Better together

Any evening or weekend afternoon can be made instantly better by gathering a few friends and controllers for some ‘same sofa’ co-op gaming. Sure, you could play co-op games online, but it’s a different kind of experience. Being in the same room makes a huge difference, and your evening becomes something more than just a simple gaming sessions. And while ‘same sofa’ co-op fell out of favor when online first found its feet, there has been a resurgence in quality offline titles, so there are great choices to be had for whatever hardware you own and whatever degree of cooperation (or competition) your crew can handle. From high-adrenaline swordplay in Nidhogg to bonkers vehicle mayhem in Rocket League, here are our ten favorites.

1. Mario Kart 8

  • Format: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
  • Release date: 2014
  • Max number of players: 4

Mario Kart has long been the gold standard for gaming with your friends, and the latest entry in the series keeps that reputation intact. Most gamers have fond memories of sitting crowded around the TV: the smugness of victory, the sorrowful defeat, and the excessive cursing. Sure, you might be laser-focused on taking down the leader with a perfectly-timed blue shell one moment, but the next you’re all laughing together about how they slipped on a banana peel and lost the race on the final corner.

2. Overcooked

  • Format: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Release date: 2016
  • Max number of players: 4

In a professional kitchen, success depends on advanced planning, a strong workflow, and division of labor. The same is true in Overcooked, one of the secret best games of 2016. You and up to three friends must chop, cook, and serve food orders in some very strange kitchens. Think ice floes, fireballs, and even a spaceship. The level design is downright diabolical in places, but despite the high difficulty, this game is a real delight. It takes good teamwork and steady hands to ensure delicious success.

3. Rocket League

  • Format: PC, PlayStation, Xbox One
  • Release date: 2015
  • Max number of players: 4

The only way soccer could be more fun is if it was played by rocket-powered cars rather than people. Enter Rocket League, the phenomenally popular arcade game that helps the sport attain its ultimate glory. The skill ceiling on this is quite high, and it has already acquired a thriving eSports community. Even if you don’t want to go for the intense competition, you can still have a great time with your buddies at home. Up to four people can play with local splitscreen, but even if nobody else is in the mood, you can play even larger matches online.

4. Nidhogg

  • Format: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
  • Release date: 2014
  • Max number of players: 2

Based on the most elegant and noble sport of fencing, Nidhogg gives the activity a shot of digital adrenaline. It’s all about pushing your opponent back, claiming their ground with your superior swordsmanship. However, with this game, both you and your opponent have the ability to execute legalised sword-flings and neck-snaps. A single Nidhogg game can be a 20-second whitewash or an arduous back-and-forth slog before one player reaches the win zone, and this is what makes it so good. The best bouts will have twists and turns, near misses and last-minute turnarounds, and some downright spectacular kills. With the right players and the right audience, Nidhogg is one of the best.

5. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

  • Format: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Release date: 2015
  • Max number of players: 4

Plenty of games venture into the vast reaches of space for their setting, but Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime stands out as the most darling iteration. You and your crew man a powerful, but very poorly designed, ship which requires players to rush between different functions (like piloting, weapons, shields) mid-battle. This means cooperation is essential if you want to make it through each stage, as – even in 4 player – you can’t control all the ship’s functions at once. So dive in, upgrade your ship, rescue space bunnies, and do your best not to explode with joy at this sickeningly cute co-op masterpiece.

6. Towerfall Ascension

  • Format: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Release date: 2013
  • Max number of players: 4

Towerfall Ascension has traveled a long and winding road, beginning as an Ouya exclusive. But it has stayed the course when it comes to excellent co-op and competitive play. Matches are zippy but demand a lot of strategic thinking. You’re channelling your inner Legolas, trying to beat down everyone else with a limited supply of arrows. If you miss, you can retrieve arrows from the ground. Just don’t get shot along the way.

7. Diablo 3

  • Format: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
  • Release date: 2012
  • Max number of players: 4

Many video games tell the tale of good against evil, but Diablo 3 does it with a style all its own. The only thing better than getting vast stashes of loot is getting vast stashes of loot with your friends. The march to triumph over the lords of hell is one that is best shared with some allies, and if you pick character classes that will complement each other well in the classic tank-damage-healer combo, then your band of heroes can probably handle the game’s increasingly vicious difficulty levels.

8. Hidden In Plain Sight

  • Format: PC, Xbox 360
  • Release date: 2011
  • Max number of players: 4

Here’s a good one for introducing your non-gamer friends to your favorite hobby. Hidden in Plain Sight refines the core idea behind what the Assassin’s Creed online multiplayer always aspired to. It’s a cyclic game of cat and mouse, with players controlling assassination targets and attempting to blend unnoticed into crowds of AI. The assassins have to pick out the target from the AI without giving themselves away. There are a number of game modes to mix things up, but the core of the idea remains the same throughout. Suppressing the tendencies that would give you away, either as an assassin or a target, creates tension amongst your group. Just as rounds of Mafia sow seeds of distrust and uncertainty among your best buddies, Hidden in Plain Sight tests just how well you can really read your friends.

9. Rayman Legends

  • Format: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360
  • Release date: 2013
  • Max number of players: 4

The solo experience of Rayman Legends is heaps of colorful fun. The game is a charming platformer with a kooky sense of humor and a killer soundtrack. So why not double, triple, or quadruple your entertainment? If you’re feeling collaborative, then race to collect Lums and save the Teenies together. If you want a little good-natured shenanigans, though, you can also punch each other off ledges. It might start as an accident, but sometimes a little conflict makes the eventual victory all the more sweet. 

10. Inversus

  • Format: PC, PlayStation 4
  • Release date: 2016
  • Max number of players: 4

Inversus dubs itself a ‘negative-space shooter’, and it plays out like a digital arcade version of the classic board game Go. Each arena is a graphic black and white board. The black team can only move on white tiles, while the white team can only move on the black tiles. Each of you has just five slowly regenerating bullets that you’ll use to flip the color of the tiles and, of course, to take down your opponents. Try to trap them in a corner by carefully rationing both bullets and your space. This arcade game presents so many options for how to play with or against your friends. Try a 1v1 or 2v2 battle, or face down waves of enemies in the arcade. Inversus strips everything down to the most minimal concepts while still demanding deep strategy.

Party at mine!

So what are you waiting for? Call up your friends and get them over to your place now for a spot of local multiplayer, and maybe even some drinks. If you’re under 18, better stick to the soft drinks, yeah? Anyway, what’s your favourite local co-op game? Let us know in the comments below.

Want more? Here’s our list of the 25 Best Co-op Games Ever Made, and another feature on the Best Upcoming Games of 2014. That should keep you busy!

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