Once upon a time, playing games with friends meant having them over to visit. And while we can't deny the appeal of couch co-op, it's just not feasible for everyone. Thankfully, by taking advantage of the internet, we're no longer constrained by physical distance - we can play with friends and strangers from across the world. But what to play? Well, we've got a countdown of the 25 best online games to help you decide.
"Online game" can be kind of a nebulous phrase, so here are some ground rules: First, the game must have online connectivity as a major feature. For example, while Uncharted 4 does feature an online multiplayer mode, it's not significant enough to warrant inclusion here. Second, the number of players can vary, but we are specifically excluding the best MMORPGs, as we've already got a separate list for those. With those disclaimers out of the way, please enjoy our list of the 25 best online games to play right now.
25. Dead by Daylight
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Back when asymmetrical multiplayer games were all the rage, someone had a thought: what if we used this structure to recreate classic slasher films, with one team playing as the largely defenseless teens and the other as an unstoppable killing force? The result is Dead by Daylight, which is basically Friday the 13th: The Game if, you know, that wasn't also its own game. But where Friday focuses solely on Jason, Dead by Daylight has a wide variety of killers, ranging from original creations to familiar foes like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and the Jigsaw Killer. Not for the faint of heart, this one.
24. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Developer: PopCap Games, EA Vancouver
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
We wouldn't blame you for overlooking this game. It is, after all, a very silly premise born from a tower defense game. But Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is actually really fun, and one of the most unique online shooters out there. Thanks to the cartoonish aesthetic, it feels totally normal to play as a sunflower (who is also a vampire) or a zombie (who is also a superhero). It's more focused on objectives and team co-op than many other online games as well, so you don't have to stress too much about feeling like you're outclassed.
23. Left 4 Dead 2
Format(s): PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
The game that practically defined the co-op first-person shooter experience, Left 4 Dead 2 is a frantic, frenzied adrenaline rush that never lets up. You'll be shouting in fear, excitement, and panic as you mow down the zombie hordes and face mutated abominations. Really, about the only reasons Left 4 Dead 2 is lower on this list are the facts that it hasn't been ported to modern consoles (although it is backwards compatible with Xbox One) and that it's almost a decade old, so the online scene has dried up quite a bit. Still, if you can get friends together, it's a blast.
22. Overcooked 2
Developer: Ghost Town Games
Format(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
How much do you value your friends? That's the question you need to ask yourself before you fire up Overcooked 2, because this game will absolutely test the limits of your camaraderie. As in the first game, you and several other players take on the role of chef in some of the least plausible kitchens ever concocted. Think you can cook on an iceberg? How about while speeding down the highway? You'll need to be fast, accurate, and coordinated with your teammates to make your customers happy, so try not to lose your head.
21. Hunt: Showdown
Format(s): PC, Xbox One (TBD)
It's hard to make horror work when there's more than one player experiencing the scares, but Hunt: Showdown excels at it. You and a partner trek across a large map (think 'big enough to get lost in' but not 'battle royale game big'), hunting eldritch demons and otherworldly horrors while four other duos do the same. These folks aren't likely to be interested in cooperation, which means along with all the creeps and creatures in your path, you need to be on the lookout for other humans. Tension is high thanks to a permadeath system, and setting the game in the 19th century means purposefully-clunky (and therefore stressful) gunplay. Hunt is an early access title so things can be a bit rough at times, but there's really nothing else quite like it.
Turn to page three for the rest of our best online games...