This is my definitive multiplayer games guide, complete with a real gaming novice’s opinion and misogyny guideline.
I do not wish to perpetuate the tired stereotype that games are a ‘boys’ thing. Sadly, they may have been at one point, and as a result a larger percentage of males know the correct button presses for a ‘Shoryuken’ than females.
My friends and I have often discussed the best games to play with a less experienced partner, games that exclude neither party, offering depth and accessibility. While I believe disappointingly few fit this simple criteria, here is a list of my top 6 games to play with a girlfriend. (This also works in reverse, so if you’re a girl who owns every achievement in Super Meat Boy and your boyfriend doesn’t know a D-Pad from an analog stick, read on.)
Little Big Planet (PS3, PSP, PlayStation Vita)
The platforming concept must be in most people’s subconscious, even if they’ve never had the pleasure of stomping on a Goomba’s head in Super Mario Bros. 3 themselves. Little Big Planet is a wonderful modern platformer, with inventive level design and loveable graphical style, it won’t take long to win the heart of your other half. It’s a melting pot of challenge, humor, and charm, with a strong focus on co-operative play. A perfect introduction to the video game universe for any age or gender.
Media Molecule appropriately renamed its protagonist ‘Sackboy’ to ‘Sackthing’ for the game’s sequel, showing its eagerness to appease female fans. But stick with the original for a more well-rounded experience.
Misogyny rating: Low
Carly says: Sackboy… pfft try Sack-bad-a**-girl! Now, where are my bunny ears…
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (PSN, XBLA)
Under $20, classic 8-bit soundtrack, old school beat-em-up antics, what’s not to like!? You and up to four friends hit the streets of Toronto to fight your way toward Romona’s seven evil exes. There are a vast array of weapons to use and combos to be learned, but the comic book style ensures it never becomes offensive. Instead, you’re treated to a quirky and unashamedly nerdy brawler, one which satisfies in look, sound, and gameplay.
There’s a 1:1 ratio of male and female playable characters and the enemies are comprised of chicks and dudes, too. This is one helluva unisex game.
Misogyny rating: Low
Carly says: Would have been great had I not been awarded me the status of “bystander” at the end of every stage…
Tokyo Jungle (PSN)
In a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, humans no longer exist. Instead, animals vie to become the dominant species. Survival is the aim of the game and it’s a constant race against the clock as you search for food, claim territory, and reproduce, as one of the games many creatures.
Part God game, part stealth game, part RPG, this strange fusion works perfectly, but it will be the dozens of unlockable creatures that keep you coming back. From cats to crocodiles, deer to dinosaurs, each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Just be prepared to put in the hours for some of the stronger beasts.
Tokyo Jungle‘s graphics are sub-standard and it features some disappointing technical problems, like the favoring of player 1 with regards to the camera position and the favoring of player 2 for determining which creature is unlocked next (the latter being as bizarre as it is annoying). However, the gameplay is completely unique, and well-worth the discounted PlayStation Network price of admission.
Misogyny rating: Low
Carly says: Yay I just unlocked a new animal! I can’t wait to be it… once I’ve raised enough friggin’ points to purchase the damn thing! Unbelievable!
Terraria (PC, soon to be PSN and XBLA)
Terraria is one of the less user friendly games on my list but definitely worth sticking with. You create a character (boy or girl) and enter a randomly generated world, armed with only a few tools and curiosity. There are no real objectives (though a handy NPC guide will explain the basics of the game), but a typical day may involve gathering resources, crafting items, building settlements, and warding off violent gooey blobs, all in the name of upgrading your character’s equipment to more efficiently kill, collect, and upgrade.
It’s incredibly rewarding, all that mining to discover a hidden chest holding some enchanted loot. Even if your partner never fully understands the rules for creating every item (hell, who does?) they can still enjoy the simple thrill of the treasure hunt.
Terraria’s likeness to indie smash-hit Minecraft is undeniable, but equally unnecessary. This is a fantastic game in its own right, with tons of content and lots to discover. However, stereotypes like using a female character model for the nurse mean this one slides a little higher up the ‘misog-o-meter’ than it really should. Shame.
Misogyny rating: Medium
Carly says: You’re just way better at it than me. A lot of work for little reward so far. I’m just asking… but are you working towards anything or…? No? I don’t get it…
Portal 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac)
Sequel to the game that spawned more internet memes than it did hours of gameplay, Portal 2 arrived with more great puzzles and even great multiplayer.
Portal 2 plays like a futuristic first-person shooter, but instead of a traditional, alien-shredding side-arm, you have the Portal Gun. This teleportation device is used to create a ‘portal’ between two surfaces, allowing yourself and other objects to travel through.
Logical problems that require lateral thinking almost make Portal 2 a virtual team building exercise! Fortunately, it’s funny as hell and rewards you with a tangible sense of achievement upon completing each challenge. It’s also lacking in any real threat of failing (death results in an immediate re-spawn), so the frustration of poor partner performance is somewhat lessened.
The choice to use genderless characters and a narrator who is both female and over 50, is welcomed. Trust Valve to keep it all P.C.
Misogyny rating: low
Carly says: I would have preferred some cake.
Rayman Origins (Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, PlayStation Vita, 3DS)
The majority of Rayman:Origins plays like a standard, though beautiful, side-scrolling platformer. You run and jump to the end of each level, collecting sprites (or lums) as you go. But within each world lies a ‘tricky treasure’ chase, a thrilling test of your skill and reactions. Trekking after these little legged boxes in Origins’ vibrant destinations is the reason you should play this game. They are fantastically challenging, a glorious amount of frustrating, and one of the best examples of level design and gameplay I know. In any game. Ever.
Ubisoft have also managed to achieve the near-impossible and save the best ’til last. It is genuinely worth completing all of those treasure chest challenges because once they are beaten, one final stage is unlocked. I won’t go into detail, but it’s totally unique in its setting and manages to show off the best of Origins’ gameplay, bringing together classic moments, and some brand new, for a pitch perfect finale. I was mesmerized.
Arguably the best Rayman game to date, Origins is a fizzling, frenetic pleasure from start to finish. Though there is a reoccurring character design with unnecessarily large breasts, which may make your lady feel insecure.
Misogyny rating: Medium
Carly says: Best. Game. Ever.
Honorable Mention: The Binding of Isaac (PC, Mac, Linux)
This isn’t a multiplayer title as such, but can become a great hotseat style 2-player if you swap after every death. It’s straightforward enough, kill all the enemies in each room to continue, and there are few button presses to master. The random nature of every game means you never play through the same dungeon twice and each is filled with a different variation of the hundreds of available items. The Binding of Isaac bridges casual and hardcore, easy and (very) difficult in a way that few games ever have; its $4.99 price tag on Steam represents outrageous value for money.
The Binding of Isaac is probably the most misogynistic on the list (I think the vulvic shaped enemies outnumber the phallic shaped ones by about 2:1 and there are a few references to strictly female reproductive functions), but, if your girlfriend can take it, she may well fall in love with its curiously addictive gameplay.
Misogyny rating: High
Carly says: This game is sick. In the best possible way…