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The couple that games together stays together.
For those who enjoy them, video games are a creative and enticing escape from the stress and responsibility of reality. The ability to indulge your wanderlust in the vast, elegant worlds created by dedicated artists can be a wonderful way to unwind. And co-op video games allow you the opportunity to enjoy it all with a partner.
My favorite thing about gaming is sharing it with my partner. Sure, a solo game can be the perfect way to relax, but there is nothing like sharing a good gaming binge with the object of your affections. Video games can be very social things and these games, in particular, beg you to bring a partner along for the ride. Here are some of the best co-op video games for couples to play together.
The best couch co-op games for couples
There are dozens of excellent suggestions for games that a couple of gaming beginners might love. This list, however, is for genuine gaming couples. For those of us who enjoy a controller in our hands when we are relaxing together, and who don’t mind a friendly competition with the person they love. There are certainly some great online multiplayer games to play with your partner—Sea of Thieves recently enjoyed a stellar update, krackens included—but for now, here are some of the best couch co-op video games for couples.
Halo has been one of the most popular gaming franchises since the first game’s release in 2001. I love playing Halo online, though I’ve found there are too many minors plugged in for me to settle down with a headset—unless those kids want to vastly expand their vocabularies every time I die. Playing with a partner is a completely different experience.
You can tackle the entire campaign as a couple, or if you are looking for a quick match or a few dozen cathartic headshots, try out Firefight mode. Halo Reach‘s ‘Gruntpocalypse’ is one of my favorites—there is just no beating that encouraging cheer and burst of confetti every time you blow one of their obnoxious little heads off.
Available on: Xbox 360, Xbox One
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2) Gears of War
Anyone who enjoys Halo will likely enjoy the Gears of War series as well. These simple fixed camera third-person shooters are dripping masculinity—all bulging muscles and deep, gravelly voices. Don’t think we missed that strained sexual tension between Marcus and Dom, either. If you are looking for a complex storyline, Gears of War might not be for you, but if you enjoy a simple, streamlined and entertaining approach to pushing back a subterranean invasion or three, these games are perfect. Games one through three follow Marcus Fenix and his team of grunting biceps. Gears Four enjoys the same shoot-em-up style as the first three as it follows Marcus’s son JD and his friends as they traverse a world torn apart by the wars of their fathers. The trailer for Gears Five—set to be released in 2019—flaunts gorgeous graphics and a diverse cast of characters.
These games also offer ‘horde mode’ for those looking to shoot some aliens without committing to the entire campaign. Horde mode in Gears Four can get glitchy, however, so consider this your official warning.
Available on: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
3) Resident Evil
Don’t let the film series fool you: The Resident Evil franchise defined the survival horror genre when the first release came out in 1996. These games set the stage for all of the zombie games that followed and showed 90s gamers how terrifying a zombie dog can really be. The first four games are single player, as is the seventh—the most recent, and most terrifying, release.
Resident Evil 5 and 6, however, boast complete multiplayer options, as does Resident Evil: Revelations 2. The Resident Evil formula is tried and true, and despite a very predictable storyline—you can almost guarantee every game will have a mansion level, a chaotic run through an exploding lab and at least one side character will die horribly—these games are a delight for any zombie fan.
Available on: Playstation 3/4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (depending on title)
4) Ark: Survival Evolved
When Ark was released in 2017, gamers were delighted at the vast array of gameplay options it offered. With several updates under its belt, Ark has only improved. You and your partner can play alone or online, but beware the trolls should you choose to venture into the vast unknowns of multiplayer. This survival game pits players against the numerous threats of a dino-infested world with options to tame, ride, and breed almost every dinosaur you come across.
Players also need to keep an eye on their food and water consumption, as well as their surroundings. Starvation or freezing to death is nearly as threatening as those tiny Troodon bastards. Ark has very little in the way of a storyline, but the array of gameplay options provide hours of entertainment, particularly when playing with a partner.
Available on: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4
This mega-popular series needs very little introduction. Anyone with a dark sense of humor and an appreciation for unique art will love these games. Both Borderlands and Borderlands 2 are delightful romps through a Mad Max-style world full of crazed, violent humans and mutated beasts. For a pair, this game is the perfect cocktail of independence and cooperation.
You can only tackle quests as a pair, but independent gamers can wander the world and fight off psychos and skags to their heart’s content. For those looking to enjoy a more tight-knit experience, this game is remarkably easier when you combine the unique talents of several character types. The Siren’s mystical illusions make her arguably the most powerful class in the game—particularly once you’ve spent a few upgrade points. Her power portfolio combines well with a Hunter or a Soldier, so that she can charge in to baffle enemies with some long-range backup.
Available on: PlayStation 3 &4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC (depending on title)
6) Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
If you like cooperative play, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is perfect for you. This charming game is full of bright colors and cute characters. The aim of the game is to restore love to a desolate, lovelorn universe via one of several multi-level spaceships. Working with a partner will allow players to control multiple aspects of the ship at once—a handy thing, considering the near-constant state of chaos this game exists in.
Players can control and upgrade a shield to protect your little ship, weapons to neutralize enemies and steer the vessel through treacherous space. Cooperation is key as you plow your way through diverse levels full of enemies and free tiny captured bunnies to unlock heart-shaped wormholes to the next level.
Available on: Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Trust me, this game is more fun than you might think. It looks like a simple cooking game—and, well, it is—but that’s the beauty of it. Cooperate with a partner to create a number of increasingly complicated dishes to learn how to defeat an evil meatball monster the size of a skyscraper.
Players can choose to tackle Overcooked with typical controls or to challenge their brains and play on split controllers. With this more difficult option, players can control two chefs apiece. This offers the boost of extra hands alongside the struggle of controlling multiple characters at once.
Available on: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch
8) Rayman Legends
This simple platformer incorporates music in the most creative and intriguing way. It’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t do so more often. The ‘boss’ levels of this game see the screen moving along at a steady, unstoppable rate. The player is forced to keep up, trying to land each time in beat to the music. If you miss a landing or fail to punch an enemy at just the right time you’ll noticeably throw the beat off.
The non-boss levels, while still quite entertaining, lack the unique quality that makes Rayman’s musical levels so entertaining. Any fan of platformers will be nonetheless be delighted by the balance of desperate, time-oriented levels and slower paced, meandering stages aimed at finding and freeing each and every captured ‘Teensy.’ Just be careful not to leave your partner too far behind.
Available on: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3/4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, PC
9) Super Mario 3D World
Everyone, everywhere has heard of Mario. You don’t need to be a gamer to recognize his signature red hat and stellar moustache. Super Mario 3D World takes Nintendo’s carefully curated formula and adds just enough of a spin to make it feel new. Play as any of the usual Mario crew through bright levels inhabited by Goombas, Bullet Bills and Koopas. A number of upgrades to the typical fire flowers and mega mushrooms can multiply your character or turn them into a cat for the duration of the level.
Super Mario 3D World is straightforward, simple and pure fun. It boasts the same worlds Mario games always do—a desert world, a frozen tundra, a precarious skyscape of treacherous terrain—and offers familiar entertainment. The updated gameplay, graphics and items make this game the perfect adventure for newcomers and Mario experts alike.
Available on: Wii U
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10) Little Big Planet
A charming little platformer centered around creativity and dreams, Little Big Planet is aimed at younger audiences. Thankfully, it’s lighthearted approach and simple characters don’t diminish its entertainment value for all ages. Use any of dozens of delightful wigs, costumes and stickers to dress up your sock monkey-esque ‘Sackboy.’ This game allows up to four people to participate as you jump, swing, drive, fly and fall through levels inspired by everything from famous artists to popular films. As a pair—or a foursome—you can unlock several extra stages unavailable to single players. Compete over points and goodies—all contained in brightly colored bubbles scattered throughout each level.
The four-player capability begs you to bring it out for a low-key double date. There is little in the way of competition in this family-friendly game, but plenty of situations demand cooperation. There is nothing quite like this playful little romp through the dreamscape that is Little Big Planet.
Available on: PlayStation 3/4, PlayStation Vita
Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.