A semi-regular couch co-op club of ours has recently led us to much furious Googling and research as we looked for the best games to play with friends (specifically four friends in our case). There's plenty out there for duets, but when it comes to larger parties it can be quite tricky to find suitable titles.
Well, after lots of searching and subsequent playing, we've managed to identify some of the most enjoyable local multiplayer games out there, and to save you trawling through the internet in order to find them, we've collected the best for you here. So, grab a friend (or two) and a controller (or four) and get downloading, because these are the best games you can play with a friend from the comfort of your own couch.
Years ago LAN parties were common place, back before online multiplayer had really kicked on to become the juggernaut that it is today. One game that was involved in establishing console online multiplayer, but that was released early enough that it starred in many a LAN party, was Halo 3. It's one of our personal all-time favourites, regardless of whether we're buddying up and hitting the campaign for some Legendary co-op, or system-linking up multiple consoles and playing Team Slayer on classic maps like Valhalla, The Pit and Last Resort. Arguably the most evenly balanced of all the Halo games (although some would say Halo 2 has that honour), it offers a level playing field for spartans to scrap over, and despite a selection of sequels that have landed in the meantime, it still stands up to scrutiny when played today. After dipping our toe in once again during a recent LAN party, we now can't wait to get our hands on Halo: The Master Chief Collection when that releases in November.
Perhaps not the first racer you'd turn to for solo pursuits, but sit four players down in front of a suitably sized screen and Blur comes into its own. It's a grown up version of Mario Kart if you will (though that's not to say Mario Kart isn't for grown ups), with a selection of different car types jostling for position while power-ups and weapons give the game a fiendish edge. There's a nice range of tactical options for racers to take advantage of, from shields and health boosts to missiles and mines. There's some decent tracks in there, although nothing truly memorable, and some of the car designs are a bit bland, but even so, when played locally, it's an exhilarating thrill ride, where moments of fist-pumping glory are quickly followed by crashes of despair.
An absolute classic, Bomberman has lost none of its charm over the years, and timeless mechanics means that it endures as an essential couch multiplayer game even today. The Xbox Live version of the game comes packing a huge variety of options that allows a gang of players to tinker with the experience, keeping things fresh and offering up unexpected passages of play even after years and years of playing on the same grids.
Monaco: What's Yours is Mine
One of our favourite games from last year, Monaco is a fusion of Pacman and Ocean's Eleven. Teams of up to four players stalk through corridors and rooms, hoovering up collectibles and sneaking past guards with the aim being to grab the loot and get out again in one piece. There's loads of challenging maps, and an editor that means there's even more being created by the community. Each of the playable characters interacts differently with the map in an intuitive way, opening up new gameplay opportunities at every turn. It's possible to play on your own, and while it's still fun to do so, it's absolutely recommended that you take some friends along for the ride, as Monaco is, simply put, one of the greatest couch co-op games ever made.
The Behemoth created a game in BattleBlock Theater that caters to a variety of tastes, such is the range of different modes on offer. The game can be played with a friend, but just because there's a co-op element don't for one second think you won't also be sabotaging each other at every available opportunity. On top of this there's a range of four-player modes, both for teams and those who prefer a free-for-all. Standard modes like King of the Hill and Muckle (beat and kill your enemies for points) are joined by quirky distractions like Ball Game (a chaotic basketball-esque mode) and Color the World (where you paint the blocks on a level your particular colour). It's fast and frantic fun, and well worth a download.
If you've got the kit, Rock Band (or Guitar Hero) can be a fantastic way of getting a party started. It's a genre that's wained of late, but that doesn't change the fact that grabbing the plastic guitar and tapping away to some iconic tunes can be great fun. Being huge fans we'd pick out The Beatles: Rock Band as the game we'd choose, but there's options there to suit most tastes if you dig deep enough.
You could just as easily add Rayman Origins to this list, as both are superb platform games with four-player local co-op. The art style is utterly gorgeous, and there's fantastic variety when it comes to the level design. In short, you'll find it hard to get bored thanks to the near-perfect platform physics and the wacky level types. With incredible art and sound design, and characters that ooze charm, Rayman's modern incarnations are well worth the price of admission.
Honourable mentions: We're talking Xbox here so you've got to mention Gears of War, it's the law. Other good co-op offerings include the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter games, as both support four-player local. Fable II offers players a nice gentle co-op jaunt through the world of Albion. If you're looking for more suggestions, there's a mixture of first-party exclusives and cross-platform titles in our PlayStation-themed article (and we'll be looking at PC games next).
Something we missed? Add it in via the comments section below. The more the merrier!