Pre-drinks, for the uninitiated, is a typically British pastime whereby you drink as much as you were able to buy from the local corner shop before heading out for a night of further drinking elsewhere. It is often the most enjoyable part of any night out for me and I often like to spend this time playing games with my amigos. Some games are clearly better in this environment than others, within this piece I have outlined a few of my favourites that may have slipped under your radar.
So, what makes a game perfect for pre-drinks? While Mario Party might be ideal for a specific “party”, the types of games we are looking for here are much more casual and easier to pick up and play. Players can come in and out of sessions and not lose too much, they shouldn’t be strapped in for 2 hours like they would in Mario Party.
The game needs to be simple in language, not in the literal sense, but in understanding what is going on. Take a game like DOTA2 for example, you are never going to explain that over a can of Coors, not to mention it can look like an absolute mess to first-time players. The chosen game should have a clear goal with a simple win condition, and easy actions to follow, whether it is action or movement. There also needs to be a quick round structure to keep the hot seats rotating as much as possible, this will keep your guests waiting and excited for when the controller is next passed to them. keep it simple.
I’ve had many game pitches fall flat when trying to explain them to my friends, sometimes the games just don’t land with the wider group, and that’s okay. It is important to read the room. Here are a few things to consider before picking out your choice of inebriating entertainment:
- What gaming experience do you guests have?
- What are their interests?
- How many people are attending?
Without further ado, here are my top picks and why these should be in your library ready to bust out with the bois. Also, Jackbox is omitted from this list, obviously you should already have Jackbox.
Number of players: 2
Perfect pairing: Tyskie lager
Okay, the set up for this game is simple, here we go; This is a two-button fighting game, you have two actions – dive and kick. The aim is to use the arc of your kick to hit the opposing players body. A single strike is all it takes to win. First to 5 wins, wins.
The strategy here comes from the mind games usually reserved for high skill ceiling games such as Street Fighter or BlazBlue – are you going to move in with one large leap over the arena, or wait for your opponent to come to you? It makes the anticipation and tension palpable before finally being released in a KO screen accompanied by shrieks of joy or despair. So much fun.
It is such a simple concept to grasp and with a winner-stays-on setup, the trash talk and hype levels will remain high. Some characters have peculiar jumping arcs which keeps things interesting and there are sure to be brewing rivalries among your friends. This is a real favourite of mine and there isn’t really much more to say about it.
Number of players: 2 – 4
Perfect pairing: Dragon Soop
What do you get when you cross baseball with dodgeball? Lethal League baby! This game is a lightning fast sports game that I don’t hate. Each round starts with 2 to 4 players, their bats and a single ball. From there, it is a free-for-all. If you were the last person to hit the ball, you are immune, if the ball hits you, you’re out. The catch here is how ball gets twice as fast each time you hit it, this ratchets up the tension following each hit and results in the ball moving at incomprehensible speeds, it gets crazy. Each hit of the ball also freezes the frame as the kinetic energy is built up ready for release, the more energy in the ball, the longer this takes. Again, this causes a level of anticipation that is sure to suck in even the most sceptical gamers.
The soundtrack is also great, if you don’t have your own music over the top anyway, this is a great source of tunes to accompany the action. The menus and UI look very much like a flash game from days gone by, but don’t let that fool you – Team Reptile have done a cracking job with this one.
There was also Lethal League Blaze released in 2018, I haven’t had time to check it out, but if the quality matches this, I’m sure it is an absolute riot.
Number of players: 2 – 8
Perfect pairing: Coors Light
TrackMania Turbo is a great time, it is ideal for a drinking session, with a ‘hot seat’ structure, it frees up plenty of time for players to go and get another drink, chat to other guests or just go take a leak. With such a high player count it is a great way to get everyone involved.
Each game starts out with selecting a track and the first player sets their fastest time around the course, each player then sets their own time, once everyone has been placed, the struggles at the bottom begin. The player with the slowest time must keep retrying the track until they are no longer the slowest, if they beat other players, the hot seat then moves to the slowest driver. Fuel is a finite resource here, so the less retries and time spent in the hot seat the better.
Each game typically ends with high tension as the best racers begin to shave milliseconds off each other’s time, as the controller begins to circulate back and forth, palms become sweaty and trash talk becomes far more prominent. It is a great time, if you have plenty of racers to play with, it’d be a great choice and it is a mainstay whenever I have friends over.
Number of players: 2 – 4
Perfect pairing: Brewdog Elvis Juice
Towerfall is a party game from the developers behind Celeste. So, as you can imagine, it is mechanically tight, with a pixel art style and a finger-wiggling soundtrack.
Each player takes control of an archer, across various arenas, the archer who gets the most kills, wins. There are plenty of power ups on offer such as drill arrows, wings for additional jumps and protective shields, it makes for a great party atmosphere. To win you are going to need fast reflexes and a cunning strategy. The main cause of tension here is the finite amount of arrows in each players quiver, if you blow your arrows too quickly and are unable to pick any more up, you are at a severe disadvantage. There is also a dash which if times correctly can allow you to catch arrows out of the air ready for a swift counterattack.
This is a few years old by now, so you can pick this up super-cheap, it is well worth it, you’ll have a cracking time if you pick this up.
Number of players: 2 – 4
Perfect pairing: Vintage cider (from Aldi, it is like £3 or something)
Starwahl is an adorable little party game with a retro 80s neon-aesthetic. While neon and 80s is no longer a novel or unique art style with the success of Stranger Things and Hotline Miami, it is nonetheless a cute looking game.
The aim of the game – stab the hearts of your enemies with the Narwahl tooth of your choosing. There are a few different game modes, whether you want to play with ‘lives’ as your win condition, or whether whoever scores the most points should be the winner. The narwahls control as clumsily as you’d expect a fish in space, but it all kind of adds to the fun, I’m not sure if it is actually possible to be “good” at this game, but everyone should have a laugh with this one.
It is also worth noting that there is a funky character customisation option here, do you want a knight narwhal? A Jedi narwhal? A disco narwhal? Or maybe a combination of the three- you can do that.
If this is cheap, it is a great option to accompany you and your friends with a few beers.
Hopefully these picks have given you a bit of direction if you’re looking for a new game to play when you are actually able to see your friends again, who knows when that will be. I have likely missed a bunch of gems off here, so feel free to drop your party favourites in the comments below.
Stay safe out there.