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Flash Back Friday: 4 Player Peripherals

by on January 27, 2017

If you were to look at todays gaming industry it seems like less than 10% of games published (especially by major studios) are single player only games. Popular game franchises are adding multiplayer modes to their poplar single player titles many of which don’t really fit a multiplayer scheme all that well. It’s odd to think that many games are considered failures in todays industry if their active player base drops within a few months of release.

Back in the day games were two player at best, and some of the time both players weren’t on the screen at the same time, but would take turns. So when was it that players had the opportunity to get in on a game with more than one other person, and how have those early opportunities  evolved into what we have today.

In 1985 one of the first multiplayer games hit the arcades allowing multiple player to be on screen at the game time that game was Gauntlet. The Elf, Wizard, Valkyrie, and Warrior were all on screen and trying their best to stay alive an continue their progression through the ghost and goblin infested dungeon while collecting keys and treasure. I loved and still love playing this in the arcade when ever I come across one.

After this experience hit the market home consoles wanted to get a piece of this pie and the Multitap was introduced to most home consoles. This tech took the standard 2 control ports and doubled it into 4 the NES had two versions, The Four Score and the Satellite. The Satellite being the cordless infrared version. Which worked only marginally well and required major batteries, but the job was accomplished 4 players on screen at home, and its was major fun!


My most favorite 4 player game on the NES was Super Spike V’Ball. It was fantastic quick 4 player action in 2v2 matches to bump, set, and spike your way to victory, and to be honest its what taught me most of the rules to the game of volleyball. It was’t until I played this game as a young kids was I able to understand the intricacies of Top Gun’s Volleyball scene….. before that it was only in the movie to please most lady folk, with a shirtless Maverick and Iceman, bored as a result of all the fighter pilot scenes. HAHAHAHAHA. Totally kidding.


This Mulitap peripheral continued with the next generation of systems.  The SNES, and SEGA Genesis each had their own mulitaps. While the multitaps were successful for each of these systems, I never owned or used one, so I dont have any fun memories to share with you in this regard.  However, the list of games developed for 4 players in this console generation was around 75 for the SNES and 100 for the genesis (including multi year sports titles) and its popularity was fairly high. So high that the next console generation had four controller ports built into one of it’s machines. The N64.

While the first console to build 4 controller ports directly into it, the hardware the other remaining systems (the Playstation and Sega Saturn)  still needed the Multitap peripheral to access 4 player on screen gaming.  The following console generation all the systems except for 1 (PS2) had four controller ports for split screen gaming. The multitap peripheral is no longer needed as gaming has moved wireless, while it may be annoying to keep a stock of batteries on hand for todays wireless controllers is far less annoying than being tethered to the console; potentially much worse by having the controller or console ripped out of place because someone or something wanted to walk between you and the screen. Thank the Maker for these technological advances!

What games do you remember playing on a multitap? Which was your favorite? Do you think multiplayer gaming has changed for the better or for the worse? Tell us in our comments below!

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