The best couch co-op games for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5 and Xbox

Online multiplayer is part and parcel of many video games these days, but finding something you can play on the couch with friends and family is tougher. If you’re looking for some local co-op fun, allow us to help. Below are 26 of the best couch co-op games we’ve played across the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. Note that we’re focusing on genuine co-op experiences, not games that have local multiplayer but aren’t truly cooperative in practice. So, no Mario Kart or Jackbox. Nevertheless, our list encompasses everything from platformers and puzzlers to RPGs and arcade shooters.

You know the broad strokes of any Super Mario game by now. But within the series, Super Mario 3D World stands out for using a largely fixed camera and levels that are more semi-3D than the totally open spaces in Super Mario Odyssey or Super Mario Galaxy. There are still many items to grab and secrets to uncover across the characteristically charming, brisk and inventive stages — but everything you can find at a given moment is right in front of you, which encourages you to look closer and move from foreground to background.

Co-op play can be chaotic, but 3D World owns that. You and up to three buddies share lives but are scored on your individual performance, with the leader receiving a literal crown at the end of each level. This makes for a sort of competitive co-op mode, one in which a devious “teammate” could straight-up grab you and chuck you off a cliff in an attempt to secure their high score. The adventure only has to be as spicy as you and your partners want it to be, though; if you aren’t playing with a group of sickos, 3D World should be an exciting update to a familiar Mario formula.

We’ll also shout out Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the latest 2D Mario game. That one supports local multiplayer too, but its camera is a bit too zoomed-in, which can make it harder for players of different skill levels to stay on screen at once. It’s a great platformer and still a decent co-op experience, but it feels designed for solo play first and foremost.

Like most Donkey Kong Country games, Tropical Freeze is a 2D platformer that’s both structurally straightforward and aesthetically gorgeous. Donkey Kong is not Mario: He has a more immediate sense of gravity to him, so when he leaps, he comes down hard. But the platforming is uniquely deliberate as a result, and the way the game leads you from one stunning scene to the next, even within the same stage, is a delight.

Tropical Freeze can get difficult, particularly during some later boss fights, but a “Funky Mode” in the Switch version eases things slightly. If you still have a Wii or Wii U, meanwhile, this game’s predecessor, Donkey Kong Country Returns, is just as great, if not better.

If Donkey Kong is Mario’s brutish animal pal, Rayman is the eccentric French buddy he visits when he’s overseas. Rayman Legends is a more out there 2D platformer than the Nintendo properties above: Instead of the pristine environments and perfect geometry of a Mario or Donkey Kong game, here everything is a bit more abstract, cartoony and crass. (There are more fart sounds, for one.)

The moment-to-moment movement is a little less precise, too, but Legends still plays fast and light, with stages that are loaded with optional rooms and collectibles that invite your curiosity. This is an unpretentious game, a fun side-scrolling platformer that merely wants to be a fun side-scrolling platformer, and it becomes more enjoyable (and frantic) with friends.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is a mammoth CRPG that plays like a digital Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Part of that is because it’s set in the “Forgotten Realms;” another is because its tricky, turn-based combat is based on D&D 5th Edition’s rules. But most of the resemblance lies in its flexible spirit. No video game is as malleable as a real DM’s imagination, but Baldur's Gate 3 asks you to make a ton of decisions, even when you don’t realize it, and the timeline of its world morphs alongside them. It becomes more rigid as it rolls along, but a driving plot and a compelling cast of characters help keep it moving. The near-universal praise is no accident: Baldur's Gate 3 follows gaming’s eternal promise, that “your choices matter," to an extent most narrative-based games do not.

All of this works better as a solo experience, but it takes on a different flavor in its co-op mode. You and a partner can go through the whole story, but neither of you have to follow the other’s lead. Part of the fun is in the ways your buddy could undermine or alter your quest in unforeseen ways, perhaps by killing an important NPC or taking up a quest with contradictory goals. But if you want to travel together and work out combat strategies in harmony, that's fine too. As with Divinity: Original Sin 2, another great couch co-op RPG from developer Larian Studios, the question is this: What would happen if your RPG party members behaved like actual people, not a collective bound to one path? The answer: a mess, potentially, but a thrilling one. Just note that a playthrough can last well over 100 hours, so you’ll want a partner who can commit for the long haul.

Vampire Survivors is a retro-looking, shoot-em-up title with a twist: The game shoots for you. You select from a handful of characters, each with distinct abilities, and face hordes of monsters in a set of endless stages. As you defeat enemies, you gain experience. With each level-up, you choose a new weapon or passive ability, adding a layer of strategy and contingency as you figure out fun “builds.” Do it right, and you’ll mow down screens of baddies within seconds. The only goal is to survive until a time limit. It’s a focused, naturally replayable loop, and the comically huge amount of cannon fodder you end up blasting by the end of each round borders on a parody of gaming power fantasies. But it’s that auto-firing that makes Vampire Survivors stand out: Instead of caring about aiming or dexterity, it’s about movement and the ability to visualize space within chaos.

All of this still applies in its co-op mode, which supports up to four players, but there’s a new element of communication on top. You split weapons and trade off leveling upgrades, so you’re encouraged to stick together and work out how to turn your team into a collective monster-blasting machine. This can make the game slower and tougher, especially at first, but the extra tension adds more excitement to each run.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is another ghost-hunting adventure starring Mario’s scaredy-cat brother, who this time must stomach his fears and use his “Poltergust” vacuum to rescue his friends from a haunted hotel. Its co-op mode isn’t available until an hour-ish into the story, but at that point, a second player can become “Gooigi,” a Luigi clone made of green goo with infinite lives. (It makes sense when you get there.) Though the game isn’t particularly tough, this setup gives you more freedom to mess around with puzzle and boss fight solutions without having to start over repeatedly.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 has some frustrating elements more generally — controlling that ghost-gobbling vacuum can be annoyingly imprecise, and backtracking through previously-conquered areas can get tedious — but the creative level designs and Pixar-esque animation give it a distinct personality compared to other Nintendo games. It’s a silly and usually satisfying time, one that’s especially well-suited for kids.

Clubhouse Games is a compilation of 51 classic tabletop games, from Yahtzee and Connect Four to shogi and nine men’s morris. Not every entry in the collection supports couch co-op, but most do, and almost all are made easy to grasp.

Apart from being accessible, Clubhouse Games stands out for the quality of its curation. The included games span cultures, time periods and even modes of play; some are built on skill or patience, others on abstraction or chance. When you first boot up the game, you’re asked to identify your “heart’s desire,” and there’s a fair bit of detail on each game’s origins and history as you go along. Taken as a whole, this is a game that recognizes play itself as a kind of universal connection. But even ignoring all of that, Clubhouse Games is a fun, chill time — much like busting out a favorite board game.

BoxBoy! + BoxGirl! may not look like much, but this minimalist puzzler from Kirby makers HAL Laboratory has the kind of simple pleasure and regularly inventive design you’d expect from a Nintendo-published game. In its two-player campaign, you play as Qbby and Qucy, two walking boxes with the ability to grow additional boxes out of their heads. Your goal is to get from point A to point B, using those boxes to cross gaps and navigate various obstacles along the way.

The catch is that you can only create a certain amount of boxes at a time, so you and your partner often have to think outside the box (sorry) to find a safe way past. You’ll start off making basic bridges, but the bite-sized levels quickly build on themselves with a stream of new ideas. Eventually, you’ll find yourself using boxes as makeshift grappling hooks, shovels, laser-blocking shields and more, in ways that quickly make sense. Simply beating the game isn’t difficult, but collecting the tricky-to-reach crowns tucked away in each stage brings a greater challenge if you want it.

The 3D platformer It Takes Two is one of the few full-scale, narrative-driven games that’s designed to be exclusively played in co-op. As such, it takes care to avoid the trappings of many co-op experiences: It rarely asks both players to do the same thing at the same time, and thus it rarely makes one person carry all the weight. It constantly throws new concepts at you, and while some levels can drag, its bouncy movement feels good throughout.

Its saccharine yet oddly dark story isn’t as satisfying: Few games make divorce seem like a happy ending as much as this one, and you’ll never want to hear the words “Dr. Hakim” again by the time you’re done. But if you can ignore the dialogue, It Takes Two delights more than it doesn’t.

The first-person puzzler Portal 2 launched more than 12 years ago, but it's received new life with a Switch rerelease. Either way, its sharp writing and cleverly layered puzzles more than hold up today. Co-op play takes the form of an entire separate campaign. It’s not as big on story as the solo mode, but it still does a fantastic job of gradually teaching you how to think spatially. It also ensures you and your partner actually communicate. There’s no way to play on PS4 or PS5 nowadays, but on PC, you can download a range of community maps for a greater challenge, too.

Streets of Rage 4 faithfully revives the classic series of side-scrolling beat-em-ups from the Sega Genesis (which remain fine co-op playthroughs themselves). You move to the right, position yourself efficiently and pulverize waves of bozos with a flurry of punches, kicks, throws and special moves. The hand-drawn animation style and bouncy soundtrack are both great, and most set pieces convey the “rage” part of the title effectively. This isn’t the most ambitious game, as it largely aims to hit high notes from 30 years ago, but it provides the kind of thrill, style and refinement any good beat-em-up should.

For a more accessible, albeit simpler, throwback brawler, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is worth considering as well.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a Lego-ified romp through the nine mainline Star Wars films. Like most Lego games, it’s dead simple to play — collect the things, bop the bad guys — so just about anyone can pick it up and enjoy. The best thing it has going for it is its sense of humor, as its abbreviated remakes of each film are loaded with cutesy gags and in-jokes. One favorite: wandering around Cloud City and finding the room where Lando Calrissian keeps his hoard of capes — and a heroic portrait of himself.

There’s an absurd amount of side quests and collectibles beyond the narrative bits, but most of those are repetitive. And the game's cor systems, while fun, aren’t meaty enough to make optional content all that interesting. Still, if you stick to the main stuff, you should find Skywalker Saga to be a good-natured love letter to some inherently goofy films.

Stardew Valley has exploded in popularity since arriving back in 2016, and it’s easy to see why: More than just a laid-back farming sim a la Harvest Moon, it is an escape, an engrossing alternate life where you’re allowed to putter around your farm, mosey through town, and take life slow, free from the burdens of aggression and competition. You and a friend can share a farm and divide up tasks in co-op, but the game isn’t fussy; if one of you would rather fish, explore the beach or simply sit around your house, it’s OK to do your thing. If you’d rather ruthlessly optimize your land for profits, that’s an option as well. Just note that you’ll need to build a cabin for your partner if they’re joining an existing farm.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection bundles remastered versions of the first six mainline Halo games, which continue to provide tighter control and pacing than most first-person shooters that've been released in the decades since. The original Halo’s campaign in particular remains essential. While some of the later narratives go completely off the rails — looking at you, Halo 4 — the general tone still strikes the right balance between goofiness and badassery. The newer Halo Infinite sadly dropped couch co-op altogether, but there’s still good fun to be had driving Warthogs and dual-wielding space guns in the classics. Just be aware that local multiplayer is only supported on Xbox, not PC.

Untitled Goose Game is a simple puzzle/stealth game that gets a lot of mileage out of its premise: You are a goose, and your only goal in life is to aggravate the residents of a little English village. If the idea of dragging a groundskeeper’s rake into a lake, pulling a seat out from under an old man right as he goes to sit down and generally honking at everyone in sight sounds funny to you, it’ll probably give you a good laugh.

The actual game part doesn’t have much variance to it — you mostly trial-and-error your way through a checklist of troll-y activities — but it’s appropriately silly, and it ends quickly enough to not run its joke into the ground.

Chicory: A Colorful Tale is an open-hearted adventure game set in a world of talking animals, where the wielder of a magic paintbrush is tasked with literally filling the land with color. You play as a sprightly dog who becomes that wielder. What follows is a cozy adventure in the vein of Zelda, but with a twist: You can use the brush to paint over the environment, at any point, anywhere you want, in various colors and patterns. This turns a somewhat familiar game into something of a digital coloring book, one that remembers your markings in time as you go along. Chicory is exceedingly gentle and never suggests you’re doing it wrong, so if you want to spend 45 minutes ignoring the story and painting trees purple, you can. There are tons of accessibility options on top of that.

In co-op, player one still controls the pace of progression, but player two gets another brush with all the same abilities. On top of giving a second set of hands to deal with the game’s various puzzles and boss encounters, this lets you both create a shared impression on the world, like two kids sharing crayons on a children’s menu. The narrative gets heavier than the cutesy art style suggests, exploring themes of self-doubt, impostor syndrome and other struggles that can come with creative work. But it’s refreshingly earnest throughout. If you’re looking for a warm, caring, but still goofy co-op experience, Chicory is worth a shot.

Spiritfarer is a management sim not unlike Animal Crossing, but with some light platforming elements. Like Chicory, it’s generally relaxed, sincere and low-stakes, but occasionally devastating in the way it puts a friendly face on adult themes. You play as Stella, a young woman who becomes tasked with ferrying freshly deceased souls into the afterlife. This mostly involves exploring the seas on a big boat, doing quests and gathering and crafting resources to make passing on more comfortable for the many characters you get to know. Player two joins in as Stella’s pet cat, Daffodil, who can’t trigger quests but can help with platforming and management tasks.

Spiritfarer’s sim elements can sometimes feel monotonous, and the way it addresses death head-on can be sad. Yet it stands out for being as much about love and care as sorrow. If you and your partner are into management sims and aren’t afraid to shed a tear, there’s beauty to be found here.

The Overcooked! games set you and up to three friends as chefs tasked with preparing various meals on a timer. In theory, this is as simple as grabbing the right ingredients, preparing them properly, then sending the finished plate off on time. But as the orders keep piling up and parts of the levels start to conspire against you, your ability to scramble and communicate under pressure is increasingly put to the test. There’s a non-zero chance your partner will call you an “idiot sandwich” by the time you’re done.

With its adorable looks, Overcooked! knows what it’s doing, but fighting through the anxiety of its most chaotic levels brings a particularly comical sense of accomplishment. The All You Can Eat edition includes the original Overcooked!, the (superior) sequel Overcooked 2! and all of their DLC. It also adds an “assist mode” that lets you ease up the timers on each order — which, yes, kind of defeats the point of the game, but also might be necessary if you and your friends start screaming at each other over cartoon fish chopping.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a vibrant space shooter in which you and up to three partners must collectively navigate a chunky battleship through levels packed with baddies and other obstacles. There are eight panels for controlling the ship’s engine, shields and various weapons, but each player can only man one station at a time, so you have no choice but to scramble and communicate to keep your shared body alive for as long as possible. The net effect isn’t unlike Overcooked!, then, but if you don’t mind a little stress, Lovers is effective in the way it makes you and your buddies work toward a common goal.

The run-and-gun shooter Cuphead is a stunner, with a lovely soundtrack and luscious animation that combine to make the whole thing feel like a playable cartoon from the ‘30s. (It’s no wonder there’s a TV show based on the game.) Somehow, the story, about a pair of talking cups who make a deal with the Devil, fits the art style like a glove.

Actually playing Cuphead, meanwhile, is an exercise in punishment. It is brutally difficult, with several intense boss fights that demand serious concentration. Playing it in co-op makes it even tougher, as those bosses gain more health, and having two characters jump around can make the action more chaotic. That said, the challenge is not cheap, and overcoming each fight brings the expected wave of catharsis. If you have a bit of a masochistic streak, it’s worth a go. Try the DLC expansion, too.

Spelunky helped popularize the trend of modern 2D platformers with roguelike elements — i.e., games where you mostly start from scratch upon death. Spelunky 2, released about a decade later in 2020, essentially polishes the original game’s formula.

Like Cuphead, neither of these games is for the faint of heart. Traversing their caves while avoiding the many death traps within is like descending into cartoon Hell. But again, it’s a (mostly) fair and legible challenge if you can stay patient. The procedurally generated levels keep exploration from feeling totally rigid, and the frankness and pure speed with which death can hit you gives everything a morbid sense of humor. Couch co-op can feel somewhat unnatural at times — everyone has to stick near player one to stay on camera — but having a partner or three to revive you is a relief, provided you don’t accidentally blow each other up first.

Ikaruga is more than two decades old, but it remains a crown jewel among shoot-em-ups. It takes a simple idea — every enemy and projectile in the game is either white or black, and you must change your ship’s color accordingly to survive —then makes the most of it across five meticulously crafted stages. It’s another notoriously difficult one, but there’s not an ounce of fat on it, and its central mechanic forces you and your partner into a near-perfect state of concentration. If you’re craving an arcade-style shooter, it’s still a rush. And if you get sick of dying, know that recent releases have added more accessibility settings, including the option for infinite continues.

Wizard of Legend is a top-down, 2D dungeon crawler with an emphasis on speed. It’s another skill-based roguelike, but letting your arsenal of spells fly and figuring out how to best chain attacks with your partner is a joy. Simply moving around is pleasingly kinetic, and the pixelated art style is kind on the eyes. It’s probably not enough to convince the roguelike-averse to hop aboard, but Wizard of Legend is a good one of those all the same.

Assault Android Cactus is an intense twin-stick shooter. You and up to three friends play as little androids charged with surviving hordes of robot baddies on a space freighter. (The tone is much more campy than gritty, thankfully.) Its tension derives from the fact that each android runs on a continuously depleting battery; if emptied, it’s game over. Since you can only replenish that battery by defeating waves of enemies, it behooves you to play aggressively and keep moving. The nonstop rush of baddies, gunfire and power-ups Cactus throws at you is exhilarating, and it’s heightened by quick-burst levels that rarely sit still. It's not easy, but it’s far from unfair, with most of the challenge derived from chasing high scores.

Wilmot’s Warehouse is a clever little game about organizing an ever-growing warehouse. At the start of each level, you get a batch of colorful boxes, which you must gather and tuck away on a timer. Exactly how you organize them is up to you. When the timer ends, customers will start requesting certain products within the warehouse, and the challenge becomes retrieving the corresponding boxes as quickly as possible.

The game, then, is coming up with a system that will let your specific brain remember where everything is and adapt to new box types as they roll in. There’s a frenzy to completing orders, and a dark undercurrent to the idea of two warehouse workers being scored as they fulfill this many orders and strive this hard for efficiency. (The latter is made particularly clear in the game’s sudden ending.) In the abstract, though, Wilmot’s Warehouse makes a soothing game out of our unending desire to create order from chaos.

Escape Academy is, in essence, a series of digital escape rooms. You work with a partner, comb for clues, decipher codes and solve puzzles to get out of locked rooms within a time limit. Like the real thing, it can result in some shouting, but it encourages constant teamwork and ultimately provides a sense of empowerment. The puzzles themselves are varied, but maybe a touch too easy. And the overarching narrative that ties the challenges together is just kind of there. However, if you and a partner have been itching to try a real-world escape room, Escape Academy should serve as a charming substitute for a couple of afternoons.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-co-op-games-for-pc-nintendo-switch-ps-4-and-more-141542259.html?src=rss

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