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When did online co-op become such a big deal? It’s as if game developers have forgotten about the simple joys that playing against someone in the same room can bring. Well we haven’t forgotten, and have dug around for co-op games that don’t need the damn internet. Our definition of co-op is any game that forces its players to work together towards a common goal. Let’s get right to it.
Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers — NES
This is a classic, through and through. Like many games of the NES era, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers was defined by it’s pixel-perfect platforming, catchy music and candy-coloured graphics. Also, I believe this was the first co-op game that let you pick up your partner and chuck them into a cactus.
LittleBigPlanet — PS3
Both LBP and its sequel offer the friendliest co-op gaming experience yet. Up to four players can enjoy pure knitting action as you jump from genre to genre in this insanely imaginative platform adventure.
Left 4 Dead 2 — Multiplatform
While Valve’s L4D2 is great fun online, it’s the split-screen experience that defines it. There’s a little lag with the online modes making it more fun to slice zombie brain with a friend on the couch. And yes, it takes a little bit of command line fun to get split-screen on PC (as seen in the video) but it works well and is pretty easy to setup.
Lego Marvel Superheroes — Multiplatform
There’s a lot of Lego games to choose from, but LMS is the best. There’s just so many superheros and mutants to play with, and the simple puzzles are far more enjoyable with a friend.
Borderlands 2 — PC, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3
Both Borderlands 2 and its prequel are two of the slickest split-screen shooters yet made. I chose Borderlands 2 simply because there’s so much more content in the sequel. Borderlands 2 is a frantic and fairly long (there’s at least 40+ hours of gaming) romp in a fairly magical desert kingdom.
Contra — NES
Contra is one of the hardest games on NES, not counting Mega Man. Enemies attacked from every angle and surviving meant only one thing: tagging along with a mate. With two players in tow, Contra became like an action film starring Rambo and his long-lost brother.
Spelunky — PC, Xbox 360, PS3
To quote some rapper, Spelunky co-op is hella crazy. It’s everyone competing for and against each other, with the tide of victory or defeat always within reach of each player. It’s all about who has the most loot, and who actually makes it to the end of a stage. In a twist of fate, it’s up to the surviving players to find the dead body of their compatriots if they wish to continue the multiplayer fun.
Splinter Cell: Conviction — PS3, Xbox 360
Without the help of your friend, you’re as good as dead, says Splinter Cell: Conviction (if it could talk). You’re two halves of the same coin, one tagging and the other killing. Or, perhaps you’ll snap necks as your partner silently guns down Russian insurgents. Either way, it’s a blast. What makes Splinter Cell: Conviction so excellent is that it has dedicated co-op levels that would be otherwise impossible to conquer without a friend.
Toejam and Earl — Mega Drive
Toejam and Earl was a great co-op game with a fairly awful sequel. In the first T&E, it was your job to find machine parts from a downed spaceship, all the while avoiding repugnant humans like the Death, Cupid and the Devil — so you know, standard earthlings. The split-screen mode was one of the first to not only give you a proper co-op experience (both players were in complete control, down to the in-game stores), but produce two-player dialogue absent in the single player mode.
Broforce — PC
Think of this as Contra for the modern generation. Broforce is a co-operative patriotism simulation built by South African based-development house Free Lives Games. With destructible scenery and a seemingly endless array of Bros to use (Terminator Bro, Bro In Black, Rambro), Broforce outright redefines drop-in, drop-out co-op gaming.
Resident Evil 5 — PS3, Xbox 360
The single-player mode of this overhyped series is an abomination, with your AI-controlled partner often running into walls, standing still and generally being a waste of space. With a human partner though, RE5 becomes your own personal action movie. What was frustrating now becomes a pleasure as your chum protects himself, and you from zombie death. There is local co-op, it’s just tough to find. Just start a single-player game and then push “start” on controller two.
Modern Warfare 2: Survival mode — Xbox 360, PS3, PC
My personal vote for best co-op game of all time is this, the Survival mode in Modern Warfare 2. In particular a map called Arkaden where a buddy and I spent two days in a row levelling our players until we were walking death machines. The point of the survival mission is to outlast the never-ending enemy forces until… you die. With loads of power-ups and endless strategies to test, MOD 2’s Survival mode is like an endless puzzle box of fun, and death.
Trine 2 — PC
Relaxing and beautiful are two ways to describe Trine 2. Three players can get stuck into this: a wizard, thief and knight — each one with a special power that helps them to overcome obstacles in the world. Each players skill-set works seamlessly and eventually it’s three players combined into one perfectly-oiled machine.
Gears of War 3: Horde mode — Xbox 360
GOW’s Horde mode — defend your base, build structures and fight through waves of ever-increasing difficulty — is the blue crystal meth of gaming. Split-screen mode puts two players into this chess-like game, with one player defending against the Locust horde as the other builds structures of doom.
Portal 2 — PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Portal 2 is a better co-op game than it is a single-player title. It’s as if Valve designed Portal 2 with co-op in mind. Take control of two portal shooting robots as you and a friend navigate puzzle chambers for the love of science. While there is an online co-op mode, the local co-op is just so much more shouty and crazy. Have you ever sucked your friend into an endless, looping portal of doom? You will, you will.
FIFA — Multiplatform
Of all the sports games, no title defines the word “team” more than FIFA. Two players can control one team, leading to either a) fluid dynamics and interplay between your brethren or b) you throwing your controller at their head after another missed goal. FIFA has terrible AI (especially on anything below medium difficulty) so it’s great to run circles around the opposing team with a friend.
Monaco: What’s yours is mine — PC
This is on the list primarily because it’s one of the only stealth action co-op games that works well. There’s loads of characters (thief, redhead, hacker, mole) with each one playing an important role in the heist. And because each stage is so dynamic, no two games are ever really alike.
The Lost Vikings — Super Nintendo
Hardcore: that’s the word to describe the single player mode of The Lost Vikings. Maddening fun: that’s the co-op mode for you. You and a savvy mate take control of a viking (who is lost) as you guide them through some rather tricky and puzzling stages. The graphics — especially for the time — were cartoon-like, cheery and happily, pretty smoothly animated. This was the co-op game that most kids in the nineties played.
Super Mario World 3D — Wii U
Let’s end the list with the current co-op darling, Super Mario World 3D. In single player mode or co-op, each stage was a blast to mess around in. Co-op has never before been this accessible and in four player mode there’s almost nothing to beat the madness that Super Mario World 3D produces. One player has the Wii U Tablet, the other three have WiiMotes or gamepads and in no time at all, havoc reigns.
What’s your favourite co-op game? Let me know in the comments below.