Nerd Much? might get a small share of the sale, as we are a part of the Amazon Affiliate Program and various other affiliate programs. For more, read our Editorial Standards.
Is couch co-op becoming a thing of the past? With big titles like Halo 5 and The Division opting not to include a split-screen mode, it’s making us wonder if this will become a trend. We sincerely hope not, because local co-op is essential for families, couples, and friends hanging out in person together (that’s still a thing), and it’s completely unrealistic for one household to buy multiples of the same system – not to mention multiples of every game – in order to play together. To counteract this nonsense, we have compiled a list of our favorite local multiplayer games, many of which my husband and I enjoy playing together, as well as with our two children.
Baldur’s Gate 3
Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios
Platform: PS5, Mac, PC
Release Date: August 3, 2023
Despite being dismissed by Microsoft as a “second-run Stadia PC RPG”, Baldur’s Gate 3 has absolutely blown everyone away, surprising even developer Larian Studios with its success. It’s a fantastic solo game—as of writing this, I’ve put over 100 hours into my solo campaign, with no end in sight—but co-op, especially local co-op, feels like gathering around the table to play a D&D campaign with friends. While I definitely recommend experiencing it by yourself first and exploring every nook and cranny of this immersive world, controlling a party of four by oneself can become a bit tedious, and the real heart of D&D has always been the social element. Additionally, my spouse was a little more hesitant than I was to shell out the $59.99, so playing split-screen allowed him to dip his toes in without the commitment.
For a comprehensive guide to Baldur’s Gate 3 co-op, check out this article from PC Gamer. The instructions here are geared towards online multiplayer, though, and it’s not immediately apparent how to play locally; you simply have to connect two controllers (either in the multiplayer game creation screen or in the campaign itself) and you’re good to go. Unfortunately, there is no option for one player to use mouse and keyboard, but it’s very playable on controller.
Developer: Free Lives Games
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC, Linux, Mac
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Broforce is a side-scrolling run ‘n’ gun game that took the Steam community by storm following its release in the fall of 2015. Broforce is an “under-funded, over-powered paramilitary organization” whose goal is to eliminate a terrorist threat (and destroy everything in the process). With new bros and missions added monthly, different game modes, level editor and sharing, and multiplayer for up to four players, this is the perfect game for that group of friends that just wants to blow stuff up. It may be a little mindless and hyper-masculine, but also undeniably fun.
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Playstation 3, PC
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Helldivers is a hardcore top-down shooter (from the creators of Magicka) in which up to four players participate in co-op missions to protect futuristic Super Earth from an alien threat. In this dystopian universe, Super Earth is ruled by a ‘managed democracy’, and is surrounded by three hostile alien races; the Helldivers are an elite unit responsible for protecting mankind. Players must strategically make their way through enemy territory, complete objectives, and avoid friendly fire (which is always on) in order to prevail.
Developer: The Behemoth, Big Timber Studio
Publisher: The Behemoth, Microsoft Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Linux
Release Date: April 3, 2013
We’ve included the comedic BattleBlock Theater even though it was originally released for Xbox 360, as it was towards the end of 360’s lifespan and later made available for Xbox One (and also because it’s just really fun). After your ship, the S.S. Friendship, becomes wrecked on an island, you stumble upon a dilapidated theater, where it is revealed that your entire crew is being held prisoner by cats. The cats, under the direction of Hatty Hattington, force players into deadly theater performances in which they fight for their survival. The story mode can be played co-op with a second player, or you can play Arena mode with 2 or 4 players (in teams of two), with several match types to choose from.
Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios, Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: PC, OS X, Linux, SteamOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: June 30, 2014
The critically acclaimed turn-based RPG Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition is the sequel to the 2002 redundantly-titled PC game Divine Divinity, and hailed by many as the best classic-style RPG in recent years. While you can play solo, where you control both Source Hunters, the game really comes into its own when played co-op with another player. The highly interactive world will provide hours upon hours of gameplay, with a compelling story, numerous side quests, and tactical, challenging combat. If you haven’t already played it, we highly recommend you do so, as Divinity: Original Sin 2 is due out in December of this year.
Developer: Chainsawsome Games
Publisher: Chainsawsome Games
Platform: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: November 16, 2015
Knight Squad is an “8 players top-down Bomberman meets Gauntlet game“, and a definite favorite in our household. This multiplayer arena game for up to 8 players has a variety of game modes, weapons ranging from swords to laser guns, and bots with adjustable difficulty to fill in for any players you’re lacking (so don’t worry if you don’t have 8 controllers). There are a total of nine game types included, with more available as DLC, and the various objectives, single-screen arena, and fact that each knight can be taken out in one hit ensure pure chaos. While you can play online, we recommend inviting your friends (as long as you’re not too attached to them) to bring their controllers for this epic party game.
Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Publisher: Other Ocean Interactive
Platform: Xbox One, PC coming soon
Release Date: February 1, 2015
IDARB (which stands for “It Draws a Red Box”) is a “crowd created” arena eSport game for up to eight players. The name originates from a tweet by developer Mike Mika, in which he states that he has begun a new project and, “it draws a red box.” He then took suggestions from his Twitter followers – hence the “crowd created” – who are responsible for making the game what it is. The premise is fairly simple: two teams run and jump around an arena, each trying to get their hands on a ball and score on the other team’s goal. What makes this game so unique is the social media element; anyone can tweet a Hashbomb using your game session number, which has one of any number of predetermined effects on the gameplay. Grab your friends, and witness as chaos ensues.
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
Developer: Gearbox Software, Armature Studio, Iron Galaxy Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is a compilation of first-person shooters Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, with the added ability to play four-player split-screen for the first time in the franchise’s history. The sheer amount of content is impressive in itself; it includes both remastered games, along with the enhanced multiplayer (the ability to play with four players instead of two, as was the previous limit), all available DLC, and the ability to transfer save games from previous-gen copies. Reviewers have cited technical issues with The Pre-Sequel, but even so, Borderlands 2 more than makes up for what The Pre-Sequel lacks in performance.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Developer: Asteroid Base
Publisher: Asteroid Base
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac
Release Date: September 9, 2015
Another game that can be played by yourself but (as the title suggests) is much better with two players, is the action spaces shooter Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime. Don’t let the cutesy, colorful graphics and sappy title deceive you; this game is both challenging and seriously fun. You and your partner pilot a spaceship with multiple stations inside, and you must move around to control the various stations and defend your ship against aliens. The game consists of four campaigns, each with four levels and a boss fight, during which you find gems to upgrade your stations. This is a great game for couples (but only if you’re certain that your relationship has a strong foundation).
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Linux, Mac
Release Date: July 7, 2015
One of the more frequently-played games in our house and a favorite of both my husband and son is the driving-meets-soccer game Rocket League, winner of The Game Award for Best Independent Game. It’s exactly what it sounds like; players control rocket-powered cars and try to hit a giant ball into the other team’s goal (stretching the laws of physics in the process). You can earn experience points to unlock other vehicles (including the Batmobile) and cosmetic upgrades. It’s a simple concept, but extremely well-executed, and we are of the mind that the simplest can often translate to the most fun.
Yoshi’s Woolly World
Platform: Wii U
Release Date: June 25,2015
Yoshi’s Woolly World is a stunning side-scrolling platformer in which the island, and all the Yoshis therein, are knitted from yarn. As opposed to producing eggs when swallowing enemies as Yoshi does in other games, in Woolly World, he produces balls of yarn, which are used to accomplish various tasks. The game is also compatible with the adorable knitted Yarn Yoshi Amiibo, which comes in green and pink. In co-op, both players control Yoshis and share the screen in typical Nintendo fashion. And, if you run out of yarn balls, you can simply turn your partner into one.
Developer: Mojang, 4J Studios, Microsoft Studios
Publisher: Mojang, Microsoft Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PC, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Raspberry Pi, Universal Windows Platform, Wii U
Release Date: November 18, 2011
If you haven’t heard of Minecraft by now, you need to come out from the rock you’re living under; it may not need mentioning, but this list wouldn’t be complete without it. If you’ve watched your children obsess over it and, like us, wondered what all the hype was about, you definitely need to give this open-world sandbox game a try. Play with a friend and collaborate to collect resources and build sprawling structures, or build forts and try to kill each other; the choice is yours. There is no real story or endgame; you are dropped into a randomly-generated world, where your goal is to gather, craft, and build (and occasionally discover hidden structures). The possibilities, however, are endless, as this mega post about Minecraft creations will show you. There may also be enemies to harass you, depending on the mode you choose. So simple, yet so addictive.
Developer: Press Play
Platform: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: December 17, 2014
Kalimba is a fantastic co-op puzzle game that came from the unfortunately now-closed Press Play. Players team up to create their own totem poles and will have to work together to traverse through each level, solving creative puzzles along the way. There are a lot of fun gameplay mechanics within, and some of the puzzles will definitely have you and your friend trying different things and scratching your heads when it doesn’t work. There’s a strong emphasis on getting the timing right, which is tough to do when you have to rely on someone else to hit their timing right as well. This is what makes Kalimbafun, and its colorful world is great to look at. I’ll also note that it’s an incredibly unique game unlike anything we’ve seen previously, and although it’s relatively short, it’s an incredibly fun co-op game for couples.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac
Release Date: March 24, 2014
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls was the first expansion pack released for the popular dungeon-crawling action RPG Diablo III as part of Diablo III: The Ultimate Evil Edition. It not only expanded the original game on PS 3/Xbox 360, but also brought it to current gen consoles. It adds many features, such as a new class (the Crusader), a fifth Act, an Adventure Mode (where players can explore the entire world), the Mystic artisan, a higher level cap, and more. It successfully added in all the elements that Diablo III, although a good game, was sorely lacking. Although it’s fun enough on your own, the ability of another player to jump into your game at any time makes it an ideal choice for couch co-op.
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U, PS3, X360, Vita
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Rayman Legends was great when it first came out in 2013, but when it made its way to the PS4 and Xbox One in 2014, it was even better. It’s a visually stunning game with great level design, and it brought Rayman back to the forefront of the minds of gamers. The (at the time) next-gen game used uncompressed textures, and the new consoles allowed for lesser loading times. Although the solo experience is great, too, the Rayman Legends couch co-op was what made us truly fall in love with the game. Believe it or not, it was the Wii U version that we loved most, because of the fantastic co-operative play it allowed. It’s admittedly a chaotic experience, but a little bit of chaos is fun when you’re sitting next to someone playing, too. Whether you’re an Xbox One gamer, PS4 lover or Wii U owner, it’s an essential local co-op game.
Castle Crashers Remastered
Developer: The Behemoth
Publisher: Sony, Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mac
Release Date: September 9, 2015
Behemoth, who also developed Battleblock Theater, also created a little game called Castle Crashers, which originally hit the market in August 2008 (remember Xbox Live Arcade…swoon). But back in late 2015, it finally made its way to Xbox One in the form of Castle Crashers Remastered, which brought the fantastic 2.5D hack and slash game to our latest generation of consoles. The new version doesn’t bring much new along with it, aside from sharper visuals and smoother gameplay (and a new mini-game called Back Off Barbarian), but at its core, Castle Crashers is a necessary co-op game that reminds us of tag-team beat ’em up sidescrollers that ate our quarters in the arcades.
Developer: Sumo Digital
Platform: Playstation 4, PS3
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Where else can you play as Spider-Man and Jake from Adventure Time in the same game? Nowhere! That’s just one of the reasons we love LittleBigPlanet 3, despite its mediocre reviews from critics. In fact, we think LGP 3 got a bad rap for not being “new” enough, but there’s still a ton of fun to be had with co-operative play. It has local and online co-op of up to four players, with players able to play and create levels together. It’s a whimsical world, and collaborating with your friends for a night as you both team-up to build your own levels is fantastic fun.
Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Developer: PopCap Games
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Part tower defense, part third-person shooter, part ridiculous mobile game graphics — it’s hard not to be charmed by Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, the follow-up to PopCap’s beloved PvZ: Garden Warfare. This time around, there are 6 new plant and zombie classes, Graveyard Ops, and a new Herbal Assault mode. Teaming up with a friend or loved one to take down some zombies is always on the top of our to-do lists, and doing so in this game just feels so good. It’s pure, unadulterated fun, that is far from the serious tone of today’s typical shooters. It also helps that the gameplay actually requires skill, so it’s not just a dumbed-down version of a third-person shooter. This allows for both grown-ups and children to enjoy, making it the perfect choice for family game night.
Developer: Matt Thorson
Publisher: Matt Makes Games
Platform: Playstation 4, PC, PS Vita
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Towerfall Ascension has an IDARB-y vibe to it, with more color and less sports. Players can create a battle of four, and each battle is frenetic. You start out with a limited number of arrows, so you have to refill your quiver by picking them back up after you shoot. Rounds can become intense pretty quickly, and only the accurate and skilled players will become victorious. There’s plenty of customization, and the fact that it’s so simplistic creates for more than a few laughs while playing. Fair warning, though: it might make you punch the person sitting next to you on the couch.
Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, PC, Switch
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
Admittedly, I first played 2D side-scroller Child of Light by myself, and it was a spectacular enough game to play solo. The fantastically whimsical design, stunning art, fairytale-like feel, and outstanding combat system combine to make this game a memorable one. The main character, Aurora, takes ill following her father’s marriage to a wicked stepmother; she is transported in sleep to the mystical land of Lemuria, where she meets a series of endearing characters that join her on her quest. At any point during the game, a second player can join and take control of Aurora’s companion Igniculus, who is a ball of light later discovered to be an Elemental and is able to fly freely around the screen.
Enter the Gungeon
Developer: Dodge Roll
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform: PS4, PC, Mac, Linux, Switch
Release Date: April 5, 2016
It would be remiss of me not to update this list to include the recently-released Enter the Gungeon. This bullet hell game with roguelike elements is maddeningly difficult, chaotic, and incredibly fun. Players must shoot at and dodge fire from a variety of unique enemies while making their way through randomly-generated dungeon floors and occasionally stumbling upon assorted chests, secret rooms, and traps. Each floor also randomly spawns one of several potential bosses, each of which will truly test your skill.
There are countless possible weapons and devices you may come across, most of which feature a pop culture or gaming reference certain to elicit a chuckle; some weapons are taken directly from another franchise, whereas some (like the t-shirt shooter), are just hilarious. There are several unique playable characters to choose from, each of which has its own helpful ability. If you’re looking to have a good laugh while truly testing your gaming prowess, try Enter the Gungeon; be warned, though – lives are limited, and each loss sends you back to the beginning and will have you throwing up your hands in frustration.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Release Date: December 17, 2018
Of course, we have to mention Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the latest incarnation of the quintessential fighting game. It is the fifth installment in the mega-popular series and features a cast of more than 70 gaming icons, numerous dynamic stages (plus a stage builder!), and new items in addition to old favorites. There are several highly customizable game modes so you and up to seven friends can Smash however you prefer!
Platform: PC, Xbox One, Switch
Release Date: September 29, 2017
This run and gun action platformer inspired by the cartoons of the 1930s was initially a Microsoft exclusive but was just recently released for the Nintendo Switch as well. Cuphead has sold over 4 million copies and won numerous awards, including Best Independent game from The Game Awards 2017, and it’s not hard to see why. You can play single player, but local co-op is where Cuphead really shines; you and a friend choose between Cuphead and Mugman and traverse gorgeous hand-drawn levels as you struggle to pay back your debt to the devil. Don’t let the cutesy cartoon animations fool you, though; this challenging game is not for the faint of heart.
Developer: Ghost Town Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: August 12, 2016
Overcooked is a chaotic cooking simulation game that can be played with up to 3 of your friends either co-op or competitive. You each control a chef in a restaurant kitchen; as orders come in, you must prep, cook, and serve them before the customers lose their patience and storm out angrily. This requires you to move between stations in the kitchen, which of course becomes increasingly difficult as you progress through the levels. Your objective is to save the Onion Kingdom – and to accomplish this, you will need to conquer a series of unique kitchens, each more chaotic than the last. This is a great family game, and one my husband and I enjoy playing with our children (or each other!).
Mario Kart 8
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Wii U
Release Date: May 29, 2014
The latest installment of the uber-popular kart racer allows local co-op for up to 4 players (which, coincidentally, is the size of my family). It features the biggest roster yet, with 42 players – including the Inklings from Splatoon! It also contains 48 courses to choose from, with tracks inspired by Excite Bike and Legend of Zelda, 23 items to pwn your friends with (plus the ability to hold two at a time), and five types of battles on eight different courses in Battle Mode. Mario Kart 8 is the biggest, best Mario Kart yet and even has a Smart Steering option, which is fantastic for little racers. The Deluxe version for Nintendo Switch has all the content from the Wii U version, including DLC, and both have amiibo support.
Developer: SMG Studios
Publisher: SMG Studios
Platforms: Android, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: July 13, 201 7
Robots and explosions – need I say more? You can play co-op puzzle game Death Squared by yourself in “lonely co-op” mode, but the name says it all; like most things in life, it’s better with a friend. The game requires you to navigate cute little cube-shaped through a series of color-coded obstacles and traps towards the goal. Cooperation is essential – you’ll need to communicate with one another in order to be victorious. You’ll likely still die many, many times, but this usually feels more amusing than frustrating and will result in lots of laughs. This is the perfect gateway game for a partner that’s maybe not really that into gaming because it doesn’t require a whole lot of skill with a controller or anything other than a desire to solve puzzles and blow yourself up spectacularly in the process.
Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!
Developer: SFB Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 3, 2017
The Nintendo Switch has been a real game-changer for couch co-op, and few games exemplify this better than Snipperclips. It’s an adorable action-puzzle game that was positively made for family game nights. It’s simple enough for my six-year-old (and probably younger children) to play, and entertaining enough to keep my husband and I interested. Basically, you play as Snip and Clip, who need to you’ll need to have cut each other into various shapes using the Joy-Cons in order to complete a series of challenges -and trust me, this is not always as easy as it sounds. In Party Mode, you can play with up to four players, so grab the family and get ready for lots of laughs.
Super Mario Odyssey
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 27, 2017
Super Mario Odyssey is Mario like you’ve never seen him before. Join everybody’s favorite plumber in a 3D open-world adventure for the first time ever, and play around with his some never-before-seen abilities. Unlike previous games, in Odyssey, Mario’s hat is a sentient (and adorable) being named Cappy. This is where the multiplayer feature comes in; you can play alone and control Cappy yourself, or hand a Joy-Con to a friend and let them control Cappy. You’ll have an absolute blast together; the levels are diverse and engaging, each packed with enough secrets and surprises to keep you busy exploring for hours.
September 21, 2023: Baldur’s Gate 3 added.