Local multiplayer in 2019 owes a big debt to the Nintendo Switch, as it's the only console really putting effort into keeping the tradition alive. Nintendo consoles in general have historically catered to groups of friends looking to come together and inevitably hate each other, and Nintendo doubled down with the Switch in the face of online multiplayer's growing ubiquity.
The Switch is a bonafide couch multiplayer hero, with two controllers in every box and a plethora of hallmark titles explicitly designed to be played with friends on one couch and one screen. There's a lot to choose from, but here are the 12 best local multiplayer Switch games.
Arms is an extraordinarily accessible multiplayer experience where you flail around with a Joy-Con in each hand until your opponent dies - that is, until you both learn how to better control the game's fairly simple mechanics. Whether you're a skilled boxer or you're content with the real-life equivalent to button-mashing, Arms is a wonderful local competitive experience.
You'll combine accurate throws and projectiles to drain your foe's life bar before you take one too many spring-powered gloves to the face, and if you're as out of shape as I am, you'll likely leave each match just slightly out of breath. As mentioned earlier, there isn't much of a learning curve, although there are mechanics in place to balance out matches between skilled and unskilled players, making this one of the more family-friendly competitive entries on this list.
Super Mario Party
Before this most recent entry, the Mario Party series had nearly cemented its reputation as the only consistently mediocre Nintendo franchise. But just as it did with some of its other hallmark series; including Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and Mario Tennis, the Switch injected new life into the Mario Party series with the best entry in years, Super Mario Party. At its core, Mario Party is about the mini-games, and Super Mario Party gets them right, but it also adds a number of changes to distinguish itself from the litany of derivative predecessors.
There's a fresh new co-op mode where you work together to steer your raft away from obstacles and toward the finish line, Challenge Road is a worthwhile solo experience, and a number of updates work to add elements of strategy and reduce randomness. This is the Mario Party we've deserved since GameCube's Mario Party 4.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart is the quintessential multiplayer Nintendo experience, making its debut on the Super Nintendo in 1992. Nearly two decades later, it's as prevalent as ever in today's local multiplayer circuit. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the definitive version of one of the series' finest titles, adding new characters, tracks, and a Battle mode that's vastly improved from the Wii U version. The Switch port takes the already-great Grand Prix mode and adds polish and new content, and makes the competitive Battle mode something you'll actually want to turn to once you've seen enough of standard races.
Overcooked 2 is the most hectic, chaotic multiplayer game I've ever played. I repeat: do not turn to Overcooked 2 if you're looking for a cool, collected cooperative experience. You and a teammate are put backstage at a busy restaurant, tasked with dishing out as many dishes as possible in order to save the Onion Kingdom from The Undead or something. Forget the story, Overcooked 2 is all about screaming over your teammate as you frantically assemble dishes against a fast-tracking clock. There's a competitive and single-player mode, but trust me when I say Overcooked 2 truly shines as a breathless co-op experience.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
The New Super Mario Bros. series has been one of my favorite iterations of the franchise since it debuted on the DS in 2006. It's what would've happened if Super Mario 64 never happened and the franchise stuck to the side-scrolling formula that gave Mario his name. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is essentially the definitive version of the same game on Wii U, and it's also the best entry in the series. Further, while a lot of fun solo, multiplayer is where it's at.
Playing through courses with a friend can either be an enriching exercise in teamwork or a vengeful race against your "teammate" to the finish. What I'm saying is that anyone with a mischievous bone in their body will gleefully find ways to surprise and turn on their teammate(s) and then avoid popping the bubbles that bring them back. Or maybe I'm just a jerk. Either way, it's impossible not to have fun in New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe's multiplayer mode, and the ease of connecting with multiple JoyCons makes it all the better.
Cuphead is a notoriously difficult platformer, whether in single-player or co-op mode. For that reason, it's better with a partner so that you have someone to restrain you from chucking your controller at the screen. For reals though, Cuphead is an extremely challenging game, but it's also one of the best platformers on the Switch and elsewhere. Just don't go thinking you've found an easy mode in recruiting an ally - Cuphead's bosses are twice as tough in co-op mode, and the chaos can be a little overwhelming. This is one to play if you're looking for a creative, charming, genuinely challenging experience to tackle with an equally determined friend.
I may be biased here, as the original Diablo was my introduction to online gaming, but hacking through hordes of demons and gradually progressing with new skills and gear (read: grinding) in Diablo 3 is one of the most satisfying gaming experiences ever, and it's even better with a friend. Plus, the experience translates beautifully to the mobile Switch, ideally paired with a Pro controller. Here's one you can almost mindlessly grind through while having a conversation with some music on in the background, although it can also demand your attention during tough boss fights.
Super Mario Maker 2
The follow-up to the excellent Super Mario Maker is an absolute riot with friends. There's something mutually satisfying about playing a course your friend painstakingly labored over, falling for their traps, and eventually triumphing while they proudly examine your every move and associated facial expression.
If you have sadistic friends, as I do, Super Mario Maker 2 can be a uniquely entertaining multiplayer experience when you're playing through their stages, simultaneously enraged by the ruthlessness of their level design and astonished by their ingenuity. Of course, the more traditional multiplayer option is to play through and create levels together, which is also great fun, but there's a special attraction to the back-and-forth torture of swapping stages with friends.
If you haven't heard of Rocket League, I'll do the honor: it's soccer with cars. And if that sounds like a silly, nonsensical, chaotic venture, that's because it absolutely is, and fortunately it's also absurdly entertaining. Rocket League on Switch offers split-screen local multiplayer up to four players, and matches see you carve through fields and attempt spectacular tricks to land the ball in the net. This is one that's easy to pick up and play for busy gamer duos and parents, but beware the urge to squeeze in "just one more" before bed.
Snipperclips is an exceedingly inventive and engaging multiplayer experience on Switch, and like many of the titles on this list, you can switch between competitive and co-op modes. Working together, you take control of pastel-colored shapes and snip clippings off each other to make new shapes needed to fit into spaces and solve puzzles. Solving these puzzles is engaging as hell and is guaranteed to prompt enthusiastic high-fives between teammates. Party mode is basically a four-player version with more intricate puzzles and solutions, while Blitz mode is a competitive mode that's decidedly more hectic than the co-op modes. Personally, Snipperclips is a decidedly co-op experience with a refreshing, if not so deep, competitive mode.
Resident Evil Revelations 2
For a grizzly respite from the nauseating cuteness of Mario and co., Resident Evil Revelations 2 presents one of the most gratifying cooperative experiences on the Switch, hands down. While the main campaign can and should be played in co-op mode, Raid mode is where the real multiplayer magic happens. Resident Evil Revelations Collection bundles together the first and second Revelations, and the Switch port is a technical homerun.
Revelations 2's Raid mode takes on surprisingly deep RPG characteristics like character customization, skill trees, and a leveling system, and tasks you with completing progressively more difficult stages with a single teammate. It's tough to fully explore the complexity of Raid mode in such a short snippet, but trust me when I say it's more than worth the discount price of Resident Evil Revelations Collection alone.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Ah, Smash Bros., the ultimate catalyst to a doomed friendship since 1999. Whether wistfully lobbing bombs at your friends and laughing as they backfire, or taking out bottled-up aggression on your family, Smash Bros. is the best fighting experience on a Nintendo console and one of the most iconic multiplayer brawlers of all time.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the best game in the series, and an essential multiplayer experience on Switch. The roster is the largest ever, featuring every character from past titles as well as a bunch more, and there's an excessive number of unique stages to play. This is the Smash Bros. we've always known and loved, but more ambitious and successful than ever.