The problem with multiplayer games is that their lifespan is limited. Even the most popular, enduring ones will be gone some day, like tears in rain, like dust in the wind. Some multiplayer games have longer shelf lives than others, while others burn brightly and quickly fade away. Here are some dead or near-dead multiplayer modes and games TheGamer’s editors dearly miss.
Andy Kelly, Features Editor
I’ve never enjoyed a multiplayer game more than the original Unreal Tournament. The maps are perfect, the weapons are varied and interesting, the pace is frenetic, and the focus is purely on skill—not unlocks, progression, ultimates, perks, or any of the other noise that’s now standard in online shooters. People still play it today, but it’ll never be the same as it was in 1999 when the servers were overflowing with people to frag. Epic tried to reboot it in 2014, but it failed to capture the magic of the original. Unreal Tournament was lightning in a bottle and we’ll never see another game like it.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Stacey Henley, Editor-in-Chief
Assassin’s Creed felt like a silly game to wedge multiplayer into during that era when all games were desperate to wedge silly multiplayer modes in, and it’s because of that it often goes overlooked. You play as one of many Assassins roaming around a map filled with NPCs, and you need to deduce which of these NPCs are actually real players – but while you do that, they’re looking for you, meaning you can’t just run around stabbing people and hoping for the best. There are some ‘invasion’ multiplayer systems which predate Brotherhood, but the stealthy, cat-and-mouse multiplayer mechanics in Deathloop and Sniper Elite both have clear roots in Brotherhood’s clever detection battle. Dare I say it’s a precursor to Among Us? Ezio looking kinda sus right now.
Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
James Troughton, Photo & News Editor
I played a lot of multiplayer games growing up from Counter-Strike: Source to Far Cry to Battlefield 1942, but nothing sticks out in my memory like HL2: Deathmatch. Both Half-Lifes of the time had a Deathmatch component, putting you into Quake-like arenas with citizens, scientists, Combine, and all manner of iconic characters to fight to the death with mods, much like in Garry’s Mod, only emboldening the silly antics. Whether you wanted a booming announcer to commentate or rocket launchers that could propel you up to higher platforms, there was an option thanks to the community. It’s a shame that, when Half-Life finally came back with Alyx, we didn’t also get a new Deathmatch. The potential of a VR multiplayer shooter of that calibre is sorerly untapped.
Mario Kart Wii
Rhiannon Bevan, News Editor
You already have the lobby music in your head, admit it. Mario Kart Wii is the king of kings, with multiplayer to match. Without having to build your own kart, this iconic racer is so easy to jump into, but still hard to master. This is also one of the very few examples of functioning online play in a first party Nintendo game, and is far better than some of the modern offerings (looking at you, Smash Bros). But gameplay aside, what I miss most is the culture around its online play. Everyone picking Funky Kong. Obvious hackers. Those pricks flexing their golden wheels. Knowing that your blue shell just ruined the life of someone halfway across the world. Beautiful stuff.
Gabrielle Huston, Specialist
If they never stopped making new multiplayer levels for Portal 2, I would never stop playing them. Sadly, Portal 2’s co-op is something you can only properly experience the first time. Afterwards, you know all the puzzles already. Even if you return years later to play them with a new partner, they’re always a little bit familiar, and you can’t stop little half-solutions popping up in the back of your mind. Unfortunately, Portal 3 is probably never going to grace our video game consoles. I am doomed to live forever knowing that, while I may still be able to drop a companion cube on my friend, sending them spiralling into the toxic sludge, I will never do it in quite the same way ever again.
Lu-Hai Liang, News Editor
What an inventive, zany, and well-crafted series this was. Developed by Free Radical Design, and dreamt up by the brilliant Brits David Doak and Steve Ellis, Timesplitters was one of the early underdog successes in the PS2 library. Being a new name, it had to earn it, but it did so magnificently. The multiplayer was sublime: offering a ton of options, customisation, and featuring a cast of memorable characters that included monkeys, robots, and femme fatales. You could even create ridiculous levels of your own. I remember making one, which was a cube, like being in an elevator, and put dozens of characters in there, in a deathmatch. Playing split-screen in the superbly designed frenetic levels was the last word in fun. Timesplitters hails from a vein of wildy fun experimentation that was sadly crushed by the grey seriousness of Call of Duty.
Justin Reeve, News Editor
While there’s a lot that I don’t miss about the multiplayer like the almost inevitable screencheating, I admit that I’d be down for another round of GoldenEye 007 one of these days. I played a ton of this game on the Nintendo 64 back in the day. The multiplayer is a real blast, especially when you get the rocket launcher. I know that it can sometimes be a pain, but I actually do kind of miss the splitscreen gameplay if only out of a strange sense of nostalgia. There’s nothing quite like wasting somebody sitting right beside you. The overall feeling is just lost with online gameplay.
Team Fortress 2
Joe Parlock, Tabletop Editor
Team Fortress 2 is technically still a thing. You can download it and play it, and it has an active community. As far as Valve cares, though, it may as well be long since dead. Bots with incredibly racist names hack every game and ruin it for everyone, making matchmaking all but impossible. You could rely on community servers, but they’re frequently highly modded, have a cliquey community, or both – and let’s not even go into the lack of updates Valve has given the game in the last few years. There’s no way to just sit and and blast out a quick game of TF2 these days, and it’s a huge shame. It’s still easily the best multiplayer FPS out there. Well-balanced characters, a stunning art style that holds up 15 years later, and a multitude of ways to kit out your classes to differentiate them still keep me eagerly testing the waters every few months. Not to mention the community bursting with creativity and love for this cast of nine characters we met half over half my life ago. And then I run into SlurName BunchOfNumbers and remember why I bounced off it. #SaveTF2.
Crash Team Racing
Helen Ashcroft, Evergreen Editor
My fondest memories are of playing Crash Team Racing with my brother on a secret PlayStation I hid in a drawer. That chunky beast was my first console and proved to be one of the best investments I ever made. While our parents were working nights my little brother and I would treat ourselves to plugging it into the big TV and spend hours throwing things at each other on those beautiful tracks and fighting over who got to be Tiny Tiger. The levels in CTR are varied, unique and interesting, offering a perfect blend of challenge without being overwhelming for my dyspraxia and my brother’s young age. I would usually win, mostly on account of all the secret practicing I did in my room, but he did eventually get his revenge. After I got CTR Nitro-Fueled as a birthday present shortly after release he proceeded to absolutely thrash me. It turns out that I am now almost as bad at CTR as ABK execs are at being decent human beings.
Joshua Robertson, News Editor
My pick will probably be the most modern of the bunch, but thanks to the game’s slow start and lack of continued support from Respawn, trying to find a game in Titanfall 2 these days is like pulling teeth. It’s a shame too because it’s actually my favorite FPS of all time. The movement is one of the game’s best aspects and still hasn’t been matched to this day, despite Call of Duty’s best attempts to copy it. Fighting against other players in your Titan is empowering and exhilarating, and there’s barely a bad map to be found. Nowadays you’re lucky to get into a match at all, and even when you do you’re usually up against someone called TitanfallPro69 who dominates everyone and finishes the game in two minutes. What I would give for a Titanfall 3.
Harry Alston, Lead Specialist Writer
FLIP THE ICEBERG! Of course it was impossible to flip the iceberg in Club Penguin, but that didn’t stop thousands of small children trying for several hours after school. It was a sort of joint belief. A playground story. A bunch of penguins eating Wotsits and making pizzas and inviting other penguins to our igloo—mine was pretty great. I had a big red sofa and everything. It’s not the game I miss as much as my naivety, and the type of world the internet was back then, when typing “bitch” was enough to get you banned, and there were forums, and signatures under your posts, and monthly membership was only £2.99. My friend’s Club Penguin membership never got cancelled and it ended up costing her mum a few thousand pounds after several years. I hope those Puffles were worth it.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Issy van der Velde, News & Evergreen Editor
It was a simple time. It was a better time. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is the game that got me into team-based multiplayers. I was a COD kid before, but the destruction and focus on score over K/D ratio made Bad Company way more fun for me. It also helped me connect with friends I wasn’t super close to, as they played on Xbox while most of us played on PS3. We bonded in the fires of war, charging through rubble and debris to plant bombs, capture flags, and hold zones. This is one of the last games I played where you could properly feel the heft of each gun. The recoil was a different beast on each piece of hardware, something you had to learn to control. It was a satisfying game to master, and I’d dive right back in if DICE ever made Bad Company 3.