Video games are best enjoyed with friends, whether that be people watching or playing along. After all they’re an interactive medium, so why wouldn’t you want to bring more people in on the fun? We even wrote recently about the best games to play with the whole family.
Competitive games are an absolute blast, racing around in Mario Kart or shooting actual players in Call of Duty always provides a great thrill. With that said, we here at Culture of Gaming also love games you can play with friends, not just against them. So we wanted to take some time to run you through our best co-op games. Games where you and some friends need to work together to win.
Rayman Legends’ effective co-op platforming
The first game on this list is one a lot of people seemed to miss. After all, Rayman Legends released in 2013 and since then has become an overshadowed masterclass in platforming. It even came out before Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, a game that often seems to stand above the rest in terms of platforming prowess. The main thing Rayman Legends has over other games is how it can be played in 4 player co-op. After all, platformers seem to be at their best when the screen is just pure chaos.
This game is unique not just because of its art style and brilliant flowing level design, but because of its special ‘music levels’. These levels feature remixes of classic songs, from ‘Black Betty’ to ‘Eye of the Tiger’. The players are forced to play along to the music, as the levels are designed around the different instruments, solo’s, tempo’s and styles. Rayman Legends illustrates how platform games can be modernised and yet still fun for a group sat on the couch together.
It’s fast-paced, fun, filled with charm and bound to make your group enjoy an evening.
Overcooked’s co-op nightmare
Overcooked is anything but a fun time. Sure the game has a veneer of innocence, but so does Gordon Ramsay when he’s not on Hell’s Kitchen. That’s exactly what this is, the video game equivalent of Hell’s Kitchen. And yet Overcooked can still derive so much enjoyment. The game is quite simple, chop, prep and cook different meals and deliver them. You and your friends will spend the first few levels believing the game to be quite easy as you come up with assigned roles and routes. Then disaster strikes. Overcooked throws another dish in, new level mechanics, enemies that steal food, timers, and so much more. Communication is key if you want to win.
If this sounds stressful it’s because it is. Everyone in the room is now screaming at each other to get the soup off the stove, start chopping up the salad, clean the plates. This might not sound fun, but trust me when I tell you it really is. The thrill of trying to make sure all the meals are made and go out in time is brilliant. Plus the game lasts just long enough, with an excellent difficulty curve, for you and your friends to feel accomplished after each level. Despite all that Overcooked’s best quality is its overall simplicity. Within the first few levels, anyone can understand it. When the game starts adding its mass of stressful mechanics, that’s where the struggle really begins.
Left 4 Dead requires co-op survival
Every group has had the discussion of who would last longest in a zombie apocalypse. Left 4 Dead is a tried and true way to test out your thesis. The set up is simple, a group of four survivors must work together to make it through each level and to a safe room, and then escape the onslaught of undead. Left 4 Dead doesn’t rely on lots of fancy mechanics, just hoards of zombies and a plethora of ways to kill them.
It’s what happens under the surface that makes Left 4 Dead a joy to revisit with friends. As the game was designed to react to the players as they play. Zombies will attack isolated players, the special infected force you to watch each others backs, the game knows exactly when to throw another hoard of zombies your way. Left 4 Dead is like any good horror scenario, as soon as you think you’re safe, you definitely aren’t.
Cuphead’s precise co-op
Cuphead can be completed on your own, but why should one person have to struggle when you can share the pain with someone else? At this point everyone knows about Cuphead, you fight your way through run-and-gun levels and boss rush style enemies until you defeat the devil and can keep your souls. Simple right? Not even close. For the unseasoned gamer Cuphead is pure unadulterated challenge which, like with Overcooked, quickly turns into rage.
But Cuphead’s excellent design means that every wrong move is your fault, each failed attempt that comes so close to victory is met with you and a friend jumping straight back in with newfound knowledge. The reward in Cuphead isn’t tangible, the feeling of victory never is. With that said being able to share a journey of improvement and victory with someone sat in the room with you is a feeling like no other.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes makes working together stressful
Bomb defusing always looks so easy in movies. The hero sweats as they can’t decide which wire to pick, until just at the last moment the comic relief bomb expert who’s been there the whole time yell’s “THE RED, CUT THE RED!”. With just a couple of seconds left on the clock, the day is saved. Now imagine that, except one person is looking at something similar to the image above whilst the rest are scrambling with A4 paper trying to tell you how to play Simon Says.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is perhaps the game on this list that relies most on communication. As only one person should be seeing the bomb on screen, whilst the rest tell them how to defuse it. You have no other choice to play this with people. On top of that the game can be played in VR, so there’s no escape then. Both parties must have their communication on absolute lockdown. There’s no time to misunderstand what a symbol is, or accidentally say the wrong colour.
That timer’s ticking down, you better get moving.
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection’s crazy co-op
With Borderlands: The Handsome Collection supporting four player split-screen on current generation consoles, there’s no better a time to jump into the original looter-shooter. This collection comes with both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, and all accompanying DLC. It’s bound to keep you busy for hours.
Whilst the co-op in Borderlands games is largely superficial, meaning the whole game can be done alone, playing with others means harder enemies and better loot drops. So then you and your friends can fight over who gets the orange rarity gun that just dropped. On top of that the large areas that house combat are fun to run around in, helping other players defeat tougher enemies and using their skills to the whole teams advantage.
The shooting in the Borderlands games is also quite refined, so you can expect a good overall experience when you boot up this RPG-come-Action Shooter game with friends.
A Way Out’s brilliant co-op approach
Hazelight Studios A Way Out is a game built from the ground up to be a couch co-op experience. You and a friend have recently been imprisoned, and must work together to escape. This short, story driven game doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises, but what it does offer in terms of co-operative mechanics is more than solid.
One thing A Way Out does well is not overstay its welcome. It’s the type of game that can drag and become a monotonous chore to get through. However A Way Out knows exactly what is is: a short, story driven experience that has some great action sequences and interesting uses of co-op mechanics. So it makes it onto this list.
The Lego Games’ simple co-op
I’m definitely cheating here but honestly most of the Lego games are so similar it doesn’t matter. If you accompany Lego with how it can come in at absurd prices and how we’re all getting older and losing our imagination, this series of games then becomes an affordable alternative. You can pick any of these games, which are all based around popular properties, and play through a Lego-ified version of events with your friends. The mechanics are never anything groundbreaking and they aren’t the longest games in the world. However the replay value of this simplistic franchise is undeniable.
On top of all that they aren’t really fun to play on your own, going through these stories with a friend provides much more enjoyment as you can both relate to a franchise you love and share in the nostalgia. TT Games series of licensed Lego properties are some of the best co-op games to date. They’re simple yet effective.
Castle Crashers/Battleblock Theatre co-op campaign
The Behemoth have always made hilariously bizarre games. Ones that are just too wacky not to share with people. Castle Crashers & BattleBlock Theatre are a beat em’ up and platformer respectively. Both of these are some of the best co-op games, with hilarious results. You can either team up as four knights to save the land in Castle Crashers, or you can jump into BattleBlock Theatre with a friend to make your way through a platformer set on an island theatre.
These are the types of games you might expect to see people play when they sit down on a couch to just eat snacks and relax. They aren’t exactly complex, but they make up for that in how fun their gameplay and presentation are. If you’re on the fence about either, I’ll ask you to watch the intro to BattleBlock Theatre, if that doesn’t inform your decision nothing else will.
Stardew Valley/Terraria/Minecraft Multiplayer
Yes this is still technically cheating. However these three games offer such similar experiences, where you and a group can relax, create, and build. Each of these games offers limitless possibilities in how you want to tackle them, and being able to do that with friends is a plus. You can decide between yourselves what the next in-game day will bring. Will you go out and explore? Further build your home base? or just goof off? This is the one of the best co-op games because it isn’t about the challenge, but the journey. It’s all up to you, and that freedom of choice is what makes these farming sim/creation games so much fun to play with friends.
Portal 2′ co-op mode
Finally we come to Portal 2, which has one of the best co-op modes, where you and a friend control the robots P-Body & Atlas. It’s essentially just Portal 2 but with another player. However the different challenge rooms, and the ways Valve has found to make using two sets of portals thought provoking and fun are astounding. This mode doesn’t go on for all that long, but finding ways out of each room with a friend are undeniably ecstatic experiences.
Do you agree with our list? What do you think are the best co-op games? Why not check out our article about games to play with friends on the Switch? Be sure to let us know in the comments or on Twitter! As always thanks for reading COG.