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The Quantum Leap Awards: The Most Important Multiplayer Games of All Time

In our latest special Quantum Leap Award article, Gamasutra's committed audience of games industry professionals, educators and students casts its votes for the most important multiplayer games of all time.

Frank Cifaldi, Contributor

February 2, 2007

10 Min Read

They're timeless. They're groundbreaking. They inspire us, make us question our standards, and provide a roadmap for the future of development. They are the games that innovate and move the industry forward, and Gamasutra is proud to recognize them with our series of Quantum Leap Awards.

In January 2007, Gamasutra asked its esteemed readership of games industry professionals, educators, and students to vote on the most important multiplayer games of all time, as part of its ongoing Quantum Leap Awards series. Specifically, we asked the following:

Q: Which (non-MMO) video game has made the biggest 'quantum leap' in multiplayer gameplay?

You spoke, and we listened. Because of the wide variety of answers we received, tabulating a top list of award winners was impossible. Here, instead, Gamasutra presents highlights from the responses our readers gave to the above questions.

Battlefield 1942

Battlefield 1942, for allowing and rewarding cooperative teambased play, and integrating it into the tactical gameplay so well. Just say "I need a target for artillery!" and Snipers on your team can whip out their binoculars, giving you thier view of the target. No other multiplayer game lets you really make such use of your teammates.

Logan Bender, Cricket Moon Media


Dynamix created the template for both team-based gameplay and "kit selection" that have been iterated on by every multiplayer-focused FPS since its release way back in 1998. Despite having a steep learning curve that scared off more than a few potential players, Tribes still managed to find a strong following that progressed the game to an ultra-competitive artform of teamplay.

Tribes' focus on playing as a team, filling roles, seperating offensive and defensive units, supporting flag carriers, etc, etc. pushed the future of FPS multiplayer gaming from pure deathmatch/"cowboy" gaming to one where squad play and team focus is just as important as "point and click" kills. Tribes represents a significant quantum leap in FPS multiplayer gaming...and sucked away five years of my life!

Nathan Vella, Capybara Games

Wii Sports

Wii Sports does not make any quantum leaps in multiplayer technology (not the game itself at least), and certainly not in terms of gameplay design: it’s a stock standard multiplayer affair, and a rather light one at that. Very simple gameplay, few customisation options, basic stat tracking, and almost no variations on the five base games. Indeed if Wii Sports had been released on any other console and played with a standard controller, it would have been quickly dismissed and forgotten, and certainly never considered a quantum leap in multiplayer gameplay.

But rarely before have I been able to play games with my parents, and never have I seen (nor ever imagined) my grandfather picking up a controller. Never before have they shown much interest in games, if any, and most of all – never before have they been so eager to join in! Parents, grandparents, brothers, cousins, and friends: All enjoying Wii Sports together, and all playing on equal ground (the gamers lost to the non-gamers as often as they won). Never before has a game bought my family and friends together the way Wii Sports did these past holidays.

Wii Sports gets my nomination, not for making a quantum leap in networking or multiplayer technology, and not for making a quantum leap in multiplayer gameplay design, but for making a quantum leap multiplayer gaming socially. For expanding multiplayer gaming beyond other gamers further and more successfully than any other game ever before. For creating a social multiplayer environment where people do not sit silently in front of a TV or monitor, with the occasional exclamation here and there, but an environment where they laugh, taunt, cheer and leap around the room throughout the game. For letting me watch my family and friends enjoying games as much as myself, and for letting us enjoy them together. And perhaps most of all, for the look on my brother’s face when my mother beat him in Tennis on her first go!

Ben Droste, Krome Studios

Bomberman (TurboGrafx-16 SKU depicted)

Bomberman is really devious. It's simple. It's fun. Strip away its cutesy presentation and Bomerman is a one-hit-kill deathmatch. I do not enjoy PvP in online shooters or MMORPGs at all, but Bomberman has a frantic sense of fun that no other PvP experience has been able to capture.


GoldenEye 007

Say what you want about any full-body-suited marine, or any online tournament shooter, that priceless feeling of seeking out and blowing holes into your friends as they jump and holler in frustration right next to you started with James Bond and his crew of villains and capers. Any game created to replicate this feeling must tip its hat to the N64 classic.

Matthew Allmer, Rendered Vision

What tips the scale in GoldenEye's favor is the environment that it created. Even then, I remember being awestruck that a video game could hold the attention of eight to ten people for hours on end - even though not everyone was playing at the same time! The people who weren't playing would cheer on and laugh and make fun of the other players and commend good shots while they waited for their turn. In addition to that, the game became the greatest source of entertainment for myself and my friends for the better part of a year after its release. That kind of staying power isn't something that can be purchased.

Fernando De La Cruz, 1st Playable Productions

Double Dragon 2 - The Revenge

Double Dragon 2 on the NES featured a multiplayer option where both the players would fight together against the villains swarming at them. Co-op play was already present in the world of gaming, especially in arcade beat-em-up games, but they lacked true cooperativeness. Double Dragon 2 featured cooperative gameplay based on strong teamwork. It's the first game that made me realize that I had to work with my partner to "survive" the challenge.

In the other co-op multiplayer games, my partner and I usually took care of our business on each side of the screen and we'd actually compete to see who would score the highest at the end of the level/mission/game. However, in Double Dragon 2, we couldn’t afford to actually split up too long. The game difficulty was so high for our skills that we had to back each other up all the time. Also, numerous levels featured jumping obstacles with instant death on a failure. Since no playable character could go off-screen, both players had to make sure that they moved enough so that the screen wouldn't block before the landing area was accessible.

On top of that, players had to watch where their blows would land. Players could injure their partners, so swinging wildly at enemies while their partners were trying to attack them could result in an undesired kill, especially when throwing knifes and metal bars around. Of course, if the tension between partners were too high, there was always the option of settling it in-game!

My partners and I had to actually talk a lot while playing, saying what we had to do, when we needed assistance and what strategy we would take on certain levels (the chopper level comes in my mind). We had to rely on both our and the other's skills to win but at the same time, you remained partly independent. If the other failed, you did not fail automatically. You still had the chance to continue until you failed too. Multiplayer games have gone a long way since. The internet made it all easier to find partners, the number of partners playing simultaneously increased, multiplayer level design has gotten better and styles of games allowing multiplayer mode have soared. Still, I feel like Double Dragon 2 changed something in the field of multiplayer. It's the first game I can remember that made me think that cooperative play can be fun and that having a game where partners are actually handy are possible


Quake III Arena

You can't have a question about the quantum leap in multiplayer game play without including Quake III Arena. In my opinion this game has proven itself, to this day, as one of the most 'pure' multiplayer games on the market. Competitions like www.cplworldtour.com still recognize it as one of their premiere highlights of the event. Few other games in this genre have lasted through the tides like Quake III Arena.

Benjamin Quintero, Inland Studios

Ikari Warriors

Ikari Warriors for the NES. I know it was an arcade game at first, but it took co-op from the arcade and put it on the couch. Games likes Gears of War revitalize co-op and show fun and powerful co-op play can be.

Eric Monacelli, 2K Games


[Quake] itself was certainly groundbreaking, but I single it out as more of a platform than a specific game. Among the many, many, many things that came out of the Quake development/mod community:

  1. GameSpy (then QuakeSpy) and other server browsers, now commonplace if not standard for all multiplayer games;

  2. Threewave CTF, which directly influenced just about every team based shooter ever made, even if it's not always obvious;

  3. Team Fortress, which more or less created the class-based shooter that games like Battlefield (and now Quake Wars) have run with;

  4. And Rocket Arena, the original one-on-one multiplayer experience. The same community would later move on to Half-Life, and in turn create Counter-Strike, the most successful non-MMO multiplayer, non-casual game of all-time

Jason Bergman, 2K Games

The quantum-leap award in multiplayer gaming should go to the Pokémon series. Tajiri-san’s introduction of the collect and trade concept opened the eyes of every developer, all of whom previously believed multiplayer was either head-to-head or cooperative. What Pokémon created with this breakthrough concept was a true sense of community centered about a game – a kinship among people which transcended the immediate game environment.

With the inclusion of real-world Pokémon merchandise, and a constant flow of new, wicked-cute characters, it was easy for anyone to embrace the Pokémon lifestyle…not that I would ever admit to it


Pokémon series (Pokémon Red depicted)

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About the Author(s)

Frank Cifaldi


Frank Cifaldi is a freelance writer and contributing news editor at Gamasutra. His past credentials include being senior editor at 1UP.com, editorial director and community manager for Turner Broadcasting's GameTap games-on-demand service, and a contributing author to publications that include Edge, Wired, Nintendo Official Magazine UK and GamesIndustry.biz, among others. He can be reached at [email protected].

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