3. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Project Sora / Nintendo)
There was a scuffle between this and Mario Kart 8 for the final podium place in this category, though it's the eight-player fisticuffs of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U that sees the console version of the game (a different version was released on Nintendo 3DS this year too) finish in the top three.
The eight-player battles are also what holds this back from the very highest honours, as that kind of setup isn't easy to come by (and when you add in the cost of buying a sofa big enough to accommodate that many people, it certainly becomes an expensive proposition). But with eight-players - a number that's something of a game-changer for the series - Super Smash Bros. becomes something truly special indeed. It's pure onscreen chaos of the most entertaining order, and it's helped by the smoothness of the controls and the responsiveness of the characters onscreen. This leads to tales of bravery, moments of skill, laughing in the face of your friends as you beat them into submission. The increased number leads to new and evolving strategies in amongst all the madness.
There's such a wealth of options here (including a surprisingly addictive Mario Party-like setup), and the inclusion of the Amiibos means it's easier to swell the numbers of players onscreen should you wish. Nintendo has done a great job in turning around the fortunes of their flagship console this year, and while it might never be top dog in this generation, it's certainly in a much healthier position. The reason for this is great games, and Super Smash Bros. is certainly one of them.
2. Nidhogg (Meshoff)
It's the simplicity of Nidhogg that captured our hearts when it released at the beginning of the year. We tried playing it online, but the netcode didn't seem up to scratch, but happily there's no such issues when this is played locally (which is great news for PS4 players, as the game is launching on the console next year).
Simply put, this is one of the best couch co-op games ever made. The concept is so simple and easy to pick up, and as such it's easy for players to pick up a pad and getting going. Two characters, two swords, a bunch of pixels, some elegant swordplay, and a giant player-eating worm at the end to reward the victor.
It's the purity of the action that leads to the wonderful moments, the well-timed lunges, the expert dodges, the well-aimed throws. There's enough variety within the fights to keep things entertaining and with similarly skilled opponents, the levels are large enough to ensure that the fights aren't over in a flash.
1. TowerFall Ascension (Matt Thorson)
The fact that TowerFall was released on Ouya last year means it won't be appearing in our GOTY top ten, but we're making no such distinctions in these sub-categories. The Ascension version of the game launched this year on PC and PlayStation 4, and it comes with plenty of new content, and a single-player mode that acts as a nice practice area for the most dedicated players.
But single-player is a distraction at best. The focus here is on single-screen four-player archery-themed hyphen-heavy multiplayer heaven. Each player has a singular life and a finite number of arrows, and then, hopping between platforms, they must shoot each other until one remains. Rounds are quick, and the winner is the first to reach a certain number (this can be changed, but it's normally around ten). The platforming is responsive and well-weighted, but it's the flight of the arrows that's key, and a true master will be able to pull of the perfect shot, with projectiles arcing through the air before hitting home.
There's a ton of options to keep things fresh, and a nice selection of levels to ensure players remain on their toes. There's not a lot of variety in terms of the gameplay beats, but when you've got multiplayer perfection like this, there's no need to change things up too much. Stunning stuff, and if you've got a platform that supports the game, and enough friends with controllers, you really need to get your hands on TowerFall Ascension.
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