Nothing puts your brain to the test quite like a good puzzle game. The best in the genre can twist your mind and force you to look at problems in new ways. But what if instead of just putting your brain to the test, they could test your friendships, too?
There are plenty of online co-op games around now that can provide a great way to spend time with friends without needing to meet up in real life. Puzzle games are especially great for this, as you and your friends can work together to figure out the solutions to various puzzles.
The only specific criteria we looked out for when selecting games for this list is that the games have full online multiplayer, not just local co-op. Also, while cross-play between different platforms have become more common, most games don’t feature it yet. We will make a note for each game whether or not it supports cross-play.
Wacky Physics: Human: Fall Flat (PC/Xbox One/PS4/Switch)
Just looking at Human: Fall Flat you might not expect it to be a puzzle game. But under those charming pastel visuals is a strange physics system that opens the door for puzzle-solving.
Your avatar in Human: Fall Flat doesn’t move how you would expect—they carry a huge amount of momentum with them when running and require you to control each arm individually to grab items or climb ledges. At first, it’ll feel foreign, but as you play you’ll start to get a grasp on how your character moves around (somewhat, at least).
These physics are the foundation of Human: Fall Flat, and every stage in the game has a series of puzzles and platforming challenges that put your skills to the test. The game is made to be playable in single player, but it supports up to eight-player co-op, which is definitely the best way to play. In multiplayer, Human: Fall Flat may just end up being one of the funniest games you’ll ever play.
Human: Fall Flat originally launched with 12 stages, but since then it’s received a few free DLC levels and, on PC at least, there is also the Steam Workshop that gives you access to hundreds of community-made levels.
Human: Fall Flat is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch (no cross-play support).
Thinking With Portals: Portal 2 (PC/Xbox 360/Xbox One/PS3)
When it comes to puzzle games, you probably don’t need us to tell you that the Portal games are some of the best in the genre. Valve knocked it out of the park with both entries, but Portal 2 did a bit more than just recapturing the comedic writing and expert level design of the first game—it also added a co-op campaign.
In the co-op campaign, you play as two Aperature Science robots under the command of GLaDOS exploring the ruined facility. The writing here is just as spot on as in the main story, and the puzzles fully take advantage of the co-op nature. You’ll be constantly figuring out complex portal arrangements that allow you and your friend to pass the stages.
The co-op is well-thought-out as well, with a useful pinging system for communication and the option to see your friend’s screen at any time. On PC, there’s even support for community-made maps in co-op once you complete the base levels.
Portal 2 is available natively on PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 (no cross-play support). The Xbox One also has backward compatibility with the 360 version of Portal 2.
Fantasy Puzzle-Platformers: Trine Series (PC/Xbox One/PS4/Switch)
Our next game is actually four games. Trine is a series of puzzle platformers where you play as three classic RPG tropes: a Warrior, an Archer, and a Mage. As you progress through the 2.5d stages, everyone will need to be pulling their weight, as puzzles commonly require the use of all three character’s abilities at once.
This can lead to some great moments as you and your two friends figure out how to progress. And with four games in the series, you’re looking at quite a few gaming sessions of puzzle-solving fun.
The Trine series is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, or Switch in either a conjoined collection or sold individually (no cross-play support).
Four Legs Are Better Than Two: BiPed (PC, PS4 and Switch Coming Later)
The newest game on this list, BiPed has you and your friend playing as two robots that only have legs. Not only are the controls for this game a puzzle to figure out (you control each leg separately) but there is also a large collection of stages and challenges for you to complete together, too.
BiPed expects full cooperation from both players—you won’t pass these stages if you can’t work together. The main game isn’t that long at only about 3 hours, but there are some collectibles to seek out and challenge levels to complete if you want some more bang for your buck.
BiPed is currently only available on PC, but it will be coming to PS4 and Switch “soon,” according to the developers. No word on cross-play yet.
Atmospheric Separation: We Were Here Trilogy (PC/Xbox One)
While the games we’ve listed so far expect you and your friends to work together, the We Were Here trilogy asks you to do that in a very unique way.
Instead of being together, the game makes a point of separating you, placing you both in different parts of the map. As you both explore the areas you’re trapped in, you’ll find clues scattered around, but the clues you find are only useful to your friend and vice versa. It’s a great central premise that all three games expand upon expertly.
The games don’t cheap out on the visuals and atmosphere, either. All three games have a unique setting and engross you in their world.
The three games in the trilogy are We Were Here (PC/Xbox One), We Were Here Too (PC/Xbox One), and We Were Here Together (Only on PC).
Charming Chaos: Knights and Bikes (PC/PS4/Switch)
If you and your friend prefer a more story-focused experience, then Knight and Bikes should give you what you’re looking for.
This game is all about the adventure of two friends who explore an ancient island. Across the map are puzzles and challenges you’ll need to overcome together. As the name suggests, Knights and Bikes doesn’t take itself too seriously, as there is a focus on comedy and chaos in the writing and even the visuals. But beneath that is a more substantial story that really unifies the entire experience.
Knights and Bikes is available on PC, PS4, and Switch (no cross-play support).
Impromptu Bomb Squad: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (PC/Xbox One/PS4/Switch/iOS/Android)
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes handles co-op differently from the rest of the games on this list. In this game, your friends need to talk you through disarming a bomb using the manual. Except they can’t see the bomb, and you can’t see the manual. Communication is vital here as you’ll need to walk each other through cutting wires and pressing buttons to eventually disarm the bomb.
While there might not be much more to say about the gameplay besides that, that doesn’t stop Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes from being one of the most satisfying (and stressful) cooperative experiences you’ll have in a video game.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, iOS, and Android. Only one player needs to actually have the game open so cross-play is not necessary.
Web-Based Vocabulary Test: The New Yorker Crossword Puzzle
Crosswords are about as classic as puzzles get, and now you can complete them with a partner on The New Yorker. It’s as simple as setting up a free account for the site and then clicking on “Partner Mode” on the top of the window. With new puzzles being added all the time, this should grant you and your vocabulary-loving friends plenty of hours of entertainment.
The New Yorker Crossword Puzzle is completely web-based.