10 co-op games that actually require cooperation

Defense of the Ancients

In short, if you don't work together in Defense of the Ancients, you'll lose every time.  DotA is a team-based RTS where two teams of five each struggle to destroy the other team's Ancient, which are huge structures that lie on opposite sides of the map. Each player controls a hero that gains experience and levels up like an RPG, so everyone has a stake in the action.

Above: Everything you need to know

DotA started as a custom scenario for Warcraft III, and while it still isn't technically its own game, for all intents and purposes it is – its popularity and appeal have vaulted it into its own realm. Valve is even working on a sequel, Dota 2, set to release late this year.

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead doesn’t just reward you for good teamwork, it also punishes you and your fellow survivors for not cooperating. Stray too far from your team and try to take on the zombie apocalypse by yourself  - and you’re liable to get pounced, smoked, charged, barfed or spit on, or just plain torn to shreds. Bad things happen in Left 4 Dead when you don’t work together and the constant threat of death – is what makes Left 4 Dead’s race to the safe house and last stands so intense.

Above: The best laid plans...

The same level of coordination is also required when playing as the infected in versus matches. Strikes on survivors need to happen at the right time and in the right spots. If an infected team of four lacks constant communication with headsets and mics, it’s hard to react to the survivors properly and all too easy to get blasted to bits.

Bubble Bobble

The genius of Bubble Bobble's co-op is in its subtlety – you don't have to work together, and there's nothing overt in the game that indicates potentially advantageous strategies for working together, but once you get to some of the tougher levels, Bubble Bobble becomes a litmus test for how strong your friendship really is. Not only will you find that levels become easier when you lend each other a hand, but there are so many goodies and power-ups scattered throughout each level that learning to share nicely is absolutely essential if you value your friendship. Woe is the dino who takes the shoe whilst already enjoying the power of the shoe when his friend has none.

The necessity for cooperation in Bubble Bobble is clearest in its final boss battle against Super Drunk. If Bub and Bob go to their respective corners and shoot bubbles at the wall trying to get as many hits in on Drunk individually, the battle is nearly impossible and both dinos will die from being pelted with alcohol bottles. But when you pair up and take turns creating a bubble stream for each other, you'll be surprised at how quickly the big alcoholic goes down, even with his 80 HP. It's like the difference between two people trying to scale a too-tall wall individually versus one making a foothold for the other and then pulling him up.

Gears of War

Gears of War made massive changes in the world of co-op, not the least of which was building much of the campaign around the concept. Where other games made single system co-op fun, the first Gears with its impressive drop-in/drop-out online co-op actually made solo play seem lacking in comparison. Major setpieces were built around characters working together, such as one projecting a protective spotlight as their friend explore dangerous ground, or pushing a flaming vehicle side-by-side for cover. It made the camaraderie between giant meatbags Marcus and Dom feel pretty believable despite their unbelievable circumstances.

Gears of War 2 was another colossal shift in co-op gaming with the introduction of Horde. The mode teamed up to five players at once against a steady stream of increasingly tough AI enemies on maps designed specifically for Horde. Teamwork was very necessary, but personal achievement was awarded as well. The competitive cooperation challenged the classic multiplayer modes in addictiveness and was the biggest selling point of the sequel. Soon Horde became so popular that similar modes were a prerequisite for almost every shooter that followed it.

Portal 2

Four portals instead of two. That’s technically all Valve had to add for Portal 2 to feature a “cooperative testing initiative” mode, but such a simple description cannot do any modicum of justice to how much the gameplay transforms as a result. With four portals, you and your puzzling partner can accomplish astonishing, death-defying feats of physics that a single player would never even consider.

Suddenly you can build up twice as much velocity, launching yourself twice as much distance. Suddenly you can stretch light bridges and excursion funnels to previously unimaginable corners of the test chambers. Suddenly you can combine and coordinate Aperture technologies to push a button while still standing on a pressure switch, or catch a flying companion cube in midair while directing that cube’s flight from across the room.


Above: No exaggeration

None of this is remotely possible without constant cooperation and clear communication between players – not only because the puzzles are complex enough to require four portals, but also because they are difficult enough to require two brains, testing theories and sharing ideas every step of the way.

This is merely a cross section of our favorite types of co-op that actually require cooperation - let us know what your favorite co-op games are in the comments below.  

May 31, 2011


Portal 2 co-op video walkthrough
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  • 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

Showing 1-20 of 54 comments

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