The best local co-op games as of 2020
What are the best local co-op games of 2019?
Once upon a time, before the Internet drew us all into our own lounge-room bubbles, playing video games with friends involved actually being in the same physical space as each other. There was simply no other way. For gamers of a certain age, childhood memories revolve around two controllers, a tiny CRT television set (which was made smaller still by splitscreen) and a couch.
The video games of the 1980s and 1990s were largely designed around this reality. Even while playing solo, reminders were hard to avoid; “Player 2 Press Start” would flash constantly in the top corner of the brawlers of the day.
But with online connectivity, and the increasing ubiquity of services like Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, online matchmaking became the norm. The after school rush was no longer to the same house; we’d retreat to our own homes and then reconnect with each other via headset chat. Couch co-op experiences became harder and harder to find.
Fortunately, there are always exceptions, and a select few developers have continued crafting video games best experienced with friends in the same room. From quirky simulations to intense shooters, here are the best couch co-op video games available on modern platforms.
Best Local Co-op Multiplayer of All Time
Rocket League is a bona fide video game phenomenon, having crossed the 50 million players mark late last year. It’s easy to understand why. Few concepts are as instantly appealing as “soccer, but with rocket-powered cars instead of people”. Real life version when?
Developer Psyonix was astute enough to realise how much fun groups of friends could have behind the wheel together, so Rocket League doubles down on couch co-op, accommodating up to four people playing together on the same team using the same screen.
In the mess of tyres screeching and airborne cars doing backflips to connect with the oversized ball, coordinating strategy with teammates is no easy task. If it goes wrong, the entire team will end up haplessly chasing the ball around like an under 10s footy team. But when it all goes according to plan, it’s a thing of beauty: few gaming moments are more satisfying than nailing a perfectly weighted cross into the back of the net.
Psyonix has kept Rocket League fresh with constant updates, adding new modes and iconic screen vehicles like K.I.T.T. from Night Rider, various Batmobiles, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and even the Jeep from Jurassic Park.
Rocket League even achieved world peace. Well, kinda. It’s one of the only games that’s completely cross-platform friendly, meaning PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC players can all battle against each other, ensuring the community will thrive in the long-term.
Rocket League is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Amazon Australia.
Story takes a backseat to endless loot hunting and monster-slaying dungeon crawls in Diablo 3, so playing with friends seems like a no brainer.
Fortunately, the console version of the game added couch co-op to the experience (still not available on PC, sorry).
The result is just as enthralling as you’d expect.
Diablo 3 is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC via Amazon Australia.
Best local co-op multiplayer on Xbox One
Gears of War 4
Few modern shooters are as geared towards co-op as, er, Gears. Not only is the game’s lengthy campaign playable (and arguably better) in couch co-op, but the wave-based Horde 3.0 Mode is ready and waiting once you’re done with the story.
Set a generation after the original Gears of War trilogy, players take control of JD Fenix, son of original protagonist Marcus Fenix, and his squad of Outsiders. No longer sanctioned by COG, JD and his crew need to battle new robotic foes the DeeBees without the help of Sera’s mighty military-industrial complex. Fortunately, JD’s dad is a pretty useful guy to call on in a pinch…
The campaign is a whirlwind of pretty sights, intense firefights, and a fun but schlocky sci-fi B-movie story. Levels feature more branching paths and open combat bowls than ever before, giving co-op partners more tactical options than you can point a chainsaw-machinegun at.
From the standalone breakneck vehicle sections, the crunchy cover shooting, or the defend-the-fort Horde Mode, everything feels right in Gears of War 4. And it feels even… righter… in co-op.
Gears of War 4 is available for Xbox One via Amazon Australia.
Although the beautiful 1940s Disney animation style grabbed all the headlines, Cuphead deserves kudos for its great co-op gameplay.
The tough-as-nails boss battles don’t really get any easier in co-op because they get buffed with more health, but hey, at least you have someone to share the pain with!
Cuphead is available digitally via the Microsoft Store.
Best local co-op multiplayer on PS4
Want to work in a professional kitchen but don’t want to deal with the wage theft and grievous workplace HR violations? Overcooked 2 is hilarious, intense co-op action for up to four players, both locally or online.
Clear communication is essential as you work together to chop, cook, and serve up the onslaught of incoming food orders from increasingly irate customers. This is made more complicated by the random oven fires and platforming hazards that naturally occur when your kitchen just so happens to be situated on a white-water raft or a hot air balloon. (Ok, maybe the HR violations can’t be avoided?)
Overcooked 2 adds the ability to throw food to your co-op partner or even straight into the pot from a distance. This means if you’re accurate enough you can minimise walking time and maximise food production efficiency. It’s a nice touch that gives skilled players more options while also adding to the overall hectic vibe – nothing says “everything is under control” quite like a steak being hurled across a burning kitchen.
Few co-op games are as hilarious as Overcooked 2, which is always a hit among small gatherings.
Overcooked 2 is available for PlayStation 4 via Amazon Australia.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It’s exceptionally strange that the only notable video game based on J.J. Abrams’ US$2 billion Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a Lego game.
Fortunately, the Star Wars purist’s loss is the co-op fan’s gain.
Lego games have always worked well with a couch buddy, especially for younger players, and this is no exception.
Loosely following the events of the film, and detouring into some bonus previously unseen canonical backstory (no, seriously), you’ll smash every brick on screen and encounter blocky renditions of all your Star Wars favourites.
Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens is available for PlayStation 4 via Amazon Australia.
Best Local Co-op Multiplayer on Switch
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, a bizarre X-COM inspired concoction starring the Mushroom Kingdom’s finest characters and Ubisoft’s most annoying, is far better than it has any right to be. There’s a certain genius in its madness.
Although you can’t play the main story mode with friends, there are five extra campaigns that can be blasted through in couch co-op. Action plays out a lot like in single player, except instead of controlling the entire squad, each player takes charge of two characters.
The turn-based nature of combat means you’ll be waiting around to take control for a little while, but with games like this discussing the finer points of strategy is part of the charm. Many abilities become exponentially more powerful when they interact with others, so successfully teeing up match-winning chain reactions with a friend never stops being hilarious fun.
Few co-op games are as hilarious as Overcooked 2, which is always a hit among small gatherings.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is available on Nintendo Switch via Amazon Australia.
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe lets up to four players get involved in Mario’s Goomba-stomping madness on the same screen. The results can be a little chaotic.
Keeping track of exactly which character is yours is sometimes tough, but what do a few accidental deaths matter when the payoff is this much silly fun?
New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is available for Nintendo Switch via Amazon Australia.
Best Local Co-op Multiplayer on PC
A Way Out
A Way Out is the rarest of breeds: a game that only works in co-op. The brainchild of developer Josef Fares, who previously dabbled with co-op in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, A Way Out incorporates multiplayer and storytelling in an innovative, unique fashion.
Unlike most co-op games, where breezy arcade fun is the primary goal, A Way Out is a narrative-driven experience. Players take control of either Vincent or Leo, two inmates that meet in jail and begin plotting their escape. After gathering the necessary materials for their plan they eventually break out, at which point the story switches to a good ol’ fashioned on the lam tale. And, as you know, these always have happy, not-at-all tragic endings…
Action largely takes the form of a series of cinematic minigames. None excel in and of themselves, but taken as a whole it’s a great way to make sure both players feel invested in the narrative outcomes. A Way Out is a reminder that even in the worst circumstances, trust, either earned or misplaced, is a powerful tool.
A Way Out is available digitally for PC via Origin.
Few games are as charming as Trine 2, a gorgeous physics-based platformer that tasks a small fellowship with crossing a colourful, majestic landscape.
The three playable characters – a knight, a wizard, and a thief – each have unique abilities that are used in tandem to progress past foes and puzzles.
Trine 2 is available digitally for PC via Steam.
Best local two-player co-op
Call of Duty: WWII
Sure, there’ve been two CoDs since, but Call of Duty: WWII still has the best two-player split-screen co-op to date. While CoD may be renowned for its short-lived campaign and bombastic multiplayer, one of the somewhat-sung-but-not-sung-loud-enough parts is the co-op Zombies mode. Nazi Zombies, to be specific. With CoD: WWII, this went full circle. What started as a tacked-on co-op mode in the World War II-set Call of Duty: World at War has evolved into a full-fledged, insanely fun horde-based shooter that’s packed with puzzles and underlined with a strangely addictive B-grade story (in the very best kind of way). You can play it in two-player split-screen for the zombies, for the joy of cracking the puzzles, or to have it all. Either way, you’ll have a blast.
Call of Duty: WW2 is available for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One via Amazon Australia
Bullet-hell games tend to be best played solo because of the sheer amount of on-screen insanity. By adding more players, it becomes harder to track. Somehow, despite the abundance of visual overload, Nex Machina not only lets you track it playing solo, it works incredibly well in shared-screen two-player co-op. It also makes it easier to tackle the tricky projectile-filled combat puzzles with a buddy.
Nex Machina is available physically via Limited Run games on Amazon Australia
Best local 4-player co-op
The simple things in life are often the best, and Heave Ho proves that’s also true of co-op mechanics. In Heave Ho, you play as a disembodied head albeit with arms flapping off either side of your noggin. In terms of controls, it’s a cinch. Grip or release your customisable avatar’s left and/or right hand and the movement of your left and/or right arm. The rest is up to physics and strategy. You could play Heave Ho alone, and while fun, it doesn’t hold a candle to the sheer hilarity of four-player same-screen co-op. Working together to physics platform your way through increasingly trickier levels as a team is as challenging as it is entertaining. It’s also equally hilarious to fling your friends into certain death, or deliberately not catch them when they swing for your dangling arm. Play it for the puzzles but love it for the side-splitting LOLs.
Even though there’s somehow another Starship Troopers game (based on the movie) in development, you really only need to play one. Helldivers. Sure, it’s not an officially licensed game, but it is clearly inspired by the sci-fi property and it also happens to be officially awesome. This is no cakewalk either, and while many hands make light works of serving a nice cup of “liber-tea” to increasingly threatening alien foes, friendly fire is permanently on, which means firefights are always intensely satisfying.
Helldivers is available for PlayStation 4 via Amazon Australia