It is a scientific blessing that every one of us is here. The coincidences that created a habitable planet containing intelligent beings with the ability to create is nothing short of a miracle. This miracle gave us intricate minds capable of perception. This miracle, by extension, even brought about the perception of friendship, and the invisible bond that ties it together. Friendship is a cherished luxury of life. The hours of laughter and joy we have made amongst friends is infectious to our memories. The lowest points of our lives are mere dents in the road when we have that familiar friendly arm reaching out towards us. The sun may set on different chapters, but a good friend will always be there to flip the pages with you. This life is a gorgeous work of art, and friends are the paint that stains the paper.
Let’s completely destroy it all with video games.
Mario Party is known as the king of unfriending casualties related to video games. If a friend hit you up and say “Hey, I’m having a group of friends over to play Mario Party, want to join?”, then the appropriate reaction is to invite them to a bon fire made up of any of their contact info and surgically remove them from your brain afterwards. You will be better off for it. You won’t wake up with a horse’s head stuffed into your clean laundry for every star you stole. But as fun as it is to get into a fist fight more customary than the mini-games, there are plenty of other options for tidying up your friend circle. There’s no shortage of games that are frustrating to play with other people, in a multitude of genres and fun factors. While we’re waiting for the next report of Super Mario Party’s body count, I figured it’s as good a time as any to talk about other games you might want to try if you’re looking for that same tension in a different multiplayer game.
Super Mario 3D World
New Super Mario Bros. Wii and U are notable as some of my most painful experiences in co-op, but that’s more on the design end of things. Being able to affect each other got in the way of platforming way more often than it helped it. This problem was mitigated significantly in Super Mario 3D World, since you can go in any direction in a 3D space. That means more time working together and less time fighting. I imagine Shigeru Miyamoto caught wind of this, marched down to Yoshiaki Koizumi’s office, and threatened to institute company-wide mandatory Urban Champion matches if he didn’t put a crown in the game. See, the multiplayer crown in 3D World is evil. It is given to the player who had the most points, who wears it in the next stage. I am sorry if you are that person. That crown has turned into a target. Because all one to three of your friends are gunning for you in this next stage. No more sense of camaraderie. No mutual end goal. Just a thirst for your blood now. It’s the same feeling that you get when a Smash ball shows up in a Smash bros game, except it’s strapped to your back and has no gameplay benefit. New Super Mario Bros. might technically be a worse co-op experience, but Super Mario 3D World is far more devious by disguising this vessel of chaos as a reward. It’s like the difference between the game hitting everyone in the head with baseball bat and the game locking everyone in a room with one baseball bat. The latter leaves the chaos to the players, which is far more psychologically damaging. Which means it has to be Nintendo approved.
Puyo Puyo Tetris
This one can actually be quite tame, if you set it up right. Just play a match where all the players are playing the same game. Puyo or Tetris, just pick one. It’s when you start crossing the streams where things get slightly murdery among friends. Tetris is the all time puzzle great, of course, but I think Puyo Puyo is mechanically on par with such a masterpiece. Even though they are two of the best games in the same genre collaborating, and I think Puyo Puyo Tetris pulls it off in the best way possible, there is a slight balance issue. They are clearly two different games being meshed into one, for better and for worse. It’s like pitting a professional baseball player against a professional tennis player in the same match. They are quite similar in some areas, but gauging who is technically doing better is next to impossible. Like my middle school lunch table, Puyo has a very combo-based economy. You can do a combo of five or six if you’re skilled enough, plus extra points for those chains that have more than four Puyo’s in them. Tetris is far more limited in the amount of combo’s you can do, with a maximum of four lines at a time. The game makes up for this by having Tetris combo’s be worth more than Puyo combo’s. So it can be wildly unfair in either direction. If you’re the least bit too slow as a Tetris player, then your screen will be filled with grey blocks faster than a leopard with a UTI. If you’re good enough and happen to get all the right pieces, then you can crush the Puyo’s like a more graphic Wicked Witch Of The West. I know this might sound fair, but imagine carefully planning your moves to send a single Tetris worth of blocks only to shoot up halfway across the board because your opponent got five sets of purple Puyo’s in a row. It has led to quite a number of angry rematch requests, and that’s part of the fun. Just now Puyo Puyo Tetris has become the second highest cause of anxiety in my house, right behind the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at our door.
We’ve had our fun with the Mario’s and Puyo’s of the world, but let’s move onto the real winner of friendship genocide. You don’t need to know this game exists, frankly. I wanted a refresher course by playing this game with friends again, but I couldn’t get anyone to play it with me because they knew what would happen. That speaks more volumes than anything I could ever say, but I will make the attempt to explain this serial killer. Dokapon Kingdom is a party board game like Mario Party, but with various RPG elements. You buy equipment, level up, land on spaces where you battle random monsters, and earn money. Sounds kind of cool. It could have been very cool. It would if playing it didn’t kick out Darth Vader at Satan’s Luxury Resort to make room for you. I don’t wish to spoil all of the mean spiritedness of this game, as experiencing it is half the fun, but I’ll give you a good example. Landing on the same space as another player results in a battle, where if you lose, they can steal your money, change your hair, change your name, or draw on your face. If that’s not enough right there to start re-enacting a fight between the Capulets and the Montagues, don’t worry, Dokapon Kingdom wouldn’t dare let you get to the point where two of you fall in love. The game seems to actively discourage any sort of alliance or friendship between players. It stands there with a gauntlet, smacking you with it for every turn that goes by where you haven’t thrown it. It’s about as chaotic evil as a game can get without becoming sentient and burning old family photos. It fetches a high price on the Wii, and… well, I’m not sure it’s worth it, but if you’re sick enough to enjoy being in first place in a Mario Party game, you might gain some enjoyment from this.
So that’s three of my favorite games to make future social occasions more awkward. What are yours? Please, discuss in the comments of the forums!
And no, I haven’t played Overcooked yet.
HautDeForme is a collector, a self proclaimed historian, and most of all, a player of video games. When he’s not writing about that, you can find him writing music for no particular reason and advocating for the localization of Mother 3, whether people listen or not.