5 LAN Games that will make you fall in love

It’s damn near impossible to find your special someone in this vast pool of humanity. You know: someone you can spend the rest of your life with?
It’s practically unheard of for that same person to share your love of games. But man, that moment when you reveal your inner geek to someone – wincing in expectation of them bolting for the door or giving you a wedgie – and they smile and ask to see your games collection… well, it’s special.


My significant other and I were only recently able to get high speed internet in our area. Before this, finding games that could be played over a home LAN was a nightmare. While there were plenty enough games to play, most of them could only be co-opped online – an impossibility when you’re rocking a 124k internet line, I promise you. Also, some just plain didn’t work, despite patches, cracks, small sacrifices to the God of War or kicking the router. By the way: kicking the router doesn’t ever help. Like, ever.
But, after years of trials and tribulations (and broken routers), we’ve found absolute gems of games which we could play over a LAN. I’ll list them here below, even though I doubt anyone reading this would have the same abominable internet speeds as us. Unless, dear reader, you hark from South Africa. In which case, we should hook up for a LAN session some time.
So here they are: some old, some new, some borrowed and some that became the most memorable games we’ve ever played.

3

Nothing beats a good strategy game, and this is one of two on this list. This ancient game (and no, the new “Extended Edition” release doesn’t really improve matters) it still a solid gaming experience. Made back in the day when online game play was still in its infancy, Rise of Nations takes no time to set up and we never had issues getting this game to work over LAN.

This real-time strategy has everything a good strategy needs:

  • Tanks
  • Spearmen
  • Different victory conditions
  • Attrition, baby!

My partner has a mind sharper than Occam’s’ razor when it comes to strategy, but I remember getting the better of him at least once. And yes, I crowed about it for about a week; I’m a terribly sore winner. So, if you can standard the pixellated graphics and you’ve never had a bash at this one, I’d highly recommend it.

Highlight:

Activating the Artificial Intelligence future tech that allows troops to build instantaneously. A serious game changer. And that sound… Oh that sweet sound of leopard tanks, stealth bombers and heavy artillery being spat out of your factories like hotdogs on a conveyor belt.

Lowlight:

Ancient graphics. God, we really had to use our imagination back then, didn’t we?

2

This awesome arcade adventure game was a quick, engaging play that kept our hamster wheels spinning late into the night. A few evenings while playing we’d have to give up and try again in the morning due to mental fatigue (this is a common occurrence around 3 in the morning when you’re trying to figure out how to boost Lara over some spikes without impaling her).

Basically, one of you plays Lara, and the other plays Totec. I don’t know why a dude would play Lara, but I suppose if you’re two dudes playing then you’ll have to flip for it. Anyway, Totec starts off with a shield and a spear, and Lara has a mean-ass grappling hook and a pair of pistols. With these implements, you have to move through a variety of puzzle levels going after Xolotl before he can do something evil and conniving that would probably end the world. I don’t know: I wasn’t really paying attention. I was more focused on trying to jump from spear to spear over a ravine spurting molten lava. Seriously, who has time for back story at a time like that?

Most of the puzzles require teamwork to complete, so communication is key. Shouting doesn’t help, either. Neither does cursing.

Highlight

Swarming through a level with silent near-telepathic communication, where the only words spoken are a few terse “Got him,” “Need help” and “Spear,” going on.

Lowlight

When I forgot the key combinations and plunged Totec into a pit of eternal fire. Repeatedly.

4

Yes, it’s better than Civ 5. No, you don’t get to have an opinion, because this is my article. Go write your own.

Well, with that out of the way: Civ 4 was a funfest and a half.

I always say I don’t like strategy, but that’s because I’m a sore loser and my partner is exceptionally good at them. But I love building up civilisations, getting them to the age of wizened intellect… and then watching them be annihilated.

No, really, I love it.

My beautiful libraries, burned.

My epic town centers, detroyed.

No, really, it’s awesome.

Civ 4 takes strategy to a new level. I’d already dipped my toes into the strategy pool by playing Rise of Nations before I’d ventured into Civ’s shark-infested waters, so initially I couldn’t get the hang of the turn-based gameplay.

As in Rise of Nations, victory conditions can be based on one of several things, and you start out choosing a nation that you think will help you get to your desired victory. And yup, we’ve been neck on neck in the Space Race before. Again, I have to stress that cursing can make you appear to be a bad sport. I don’t know, this is what I’ve been told. I use to gun for cultural victories, and I won quite a few times this way.

But, after having my beautiful libraries burned and my universities torn asunder by stealth bombers, I would usually surrender the battle and go and pout for a week.

Highlight

Shwedagon Paya (Or the swinging papaya as we used to call it) if you’re gunning for religious victory and the Hanging Gardens if you want to avoid the black death in your precious cities.

Lowlight

The hand of fate dealing you a crap starting point. Then having to wander around for a few turns trying to find something better, giving up and placing your city, and then realising if you’d placed it your city one block to the left, you’d have had an extra three resources. Trying to convince your partner that you should restart due to “this not being fair”. Being denied a restart.

5

 

We’re still playing this.

It’s been more almost a year now. Eight months at least… more, perhaps. I forget. Our initial missions are lost in the haze of the past. I no longer remember the sweet-cheeked youth I was when I started this game. She seems a different person entirely.

Oh, how my character has changed over the years. Gone is the roguish rogue I started out with. Now, dear Jinx is a jaded villain. A scamp set on revenge. I pity her, sometimes. Sometimes, I think she pities me.

Okay, so I checked our first save game. It seems we started this thing July last year. We used to play an hour two every night when we first started. Weekends we would go for most of the day. That soon changed. Perhaps two months into it we began to tire. What we had thought to be a sprint became a marathon. And we just weren’t prepared.

This game isn’t just huge for the hell of it. Its lore is deep, its mythology even deeper. There are hundreds of characters to keep track of during your quests. We’ve resorted to Googling, I’ll admit. I’m not proud of it, but by Blind Io quests must be completed!

This game is diablo-like in its roleplaying and exploration with turn-based combat, which is awesome. Instead of everyone ploughing into a battle, you have a chance to take a breath and strategize before tearing into your enemies.

Look, we made some mistakes when we started. But we’ve grown since then. We now know what the hell those pyramid teleporter things are we picked up at the end of a random quest back in the infancy of our campaign. None of us remember how they got there. None of us could even remember the quest that birthed them.

Seriously though, Original Sin is not what you’d expect from a Kickstarter. It’s a labour of love that shines through in its side-side-side quests, its fascination with talking cats, and a lady in a random bathtub. It will have you pacing a dusty cellar, running your mouse over every conceivable pixel of game architecture… hunting for that secret lever you know must be hidden inside.

It will drive you to madness, if you let it.

Lowlight

Finding out that one evening you weren’t paying attention you were given a game object that could have helped you solve at least five quests with minimal effort. Minutes of quiet frustration ensues. More cursing.

Highlight

Finally finding that goddamn trapdoor. Seriously, we’d been looking for it for hours. It’s right next to the bunch of pumpkins, if anyone was wondering. You know, left of the derelict lean-to?

 

1

 

Ah, the sweet, sweet smell of dildos in the morning.

Okay, so dildo swords got old pretty quickly, but that really was the only thing that got old about this game. I could play Saints Row’s mini-games all day. In fact, some days, that’s exactly what we did.

A fast-paced first-person open-world – god there’s a lot of hyphens in this sentence – action-adventure winner of a game, Saints Row IV had me wishing there was more when it was done with me.

It’s the bastard child of GTA San Andreas and Far Cry 3, but all the animals are aliens. Oh, and you can fly. And jump really high. And there are tons of fast cars, but you can run faster than all of them so WTF why drink and drive when you can smoke and fly?

Also, it briefly transforms you into a gangster. Warning: don’t drive after playing this game because you’ll have the overwhelming urge to aim for pedestrians. And then you’ll go to jail.

What made this game spectacular and gets it to the top of the list is the fact that you can co-op the entire single player campaign. And you know how sometimes there are little cut-scenes in a game, but then you get to press key combinations and stuff to spur on the action? Well, the game creators were kind enough to share that responsibility between both co-op players. So sometimes I got to punch an alien in the face, sometimes my partner did while I watched. It was dirty, and so goddamn romantic, I’m fogging up just thinking about it.

I could go on for hours about this game, but instead I’ll just leave you with a single thought: you’re a super-hero.

Lowlight

Our save game glitched out right at the end, so we couldn’t complete the mission together. *sobs*

Highlight

One? Only one? Then it would have be that insurance fraud mini-game after we just figured out how to game the system. Passing by your partner’s avatar as you both fly into the air headed in opposite direction – limbs wiggling like Cthulhu trying to scratch an itch – makes for the best gaming session I’ve ever had. If I’d been drinking anything, it would have been coming out of my nose I was laughing so hard.

Honourable Mentions

Honourable Mention: Warcraft Azure Tower Defence

Look, I know it’s old. I know the graphics are terrible. But nothing beats a weekend of trying to finish the Azure Tower Defence before all the nasties corrupt your beautiful Tree of Life. Nothing, okay?

This tower defence is timeless: you battle all the baddies Warcraft’s Frozen Throne can throw at you by building neat rows of death down a convoluted path that head, inevitably, to your precious Tree of Life.

Lowlight

Watching your Tree of Life wither and die. Repeatedly.

Highlight

Winning after an entire weekend of failed attempts.

 

Honourable Mention: No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way (NOLF2, for short)

Another golden oldie, but one that started us on our quest for finding games where we could co-op the single player missions. Yeah: you try typing that into Google and seeing how many hits you get. Exactly. It’s a pleasure.

Set in the swinging sixties, this bad-ass game lets you run side by side through various perfectly-rendered locations from Antarctica to Japan, with a few stop overs at Calcutta, a volcanic lair, and an undersea super secret base while you get to prevent H.A.R.M. from creating more super soldiers and ultimately taking over the whole world. Or something like that. I wasn’t really paying attention: I was busy powdering my nose with Cate’s awesome make-up compact cum super-secret-decoder thing.

Lowlight

Getting ninja-starred in the face by a supple Asian beauty. Oh, and we couldn’t get this game to work on Windows 7 when we wanted to play it again a few years ago. Thank you, Microsoft.

Edit: It seems there is a way to get it to work on Window 7, but I haven’t tried it yet. You know, because I’m still busy playing Divinity. Now, and for the next four years or so.

Highlight

Tripping up enemies with bananas. Healthy and non-lethal: what’s not to love?

 

Final Non-Honourable Mention

Many didn’t make it onto the list, but I’d still give them all a thumbs-up for an afternoon or two of some seriously enjoyable co-op action.

Warframe

  • Online Only
  • Can play in teams, but levels get repetitive

Torchlight

  • LAN
  • Can co-op entire single player campaign

Conflict

  • LAN
  • Can co-op entire single player campaign

Serious Sam II

  • LAN
  • Deathmatch-style only, but bots are stupid

 

I’d love to hear of any kick-ass games you’ve played co-op or over a LAN that blew your minds. Perhaps I’ll eventually finish Divinity and then I can try them out, too. Let me know in the comments, won’t you?

 

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Ronel van Tonder

Ronel van Tonder is a science fiction author from South Africa. Having recently completed her dark, dystopian sci-fi trilogy, The Corrupted SUN Script, she's hard at work penning a new standalone sci-fi novel, The Seventh Glitch. When she's not writing, Ronel spends her free time slaying rendered baddies in the form of robots, gangsters and aliens - with any weapon that happens to be at hand.