Nowadays gamers are absolutely spoilt for choice when they decide to head online and seek out some multiplayer fun. The likes of Apex Legends, Rocket League, Minecraft, Overwatch, CS:GO and Dota 2 all offer the potential for some outrageously exciting gameplay, creating massive communities spread across the world.
The thriving multiplayer gaming sector owes a huge debt of gratitude to a select handful of titles that pushed boundaries and opened new avenues of exploration. These are the five most influential multiplayer games of all time:
British students Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle kick-started the multiplayer adventure genre when they developed text-based RPG Multi-User Dungeon back in 1978. They designed it on the DEC PDP-10 mainframe at the University of Essex and it revolved around gaining points until one player achieved the Wizard rank, giving the character immortality and special powers over mortals.
MUD became the first online multiplayer RPG in 1980 when the university connected its internal network to ARPANet, allowing fantasy fans to compete with one another. This inspired generations of massively multiplayer titles such as Everquest, Ultima Online and World of Warcraft, plus hundreds of adventure and RPG offers. Bartle and Trubshaw decided not to copyright the game or the technology underpinning it.
They shared it freely and that allowed people to write their own MUDs, sparking a great deal of creativity in the gaming community. It proliferated and evolved, eventually spawning the graphical games that we know and love today.
Super Mario Kart
The original Super Mario Kart dazzled gamers with its exhilarating blend of breakneck action, thrilling duels, and tense finishes. It was released on the SNES in 1992 and sold almost 9 million copies worldwide, making it the fourth bestselling game on that console.
Super Mario Kart allowed players to take control of eight different players from the Mario universe, each of whom possessed different abilities. It featured a wonderfully addictive single-player mode, but the greatest pleasure lay in meeting up with friends and trying to surge to victory using all manner of thrilling power-ups and special weapons.
The graphics look dated now, but at the time they were cutting edge, possibly the best ever seen on the SNES. The gameplay is absolutely superb and its legacy continues to endure in kart racers and driving games that are being released to this day. The Mario Kart series has now sold 100 million copies and Nintendo continues to churn them out, but the original remains the greatest.
Goldeneye 007 is one of the most influential first-person shooters of all time. It seized upon a genre made popular by Doom, improved upon it significantly and ushered in a new era of realistic graphics and freewheeling gameplay.
The aesthetic was perfect. The weapons were inventive. The deathmatch stages were well-judged. §The list of characters was phenomenal, bringing together the main players in Goldeneye and many more Bond villains from the history books.
The single-player mode was exciting, but it was all about the split-screen multiplayer mode, which allowed friends to plug in four controllers and wage war.
Goldeneye 007 paved the way for Halo, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike and all the big FPS games that dominate the competitive gaming scene now, from Overwatch to Rainbow 6 Siege. It left an indelible mark on popular culture and its influence is immense. The fact that it was cobbled together by a bunch inspired amateurs working on a shoestring budget makes it even more impressive.
World of Warcraft
Blizzard struck gold when it unveiled World of Warcraft in 2004. It had already enjoyed considerable success with Warcraft III, but WoW dialled up the intensity and set a new benchmark for MMORPGs.
Each class is viable and interesting, character development is impressive, the gameplay is extremely deep and the environment is absolutely stunning. More than 15 years have passed since it hit shelves, and WoW has grossed more than $10 billion, making it one of the most successful games of all time.
Its influence is enormous. WoW essentially established the basic principle of the MMO genre, ensuring that players are free to enjoy whatever kind of experience they want, whenever they wish to do so. It changed video games and wrecked lives.
League of Legends
Riot Games laid the groundwork for the modern esports sector when it launched LoL in 2009. It followed the Asian model of releasing the game on a free-to-play basis and then set about constantly upgrading and improving the game in a bid to grant it the sort of longevity that was sadly absent in the gaming industry. The strategy proved to be remarkably successful.
LoL remains one of the most popular games in the world and it is the number one esport in terms of viewing figures. Millions of people around the world watch tournaments on Twitch and YouTube, fans wager on matches at popular sites such as Unikrn, major brands are spending vast sums on sponsoring the scene and star players like Faker have become rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams.
It also earns Riot more than $1 billion per year via microtransactions. Fans love the thrilling nature of battling it out on Summoner’s Rift, and the game continues to be updated to take advantage of technological developments, allowing it to retain a large and passionate community.
Games like Dota 2, CS:GO, PUBG and all the other big esports now follow a free-to-play model and seek to enjoy the sort of longevity that LoL has gained, allowing a growing competitive gaming scene to thrive across the world.