jumping on their head to force a respawn.

Also included is Hokra, a four player game about filling in blocks of colour; and BaraBariBall, a Smash Bros.-like arena game but with goals to score and almost infinite jumping. As a whole collection, Sportsfriends is intense, entertaining, and varied. 

For a bit of a lewder take on Sportsfriends' minigame collection, the more recent Genital Jousting offers similar goofy gameplay but paired with silly, floppy, cartoon penises.

Videoball

Sport distilled down into its essence: this is the pure videogame version of soccer, with a ludicrous range of options. Colors, scoring rules, arenas—there's a lot here to tweak to your own liking. The joy of Videoball comes in tuning into the timing of shooting and blocking. You are an Asteroids-like triangle, and the tap of a button (the game uses only one) fires a stream of small triangles out of your ship. These are good for dribbling the ball forward. Hold the button, and you power up the shot for a slam dunk—but if an opponent hits the ball with their own slam, it reverses direction while retaining all its momentum. And if you hold the button too long, your powered up shot converts into a defensive block. The pieces are incredibly basic, but there's insane headroom room for endless competition, as in any great sport.