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Two-Player Games for Mixed Skill Level Players? 506

koreth asks: "What are some good two-player games that a newbie can successfully play with a more seasoned gamer? I want to find a good console or PC game I can play with my girlfriend, who has only recently started gaming. Something cooperative would be great, but head-to-head is fine too. All the games we've tried are made for players of roughly the same skill level -- so either I end up dumbing my gameplay way down (no fun for me) or blowing her out of the water without much effort (no fun for her). Is there any game out there that gives two players tasks of varying difficulty to keep both of them engrossed, at the same time?"
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Two-Player Games for Mixed Skill Level Players?

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  • by Vaevictis666 ( 680137 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:05PM (#14937944)
    Most fighting games have a handicap system that essentially alters the damage dealt. Turn your damage way down, and hers way up, and then tweak them as she learns the system. I can particularly recommend Super Smash Brothers Melee for this, as it even has an auto-handicap system.
  • by Jumbo Jimbo ( 828571 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:10PM (#14937977)
    Something less than complex is probably the way to go. My girlfriend doesn't enjoy playing PC games with me, but does enjoy playing Super Mario Kart on the gamecube - I know it's console but maybe that accounts for the easier learning curve, which is good as she's a relative novice at gaming.

    Another one, though I haven't played for years, that I would suggest would be Super Bomber Man or a sequel - easy to pick up and fun.

    And the person above who suggested a MMO has an excellent point, though depends how casual you want the gaming to be as they generally require a large investment of time.

  • DDR/Stepmania (Score:3, Informative)

    by merreborn ( 853723 ) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:23PM (#14938052) Journal
    DDR lets each player select their own difficulty level.

    There's a open source knock off called step mania that's more feature-rich. Thousands of songs for step mania are available on the net, and you can add your own.
  • LEGO Star Wars, WC3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kaimelar ( 121741 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:25PM (#14938067) Homepage
    LEGO Star Wars is a very fun co-op game . . . it even allows you to drop in/out at any point, which is great if the phone rings, the oven timer goes off, etc. It's not terribly long, but the sequel will be out soon. :-)

    On the PC side, WarCraft III might be a good idea -- you can play against AI opponants, and select various handicaps for each player if desired.

    Puzzle games are a lot of fun to play together, too -- my wife and I have played Bookworm together and had quite the good time.
  • Mario Party (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cy Sperling ( 960158 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:31PM (#14938103)
    My wife and I play a lot of Mario Party together. It has some tweakable handicapping anda pretty short learning curve. We usually play against 2 other computer controlled players. That sets up a nice dynamic where we can be competitive with each other but cooperative in screwing over the computer controlled players.

    Another great Japanese game is "Ribbit King"- [] sort of a weird golf game where you launch frogs off of a catapult to ultimately get the frog into the hole. You score points for getting teh frog to cover larger distances and interact with the dense kooky environment. It has a lot of charm goofiness and just the right amount of skill to be fun and never frustrating.
  • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:38PM (#14938144)
    Guild Wars can give you the best of both online and offline gaming. Just you and your GF (plus AI henchmen) as you don't want other players to intrude on the two of you, no subscription fees, and none of the griefing you get in other MMOGs.

    Plus, a huge and wonderfully detailed world for the two of you to explore and to battle against, with no xp grinding, nor any of the other traditional MMOG timesinks that make some other popular worlds so tedious. The time saved can then be used ... on other things. :P

  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:45PM (#14938180)
    I wouldn't go so far as to say "no matter how wide the skill difference." I would say that if you need more than a 4 stone handicap, then it doesn't matter if you opponent gives you a 9 stone handicap -- you're gonna get curb-stomped.
  • by riffzifnab ( 449869 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:45PM (#14938181) Journal
    Get "Katamari Damacy", and "We 3 Katamari". They are both really fun and have great music. The first one has a better story and intro and the second one has the co-op play you are looking for. So if you are in a pinch just get the second one, but if you can splurge a bit get them both. (:
  • by ReverendLoki ( 663861 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:48PM (#14938193)
    I second this recommendation. Most standard MMOGs have a lot of grind forming a huge timesink, and if you are restricting it to times when you both can play, advancement will be even slower. Guildwars has a lot less grind to it, and you can make real progress in the time you play it, really conveying a sense of achievement. Plus, each account currently has slots for 4 characters, so you can also create another ton to play solo with. It's also decently easy to pick up and become good at (it's becoming great at it which is difficult... reminds me of those old Othello commercials).
  • by *BBC*PipTigger ( 160189 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:52PM (#14938220) Journal
    Look no further than: []

    This game strikes an amazing balance by being both compelling for serious competition and entertaining for casual play. David Sirlin has a relevant article ( etual-comeback/ []) describing "perpetual comeback" as it pertains to Puzzle Fighter and why it makes that game so very fun.

    Are you still looking further?

    Well then...

    Another example of perpetual comeback is the fighting system in Battle Arena Toshinden ( en []) where each character has usually two special moves (in addition to their normal repertoire) that they can only perform once their health gets very low (i.e., they are about to be knocked-out). These moves (sometimes referred to as "desperation moves") usually do a great deal of damage and can easily turn the tide of a round or just win the round outright so they add cool intensity to the conclusion of many matches (even when one player is notably superior because they need to be extra careful to avoid getting hit by one or more of these "come-back" moves). These moves can be difficult to perform for those uninitiated to the common fireball and yoga-flame joystick movements they typically require but they totally have the best risk-vs.-reward benefit when a player is learning the game. I'd recommend studying and practicing the execution of those moves first to new players. Additionally, some characters have very easy ones like (if I remember correctly) Ellis and Sophia only need to press back, forward, back, forward + Triangle to do theirs. Choose an easy and fast character to start with until you learn enough to venture out.

    Of course there are some fun cooperative experiences (like Halo or MMOs) but if your partner shows an affinity for, and appreciation of, games requiring increasing reflexive (a.k.a. "twitch") skill, I would highly recommend the plethora of [] out there. Ikaruga ( []) must be mentioned as one of the greatest here. All threatening bullets and beams are either white (with blue highlights) or black (with red highlights). Similarly, each players' ship can flip over to alternate between those colors as well. When you're the same color as bullets, you absorb them into your shield and they store in a meter which can be unleashed as homing shots. When you are the opposite color of enemy ships, your shots do double-damage (but you're vulnerable to their bullets because they are the same color as them). It makes for awesome tension because the whole screen can be completely covered in bullets but at least half of it is always survivable space if you're the same color as the bullets occupying that space. Check out "bullet-eater" mode too. You can beat lots of levels without firing a shot (i.e., by just alternating to the right colors and dodging terrain features).

    Another great one is Raiden Project ( .html []) if you can find it for the old original PlayStation. That game had very interesting cooperative properties where certain shots would change characteristics and trajectory if they hit your friend's ship so sometimes it would be strategic to try to stay vertically aligned together (or overlay each other) to benefit from these special shots.

    There are lots of great cooperative Shmups but the only directly competitive one I have yet encountered is astonishingly fun. It is called Twinkle Star Sprites ( []
  • Lego Star Wars (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kredal ( 566494 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:01PM (#14938259) Homepage Journal
    It's got a great co-op mode, doesn't rely on both players being skilled, but has some parts that need you to work together and communicate on...

    It's available for consoles and the PC, and is a really fun game. (:
  • Mario Party (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dixie_Flatline ( 5077 ) <> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:07PM (#14938279) Homepage
    Any of the Mario Party series is ideal, since a lot of the games just rely on bashing on the buttons or doing something that dosen't necessarily take the hand-eye coordination of an experienced gamer. And if you find that you're kicking the crap out of her anyway, you can play it co-op.

    WarioWare is also good, because the games are so random that even an experienced gamer doesn't have a huge advantage.
  • Re:Coop all the way (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:07PM (#14938280)
    Gamecube, thirded, especially the first-party titles:

    - Mario Kart: Double Dash has a coop mode where one person drives and the other chucks stuff and creates sparks for acceleration. You can switch positions at any time.

    - Mario Power Tennis: Play doubles vs the computer. Lots of fun. The Chain Chomp game is one of the best mini-games I've ever seen.

    - Super Monkey Ball (2): I think there are 12 little mini-games, a LOT of fun for two or more people. Maybe 6 are great, the rest are alright but get old quick. The downside is that this game sucks for a single player.

    - Ghost Recon: I play this with my wife and she loves it because you don't need quick reflexes. You can creep around rocks and bushes without being seen and shoot the enemy. We use the coop mode, and I sometimes handicap myself by taking odd weapons. I think it's a great introduction to FPSs.

    Stuff I can't vouch for, but is probably just as good:

    - WarioWare: I haven't tried the multiplayer on this game, but the single player was fun enough to figure out that two people would have a blast with it.

    - Mario Party (I haven't tried this one at all). Again, lots of mini-games, some of which might be duds but I'd bet $100 that there are at least a few great ones.

    I also wanted to mention that the Action Replay MAX from CodeJunkies is well worth picking up. I know, it's a cheat etc, but my wife got stuck at one point in Rayman 3 (tough platforming level). She stopped playing the game for a few months, until I picked up the Action Replay. I booted up the Cube with a couple of cheats and all of a sudden she was having fun again. I think that if a single player game gets too hard, it's not fun anymore and people just don't want to play that game. The AR costs $40 canadian (as much as a game) but it's very worth it.
  • Tekken... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ikarys ( 865465 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:11PM (#14938296)
    It's great :) Any version of Tekken. You can learn all the moves, and get uber good at it, and have really high end matches that feel intellectual and thought out ... and then still get ur ass whipped by an unpredictable button masher.
  • by Ratbert42 ( 452340 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:15PM (#14938317)
    I play Lego Star Wars with my daughter. It's a little easy for adults, but it's still a lot of fun. Easy to jump in and out of the game too.
  • Freeciv! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:32PM (#14938417)
    I play everyone's favorite open source strategy game with a friend who isn't nearly as good at it as I am.

    Usually we team up against several AI opponents. It's also possible to give a player some AI "teammmates", and this can help level the playing field a bit, though you'll have to experiment with the right number of AI teammates (me vs my friend and 3 AIs = him gleefully kicking my ass for once).
  • by xtieburn ( 906792 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:40PM (#14938468)
    More or less any RTS will do it. They pretty much all give the option of having any configuration of players. So if you want you set her up with a couple of AI helpers and try take them all down. Alternatively you do what I did when I started playing Total Annihilation.

    Me and a friend both faught on the same team he had more experience so he was on defence. Meanwhile behind the lines I was building any ol base I wanted, which taught me what buildings there were and what they all did. Shortly after that I started building all manner of offensive units and structures.

    Only took a couple of games for us to start building seperate self sustaining bases. Although even if it takes longer experienced players typically love to be on the front line defence in TA. (It gets seriously hectic and weve had a kill counter go up by over 300 units in a matter of seconds.)

    Im fairly sure you can do that kind of thing with any RTS but TA is cheap to buy has a spare CD for multiplayer games and is still arguably the greatest muliplayer RTS ever created.
  • Serious Sam (Score:2, Informative)

    by minipulator ( 821212 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @09:43PM (#14938486)
    Hey there, I went through this same problem with my girlfriend before. She's a pro now, and we owe it to Serious Sam's co-op play. I will list my humble reasonings below: 1) Dying doesn't matter There are unlimited lives, so there's really no penalty for getting killed over and over again. 2) HORDES of enemies If she can get proficient at killing this many baddies at once, there's nothing she won't be able to overcome. 3) Wonky physics Levels turn upside down, gravity pulls you from side to side, etc. Learn to expect the unexpected. I would personally recommend either Serious Sam, or Serious Sam: Second Encounter (not to be confused with Serious Sam 2). Serious Sam 2 was fun, but did not have any of the above listed elements to it (at least, not at the point I've currently played it through to). Since the game is an FPS it's a great place to start for the more hardcore action-oriented games you are likely to be into. An added bonus (at least for me) is that the game is a little bit older now, so if you have unequal computers, both are likely to handle this just fine.
  • by TommyTyker ( 605166 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @10:07PM (#14938626) Homepage
    Serious Sam 2 is mindless co-op fun that does not require much upstairs to enjoy or get into. Something more engrossing is City of Hereos (or City of Villains). It's a MMORPG that was primarily built for the casual gamer, and is pretty easy to get into.
  • by arthurh3535 ( 447288 ) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @10:23PM (#14938716)
    City of Heroes has a very nice system that basically makes it nearly impossible for you to not be able to team with one other person.
    And it is so genre relevant that it isn't funny.
    After all, what would Batman be without his Robin or Batgirl? A sidekick is your friend indeed! ;)
  • Handicap settings (Score:3, Informative)

    by assassinator42 ( 844848 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:01AM (#14939822)
    You know, several games have Handicap settings. For example, the Super Smash Bros games. Give her the advantage with handicap settings, and maybe put a skilled AI player on her team. Plus, there's the puzzle games that let you set your level. Tetris, Tetris Attack, Dr. Mario, pretty much all of them.
  • Katamary (Score:2, Informative)

    by jschavey ( 961784 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:09AM (#14939847)
    Don't listen to the MMO suggestion, if your girlfriend just started gaming, they'res no way she's going to want to put the commitment necessary into an MMO. If you have a PS2, check out the Katamary games. They're light hearted, fun, and incredibly addictive :)
  • Worms! (Score:5, Informative)

    by xchino ( 591175 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:56AM (#14939977)
    All of my friends, ecen the non gamers play Worms World Party, it's easy to learn, a blast to play multiplayer, and only requires one PC and will run on very old hardware (100MHZ, 32MB). Being turn based makes it a bit easier on noobs who can't compete with your highly trained reaction times as a gamer. Chicks especially love Worms for the cute factor. It's also playable by people of all ages, so it's something you can play with your kids.
  • Re:Coop all the way (Score:2, Informative)

    by pehrs ( 690959 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:17AM (#14940027)
    My first suggestion would be OpenTTD. It has been my way to introduce many players to strategy games and seems to be quite popular. It's not hard to learn, and very easy to set up cooperatively. It can be found at []
  • by SteroidG ( 609799 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:19AM (#14940032) Homepage
    One of my friend borrowed my Monkey Island 3 CD and played it through with his girlfriend. They seemed to enjoy the experience a lot. Another good game is Vampire the masquerade: Bloodlines, the guy can do all the fighting and the girl can do all the talking.
  • Re:Worms! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:20AM (#14940033)
    I agree. But keep away from the "3D" editions. Stick with standard 2D. Much easier to control and more fun.
  • Nancy Drew games (Score:2, Informative)

    by HappyCamp ( 707842 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:33AM (#14940070)
    My wife and I have been playing the Nancy Drew games. They are actually kind of interesting. They have a lot of puzzles to solve and then my wife likes the mystery aspect of it. The games are designed for women. Since I couldn't find any games that I play that she likes I figured I would try to find a game she likes and play it.

    I would recommend getting the latest Nancy Drew games as the quality has improved. They are up to their 13th game so far.

    More info at []

    We also got the Agatha Christie computer game but have not yet played it.

  • Secret of Mana (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:18AM (#14940184)
    Secret of Mana for the SNES is by far the best game you could play together. A cross between an RPG and (Zeldaish) Adventure-Type Game. You can play up to 3 players. You start out as one player and after a few introductory quests you rescue your other two friends. As you are both fighting baddies together you can help each other gain experience points, and since she is new to gaming, you'll just end up helping her out a bit more. It is very cooperative and a good relationship builder. It also has an awesome story line to go with it that will keep her wanting to play more.
  • Re:Coop all the way (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nevermore-Spoon ( 610798 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:06AM (#14941621)
    EQII in its lastest Live Update changed its "Mentoring" system (where a higher level player effectively becomes the same level as the player they mentor) The changes implemented make it VERY easy and userfriendly. I use it a lot with a friend who is lagging behind me.
  • by grgyle ( 538200 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @11:21AM (#14941719)
    Additionally for Guild Wars, you don't have to worry about progressing together at the same rate. A level 10 character can quest with a level 15 or 20 and still have fun and rewarding gameplay.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama