Developer: Blizzard Publisher: Blizzard Platform(s): Various
Exploring dungeons is almost always a solitary experience: Link has been doing it on his lonesome for decades. However, Diablo III actually becomes a better game the more players you have along for the ride, meaning that you can share the spoils of glory with your friends as you cut down the game’s many fearsome foes.
You can find Diablo III on many different platforms, but it’s arguably best on consoles, which may come as a surprise. Even the Switch, which is not known for its power, can handle you and a bunch of friends beating the snot out of beasties without much hassle. Diablo III is an endless supply of challenges and content, so you’ll no doubt find it as tempting as jamming a Soulstone directly into your forehead for some reason.
12. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Developer: Bungie/343 Industries Publisher: Microsoft Studios Platform(s): XB1
We’ve already mentioned Halo on this list of the best couch co-op games and Halo: The Master Chief Collection may just be the best package on this entire list. Featuring the first four entries in the iconic franchise (the first three probably representing it at its peak) with new and updated visuals, it’s the best way to play the games of your youth with a friend without the nostalgia glasses slipping off your face.
Whether it’s jumping on a Warthog together for the rousing finale of Halo 3 or just cutting a path through the early foes on the Pillar of Autumn in Halo 1, the split-screen is bound to make some memories come flooding back. There’s no excuse not to try it out as it’s available on Xbox Game Pass, so get it downloaded and get ready to hear those rousing chords during your next social hangout.
The Revelations spin-offs are neat little extra peeks into the Resident Evil universe and do a lot to dissuade those who believe that the series has strayed too far from its iconic survival horror roots. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is closer to Resident Evil 2 than it is Resident Evil 7 and is considerably lower in terms of budget, but don’t let that stop you from diving into its nightmares.
Playing as either Moira Burton or Claire Redfield, players must work together to escape Sushestvovanie Island and the grasp of the “Afflicted”, which are basically zombies if they had a soft spot for angel dust. In a unique twist, only one player in your duo will have a gun, leaving the other to melee weapons and operating the flashlight. It’s rough around the edges, but probably the best horror co-op game going.
14. Rock Band series
Developer: Harmonix Publisher: MTV Games/Harmonix Platform(s): Various
Even the least hip members of your family will have some familiarity with the Rock Band series, much in the same way that the Wii went on to such huge success. They bridge the gap between those who play games and those that do, which means it’s a nice surprise to see your otherwise relaxed mother shred one out to Dragonforce.
Really, it’s much of a muchness with the Rock Band series: there’s not a great deal to distinguish. It’s a bit of an expensive party distraction, too: you will need all of the peripherals if you want to get the band back together. There’s nothing quite like pulling off a song in plastic-y harmony, though, especially when everyone’s had a little bit too much to drink.
15. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Developer: Steel Crate Games Publisher: Steel Crate Games Platform(s): Various
We all like to think we’ll be able to keep our cool in stressful situations, putting on sunglasses and walking away in slow motion after a job well done. Here comes Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes to remind you that you are a sweating mess when you have anything other than making yourself some toast to co-ordinate.
Players must work together to defuse a bomb before it explodes, which typically entails checking a manual and feverishly trying to figure it out. There’s also a catch: the player responsible for defusing the bomb also can’t see what they’re doing so they need total guidance from their friends. Should be able to to do that without any hitches. Ahem.
16. Don’t Starve Together
Developer: Klei Entertainment Publisher: Klei Entertainment Platform(s): PC*, PS4, XB1
Just like you don’t want to be trawling dungeons on your own, you definitely don’t want to be left on your lonesome on a desert island — remember how nuts Tom Hanks went in Castaway? Don’t Starve together takes the wildly successful survival formula of the base game and add couch co-op into the mix, though you can only find it on consoles.
Whether you’re trying to invent something to keep yourself alive or desperately batting away what comes in the darkness, Don’t Starve Together is a worthwhile bonding experience. Nothing brings people together quite like trauma, after all. It certainly beats going on a camping trip and being thoroughly miserable the whole time, that’s for sure.
Valve’s Portal series isn’t the biggest IP they have in their (now pretty dusty) collection, but it’s one that’s almost universally loved by everyone. Portal 2 is more of the same mix of inventive puzzles and irreverent humour, but this time with the introduction of some wonderfully realised co-op that will make you and a friend realise how dumb you are together.
Using the infamous Portal Gun (or Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, if you want to be all business-like), players must open up new areas by creating portals and then transporting themselves and objects through it. Despite it being relatively straightforward and not all that long, people still play Portal 2 to this day for a good reason: it’s damn fun and easily replayable.
18. Salt and Sanctuary
Developer: Ska Studios Publisher: Ska Studios Platform(s): Various
Probably the least pick-up-and-play game on this list of the best couch co-op games, the steps to enabling co-op in Salt and Sanctuary are a little unusual, following the Soulslike tradition of letting you figure it out for yourself. It’s a game that constantly wants you to learn the hard way, though having a buddy does make the pain stop, or at least shares the burden of failure.
A 2D side-scroller, Salt and Sanctuary is one of the most outright difficult game on this list, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s familiar with the inspiration it wears on its sleeve. You’ll have to work tactically with your friend as the challenge increases to compensate for an additional party member, so prepare for death and prepare to weep softly into the shoulder of your partner after the seventieth time of trying to beat The Witch of the Lake.
Developer: Studio MDHR Publisher: Studio MDHR Platform(s): PC, XB1
Speaking of tough games, Cuphead is a notoriously difficult bullet hell platformer that is somehow even harder with another player. If you think the game will let up on you after a giant carrot kills you by an inch of a pixel by bringing a friend along to help out, you are sorely mistaken. It’s pain, but the good kind; the one that will keep inviting you back for another try.
With one player playing as Cuphead and the other taking up the handle of Mugman, you must fight your way through relentless levels before going on to challenge the game’s many unforgettable bosses before eventually going up against the Devil himself. The slightest slip in concentration is punished in difficulty, so don’t forget to leave your pride at the door before you start playing.
20. Golden Axe
Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega Platform(s): Various
Does Golden Axe stand the test of time of that well? Not really. It’s more than rough around these edges these days, its visuals looking more and more disproportionate and just plain odd with each passing year. Still, even when VR consumes us all and we become part of a dystopian hivemind of VR Chat addicts, Golden Axe will remain fun.
Similarly to Streets of Rage, you and friends play as a ragtag trio of heroes as they seek to reclaim the titular Golden Axe — you really shouldn’t be looking for anything much more than that. A side-scrolling beat ’em up that was a pillar of many childhoods, it may not have the polish and high-octane that the modern generation are used to, but make them give it a try and they may be surprised.
If they aren’t convinced, trade them in. The kids, not the game.