Playing video games with friends is a great way to spend time together without the complications of meeting up in person. Crafting-focused games (also commonly called “survival games”) are especially great for this, as they allow you and your friends to work together towards a common goal.
The genre is a bit hard to define, but generally these games are about collecting materials, crafting items, and building. Some games that lean more heavily into the “survival” side of things can also feature hostile enemies and environments. Status bars are also common, usually requiring you to manage your avatar’s health, hunger, and thirst levels.
And, as far as this list goes, we’re focusing on the cooperative side of the genre—any competitive or PVP-focused (Player Vs. Player) survival games won’t get a mention here.
Some Stuff to Know First
Before we get into the games, we will be discussing how multiplayer works in each game, so we’ll go over some basic terminology now to get it out of the way.
- Unofficial vs. Official Servers: Official servers are run by the developers of the game, while unofficial servers are run by players. The main advantage to official servers is that they’re (usually) more stable, while unofficial servers can make alterations to the game, typically through the use of mods.
- Dedicated vs. Non-Dedicated: Both official and unofficial servers are classified as “dedicated servers.” To put it simply, this is because the servers are, well, dedicated to running a game server. They run 24/7, provide the most options, and offer the best performance. Non-dedicated servers come in a few forms, but for this article, all you need to know is that these are servers running off of your or your friend’s PC or console. Some games make this as simple as joining through the friends list, while others require the use of external software. The main disadvantage to non-dedicated servers is that people can’t play on it when the host’s system is offline and that performance issues are more common.
- Renting a Server: Finally, renting a server is when you pay (usually through a monthly subscription) either the developers of the game or a third-party server provider for your own dedicated server. This allows you to make any alterations to the game you wish (whether that’s difficulty settings or adding mods) and means the server will be running 24/7. You can also set these servers as private to limit who can join.
Now that you know all that, let’s get into the list.
The One You Already Know: Minecraft (PC/Xbox One/PS4/Switch/Mobile Devices)
You already know about Minecraft—it’s the best-selling game of all time and has become the go-to game of the genre.
Regardless of that, we still felt the need to include it here because it’s one of the best cooperative games you can play today. Every mechanic in Minecraft lends itself to being cooperative, whether it’s building a formidable fortress or going mining deep underground. The best part is, with Minecraft’s ridiculously large procedurally generated maps, you can have as many players as you want in the world.
When it comes to playing multiplayer, there can be a few complications though. First off, what version of Minecraft everyone is playing. Currently, there’s Java edition (the original version of the game that’s only available on PC) and Bedrock edition, which is the version of the game available on consoles, mobile devices, and PC with full cross-play support between all platforms.
If you’re on Bedrock, you can either join unofficial servers with your friends, join your friend’s world through the friends list, rent a dedicated server through a third-party provider, or pay Mojang (the developers of Minecraft) $7.99 a month for a “Realm”—an easy-to-customize dedicated server.
On Java, your options are more limited. You can either host a server yourself, join unofficial servers made by the community, get a Java “Realm” for $7.99, or rent a server from a third-party provider. To be clear, there is no way to play cross-platform between Java and Bedrock.
Build Your Own Factory: Factorio (PC)
Have you ever wanted to build your own factory, dumping mass pollution onto an alien world? No? Well, that’s probably a good thing in real life, but Factorio makes it fun.
In Factorio, you’re deserted on an alien world that you must extort every natural resource out of the make repairs to your ship—that’s the main story anyway, there are a few other additional scenarios. The first thing you’ll notice about Factorio is the visuals—because, to be frank, it’s ugly. But behind those muddy graphics is a wonderfully intricate game.
The main thing you do in Factorio is work out how to build your factory to efficiently produce products. In multiplayer, you’ll be able to figure out those methods together (which I’m sure will lead to zero arguments).
Factorio is currently in Early Access and has been for about 4 years, but the game is still content-rich and surprisingly stable so there’s not much to worry about.
When it comes to playing Factorio in multiplayer, your options are to either host a server on your system or pay a third-party server provider for a dedicated server. (The developers do have a list of providers they recommend.)
Factorio is currently only available on PC.
Open-World Factory Builder: Satisfactory (PC)
Moving on to a game that shares more than a few similarities with Factorio, Satisfactory takes the same logistic-focused gameplay and drops you into a beautiful 3D world to explore as well. Now, of course, like Factorio, your main goal is to extort that beautiful world for its resources, so that’s a bit bittersweet.
The third dimension really does do wonders for Satisfactory though—a large expansive factory with conveyor belts moving every which way is a sight to behold. The large world is a joy to explore with friends, and there are even hostile creatures spread across the map to fight. Satisfactory is in Early Access currently and has been for about a year. It’s still being expanded on, and the game has received multiple large updates since its launch.
When it comes to multiplayer support, your friends can simply join through the friends list. There is a recommended limit of four players, but it isn’t enforced—you can have as many people join as you want.
A Grand 2D Adventure: Terraria (PC/Xbox One/PS4/Switch/Mobile Devices)
Terraria is another well-known crafting game, commonly referred to as a “2D Minecraft” (but the games are pretty different). Terraria focuses much more on introducing RPG elements to the crafting formula.
There are many threatening bosses spread across the world of Terraria, and you’ll have to work hard mining and exploring dungeons to get the gear to defeat them. Of course, fighting a floating eyeball or giant wall of flesh (both real bosses in the game) is much easier with friends by your side, and can also lead to a lot of fun, sometimes stressful, but all the same memorable experiences.
When it comes to playing multiplayer on desktop and console, you can either run a non-dedicated server or join an unofficial one. You can also rent dedicated servers from third-party providers. On mobile devices, your only option is to host a local server off of your device.
A Grand 2D Adventure … in Space: Starbound (PC)
Starbound takes a lot of clear inspiration from Terraria—it’s a 2D survival game with a lot of bosses, enemies, and loot to find. However, it’s not just a cheap copycat, it does introduce its fair share of ideas.
To start, Starbound takes place in space. You have a procedurally generated galaxy to explore with diverse planets to discover. You also have a spaceship to fly and customize. There’s even a loose story you can partake in if you wish, with various alien races spread across the galaxy to fill out the game’s lore. Starbound also has a ridiculous number of blocks that can be used for building and decorating your home and ship.
With all these mechanics, you’re in for a fun planet-hopping ride with Starbound. Of course, it’s fully multiplayer, and you and your friends can work together upgrading your gear and progressing through missions. To set up multiplayer, you’ll either need to host a server yourself or rent one from a third-party provider.
Starbound is currently only available on PC.
A Silly Space Sim: Astroneer (PC/Xbox One/PS4)
If you prefer a more laid-back experience, Astroneer is the game to check out. This colorful aerospace adventure doesn’t place a lot of pressure on you. Your main goals are to expand your base and explore the low-poly planets you’re stranded on.
Astroneer doesn’t take itself seriously, which is great to see—nothing about the game even attempts to be realistic. This makes the game a joy to play, as everything is simple to understand and fun to mess around with. Multiplayer is even better, as you can do some ridiculous stuff with the terraforming features and vehicles if you put your mind to it.
Multiplayer is easy to set up, just join your friends game through the friends list. There are also plans to add support for dedicated servers in the future.
Gloomy Survival: Don’t Starve Together (PC/Xbox One/PS4)
Don’t Starve Together is well known for its gloomy atmosphere and tough as nails gameplay. Not only do you have to worry about making sure your character doesn’t die of starvation (as the title suggests), but you also have to make sure that they don’t die from the inner horrors of their mind as the vicious world you play in drives them insane.
On that pleasant note, it was made to be focused on multiplayer—you and your friends can explore the hand-drawn world together fighting enemies and collecting resources. Joining your friends is as simple as joining through your friends list. Then you can watch each other die over and over again.
Sail the Ocean Blue: Raft (PC)
Raft is a game true to its name—everything you do in it revolves around your raft. Your main base of operations is the raft, you collect resources from the raft, and you reach new islands to explore with the raft. This limited scope may sound dull, but Raft introduces plenty of mechanics to keep it interesting.
Realism is completely thrown out the window—you can create a raft that would never have a hope of working in the real world. You can research new parts for your raft, like sails and grills for cooking, and thanks to the most recent update, there’s even a loose story to follow.
Playing multiplayer is simple, just join your friend’s game through the friends list and you can expand the raft together.
Raft is currently only available on PC.
An Honorable (But Glitchy) Mention: Ark: Survival Evolved (PC/Xbox One/PS4/Switch)
We’re only recommending Ark: Survival Evolved to players who are willing to put up with a lot of technical issues in exchange for some good experiences—because when Ark works properly it is a great game. But you’ll deal with major glitches, constant performance issues, and your PC or console sounding like a jetliner any time you play it. These are problems that have persisted in the game since the original Early Access launch in 2015 so, unfortunately, there’s not much hope for them to be patched out now.
If you are willing to look past that, you can have a great time in Ark. Ark’s main feature is its dinosaurs, as they provide some excellent challenges and can even be tamed to work for you. There’s also a satisfying progression path working your way up from stone tools to futuristic sci-fi tech late in the game. And, of course, working up the progression path is much easier with some friends by your side.
As far as multiplayer goes, you have a lot of options. You can run a non-dedicated server from your system, join official and unofficial servers (and this is one of the few times where unofficial servers are more stable), or rent a server from a third-party provider. Playing on unofficial servers allows you to play the game with mods and boost the rates of gathering resources to speed up progression—which is great because on default rates Ark is a pretty massive time-sink.