Elemental Challenge Day Seven: Two Player Co-op

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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.

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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…

 

FF3-NES-Summoner2.png 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.

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blackmage 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.

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mystic_knight1 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)

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spoonybardmageright.jpg 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.

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FF3-NES-Geomancer1 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)

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finalfourteenthmage.png 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.

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HandheldMage1  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….

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 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.

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rmage2.jpg 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!

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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!
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41 thoughts on “Elemental Challenge Day Seven: Two Player Co-op

  1. I met my girlfriend on WoW and now we’ve lived together for a little over 6 years. We’ve since bonded with each other and our respective friends over online Destiny, Halo, Borderlands, and Diablo 3 sessions, while also passing the controller back and forth with some of our favorite single player games like BioShock, AC4 Black Flag, Silent Hill 2, and Alice: Madness Returns.

    Growing up, most of my social gaming was via fighters like MK, Street Fighter, etc, or the N64 wrestling games.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There are so many good choices for this. The Switch already hosts two of my new favorites Snipperclips and Death Squared. I don’t know what I could possibly settle on, so I’ll just start naming games:

    New Super Mario Bros. Wii and U
    DKC Returns
    Kirby’s Epic Yarn
    Yoshi’s Woolly World
    and of course, Goof Troop for SNES.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Growing up I really didn’t enjoy co-op games as much as Vs. games with friends. Reason being, I tend to get competitive, and so I’d find myself getting annoyed when my Brother couldn’t keep up in a fast paced game like Smash TV or NARC. But when it came to Beat ’em ups that didn’t matter as much. So I would say Super Double Dragon again, except I gave that the nod in the brawler article. So instead I’m giving it to The Simpsons Arcade Game. We probably spent hundreds of dollars playing through that thing back in the day. And then hundreds of hours playing it on the Commodore 64 besides. The Ninja Turtle machines come pretty close too. I remember saving up lawn mowing money over a summer so we could both chip in for the NES port of the first one. So yeah. Simpsons, at a narrow margin above the TMNT.

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  4. Showing my age here but 8 Eyes. I played as the bird/eagle thingy while my brother took over the main character. I like it because the bird was fairly impervious to damage and it could divebomb enemies.

    Bubble Bobble is my close second! Such a great, iconic game ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I bought LEGO Star Wars for my husband one Christmas, and he was so dubious at first, him being a Serious Gamer, but I got him to play it co-op with me and we’ve had a pretty good time with that series 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quote “Serious Gamer” and he almost missed out on one of the really fun “kiddie-seeming” games there are. The LEGO games are really just pure fun, especially for those hardcore gamers that don’t know what they’re missing. Way to go getting hubby in on the fun-factor of gaming!

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      • Yeah, I don’t think he realized there was a co-op mode, so he was kinda like, why would you think I wanted to play this? Haha. But it turned out to be a fun thing for us to do together; our taste in games doesn’t always overlap. I love those LEGO games haha.

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  6. Narrowing this down was hard. I was Player 2 on a -lot- of games growing up with my brother. Heck, I still am nowadays. So it really says something about our playthroughs of Perfect Dark that I’m willing to use that here instead of the inevitable FPS day down the line!

    Perfect Dark absolutely fascinated me as a child. Futuristic enough to have cool things like wrist-mounted lasers and energy shields, but not so much that it didn’t raise ‘Well why don’t they just-‘ kinds of questions about the setting and missions. We thought the ‘lite’ version was so cool that we picked up the N64 expansion that very weekend. I don’t even know which we spent more time on- the actual missions, or the combat simulator’s challenges. I know for a fact we beat Special Agent and the 30 2P challenges together, and I’m fairly certain we made progress into Perfect Agent as well. I remember the multiplayer challenges fondly because many nights were spent combating the omniscient and sometimes downright unfair A.I., and finally clearing every challenge was probably the best achievement-before-actual-achievements I ever managed. He had more of a mind for completing objectives and planning out stages, and I was just crazier all around with baiting the A.I. and gleefully fleeing while he picked them off at a distance.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh no! I fell in to your dirty trap and gave a great co-op game for Day 6 because it was also a great hack and slash game. Ugh… Oh well, plenty of other fish in the sea when you’ve been playing for three plus decades.

    I’m going to go with Gears of War here. I’ve played through the campaign multiple times in two player co-op and I really don’t think there is a better way to play that game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mwahahaha! This whole event was just a clever ruse to get you to paint yourself into a corner for purposes of public humiliation! Enjoy the social networking equivalent of stocks, you grouchy wordsmith, you! But of course, you’re right… there are a ton of great games to choose from!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought about picking the games from my elementary school days such as Sonic and Donkey Kong, but in addition to not really remembering the names of the exact ones we played (I didn’t own any systems, so I played them at friends’ houses), I also can’t say that they were incredible gaming experiences. Sure, the games were fun, and playing them with friends was fun, but I was terrible at video games and my friends always let me know it. As player 2, I had the responsibility of not dying before I could get to checkpoints and bring my friends’ characters back. I often died, leading to frustrating replays of the same level multiple times. Many of these sessions ended in my friend claiming the controller every time they got killed so that I would not get us killed, and making their way to the checkpoint themselves.

    Although not the games’ faults, I decided that this was enough to disqualify those games from being my pick for this category. Instead, I’m going with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventure. Though not strictly a two-player game, I always played with my younger brother and we never had more people to play with, thus turning it into a two-player co-op for us. We shared endless hours getting in some great sibling bonding through teamwork while occasionally throwing one another off cliffs for giggles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh yeah it can be a lot of responsibility being player two. For that reason alone, I’m thankful for my younger brother and I’m glad I was born the eldest! That’s one Zelda game I never got to. You’d recommend it then? Or was it just nostalgic for you?

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  9. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Check out the Day 7 picks for the Elemental Mage Challenge over on The Well-Red Mage. Today’s games are all in the Co-op genre, a type of gaming that makes me very nostalgic for the days my friends would pop in just to play whatever we were stuck on at the time. My favorite in this category has got to be Overcooked, it is actually a very addictive and fun game. You have to really work together and think strategically, it can be a lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Awesome picks! I also loved Brute Force even though it definitely wasn’t the best game out there. I didn’t know that Zombies Ate My Neighbors was a multiplayer I definitely have to keep an eye out for it I’m sure me and my wife would enjoy that one!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I also nominate Perfect Dark. I was very close to choosing Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon 2, but I selected Perfect Dark because the second player has greater freedom. I like removing the friendly fire option, so the two players do not need to worry about accidentally hurting each other. The game also gives the second player a character equal to the main character, rather than a less useful one, and the movements are not restricted to the area around the first player (like many co-operative games) due to the use of split screens. This allows the two players to form tactics (such as completing different objectives or using different vantage points during a gunfight). One example of this is the Carrington Villa level on Perfect Agent difficulty (which I actually consider an interesting level), where the secondary character protects an unarmed main player. It also contains the unique Counter-Operative mode, where one character plays the hero and the second player plays different enemies and has to stop the hero completing the level.
    I enjoyed the description of relying on a good player, I remember needing a good co-operative player who could complete the objectives on Perfect Dark. What is Zombies Ate my Neighbours? What type of game is it? What does the second player do? Did you and your brother agree to help each other complete different games?

    Liked by 1 person

    • My brother and I just played together, and again I’ll direct you to the link above to read our review of Zombies Ate My Neighbors if you’re curious about it. Both players do the same things and it’s a top-down action game.

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  12. I gotta give it up for the original Toejam & Earl. Not having a Genesis as a kid, I loved throwing down in some co-op Super Mario World, or DKC, Secret of Mana, and TMNT: Turtles in Time. Maybe that’s why I always looked forward to a chance to spend the afternoon trying to get back to Funkatron – I only had a couple friends who had a Genesis, and those that did, did not own T&E – we’d have to find a willing parent to get us down to the videostore, and hope their copy was still available.

    I loved the kooky enemies, the exploration, and the music. Delivering powerups through presents was such a fun twist – meeting up with your partner so you would both benefit from one present, praying it was the Icarus Wings, and instead being granted tomatoes always resulted in a hilarious tomato fight. The game delivered serious challenge, lots of laughs, and plenty of fun. I returned to it recently with a friend and was thrilled to find out, it still holds up.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah Secret of Mana. There’s a great co-op game right there, which I played recently with Black Humor. I wish Toejam & Earl was on the Ultimate Genesis Collection, so I could actually experience it for the first time.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Rockman: The Power Battle 2! My brother and I would play this game together a lot, blasting through Robot Masters and competing to see who could get the most points, but still working together to beat the game. I played as Protoman, he played as Duo. A lot of good memories with that one!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Nice choices! Minute for minute, I’d say Perfect Dark was some of the best times I had growing up with like-minded gaming buddies. More recently, Mario Kart 8 has stolen my heart. I logged tons of hours while visiting family – the younger kids who typically played FIFA and Forza Horizon got completely hooked on MK. Such a great game – not even sure how they could approve upon it at this point!

    Another great co-op game that I rarely see mentioned is this little game called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time! Some of the best arcade gameplay out there, with the exciting music to match. PIZZA TIME!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s some exceptional sarcasm, there! 😀 I love to see the younger generation get hooked on Nintendo games, because they’re not “cool” anymore but the gameplay reaches out and grabs you.

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    • Hahaha I’ve never even remotely heard of that game in any known universe! This challenge has been really cool because I’m learning about many new titles that went around my radar.

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  15. Nintendo always features games on their consoles featuring two player co-op, but Microsoft and Sony usually replace two player co-op with PvP. As an owner of an Xbox, I really wish that I my friends could play video games with me, not just watch me play a single player game.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re exactly right. Sony and Microsoft may be the wave of the future in terms of graphics but they’ve both moved us way away from any real semblance of social gaming with home consoles. That’s why I’ll continue to buy Nintendo systems in addition to the next current gen by another company.

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