As much as we love to play our single-player games, nothing quite beats the joy of playing games cooperatively with our friends, doesn’t it?
As much fun as it is to explore a massive open world in isolation, it just hits differently when you have a buddy to tag along. Every victory is multiplied, every discovery is celebrated together, and you have a shoulder to cry on in defeat and someone to peg you to try once more.
The best co-op games are a different breed of games altogether, and even the more average games can be a good ol’ time on the interwebs.
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10 Best Co-op Games
As such, and because Helldivers 2’s release is just around the corner. We have amassed the 10 best co-op games that you can encourage your friends to buy and play along together. This is by no means the most definitive list, but we guarantee a good time in any one of them!
It Takes Two (2021)
Platforms: PC, PS, Xbox, Switch
Joseph Fares and Hazelight’s cartoony adventure is one of the finest modern examples of how a co-op game should be made.
It follows the story of a couple who are on the verge of a divorce before the two are magically shrunken down and thrown into a wild adventure. They are forced to work together to escape this weird reality they have found themselves in, and in the process, find companionship and love between them once again.
It’s a bittersweet love story wrapped around some of the most clever puzzles and incredible world designs we have ever seen.
To try and explain what the world of It Takes Two holds would be entering the spoiler territory, but trust us that from platforming puzzles to shooting and performing some death-defying stunts, Hazelight’s adventure promises a unique take in each one of them.
Every puzzle is different, and it manages to surprise you in unexpected ways, forcing players to put their heads together and come out with a solution that will stump you at first and delight you when the right trick is discovered.
If anything, It Takes Two makes fidget spinners cool again. You will see what we mean when you play the game, and you must! The game supports both online and couch co-op.
Portal 2 (2011)
There is no denying that Valve’s Portal 2 is one of the best games ever made, but its co-op campaign rarely gets a shout-out.
As two testing robots, Atlas and P-Body, players will embark on the darker and more dangerous side of GlaDOS’s test routines, where the game’s three-dimensional portal-based puzzles get increasingly mind-numbing and twisting.
Just like the single-player campaign, the co-op mode encourages players to think critically and strategically, and the introduction of gel substances, excursion funnels and various other elements add another layer of complexity.
Nothing is as simple as it seems, and if you think you have found the perfect solution, it’s more than likely that you have not. The co-op puzzles demand collaboration and communication with your friend, turning what could be a frustrating solitary experience into a dynamic and challenging social endeavour.
Moreover, the game’s narrative, crafted from the same ingenuity as the single-player story, seamlessly integrates with the co-op mode, offering a delightful and humorous campaign made even more hilarious with Atlas and P-Body’s comedic charm and witty banter.
And once you are done with the co-op campaign, there are plenty of user-made maps to dive into.
Stardew Valley (2016)
Platforms: PC, PS, Xbox, Switch
If you want a chill and carefree co-op experience where you and your friends can relax and have a good time, Stardew Valley should be right up your alley.
ConcernedApe’s farming simulator (of sorts) offers endless charm as you tend to your farm, decorate your cabin, and woo the townsfolk.
In the co-op mode, players can divide tasks – one could tend to the crops while the other explores the mines. The shared laughter as you participate in the community centre bundle, the friendly competition over who can win over the townsfolk faster, and making your part of the map a vibrant hub of activity offer a chance to forge a unique bond between players.
Sharing resources and skills fosters a sense of interdependency, mirroring the real-life support systems we find in communities. And to witness your friends flourish alongside you adds a whole new layer of satisfaction. Decorating your cabin is a huge part of Stardew Valley as well, where each player can showcase their individual personality and build homes together.
Stardew Valley is far and away from looters and shooters of the genre and is a relaxing game that can be played by anyone thanks to its simple controls and easy mechanics.
Borderlands 2 (2012)
Platforms: PC, PS, Xbox, Switch
No list of the best co-op games is complete without mentioning Borderlands 2, Gearbox’s looter-shooter that truly defined the genre in more ways than one and still remains one of the most beloved games among fans.
The motif of Borderlands 2 can be boiled down to the basics: get the most absurd weaponry possible, face off against psychotic bandit hordes, shoot them in the face, collect even more absurd weapons, and repeat. And add a friend to that complex chemistry, and you have a concoction of pure R-rated fun.
Borderlands 2 is an outrageous comedy show with some genuinely funny writing, an engaging story, absolutely whacky characters to encounter, and some beautiful locales to disrupt in chaos. If you want a game where you can jump in with friends and just shoot your way through as you catch up with each other, Borderlands 2 is a fun night out every night.
Sea of Thieves (2018)
Platforms: PC, Xbox
Rare’s Sea of Thieves may have had a rocky start at launch, but thanks to diligent updates and continuous improvements, the sea-faring Microsoft exclusive has transformed into a fantastic co-op adventure.
As pirates, you and your friends can grab a ship and set sail to the unknown and undiscovered parts of the world. Besides dodging challenging tidal waves, playing musical instruments and drinking gorg until you are stuck in the stomach, all the while taking in the picturesque beauty of the ocean, the game offers some thrilling quests to complete and lots of loot to plunder.
It’s a relaxing game all the way through, but if you are up for some deadly action, you can also chase down other player crews for some intense ship-to-ship combat, hunt for buried treasure, or take down a skeleton fort. Sea of Thieves can be as aimless or quest-driven as you like and promises a swashbucklingly good time no matter which direction you pick.
Overcooked! 2 (2018)
Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch
Overcooked’s premise is simple. Run a kitchen, cook up a storm, and serve the hungry patrons. But if you watched Hulu’s The Bear, you should have an idea of how incredibly demoralizing and difficult it can be.
Overcooked! 2’s co-op mode is a masterfully crafted recipe for laughter, and teamwork. The game throws increasingly complex kitchens your way, demanding clear communication and division of labour. You will have to strategize, place orders, adapt on the fly, and create a smooth coordination to ensure every dish is cooked properly and in the allotted time.
The shared experience playing Overcooked! 2 can either foster communication and problem-solving skills that can have a lasting impact outside of the game, or ruin friendships as things can, and will go, haywire. But it’s a risk we must be willing to take in this fun co-op hellfire.
Monster Hunter Rise (2022)
Platforms: PC, PS, Xbox
If Palworld’s monster-hunting shenanigans weren’t your cup of tea, then maybe Capcom’s more mature take on the formula might do it for you.
The class-based gameplay loop invites cooperation and teamwork, allowing fellow hunters to unlock a depth of strategy to conquer the gigantic beasts that roam the world of Monster Hunter.
A hammer user can stun the beast, creating an opening for the bowgunner’s piercing shots, while the dual blade user unleashes a flurry of strikes. What’s more, players can also elaborate trap setups, lure monsters in environmental hazards, or even mount them simultaneously for devastating combo attacks. It’s the blend of class-based combat and environmental experimentation that has made Rise such a phenomenally successful co-op adventure, where every hunt is a dynamic playground and where strategies evolve organically.
Up to four players in co-op can play the game, and the game adjusts the overall difficulty of the game accordingly. So even if you are just two players hunting for some monster kills, you won’t be overwhelmed with ruthless difficulty spikes. But take heed, it still won’t be easy!
Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2020)
Platform: PC, Xbox
The Halo franchise has always been about epic journeys, larger-than-life heroes looking to finish the fight, and thrilling action. But sometimes, even the Master Chief needs a helping hand, and that’s where the game co-op mode shines.
The Master Chief Collection offers a remaster of Bungie’s FPS classics and features Halo 1-3, Halo ODST and Halo Reach. The co-op mode allows up to four players to tackle any of the campaigns together, offering dynamic gameplay experiences where players bring their own skills and preferred strategies to topple the Covenant. Reviving fallen comrades, coordinating firefights, and sharing powerful weapons is the name of the game here, not to mention the possibilities of vehicular combat with the iconic Warthog, and causing chaos (and hilarious outcomes) is almost a given.
Add to that the modifiers, higher difficult modes and the scoring system, and the game can transform into a competitive co-op experience giving evidence-based facts to brag to your friends about your superior skills.
Forza Horizon 5 (2021)
Platforms: PC, Xbox
Shooting aliens in the face and exploding buildings full of goons is not the only way to have fun in co-op. Burning tyres on Mexico’s pavements is another stellar option.
Playground Games’ social racer makes it easy to jump behind a wheel of your choice and take to the open-world map with friends. You can do whatever you please, exploring the sights and sounds as you participate in your drag races, or you can pick from the hundreds of races, stunt jumps, drift challenges and cross-country treks if friendly competition is the order of the day.
Forza Horizon 5 also allows you to customize your vehicles in complete detail, where one can spend hours just fine-tuning everything from the performance to the look of their speeding monsters.
Powerwash Simulator (2021)
Platforms: PC, PS, Xbox, Switch
Powerwash Simulator is one of the most cathartic gaming experiences ever. The joy of cleaning virtual grime and seeing a dirty park transform into a sparkling paradise fills a sense of pride and accomplishment like no other. The feeling only amplifies when you do it with a friend or two.
The beauty of co-op here lies in its collaborative nature. Players can divide and conquer, tackling different areas to hose down, which introduces a sense of strategy on who is tackling different areas of the map, sharing tips on the most effective way of cleaning, and which attachments and products need to be used for the most thorough touch-up.
There are tons of areas to explore and clean, from expansive mansions that feel tailor-made for co-op to massive parks, vehicles, and even a mission on the moon; the game offers interesting and varied places to take up cleaning jobs.
Mufaddal Fakhruddin has been writing about games and technology for the past 15 years. He has lost count as to how many reviews he has written over the years, but he is sure headphone reviews make up at least 70% of that.