August 31, 2018
Beginning with the original games, the overwhelming majority of the Zelda series has been focused on single-player experiences. Every now and then, the fine folks at Nintendo decide we should be able to share the unforgettable gameplay moments with our friends, and sometimes this heightens the feeling because of the associated camaraderie.
Today I will look at my five favorite multiplayer modes and what makes them stand out above the rest. There were enough to pick from that I had a little difficulty coming up with this list, but in the end, cooperative experiences beat out the adversarial ones. Without further waffling, let’s get into the list!
#5: Wind Waker
Players of the original GameCube classic usually remember being awarded the Tingle Tuner, but hardly anyone I talk to actually used it. It wasn’t technically a multiplayer tool, but the way I used it with my brother ended up making it so. With one player exploring and the other player reading hints from Tingle on the Gameboy Advance screen, we were both able to find a load of treasure that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
The flavor behind this obscure item is wacky, and if I hadn’t been able to play this game cooperatively with my brother, I would have never used it because of my burning hatred for Tingle. Simply communicating hints to each other and helping with puzzles made it a really special experience, and almost made me like Tingle. Then he charged me way too much for map deciphering, so I still hate him, but what ya gonna do?
#4: Four Swords
The first fully multiplayer title in the series was seen by many as a pointless add-on to a remake of their favorite SNES game, but it actually had enough content on its own to be worth playing through. The story and concept were simple, but the gameplay really pulled you in with your buddies to figure out how to solve these four-man puzzles.
As great as the series is for puzzles anyway, designing them for several people to solve cooperatively opened so many doors for the series, and it made this game stand out even as a side game bundled in with a remake.
#3: Four Swords Adventures
Everything about Four Swords that was great was expanded upon in Four Swords Adventures. The puzzles were often a little trickier, there were more levels, an explorable world with characters and towns, and a story that you’d have to use multiple sentences to effectively summarize. Also there were three recursive villains in this title, as you had to fight Vaati, Ganon, and Dark Link, who was possibly my favorite version of the character.
Basically right from the get-go you had everything the first game did plus more, but better. It also helped that your quest was cooperative, but hunting down the most force gems or grabbing your favorite item first made for just enough competitiveness bundled in to even make this game stand apart from other 4-player hack and slashes of the day.
#2: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages
This is another game where the multiplayer aspect is usually blown over by almost everybody who plays it, but it really helped in middle school to connect with people in a game that wasn’t Pokemon. Trading rings was a simple addition, but it really helped with the social aspect by driving conversation. Explaining to your buddies the strategies you use with different ring combinations or just swapping stories of weird places you found a ring made these my most played handheld games for at least two straight years.
#1: Tri-Force Heroes
And here we have it, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the pumpkin of pies, the Dragon’s Milk of beers, the… Okay I’ll just get on with it.
Seriously, this game does not get enough credit. The addition of a solid online experience (barring the occasional troll) sent this game straight to the top of this list. In addition to everything I loved about Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures, this game mixed in a plethora of puzzles that took advantage of the 2.5D style of A Link Between Worlds to make you think in three dimensions. With how hectic level design and boss fights were, the strange emoji-based chat system actually fit the style of the game by making players think about different combinations of the emotes they could use to convey what they needed. It kind of made communication a puzzle by itself.
I actually love this game quite a lot, and it easily snags the top spot for my favorite multiplayer Zelda. Be sure to look out for my full review in a new Lens of Truth article coming in the next few weeks.
That does it for this week’s fairly easy top five, but I still want to know what you think! Did I put down the adversarial modes in Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks too easily? Was it more fun to hand a buddy one joy-con in Breath of the Wild and hope you could collectively make it through the Great Plateau? By all means, let me know your top five, or what’s wrong with mine. Leave a comment or shout at me on Twitter and we’ll keep the conversation dashing!