With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we’ve overhauled our guide to the best couch co-op games, adding several new recommendations for you to share with a loved one.
Video games have gone a long way toward keeping us sane during our pandemic days. But while there’s never been more people playing together, finding the best co-op games to play with a partner at home can still be tricky. More and more titles have (understandably) emphasized online multiplayer, leaving the market for quality couch co-op experiences somewhat thin.
If you and your loved ones are looking for some good times for the living room, though, we can help. Below, we’ve rounded up 26 of the best couch co-op games we’ve played, with options that should appeal to both hardcore and less experienced players. Whether you’re eager for a half-hour session or a weekend-long binge, interested in a platformer or a twin-stick shooter, or playing on PC, Switch, Xbox, or PlayStation, our selection should have something worth your time.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi’s Mansion 3 [Switch]
Luigi’s Mansion 3 tasks Mario’s sheepish little brother with rescuing his friends from the clutches of a haunted hotel. Its two-player mode isn’t available until an hour or so into the story, but at that point the rest of the game becomes one of the most accessible co-op campaigns in recent memory.
If your partner isn’t well-versed in typical game mechanics, they can control “Gooigi,” a Luigi clone made of green goo that has a lower health pool but infinite lives. This gives them the freedom to fool around and die repeatedly without forcing you both to restart levels and boss fights. The game isn’t particularly difficult, and because Gooigi is an essential part of solving many of the game’s puzzles, your partner won’t feel like a mere accessory while you do all the work.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 as a whole has issues: aiming your ghost-sucking vacuum can be frustratingly imprecise, and there are some tedious sequences that force you to backtrack through previously conquered levels for little added benefit. But even compared to other Nintendo games, this is a game with character, from Luigi’s adorable looks of terror to the distinct designs of each hotel floor and ghost boss you meet. Barreling into a room with your “Poltergust” vacuums and sucking up everything in sight is both silly and consistently satisfying. Everything about the game looks gorgeous, like a playable Pixar movie. And because it’s broken up into clearly defined levels, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a game you can drop and revisit at your leisure.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe [Switch]
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a 4-year-old upgrade for a 7-year-old Wii U game, but it’s Nintendo’s best-selling Switch title for a reason: it’s inviting to players of all experience levels, both in how it plays and how it presents itself. Those who put more into it will see their skills rewarded, but the threat of that patented Mario Kart “BS” is always lurking around the corner, eager to level the playing field. The blue shell remains one of gaming’s most fearsome equalizers.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an iteration at its core, but its selection of courses is among the series’ most charming. The layouts are diverse enough to keep each race from feeling too similar. Every track is stuffed with enough personality to make simply driving around and looking at the scenery a joy. The same goes for the cast of Nintendo characters, who are as expressive and lovable as ever. (Except you, Metal Mario, you weirdo.) By this point, Nintendo has solved the science required to make driving a video game kart at high speeds as smooth as possible.
On top of all that, there are genuinely useful accessibility features for kart-racing newbies, including a “smart steering” assist that helps keep you from smashing into guardrails. It’s also possible (if not ideal) to play in split-screen using one set of Joy-Con controllers. In any case, people have been bonding over rounds of Mario Kart for nearly three decades, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe gives them no reason to stop.
Overcooked! 2 situates you and up to three partners as chefs tasked with preparing many different meals. Conceptually, this is simple: you merely have to grab the correct ingredients from the kitchen, cook or chop them as needed, put everything together, then send the dish off. But the game puts each meal on a timer. Then more orders start rolling in. Then you need to wash the dirty plates before anything else can go out. Then parts of the levels start moving around. Then some of the food catches fire. Also, you can fall into bottomless chasms. Or get hit by a car.
The result is a series of mad scrambles that thoroughly test your ability to communicate under increasingly heavy layers of pressure. There’s a good chance you and your partner will go full Gordon Ramsay on one another if you play long enough without a break.
Overcooked! 2 knows exactly how devilish it is, but there’s a fun blend of relief and accomplishment that comes with turning yourself and your partner into a less-than-well-oiled kitchen machine and surviving a particularly chaotic level. That the game’s “playable anxiety dream” systems are masked beneath such an adorable, inviting aesthetic—complete with a thin yet cutesy plot about fending off a horde of zombie bread called the “Unbread”— makes the experience all the more comical. Just try not to take the emotions generated here into your actual kitchen.
Overcooked! 2 [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a space-based game as exciting as it is adorable. The setup: the forces of Anti-Love threaten the universe, so you and up to three partners must navigate the mazes of the galaxy in a neon battleship that you collectively control. While one person steers the ship, the others must defend it using weapons, shields, and other technology, hopping from control base to control base within.
As you complete the various stages—all of which are randomized, so you’ll always be exploring unknown territory—you’re tasked with rescuing space bunnies, battling baddies, and avoiding rock formations that could damage your ship.
The premise of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is fitting for couples: you and your partner must communicate to navigate your shared ship, and each player must perform equally important duties to make it through successfully. We recommend going into the game blind if possible, as it forces you both to learn the mechanics and to get your “space legs” simultaneously. Letting go of total individual control means that circumstances can get hectic, but navigating the ship, both inside and out, rarely feels unintuitive. This is a refreshing change of pace from the many co-op games that lean more heavily into our competitive natures—and a delightful way to spend quality time working together.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Clubhouse Games [Switch]
Clubhouse Games is a collection of 51 classic board and card games in digital form, ranging from checkers, Yahtzee, and backgammon to shogi, nine men’s morris, and gomoku. Not all of the mini-games support local multiplayer on a single Switch, but most do, and those with a second Switch can download a free “guest pass” to play games that require multiple consoles over a local connection.
Either way, it’s hard to imagine a video game that is more welcoming to all players. Many (but not all) of the titles in the Clubhouse Games collection are easy to grasp, and each comes with a friendly introduction to its rules before you play. The curation in general is excellent, covering not just different types of games but different states of play. Some games rely on skill; others rely on chance. Some require patience; others put you in a frenzy. Some are about physical dexterity; others are about mental foresight.
The selection includes games from a variety of cultures and periods, and you’ll frequently see tidbits of information about each game’s origins and history. When you first play, you’re asked to identify your favorite food and “heart’s desire.” The result is a game that recognizes the act of play as a sort of universal connective tissue—and one that should bring you and your partner some good times.
If you’d prefer a breezier and less complex take on the Diablo formula, consider Minecraft Dungeons. It doesn’t have much in the way of originality, but it’s a super cute dungeon crawler built to be played with a buddy (or three). It’s also wholly committed to accessibility: the controls are undemanding, the plot is uncomplicated, the character upgrade system isn’t overwhelming, the randomly generated levels are largely linear, and the difficulty can be set as high or low as you and your partner like.
It’s almost the polar opposite of Minecraft proper, and Minecraft Dungeons realizes the simple pleasures in bopping baddies, collecting loot, and making the numbers on your little adventurer go up. It makes all of those aspects of gaming feel good, and satisfaction is the point here—aided by an amusing array of wacky abilities and level features. If you’ve ever wanted to summon a llama to help you in battle, look no further.
The flipside of Minecraft Dungeons‘ simplicity is that it’s not the deepest game around. But Mojang has done well to support the game with new content since launch, and what’s here should be wholesome fun for those who want a dungeon crawler without the usual set of barriers to overcome. It’s a particularly fine choice for kids.
Minecraft Dungeons [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Spiritfarer [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC, Stadia]
If you’re looking for a more relaxed, slower-paced game, try Spiritfarer. This is a management sim not unlike Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing, albeit from a 2D perspective and with some light platforming elements. Player one takes the role of Stella, a young woman suddenly tasked with the duties of Charon, the mythological Greek figure who ferries newly deceased souls to the afterlife. You sail the seas on a large boat, crafting and gathering resources to help you craft and gather more resources, all to comfort the various spirits you meet until they’re ready to pass on.
When a second player joins in, they play as Stella’s tomcat, Daffodil. He can’t talk to NPCs or turn in quests, but he’s otherwise right with you for the adventure and can be a big help during platforming bits. And yes, you can pet Daffodil.
Spiritfarer is a game about death, so it is sad. But it’s grounded, not manipulative. There’s a heartwarming quality to it, since it’s about care as much as it is grief. Plus, on a more immediate level, it’s gorgeously animated.
Like many management sims, Spiritfarer‘s density of tasks and systems can occasionally feel overwhelming. It’s probably not something you’d binge for hours at a time. And there’s a nonzero chance it’ll bring you to tears. But there’s beauty in it, the kind that’s worth sharing with a partner.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze [Switch]
Like most Donkey Kong Country games, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a structurally straightforward side-scrolling platformer made worthwhile by gorgeous aesthetics and the just-right feel of the Kong family’s movement. Its main appeal lies in discovering where it’ll take you next; oftentimes, you’re thrown into multiple distinct scene-scapes within a single level. Each is as stunning as the last.
The platforming here isn’t anything revolutionary, but it’s precise and professional. The game can get difficult at times, particularly during later boss fights. (The fact that co-op players share total lives increases that difficulty slightly.) If that sounds daunting to your partner, the Switch version includes an “easy mode” that lets them play as Funky Kong, who has more leeway to take damage and essentially rolls the abilities of the other Kongs in the game into one character. He’s also a monkey who wears sunglasses and rides a surfboard. In any case, Tropical Freeze should make for a delightful 10-15 hours.
Our review of Cuphead called it “the prettiest game to make you throw your controller,” and, yep, that about sums it up. It is absolutely stunning to look at. In both visual and audio design, this is the closest any game has come to being a playable animated short from the 1930s. Its premise—you’re a pair of anthropomorphic cups reluctantly collecting “soul contracts” for the literal Devil—somehow fits that aesthetic perfectly. But, wow, can it be brutal. This is a 2D run-and-gun game with several tricky (and inventive) boss fights that require special levels of concentration.
Cuphead actually becomes harder in co-op, since bosses have more health, and having both Cuphead and his buddy Mugman onscreen can distract from your focus. But like all good “difficult games,” it rarely feels cheap, so conquering each battle brings a pleasant catharsis. If you and your partner are in the mood for a 2D shooter and up for a challenge, Cuphead has become a hit for good reason.
Cuphead [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Super Mega Baseball 3
For sports lovers, pretty much all the usual gaming suspects support local multiplayer: FIFA, Madden, NBA 2K, MLB The Show—take your pick. If you would rather not play a full-on sim, though, consider Super Mega Baseball 3. It sprinkles just the right amount of decision-making that makes baseball baseball onto a sillier, arcade-style frame.
You still need to have a patient eye at the plate and must effectively mix up your pitches on the mound, but SMB3‘s systems are less byzantine than those of simulation games like The Show. It also plays much faster overall. There’s no MLB license, but the game does well to give its made-up teams and cartoonish players distinct personalities. Over time, you may come to love them like a good JRPG party.
Co-op play has you alternate batters while at the plate, then rotate between pitching and fielding responsibilities between innings. You can play a full Franchise mode together—albeit with the same team only—and the game’s granular difficulty sliders should make it easy to find a level that’s challenging but not overly punishing.
Super Mega Baseball 3 [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Spelunky 2 [PS4, PC]
Maybe you feel like getting incensed and fighting with your partner sometimes. Spelunky 2 would then be the game for you. The 2D roguelike action-platformer is mostly a denser version of one of our favorite games of the 2000s. That means it still plays like a polished version of a great game from 1988.
That also means Spelunky 2 is enormously difficult. But it’s (mostly) fair in that your many deaths will usually come from your own lack of discipline. Like Dark Souls, it’s a game where failure is the point: it helps you learn and eventually (maybe? hopefully?) progress. Meanwhile, the procedurally generated levels and new diverging paths give each run a sense of freshness that does not exist in many other platformers.
Spelunky 2‘s local co-op can feel somewhat tacked on. Up to four players can play at once, but everyone must always remain in view of “player one,” with no option for a zoomed-out or split-screen perspective. (If you play with friends online, however, these restrictions are lifted.) That said, having a buddy to revive you can make the game a little more bearable, and it’s still possible to unlock shortcuts to later levels. Spelunky 2 is not for the faint of heart, but if you and your partner can work through the pain, it might bring you closer together.
River City Girls
River City Girls [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
River City Girls is well worth a look for any couple in the mood for an old-fashioned brawler. Like genre classic River City Ransom, River City Girls has you beating the tar out of fools across a nonlinear 2D city. Combat has a satisfying sense of impact, and there are lite RPG elements that allow you to learn new moves, equip accessories, and earn stat boosts on top of your initial light, heavy, throw, jumping, and running attacks.
Unlike most games in the River City (or Kunio-kun) series, River City Girls turns the franchise’s usual heroes, Kunio and Riki, into the kidnapped. You play as their girlfriends, Kyoko and Misako, who are utterly pissed about it and ready to pummel whoever snatched the boys. The narrative gives this subversion with just the right amount of playfulness, and most bits of writing between battles set the tone well. The anime-style cutscenes may not appeal to everyone, but the moment-to-moment sprite work looks wonderful, the voice acting is sound, and the pop-heavy soundtrack is a treat.
Since the single-player mode doesn’t let the CPU control a second character, River City Girls is also best experienced in co-op. The game isn’t easy, but the penalty for death isn’t harsh (some lost money), and the game autosaves every time you enter a new screen. And while the brawling can get repetitive at points, that’s an issue that tends to plague most beat ’em ups. All told, River City Girls offers a welcome mix of fresh flair and familiar comfort.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Halo: The Master Chief Collection [Xbox]
If you or your partner were at all into first-person shooters or online gaming in the 2000s, there’s a good chance one of you has fond memories of flying Banshees, playing Grifball, and energy sword-ing grunts in Halo. If you don’t—or you just don’t feel like dusting off the old Xbox—Halo: The Master Chief Collection bundles the saga’s major installments and, for the most part, holds up well. (It helps that the litany of bugs that marred the collection at launch have largely been patched away.)
These games still have controls tighter than many shooters that have launched much more recently, and even if some of the later games’ narratives go completely off the deep end, the general tone still strikes a good balance between campy amusement and action-flick bravado. Blasting alien bogeymen with space guns has always been good fun.
It’s probably best if you and your partner have some level of experience with first-person shooters before jumping into Halo, but if not, it’s always possible to play one campaign on Easy before increasing the difficulty as you move through the franchise. Or you can head into multiplayer and goof around there. (Just make sure you both have Xbox Live accounts.) Note that we’re specifically advocating for the Xbox One version here; the PC edition lacks split-screen support as of this writing.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes will test how well you and your partner respond to pressure. It tasks you both with defusing a series of ticking time bombs which can only be stopped by solving a series of puzzles strewn across modules on the bomb itself. The catch is that only one player can see the bomb at any given time. The other player is tasked with reading from a 23-page “bomb-defusal manual” that explains how to work through the various conditions the defuser may currently see.
Thus, the game requires you and your partner to communicate clearly, stay as calm as possible, and trust each other, even as the solutions increase deviously in complexity. This can become even more intense for the bomb disposer if playing through a VR headset.
While each bomb is procedurally generated, there is a risk of things getting stale if you and your partner play through enough disposals. Playing locally also means avoiding the temptation to cheat and look where you’re not supposed to. Play Keep Talking as intended, though, and you’ll have a fun little metaphor for working through your differences. We just advise you and your partner to be on stable ground before diving in.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
The Jackbox Party Pack 7 (or any other Party Pack game)
The Jackbox Party Pack 7 [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
This one comes with a slight caveat, as the Jackbox Party Pack games are best enjoyed with a group of loved ones, not just one other partner. It’s also worth noting that, while we think The Jackbox Party Pack 7 (the series’ latest entry) is a fine starting point, any of the Party Pack games could serve the same function.
That’s because each Jackbox collection is built on the foundation of making your friends laugh. Most of the party games within are successful at doing so, nudging you just enough with improvisational prompts to let you goof around without making the humor feel constrained.
The Jackbox Party Pack 7 leans a little heavier on that improv aspect than most prior collections. One game has players giving a faux TED talk set to silly randomized slides, while another has them draw original characters for a fake fighting game. So, players who aren’t so comfortable being creative in front of a group may feel more uncomfortable. But older Party Packs have options with more gentle prodding—Fibbage and Trivia Murder Party are typically good standbys—and those who do want to be silly are given plenty of room to be so. Not many video games go better with a few rounds of drinks.
Best of all, only one person ever needs to own a copy of the game; everyone else can join in through a Web browser on their phone, tablet, or computer, even if they’re remote.
Assault Android Cactus
Assault Android Cactus [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Assault Android Cactus is a more thoughtful brand of twin-stick shoot ’em up. You and up to three others play as cutesy androids tasked with mowing down waves of robot baddies on a space freighter held hostage by rogue AIs. The narrative is light, but the game commits to its campy sci-fi cartoon aesthetic. Each of the nine available androids (four of which are unlocked by default) has charm—and abilities that genuinely change how you might attack a given stage.
Where Assault Android Cactus shines is in the way it heightens the intensity of a typical shmup. While your heroes have life bars, the penalty for dying isn’t severe. The real worry is the fact that each android runs on a continuously depleting battery located at the top of the screen. Defeated enemies will drop partial battery recharges alongside various power-ups, but only one will appear onscreen at a time—and it will disappear if you don’t collect it quickly. If the battery runs out, your android falls, and the mission fails.
This creates a frantic race against time that implores you to play aggressively. You have to move with grace and think about what you’re doing—particularly in co-op, where the enemy count rises and the interplay between android abilities can affect your approach—but you have no time to strategize. Each stage only lasts for a few minutes, but the action is nonstop; each level becomes a sensory maelstrom of gunfire, enemy hordes, and power-up pings. It’s a rush, and it’s amplified by levels that frequently shift and surprise.
The main campaign only lasts a few hours, but there’s pleasure in chasing S-ranks in subsequent playthroughs. Less experienced players who own the game’s “Plus” version on PC or Switch, meanwhile, can turn on “automatic aiming” and “revive” features to simplify matters while they get their feet wet. However you play, this is an inventive and engaging take on an often-derivative genre.
What the Golf?
What the Golf? [Switch, PC]
What the Golf? is something like a golf-themed take on an old WarioWare game. It bills itself as a “golf game for people who hate golf,” and that’s about right: instead of worrying about club selection or the nuances of the green, What the Golf?‘s dozens of micro-levels present a series of increasingly absurd jokes, all centered on the idea of getting an object from point A to point B.
Eventually, you wind up flinging not just golf balls but soccer balls, office chairs, small houses, people, and even the power meter used to determine the strength of your shot. Typical greens give way to obstacle courses, deep space, and stealth missions. Some levels are homages to other games: one has you dodging bullets in slow-motion as in Superhot, while another has you moving down a Guitar Hero-style note highway.
You only interact with What the Golf? by aiming and pulling back on a simple shot meter, the kind of setup anyone can immediately grasp. The gags can sometimes be more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, but they mine a surprising amount of ground subverting their one theme. The levels are fast enough to give that “just one more” feeling, and the whole game is brief enough to not overstay its welcome.
Co-op play comes in the form of a “party mode” on PC and Switch (not on Apple Arcade, sadly) that pits two players against each other across a number of micro-levels, culminating in a final arena battle showdown. While this isn’t the same as the game’s “campaign,” it’s far from an afterthought. What the Golf? isn’t the deepest game on this list, but you and your partner could do much worse for some smiles across a few afternoons.
Moving Out [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Moving Out is another deeply silly option in which you and up to three others play as the world’s worst movers. Each level has you trying to move a number of designated objects to a moving truck as quickly as possible. Your only goal is speed, and as such you have no obligation to care about how many windows or household belongings you break along the way. (As someone who has dealt with shoddy movers, I can empathize with whatever unresolved trauma the creators of this game must have had.)
The way your little movers navigate and interact with objects is somewhat janky, but that also adds to the sense of wackiness Moving Out is going for. You start off packing up basic homes before moving onto places that are…very much not those. There are fart jokes. It’s all lighthearted.
Overcooked would appear to be a point of comparison, but Moving Out isn’t quite so tense. While you may have trouble getting an L-shaped couch out the front door, going for top-ranked times is entirely optional. There are several assists to lower the game’s difficulty, too, from making objects lighter to removing the need to pack items into the moving truck altogether. Again, what you see is generally what you get, but there are worse ways to spend a couple weekends than trashing digital houses with a buddy.
Human: Fall Flat
Human: Fall Flat [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC, Stadia]
Human: Fall Flat can feel like an experiment as much as a fully realized product at times, but it’s almost fundamentally funny, and its slapstick is only amplified when played with another person. Like Octodad or Gang Beasts before it, much of its humor comes from its deliberately wonky movement and physics. Simply getting your rubber-limbed avatar—known as “Bob”—from point A to point B provides a sense of accomplishment; when you manage to bumble him through the increasingly complex puzzles the game throws at you, that sense is multiplied.
Human: Fall Flat takes the sandbox approach to platformer design. Each level has an end goal to reach, but there’s a tremendous amount of freedom in how you get there, and there’s no way to outright “fail” in between. (The game will drop optional hints if you get stuck for an excessive amount of time.) It’s totally possible to finish the game on your own, but playing with a partner greatly heightens the level of experimentation you can pull off. There’s an “apes hitting computer” sort of humor to watching two wobbly fools desperately try to swing themselves over a barricade or to catapult each other through a brick wall.
There’s a bit of a learning curve to Human: Fall Flat‘s physics, and the way the game drops you right into its madness might require some patience. Tying some of the more fundamental movements to the camera controls makes the game look appropriately chaotic but can also complicate otherwise straightforward solutions. Your first run will likely take 4-5 hours to complete; if you know what you’re doing, it’s technically possible to beat the entire game in less than 10 minutes, so this might be one to grab when it’s on sale. Still, it should give you and your partner a few genuine laughs.
Heave Ho [Switch, PC]
Continuing on the slapstick beat, Heave Ho is a platforming party game that simply asks you to reach an end goal. The catch is that you’re only able to control your Geodude-looking avatar’s arms, which leads to many moments of you desperately hurtling yourself across a chasm without having total control of what you’re doing.
This is amusing enough when playing on your own, but Heave Ho is significantly more entertaining with friends, preferably with a full party of four. In that case, you and your partners can grip onto each other, opening up several opportunities for traversal or—let’s just be honest with ourselves—trolling. Trying to coordinate the momentum and timing required to swing your combined limbs like a rope, without being entirely sure of whose limbs are keeping the chain together, is a beautiful mess. Respawns are almost instantaneous, which only encourages goofing around.
That’s about all Heave Ho has going on, but at $10, it’s a good value for those interested in some dumb fun.
Lots of Diablo fans have Strong Opinions™ over Diablo III‘s place in the series, but in its current state, it’s a decidedly satisfying and smooth-playing dungeon crawler. Those new to action-RPGs may find all the upgrade and item-management systems overwhelming at first, but it’s ultimately more welcoming and forgiving than most games of this type. In no time at all, Diablo III will be channeling the part of your lizard brain that likes hacking down enemies, grabbing loot, and watching stat numbers grow.
Then it will coax you into spending hours min-maxing different character builds and running Rifts. Being unable to access your respective menus simultaneously is a pain, and the endgame can start to feel repetitive after a while, but give it a spin and Diablo III might sink its claws deeper than you might expect. By the time it’s done, you may be ready to transition right into Diablo IV.
Diablo III: Eternal Collection [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Divinity: Original Sin 2
If the two of you are already fantasy role-playing veterans, try Divinity: Original Sin 2. It requires more consideration on a moment-to-moment basis than a hack-and-slasher like Diablo, and its turn-based combat is frankly intimidating in how little it holds your hand. As you figure out its complexities, though, you (generally) feel more agency over your triumphs than you might in other modern RPGs. The whole sprawling story can be played with a partner, and it does the novel thing of actually addressing “player two” in the script instead of ignoring them altogether. It’s a tremendously well-written game, too.
One caveat here is that you probably want to be living with your partner before taking on Divinity, as it could take more than 100 hours to do everything you want before wrapping up. Another caveat is that local co-op is unavailable on the Nintendo Switch copy of the game. Still, this is one for those hardcore CRPG fans that look lovingly at the Baldur’s Gates and Ultimas of years past. It’s also compelling enough to be many people’s starting point in the genre.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Though Portal 2 is nearly a decade old, those who never managed to give it a shot will find that it has aged gracefully. It has separate campaigns for solo and co-op play. The latter is looser from a narrative standpoint, but it still exemplifies the sharp humor and intelligently layered puzzles for which the series is famous. The game does well to force you and your partner into genuinely communicating; working out the portal placement and sequencing for each puzzle room should always feel like a team effort.
The base game gradually ramps up the complexity at a pace that teaches you how to think without sprinting too far out ahead of you, but if you play on PC, you can download a number of community-made maps for a greater challenge. For consoles, there’s no way to play Portal 2 on the PS4 or PS5 these days (just the PS3), but the Xbox 360 version is available to use on an Xbox One or Xbox Series console.
Portal 2 [PS3, Xbox, PC]
Rayman Legends is a fun 2D platformer that wants little more than to be a fun 2D platformer. It has a playful energy and style all of its own, it controls well, its varied levels feel like products of passion and care, and it isn’t overly concerned with subversion or metacommentary. Some sections can get frustrating, but they’re rarely punishing, and the game is paced well enough to not heap aggravation onto the player.
Co-op play supports up to four players who can drop in or drop out at their leisure. All players have to share the same screen—so a higher-skill player won’t want to rush too far ahead—and having multiple avatars running around at once can make some moments more frantic than they might be otherwise. Regardless, Rayman Legends remains a wholesome delight eight years after its initial release date.
Rayman Legends [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Those in the mood for a puzzler, meanwhile, should consider Death Squared. You and up to three partners are colorful, cuboidal robots tasked with navigating a series of floating puzzle rooms. Each player merely has to get to their designated goal. To complete a level, though, each robot will have to hit buttons in their color to open paths, remove environmental traps, and adjust the layout of the level.
It’s all straightforward conceptually, and there are no controls to remember besides basic movement. But Death Squared‘s 80+ brainteasers become increasingly complex. New mechanics are introduced and initial concepts invert on themselves. One player will insist that they know the solution… only to feel guilty once they realize they are completely wrong. Patience and communication are key, per usual. But if you’re okay with some trial and error, Death Squared is well-crafted and clearly designed with co-op in mind.
Death Squared [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]
Castle Crashers Remastered
Castle Crashers is another 2D beat-em-up in the vein of classic brawlers like Streets of Rage or the aforementioned River City Ransom. You walk forward, use a bunch of weapons, and hit the bad guys until they fall over. It controls simply enough for just about anyone to pick up and play. The RPG-style leveling system is easy to grasp, as are the various items you can use to modify your character.
This isn’t a game you play for the story—you’re some knights, go save the kingdom—and its humor is exclusively low-brow (expect multiple poop-based sight gags). But it’s colorfully animated, it plays fast, and its core loop is chaotic fun that’s better when shared with a friend.
Castle Crashers Remastered [Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC]