The future of local multiplayer is strong, and here's four party games to prove it

If you're like me, you have fond memories of plugging four controllers into a single box so you and your friends could beat each other down or lift each other up in games with local multiplayer. Maybe you and a buddy were the ultimate team in a first person shooter, or you and your siblings battled for supremacy every week in a fighting game.

There's a powerful feeling that comes from having your co-op partners and/or opponents sharing the same space with you, and it's a feeling that can be all too rare nowadays. But not everyone has ditched local multiplayer for online, and this past weekend at PAX South 2017, I spied four in particular that have me itching to host a game night with friends.

Take a look and you might just feel the same inspiration:

Just Shapes and Beats 

The first game on this list is also arguably the simplest. Just Shapes and Beats has just two inputs: move and dodge. Using these basic controls, you and your friends guide your shapes through bullet hell-style levels set to pulsing music. There's a lot going on at any given moment, but by syncing your movements to the rhythm and watching for visual cues, you can avoid being disintegrated by the pink obstacles flying your way.

Played solo, Just Shapes and Beats would be a fun challenge where someone could train their muscle memory and intensely focus. Add three friends in the same room and it becomes a party as everyone screams in delight, narrowly dodging laser blasts and reviving each other at the last second.

Just Shapes and Beats has been in development for several years now, but developer Berzerk Studio hopes it will be available later in 2017.

Brawlout 

Brawlout is Super Smash Bros. without the licensed characters. There's no major twist a la PlayStation All-Stars - just a good old-fashioned smackdown between up to eight players, each one playing as an animal hero. Characters are still being added, but the cast is already colorful and includes a four-armed luchador frog, a burly walrus, and an Egyptian cat princess.

Combat is simple and intuitive, with one button reserved for standard combos and the other for special moves. You'll use these in combination with directional presses on the gamepad to change up your attacks and send your opponents flying off-screen. Like I said: there's no big deviation from the Smash Bros. formula here. But judging by the excitement and smiles surrounding the game's booth at PAX South, that'll be just fine by Xbox One and PS4 owners.

Brawlout is currently scheduled for release in early 2017.

Lupinball 

Lupinball might star wolves in fancy clothing shooting fireballs, but its premise is actually infinite dodgeball. After you select the wolf of your choice (which is just cosmetic), you and three other players sprint around a given map, collecting orbs. Once you've got three, you can unleash your fireball, and that's where things get interesting. Fireballs last forever and bounce off the levels' walls, so the longer a match of Lupinball goes on, the more hectic it becomes.

You can also activate a shield to protect yourself, though doing so will eat up one of your orbs. It all winds up creating a nice tension between the risk and reward of playing offensively versus defensively, and the addition of environmental hazards and power-ups means that the tables can always turn.

Lupinball is currently up for voting on Steam Greenlight, which will likely determine its course of development and release.

Sundown

Remember that Luigi's Mansion mini-game from Nintendoland, where one player was an invisible ghost while everyone else had to try to catch them in their flashlight beams? Take that concept, make it faster and more violent, and you have Sundown. Each player controls an avatar that is invisible unless they a) walk underneath a light, b) dash or sprint, and/or c) fire their weapon.

It all combines to form an intense game of hide and seek, as everyone rushes to kill or be killed while simultaneously trying to be as stealthy as possible. Just one hit will take you down, and with a range of weaponry spanning from katanas to machine guns to sniper rifles, there's plenty of ways to bite the dust. The intense dread of wondering where your foes are will definitely get your heart pumping.

Sundown currently lacks a release window or even announced platforms, but here's hoping it'll inspire as many friends as possible to turn on each other. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam has a soft spot for MOBAs, MMOs, and emo music. Forever a farm boy, forever a '90s kid.
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