Best Xbox Live Games

Countdown to 200: The 10 Best Multiplayer Games

Our 200th issue is looming ahead like a greasy truck stop off I-94, and we’re marking off the milestones with a new top 10 list every month. Here are the best multiplayer games ever made (based on when they came out)—visit our message boards at if you think we shortchanged The Guy Game.

10 Madden NFL series (1991–present)

This could be the No.1 pick for casual gamers—by our unofficial estimate, Madden accounts for at least 25 percent of the time wasted in college dorm rooms. It’s easy to see why: Even though Madden gets closer to “real” football every year, it’s still a piece of cake to pick up and play against your roommates.

Great moment: Scoring on a 44-yard run and dissing your opponent while John Madden explains why “you can’t coach” the talent you have.

9 Super Smash Bros. series (1999–present)</

There’s a reason Super Smash Bros. Melee is still the top-selling GameCube title after all these years: It’s quick, it’s easy to learn, and the fighting action never gets boring. Get three of your friends around the television and the old ad cliché comes true—it really is four times the fun.

Great moment: Taking on three people at once after being pummeled and taking 300 percent damage. And winning. As Pikachu.

8 Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow (2004)

The world’s first “multiplayer stealth game” sure sounded like a large undertaking, but it easily surpassed expectations. The cat-and-mouse gameplay—pitting gun-happy mercenaries against stealth-at-all-costs spies—makes it one of the most teamwork-oriented games out there.

Great moment: Shooting a hapless merc with a spy bullet and listening in on his Xbox Live headset chatter. Then snapping his neck.

7 Mario Kart series (1992–present)

Racing games used to be all about speed—in Mario Kart, how fast you go is less important than which weapons you pick up and how well you use them. The result is a classic Nintendo experience: No matter how good you are, there’s no such thing as a “gimme” race here.

Great moment: Creaming everyone else with a lightning bolt just before they reach the finish line. (Warning: May lead to sucker punches.)

6 Phantasy Star Online series (2001–present)

Consoledom’s first online RPG (it debuted on Dreamcast) was more than just pioneering; it was (and still is) one of the most accessible multiplayer experiences, much more so than Square Enix’s comparatively vast and foreboding Final Fantasy XI (PS2). Making a quick monster-bashing run is simple, quick fun, and 100 hours later, you’re still doing it.

Great moment: Reaching level 199 alongside some guy playing a HUnewearl character...then attending his marriage ceremony back at the game’s lobby.

5 GoldenEye 007 (1997)

While you’d admittedly be daft to pick this Nintendo 64 chestnut over Halo today, think back to its era: There were no four-player shooters—no first-person shooters to speak of besides Doom, really—and the idea of a multiplayer mode with tons of different play styles was basically unheard of. A true turning point for all console games.

Great moment: Running out of ammo and killing two or three people with your fists before getting gunned down.

4Tetris Attack (1996)

Arrange colored blocks together to beat your opponent. That’s all there is to this Super NES sleeper hit, but the deceptively simple design belies the trancelike experience you’ll have when facing another human player. Master it and you’ll start moving the controller faster than your brain can think.

Great moment: Building up such a massive chain of combos that the game crashes trying to keep up with everything.

3Bomberman series (1985–present)

The ultimate time waster during the Genesis/Super NES era, this series was the reason many console owners bought multitap adapters (the Saturn version allowed a dizzying 10 people to play at once). Even now, its easy-to-learn gameplay is maddeningly addictive—it’s all-out war once everyone has the most powerful bombs.

Great moment: Killing more than three people at once with a single well-timed bomb detonation. Including yourself.

2 Halo series (2001–present)

The first Halo is good in single player, yes, but it truly shines when you throw a bunch of televisions together and play 8-on-8 team deathmatches until four in the morning. Now that its sequel is on Xbox Live, joining the multiplayer shooting mayhem is a ton easier—there’s always another clan out there ready to take you on.

Great moment: Listening to an opposing team spout off about how awesome they are, then nothing but dead silence when your team pulls ahead.

1Street Fighter II series (1991–present)

In many ways, Street Fighter II and all of its descendants define what makes multiplayer videogames fun—the object is simple, but there’s so much strategy to discover, so much depth to explore that the competition never gets old. The scene’s dwindled, but so what? It’s still the pinnacle of games as sport.

Great moment: Playing as Chun Li just so you can get a load of her legs. C’mon, you know you do it.

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.

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