Don’t be deceived my readers. Stian may create the illusion of being a fun, honest guy, but in truth, he has a devilish side to him. This list is proof of that! I am the mountain hermit of video games, a social recluse who hasn’t had a second controller plugged into his consoles for long that the ports have grown moldy. And he challenges ME to name my 10 favorite cooperative games.
I will not forget this Stian…
#10 Stardew Valley
Working on a farm is hard, tiring work. Every day you need to water the crops and tend to the animals, clear out space for expansion and stock up on new seeds to prepare for the next round of harvest. There is so much work to be done and very little of it can be delegated or even automated.
Fortunately, two players make half the work, which leaves more time for engaging with all the other fun activities Stardew Valley has to offer. After a friend joined me, I actually found myself able to go out there and interact with the villagers. No longer was my ability to explore the dungeons dependent on a rainy day allowing me to slack off, nor did I have to slowly crawl my way towards progress in the town hall collection side-quest. Enjoying farm life together really is for the best, so long as the two of you aren’t aiming for the same romantic option.
#9 Halo 3
This is my late-teens talking here, but I really enjoyed Halo 3 a bunch. It’s the only FPS besides Team Fortress 2 that I have put a significant amount of time into. Besides the online multiplayer, there was also much fun to be had in playing through the game’s fantastic storyline with a friend or two.
The missions are exciting and varied, with setpiece moments where all players will have plenty to do. Vehicle segments, in particular, become exciting, as you no longer have to depend on the aiming and driving skills of the AI soldiers. I fondly recall organizing runs on the Bungie forums to hunt for secrets and try to get some of the more elusive achievements together. I must have gone through the campaign like 30 times on different difficulties and with different people, yet I could still fire it up today and enjoy it just as much as I did back then.
#8 Warhammer: Total War
The marriage between Creative Assembly’s Total War franchise and Games Workshop’s Warhammer fantasy universe is a dream game come true. Players are invited to take command of their favorite factions from the tabletop games and lead them to glory, lest they face ruin at the hands of chaos and their enemies. And, by the grace of Sigmar, we need not face such challenges alone.
Players can compete with each other, but campaigns can also be played as allies and, in the unpredictable world the game is set in, knowing that at least one competent friend will always have your back is a relief. Strategy on the world map remains turn-based, as both players build their empires and armies. The real difference comes when one player is forced into combat and chooses to fight it out in real-time.
Even though the fight is for the sake of one player, they can choose to “gift” units to the other. This allows both players to participate and also cuts down on the number of units each one has to manage. Assigning a micro-heavy unit like shock cavalry or a chariot to another player makes it easy to use those to their maximum potential, or you could give them a catapult and let them actually use the first-person shooting mechanics for once. A fantastic idea that elevates the Total War series to new heights.
More hands don’t necessarily make lighter work. When trying to complete a task or solve a puzzle, more people means more negotiation, more coordinating, and more room for any of the people involved to make a mistake. For a case study, look no further than Octodad: Dadliest Catch.
In this wacky physics game players have to solve various problems while controlling an octopus trying to keep up the illusion of being an ordinary man. Buying groceries, cleaning the yard, even getting married and taking care of your kids, all of them are activities that don’t get any easier when you’re a sea creature flopping around on land. It’s a tough and hilarious game on your own, but when more players join in you have to divide up control of Octodad’s tentacles. Yea, try solving puzzles when up to 4 people need to cooperate to move a single character.
It’s not a productive way to play the game, but that’s hardly the point.
#6 Hyrule Warriors
Hyrule Warriors is a flawed game, yet still one that combines two of my favorite franchises in gaming into one. However, once you have played the game with a friend, there really is no going back to singleplayer.
Two players allow for more map control, it halves the grind involved in leveling characters, it makes it easier to gather (timed) collectibles without repeating levels until you’re sick of them, and it makes the adventure mode actually halfway playable. Remember those tough-as-nails missions that you had to clear to unlock the next tier of weapons for a character? Well, now somebody can play a powerful hero like Link and help you out while you are forced to play a weaker character.
It’s thanks to cooperating with a friend that I managed to get every fighter equipped with their tier 3 weapons and got the money and experience required to make those warriors stronger. The game is playable if you just want to work through the story mode, but a buddy is almost required if you want to explore the post-game content without griding for a century.
You awaken on a small raft in the middle of an endless sea. There is no land in sight and no hope for rescue; you and your friends are all trapped on a tiny floating square in an endless abyss. Time to get to work.
Raft is a crafting survival game where you and your buddies need to survive the harsh seas by gathering floating scrap. With time & dedication, 4 friends on a tiny raft can turn into a community sailing a majestic ship. Every player can participate, whether they are gathering food, expanding the raft, harvesting scrap, fighting off enemies, or researching new blueprints. There is always something to work on and even a player that doesn’t have the aesthetic sense to design a beautiful, floating home (like me) can still grab a spear and fend off the sharks trying to destroy the work of their friends.
This is a game that can turn into an obsession. Friends can keep coming back to it to expand and redecorate, to explore new places and see what crazy things they might find. Maybe today you’ll find an obscure resource needed for a new blueprint. Maybe today you’ll get your vengeance on that shark that ate the living room.
#4 Crusader Kings II
Crusader Kings II stretches the criteria of this list a little bit. You can play it with a bunch of other people, but none of those are obligated to “cooperate” with you. In fact, those who are entirely devoted to cooperation may be up for some nasty surprises down the lines. Still, I can’t exclude a game that I put hundreds of hours into and which has given me some of my favorite memories in gaming that I got to share with other people.
You can help your friends win wars. You can also have them assassinated. You can help raise their children. You can prey on their wives and secretly have them be your children. You can throw parties for all your friends, then beat them up in a drunken fit of rage. Go crusade for Christendom together while your chancellor back home forges claims on their lands. Advance science by gazing at the stars on a romantic date, then sacrifice your friend & lover for the glory of Satan.
Friendship is great, but wealth, glory, and lands… those are even greater!
To call Overcooked a cooking game would be underselling it. Overcooked is the game you bring if you’re expecting the apocalypse and need to figure out which of your friends will perform best under unreasonable pressure.
You and your friends need to operate a kitchen and produce meals to please the specific tastes of unseen customers. However, Overcooked revels in throwing curveballs your way that ensure you’ll have a hard time getting the best score on each stage. Sometimes you’re operating a kitchen, sometimes your kitchen is spread across 3 moving trucks. Levels rearrange themselves, levels are slippery, enemies appear, everything is fire, all the plates get dirty, it’s hectic and relentless.
Trying to get orders out and somehow taming the madness with your friends is the pinnacle of cooperation and friendship.
To return to the world of Warhammer one more time, we have a game that raises an important question: why has nobody else attempted to imitate and improve upon Left 4 Dead.
Valve’s zombie-slaying first-person shooter was certainly a big hit with gamers, but has been dormant for over a decade now. Vermintide and its sequel take the familiar 4-player co-op gameplay and give it a ratty make-over. Players pick between various characters with iconic backstories for the Warhammer setting and must then navigate levels set in the city of Ubersreik, which has been taken over by Skaven.
Together, players must complete objectives in the levels while surviving hordes of vermin warriors and dealing with powerful elite units like sneaky Gutter Runners or the regimented Stormvermin. Cooperation is just as vital as it was in Left 4 Dead, but comes with the added benefit of upgrading your characters and their gear, replacing the simplistic tiered weapon list Valve used.
I’d even recommend the game to people who aren’t fans of the license, as it is a great introduction to the world & setting. And hey, if Valve isn’t going to actually expand on their own ideas, I am happy to see fantastic teams like Fatshark do it in their stead.
#1 Dark Souls
“We are amidst strange beings, in a strange land. The flow of time itself is convoluted; with heroes centuries old phasing in and out. The very fabric wavers, and relations shift and obscure. There’s no telling how much longer your world and mine will remain in contact. But, use this, to summon one another as spirits, cross the gaps between the worlds, and engage in jolly cooperation!“
Such are the unforgettable words of Solaire of Astora, the fan-favorite character who introduces players to the multiplayer component of Dark Souls. Dark Souls is a game renowned for its difficulty, yet even more important than being hard, Dark Souls is a game that is loved for allowing each player to tune the difficulty through their actions. Choosing jolly cooperation is one of those options.
Players can summon their friends to aid in boss-fights or to overcome difficult parts of the levels, they can call in help when invaded by villainous players looking to murder them, and they themselves can put down their signs and wait for the moment where somebody calls upon their aid in return. It’s a fantastic experience playing the game together and there are considerable rewards for those who take the time to lend fellow players a hand.
This is a series I can fire up time and time again. To see the spirits of other players wander around, seeing pools of blood reveal where others struggled, that alone gives the world a feeling of being lived-in and active. And when I catch a bit of a break or need some extra souls, I do enjoy putting down my sign and seeing who I might be able to help out.
Putting together this list was a struggle and I don’t know what I did to Stian to deserve it. To pay me back for this, I demand, DEMAND, a list of games that made you want to visit foreign locales. The rules for this are simple:
- The game (or a level within) is entirely set in a foreign country OR
- The game (or level) is clearly inspired by a foreign country
- Playing through it made you want to visit that place in real life
- Whether you did or did not actually visit that place sometime is irrelevant