With the rise of online gaming, couch co op games are perceived as going the way of the dodo or even a selling point if they allow you play with your friends from the comfort of your couch. It’s a strange situation for anyone who grew up in the nineties, a decade in which countless friendships were put on the line in games of Goldeneye and Mario Party.
With games like Halo, which built a lot of its reputation on local multiplayer, doing away with split-screen and more and more games adopting purely online components, you couldn’t be blamed for being pessimistic about the future of picking up and playing games with your friends in the living room. However, there’s still a decent stream of the best couch co-op games releasing fairly regularly and refusing to bend the knee to the norm, as well as some all-time classics that you can always fall back on.
Here, then, are the best couch co-op games for partnering up and taking down whatever the game throws at you. It’s a multi-generational and eclectic list that’s in no order, so there’s bound to be something for every taste and level of experience, meaning that maybe even your nan would want to pick up a controller.
The Best Couch Co-Op Games
1. A Way Out
Developer: Hazelight Publisher: EA Originals Platform(s): PC, PS4, XB1
To say that A Way Out is a kick up the backside for mainstream gaming would be an understatement. Not only could you play through the entire campaign in local co op with a friend next to you with a controller in hand, but you could also play online, even if the other person didn’t have a copy of the game. Perhaps a surprisingly pro-consumer coming from something affiliated with EA.
Playing as Leo and Vincent, you and a buddy must escape from prison and then set out on a quest for revenge. Cinematic and engaging with plenty of gameplay quirks, A Way Out utilises its split-screen perfectly and is easy to pick up and play for gamers of all experiences. A truly underrated gem of 2018 that more people should play.
“Even with some sloppy writing and a hackneyed story, A Way Out’s gameplay is so infectious and its heart so sincere that it’s almost impossible to resist. Long live couch co-op.”
2. Hidden Agenda
Developer: Supermassive Games Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS4
PlayLink is an interesting (if not really all that exemplary) series of games on the PlayStation 4 that more people should really take a look into, especially if you have any non-gamers to entertain. Using just your mobile phones means that anyone can pick up and play a PlayLink title, though your grandmother may need to upgrade her Nokia 3510 to get involved.
Hidden Agenda is actually a hybrid of couch co-op and competitive play, and it works pretty well. Players must track down a serial killer by making tough decisions, but they must also be suspicious of each other. Every so often, a player will be given a titular hidden agenda to complete without anyone else realising. Perfect for weeding out the snakes in your family.
“It isn’t without some (pretty irritating) flaws, but Hidden Agenda could be the game that shows people what PlayLink is made of.”
3. Overcooked 2
Developer: Team17, Ghost Town Games Publisher: Team17 Platform(s): PC, PS4, XB1, Switch
You can replace the original Overcooked with its sequel if you’re looking to save a few bucks, because they’re ultimately the same thing: couch co-op games that will put your bonds to the test by tasking you with running a bustling kitchen when the orders pile up. Who will be the Gordon Ramsay in your friends group?
Overcooked 2 is one of the best couch co-op games because it hides a lot of stress underneath its cutesy veneer. Everyone needs to be doing their jobs and effectively — whoever’s responsible for it all coming crashing down is likely going to be struck from the Christmas card list. It’s best enjoyed with a full crew, so recruit people you’re sure aren’t going to let you down, you culinary tyrant.
4. Unravel Two
Developer: ColdWood Interactive Publisher: EA Platform(s): PC, PS4, XB1
Unravel was a gorgeous platformer that won more than its fair share of hearts, so when its sequel surprise-dropped during E3 2018, there were plenty of people who were intrigued to see how it would turn out. The answer, thanks to the introduction of some great co-op that doesn’t tax the mind too much, was that it was the natural and superior continuation.
Two players can take control of their own respective Yarnies, each as important as the other. Players must work together to use momentum and finesse to solve puzzles, as well as to hold each other gently at just how beautiful and pure the whole thing is. Unravel Two is one of 2018’s most underrated games and a prime example of how much couch co-op can enhance the experience.
“It’s a genuine step-up from its predecessor with smoother controls and more gameplay styles while also retaining the irrefutable charm that won the first game so many fans. With any luck, Unravel Two will win many more.”
5. Streets of Rage
Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform(s): Various
“What’s a Streets of Rage?”, you ask before we dropkick you out of a window for insubordination. The franchise has arguably done more for couch co-op than any other, bringing with it its eminently cheesy charm and the fact that you will be unable to put it down, even when the boss transports you right back to the beginning because he’s a cheap asshole.
The original game is what many hallow as the best in the series, and it’s hard to argue with that as it’s when it was at its purest. Playing as Axel, Blaze, or, erm, Adam, you and friends must fist and slice your way through the streets (with a bit of rage) and rid them of crime. It’s a little dated, sure, but Streets of Rage holds up remarkably well in terms of “one-more-try” appeal.
Developer: Traveller’s Tales Publisher: WB Games Platform(s): Various
And we mean basically any. The Lego games are known for being easy pick up and play couch co-op games that suit any gamers for any age with tie-ins for many famous licenses to choose from. It could be argued that there heyday was with the Harry Potter and Star Wars games, but recent fare has also been more than worth a look.
Titles like Lego Marvel Super Heroes and Lego The Incredibles are all going to suck up your time — Traveller’s Tales’ games have a sneaky habit of being simple yet surprisingly addictive, meaning that you will be hunting down bricks like a madman before too long. What’s that, son? You haven’t been to school in four days? Don’t worry about it. We are Lego now.
7. LittleBigPlanet 3
Developer: Sumo Digital Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS4, PS3
Too many people sleep on just how expressive and creative the LittleBigPlanet series allowed you to be with its third incarnation showing the most ambition of them all, even if the developers had changed hands. LittleBigPlanet 3 allows you to create your own levels and challenge others to best them, long before Mario had a go.
Up to four players can work together to overcome levels, either official ones or those made by the community, and you will certainly need to lean each other from time to time. That being said, LittleBigPlanet 3’s learning curve isn’t too bad and its constant stream of fun collectibles will have you coming back for more. A great game to play with the youngsters to help unlock their creativity.
8. Dead Nation
Developer: Housemarque Publisher: SIE Platform(s): PS4, PS3, Vita, PSP
Killing zombies is just about the most cathartic thing we can think of, mowing down waves of the one-track-minded idiots and letting your troubles dissipate. In the case of Dead Nation, however, it’s not quite a walk in the park as the undead threat is numerous and very likely to nibble on your face often. That’s why you should bring along a friend to join in with the fun.
Housemarque fans will love what they find in Dead Nation: arcade-y gore that’s easy to pick up and play but difficult to master. There’s a nice variety of enemies here and plenty of content to not only best but also to achieve high scores in, meaning there’s a nice bit of friendly competition between co-op partners. If you’re not convinced, imagine Left 4 Dead was top-down and–oh, you just downloaded it.
9. Rayman Legends
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Platform(s): Various
Rayman really doesn’t get enough love: Legends can hold its own against the biggest platforming greats. It’s bright, cheerful, and just generally easy to play if you’ve ever played a platformer before. It’s also great to play with a friend during couch co-op, and you can even bring up to three friends along for the ride.
And what a lovely ride it is, the infectious music of Legends bound to make you and your friend’s heads bop as you collect all of the Tings, which will become your life’s mission before too long. It’s not a terribly difficult game, either, allowing your friends to revive without much hassle by popping their balloon.
If that sounds a bit out there, you’re going to have to try the weird and wonderful worlds found in Rayman Legends for yourself.
Another Housemarque game, who rather disappointingly decided to abandon the style they made their name on recently. It’s a shame, because Nex Machina represents them at their very best: a frenetic bullet hell shooter that’s sure to drive you and a friend insane in all the best ways. You may think you have the game matched on one difficulty, but if you take it up even the tiniest bit, expect pain.
There’s no grand story to Nex Machina. It’s just you, your friend, and waves upon waves upon aliens to kill. Just like Dead Nation, Nex Machina pits players against each other for higher scores, which, when combined with the game’s wicked pace and tendency to constantly amp up the pressure, will keep you coming back for more.