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, 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.
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.
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.
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 (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