At Christmas – as with any occasion where your whole extended family is crammed into one house amid an abundance of unresolved tensions and alcohol – Monopoly is not always the answer. Similarly, there are times in life when Trivial Pursuit is just going to make everything worse, and when people simply don’t want to hear you explain the rules to Settlers of Catan for the 300th time. Sometimes, only video games will do.
So, if at any point during the festive season you find yourself desperate for shared entertainment options, here is a selection box of local multiplayer titles that will fit the bill. All of them are available for current machines, and most can be downloaded in a couple of hours. This Christmas, don’t become a victim of charades.
Minecraft (basically all consoles and computers in existence)
The blocky building sim is the soothing way to while away a few hours with family members, either joining together to create a scale replica of York Minster, or competing in the variety of mini-games available on the PC and now on the console versions.
Overcooked (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
This frenzied and fun four-player game has you working together in a busy restaurant kitchen supplying increasingly complex dishes to increasingly impatient customers. You really have to work together to fulfil orders, chopping ingredients, mixing them together then washing up afterwards. If nothing else, it’s great practice for the inevitable nightmare of preparing the Christmas dinner with a kitchen full of relatives who don’t know what they’re doing, have drunk too much sherry, and really are going to argue over the best way to stuff a turkey.
Lego Dimensions (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U)
Boasting a huge range of licensed playsets, the entertaining action-adventure game lets players put real Lego mini-figures and models on a special plinth to control them on screen. But the fun new addition to the game is the Battle Arena mode, which invites up to four players into a series of fights, using any characters they own. Want to see what would happen if Harry Potter faced off against Sonic the Hedgehog? Now you can.
Space Team (Android, iOS)
Released in 2012, this raucous party game is still one of the best local multiplayer experiences on smartphones and tablets. Up to four people will need to download the game on their iOS or Android devices – they then need to work together to save their space ship – by shouting nonsensical phrases at each other. Each team mate has a different computer display, and will need to listen out if another participant has instructions for them – so your living room essentially becomes the bridge of the USS Enterprise during a scuffle with a Romulan Bird of Prey. What isn’t fun about that?
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Any Super Mario Kart title will do to be honest, but the latest title, available on the Wii U, is a great place to start. The set-up is simple: four-players, an array of classic Nintendo characters, superbly designed courses, and the often skill-nullifying presence of power-ups. It’s a recipe for excitement, tension and recrimination, which is what Christmas is all about.
Rocket League (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
It’s football, but with cars and stunts, and it’s incredibly amusing. That’s all you really need to know about what some see as the greatest multiplayer sports game since Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.
Head’s Up (iOS, Android)
Endorsed by US television star Ellen DeGeneres, this is a smartphone and tablet version of that classic party game where you scrawl the names of famous people on post-it notes then stick them on your heads and try to guess who is on yours. It’s as fun as it’s always been, but here all the scores and famous people are sorted by your phones, so you have one less thing to squabble over.
Towerfall (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
A lovely, highly intuitive four-player archery battle, in which players leap around single-screen environments trying to shoot their arrows at everyone else. Lots of scenic traps and power-ups add to the tactical side of the game, as does the fact that your arrows are in short supply and must be retrieved after every shot. Fast-paced and sometimes confusing, but really enjoyable.
Rayman Legends (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360)
Ubisoft’s charming and wonderfully colourful platform adventure can be enjoyed by four players simultaneously, all working together to solve the puzzles and progress through an enchanted forest realm.
Fifa 17 or PES 2017 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
It doesn’t really matter which title you go for – they both have good and bad points. For the purposes of a basic Boxing day kickabout, you just need either one of these games, four controllers, a big screen and a lot of overly competitive footy fans. Add extra realism to your living room tournament by charging everyone else £80 to watch and then serving them flat beer in plastic glasses for £6 a pint.
Just Dance 2017 (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, Xbox 360)
The latest title in Ubisoft’s well-designed dancing sim series combines modern hits with classic pop songs, and provides dance routines that vary in skill requirements, so everyone can get involved no matter how old, uncoordinated or tipsy. You’ll need the camera peripheral that’s supported by your console, or you can play using a smartphone as the controller.