Games, sometimes, are best experienced with a friend or two by your side. These games in particular are more than just another way of keeping yourself entertained, and will put your friendships to the test in some cases (It Takes Two, I’m looking at you). Whether your thing is gunning down hordes of monsters, building a beautiful farm together, or simply trying to survive, we’ve delved into some of the best co-op games of all time to convince your pals to explore.
Gaming can be a very solitary activity at times. You boot up Elden Ring, and before you know it, you’ve not spoken to a single person other than Ranni for 10 hours. However, gaming is also one of the best activities for connecting with those close to you, and in some cases, it can make or break a friendship (a few of my own friendships have been very much tried and tested by It Takes Two).
Co-op games are an absolute treasure because of this. Massively multiplayer games can certainly have the same effect, however, there’s something about being able to curl up on the sofa with a buddy and blast through a couch co-op run of Borderlands that makes co-op games privy to hosting much more heart-warming memories than, I hate to say it, my hundreds of hours with Valorant and Dead by Daylight.
That being said, the criteria for this list is simple: it must be a game that is co-op focused or has a solid co-op campaign. I’m going to be excluding games that are massively multiplayer, and those that include PvE and PvP multiplayer elements. This list consists of titles that encourage co-operation only!
Stardew Valley is the farming simulator with a charming tale to tell, coming from one-man powerhouse, Eric Barone (AKA ConcernedApe). It’s so much more than a pixelated RPG that lets you harvest crops and name your animals, though, and will have you restoring life to the entire town one step at a time.
This, however, can be daunting. There’s a lot of grinding involved in Stardew Valley, which often sees players sinking hundreds of hours into perfecting their farms. This workload can be lessened, however, by bringing a friend on board for co-op.
I love playing Stardew Valley co-operatively, a lot more than playing solo, anyhow. Stardew Valley isn’t a game you’ll tire of quickly, but when you find yourself endeared by it, you’ll often wish you were sharing your farm with someone else.
In co-op, each of you can choose to do whatever you want across the town, together or apart. As long as you both retreat to bed at the same time each day, you can live out the fantasy farming experience however you want, but with some helpful company to hand.
It Takes Two
A list of the best co-op games of all time obviously is incomplete without It Takes Two appearing somewhere on it. Hazelight are no strangers to creating puzzling co-op games that are heaps of fun, however, It Takes Two is almost certainly the best one they’ve made so far.
Stepping into the tiny, doll-sized bodies of a bickering couple on the brink of a divorce, you and your friend must work your way through a range of platforming puzzles and return to normal human beings again. However, The Book of Love isn’t going to make it easy, and it’s pretty important that May and Cody must work out their differences as they go on this adventure together.
More than just another co-op game, It Takes Two features an incredibly touching story too, making it one game that I see constantly recommended for couples. Don’t worry, you can also play this with a buddy without fear of falling in love with them, but if you don’t work together, this one very well could break your friendship. For a few hours, maximum, until you want to play again.
Again, a list regarding co-op games would not be complete without the ultimate couch co-op experience that is the Borderlands series. All the main line games can be played in co-op from start to finish, and in some cases, it’s encouraged.
The Borderlands games are shoot-and-loot titles that move at an incredibly fast pace, and thus, act as great fun for when you and some pals simply want to sit around the TV and plug in a controller. Borderlands 3 is arguably the best title for the co-op experience, as there is a bit more on offer than the original title in terms of co-op features. For example, loot drops are instanced, so everyone in your squad will be privy to their own drops.
What I also love about these games is just how easy it is to pick up a couple of controllers and get going. You don’t have to start the story over every time you invite a new friend to play, as a level-syncing system will allow anyone to join any save. This means that a newbie to Borderlands can jump into the save of a Borderlands’ veteran, and with their levels synced, they can still have one hell of a good time fighting off hordes.
Left 4 Dead 2
It would’ve been nice to be speaking about Back 4 Blood right now, rather than Turtle Rock’s venture from 12 years prior, but Back 4 Blood was less than impressive. If you and your pals want to experience bashing the brains of zombies out, while panicking the entire time, Left 4 Dead 2 will give you that.
In Left 4 Dead 2, the focus isn’t just on keeping yourself alive, but keeping the rest of the gang alive too. One moment you’re looting or running around with the healing gnome having the time of your life, and the next you’re flocking to your screaming teammate who has a Hunter hot on their tail. The chaos never ends, especially as you progress through the various levels.
Over a decade later, you might think L4D2 has lost its charm, but if anything, the opposite has happened. Especially in light of how Back 4 Blood’s issues at launch, there are plenty of people still playing L4D2 to this day, and I can guarantee some of your pals wouldn’t mind jumping back in to hack and slash away at some zombies together.
Deep Rock Galactic
As a group of mining dwarves in space, each with their own abilities bespoke to your class, your job in Deep Rock Galactic is to mine for resources, kill off creatures, and complete various missions. This title doesn’t ever feel like it’s taking itself too seriously, and can prove to be a lot of fun for yourself and up to three others.
As you adventure through various procedurally generated caves and often struggle to find your way back out of them again, Deep Rock Galactic will often require a bit of planning and strategising if you want to make it to your trusty escape pod. That being said, another part of the co-op fun is also to be had in your failures.
Simply put, whether you win or lose against the alien hordes of Deep Rock Galactic, there’s plenty of fun to be had with your friends throughout the endless web of cave systems.
Cuphead is a notoriously difficult platforming game that pays homage to the 1930s through both its style and sound. Whether you pick this one up with the intentions of playing solo or co-op, you’re guaranteed a devilishly chaotic time.
Invite a friend to play, and Cuphead is accompanied by Mugman. I’m not sure playing co-op makes this game any easier, but it does make it a lot more fun. As you navigate the overworld, hopping between levels that all have their own distinct bosses – some charming, and some deeply unsettling – yourself and your friend will still need to work together to actually get anything done.
It’s super easy to make a mistake in Cuphead, and before you know it, one of you is slowly making their way to the afterlife. The beauty of co-op in Cuphead, however, is that your companion can parry you back to life, giving you both another chance at victory. Or they can leave you to die, it’s one way of finding out who your friends are!
We also have Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course DLC arriving on June 30, 2022.
Castle Crashers is a four player co-op adventure that’ll have you and your pals quite literally hack, slash, and smash your way to victory. The 2D beat ‘em up initially arrived on Xbox 360 back in 2008, and served countless hours of fun for players looking to waste a few hours fighting alongside friends.
Incredibly colourful, you and your friends are four knights who must stop one dark wizard from causing havoc across this medieval universe. This means that as you go through levels of hacking and slashing away at enemies, your job will be to rescue the mystical crystal and multiple princesses that this wizard has taken captive.
Through taking on levels and collecting coins, you can get new items and weapons to liven up the adventure even further, and in combination with your mates’ skills, you can have some epic fighting fun. If a simple, 2D beat ‘em up that hails back to the Xbox 360 days and is intertwined with various RPG elements sounds like your thing, rally the troops and play Castle Crashers.
Dead Space 3
Dead Space 3 is a questionable contender on this list, given that the game itself isn’t all that great. That being said, I think it deserves a mention because of what it tried to do, and because if you want some action-heavy fun with a friend in space, this one will be great for you.
As you navigate Dead Space 3 solo, you’ll often a see another soldier in the distance doing their own thing. You can’t interact with them, but they’re there. Meanwhile, if you join up with a friend for co-op, that soldier suddenly has a lot more life as you or your friend take their position. Dead Space 3 also intended to fuck with players in co-op a little, and have them questioning their sanity. Those playing as John Carver will likely see a few things in their environment that Isaac can’t, leading to some interesting conversations between you and your friend.
If you’ve a few quid to spare and want to bash some brains in Dead Space style, picking up Dead Space 3 with a friend is worth it. Additionally, perhaps one of the better things about Dead Space 3 is that co-op progression is carried into the saves of both players, not just the hosting player.
Don’t Starve Together
Don’t Starve is an unsettling survival game from Klei Entertainment that can also feel surprisingly charming at times, when you’re not eating your friends whom mainly consist of pigs. In a randomly generated map, you are Wilson, a scientist trapped in this whimsical world of wilderness by an evil demon. You must craft and explore to survive, and paired with a friend, the game has even more fun features to explore.
Firstly, when you pair up with a pal or three in Don’t Starve Together, you have two choices. You can choose to spawn together and enjoy infinite lives, or if you fancy more of a challenge, you can each be spawned across the map with limited lives. If I’m being honest, though, the latter is more fun because there’s a surprising amount of trouble to be caused in death. If you or one of your pals finds themselves trapped in the afterlife, it isn’t game over. Dead players can hang out as ghosts, lowering your sanity as they taunt you.
That being said, if you find that you’ve had enough of your friends attempting to put you at even more of a detriment in this cruel but beautifully illustrated world, you’re in luck. Dead players can also be brought back to life in exchange for a portion of your health. If you fancy a co-op survival title that is simultaneously endearing and unnerving, try staying alive in Don’t Starve Together.
Phasmophobia is for the fans of being scared senseless. Team up with up to three of your friends to form the dream ghost-hunting gang in this paranormal indie from Kinetic Games. Phasmophobia has always been a popular pick amongst streamers, and with good reason, it’s one of the most entertaining co-op games out there.
Taking on the role of a paranormal investigator, your task is to explore haunted properties with pals and identify what type of ghost is wreaking havoc across the building. From typical family homes, to a prison, to a campsite with eerie resemblances to camp slasher, Friday the 13th, there’s a lot to explore and a lot to love about this title.
Whether you’re playing with friends or simply watching others, Phasmophobia is the game that keeps on giving despite having a simple premise: find out what ghost you’re dealing with. Even after hours of experience ghost hunting, the jump scares still come at you unexpectedly, and if you die, well, at least you get to throw things at your remaining teammates.
Portal 2 will see you jumping between test chambers and piecing together puzzles as you progress with the story and enjoy how surprisingly funny it all is, but did you know that there’s a dedicated story for co-op players to mess around with, too?
With a bit of a jump up in difficulty from the original campaign, I recommend picking this up after having spent some time playing Portal 2 solo, or believe me, you’re going to get lost amongst the portals. Both you and your friend get to each control an adorable robot and must work together to navigate the various nightmarish test chambers that Portal 2 regularly presents you with.
Communication becomes incredibly important when playing Portal 2 co-operatively. You can try to wing it, but these puzzles need you and your friend to figure things out together, and it feels incredibly rewarding. Failing that, you can also purposefully lead your friend to their death, which is always somewhat fun.
Overcooked! is one of those games that is simultaneously frustrating and fun. You’ll probably look back on the game and think ‘wow, I love Overcooked!’ and then as soon as you and friends are thrown into it, you feel stressed like never before. The stress doesn’t come without its due rewards, though, and that’s the satisfaction of finally getting to the end of one of these chaotic kitchen nightmares.
Overcooked! and Overcooked! 2 will task you and up to three friends of running a restaurant together, which seems like a great idea at first, until you realise just how hard it can be to deliver difficult dishes on time together. When things are going well, too, don’t ever think that you’re safe and you’ve all finally gotten the hang of things; Overcooked! is great at throwing a spanner in the works for your restaurant, leading to entirely new challenges to overcome co-operatively.
This cooking game will certainly test the patience of you and your friends, but if you fancy putting your chef skills to the test, make a point of diving into Overcooked!
Human Fall Flat
Human Fall Flat is a hilariously clumsy platformer that can be played solo, with one other via local co-op, or with up to eight of your friends using online co-op. This particular platformer is all about physics, as you and your blob friends must all (very clumsily, might I add) navigate each level using the structures and items given to you as well as your own body.
Getting from A to B in Human Fall Flat is the whole challenge, and some tasks can’t be completed alone. You and your wobbly friends must work together, and sometimes apart, to navigate each level. What is perhaps so great about Human Fall Flat is that every puzzle can be solve in a myriad of ways. The game has just twenty levels, so with multiple solutions or ways of getting past each level, you’ll be able to team up with friends time and time again to experiment with what you could’ve done differently.
What I’ve described as highlight for many of these games is the fact that you can turn your back on your friends and send them to their deaths if you so wish. Human Fall Flat is no different. One moment, you and your friend can be woddling around together being super cute, and the next moment, you can quite literally throw them. Hopefully, with any luck, the game might even support Steam Workshop one day, and then the twenty levels will very quickly become hundreds. Here’s to hoping!
Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze
Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze hails back to 2014, but it’s arguably stood the test of time. Ported to Nintendo Switch in 2018, the game follows on from 2010 predecessor, Donkey Kong Country Returns. Throughout the game, you’ll take part in typical side-scrolling platforming gameplay that you’d expect from a Donkey Kong title, but you can play this one with your friends right now (if you own a Switch).
You will primarily take control of Donkey Kong, and will have a companion alongside you to assist with each level. However, this companion can have their role fulfilled by one of your friends at any point, and they’ll be able to pick between Diddy Kong, Dixie Kong, and Cranky Kong to play as.
The game doesn’t ever fray away from it’s traditional premise: you must reclaim Donkey Kong Island after some bad guys have set up camp there. Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze is one of the best co-op for games for players wanting to experience Nintendo quality and charm, with some hilarious monkey mayhem involved.
New Super Mario Bros.
New Super Mario Bros. is another title for those wanting to experience Nintendo charm during their co-op play, and I also happened to get really passionate about the Nintendo DS version of the title during one episode of our VG247 Best Games podcast.
This title is likely one that most of us are familiar with, but in case you aren’t, Mario needs to save Princess Peach again. That’s basically it. Mario, paired up with Luigi in co-op, must navigate multiple different worlds and complete an abundance of levels to get one step closer to Bowser’s castle.
New Super Mario Bros. is not the most challenging of co-op games (unless one of you has no idea what you’re doing) but if you’re a fan of the plumbing brothers and fancy some simple platforming fun with a pal, this is the one.
While you can pick up New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe for Nintendo Switch and play that way, I recommend picking up the Nintendo DS version if you can. The NDS version offers a little less in terms of the base game, but it does host 26 multiplayer mini games that you and multiple friends can dive into if the platforming becomes too much, and they’re each amazing.
Other Honourable Mentions
Other honourable mentions are owed to the following: Young Souls, Nioh, Moving Out, Killing Floor 2, A Way Out, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Risk of Rain 2, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Payday 2, Resident Evil 5 and 6, Killing Floor 2, Snipperclips, Sonic Mania
That’s all for some of the best co-op games of all time, but we’d love to hear what you think the best ones of all time are. Be sure to let us know! In the meantime, check out our compilation of the best video game soundtracks of all time.