The 14 best tablet games with local multiplayer

February 13, 2014
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Two-player games aren’t dead!

There’s no shortage of standard, “classic” date ideas for couples: dinner, dancing, drinks, a movie, horse-drawn carriage ride, engagement ring shopping, chocolate fountain diving, etc. But these all have multiple annoyances in common, including forcing you to get dressed up, trudge about in the snow-slush, and spend your hard-earned cash on mere minutes of entertainment.

Instead, try one of these synchronous and pass-and-play games. They can be enjoyed while snuggled up in the comfort of your own home or the back of a smelly carriage, and they’ll still be there when you wake up the next morning—even if you’re alone due to a competitive faux pas.

Tiny Games

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Tiny Games is a collection of mini-games and random challenges that are tailored specifically to your location, number, and mood. Some games are mental, like counting groups of objects, while others are physical, like spinning a pillow on your finger. Most games are technically competitive, but winning is never the goal—it’s about finding fun and unique ways to spend your time together, all wrapped in a simple app that has plenty of ideas and instructions on how to do so.


Spaceteam

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Spaceteam is the only entry on our list that requires more than one tablet to play, but it’s worth the added effort. Less a game and more a cooperative shouting experience, Spaceteam plays out like a streamlined version of Elite. Players must work together to keep their space vessel afloat, taking turns shouting out near-nonsense instructions that the other must input in their device. The game becomes a frantic bonding experience as your ship panel falls apart before your eyes and survival relies entirely on your ability to instruct and be instructed by your teammate(s).


Whiskers

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There’s no shortage of games like Whiskers on the App Store, and you could spend an entire Valentine’s Day playing each one in turn (King of Opera is another good one). They are, essentially, fast-paced Hungry Hungry Hippos-esque multiplayer competitions. For Whiskers, players simultaneously take control of mustachioed cats that can only turn right. The goal is to eat various power-ups that grow your cat—and shrink your opponents’—until you fill up most of the tablet’s screen. The first full-bodied cat wins. It’s simple, manic, and adorable, with a staggering number of mustaches to choose from and ragtime music to get the game juices flowing.


Badland

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Badland is a special case: it’s a primarily single-player game that happens to feature an insanely fun multiplayer mode. It might also be best suited for long-standing couples whose relationship won’t be tested by a little ‘friendly’ competition. Badland’s multiplayer is a synchronous variation on its single-player, pitting players’ shadowy creatures against each other in a race through deadly traps to safety. As if preventing yourself from crashing into spikes and razors wasn’t challenge enough, you can now shove your opponent into those same dangers. The good news is, since there’s tons of single-player content to enjoy, you’ll have something to do when your date leaves in an “I can’t believe you got me killed again” huff.


Wrestle Jump

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Wrestle Jump is pure ridiculousness with utterly simple one-button controls: each player mans a luchador locked in a death grip with the other. Your only ability is to jump, which is managed by pressing the lone button on your side of the screen. The player who manages to smash his or her opponent’s head into the ground wins, and the wrestlers are sent to a new but equally dangerous map for another round. The ragdoll wrestlers and general lack of control make for a QWOP-y, hilarious competition where no one really has the upper hand.


Steel Mill

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Steel Mill is essentially Puzzle Fighter, but with a Tetris component to the match-making. It also receives bonus points for being unexpectedly romantic, featuring a shirtless steel worker and hard-hatted bear that appear to love each other very much as they continuously stack girders imprinted with hearts. I don’t know the story much beyond that, except that Steel Mill is fast-paced and cutthroat, but cute enough to prevent excessive competitive agitation.


Pandemic: The Board Game

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Nothing says “romance” quite like a shared goal of preventing deadly diseases from taking over the planet. Pandemic: The Board Game is one of many exceptionally well-translated physical games to make the transition to tablets(like Carcassonne and Catan), but its unique focus on cooperative play and the strangely popular outbreak theme give it a slight leg up this Valentine’s. Bond with your date as you travel the globe and end up huddled together in the only city not overtaken by bird flu. Hopefully it’s Paris.


Gentlemen!

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Gentlemen! is a mixture of the original Mario Bros., Super Crate Box, and elegant dueling. Matches take place head-to-head on a single device, pitting two players’ gentlemanly characters against each other in an all-out platforming war. With multiple game modes offering focuses on diamond-collecting, one-sided chase sequences, or just direct dueling, there’s an endless supply of options for the competitive couple.


Fingle

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On an ordinary day, Fingle might be an awkward gaming experience between associates. On Valentine’s Day, it’s a potential romantic entanglement. Fingle is essentially Twister for your fingers, but one that is played cooperatively. Players must work together to drag up to 10 boxes on screen to their related targets, rearranging and entwining fingers as needed. Each set of boxes is a separate puzzle level, allowing couples to work together to solve Fingle and share a sense of accomplishment—if they can make it through all 130+ levels.


Gasketball

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While getting outside and playing a sweaty game of “real” basketball might get the blood flowing, the competitive challenge of playing “H.O.R.S.E.” in Gasketball should get hearts pumping as well. Part basketball, part pinball, and part robotic anarchy, Gasketball is an extraordinary gaming experience even before you add a partner to the mix. Take turns showing off your shooting skills or let loose with the synchronous unlimited balls’ mode; either way, you’re bound to be left breathless from having so much fun.


Outwitters

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Outwitters is a genius turn-based strategy game wrapped in a deceptively adorable package. It’s the perfect pass-and-play option for slowing down the evening, and allows for two-versus-two games if you’re on a double date. If you were going to pull out chess or checkers, download Outwitters instead and enjoy endearing army-building offense at its finest.


Head’s Up!

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Head’s Up! is a brilliant use of your tablet as a piece of the game itself. Players hold their tablet to their forehead, visible by everyone but themselves. Like reverse Charades, those viewing the tablet give clues to its phrases and the tablet-wielder must guess what it says. While arguably more fun in group settings, even two players can enjoy this guessing game and get a wild amount of fun from its small price tag.


Noir: Killer vs. Inspector

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A specifically two-player game of cat-and-mouse, Noir: Killer vs Inspector is reminiscent of camp games like “Mafia” that rely on deception of those around you. One player is the killer, one the inspector, and both are trying to discover the others’ identity first. The pass-and-play competition works well on the clear-cut tablet interface, and each game imparts new strategies on how to play—and how to deal with your opponent.


War of Words 2

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Having a quality Scrabble-like on hand is always a smart move. The War of Words series fills this need and then some, offering a twist on standard points-based play through the use of action tiles like the “bomb” and “blaster” that impede your opponent’s progress. With beautifully colorful boards and nearly endless options for two-to-four wordsmiths, War of Words 2 is a no-brainer. And if yours is a long-distance love: online multiplayer has your back, and heart.

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