One of the best things about gaming is sharing it with someone else.
Games are more often than not private worlds we escape to, where we experience emotions of all kinds, investing time and energy into immersing ourselves into characters. Occasionally, that can leave us with an empty feeling when the story is all over and the characters have bowed out, that we’ve taken in something powerful but personal, something nobody else quite understands in the exact same way.
Well, that’s why there’s co-op. Sharing games can lead to a profound connection with another human being, which is in itself priceless. Whether that takes place with someone passively watching you play or if it means they take up a second controller themselves, there is this aspect about social interaction and sharing experiences which, to me, makes games a whole lot more worthwhile than if they were just exclusively meant for single players.
We can all conjure up the stereotype of a physically and socially unhealthy individual camping in a basement while grinding out hours worth of video games, but the fact is that gaming doesn’t have to be that way. There are co-op games, thank the Maker. We’re not talking about the nebulous 2010’s definition of “social gaming” with digital avatars and the faceless voices behind them wrought with angst without inhibition. I’m talking about the bread and butter of two player jams: the couch co-op experiences.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats befriending someone over playing a game together. It used to happen with total strangers at the arcades. It used to happen when we invited a friend for sleepovers in the old days. It can still happen if we make the time for it: face to face interaction. You can introduce a game to them or they introduce a game to you but whatever the case, together there’s much more fun to be had.
Below are some of our favorite two player couch co-op games, or by extension our favorite multiplayer games…
The Green Screen Mage
Brute Force! Four characters, each with different abilities, fighting through alien worlds. Yeah, this isn’t the best game, but it is early one of my favorite co-op games. My brother and I spent hours on this game when we were younger. He had the sniper and the healer and I had the stealthy one and the dual wielder.
The Black Humor Mage
Metal Slug 3 is my go to two player co-op game whenever someone comes over. It’s an extremely fun and hectic game that allows you to play army-guys, save POW’s, and upgrade to a FLAMETHROWER, or maybe a ROCKET LAWNCHER. The enemies and wild boss battles make for a great arcade-length game for you and a buddy to get through.
The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)
Overcooked. Ok hear me out guys, this game is freaking incredible. It may not be the first thing that would pop into your mind in this genre, if it would ever even pop into your mind at all, but it’s so well made and you really have to depend on your partner to accomplish your goals. One of you might need to have the burgers cooking while the other gets the ingredients ready to plate, when you get into a groove it is a really hard co-op game to top. Me and my wife have an insane amount of fun with this game and it’s a bit of a hidden gem. You should definitely check it out. (Honorable Mentions – Halo, New Super Mario Bros., Gauntlet Legends)
The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)
I had a lot of intense play sessions of Perfect Dark with my friend Richard. We would try to co-op our way through all the missions on Perfect Agent – we did not succeed! Definitely not a perfect co-op experience, but fun all the same.
The Five More Minutes Mage (Gamegato)
Whether it’s using a super-horn to escape a blue shell or crying out in agony when your friend takes first place at the last minute, Mario Kart 8 packs tons of fun when played with friends. Sometimes Two-Player Co-op games are about building friendships and having fun, not necessarily about quality. (*cough* battle mode)
The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is my favourite Kirby game of all time. It’s absolutely beautiful and I love the artsyle. I played the game with my brother and it was so much fun. It’s always nice to have a game that you don’t have to take seriously. We spent so much time just throwing one another off the ledges as payback for silly little things that happened throughout the game. My absolute favourite aspect of the game was the amazing commentator throughout the cutscenes.
The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)
The best games are the games that are easy to play but hard to master. Bubble Bobble is one of those. Anyone can pick it up and play it, but 2 players working together, using the umbrellas to skip hard levels, teaming up on enemies and making sure you collect the right items is incredible. Plus, try getting the Bubble Bobble tune out of your head – it’s stuck in my head and I haven’t played Bubble Bobble for over ten years….
The Rage Mage
Nothing will end in a homicide faster than two player co-op on Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. It’s got more camera issues than a hipster college student’s film class project.
The Well-Red Mage
Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Words cannot express how fun this game is but here goes: it’s very fun with two players. There’s a ton of content in this game with secrets, monsters, weapons, and tons of stages. It was one of the best reasons to own a second controller in the Super Nintendo era. Everything from its level design to its occasional intensity to its 60’s-themed music to its typical Lucas quirkiness made it a great game on its own, one that could only get better if the right second fiddle was found. See, that’s the thing with some co-op games. The beat ’em ups are fun, yeah, but the games that start to demand a lot from you? You’ll need to find a champion that can see you through the whole thing. There’s only ever been one person in my life that’s done that for me and that was my brother Nathaniel. I was there for him, too. We made it through and beat Dr. Tongue together. You have any idea what that feels like? It’s invigorating, to say the least. That feeling is why I miss couch co-op so much, that high-five, chest-bump, dinner’s-on-me kind of a feeling.
Those looking for less challenging two player experiences, I must echo The Final Fourteenth Mage’s Epic Yarn mention. Also, Bubble Bobble is as wonderful as The Hopeful Handheld Mage pointed out. Go back to our list of beat ’em ups for some accessible two player games. Secret of Mana!
Remember, the one who wants friends must show themselves friendly. Friends don’t just magically materialize in thin air, not usually at least. Friendships must be made and then cultivated, so if you find yourself with a lack of friends well then maybe don’t be such a jerk. Invite someone you can tolerate over, or find someone you can tolerate so you can eventually invite them over, so you can both play some co-op. When was the last time you did so?
There’s nothing like it, just like they’ll be nothing like tomorrow’s challenge. Stay tuned!