Back in the glory days of gaming before the wide-spread Internet, local multiplayer was the golden standard for any game. Whether split screen, hot-seats, or otherwise, if you wanted toi play with people, you needed enough controllers to go around.
This has changes in the last decade or two, but if you’re looking for video games you could throw on the screen when you invite friends over, then you’re not without options. In fact, the number of games with couch multiplayer seems to gently increase as people realize again that’s incredibly fun to share the biggest successes and harshest failures with someone next to you. Or to throw a controller at them, if they purposefully screw up a perfect play.
If you’d like to figure out your options for the next friendly get-together, we’ve prepared a list of 15 games which at the very least have local multiplayer, and often feature co-operative modes as well. Some PvP-only games have snuck in, yes, but they are in a minority. It’s mostly about learning to work together against dramatically insurmountable odds.
|It Takes Two||2021-03-26||Action-adventure||Hazelight Studios||40%|
|Divinity: Original Sin 2 | Definitive Edition||2017-09-14||Adventure||Larian Studios||42%|
|Gang Beasts (Xbox One, Windows 10) (EU)||2014-08-29||Adventure||Boneloaf||42%|
|Worms W.M.D||2016-08-23||Strategy||Team17 Digital Ltd||85%|
|Castle Crashers (EU)||2012-09-26||Adventure||The Behemoth||4%|
|Injustice 2 Legendary Edition||2017-11-30||Action||NetherRealm Studios||92%|
|LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 Deluxe Edition||2017-11-14||Action||TT Games||90%|
|Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition||2009-09-15||Adventure||CAPCOM||75%|
|Call of Duty: Vanguard (Xbox One)||2021-11-05||First-Person||Sledgehammer Games||69%|
|FIFA 23||2022-09-30||Sports||EA Canada||71%|
|Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes||2015-10-08||Indie||Steel Crate Games||35%|
|Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, Windows 10)||2016-10-11||Action & Shooter||The Coalition||65%|
|Diablo 2||2000-06-29||RPG||Blizzard Entertainment||53%|
It Takes Two
It’s quite possible that there’s no game that is more local-co-op than It Takes Two, not even the studios previous game, A Way Out, can compare. ITT is a game about two spouses learning to communicate again for the sake of their daughter. The trick is that a stray wish turned them into small dolls, and a sentient relationship advice book puts them through a number of tests.
Each test takes place in a different are of the house or garden, and since the parent are tiny dolls and the book is clearly magical, there’s a deceptively whimsical “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” vibe to it. Each zone has a different gameplay gimmick, and completing the challenges requires communication and coordination. It’s a fantastically designed game, but it does take two, it’s unplayable solo.
For such a simple game, Broforce does have a layered appeal. On the gameplay front, it’s a 2D side-scrolling action game with wonderfully destructible environments and a host of characters with unique special talents. On the style front, however, these characters are all taken from action movies, from Rambo, pardon, Rambro as the starting character, to Bro Lee as the final one.
The scale of destruction is truly impressive, and once upon a time could even slow some PCs down, and it gets multiplied when you play in 4-player co-op. The explosive chaos and people dying left and right is amazing, and thanks to the exaggerated, pixel-art aesthetic of the game it does have the charm of a fond satire, which should appeal to any fan of 80s and 90s action cinema.
Divinity Original Sin II
No matter how you like your co-ops and local multiplayers, Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin 2 can probably deliver. It only allows for two people to play locally, but they can be joined online by another two people playing locally at their own place. It can be played cooperatively, but the nature of the story means that a certain degree of PvP is possible, and even encouraged.
DOS2 is a party-based roleplaying game with a stunning level of interactivity between your characters’ abilities and the world, which allows for some truly creative solutions to emerge organically. Teleporting, effect sequences, and more are possible…and when you play with others, each can be turned against you with the ingenuity only humans are capable of.
If you’ve heard about Human Fall Flat before, now imagine that character in a fighting game. Yeah. In GB you control of a clumsy, floppy, humanoid bag of jelly, waddling endearingly towards enemies and latching desperately onto the environment. The game’s core mode focuses on trying to push other players out of the arena, or into deadly contraptions featured on most of the maps.
While the main mode is PvP, there’s also a wave survival co-op mode having you and friends fight against hordes of jelly foes. It’s an exquisitely goofy game, and a guaranteed good time when your friends come over. This is the kind of game where losing is fun, because of how silly it looks and how fast the matches are.
|Developer:||Team17 Digital Ltd|
The Worms franchise has been with us for over 20 years, and it had just as many incarnations. The games are typically PvP, set on a destructible arena. The players control a team of cartoonish, customizable Worms taking turns trying to eliminate the other teams with weapons such as bazookas, miniguns, Holy Hand grenades and concrete statues of donkeys.
That’s about it. A very simple idea, some basic physics (like gravity and wind which affect trajectories), and tons of good fun. Within a few turns alliances and rivalries between players emerge, and if you’re anything like this writer, you’ll have everyone allied against you before you even make one move. Oh, and Worms WMD adds vehicles and bunkers to the arsenal!
After the success of the original Portal, the sequel was just a matter of time. Portal 2 moved Chell’s story forward, although the once pristine Aperture Science facility was now derelict and clearly neglected. The single player campaign was plenty of fun and offered some insights into the lore in addition to perfected portal-platforming, but it’s not why Portal 2 made this list.
The cooperative mode switched Chell for two bumbling robots P-Body (looking like a robo-pea) and Sherman (not looking like a tank) going through a custom set of challenges. They can only be solved if both you and your co-op buddy work together, but shenanigans are very much allowed! Thanks to the fast and forgiving respawn system death is little more than a slap on the wrist!
When Castle Crashers launched in 2008 for Xbox 360 it didn’t take long before it became a hit, which later was sustained by a 2015 Remastered edition. The game found just the right balance between being simple enough for the players to get the grasp of its mechanics fast, and complex enough not to become boring after three missions. Kind of like cooperative Super Smash Bros.
It doesn’t hurt that it has endearing, cartoonish aesthetic, a snazzy four-player local co-op, and enough content to last you for a quite a while. The fact that it’s still selling well after more than a decade is a testament to its quality as a party game. If you’re looking for something that’s not as explosively violent as Broforce, but just as cheerfully mindless, Castle Crashers are the thing.
Like is usually the case with fighting games, it’s always fun to play them on a couch. You can’t side-eye anyone for button mashing when you play online! Injustice 2 is a pretty great game, an excellent sequel to a fantastic elseworld take on the DC universe where Superman went mad with grief and established a tyrannical rule alongside a few other heroes and villains.
The biggest change relative to the first game introduced in Injustice 2 is the gear system, which, depending on your preferences, provides only visual changes to the characters, or gives actual stat bonuses, because, sure, why the hell not. Either way you’re going to finally be able to let Robin slap Batman back, and help Harley tell the Joker where he can shove his grin. Good times.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2
If you’re jazzed about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and you want to get some more Kang in your life, Traveller’s Tales jumped headfirst into this topic with their patented LEGO games. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is focused primarily on the chaos unleashed by the intertemporal conqueror. Admittedly, this one is more comics-based than MCU-based, but the point stands.
MSH2 has dozens almost 200 characters, including variants, and a bunch of popular locations such as K’un Lun, Xandar or, of course, New York. Kang’s time shenanigans blended them all into the grand city of Chronopolis. Like all LEGO games it has a spectacular dynamic split-screen, Marvel-themed humor, and more variety in the character design department than you’d expect.
Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil is a series that has a history that’s as long in real world as it is convoluted in-universe. You’d need to play all the games starting with 1996’s original to fully get the tangled mess of its story and themes. But it turns out RE is also no stranger to local co-op, not just spooky mansions. One of the games still very warmly received for that purpose is Resident Evil 5.
It lets you play the game with a single partner, and you take control of the series mainstay Chris Redfield and a relative newcomer called Sheva Alomar. Even if you play alone, Alomar is still with you, watching, judging, and theoretically helping thanks to the game’s AI. Unfortunately, local co-op isn’t available on the PC version, but works fine on PlayStations 3 & 4 and Xbox 360/One.
Call of Duty (series)
The Call of Duty games certainly aren’t strangers to local split-screen co-op, especially on consoles. The latest game to keep the trend is Call of Duty: Vanguard, with a local co-op for two players, an a general co-op for up to four, which mean two copies of the game, two couches, four controllers, and this is about the last time you’ll need to worry about math with this game.
The standout co-op mode is, of course, Zombies, a delightfully tongue-in-cheek counterpoint to the gung-ho mood of the single player campaign. How can you dislike a mode that puts your and your friends through the gauntlet of zombie-ridden missions with a plot that riffs cheerfully on the campiest, cheesiest, pulpiest science fiction/horror tropes ever put to script?
FIFA has a long as glorious history of being one of the best football simulators you could hope for. Over the years the series has evolved its mechanics to an inspiring complexity, but it remains easy to pick up and play, especially if you don’t want to mess with career modes and stick with quickplay. It also shouldn’t be surprising, that the series has always been a great local multiplayer option.
All you need is an additional controller and you’re good to go. Truly, this is the football of the 21st century! It even supports up to four players, if you’ve got more people over. Set up a tournament and spend the evening virtually kicking the ball with your friends and the pros from all of your favorite teams.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
|Developer:||Steel Crate Games|
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a game which requires good communication skills and being good at quickly referring to manuals. The idea is simple: one person is at the computer screen, watching as a procedurally generated bomb is ticking the time down to zero. The other player (or players) has a defusal manual with lots of different variables and trick options.
Neither side sees the other’s stuff, so they need to exchange information quickly and effectively in order to stop the clock before the KABOOM. It’s a simple idea, but an effective one, and can be a highlight of nerdy get-togethers with your buddies for quite some time. Pro tip: figure out a sensible way to divide the manual’s sections between several people to speed things up.
Gears of War 4
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Gears of War 4’s main feature is Marcus Phoenix’s magnificent grizzly old-man beard, but there’s also thrilling gameplay there as well, led by Marcus’ son, J.D. In keeping with the series’ traditions, GoW4 features local co-op, so you can invite a friend over and stick to walls together to push against the tide of Not-Locust like the back-to-back badasses you are.
Gears of War 4 also got a follow up, led by Kait Diaz, which, appropriately, also featured rock-solid co-op experience. It also delved deeper into the origins of the Not-Locust emergence, and how exactly Kait is connected to all of this. If you’re in dire need of burly soldiers blasting and tearing invaders with chainsaw bayonets, the gears of War series is perfect for that.
The Diablo series has seen its ups and downs over the years, and in many people’s mind the series peaked in Diablo 2 (and the Lord of Destruction expansion). The gritty, dark fantasy world endured even past the spiffy sequel, and the D2 remaster was quite a hit as well, setting the stage for Diablo IV, which aims to go back to the washed-out, grim-looking world.
Of course, as a proper dungeon-crawling hack’n’slash about murdering swathes of enemies, Diablo games tend to feature solid co-op options for party-based monster mashing. On the field of local co-op, however, you should go to Diablo 3 on consoles as, sadly, the PC version doesn’t support it. Which is a shame, but thankfully, consoles can handle even up to 4 players at once.
Make sure you’ve got enough controllers
This concludes out short list of games you definitely should look at if you’re planning to invite friends for some social gaming with snacks and cold drinks. Many of them will be perfectly find on PC, others might requires a console, so make sure you have the necessary hardware, but if you do, and if you match the tastes of your guests, you’re in for an excellent time.