10 co-op games that actually require cooperation

Lots of games have co-op modes, but not all of them truly encourage meaningful cooperation and teamwork. Two (or more) guns are always better than one, but the games on this list go beyond mere strength in numbers by brute force. These are games that prove that two brains can be better than one too, and that sometimes lending an assist to your friend can be just as satisfying as getting the kill yourself.

Contributors: Tyler Nagata, Henry Gilbert, Carolyn Gudmundson, Charlie Barratt, Chris Antista, Matt Keast

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Lara is most known for her very solitary adventures, so it’s surprising that Guardian of Light has such amazing co-op elements. Each player has unique abilities: Lara has a grappling hook while Totec has spears and a shield. When you play the game in co-op, the puzzles actually change to accommodate two players, providing awesome moments like a giant stone staircase that slides inward and there’s a race to climb it before each stair-step disappears - players must help each other climb by standing on the shield, pulling each other up via grappling hook, and jumping on spears thrown into walls. Moments like this are incredibly exciting as players must communicate and coordinate to solve the puzzle in limited time.


Other puzzles require each player to bypass an obstacle in a different way – for instance Totec creates a bridge of spears for Lara to jump across, and then she creates a tightrope for Totec to balance across. Even in many moments where traps or enemies don’t require specific abilities the game demands communication, as each player can maximize their effectiveness by communicating the timing of their bombs and the various enemy attacks.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Though most games on this list are made to foster a connection between players who know exactly what they’re doing, Super Mario Galaxy 2’s co-op gets away with being friendly to new and inexperienced gamers without being insulting to the “real” player of the game. Perfect for younger siblings or casual friends, the co-op mode in Galaxy 2 lets one person play as Mario while the second player takes up a Wii Remote and offers support as a Luma floating beside the red-hatted one. Obviously it’s not the deepest experience for player two, but it has just the right balance of abilities and consequence to make it fun for both parties.

Unlike the pretty informal role of mainly collecting Star Bits in the first game, player two’s Luma in SMG2 can help Mario in so many ways. They can stun enemies, move harmful obstacles, carry health-replenishing coins, and give an underwater Mario air bubbles. There’s so much to keep player two active and helpful to the main player, while the fact the Luma can’t take any damage removes any worry on the part of the second player of slowing down their friend. Maybe it’s not the most hardcore game around, but it’s a very clever way to turn this particular solo experience multiplayer.

Team Fortress 2

We're not the best at Team Fortress 2, but that's okay because we have a lot of teammates. We have Heavies on the frontlines with Medics keeping their health topped off. We have Engineers holding the line with turrets and building teleporters to keep our army mobile. We have Pyros checking for Spies, Snipers keeping the enemy team honest, and Soldiers launching storms of rockets for splash damage.

You can’t help cooperating in Team Fortress 2. By the very nature of its design, the class-based shooter fixes it so that teammates naturally complement and cover for each other just by playing their class of choice. But when you do work closely with your team (or even just a few other players), it really pays off. Few things feel more gratifying than several well-timed ubers pulled off by Medics to create a temporary wall of invincible teammates to power through the enemy’s defenses.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft doesn't require regular cooperation. It requires massively multiplayer online cooperation. Even if you want to run an entry level 10-man raid, you'll need to know your class inside and out and have a strong set of gear from running Heroic instances. You'll also need a headset and mic to communicate with your party, but mostly to listen to instructions from the raid leader. And that's only if you want to run a raid. If you actually want to clear a 10-man or 25-man raid in WoW’s endgame, everyone will need to know everything about each boss encounter.

If you've never been in an MMO raid before, check out this tutorial video from TankSpot – and note the precision and teamwork required by all raid members needed in order to down the encounter. At the very least, everyone in the raid needs to know the boss's abilities, the different phases of the fight, and where they should be to avoid taking damage.

Above: TankSpot's guide to beating Omnitron Defense System. Your reward for mastering this encounter and defeating all constructs: glorious loot

Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers

Just when we thought we’d run out of reasons to reiterate that Capcom developed the most badass Disney games the world, thank goodness we get to look back at this most sensational corporation. Back in the NES days, single-screen co-op was generally reserved for games with guns or games with balls (think Contra and/or Tecmo Bowl, kids).

So not only was it super rare to have two players in a sidescroller occupy the same screen, but the idea of being able to partner up and form a strategy was downright mythic. You could bludgeon your buddy with apples, and even throw each other for an early instance of friendly-fire, but you could also put one chipmunk on defense by using what very well could be gaming’s first glimpse at a cover system. Pressing down while holding crates provided a one-time protective shield against attacking enemies, however, should one player grab an elusive steel box, he could take infinite hits and conceivably run a block on ground based enemies while the other chipmunk took care of the rest.


  • Shepard212 - August 11, 2011 7:45 p.m.

    My favorite team-driven game is Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Whenever I play a 2-on-2 team-game, each character cannot defeat the opposing team without a partner. In a stock-game, any time one teammate loses all his lives, the other surviving teammate is outnumbered and helpless against the other team of two, provided that one of the two opponents isn't knocked out either. Meanwhile, in a time/coin-game, both members of the same team have to combine their point/coin amounts in order to gain more than the other, otherwise they'll still lose. This is why in a 2-on-2 Smash Bros. game, having a partner is vital. You HAVE to protect and depend on your partner to defeat the other team, or else one of you will be a complete liability to the other.
  • Japanaman - June 2, 2011 11:12 p.m.

    Eh, I beat Chip N Dale by myself just fine. A partner always seemed to hinder me. One game I cannot beat by myself is Four Swords. That DEFINITELY should have been on the list. That, FF Crystal Chronicles, and Phantasy Star Online.
  • ChocoMongoose - June 2, 2011 10:14 p.m.

    Oh Four Player Podcast, taking the co-op out of cooperation
  • lovinmyps3 - June 2, 2011 8:08 p.m.

    Portal 2 is THE best co-op I've ever played. It was soooo good!
  • Kipper - June 2, 2011 6:56 p.m.

    Gears 1 is a great co-op campaign , except when the 2 players are forced to split up - doubling the chance of failure. those parts are actually easier to play solo.
  • Limbo - June 2, 2011 6:12 p.m.

    I like me some CoD Zombies. 2 player split screen and 4 player system link. Everything's funner when the people you're playing with are right next to you.
  • SphincterSquirrel - June 2, 2011 3:41 p.m.

    I couldn't wait until Rescue Rangers came out when I was a kid. After Contra this was my next Co-op dream of torturing my brothers with aggravating gameplay.
  • jmcgrotty - June 2, 2011 7:35 a.m.

    Co-op needs to be removed from any and all games. Anyone who supports it needs to have their ass taken outside and beat senselessly for destroying the industry. Quit supporting this crap, guys!
  • revrock - June 2, 2011 2:28 a.m.

    Monster Hunter Tri, Kirby's Epic Yarn- and Superstar.
  • ripperroo123 - June 1, 2011 10:49 p.m.

    Disappointed Lode Runner isn't on here. The Legend Returns had several co-op-requiring-co-op levels, but the 360 version seems to be made of these.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - June 1, 2011 10:35 p.m.

    I agree with Gears, L4D, Portal, and Bubble Bobble. I would argue that Halo ODST requires co-op, but then again, firefight was the only good thing ABOUT that game.
  • philipshaw - June 1, 2011 10:23 p.m.

    Great list, Portal 2 is the best example of this headline. I would like to add Timespliters 2 and in particular the neo-toyko level because if you don't work together there is no chance of passing that level
  • jayrockslife - June 1, 2011 9:25 p.m.

    i agree with most of these (can't agree with ones i haven't played lol) One game that I used to LOVE playing co-op with my dad was The Lost Vikings on Genesis. I loved playing as those silly vikings trying to solve the puzzles and find their way home.. I still have the original game manual with all the level passcodes written down in it.
  • SuperSubGaz - June 1, 2011 6:36 p.m.

    Ohh you game playing minors... Head Over Heals you underage numpties! Learn your history and you will understand the now!
  • Xtapolapopotamus - June 1, 2011 5:26 p.m.

    You know Chris Antista helped this article when Rescue Rangers was mentioned. Great article, always love co-op games that actually require you to COOPERATE with each other, instead of just not kill each other all the time. That said, it's always worth a laugh to steal the last health pack and leave a teammate for dead in L4D as you scuttle to the safehouse while they get flayed to death.
  • oneshotfinch - June 1, 2011 4:48 p.m.

    Spec Ops in Modern Warfare 2 mastered co-op. You had to be in sync with all of your partners actions to get the 69 stars.
  • Darkwun - June 1, 2011 4:29 p.m.

    id have to add resi 5... mainly because the 1 player is so damn hampered by sheva/chris's AI without a human player! DAMN U TWIN MINIGUN GUYS! Sheva i said man that turret... no... the FUCKING TURRET! no, leave the herb alone... no dont move! what, where are you going now! STAY THERE! for the love of god do i really have to run all the way over to the turret while being shot at just to tell you to go back to it? a fuck off then, im gonna go play resi 4!)
  • willmaster123 - June 1, 2011 4:06 p.m.

    Annnnndddd... of course the newest game is the top of the list.
  • Ninja-KiLLR - June 1, 2011 3:30 p.m.

    splinter chaos theory. where is it??? the co-op missions require so much teamwork it is crazy. but i love the chipendals one that game rocked or it is just my memories thinking it was great since i was like 7 when i played it.
  • Imthedoctor - June 1, 2011 3:17 p.m.

    that L4D video made my day xD

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