With the release of Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4 it finally seems that party video games are starting to make a comeback. So now seems like as good a time as any to ask the question: What makes a good party game?
Probably the most important thing about party games is that they need to be accessible and easy to pick up and play. There has to be that element of familiarity that comes with the game be it cars, music or shooting. A good party game has to be easy to learn yet hard to master with all players on an even playing field.
As the name implies party games need to be fun for the whole party, even for the people who aren’t playing. The best party games are visually exciting so that those without a controller don’t feel fully left out. The new Guitar Hero plays to this by having real crowd reactions going on in the background to entertain anyone else in the room since players normally have their eyes on the notes.
Face it, you’re not always going to have people to play with so there’s no point buying a game specifically to play at the one or two social events you hold every year. That’s why I think it’s so important that party games be just as fun as it is to play with others as it is to play by yourself. Take the excellent Rocket League for an example, a game that you can easily have a blast with playing solo and against online opponents but also includes split screen up to four players when the time calls for it. On the other hand we have something like Just Dance. A game that’s fun to play at parties but would make you look silly trying to play in your own at home.
Hopefully we’ll start to see more party games be released in the future, mainly because as more companies go away from traditional couch co-op gaming in favour of online, the success of games like these could show them there’s still an audience of people who want to play games next to the person their playing with.
And lately we’ve been starting to see more and more indie developers taking on the challenge of making party games with stuff like Rocket League and Towerfall Ascension. If big studios stop producing these kinds of games this is where I expect the genre to live on. And most of them follow the rules of being accessible, fun to watch and fun to play on your own.