Competitive online games are fine, but if you’re having folks over and want to play a game together, these couch co-op games can liven up your living room.
Minecraft is a mainstay of just about every gaming platform known to man. Still, if you want to sit on the couch with a friend and enjoy a low-pressure game, it’s hard to be bored in Minecraft. You can set up your console to play on local split screen. (This video explains how to set it up.) You and your friends can collaborate to build whatever you want. Or ruin each other’s stuff. Why not?
Minecraft Starter Collection - PlayStation 4
Minecraft is a modern classic, and the latest versions have excellent support for splitscreen co-op on consoles.
Overcooked and Overcooked 2
If you’ve ever wanted to take on the exhilarating challenge of running a restaurant kitchen, you probably haven’t worked in a real one. Still, you might love Overcooked. In this game, you and up to three other friends all control an employee in a restaurant. You all work together to prepare ingredients, cook meals, plate food, and deliver it to the wait staff to send to the customer. Also you’re travelling through time to stop a terrifying hungry monster. Somehow it works. Just make sure to choose your most cooperative friends to play with for a smoothly running kitchen. The sequel, which adds new stages and cooking elements, is bundled with the game on consoles.
Overcooked! + Overcooked! 2
These cooking "simulators" quickly devolve into cooperative chaos.
Cars don’t really behave in video games the way they do in real life. Rocket League takes this and runs with it. In this game, you control a car that can speed up, jump into the air, and flip around to knock a ball into the opposing team’s goal. If that sounds like playing soccer with cars, it’s because that’s exactly what this is. You and your couchmates can play local matches in split screen or even put a team together to take online and compete against others.
Rocket League Ultimate Edition - PlayStation 4
Rocket League is a high-octane game of soccer with rocket cars, perfect for splitscreen gaming either head-to-head or teamed up online.
Imagine an 8-bit version of Indiana Jones. Now put that Indy in a randomly generated side-scrolling mine and you’ve got Spelunky. Similar to The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky creates new levels every time you play, so you never have the same experience twice. In co-op mode, up to three of your mates can join you, playing more characters in your adventure, teaming up to solve puzzles and fight enemies more easily through sheer numbers.
Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime
It’s hard to explain exactly what Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime is besides “clearly the best-named game.” You and your couch partners play as crew members on a round ship that could probably use a few more hands on deck. As your ship floats through side-scrolling levels, you and the rest of the crew have to run to different rooms of the ship to control thrusters, turrets, and lasers to move the ship, kill enemies, and avoid damage. The game focuses more on coordination and task management rather than quick reflexes and aim. If you think your friends can work together well enough, then give it a shot.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
In this game, one player is trying to defuse a bomb, while several other players (really, as many as you can easily listen to at the same time) all shout instructions on how to defuse it. It’s one of the most fun games you can play with a loud group of friends. So, why is it at the bottom of the list? Well, unfortunately there’s a downside. The PS4 version of the game requires the PlayStation VR headset. In fairness, the game is awesome in VR. However, that does make it prohibitively expensive if you don’t already own the headset. If you do, download this game, call a few friends over, and try very hard not to explode.
This 2D beat-em-up combines the classic side-scrolling setup of games like Double Dragon with modern fast-paced gameplay. Don’t let the cutesy graphics fool you: it’s hard as hell in the later levels, even when you team up with four local players. Though this game originally debuted on the Xbox 360 and PS3, it’s been upgraded with even better textures for the latest generation of consoles.
Don’t Starve Together
Mixing the open-world crafting of Minecraft with existential terror and top-down graphics, and you get Don’t Starve. The survival game was a surprise hit, so developer Klei released an upgraded version that lets you bring a friend into the unforgiving hand-drawn world. You’ll need patience and experimentation to make it through the first few nights, so don’t reach for this one if you’re playing with kids who get easily frustrated.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2
LEGO games always include some surprisingly good local co-op, and their scope has only improved as they’ve expanded into the massive superhero franchises. Marvel Super Heroes 2 includes a new open world with tons of time-travelling and universe-hopping elements, plus the familiar simple combat and puzzle-solving of the original. This is a good pick if you’re playing with kids.
LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 (PS4)
The latest in LEGO's sprawling open world Marvel games is great for younger players, alone or in pairs.
A Way Out
This sleeper hit is basically a two-player version of Prison Break. Players must cooperate with one another, either locally or online, in order to find their way out of a 1970s prison. A Way Out is built from the ground up for cooperative play—there’s no single-player option. Though the game focuses on story and puzzles, it also has a surprising amount of mini-games to keep things fresh.
If you can’t get access to a 2D Mario game, Rayman is a great substitute. The revived version of Ubisoft’s oft-neglected mascot gets some incredible 2D animation and a vibrant, colorful world to explore. Rayman Legends is great as a single-player game, but a friend can hop in at any time and assist with enemies, in the style of Sonic and Tails.
Rayman Legends (PS4)
Rayman's latest platfoming adventure includes stunning 2D animation and seamless two-player co-op.
Team Sonic Racing
Most racing games have a winner-take-all approach, but Team Sonic Racing is all about, well, teamwork. The game shines when racers cooperate, sharing items and boosting each other as they compete with other teams, either controlled by the computer locally or in online multiplayer. It’s a fresh take on kart racing that manages to stay competitive while fostering cooperation.
Team Sonic Racing (PS4)
This team-based approach to kart racing is a great way to compete while working together.
Michael Crider contributed to this article.