It takes two... sometimes three or four
For some, games are a deeply personal, very private thing. For many, though, they're something to be shared, talked about, and played with others. Sorry lone-wolves, but this feature isn't for you. This is all about the games you can play with friends (and total strangers), where you team up to tackle specific goals or just blast waves and waves of AI baddos.
Doesn't matter if your buddies are on the same sofa, or half-way across the world - as long as you play cooperatively, rather than against each other. This list focuses on the games you can play right now, on your various consoles, so don't expect to see older, less accessible titles here or co-op blasts from your past.
Nioh took the unconventional Dark Souls formula for co-op play and expanded on it in some interesting ways. More importantly, they made it much easier (read: possible) to hook up with your friends online, and then provided a wealth of content to blaze through together.
Whether you're hacking your way through Nioh's terrifying bosses or taking on the punishing Yokai Realms, Nioh provids plenty of incentive to tackle its steep difficulty ramp with friends.
Play it on: PC, PS4
Even still in Early Access, Epic's charming new base-defense/shooter/survival game hybrid is a better platform for cooperative play than many full releases. Not only does playing with a handful of friends give you a better chance to fend of waves of husks or construct the ultimate base, those friends can also provide you valuable XP boosts and a better chance to nab some of Fortnite's massive catalog of rare loot.
Fortnite is a shining example of a game that gets more fun the more friends you have playing with you, and is only lingering this far back on our list because it's not quite feature complete yet. Plus, it's popular Battle Royale mode is totally free, representing the perfect opportunity to jump in with a squad and compete together.
Play it on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
What's better than exploring a randomly-generated series of caves filled with dangerous creatures and obstacles? Well, er, quite a few things, actually. The answer we were looking for is: exploring a randomly-generated series of caves filled with dangerous creatures and obstacles with a friend. Yeah? Ok, this joke has out-stayed its welcome.
Grinding through Spelunky solo is a tough gig, as the game can be unforgiving at times, so taking a buddy along for the ride is a good call - especially if you make use of the various abilities they can bring.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One, PS4.
22. Pit People
From the people behind another co-op classic, Castle Crashers, Pit People is one of the most pleasant surprises of 2017 thus far. On top of its charming art style, genuinely amusing writing, and deceptively simple gameplay, Pit People gives you the rare opportunity to play a tactics game with friends.
The ability to sit back and strategize with another player before you commit to a plan of attack makes cutting a bloody swath through a horde of delightfully bizarre foes even more wildly entertaining.
Play it on: Xbox One, PC
This is a side-scrolling shooter, deliberately designed to evoke memories of both classic games like Metal Slug and Contra, and fist-bumping '80s action movies like Commando and The Delta Force. It's one of the easiest games on this list to drop in and out of at a minute's notice - you and a friend can just shoot the crap out of a level in five to ten minutes and feel good about yourselves.
Sure, high five each other, why not? Characters have amusing names designed to ape '80s action icons (Bronan the Brobarian and Brobocop are highlights), but their cutesy pixellated designs belie an incredibly challenging game.
Play it on: PS4, PC
20. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
While the Uncharted games are played principally for its story, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy also boasts some great co-op options (most of which are cribbed straight from Uncharted 4). The core is a traditional horde mode called Survival that lets up to three players battle it out against waves of enemies.
Rather than just making it a foe-killing grind, though, you get specific objectives every now and then, like nabbing a specific item of treasure from the map, or defeating a marked enemy within a time-limit. The Lost Legacy adds a new twist called Survival Arena with new enemies, siege zones, and a pack of new modifiers that keep things fresh across 100 enemy waves.
Play it on: PS4
19. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
This Tomb Raider spin-off is all about tackling puzzles with friends, so don't expect the series' traditional ledge-jumping, mercenary-murdering gameplay here. What you do get in Temple of Osiris - or Guardian of Light, the original - is a bunch of tricky puzzle rooms (interspersed with some not-all-that-great combat) that require your characters' various abilities to solve and survive.
There's a real beauty in working out how everything fits together, and the only thing this game truly lacks is personality. But when you've got friends to fill in the narrative gaps with their own personalities, this becomes much less of a problem.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
18. Call of Duty: Zombies Chronicles
Really, you can still play zombies mode on any Call of Duty game and still have an absolute blast, but Chronicles is kind enough to collate all the best maps from World at War through to Black Ops 2 and provide a fresh coat of paint for the audio and visuals.
All eight maps benefit from all the new features Black Ops 3 introduced, making them all feel even spookier than their original iterations (and with a much greater potential for diversity). Some people now buy Call of Duty exclusively for the zombies stuff, and the wealth of options - including insane power-ups and weapons - now make this a game in its own right.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
17. Far Cry 4
Far Cry 4's Tibetan open-world is a vast, beautiful place to explore... so why play tourist with a friend? Sure, that means you can both drink in the breathtaking mountain vistas, but you can also cause twice the mayhem.
Shooting up mercenaries here is entertaining, but crafting elaborate schemes with a buddy to drive an angry elephant through an enemy camp (for example) is the real joy of Far Cry 4's co-op.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
16. Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
If you've never sat on a couch and played a Lego game with your child, friend, sibling, or significant other, you're really missing out on the great things in life. Yes, there are a ton of co-op Lego titles out there, but the most recent one - Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 - is our new favourite.
You get to play as just about any Marvel character you can think of, from Rocket Raccoon to Squirrel Girl. The cute aesthetic, simple gameplay, and adorable cutscenes are incredibly charming, and they can be enjoyed by everyone. Except people who hate Marvel, whoever the hell they are.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
15. Friday the 13th: The Game
A bit of an odd choice for a best of co-op list because of its asymmetrical gameplay, Friday the 13th makes our list because when you're on team counsellor, working together with other players is not only essential, it makes for some of the most interesting coop interactions in gaming.
From attempting to lure Jason across the map while other players gather critical items, to using Tommy Jarvis as the lynchpin for a desperate attempt to finally take down everyone's favourite invincible goalie, playing with others at Camp Crystal Lake is (almost) as rewarding as it is dangerous.
Play it on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
14. Monster Hunter Generations
There's something insanely satisfying about working with your friends to bring down enormous enemies in games. Feats you thought previously impossible become realistic goals when theres a bunch of you working together.
You could probably pick any Monster Hunter game to capture this cooperative spirit, but our favourite is Monster Hunter Generations on 3DS. It supports local and WiFi play, so you don't necessarily need to be in the same room, and it looks ace in 3D. Plus, it's huge, so there is plenty to pick at here.
Play it on: 3DS
13. Sonic Mania
Playing as a backup or supplemental character in co-op is rarely as appealing as being in the spotlight, but Sonic Mania manages to make flitting around as Tails almost (or even more) fun than being the Blue Blur himself.
You get to smoke enemies with your lethal, eponymous appendage without fear of retribution and, if you're feeling charitable, even lift player one out of danger or safely above deadly obstacles. Being an invincible, dangerous ghost is just as fun as it sounds, and it hearkens back to the great 2D Sonic titles of the Genesis era.
Play it on: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
12. Tom Clancy's The Division
No, Tom Clancy's The Division isn't quite as accomplished as other co-op open-world games like Destiny 2, but it's still enormous fun to play (and you can now pick it up real cheap). Set in a post-virus-apocalypse New York, you take up the mantle of a Division soldier sent to restore order and help the surviving civilians. Open play can be tackled solo, but missions really require you to team up and smash through a serious wall of bad-guys.
Your various skill sets combine to make you and your buddies a proper team here, the third-person shooting stands up really well in collaborative play, and the loot that drops at the end of each mission should keep you coming back for more. And as one of Ubisoft's vanguard of "living games" it's constantly being updated and improved, even today.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One, PS4.
11. Total War: Warhammer
Total War: Warhammer is one of the best entries in the Total War franchise, which in turn means it's one of the best grand strategy games of all time, especially if you have any affection for the source tabletop miniatures game. And like the tabletop game, it gets infinitely better when you play with other people.
While we were a bit disappointed at the lack of a local option, being able to jump into a full grand campaign with a friend online was one of the best multiplayer experiences of 2016. And now, with mods that let you play as the same army as your partner, or alter the game in any number of insane, fantastic ways, Total War: Warhammer offers a massive slate of reasons to keep coming back.
Play it on: PC
10. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Unless you've invested in a VR headset, you probably haven't even heard of this one. However, it's a uniquely brilliant take on co-op play, and demands your attention. One person wears the VR headset, while a number of other people sit - in the real world - and look at a booklet of bomb-defusal documents.
The person inside the VR headset sees a briefcase with a bomb in it, and various devices to disarm, which he/she describes to the people in the real world. The idea is to use the bomb disposal docs to defuse the device by... actually talking to each other and cooperating. It's all set to a time limit to add tension, and bombs get increasingly tricky to dismantle as you play. It's brilliant fun, and a perfect party game.
Play it on: PC, PS4, PS VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
09. Rocket League
This is essentially football with cars instead of humans. Oh, and there are other sports too, like basketball, and it's almost as much about pulling cool stunts as scoring goals. However, as a game to play with buddies, Rocket League is unique and easy to just pick up and play.
You'll curse friends as they let in a soft goal, you'll want to scream and hug them when they score a screamer just before time expires, and you'll laugh at their sad attempts to get airborne instead of actually playing the game. All good fun, though.
Play it on: Xbox One, PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
08. Diablo 3
This dungeon crawler is designed to be played with friends, not to mention replayed multiple times, so there's really no limit to the amount of swag you can hoover up with your pals. The beauty of Diablo 3's co-op is that - despite the simplistic combat - you can tinker extensively with load-outs to make each fight more interesting. Certain abilities and items work perfectly with others, and it's up to you to tinker with them to create winning combos.
And given Blizzard's pedigree for supporting its games years or decades after launch, with content drops like the Necromancer being the latest example of that committment, Diablo 3 promises a long tail and ever more numerous reasons (and methods) to keep slaughtering demons.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
07. Left 4 Dead 2
A majority of shooters add co-op in as an afterthought. Valve's Left 4 Dead 2 is built exclusively for four players to fight side-by-side, trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Every stage is near timeless, and populated with foes designed specifically to force players to play together to the best of their ability.
While the first game was strong, including brilliantly designed elements specifically made to enhance the co-op experience, Left 4 Dead 2 really perfects the formula, shining the survival-based gameplay into a nugget of solid gold. It's an older game, and the age is starting to show, but it's still a best-in-class co-op shooter experience.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One (backwards compatibility)
06. Rock Band 4
The mother of all party games, Rock Band 4 harnesses the almighty power of rock to unite four would-be musicians in glorious harmony (or hilarious chaos). Whether you're ridiculously drunk or stone-cold sober, crooning Queen lyrics and attacking the drums on Expert-level Blink 182 songs is always better with friends - and regardless of their skill level, anyone can hop in and rock out.
Rock Band 4 excels at bringing people together: cheering on your guitarist after a flawless solo just comes naturally, and witnessing your otherwise-quiet friend belt out high-pitched Boston choruses will have you giddily laughing in awe. Expensive initial set-up, but worth it if you party pretty regularly (or live in a dorm room).
Play it on: Xbox One, PS4.
Overcooked sounds simple - prepare a bunch of meals as chefs within a certain time limit. Easy. Well, not so much. While there are up to four of you playing, it starts to get tricky to keep track of the game's various commands and stipulations, as well as avoiding various hazards and pitfalls in the kitchen itself.
This can lead to some frantic play, and only the most cohesive of teams will get those dishes out on time. Warning: may cause bickering among even the closest friends.
Play it on: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
04. Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4's campaign demands to be played with a friend. While the tone of this game is darker than the original trilogy, there are still epic set-pieces and golden opportunities for cooperative butchery. In fact, the campaign is very much designed for co-op play, with many more branching paths and alternative vantage points than previous games.
On top of that Gears 4 lets you and a bunch of buddies carve up Locust in the series' now infamous horde mode, which sees you facing down waves of enemies together.
Play it on: Xbox One, PC
03. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
Few feelings in gaming are sweeter than shooting massive guns and collecting loot with your buddies. That's exactly what Borderlands 2 brings with its drop in, drop out co-op. For the more casual gaming session, you can just rock up and shoot through some grunts, sharing out their kit for later trade-ins. Hey, maybe you level up a little: whatever.
However, you can also kick it up a notch and tackle some of the game's mega-bosses by getting properly coordinated with both kit and tactics. Those who do often reap the rewards of mega-rare loot drops and - more importantly - you get to reminisce with real friends about that time you took down Crawmerax The Invincible with only a sliver of health remaining. Good times.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, PS Vita
02. Destiny 2
Bungie's sci-fi epic is built on the ability to join up with other players as much as possible. Part FPS, part MMO, Destiny 2's outstanding shooting mechanics and tempting loot grinds will keep you and your friends in for the long run, or at least until Destiny 3 inevitably comes out and everyone jumps ship. Not only are there a ton of Adventures, Strikes, Nightfalls, and six-person raids to participate in, but you'll also find yourself working with random players you encounter in the world.
Public Events literally fall out of the sky, tasking you and anyone nearby to fight off hordes of enemies for that extra piece of loot. If you've somehow never jumped on the Destiny train, you still have time to find and friend and become a Guardian pf the galaxy today.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
01. Portal 2
Portal 2 is one of the most unique co-op experiences out there. You and your friend play as two goofy robots, Atlas and P-Body, making their way through an assortment of Aperture Sciences test chambers. With two sets of portal guns come more complex puzzles, which require precise timing and cooperation to overcome.
This co-op style forces the players to collaborate in previously unimaginable ways, working to solve separate parts of a puzzle before coming together at the end to finish the section. It's endlessly rewarding, especially when you start tooling about with portals to drop your buddy into a pit of fire, or trap them in an infinite loop.
Play it on: PC, Xbox One (backwards compatibility), PS3, Xbox 360