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Misbegotten Multiplayer Mode

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"It's true, I'm afraid. They've gone and included one of those awful multiplayer modes that seem to be all the fashion these days. This means you and some whippersnappers can huddle round your flickering screen and play a few games that I reckon were thrown in at the last minute and will be average at best."
Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong 64 instruction manual

There are video games designed primarily or exclusively for two or more players, ranging from Co-Op Multiplayer to Competitive Multiplayer. Many video games, however, are really designed for a single player, and become painful with more than one player; other games may merely treat their multiplayer mode as nothing more than an afterthought (that sometimes exist only because the developers were forced to add it in). At their absolute worst, the multiplayer mode ends up being a Bonus Feature Failure in its own right.

Problems can include:

  • Extra players and multiplayer modes having little or no impact on the game.
  • Players sharing lives and/or health in co-op. Less-skilled players can easily waste those.
  • Players getting in the way of each other in co-op.
  • Players being able to attack/kill each other in co-op.
  • The camera struggling to hold multiple players at once. Either players can get left behind or the camera won't budge.
  • The camera only following one player at a time, usually player 1.
  • Not many multiplayer options being available e.g. limited character choice.
  • Weapons/characters/items not being balanced for multiplayer.
  • Technical issues such as framerate dips and uglier graphics due to extra processing power required for extra players.

This was standard for computer games developed before fast local network and Internet availability. Many early multiple hits like Counter-Strike were only developed as an addon or total modification to a single-player campaign game and their tacked on multiplayer modes.

On the contrary, consoles of the time (except handheld ones) had at least two controllers, so many games could offer one-player and two-player modes that stood on roughly equal grounds.

Contrast Socialization Bonus, where playing with someone else is actually beneficial.


    open/close all folders 

    Action Game 
  • Batman: Arkham Origins has a fairly odd one: It was a 3v3v2 game, the 2 being Batman and Robin, and the 3s being Joker and Bane's gangs. The Gangs play like an ordinary 3rd Person Shooter, and the Heroes play like, well, a Batman Arkham Game. The result wasn't bad, exactly, but it was mostly forgotten shortly after the game's release. The mode was taken offline shortly after due to the lack of interest, but has a small, but loyal, revival effort with mods allowing it to be played again.
  • In Evolva, there's a multiplayer mode, but it's kind of tacked on: plain deathmatch that allows you to use your characters from the single-player campaign if you like. Also, finding players is somewhat difficult and the best option is to try to find another player via the Internet protocol. The handful of maps aren't bad (the multi-player maps are medium to large in size and include some of the strangest designs of all the maps in the game), but Evolva multi-player is mostly an afterthought.
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 has a multiplayer mode where players control the Ghostbusters in either defending ghost disrupters while they charge, or capturing ghosts in a set time limit. It was quickly taken offline due to lack of interest, and was outright removed in the PC port and 2019 remasters.

    Adventure Game 
  • In amateur game design forums, frequently a new user will bring up the idea of making a multiplayer Adventure Game, such as King's Quest or Space Quest. None of them have, so far, been able to explain how exactly a linear non-replayable puzzle solving game is supposed to work with multiple players.
  • Oedipus in my Inventory parodies the idea, advertising a 'Collector's Edition' that contains multiplayer among other cliche bonus content.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • Batman Forever is already a game that's So Okay, It's Average at best, but the levels are clearly not designed for co-operative play, given that awkward clipping starts to occur in an attempt to keep both characters on the screen, and some platforms are just above the top of the screen but which have to be accessed with the grappling hook in order to proceed; with two players, this requires ungodly co-ordination, otherwise the clipping will cause one or both players to fall. Also, the duel mode is meant to be reminiscent of Mortal Kombat, but the Riddler Thug is grossly overpowered and there's no differentiation between players using the same character, which is baffling considering the enemies do have palette swaps in the main game.
  • Battletoads, as pointed out by The Angry Video Game Nerd. The number of items is not adjusted, the two players can hurt each other very easily (to a downright comical degree in level 2's case), and one of the levels becomes literally Unwinnable in the American version because of a glitch in programming. If one of the players dies, both are sent back to the last checkpoint, and if one player runs out of lives, both are sent to the start of the level without giving the other player their lost lives back. Later Battletoads games for consoles mitigated this a little by offering an alternate two-player mode where the players can't hurt each other.
  • The Arcade mode of Final Fight: Streetwise is the game's only multiplayer mode, and "rough" is an understatement for its polish level. There are only four levels, enemy spawns are geared for two players so playing solo means dealing with huge mobs that surround you, there are only three lives and no continues to be had, food spawns are insufficient for two players, there's no lock-on. And to top it off, beating the whole thing yields no reward whatsoever, not even an "A Winner Is You" congratulations screen.
  • Guardians of the 'Hood has sparring matches between levels where you fight one of the other playable characters. In a two player game, the players must fight each other, and it's still treated as a game-over for the loser, requiring them to fork over cash for a continue. The game even has the gall to say "Winner continues for FREE" as if they're being generous.

    Driving Game 
  • FAST Racing NEO and its Updated Re-release FAST RMX have both local and online multiplayer modes, the latter game also allowing local wireless play. Unfortunately, online play has one glaring problem: There is no option to join a specific friend or to create a private lobby. Furthermore, RMX limits all online play to Subsonic League, not permitting players to play in Supersonic or Hypersonic Leagues.
  • The online multiplayer in SEGA AGES Virtua Racing is rather tacked on, featuring a thumbnail of the opponent's screen that you cannot disable and no way to filter opponents by connection quality, meaning that it's possible to race incredibly laggy matches against several 0/5 or 1/5 quality opponents in a row.

    Fighting Game 
  • The Versus Mode in the first Art of Fighting is more of a novelty than a serious component of the game. The characters beside Robert and Ryo were clearly not designed with player usage in mind, being wildly unbalanced, having odd properties (Ryuhaku Todoh only has one special move, Mr. Big can't jump) and no desperation moves (something fixed in the SNES port of the game).
  • Punch-Out!! for Wii has a head-to-head mode that is regarded as this by many people, though others will argue that this mode is actually a very deep and intense battle of the wits and people are mainly disappointed that they can only play as recolored clones of Little Mac as opposed to popular characters like King Hippo or Super Macho Man.
  • Rise of the Robots only allows Player 1 to play as the "hero" Cyborg, whereas Player 2 can choose any of the enemies. Player 1 will die. A lot. In order to give the player a challenge in one player mode, each robot you face, rather than having a better AI (as the game claimed they would), just do more damage per hit. By the time you get up to Crusher, he's able to knock quarters off your health, and by the time you get up to fighters like Sentry and Supervisor, nearly every move they can throw WILL take MULTIPLE quarters off of your health. When in multi-player mode, the robots were not re-balanced. Oh, and you can unlock Supervisor for 2P mode. Enjoy.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Despite nearly everything being designed with co-op multiplayer functionality, certain subgames are very obviously meant for single players:
    • Home Run Contest. Yes, you can do try and play the contest with a friend, and somehow try and team up in an attempt to send Sandbag flying as far as possible. This usually doesn't work too well, partly because it's way too easy to send Sandbag flying the wrong way at the wrong time with two players running around like lunatics and attacking the hell out of it.
    • Boss Battles are damn near unplayable on anything resembling a high difficulty level because every boss has That One Attack and two of the ten bosses have One-Hit Kill attacks. You have no continues, health restoration is massively limited and any one person dying/getting KOed immediately causes both to fail on the spot. As a result, playing this mode with friends, especially inexperienced ones trying to play the higher difficulty levels, usually ends in tears, typically when both players get to the Final Boss and one player fails to dodge the insta-kill Off Waves.
  • In the Fan Work Super Smash Flash, you could battle it out with two players... but the camera always follows the first player, ignoring the second. Its sequel fixes this issue, making its multiplayer infinitely more playable.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • BioShock 2 had multiplayer that was passable unlike some of the examples here, but was still an incredibly obvious afterthought. This was a strange decision for a sequel to a very successful game lauded for being a first-rate single player experience. Predictably, it was largely ignored by most players. When Ken Levine confirmed what many suspected, BioShock Infinite will have no multiplayer, the fans rejoiced. What's weird is that Levine's team commissioned at least one magazine article actually bragging about how much time the writers spent on BioShock 2's multiplayer mode, trying to fit the multiplayer mode into the BioShock canon as a little snapshot of how Rapture went to hell. Tellingly, the BioShock 2 Multiplayer wasn't even included in the remastered BioShock: The Collection.
  • Despite the single player being fine bar a few minor glitches, split-screen co-op on Borderlands 3 is borderline unplayable on Xbox One & PlayStation 4, suffering from severe framerate drops, sub-par graphics (even when compared to the second games' co-op mode) and audio glitches, simple tasks like opening the menu causing the game to freeze and stutter, notifications completely obscuring the view for the player in the top half of the screen, plus no option to play with vertical split-screen for those that prefer it. This is especially jarring as the Borderlands franchise has always championed co-op play as a selling point rather than tacking it on as an afterthought.
  • The Darkness includes a tacked-on selection of multiplayer modes, featuring the ability to shapeshift into a wall-crawling Darkling at will (which isn't present in singleplayer). However, the game types are uninteresting and the maps are a visually-boring assortment of tight corridors, which fail to take advantage of the Darkling's superior speed and agility. As a result, the sequel changed multiplayer to a better received concurrent coop campaign.
  • Doom³: The guns are poorly balanced for multiplayer, the game shipped with almost no multiplayer modes, and the critical part of the engine was its ability to render quality shadows. Of course, every multiplayer gamer ever turns shadow quality down to get performance. What's worse, Doom 3's own copy protection locked out just the multiplayer modes if not properly activated, which might have factored in on the quick demise of Doom 3 multiplayer.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon, in singleplayer, is a dark, horror-themed shooter with Bullet Time mechanics, incredible enemy AI, and a lot of supernatural nasties to deal with. First Encounter Assault Recon multiplayer is about as generic as you could get for 2005, taking singleplayer levels and dropping player spawns in for them to shoot each other over and over in with none of the various other good things about the game. Later games put progressively more effort into making the multiplayer worthwhile, so far as to have the third game be designed for co-op play, but it's still telling that Project Origin' multiplayer had already been abandoned entirely several years before it actually went offline with GameSpy's demise.
  • Ghost Recon was a decidedly difficult and engrossing game in single-player, due to the fact that bullets kill, and you want to keep your teammates alive for future missions. Good tactical placement of each member in the squad (to cover each other and lay down suppressing fire) is paramount, and stealth movement is therefore also very important. Of course, in Co-Op multiplayer mode, coordinating a surgical offensive is far more difficult, but is really pointless because unless all players are rubbish they can often work alone, killing enemies by the dozens whenever they spot them. It really takes the fun out of the game, and even placing hundreds of bots on the map doesn't really change anything.
  • GoldenEye (1997) is solid proof that Tropes Are Not Bad. Even though most never realized it, the multiplayer mode in this game checks off all the criteria — it was thrown in at the last minute without Nintendo or even higher-ups at Rare knowing, and almost didn't even make it into the final product until they relented and agreed it wasn't worth the trouble of removing it considering how late the game already was. It would wind up becoming one of the most beloved features of the game and proved the viability of multiplayer in a first-person shooter on consoles. Only on closer inspection do the signs become more obvious: the multiplayer wasn't advertised anywhere on the box aside from the obligatory player count specification; the stages are lifted straight from the single player mode, which were clearly not designed to be deathmatch arenas; while there are a number of customization options, it's fairly lacking in depth compared to a game that would have made it a priority; and it has a handful of ideas that probably sounded neat but which just break the game, such as Oddjob being playable despite him being so short the game does not allow you to shoot him with free-aimed shots. The game also has its frame rate dip into the single digits if playing with three or four players.
  • Unlike its predecessor, Half-Life 2 shipped with no multiplayer whatsoever, and the deathmatch portion was only released as a standalone game a while later. While players found it fun to mess with the game's physics engine, it was overshadowed by Counter-Strike: Source, the game bundled with Half-Life 2.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes includes a lackluster competitive multiplayer mode. Up to four players can play as Palette Swapped Samuses (the cool-looking armor upgrades from the main game aren't available even as skins) in a few standard split-screen modes (deathmatch, capture-the-flag, etc.) on some unimaginative maps. There are a few Multiplayer-Only Items. It was seemingly thrown in just because multiplayer was big in FPSs at the time (thanks to Halo), even though Metroid games are all about exploration and puzzle-solving no matter what the player's viewpoint is. An interview with the developer said the multiplayer was originally planned to be much bigger with unique playable characters, but it got cut in favor of focusing on single player. The developer says in the final game, multiplayer probably should've been cut.
    • In a reverse case, Metroid Prime: Hunters added a much more popular and developed multiplayer mode, but at the expense of a criticized single-player mode. The next installments, Corruption and Other M, return to single-player only.
  • The multiplayer modes in Painkiller are considered by some to be an afterthought, shoehorned on top of the single-player mode by the publishers' demand...but that didn't stop the Cyberathlete Professional League from choosing Painkiller as their official 2005 World Tour game. Subverted by the Lite Edition, which only contains the multiplayer mode.
  • The PlayStation Portable version of the Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie added a WiFi multiplayer mode: Both of you played the same level in single-player, and the person who completed it fastest "won".
  • Quake II zig-zags the trope:
    • On the one hand, the SP maps in the PC version can be played in Deathmatch multiplayer mode, akin to Quake, Doom and Doom II. The maps in multiplayer mode have rebalanced lighting, rebalanced item/weapon placement, an even spread of spawnpoints, MP-exclusive teleporters and ladders to solve connectivity issues, and even new areas not present in SP, usually added to connect areas which weren't connected in the SP in the first place. This is also true of both The Reckoning and Ground Zero, even with those packs having multiplayer-oriented maps. Some maps, however, are completely incompatible with SP, and some SP-based maps will present issues in multiplayer mode. Id's own Tim Willits in an interview said that the best approach is to either exclusively focus on single-player or deathmatch when making a map:
      Tim Willits: Making a map great for both DM and SP is a very difficult task. Usually if it's great for DM it'll be too circular for SP, and if it's a fun SP map it's usually too straight for DM.
    • Playing in co-op with two players is already fairly painful, but becomes almost impossible with three or more players, because the levels are so cramped and killing your friends is stupidly easy.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s multiplayer was passable, but very so different from the single player (Wide-Open Sandbox singleplayer horror, run-and-gun arena multiplayer). A large amount of technical issues made many players consider STALKER to be an effectively singleplayer game; It required nine ports to be forwarded to play online, effectively every server was located in Russia or Ukraine with insane ping for NA players, the game had an average-at-best netcode, and the initial of the first two games causing players to crash left-and-right. The Steam release of the game running "up-to-date" on an old patch certainly didn't help.
  • Inverted in Titanfall, which was designed to be a multiplayer game first. The singleplayer 'campaign' is essentially a short lineup of AI skirmish battles with an Excuse Plot to tie them together. Titanfall 2 had a critically-acclaimed single-player campaign while also expanding on the multiplayer, averting this entirely.
  • Also inverted in the original Tribes and its sequel, where the "singleplayer" mode was little more than a glorified Justified Tutorial that could be blasted through in under two hours. Instant Action would give you a singleplayer battle with bots that were usually pretty competent but couldn't use the game's Ascended Glitch, 'skiing', that the whole series was built on. Tribes: Vengeance has both a proper singleplayer and multiplayer, though Tribes Ascend drops singleplayer entirely.
  • The 2009 Wolfenstein. While the previous entry in its series was known for its excellent multiplayer, the new game managed to completely ignore the majority (if not all) of the innovations RTCW brought. No wonder, just about every fan of RTCW's/Enemy Territory's multiplayer consider the 2009 game to be a complete joke in this regard. Heck, the team responsible for the multiplayer component getting fired on release speaks volumes. The next game in the series got rid of multiplayer entirely. It didn't help that it had graphics downgraded compared to the single-player version.

    Hack and Slash 
  • The first Diablo. Friendly fire. It was still possible until the mage learned Chain Lightning, after which his allies were forced to take cover behind walls every time monsters showed up.
  • Dark Messiah's online multiplayer play more like a bad Half-Life 2 mod than anything to do with Dark Messiah; ignoring the singleplayer game's brilliant combat system, spells, classes and with far worse graphics. Of course, it was made by a different company altogether.
  • Gauntlet is a classic arcade game meant to be played with two people, and its sequel with four. The PC port can also be played with four people, if they can somehow all fit at a single keyboard.
  • The Wii U and Switch versions of Hyrule Warriors feature a very basic splitscreen multiplayer mode, allowing a second player to join in Adventure Mode missions. The multiplayer mode is serviceable but often suffers from performance issues, particularly the Switch version when in handheld mode. Capturing keeps also tends to take a lot longer, as fewer enemies can spawn at once due to the game having to render two areas of the map at once. This means that having more allies and fewer enemies actually makes many missions harder to win! The more common reason to play in multiplayer is that the second player isn't bound by the character restrictions that many missions enforce on Player 1, allowing single players to get around being forced to play as a character they don't like by connecting a second controller and just leaving the first character parked in the Allied Base for the entire mission.

    Light Gun Games 
  • Duck Hunt: A little known fact about the game is that a second player can use the controller to control how the ducks move. The second player can use this to make the game easier or harder. If your friend decides to be a dick, good luck.
  • Police Trainer. Most of its 2-player minigames are the same as the 1-player variant, or even more difficult simply due to the distraction of shared screen space. Worse, one player may directly cause the other to fail a minigame (and losing precious coinage with it) by being greedy and shooting more targets than required, and a few minigames are directly competitive, requiring someone to fail. Police Trainer 2 was slightly better and even had a cooperative minigame for each rank, but one of its 2-player minigames was outright Unwinnable due to lack of targets for both players, putting a quick stop to the fun.

    Miscellaneous Games 
  • Glider PRO has a two-player mode where the first player to leave a room (Glider PRO is a non-scrolling game) must wait for the second glider to follow, or press a suicide button if it can't. The second-player controls being non-configurable (locked to the modifier keys) is only a minor annoyance compared to this.
  • Overcooked! Plays with this trope quite a bit.
    • With one player, the game is nearly impossible. Cutting ingredients is sluggish, and in levels where you are practically required to have two players, you must control two characters individually.
    • With two players, cutting ingredients is much faster, and two different characters being controlled by a different person allows for much more efficient work, overall making the game much more easier and playable.
    • With three or four players, the game goes straight back into this trope. To compensate for three or even four players being able to get a lot more done in a very short time, the money goals to get 1, 2, or 3 stars are greatly increased. It seems fair on paper, since the game would otherwise be too easy, but the increased goals actually make some levels even more difficult than with two players. In fact, Level 6-3 is very close to impossible (if not outright impossible) with three or more players.
      • In levels where there are hazards that can cause players to die, it's much easier to accidentally knock off one of your teammates if you're playing with four players, especially if you sprint a lot.
    • The final boss has no monetary goal. You simply have to feed him four entire courses of meals before the time (11:30) runs out. If you play with three players, the time limit is reduced by thirty seconds; with four players, it is reduced by a whole minute.
  • Downplayed with XCOM 2. While the multiplayer was generally functional (if a bit heavy on loading times) it was essentially dead on arrival when the game was released in 2016. The servers were eventually shut down in early 2022.

    Platform Game 
  • Donkey Kong:
    • Lampshaded by Cranky in the manual for Donkey Kong 64, which has a quite barebones multiplayer mode that serves as nothing more than a fun distraction.
    • Donkey Kong Country Returns and Tropical Freeze have a co-op mode which seems to benefit gameplay as both Kongs can move separately AND tag along to use the single-player version moves. However, due to the Nintendo Hard difficulty and that, unlike the New Super Mario Bros. sub-series, players share lives, it can become a hindrance.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles for the Sega Genesis are an odd case. They have competitive multiplayer modes, which are fine, but you can also have 2 players in single-player mode. Player 1 controls Sonic, while Player 2 controls Tails... but if Tails goes offscreen, which happens often, you have to wait until he flies back onscreen and lands. If Tails dies, he comes back the same as if he goes offscreen, but if Sonic dies, both players go back to the last checkpoint. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, if you can get someone to play with you during the Special Stages, getting the Chaos Emeralds becomes much easier. The Special Stages work much better with multiple players than the acts do. It's also possible for a second player to control Tails in the stages of Sonic Adventure where he follows Sonic; this cannot be done through Stage Select.
    • Shadow the Hedgehog bought back this feature (except in the Xbox version for some reason) where a second player can control the helper characters (minus Black Doom, Eggman, and oddly, Charmy). Not very useful in "get to the goal" missions for the same reasons mentioned above in Sonic 2 and 3. However, instead of having to wait for the helper to re-appear if he/she falls off camera, this game now has the option to call him/her back to your side with a simple tap on the D-Pad, which makes it actually worth it in alternate missions like "collect X rings" or "kill X enemies". For added hilarity, you can use characters in their opposite missions: have fun using Sonic to beat GUN soldiers and then have him complain on Shadow.
    • The Sonic Simulator in Sonic Colors for the Wii came with a 2 Player Mode, allowing another player to play as another Sonic or a Mii and help out. This came with a couple glaring issues, including the ability to target your ally with a Homing Attack and stun him/her, the camera only focusing on the player in the lead (and killing the other player if they go too far offscreen), and giving an instant Game Over if both players die at once, regardless of lives remaining. 1.5 Players mode keeps all of these issues but lightens the frustration by allowing Player 2 to drop in/drop out and have unlimited lives.
  • Super Mario Bros. is an interesting mix of this and Socialization Bonus.
    • Super Mario Galaxy. The second player's actions are very limited in comparison to those of the first: They can only fire star bits at enemies and make Mario jump higher, two things that Mario can already do much more conveniently and under his own discretion in single-player mode. This is averted in Super Mario Galaxy 2, though, where the Co-Star Luma (controlled by player 2) can grab all sorts of items and power-ups (bar the Rainbow Star), and, in addition to freezing foes, also do its own Spin, which is just as effective as Mario's.
    • In New Super Mario Bros. Wii and U, when there are two or more people playing, if one dies but has at least one extra life while the other remains alive, they can be rescued a while later. The characters' heads are also rather good as trampolines, and two small characters carrying each other can break blocks just like their Super versions. More items spawn from "?" Blocks as well. However, more often than not, the players will get in the way of each other, often leading to mis-obtained items, Total Party Kills and much frustration, as any co-op Let's Play can prove.
    • This makes a return in New Super Mario Bros. 2 with the same mix and retains every example from its related entries. Curiously enough, the game adds another advantage and disadvantage each: Playing co-op doubles the amount of coins earned at the end of each level, which is kind of pointless since this game takes coin gathering up a notch, but the camera only follows whichever player is the current leader, Sonic & Tails-style. The latter is particularly stupid as each player are no longer limited to sharing a single screen and said leader status can be stolen, either by ground pounding or killing the leader or simply getting to a checkpoint or stage transition first.
    • Super Mario 3D World takes all the problems that the New Super Mario Bros. games had for its multiplayer and adds even more issues. Along with sharing lives between players, power-ups that one player can steal from the rest of the group and bouncing off of each other, 3D World also maps many of the context sensitive actions to a single button. This means that if you decide to press the button to run and you're next to another player, you'll wind up grabbing them instead.
    • Super Mario Odyssey has a two-player mode similar to that of Galaxy 2, with one caveat: Playing in multiplayer actively hinders Player One! Odyssey's multiplayer effectively splits one character's control among two players, leading to predictable frustration in situations that require them to function as one. Player One is Mario while Player Two separately controls Cappy, leaving Mario without many of his best moves while giving the Cappy player very little agency beyond basic actions like collecting coins. Most of the minigames won't even let you play them in two-player mode, outright demanding that Mario comes back in single player.

    Party Game 
  • The first Rayman Raving Rabbids zigzags a bit. Despite being retooled from a platformer to a mini-game collection, the game was never supposed to have multiplayer. Only the dancing minigames, the rail-shooter games, and a very small handful of others (such as the maze minigame) incorporate simultaneous multiplayer elements, while nearly every other minigame requires players take completely separate turns, slowing the game’s pace. Every minigame-based Raving Rabbids game after the first averts it fully, implementing a larger majority of minigames simultaneous multiplayer or at least turn-based for all players in one playthrough of the minigame.

    Puzzle Game 
  • While Tetris 99 is built around online battles with up to 98 opponents, the local multiplayer modes leave something to be desired. 2P Share Battle allows two players to play on the same device...but the two players' playfields are arranged vertically rather than the traditional horizontal arrangement, and since Tetris playfields have a 1:2 aspect ratio, this means each player's share of the screen will be quite small, especially if playing undocked on the Switch's built-in screen. Local Arena allows up to 8 players to play via local wireless connection, and here at least each player has a full-sized playfield. Both modes still add CPU opponents to have 99 entrants, so you can't have a local multiplayer match that's just between you and other humans.
  • The original Tetris: The Grand Master has two mutually-exclusive settings for multiplayer. On one setting, if a second player enters the game, the first player's game is stopped in order to start a versus match; as such, players going for records or the Grand Master rank would have to force joining players to wait, and getting interrupted by a joining player disqualifies the first player from getting on the ranking tables. The other option allows both players to play at the same time without disrupting each other's game, but at the cost of versus mode. This was corrected from the second game onwards, where 1. joining players can choose not to challenge someone who is currently playing and can just start a single-player game of their own and 2. pressing your start button locks out the other player from joining.

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • Brütal Legend had quite good multiplayer - for 1v1. While the game supported teams of up to 4v4, playing team games was often an exercise in futility. There was still only one stage and a shared money pool, which meant that whoever wanted the cheapest unit built "won" the argument. Additionally, having multiple avatars in the vicinity issuing orders confused the bejeezus out of the AI.

    Rhythm Game 
  • beatmania and early versions of beatmania IIDX simply weren't designed well for two players, despite their interfaces being designed to accomodate two players at all times even when only one player is active, except in Double Play mode. Both players have to play on the same difficulty, and have to play using the same modifiers, which is a problem for players with differing scroll speed preferences. However, beatmania III and beatmania IIDX 10th Style to present allow players to set their own modifiers, and beatmania IIDX 14 GOLD onwards even allows players to select different difficulties for most songs. Despite all of this, however, most players still prefer to play single-player, for two reasons: Each side has the turntable in a different position (1P has it on the left side of the keys, 2P has it on the right), meaning that two players who have the same turntable preference cannot play together unless one of them uses the "Auto-Scratch" modifier (which reduces maximum score) or is somehow adept with both sides, and even barring that, two players on the same cabinet can easily bump elbows and feet by accident depending on players' body structures and stances (for example, tall players tend to play with their legs spread out to compensate for the fact that the cabinet seems to be designed for players around the 5'0"-5'5" range). Even the IIDX championships at the annual Konami Arcade Championship allow players to take turns on the cabinet one at a time so that every player can play with their preferred side, unlike other games at KAC where players play 2 or 4 at a time depending on the game.
  • GITADORA typically averts this trope, being a pair of music games, GuitarFreaks and drummania, that are designed to be linked to each other so that up to three players can play as a simulated band. However, this trope comes into play with the two versions of the games that allow linking up with Keyboardmania, as a three-game Session Play limits the songlist to about 10 songs.
  • Love Live! School idol festival has the occasional Score Match event. In a Score Match, up to four players (with CPU players filling in empty spaces if there are any when matchmaking ends) play a song together and earn event points based on their standing at the end. Unfortunately, there are two issues with this. First, you cannot see your opponents' scores until the end of the song, so matches feel more like lotteries. Second, LLSIF is a game where the cards you put into your formation influence your score alongside with your in-song performance; you can play the song perfectly and still lose out to someone who doesn't but has better cards than you, or worse come in last place, making you feel like you may as well have goofed off completely. It's rather telling that the next idol rhythm game Bushiroad would publish, BanG Dream! Girls Band Party! instead uses Co-Op Multiplayer.
  • O2Jam has one major problem for versus rooms: All players have to play on the same speed modifier. This often leads to players spamming the chatroom and demanding that the host change the modifier to accomodate their preferences.

  • Monster Train has Hell Rush, where multiple players compete to get the most points in the same seeded run. There's no form of game interaction between players, and everyone is put on an unskippable timer for each round. Most people will just play it to get their 5 wins for a card frame and never touch it again.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Troika Games, the makers of Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, were forced to include a multiplayer mode by Sierra. They promptly hacked out a single module and an almost completely unplayable interface, which was promptly laughed at by the fan community.
  • Believe it or not, but the early Infinity Engine video games (Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale) were all geared towards multiplayer as a legacy of their prototype, Battleground Infinity. Although the multiplayer modes in those games were quite sound, they have been completely overshadowed by the single-player campaigns, so very few actually remember them nowadays. The multiplayer mode for Baldur's Gate is still mentioned in some guides, walkthroughs, etc.: it is possible to use it to have an all-player created party without actually being multiplayer. In fact, the Multi-player feature is incredibly single-player! Because of the ability to freely import and export characters in multiplayer, players can form their own parties that aren't constrained to the sometimes underwhelming NPCs, as mentioned, even the main character can freely be swapped in and out without restriction. Saved games can be set up to certain locations of the game that allow different characters to try them quickly, and of course exploits can be done to make uber characters.
  • Deus Ex is a very open-ended first person FPS/RPG with an emphasis on its story. The multiplayer, however, is essentially a bunnyhopping arena shooter similar to Quake, though not quite as fast paced. Tellingly, none of the sequels feature multiplayer.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition featured a wave-based multiplayer mode that while functional, leaned heavily on microtransactions and was clearly an afterthought. While the characters introduced for it were at least interesting (including the return of fan-favorite Isabela) the multiplayer was so different that it was clearly added at EA's demand.
  • Bethesda first attempted multiplayer in The Elder Scrolls series with the Dungeon Crawler spin-off, An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire. It was such a spectacular failure that the next time they attempted it again was in 2018 with Fallout 76, over 20 years later (The Elder Scrolls Online, while published by the same company, is made by a sister studio).
  • Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City allows up to five players to fight some Superbosses. However, you can only dispatch and control one character from your guild, and if you don't have a full five-person party you'll have to use variants of the boss fights that add NPCs to your party, who can be liable to cripple your party with Artificial Stupidity, or make do with an incomplete party if you don't want CPU teammates.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The original version of Final Fantasy VI for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System allowed you to play in two player mode, which just meant that the second player could control a few of the characters in battle. If they happened to be bitter about being made second player, this person could, instead of attacking the monsters during battle, kill the characters assigned to first player, allowing them to take over control.
    • Final Fantasy V also allowed to give control of some characters to player 2.
    • Final Fantasy IX did it too, probably as a throwback.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance had a multiplayer mode where two players can either play a co-op mission in beating a boss or a competitive mode where the first team to score the most knock outs wins. The game tends to lag very frequently due to having to send data between both players constantly and there's nothing to prevent a player from being a complete dick by attacking their friend's party. While you can score some nifty items and power up your relic gear, you can easily do both in the main game at a much faster rate and won't miss out on anything for ignoring the multiplayer.
  • Golden Sun had a PVP mode where two players in parties of three could fight each other. There was nothing to gain from fighting against a friend other than bragging rights. Due to how easy it is to break the difficulty in half in the main game, there was nothing that stopped people from using the strongest setups to either steamroll the opposing enemy team or nullifying the enemy's attacks with souped up defenses.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age had a 2-player mode that was just like the Final Fantasy examples above. Or worse, since your party is only 3 characters in this game, while all the above examples have 4-man parties, so someone is only getting one character. Also, when 2-player mode is activated, the game doles out a pre-set selection of characters to a player (Berethor, Hadhod, and Eaoden to Player 1, Idrial, Morwen, and Elegost to Player 2). Thus, it's possible for a single person to be playing on 2-player mode because the other three characters (who are assigned to the other person) are useless for the scenario.
  • Neverwinter Nights was also designed to be a multiplayer game. Then they learned finding teammates was impossible, and people really liked story-driven single-player Role Playing Games anyway. Hence the expansion packs and sequel added more story and more optional party members.
  • Mass Effect 3 is an odd example. The single-player mode, of course, is excellent, and the multiplayer mode is a decent shooter experience, but the game caught a tremendous amount of flak for its attempt to force people who wanted a good ending in single-player to play multiplayer by linking Effective Military Strength to success in either the multiplayer game or other tie-in games.Explanation  Since the Extended Cut DLC, though, it's become more-or-less possible (and with more DLC, easy enough) to get the best endings without playing multiplayer, and increasing Readiness through multiplayer is now completely optional. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition cuts out the multiplayer altogether.
  • Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen has multiplayer mini-games on the new bonus islands. Most people have never even played them because they can only be played with two human players, and since the Game Boy Advance didn't have wireless functionality built in, you needed two copies of the game, two GBAs, two wireless adapters, and have the requisite Pokémon (Pikachu or Dodrio) in both players' parties to boot. Jump through all these hoops and all you get are two sub-Mario Party button-tapping games with static sprites. The fact that you need to get an exorbitantly high score (200 points when points are given to you one at a time) in both games to get a star on your trainer card is a big reason why most trainers don't consider the stars to be worth it in the first place.
  • Tales Series as a whole seems rather uncomfortable with handing out party members to multiple players, especially jarring when you consider that said multiplayer is one of the primary features that makes the series unique.
    • Tales of Destiny locks second player control behind a specific equippable accessory. Not only is the accessory's purpose not well explained in game, if you lose the accessory like, say, by having the second player controlling the character with the most rival-like relationship with the main character when he permanently leaves the party congrats! This is now a single player game only. They made multiplayer functionality be Permanently Missable Content.
    • Games that don't have a combat camera that screws the additional players will incorporate some gameplay mechanic that reduces the number of controllable characters on the field, or at a minimum make it difficult for the other players to access the menus for manipulating their character's gear and Artes mappings.
    • The multiplayer in Tales of Symphonia can be fun, but clearly not that much thought was put into designing it. The battle camera only follows the first player, like in the single player mode, so if the party spreads out, everyone else won't be able to tell what's happening. And managing the menus is very awkward with multiple people. The camera got fixed in the PS2 version... which everyone outside of Japan got over a decade later.
    • Tales of Graces handles multiplayer markedly better simply by retooling the combat camera with multiple modes, so you can keep within view everyone on the field, all enemies, or just the targets of your party members. It still has the issue of out-of-combat menus being only accessible by the first controller, necessitating relaying intentions to player one, or passing the controller around.
    • In Tales of Xillia, the link system clearly wasn't designed with multiplayer in mind. Instead of only allowing you to only link with AI controlled characters or switching character control, linking up to player 2 will lock the player out of the game. Sure, you could go without linking... But you'll miss out on Mystic Artes for your trouble.
    • Tales of Zestiria. Armatization fuses two characters into a single far more powerful one... leaving whoever was controlling the second character sitting there twiddling their thumbs. The pairs that can fuse are always slots 1 & 2, and 3 & 4... so if you have only two players and want to work around the issue by having the second player control the other pair, they need to have controller 3.

    Simulation Game 
  • Inverted in Chromehounds, a mecha game built around declaring allegiance with one of three nations and waging a persistent war on a "Risk"-Style Map. The singleplayer, taking place immediately before the outbreak of war, is a series of glorified tutorials with minimal replayability that teaches the basic gameplay mechanics for the six "classes" and unlocks a paltry set of parts for the multiplayer Design-It-Yourself Equipment.
  • The original MechWarrior on the SNES has coop where one player did the steering and the other aimed the turret.

    Shoot 'em Ups 
  • Most arcade Shoot Em Ups support two players, but most of the genre's scoring systems, particularly the more elaborate systems seen in many Bullet Hell games and ones demanding high precision like those of Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, are not designed for two players—at best, both players need an extreme amount of coordination, moreso than a single player, to earn top scores together. Even when just playing to survive, both players may get distracted by each other's antics.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • The Assassin's Creed games, from Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood to Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, feature competitive multiplayer modes where the player, as a Templar training in the Animus, uses a variety of avatars to kill targets while escaping pursuers. Players could use levelling up and microtransactions to further customize their characters. The mode, while not outright unpopular, was largely neglected by Ubisoft and eventually disappeared from the series. Remasters of the games for newer consoles outright removed the multiplayer modes.
  • Hitman has dabbled in several failed attempts to introduce multiplayer:
    • Hitman: Absolution featured a multiplayer mode where players could create and share contracts with each other. Any player could load any of the missions found in the game and set new objectives. They could mark up to three random NPCs found in the level as targets, kill them and then leave via an escape route of their choice. After that, the contract could be uploaded and other players could replay it for a better score. The mode was eventually shut down in 2018 due to, weirdly, the servers not being GDPR compliant, and since the IO Interactive no longer owned the server that ran Absolution anyway after they parted ways with publisher Square Enix, the mode was killed off, leaving the entire weapon and disguise collection aspect, as well as a few achievements/trophies, being completely unobtainable now.
    • Hitman 2 featured "Ghost Mode", a competitive multiplayer mode where two players raced to see who can kill the most targets without being spotted on two maps. However, while it had a niche following, the mode was never really all that popular, and, coupled with the questionable balance decisions and lack of a map pool (only Miami and Santa Fortuna were playable, with plans for Mumbai scrapped), it all led to the mode being shut down, and was later outright omitted in Hitman 3.

    Survival Horror 
  • Dead Rising 2: Off the Record had an odd co-operative mode that replaced the minigames from the original. It wasn't actively hateful, but it required co-operation in a game that really didn't encourage such behavior. Players would quickly diverge in order to get more weapons and zombie packs for themselves, and would frequently curse whenever the other player was too far away to have seen the cool thing they just did (in a game that is all about killing things in crazy and imaginative ways). The missions were also timed, which mixed poorly with the requirement for player consensus in order to move between the different areas.
  • Dead Space 2 features a competitive 4-on-4 multiplayer mode, with four humans completing goals while four necromorphs aiming to stop them. While the mode attracted a decent following, it was clear that the majority of the game's focus went to the single-player campaign, as the developers quickly abandoned multiplayer with plenty of balancing and server issues. Dead Space 3 added in a co-op mode instead.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Resident Evil 6 was designed primarily for 2-player co-op... except the last chapter starring Ada that was originally meant for one player. Responding to consumer complaints, Capcom patched in a barebones second player, an unnamed, generic agent that can't open chests or doors yet can somehow warp directly to where Ada is after she uses her grappling hook. Most egregiously, the boss fight against the Ubistvo is vastly more difficult in co-op because the agent can't use the grappling hook prompts to dodge the creature's One-Hit Kill attacks.
    • Resident Evil Village "shipped" with a free multiplayer component called Re:Verse, similarly to how Resident Evil 3 (Remake) include Resistance. The reason "shipped" is in quotes is because that mode, a PVP fragfest, was initially only available as a limited-time beta, and then postponed indefinitely while Capcom continued to tinker with it. When it finally became publicly available in the tail end of October 2022 — nearly two years since its announcement — very little had actually changed from the beta besides the addition of a battle pass. After the aforementioned Resistance had brought some decent cooperative gameplay to the table (albeit nothing as full-fledged as Resident Evil: Outbreak, what with Resistance being an Asymmetric Multiplayer game), fans were dismayed that Re:Verse went right back for the PVP angle that Capcom had been chasing after with titles such as Umbrella Corps.

    Third-Person Shooter 
  • Console versions of Freedom Fighters (2003) had a rather mediocre 2-player Capture the Flag mode that was quite obviously tacked on as an afterthought, using three maps recycled from single-player levels. The PC version left it out altogether.
  • Despite the story offering the perfect setup for 2-player co-op, the only online multiplayer in Kane & Lynch is a 4-8 player bank robbery mode with no connection to the main story.
  • Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is primarily a first person shooter with Psychic Powers. It has a CoOp mode that allows Player 1 to steer and shoot the weapons, and Player 2 to control the psychic powers. Unless both players are on the same page on what to do, things can get very... strange. Considering the dev team had so much trouble assigning buttons they couldn't find a way to fit in rolling or dodging (and thus both are absent from the game), this would be an ideal solution to games with lots of powers... if you had four arms or really good teamwork with player two (but lets be honest, the first is likelier).
  • The Last of Us has a multiplayer mode, Factions, which pits Fireflies against Survivors in several team deathmatch and capture modes. While not outright terrible, it was completely outshined by the single-player story that has been praised for its well written characters and performances. The multiplayer servers for PS3 were shut down in 2019, while The Last of Us Part II and the first game's own remake outright omitted the mode. A standalone multiplayer mode is currently stuck in Development Hell.
  • The developers of Spec Ops: The Line themselves despised the publisher-mandated multiplayer mode, calling it a tumor hanging off the game. Where the main game is Heart of Darkness in the ruins of Dubai, the multiplayer is an uninspired, generic collection of modes with little playtesting or thought put into it - it either crashes constantly or failing to content despite the server middleware still active and the internet is stable, you can kill people in less than a second, before they have a chance to realize they're being shot, and there's a hardcore mode that removes all HUD elements... in a third person shooter where HUD elements are the only way to aim guns that are not sniper rifles. They themselves played no part in its development: it was outsourced to another studio altogether. Considering the game's nature as a deconstruction of modern military shooter games, it's justified that the multiplayer would be like that.
  • Splatoon (the first one) is an interesting example, since it's already a competitive multiplayer game. However, if you want to play locally using a single Wii U console, the usual Turf War and Ranked Battle modes aren't an option. Instead, there's a two-player mode called Battle Dojo, where one person looks at the TV and the other looks at the Game Pad and each try to pop more balloons than their opponent. The TV user will have to put together this lovely monstrosity if they want motion controls, since the Wii U's Pro Controller doesn't have them. It's not a terrible gameplay mode, mind you, but it's telling that when advertising the mode, the narrator in the Splatoon Direct repeatedly states that it's best as a training tool for the online multiplayer; Battle Dojo would not appear in any future installments, with the series abandoning the idea of single console multiplayer altogether.
  • Tomb Raider:
    • Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Anniversary on the PlayStation Portable feature a multiplayer mode, where players competed to see who can finish single player missions the fastest, or collect the most treasures within a time limit.
    • Tomb Raider (2013) has a multiplayer mode, arena-style, as part of its chasing after then-current trends design philosophy. It has absolutely zero bearing with the game and as most such examples, was tacked on the demand of execs. Unsurprisingly, the gunplay is just flat-out terrible, since the base game was never designed for two human-controlled characters trying to shoot each other and the whole mode was panned by both critics and playerbase.
    • Both sequels replaced it with the ability to replay single-player missions with score and time challenges, plus the ability to customize and share scenarios, and a card system backed up by microtransactions.
  • You can often count the number of people who consistently play Warframe’s PvP Mode, Conclave, on one hand. The severe case of Rocket-Tag Gameplay, obtuse way of progression, and lack of quality rewards tends to turn people off of the mode. Tellingly, the developers have quit balancing content for Conclave, with the selection of gear being limited to those balanced explicitly for it, in order to focus on the much more popular PvE main game. Teshin, the main NPC in charge of the mode, later immigrated into the main game via story quests (where most players don’t figure out where he came from) and for running Mission Control in Steel Path and Duviri.

    Turn-based Strategy 
  • BattleTech (2018): The game's multiplayer mode is roundly ignored by everyone. Looking at achievements, the ones that relate to multiplayer sit solidly at sub-1% completion. The easiest to get one, "Rookie" (awarded for playing 5 multiplayer games) has only been completed by 0,7% of players.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has a multiplayer mode in the original PS2 version that isn't really fleshed out. The camera tries to keep both players in view and if they get too far apart, the camera zooms out and makes it hard to keep track who is where. Weapons that are only used in first person view like sniper rifles and rocket launchers can't be used since the camera switch would make the other player not visible. Co-op mode only allows either rampages or free roaming and the second player can't be used to assist player one in the story missions. Lastly, if either player dies, both are forced to respawn. The mode was outright removed in later ports and rereleases. The fan-made Multi Theft Auto, based on the original PC version and primarily played online, on the other hand, is much better received and it's seen as the spiritual predecessor to Grand Theft Auto Online.
  • The Simpsons Hit & Run has an unlockable multiplayer mode. Despite allowing up to four players, the mode is very unbalanced since there is no attempt to balance the vehicles for multiplayer, resulting in several of the later-game vehicles like the Open Wheel Race Car completely steamrolling everything else. The AI opponents aren't bound by the same restrictions as human players and can use vehicles not in the phone booth, and the multiplayer tracks don't appear to have gotten the same amount of polish as the main game's levels.