It Takes Two, Hazelight Studios’ latest effort, reminded us that there are things that never change: playing side by side with someone can transform a living room into a timeless dimension. Josef Fares knows well that to strengthen bonds, it is necessary to climb mountains fraught with danger (Brothers) and escape from over-guarded prisons (A Way Out). Activities that are not really for everyone. Fortunately, video games come to our aid, which on these occasions reveal all their communicative power.
But after the new historical phase of the cabinets, online multiplayer has taken over, and games with this “local” philosophy have become increasingly rare. Twenty-five can easily be raided against a Lich today, with parties that function as well-oiled mechanisms. A blitzkrieg can be won with Discord chat ready to simulate the radio of a well-trained military squad. An Ember-bearer can be visited to guide him in his first approach to Dark Souls, immersed in the silence that weighs on the paths of Lordran. Build forts on Valheim, escape from haunted houses, play entire soccer tournaments. In short, there is everything.
However, it is far more difficult to find something to share with those who live under our roof. There are always competitive experiences (like Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and sports), but if you are here, teamwork is what you are looking for. So if you want to experience the thrill of fighting side by side with your “relative,” as in the days of Double Dragon, Bugs Bunny & Taz traveling in time, and Metal Slug, this article is for you.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a strategic, colorful, and insane RPG. But don’t be fooled by the characters: precisely because we’re talking about a grid tactician (like X-Com and Final Fantasy Tactics), winning a challenge requires patience, ingenuity, and well-informed decisions.
Kingdom Battle has fluid controls, huge maps, interesting boss battles, and combines two irreconcilable worlds: Nintendo’s exclusive club and Rayman’s screaming rabbits. It is a less casual game than it may seem, with different depth levels, but in any case accessible to anyone. Its greatness lies in the details, worthy of the best Paper Mario. An example? Mobility can be affected by the typical tubes of our heart plumber.
Death Road to Canada
Perhaps you are looking for something more immersive, something that requires a cool head and the constant need to monitor the group’s resources, in short, survival. And you know, survival is often paired with horror in all its forms. Death Road to Canada points to the slasher side from B-Movie, because it features zombies and funny pixel art. It does so from the perspective of a road trip that recalls The Oregon Trail (in terms of narrative choices) by mixing it with hack’n’slash.
So expect a permadeath mechanic, travelers joining and leaving your party, gasoline to be collected as if it were water, and ammunition to be dosed. Death Road to Canada can be a quick, fun, and painful journey for the less experienced. But if you spend more time on the highway of death, you may begin to turn it into a slow, long-lasting spiritual journey to get to know the person next to you, one undead on your baseball bat at a time.
Cuphead is a run’n’gun like no one has seen in years. With a unique aesthetic reminiscent of the last century’s western animation, it offers players endless challenges and boss battles. But don’t approach it lightly: if you are looking for a co-op game to spend a quiet evening, this game is NOT for you! But if you want to push your limits together, Cuphead sports “easy to learn, hard to master” gameplay. You jump, you shoot, but it is also necessary to learn the opponent’s moveset.
Those who accept the challenge will find themselves catapulted into a time that no longer exists in one of the recent years’ most successful nostalgia operations. The difficulty is sustained and pushes to synchronize to give the best: losing a life is equivalent to putting your adventure companion in difficulty. In terms of power-ups and passive abilities, the game’s variety means that both players can find their own rhythm and contribute to the enemies’ defeat.
Don’t Starve Together
Are you looking for a more peaceful, scarier survival with an atmosphere between the disturbing and the homage to Tim Burton? Don’t Starve Together is here for you. Beware of the PC version, which lacks the local mode (mods come to the rescue). In this now-classic game, a rogue-lite with a lot of permadeath, you will have to resist hunger by taking care of your garden, your base and protect it from dark creatures and beasts of all kinds.
Unlike Death Road to Canada, this is a much more complex game. Knowing the resources and enemies, you encounter will make the difference between life and death. The seasons alternate, and it becomes essential to find material and craft gadgets. Characters have their peculiarities. In short, there is a management dimension that complicates things, but which, thanks to Player 2, can be streamlined by distributing the work. To try, even if only for the beautiful art direction.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game
Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic was able to tell love in the time of video games. The film adaptation was excellent, thanks to the source material’s shots, already dynamic and suitable for cinema (and let’s face it, Edgar Wright knows how to entertain his audience). The video game, which we remember tells of evil ex-boyfriends ready to break the eggs in the basket, finds its most effective form in a … scrolling beat-’em-up.
If you want to take down gangs of thugs and vegans, immersed in high-quality pixel art and an underground fairground chip-tune soundtrack, get ready to try your hand at combos and crescents. For comic lovers, know that the plot has more than a few simple twists. If you really can’t stand Scott and you like the genre in general, other scrolling fighting games you might spot are Street of Rage 4, River City Girls, or the very Italian Bud Spencer & Terence Hill: Slaps and Beans. Street fights, beer in hand, to consolidate friendships.
Secret of Mana Remake
If you are looking for a fairytale atmosphere, an epic adventure in an enchanted world, and gameplay closer to single-player experiences, check out the remake of Secret of Mana (2017). It is a reinterpretation perhaps too faithful to the original, in terms of mapping, and at the same time, it feels the weight of Square Enix’s short arms. But precisely because it does not change or update the base game, if not graphically, it maintains the shared-screen co-op mode (up to three players), which at the time had been one of the selling points.
We are talking about an action RPG that comes directly from the SNES era (still available on Nintendo Classic Mini), with objects, puzzles, and go-go backtracking. This involves a routine of villages and dungeons, XP and money farms, equipment to manage, and so on. The longevity is high while the difficulty is very low. The formula is always fun, but don’t expect a product to keep up with the most modern titles, such as Ys or Nier Automata.
Castle Crasher, by Alien Hominid, is a bit muted today, but it has been among the most popular PSN titles and a Steam workhorse. In case it is in your backlog, it could be the right opportunity to recover it! A side-scroller takes the beat-’em-up rhythm and modernizes it with spells, ranged weapons, items, and power-ups. It also offers the possibility to choose and level different characters in terms of aesthetics (from the fire knight to the honey bee), although the fighting style, in the long run, is identical for all.
For up to four players, it’s a journey through 36 graphically delightful and refined levels. As already mentioned, it is very different from a classic scrolling fighting game, but the fact remains that it shares the same risk of repetition, at least after the first run. Luckily, the bosses are so well made that it’s worth taking a journey across the realm to defeat the Dark Wizard and save the princesses of chance.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince
In its fourth chapter, Trine is a puzzle platformer centered around the use of three characters: an old wizard, an imposing warrior, and a very agile thief. Each has its skills, ranging from telekinesis to using a grappling hook to swing over chasms and reach the highest heights. In two players, it is easier to combine these skills and overcome obstacles in your path. Also interesting is the possibility of changing heroes at any time, without being bound by a starting choice.
Trine is a fantasy that certainly does not stand out for its character, despite some fascinating scenery. To the long flaw of repetitiveness and puzzles that can be easily circumvented. But this simple and safe terrain, paradoxically, is fertile to push those who fear something too complicated to adventure. So expect a walkthrough of enchanted woods full of mechanisms, with some boss battles to vary the pace of your wandering.
Portal is undoubtedly one of the most important videogame moments of the twenty years. It is a puzzle game capable of combining interesting physics with a tight narrative, full of twists and memorable phrases. Portal 2 increases the dose with even deeper mechanics and more elaborate scenarios. In addition to the now-massive user content, spread through Steam Workshop and editor mode, it’s easy to forget that it boasts a co-op mode that works with offline split-screen.
Get ready to impersonate Atlas and P-Body, two automatons at the service of GLaDOS in charge of solving the inevitable (and very intricate) tests of Aperture Science. In terms of difficulty, the campaign is just as complex as the single-player one. You will find lasers to mirror, trampolines, time switches, lethal turrets. It is vital to collaborate and reason together with your ally to resort to maps and paper diagrams. This strategic advantage should not be underestimated for those who love brainstorming and puzzles that are not at all obvious.
Among Us is among the most popular games in history; it had reached half a billion active users in November last year. It has long been a Twitch trend, becoming the tool Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used to reach her constituency. But what are the reasons for its success? In line with the free distribution on Android, one of these is iOs, is the possibility of playing it in a group, around a table, as you would do with the good old Lupus in Tabula.
In other words, Among Us not only pushes players to show unexpected sides of themselves but recreates the atmosphere of a tabletop without forcing the use of cards, tokens, and so on. It’s simple, and the minigames can be learned after just a few games. It is a good speed, making this game suitable for virtually everyone and a great way to spend a different evening. For the uninitiated, it is a deductive game in which a team must keep a spaceship active before a traitor defeats all efforts and kills everyone. Be careful, as happens with Risiko, not to gamble your friendships.
LEGO The Lord of the Rings
And speaking of wandering, Tolkien’s famous quote: not all those who wander are lost. And, if there is something that makes split-screen interesting (the only big limit to the local game), it is the possibility to get away from your ally and explore at breakneck speed, without the risk of a forced teleport. LEGO games have always had a solid cooperative component; think of The Hobbit and LEGO Harry Potter, but nothing creates a sense of team like the Fellowship of the ring’s journey.
Another reason to play LOTR in LEGO sauce is the underlying irony, which parodies Peter Jackson’s epic, creating many funny moments. The levels alternate between puzzles and hack’n’slash phases. Outside the plot, sections is an open world filled with collectibles and challenges. Another strong point, especially in the game’s final stages, is using all the original work cast, including the often forgotten Tom Bombadil. An excellent ingredient to push you to tackle challenges again, aim for 100% and relive the most interesting moments of the expedition to Mount Doom.
Knights and Bikes
Knights & Bikes by Foam Sword Games is a game created specifically for cooperative mode, very close to It Takes Two’s approach. Two little girls must explore an island, which is rumored to be a treasure. To do this, in addition to chaotic bike rides, they have to resort to their special features and their unique tools. Demelza fights melee and uses technological equipment; Nessa uses a Frisbee and uses area techniques.
It is recommended if you are looking for something that recalls the atmosphere of films like The Goonies, or even if you are looking for a quiet game, which focuses not so much on love but friendship. Great for playing with the little ones. It is an evocative title, with an island constantly beaten by rain and wind to crown this good product, Double Fine’s distribution, a guaranteed brand.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Young Horse, with Octodad, transposed the frustration in QWOP and Foddy’s Getting Over It into three dimensions. These games have some not-so-nice controls in common. For example, in the case of QWOP, you have to manage every limb of a runner to get him to the finish line. It is so complex that an AI has failed (yet) to break the human record. What does Octodad propose that are so different that we recommend it? To control an anthropomorphic polyp in situations of everyday life.
And here is the difference with the titles above. Octodad’s real purpose is to create comical situations, not impossible challenges. It offers each player (up to four) the control of one or more “limbs.” It’s the perfect recipe for disaster, but also an afternoon of laughter and nonsense. It’s not a co-op game that will be clamoring for you to complete, but just trying to get this octopod dad to sit in a chair will be something that will impress you.
Perhaps you are not looking for a party game; perhaps you are looking for a cooperative game of a different caliber, visually spectacular, and being played while holding your breath. In this case, Gears 5, the latest installment of the new Gears of War trilogy from The Coalition (and Xbox Game Studios), is perhaps more in line with your tastes. In this sci-fi TPS, you will find yourself consuming your Gatlings against alien abominations. Gears 5 is one of those games that earn a lot from couch co-op.
The offer is very varied. First, you will have access to the campaign, up to three players. In case you want more adrenaline rush, the Escape mode (complete with a map editor) will allow you, together with your allies, to make forays into the Hive of the Swarm to plant a bomb and escape. Finally, there are the Versus challenges and the more classic Horde mode to protect a location from constant enemy invasions.
From Team 17 and Ghost Town Games, the explosive kitchen simulator has given new life to a genre that seemed to have a long life only in the mobile environment. Cooking for an increasingly hungry and demanding public, as a team (but also against an opponent), is more fun than the three-dimensional models in the game, which replace the direct click with more dynamic gameplay, almost like a third-person puzzle.
Up to four players, Overcooked! 2 offers challenges in increasingly absurd restaurants. In addition to processing raw materials, you will have to be careful to put out fires, activate switches to open faster slopes to serve customers in the shortest possible time, and as the “campaign” continues, access haunted kitchens or on the edge of rafts. In short, you are facing an atypical and varied party game that is easy to approach for the first time.
A 2D action shooter won’t give you a moment of peace, the meeting point between Metal Slug and Contra. Explosions, dropper lives, bullet hell, pixel art, and bosses that exude style. Pure action, perhaps too much and chaotic. But if you want to capture the Arcade era’s sensations and look for something different from the classics, Broforce is the testosterone bomb you are looking for.
The quotes are not wasted, from the Alien themed levels to the protagonist called Rambro (but there are many other characters with puns like that). This side-scroller is a declaration of love to all those films with Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Seagal and Schwarzenegger. Recommended if you are not too old for these …
Metal Slug 3
Therefore, it is necessary to add one of the most fun, absurd and refined scrolling shooters in a cabinet. Luck has it that thanks to Steam, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and Nintendo eShop, all Metal Slugs, from the first to the XX, are easily available. Presentations, in this case, are superfluous; the masterpiece of Nazca Corporation and SNK made history. Smooth animations in stunning pixel art, humor and exaggeration, splatter aesthetics, and epic scenes.
You could start with any title in the series, but the third installment is certainly among the most charismatic and beloved Metal Slugs. Despite some bullet sponge bosses and very unreadable bullet hell sections, it has more ramifications and one of the most interesting final crescendos of the time, with the infinite stage of the alien base and the consequent space battle. We are talking about a quick game, to play and replay, perhaps to break your record. And why not? It can also be a great opportunity to buy the Arcade Stick you’ve been eyeing for some time.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
If you are not fond of Lara’s adventures, perhaps you have missed the duology of Guardian of Light (2010) and Temple of Osiris (2014). If your memories of the bravest gunslinger in video games are lethal platformers, to be solved one pixel-perfect jump at a time, rest assured. The two chapters we are talking about, born as cooperative games, are accessible and very fluid to play, even if they do not boast a powerful narrative component as in the two last trilogies.
In isometric view, up to four players, Temple of Osiris is a Diablo-like dungeon crawler, a bit platformer, a bit dynamic adventure made of puzzles and bursts of fire against creatures Egyptian mythology. Each character has its characteristics and strengths, even if there is a lack of skill trees to deeper the game mechanics. The storyline has its share of mystery and continues one lethal trap and one rotating boulder.
It Takes Two
Honorable mention. It Takes Two is not only one of the most refined games of this videogame year, but it is also an experiment in variety and fun. He never loses his rhythm and never gets bored; he has interesting challenges but never punitive, he is suitable for everyone, he is experimental enough. Josef Fares’ authorial vein is perfectly expressed, in the mixture of genres and gameplay he offers, from the shooter to the more classic platformer. Many, icing on the cake, internal mini-games. It is such a well-orchestrated title that it could truly be couples therapy of the future. If the theme doesn’t inspire you, don’t preclude yourself from Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out.
The last year and a half of lockdown and social isolation have brought many people closer to video games. Couch Co-Ops are a great way to introduce the more casual to deeper and deeper experiences and be an always good opportunity to bond. Hazelight Studios has shown that we can and still must experiment on this front because if it is true that technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, making some gameplay and many graphics obsolete.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite co-op games are!