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In a time gone by, multiplayer gaming basically meant gathering some friends round your house. For the console gamers it was huddled round a split screen, but those able to lug around huge PCs had a glorious few years of LAN parties – where everyone hooks into the same local network. Though largely eclipsed by online technologies like Xbox Live, a retro LAN gaming party is still a tremendous amount of fun, and still useful where internet connections aren’t ideal.

We’ve written before about how to host the perfect LAN party The Ultimate Guide To Setting Up An Awesome LAN Party The Ultimate Guide To Setting Up An Awesome LAN Party The LAN party is an event that started out of necessity. PC gaming was a thing well before the Internet, and no Internet meant no multiplayer – unless you took your machine to a friend’s... Read More , but today I’ll be concentrating on some fantastic retro games you might want to consider.

Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2000)

For an intense yet altogether less twitchy multiplayer experience, Red Alert 2 holds a special place in my heart. Privileged to live in an 8-person student house, most days featured at least one game of Red Alert 2 (RA:2), even with friends who were otherwise not big gamers. Each lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on how mean I was feeling.

The Command and Conquer franchise was one of the forerunners of the modern real-time strategy game, released at roughly the sam time as WarCraft. The formula was set: start with a single building, harvest resources, build your base and army, then rush the enemy. Be sure to get Yuri’s Revenge expansion too though, which added a particularly lethal guard tower capable of capturing enemy units foolish enough to get too close – an excellent way to deal with rush tactics.

You can find copies of the game on eBay for less than $10, though unfortunately the only digital download is through EA’s atrocious Origin service, in a multipack of every C&C game, ever, for about $50. If the graphics are a little too retro for you, I’d suggest Command and Conquer: Generals, the seventh iteration of the game featured much enhanced 3D graphics and unique player powers.

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Diablo II (1999)

For serious late night dungeon delves, Diablo II rules from the depths of hell – I’d even go so far as to say its actually better than Diablo 3, which according to Reddit user CrazyAlienHobo,

had the excitement of an 3D interactive excel document

If you’ve never experienced the delights of Diablo, it’s pretty simple: you pick a class, and wander around clicking on beastly things to kill them. Aforementioned beastly things drop “loot” – cash or weaponry. Some weaponry has legendary status, or is part of a set that, when combined, offers additional stat bonuses. The game is a true test of your mouse durability, for those that are not up to par shall quickly destroy their microswitches.

You can purchase the game and it’s expansion at g2play for around $20, or through Blizzard’s classic battle.net service.

Unreal Tournament 2004

The ultimate trigger twitcher, Call of Duty, has nothing on Unreal Tournament. At the time, the graphical prowess of UT was absolutely stunning, and with settings whacked up it honestly holds it’s own still today. It’s faster than Quake, but you’ll need a good number of players for maps not to get lonely. The game was also widely regarded as having some of the best AI players ever made, perfect for practice beforehand or filling out matches.

As well as standard death matches and CTF, Onslaught mode offers a variety of alternating defend and attack goal-oriented missions that offer a break from mindless killing.

Heroes of Might and Magic V (2006)

Not the most traditional of LAN game, but great for relaxed Sunday afternoons. Heroes of Might and Magic is difficult to put into any specific genre – it has elements of RPG, strategy, resource management, and sometimes even reminds me of a complex board game. Taking control of one or more Heroes, the game is turn-based as you explore, battle fantasy creatures, and capture resource points. The single player game has that distinctive Civilization-esque addictive nature of “one more turn”. Though not the latest version of this great series, crucially this one includes simultaneous multiplayer turns mode, though only until players meet in game. This might be a good one to play while everyone is still arriving, preparing, or eating, where fast paced shooters would be unsuitable – but don’t expect it to be the mainstay of your event.

Grab the bundle on Good Old Games for $20.

Team Fortress 2 (2007)

Team Fortress is the ultimate evolution of first person shooters: exaggerated, cartoony nonsense that’s just so incredibly fun.

With a variety of character types, TF2 also rewards those who would rather hang back and help out the team in their own little way, whether that be by beefing up the main assault guy with a stream of health packs, building comical turrets, or disguising themselves as the enemy. TF2 is just good old fashioned fun, but gameplay can be decidedly frantic. It also has native support for the Oculus Rift if you want real immersion, though I’d give you all of about 3 minutes before you throw up.

Even better though: it’s free to play on Steam – and here’s Danny’s review Team Fortress 2: The Free-to-Play Steam Game You Must Play Team Fortress 2: The Free-to-Play Steam Game You Must Play Is Team Fortress 2 just a quick game to test graphics and performance, or is it a game worth playing repeatedly? Read More .

Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)

Ok, this is admittedly stretching the “classic” part of this piece a little far, but if you have a relatively small number of players, a co-operative campaign of sheer zombie fighting terror is extraordinarily good fun; as is a versus match where you can take on the role of a number of special zombie types.

The close combat and emphasis on objective gameplay naturally elicits strong player bonds – you don’t leave your buddy behind to be eaten. Unless you hate them. $20 on Steam, also available in a multipack bundle to share with friends.

WarCraft 3 (2002)

WarCraft never really innovated on the multiplayer aspect of real-time strategy games, but it did bring something even more important to the table: hilariously cute little catchphrases for all the units. I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one who would click on their peons incessantly just to hear what they had to say next:

  • Ready to work!
  • What you want?
  • Something need doing?
  • Me busy, leave me alone!
  • Me not that kind of orc!

How good is WarCraft as a multiplayer game? The fact that world championships exist for it should give you some clue.

Speaking of incessantly clicking on things – my editor would probably kill me if I didn’t mention DotA What Is Dota 2 & Why Should You Care? What Is Dota 2 & Why Should You Care? In the world of games, Valve Corporation has recently grown into one of the largest and most consistent game publishers (with the skyrocketing success of their Steam distribution network) and game developers (with the international... Read More (Defence of the Ancients), a mod for WarCraft 3 that has since taken on a life of it’s own as Dota 2, one of the most watched online games. The mod combines tower defence and RPG-esque elements by giving the player a single character to level up; but basically removes the complication of resource management, which is clearly a difficult concept for today’s youth.

Really, you should just play the original…

Everyone has their favourites for a LAN session though – so if we missed yours, let us know in the comments what your game of choice is and why!

Image Credits: Peter Taylor Via Flickr

  1. matt
    December 24, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    gotta have c n c generals and zero hour and if you can find the project raptor patch it's even better.

    • John
      March 26, 2015 at 4:33 am

      C&C went downhill when EA bought out Westwood. Generals and anything after cant touch RA, RA2 and Tiberian Sun

  2. Josh W
    March 3, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Sorry for coming to this discussion a bit late, but you totally need to add Soldat to the list. It's a Polish indie game that evokes the feeling of Quake in 2D, with Jetpacks. Go look it up! It's a lot of fun.

  3. sai
    February 19, 2014 at 4:02 am

    I used to love playing Dune 2000! Late 90s...C&C red alert engine....Long live the fighters!

  4. scootmandoo
    February 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Don't forget my all time favorite, Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory! To date the best class based, squad battling I've seen.

  5. Aibek E
    February 11, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Been to a number LAN parties myself. We mostly played C&C, StarCraft and Counter Strike. These parties are one of those few things that makes me miss college)

  6. Switchblade S
    February 9, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Well may I suggest a Mod that makes the RA2 experience even better: Mental Omega(http://mo.cncguild.net/)

    Read and you'll see why. :)

  7. Vishal S
    February 9, 2014 at 5:47 am

    The best LAN FPS is Counter Strike (1.6 or Source or Global Offensive). Why is it not in this list?

    • James B
      February 9, 2014 at 8:51 am

      Because I don't agree, and I didn't want to fill the list with shooters.

  8. Drew Baisden
    February 8, 2014 at 1:19 am

    You totally forgot the BEST game: Soldier of Fortune. You are forgiven

    • James B
      February 8, 2014 at 8:13 am

      THAT! I couldn't remember the name when I was writing, but this should absolutely have been included.

  9. Tyler
    February 8, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Battlefield 2

    • James B
      February 8, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Not really "classic" though is it?

    • Tyler
      February 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Its more classic than Left 4 Dead, Heros of Might and Magic, and Team Fortress.

  10. Märk Owen
    February 7, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Don't forget Operation Flashpoint: Resistance (Also named ArmA: Cold War Assault as of 2011), this is one of the best classic games out there and one of the best game ever.

    • James B
      February 8, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Hmm, I've heard of Arm:A as some kind of realistic military sim, but it had never registered to me as a particularly popular early game.

  11. john
    February 7, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Mech warrior if you can dig out some flight sticks.

  12. Alex D
    February 7, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Unreal 2004 and Diablo II, good times. I am always happy to see these on a list about LAN parties. Now if only I could throw a LAN Party.

    • shawn
      May 9, 2015 at 10:01 pm

      let's not forget company of heroes...

  13. Carlo Vincente
    February 7, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Age of Empires 2 is one of the best for a LAN party.

    • James B
      February 8, 2014 at 8:16 am

      I enjoyed it too, but I don't know - it was always the choice for people who didn't like the clearly superior RA:2 ;)

  14. Alonso Vega
    February 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Wait, no Counter Strike?

    • Vlado
      February 10, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      I often play CS 1.6 with my friends. Last night in fact. We gather with friends in someone's house and play for fun. I do even have some spare old laptops (and Ethernet switch plus cables) with only CS installed, just in case if someone comes by :) I love this game. It's a gem from my childhood.

  15. Martha Washington
    February 7, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    I miss Total Annihilation - best LAN game ever. And CounterStrike has made a resurgence lately as well.

    • James B
      February 8, 2014 at 8:17 am

      I enjoyed Total Annihilation a lot with huge maps and lots of AI, but I never had that much fun when we played it on LAN. Perhaps it was just a little bit too... epic ... for a LAN party, where most of the tim you want something short and punchy.

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