Killer Queen, a five-on-five two-cabinet competitive independent arcade game released in 2013, has finally arrived on a console – the Nintendo Switch – in 2019. I like Killer Queen so much that I’m going to spoil a future video of mine: the 2013 original is one of the three best games released this decade. You can watch Cecilia and I play the 2019 Switch version in this video.
The Switch version changes a few of the original’s rules without sacrificing the fineness of their tuning. Unlike the arcade version, we’ve got two teams of four on the Switch, with arenas slightly smaller than arcade players might be used to. It works spectacularly well.
In Killer Queen, each team has three ways to win. If you pay too much attention to one victory condition, you might ignore another on accident. Beautifully and infuriatingly, Killer Queen presents all players with all information all the time. Nothing is hidden in Killer Queen. Imagine a MOBA in which the camera never moves. Nobody has any excuse for not noticing something other than “I wasn’t paying attention.” Losing in Killer Queen results in apologies to one’s teammates rather than excuses. It’s mesmerising.
Killer Queen inspired me in the design process of a game of my own. I wrote a lecture about the thought experiments that led to the crystallisation of my own game’s design, and it was impossible to write that lecture without including a ten-minute aside praising the “omniavailable” information of Killer Queen, through which “spectators become players.” My lecture was apparently the number-two highest rated talk at the 2016 Game Developers Conference – a fact I attribute mostly to its analysis of Killer Queen. You can watch it on YouTube here.
You might look at screenshots of this game and conjure some snippy doubts. I’ve heard MOBA players scoff when I say Killer Queen is “pretty much a MOBA.” I’ve seen FPS players roll their eyes when I say Killer Queen is “the best esport.” These doubters are wrong. I don’t have time to get into all of the specifics as to why right now, because that would require me to write a dissertation. Let’s leave it at this: if you doubt Killer Queen, you’re a chump. Or you just haven’t had the chance to play it with nine other people in an arcade or bar in a major city.
If you do not live near such an arcade, you’re in luck: the Switch version conjures its arcade forebear’s magic formula despite a minor reduction in player count. You can play it online. Or, if you can get the people together, you can play it at home. If you play ten eight-player rounds of Killer Queen Black and you don’t consider it absolutely delightful, I have no idea how to help you. You have something I can’t cure.
I say all this as preamble to a video which, unfortunately, contains Cecilia and I playing two players with six bots, rather than the ideal eight screaming humans.
On top of this, you’ll see us wrestle some technical difficulties. My 8bitdo SN30+ Pro controller was experiencing excruciating lag of about one full second. I have confirmed (at home, using a Hori Pokkén Tournament controller) that this is not the game’s fault. The Nintendo Switch can be a jerk about Bluetooth.
I sincerely hope that Killer Queen Black catches on. For the past six years, since I first played the arcade version, I have longed to see it broadcasted live on Twitch. I have wanted to see it played in an arena. As a canvas for mind-games and a reason for screaming, its pristine design is unparalleled elsewhere in video games.
I know the reality: the esportsphere is crowded. The public can only think about so many games at once. In a perfect world, immediately every esportser everywhere would delete all other games from their devices and dive deep into Killer Queen Black, and soon they’d be playing it in high school gymnasiums and at presidential debates.
Well, the world isn’t perfect. Though if you own a Nintendo Switch, know seven people, and have £16 to spend, you can make your living room a perfect place for a couple hours. If you figure out how to get eight controllers connected, that is.