Multiplayer is fun, usually. Sometime this fun requires muting other players, but otherwise sharing a game with other people can be positively exciting.
But do you know what beats online multiplayer by a long shot? I’ll tell you: local multiplayer. Remember that? These days it’s a bit scarce, but an entire generation of gamers grew up strangling their friends with a gamepad cord and smashing keyboards on their heads for good measure.
But not all hope is lost, however. Every now and then local multiplayer makes it to a game, and when it does it’s frequently awesome to have it. In celebration of this slowly dying tradition we’re here to write about some of the best local multiplayer-capable games across PC, PlayStation, and Xbox platforms.
To be perfectly clear: not all of these games are strictly cooperative, some are very clearly competitive. They aren’t necessarily split-screen games, ether, often using a shared screen instead. It’s seems obvious, but it’s better to avoid terminology wars. What matters is that you can play them with a friend on the couch beside you.
You’re welcome to add your own suggestions in the comments below. Anyway, without further ado let’s talk multiplayer!
..or choose from the table below..
|Gang Beasts||Fighting||Funny, Co-OP||2018||BUY (PC)|
|Worms W.M.D||Strategy||Co-Op, Shared Screen||2016||BUY (PC) BUY (XONE)|
|Portal 2||FPS||Co-Op, Puzzle||2011||BUY (PC)|
|Castle Crashers||RPG||Action, Co-Op||2008||BUY (PC)|
|Injustice 2||Fighting||Co-Op, Shared Screen||2017||BUY (PC) BUY (PS4) BUY (XONE)|
|Lego Marvel Heroes 2||Action||Adventure, Co-Op||2017||BUY (PC) BUY (PS4)|
|Resident Evil (RE: 6)||Horror||Survival, Co-Op||2012||BUY (PC) BUY (PS4) BUY (XONE)|
|Call of Duty (CoD WW2)||FPS||Action, War||2018||BUY (PC) BUY (PS4) BUY (XONE)|
|FIFA19||Sports||Soccer, Co-Op||2018||BUY (PC)|
|Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes||Puzzle||Co-Op, Indie||2015||BUY (PC)|
Fists of Floppy
Available on: PC, PlayStation 4
Gang Beasts is a cute game. That’s probably the best word to describe the entirety of it. We’ve written once before about Human Fall Flat. Now imagine that character, only in a fighting game. Yeah.
In GB to take control of a clumsy, floppy humanoid bag of jelly, waddling endearingly towards enemies and latching desperately onto the environment. The game’s core mode focuses on slapping, grappling and otherwise pushing other players’ characters out of the arena, or into one of the deadly contraptions featured on most of the maps.
It’s an exquisitely goofy game, and a guaranteed good time when your friends come over. This is the kind of game where losing is fun, because of how silly it looks and how fast the matches are.
Available on: PC, PS4, XO, Switch
The Worms franchise has been with us for the past 23 years, and it had just as many versions and incarnations. Some better, some worse, but it is a testament to the strength of its premise that it’s still with us.
In case you somehow don’t know the series, a quick rundown. The games are traditionally PvP, set on a destructible arena. The players are given control over a team of cartoonish (and customisable) Worms, whose goal is to wipe the other teams out. It’s basically an artillery game, where the mobile battery looks like a worm, and weapons include bazookas, miniguns, Holy Hand grenades and Concrete Donkeys.
That’s about it. A very simple idea, some basic physics (like gravity and wind affecting projectiles), and tons of good fun. Within a few turns alliances and rivalries between players emerge, and if you’re anything like this writer, you’re going to have everyone allied against you before you even make one move.
Available on: PC, PS3, X360
After the smash hit that was the original Portal it was just a matter of time before we got a sequel. Portal 2 moved Chell’s story forward, albeit the once pristine Aperture Science facility was now derelict and clearly neglected. The single player campaign was plenty of fun, and offered some insights into the lore, but it’s not why Portal 2 made this list. You already know what the reason is, because you’ve probably read the title.
The cooperative mode switched Chell for two bumbling robots P-Body (looking like an orb with arms and legs) and Sherman (not looking like a tank, sadly) going through a custom set of challenges that can only be solved if both you and you co-op buddy work in tandem. But shenanigans are very much allowed, after all the idea is to play with portals! Throwing your partner into an endless portal loop is simple, and fun, but how about something more… deadly? With the fast and forgiving respawn system death is a slap on the wrist!
Available on: PC, PS3, X360
When Castle Crashers launched in 2008 for Xbox 360 it didn’t take long before it became a hit. It’s easy to see why, too. The game found just the right balance between being simple enough for the players to get the grasp of its mechanics fast, and complex enough not to become boring fast. Kind of like Super Smash Bros, only cooperative.
It doesn’t hurt that it has endearing, cartoonish aesthetic, a snazzy four-player local coop, and enough content to last you for a while. The fact that it’s still selling well after a decade is a testament to its quality as a party game.
Crisis on a finite couch
Available on: PS4, XO, PC, limited on: Android, iOS
Yeah, if the bright, colourful, and friendly Rayman Legends doesn’t strike your dark and gritty fancy, you may want to take a look at the sequel to the superhero fighting game Injustice.
Like is usually the case with fighting games, it’s always fun to play them on a couch. You can’t side-eye anyone for button mashing when you play online! Injustice 2 is a pretty cool game, it’s about fighting aliens and not being afraid of anything, not even getting dropped from the orbit. Seriously, these finishers can get pretty silly. Ever heard of overkill, Supes? Tone that down, you Kryptonian maniac!
The biggest change relative to the first game introduced in Injustice 2 is the gear system, which depending on your preferences provides only visual changes to the characters, or gives actual stat bonuses, because, sure, why the hell not. Either way you’re going to finally be able to let Robin slap Batman back (not to be confused with Batman’s back), and help Harley tell the Joker where he can shove his grin. Good times.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2
Available on: PC, PS4, XO, Switch
With the absurd popularity of superhero genre, it was no wonder Traveller’s Tales jumped headfirst into this topic with their patented LEGO games. One of the latest of the bunch is LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, and it’s focused around the chaos unleashed by the intertemporal conqueror named after the sound of a falling bucket: Kang.
The game has dozens upon dozens of characters, although some of them are variants such as Gladiator Hulk in addition to other Hulks. There’s also a good bunch of popular locations such as K’un Lun, Xandar or, of course, New York. Thanks to Kang’s time shenanigans, all these places exist in a more-or-less coherent form known as the grand city of Chronopolis.
Like all LEGO games it has a spectacular dynamic split-screen, which may take some getting used to, because it plays wild with the way the screen is divided depending on your avatar’s positions, it has wacky Marvel-themed humour, and more variety in the character design department than you’d expect.
Resident Evil (5, 6, Revelations)
Bio Resident: Evil Hazard
Available on: PC, X360/XO, PS3/4
Resident Evil is a series that has a history that’s as long in real world as it is convoluted in-universe. By which I mean, you’d need to play all extensive list of games starting with 1996’s original to get the tangled mess of its story and themes. No wonder Capcom decided to soft-reboot it. But it turns out RE is no stranger to local co-op.
One of the games that are still very warmly received for that purpose is Resident Evil 5. It lets you play the game with a single partner, and you take control of the series mainstay Chris Redfield and a newcomer called Sheva Alomar. Even if you play alone, Alomar is still with you, watching, judging, and theoretically helping thanks to the game’s AI.
Resident Evil 6 has an iffy reputation, especially by comparison, and Revelations (2) is kind of obscure, but they also feature local co-op, at least for some of the platforms.
Call of Duty
Go to voice mail
Available on: Virtually everything, across all titles
The Call of Duty games certainly aren’t strangers to local split-screen co-op, especially on consoles. The latest game to keep the trend is Call of Duty: WW2, with a local co-op for two players, an a general co-op for up to four, which mean two copies of the game, two couches, four controllers, and this math is certainly going somewhere I don’t know I can follow.
The standout co-op mode is of course all about Zombies, a delightfully tongue-in-cheek counterpoint to the gung-ho mood of the single player campaign, or the much maligned by the internet pit of despair AKA competitive multiplayer. How can you dislike a mode that gives you The Hoff as a upbeat DJ playing funky tunes in an amusement park beset by brain-hungry zombies? It’s some Romero-meets-Wright stuff, right there!
Reset at 42?
Available on: PC. PS3/4, X360XO, Switch
I mean… it’s FIFA. Series veterans are certain to pick something new to be excited about in FIFA 19, but it’s kind of like looking for gameplay nuances in Dynasty Warriors games. They are there, but unless you’ve played a bunch of them you really don’t get what the fuss is about. Unfortunately I’m more of a Dynasty Warriors game (within budget and reason) than a FIFA guy, so I’m afraid you’ll need to get a feature rundown from somebody more informed.
But nothing of it changes the fact that FIFA’s always been cool if you wanted to play some virtual football (or soccer, if you are from the USA, I guess) with a buddy while sharing beverages from a common mini-fridge. All you need is an additional controller and you’re good to go. Truly, this is the football of the 21st century! It even supports up to four players, for a nice 2v2 gameplay. The only way they could have messed it up is by not introducing it at all.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Is that a threat, mate?
Available on: PC, PS4, Android, Switch, XO
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a mixture of polishing up your communication skills, learning how to quickly refer to manuals, and, eventually, knowing the game’s ins and outs by heart at which point you simply need to find new people to play with.
The idea is really simple: one person is at the computer screen, watching as a procedurally generated bomb is ticking the time down to zero. The other player (or players) have a defusal manual. Neither sees the other’s stuff, so they need to quickly exchange information and questions in order to stop the clock.
It’s a simple idea, but an effective one, and can be a highlight of nerdy get-togethers with your buddies for quite some time. It’s quite helpful if you figure out a sensible way to divide the manual between yourselves, to speed things up.
Gears of War 4
It’s not Locust, honest!
Available on: PC, XO
Gears of War 4’s main feature is Marcus Phoenix’s magnificent grizzly old-man beard, but there’s also some thrilling gameplay there as well, even though the leading role fell to Marcus’ son, J.D. Yeah. Marcus has a son now. If you wonder how that happened, I can’t help you without some reference figures, but the gist of it is that sometime in the 25 years that have passed since the original trilogy’s end ol’ Marcus settled down.
In keeping with the “family traditions” and stuff GoW4 features a local co-op, so you can invite a friend over and stick to walls together to push against the tide of NotLocust as the badasses you are. Good job, heroes. It won’t bring any of the Carmines back, and Dom is still not OK, but otherwise it does a good job introducing a new generation to a game which helped define one of the most popular features of the previous generation’s shooters’. Which is easily good enough.
Available on: PC, PS3/4, X360/XO, Switch
Diablo is a Blizzard game, which should tell you enough already. They seemingly come out once every solar eclipse or so and stay until the nearest conjunction of planets opening the portal to the elemental plane of money. Their popularity redefines genres, and so far we’re yet to see a successful hack’n’slash game that doesn’t owe a lot of its DNA to ol’ Diablo. Yeah, this is about Diablo 3, but it’s basically Diablo with better technology and extensive ongoing support, prolonging its life beyond mere content of the game box.
As for Diablo 3, it has local co-op, of course, but not on PC, which is some…what unfortunate. But if you’re playing on console, then all you need is a few controllers and a bunch of people willing to come over. D3 supports multiplayer for up to 4 people, so get a ton of drink and snack ready. Or be a grouch and go online, so you only need to feed yourself.
This list is the start of co-op darkness (well, sorta. The Darkness II only had online co-op) for you. It doesn’t include the greatest co-op hits you could find on specific platforms, but we have other pieces for that and you are encouraged to read them if you’re looking for games worth playing on your gaming platform of choice. These articles can also help you get a better grasp of what kinds of games are still playable in split/shared-screen local multiplayer these days if you’re into that.
PS: some games this writer wanted to put in didn’t make the cut, but what can you do?