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 of them 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.
Update: It has been a while since we looked into this so we thought we'd update the article with some more current releases. That being the case we clipped a couple of older games (who's still playing PES 2016, after all?!) and we've added a bunch of more recent ones. Simply scroll down for the new stuff.
TowerFall Ascension draws its inspiration from the golden age of couch multiplayer, providing a feeling of nostalgia for the days before online gaming forced players to stop visiting their friends and instead stay at home so they could play together. This simple retro-style game is best played competitively with 4 buddies. Players are pitted against each other in versus matches that are often as hilarious as they are intense. Treasure chests grant players game-changing power-ups that keep the action fierce and unpredictable as players square off against each other. The manic mayhem of TowerFall Ascension really shines when played locally, perhaps not too close together though, just in case you know a sore loser who doesn't mind taking out their frustration with their fists.
For players who enjoy extended sessions of looting, the PlayStation 4 offers plenty of options. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is a worthy choice for shooter fans, but if you've already pilfered all Pandora has to offer or are hankering for a more traditional fantasy-style gear gathering grind then look no further than Diablo III. The PS4 offers the game's ominously named Ultimate Evil Edition, including the game's major expansion and a bunch of extra content, all on one disc. Running at glorious 1080p there's little better way to spend a lazy weekend than recruiting a fellow loot junkie friend (or three) for some serious dungeon crawling, demon hunting, item gathering and levelling action. While its roots might be buried in PC, Diablo III lends itself beautifully to console with an intuitive control scheme and user-friendly AI making this a must for moments of true multiplayer magic.
Spelunky is a very challenging game, with well-placed enemies, complex maze-like levels and all manner of things that could kill you at any second, but the good news is you can bring up to 3 partners with you into the dark, mysterious cave! Does this make the game easier? Not at all, probably harder. Is it hilarious fun? Absolutely. You can co-operate to reach the final goal, but why do that when you can push each other into mysterious holes, or summon large boulders, or anger shopkeepers with shotguns to get each other killed? Don't expect much progress to be made, but it's almost certainly going to make for a fun time, especially if you want to go head-to-head in the hectic battle-mode and kill each other for points instead! And if you do want to make progress, why not make it more fun and turn it into some sort of race? Spelunky is one of those games in which more players mean more ways to play (and most likely more vulgar words being thrown around the room).
The simplicity of Nidhogg, from the low-fi visual finish through to the distilled concept, belies the brilliance of this as a local multiplayer experience (it really doesn't work as well when played online). Two players take each other on, pointy swords at the ready, battling to and fro across multiple screens until one gets far enough across the stage to run past the crowd and into the mouth of a giant worm. It's batshit crazy for sure, but it also plays like a dream, with two competent players able to pull out all the tricks as they battle themselves into the waiting jaw of the aforementioned giant worm. The animations are probably what makes it in the end, and while it's not much of a looker, there's a satisfying sense of speed and movement, it feels very responsive. A great fighting game and top quality local PvP.
Let's make this clear, The Binding of Isaac is a tough game. You're given little health and a lot of monsters to battle, and without lightning fast reflexes and perception bordering on superhuman you're likely going to die... lots. Luckily then, you can recruit a friend to take on the dungeon's grotesque inhabitants alongside you. Friendships do require sacrifices, however, and in order to spawn your buddy in the form of a floating baby sidekick you have to give up one of your three precious starting lives. While it's not on the same level as forgoing your last Rolo, it's still a tough commitment. Fortunately, it's a worthwhile one for the added enjoyment it brings. Damage and tears are lowered slightly to keep things challenging, meaning it retains that same pulse-pounding experience of single-player, but adds an enhancing layer of strategy and camaraderie. If you want another roguelike-like option, you can (and definitely should) also check out Nuclear Throne, which released on PS4 in December.
What's more fun than a small spaceship causing a very large amount of neon-coloured explosions while tiny bits of enemy space-ship debris flies haphazardly across the screen? The answer is, of course, two small ships doing precisely the same thing. Resogun was already a lot of fun when played alone own, but if you team up with a friend it becomes a flurry of multiplayer destruction that's fun for all. There's only the option to share points, which means it's you and your co-op buddy against the never-ending onslaught of attackers, saving as many humans as you can along the way.
Combining ball games and tiny cars, Rocket League is the love child of Micro Machines and FIFA and it's also one of the standout multiplayer experiences available on PlayStation right now. Even if you're not all that fussed about sports or driving games, there's an undeniable juvenile thrill that comes from smacking a huge ball around with a miniature vehicle. Solo play is fun, but shoddy AI does hamper the enjoyment somewhat. Recruit a friend, however, and the successor to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (try saying that five times fast) provides a delightfully competitive experience. While simplistic in design, forward-thinking is definitely required if you want those all-important bragging rights. Also, it's worth adding that the experience is probably even better when played online.
A key component in every child's toy box since the '60s, Lego has proved its diversity lies not only in physical creation, but also its ability to perfectly slot into other mediums and IP. Whether it's tiny physical blocks, big-budget movies, or even video games, Lego has the uncanny ability to always be a whole lot of fun. Lego games have provided some of the best co-op experiences in gaming by giving huge franchises the tiny block treatment. The newest release (at the time of writing), Lego Dimensions, follows the toy-to-life format championed by Skylanders and Disney Infinity and allows you and a friend to explore worlds from fourteen different franchises. What gives it the edge over its contemporaries for inclusion in this list is that characters and models are compatible to any part of the game, adding an extra layer of diversity to the game's engaging co-op capers. Batman and Gandalf in The Simpsons anyone?
Divinity: Original Sin II
If you're after something to get stuck into over an extended period of time, then boy does Larian have an epic adventure for you. Original Sin II is playable alone, sure, but if you're prepared to share your screen with a friend then you'll be able to take a +1 along for the ride of a lifetime. With a truly memorable story, relatable characters, and one of the richest, most involving fantasy worlds ever to appear in video game form, co-op buddies should definitely check this modern classic. If you've been hankering for a stellar co-op RPG, you've found it.
We skipped Overcooked in our Switch round-up in favour of one of its imitators, but we couldn't do it twice. This burgeoning series has spawned a number of like-minded games that are all about working together through chaotic situations. Of course, in this case, the theme is cooking, but that mundane-sounding theme doesn't do justice to the pure craziness of the multiplayer experience that's on offer here.
A Way Out
Now, this one is going to divide opinion a little. It's fair to say that A Way Out is something of a flawed gem - your perspective on the matter will determine whether you can find the beauty underneath its sometimes unrefined exterior. A Way Out is co-op only and even if your friend is online, you'll see their half of the screen. The story, therefore, plays out for both players at the same time, with a mixture of cooperative actions and sections whereby the two main characters are dealing with different challenges. It works well, for the most part, but more than that it's a thoroughly interesting experience and quite unlike anything else out there.
Sony's experiment with having PlayStation games controlled by smartphones seems to have been fairly short-lived, but there are some unique and engaging local multiplayer experiences on the PlayLink platform, especially if you like board game infused experiences and/or you're playing with people who don't game a lot. We liked the adaptation of board game Ticket To Ride, but for something a little different, try Supermassive's Hidden Agenda, where a whole team of players can work together to solve some truly challenging moral dilemmas.
And we're going to end this little round-up with the modern rendition of a classic. Worms WMD offers great local PVP and it's an excellent way for friends to settle their differences without shedding real blood. The addition of tanks and turrets hasn't diluted the core experience, that being taking a team of crack wormy warriors and using them to wipe out the worms under the control of your opponent/s. There's really not much more to it than that, but with some outlandish weapons to choose from, Worms remains one of the cheekiest multiplayer games in existence and finding out who's got the best ninja-rope game is a great way to spend a few hours.
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