I’m in the rather fortunate position to be married to someone who not only tolerates my hobby, but also participates in it from time to time. She blogs about family and teaching things too over here if you’d like to take a look! Whilst competitive multiplayer is something we don’t really go in for all that often (P.E. teachers tend to be very competitive ;-)), co-op games are a choice that makes it to our systems of choice.
Now, my wife much prefers short form games that can be picked up and played in short bursts, so don’t expect any long form co-op games. Instead, you’re going to find 5 games that can be enjoyed with a partner when you have a spare 30-60 minutes. As ever, these are only games that I/we have played. These all have local co-op, meaning you don’t need multiple copies of the same game or system. On with the games!
Gears of War 3
Specifically the third game in the series, yes. There was a lot of co-op content here (even more if you went online) thanks to rather good campaign and Horde mode, and we made use of a lot of that content. We completed the campaign (enlisting some online help from a friend of mine for the final boss on Hardcore mode), we finished Horde mode (on casual, because that got pretty crazy), we even ventured into the wildlands of online multiplayer briefly. As a couple we got a lot of hours of gameplay out of this one.
The game’s fairly simple mechanics that can be manipulated to allow co-op partners to play and support each other in a variety of ways is excellent, and has been for the majority of the series (regardless of my opinions on Gears of War 4). My wife’s desire to hang back and snipe was often a viable option whilst I got stuck in and inevitably did something silly meaning she would have to leave cover to rescue me. Regardless of the mode you were playing in, you really have to watch out for each other. Working together in the same room makes it all the more entertaining too as you shout at each other about where to run to when you can see what they’re doing on the same screen. Local shooters like this are a dying breed.
Streets of Rage
From a game about watching each others back, to one in which you should probably stay the hell away from each other. Friendly damage was a real danger here. Streets of Rage is from an era in which playing together in the same room (or on the same arcade cabinet) was par for the course. This may surprise you, but this game was released before I met my wife. In fact it was released before I met my teenage years, but thanks to re-releases we have been able to play this one together (I actually prefer the second game, but don’t tell her that!)
This is a side on brawler, with you beating up a bunch of street thugs using fists, feet, weapons and special moves (such as police officers firing rockets at enemies for you) for justice! Playing with a partner is great in this, as the two of you fight of waves of enemies. My better half is pretty good at this one, getting into a good rhythm and never stealing my street turkey! Just make sure you keep a safe distance from each other, as stray feet and carelessly thrown enemies will floor your partner! Games Revisited has some great thoughts on how this game has aged here.
Overcooked is a co-op game about cooking food quickly and accurately. No, don’t leave! It’s brilliant! It’s bonkers and really rather difficult too. As between 2 and 4 chefs (you can play single player controlling 2 chefs at once) you need to chop, cook, prep, serve and clean in a kitchen to earn the most money in a short time limit. And it’s very, very hard. There are more tasks than can be completed by the chefs you have, meaning you’ll have to leave that pot cooking whilst you wash the plates. Best get back to that pot quick though, otherwise the kitchen will burst into flames. Oh, and there’s a dedicated “swear” button.
If that wasn’t difficult enough, sometimes the kitchen will change shape, preventing you from reaching the cooker. Or maybe there are conveyor belts blocking parts of the kitchen forcing you to send food around to your partner. Then there are the levels set on ice over water. Finishing the levels as a pair is quite manageable, but getting 3 stars on each is tortuously challenging. The local co-op is great and results in shouting of the best kind as your cat chef desperately needs your partner’s racoon to get the plates washed in time for you to serve that damn burger! Plus the menu music is just gorgeous…
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Ok, I know this is not the most popular game in the series for many reasons, but the local co-op was actually rather fun. The co-op campaign was pretty good fun, allowing you and your partner to set up traps for your enemies and culminating in (SPOILERS for a 7 year old game!) a confrontation between you and your partner. I couldn’t tell you what the story was, but the stealth-lite gameplay with the use of various gadgets was good fun when sharing a sofa.
Add to this a rather fun survival mode in which you needed to protect an EMP device from enemy waves whilst stealthing around the map and using your gadgets effectively and you have a fair amount of content for local players. Oh, an enemies can grab you and hold you hostage, giving your partner mere moments to take the shot that will either kill your assailant or you. Tension!
Rock Band/Guitar Hero
My wife played the drums when she was younger. Apparently she had a little stage set up at home with her drum kit on it which is either cute or annoying depending on how close to the drums you were I would imagine. So obviously Rock Band and its ilk would be a perfect game to play together. Whilst I had a huge love for the Guitar Hero games, Rock Band had a tremendous track list that allowed her to play the drums and me to play the guitar. I can’t play in real life, but I could demolish songs in the game, and playing it with my wife (and others during get-togethers) was great fun. Although our neighbours of the time weren’t always fans.
I have complained in the past about DLC, but this game is one that claimed a lot of money from me. I would always want more songs to play together and would spend more than I perhaps should have done! On the plus side, the songs could be played across different versions of the games, including the Rock Band Blitz spin off. In spite of that though, this is a great game to play together, especially if you both enjoy the music.
Some honourable mentions as ever! Borderlands and Diablo 3 work well in split screen, but the level and equipment management slow the pace down a bit too much at times. Left 4 Dead and its follow up work really well in split screen, but you do end up having to rely on the AI a little too much on harder difficulties. And of course Halo is well known for its local co-op features, but has sadly had them removed in its most recent FPS iteration. Quite the loss if you ask me. Thankfully the Master Chief Collection allows all of those co-op campaigns to be played again.
And now for some cheating! These ones don’t follow the rules but are worth a mention. Section 8: Prejudice had a fun co-op survival mode involving diving onto the battlefield from orbit, calling in vehicles and holding off waves of enemies. We bought 2 copies of this on PC to play together online. The Jackbox games, and Dance Central (I know, Kinect is evil) are fun to play together but have the competitive side rather than co-op.
What co-op games do you enjoy sharing with your loved ones? Let me know! I’d love to give them a try too.