The times are a-changing. Once, if you wanted to play with friends, it was customary to meet at the house of whoever had the console or PC capable of running the game.

You’d plug in additional controllers or play hot seats, share a bowl of delicious junk food. It was good fun, even if the game itself was a mixed bag of bad mechanics and horrendous control scheme.

But that’s in the past now, barring some glorious exceptions. The joy derived from spending time with friends physically has to be somewhat boosted by high-quality entertainment provided by the game itself. Which is why this little list exists. What we’re giving you is a list of twenty games that, for various reasons, are an absolute blast to play with friends online. Some even support local multiplayer!

20. Dead by Daylight

Release date:2016-06-14
Developer:Behaviour Interactive

Horror you doing?
If you and your friends are of horror-loving persuasion, then you might want to take a look at Dead by Daylight. It reaches deep into the survival horror tropes and themes to create a thrilling and nightmarish asymmetrical multiplayer game with quite a few guests from classic horrors in addition to original characters.

In DbD four players play the roles of survivors thrown into a twisted realm only marginally resembling reality, while the fifth player assumes the mantle of the Killer, who has to make sacrifices to a dark entity overseeing the trials. The matches are tense, and takes more than just vague inspiration from movies like Scream or Halloween.

Key features
  • Try to survive against horror movie villains
  • Guest appearances from famous horror franchises
  • Tense asymmetrical trials
  • Just enough lore to make the game’s reality intriguing

19. Monster Hunter: World

Release date:2018-08-09

Walking with Wyverns Monster Hunter: World is perfectly playable solo, except maybe for some high-end creatures. But it shines when you have a friend of three to join you in the hunt. Some events, like Zorah Magdaros visits make much more sense in a group, for instance. These cannons and ballistae aren’t going to load themselves.

During regular hunts having three people to support you makes even mighty monsters more manageable, since with some coordination you can cover all the bases. And there’s nothing quite like defeating a giant lizard monster with your pals.

Key features
  • Excellent for co-op
  • Very well designed monsters
  • Tons and tons of weapons and armour
  • Knowledge is the key to victory

18. Elite Dangerous

Release date:2015-04-02
Developer:Frontier Developments

To boldly go to infinity and beyond Exploring space is a lengthy and usually pretty lonesome experience. There are only so many ebooks you can read before longing for a human connection. Elite Dangerous is a great game, but the hours spent flying, trading, fighting are likely to pass more pleasantly if you fly with friends.

You and three other people can form a wing (NPCs can also join, but the wing-member limit doesn’t increase) and go on space adventures together. Of course since this is an MMO, you can gather up more friends than just a wing’s worth.

Key features
  • Vast expanse of space is open for you to explore
  • Trader, fighter, or miner, there are plenty of things to do in space
  • Be a wing commander or one of the wingmen to a friend
  • Open to massive exploratory expeditions with dozens of players

17. Sea of Thieves

Release date:2018-03-20

Skeleton crew Sea of Thieves is all about pirates, grog, and shinies. Sea of Thieves is a really fun game to spend time with as long as you and your mates are up for a bit of swashbuckling and privateering. Although its aesthetic won’t appeal to fans of realistic-looking games, the cartoonish level of abstraction makes Sea of Thieves suitable for younger players.

Gameplay wise, it’s clearly meant for co-operative play as a crew of four. The ship duties, like navigation or steering are best split between multiple players, and completing the missions tends to be more fun if you have friends along for the ride. It’s a cheeky, good-humoured game, great for a relaxing session.

Key features
  • Friendly aesthetic
  • You can shoot your crew mates out of a ship cannon
  • Progression motivates mission completion
  • You can rob and be robbed by other players on a regular basis

16. Broforce

Release date:2015-10-15
Developer:Free Lives Games

Golden years of action movies Broforce is a game that is likely to appeal mostly to gamers ages thirty and older. A lot of its humour refers a lot to the action cinema of 90s and 80s, which might be somewhat lost on younger audiences who weren’t exposed to movies like Dirty Harry or most of the cult classics of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. Thankfully the gameplay is excellent on its own, and the references are just extra flavour.

The game is kept in the style of classic run’n’gun platforms games, but benefits greatly from modern technology. That translates to a large diversity of assets, and a very satisfying environment destruction system coupled resulting from avalanches of explosions your heroes will cause sooner or later. Each character has their iconic weapon as well as thematic special abilities, and each of them is confronted with hordes of cartoonishly evil mooks.

Key features
  • Over thirty Bros to unlock and play as
  • Extremely destructible levels
  • Loving parody of the golden age of action movies
  • You die in one hit, so don’t get hit

15. Borderlands 1-3

Release date:2009 - 2022
Genre:Action & FPS
Developer:Gearbox Software

Archetypal loot’em-up Gearbox’s gun extravaganza Borderlands in 2019 lived to see its third incarnation, bringing the lead for another round. Set in the space-faring future, the Borderlands series takes pride in its improbable diversity of guns of varying degree of oddness and the wacky scenarios is puts the players in.

This is arguably the originator of the looter shooter genre, coming back to reclaim its throne from usurpers which have emerged since the second instalment. If you want to play something that doesn’t treat itself as seriously as Destiny 2, and the weird aesthetic of Warframe doesn’t appeal to you, absolutely take a peek at Borderlands.

Key features
  • Unimaginable diversity of possible weapon drops
  • Cheeky sense of humour
  • It’s great alone, but truly shines in co-op
  • Cel-shaded aesthetic

14. Risk of Rain 1, 2

Release date:2019-03-28
Developer:Hopoo Games

…with a chance of meatballs Risk of Rain changed a decent bit from the first to the second instalment. The 2D original game changed into a 3-dimensional one in the sequel, and while the graphics improved, the number of players allowed in the game decreased. Don’t be mistaken, however: both games are excellent for a friendly co-op.

The essence of the game remains unchanged. You and a couple other survivors drop onto a map, scramble to find items to help them survive and defeat their enemies, and wait for their way out to open. The longer you and your band of friends last against the swarms of enemies, the harder the game becomes, but you can expect the rewards to be better. Since Risk of Rain 2 is a four-player coop, it’s just ideal for a night of gaming with friends.

Key features
  • Many characters with unique abilities to unlock
  • Randomly generated maps
  • Perpetually increasing power level
  • Some familiar characters from Risk of Rain return in Risk of Rain 2

13. Hunt: Showdown

Release date:2018-02-22
Developer:Crytek Frankfurt

Who knew monster hunting was so competitive? Crytek’s Hunt: Showdown turned out to be a very interesting first-person shooter with monster-hunting competition as its core idea. The game is set in the late 1890s rural United States, and the maps are infested with creatures which objectively have no business existing in this reality.

The game can be played solo, in twos, or in threes, and revolves around hunting down the clues for a monster’s location, killing the monster itself, and then making it alive to extraction while other teams are trying to kill you and grab the trophy for themselves. It’s tense and good communication is important, which mean it’s perfect for a game with friends.

Key features
  • Deadly competition for a trophy of a dead monster
  • Interesting progression style
  • Permadeath introduces a risk-reward system tied to the general progression
  • Supernatural Dark Sight gives you an edge against monsters, but other hunters have it too

12. Grand Theft Auto Online

Release date:2015-04-14
Developer:Rockstar North

Cops and robbers Rockstar’s giant project of turning Los Santos into a map for up to thirty players turned out to be a bulls’ eye. The popularity of various role-playing servers and plenty of other types of games proves it.

If you want to, you can log in with a few of your friends and try to start running a gang, or just the opposite, a police department to play a digital game of cops and robbers.

With the launch of the long-awaited Red Dead Redemption 2, GTA5’s online segment has been matched by it’s younger brother, allowing the players to play cowboys. There’s probably no need to explain the possibilities it yields to a group of friends sharing an idea.

Key features
  • Large world ready to be the playground for role-playing
  • Up to 30 players in GTA Online (+2 spectators), and up to 32 players in Red Dead Online
  • All the freedom from the singleplayer campaign, but shared with other people
  • Extensive customisation

11. A Way Out

Release date:2018-03-23
Developer:Hazelight Studios

It takes two Hazelight’s duet game made some splash leading up and right after the release, but due to its somewhat one-off nature, hadn’t stayed in collective gaming consciousness for long. And it’s a shame, because it’s a very interesting experiment with co-op-reliant storytelling.

The game is tightly directed, and simply cannot be played without a second played. The decision points require good communication, and many scenes give the characters two different tasks that have to be performed simultaneously. It’s not a game to be played with random people.

Key features
  • Tense and tightly directed
  • Only one of the players needs a copy of the game
  • A game from the creator of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
  • A dramatic crime story

10. Worms

Release date:1995-10-30

Competitive mayhem
This is a timeless classic if there’s ever been one. If you’re somehow unfamiliar, here’s a brief rundown. In Worms, you control a team of cartoonish invertebrates (team size differs depending on the number of players) fighting against other squads using a huge arsenal of cartoonish weapons.

The moment-to-moment gameplay is simple too: you position your currently active worm on a map, choose a weapon, then move a reticle, charge your attack and boom, something funny is sure to happen even if you miss.

Take it from someone who spent hours playing Worms 2 back in the day, solo and with friends: it is an absolute blast. Casually discarded alliances of convenience, backstabbing made bearable by hilarious squeaky worm exclamations, and the terrain getting demolished in very unrealistic ways. If you and you’re friends are looking for some very friendly fire and have a good laugh, then Worms (currently W.M.D.) is a game for you

Key features
  • Classic formula which has worked perfectly since 1995
  • Notoriously silly and cartoonish
  • Creative means of destruction
  • Excellent local multiplayer

9. Overcooked

Release date:2016-08-03
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:Ghost Town Games

Team-based chaos management
They say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but if Overcooked is any indication, they can have good fun doing so. This little gem is a pretty recent thing, having come out a year ago, and it quickly made its way to people’s hearts with its premise.

It has you and your pals play a up to four cooks trying to create increasingly complex dishes in an increasingly more chaotic kitchen. Tables shift, rifts divide two halves of the playing area, all around mayhem, while time’s running out.

Admittedly, Overcooked doesn’t have online multiplayer, but it’s great fun nonetheless. It has few equals when it comes to managing chaos in dynamically and chaotically changing conditions without compromising the end goal. It’s also probably going to test your friendships like nothing has since the days of Mario Kart.

Key features
  • Hectic and possibly stress-inducing
  • Two people can play on one controller
  • Tests management skills
  • Creative locations

8. Payday 2

Release date:2013-08-13
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:OVERKILL Software

When the plan comes together
Mayhem and chaos are all fun, but sometimes you just want to play something a little bit more structured. This is where the heist movie given interactive form Payday 2 comes in.

Payday 2 captures several of the best moments in any heist movie: the planning, gathering tools, busting in, and finally making your getaway. It’s this kind of experience where you depend on your teammates not to protect your back, but to do their blasted job and fix the drill/carry the bags/etc. Sure, shootouts do happen, and it’s never a good idea to get into one without a clear way out, but in the end it’s an exercise in sticking to the plan and dealing with any complications that arise along the way.

Key features
  • Organise a heist with your friends
  • Cameos from popculture
  • Plenty of tools to help you on the job
  • Captures the atmosphere of heist movies

7. Portal 2

Release date:2011-04-18

Logic is fun!
Fact 1: Portal is an amazing game. Fact 2: Portal 2 is also tons of fun. Fact 3: Logic-ing your way out of a conundrum is significantly harder when cooperation is needed.

Playing Portal 2 in co-op is like trying to beat an escape room with a single friend, only neither of you seems dedicated to solving the riddles in any sensible sequence, so you just stumble around and get in each other’s way. Alternatively: it’s like doing an escape room with a friend you’re so synchronized with that riddles become a breeze.

In the multiplayer segment of P2 you play as two robots equipped with portal guns much like Chell’s. If you know how much fun playing with portals is, imagine doing the same with a friend you can throw into an endless loop, or with whom you can orchestrate a perfect solution to the task ahead. Portal 2 co-op makes logic entertaining.

Key features
  • Well-designed puzzles for two players
  • Affable robots as co-op characters
  • Lots of room for messing with your co-op partner
  • Excellent singleplayer campaign

6. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Release date:2015-10-08
Developer:Steel Crate Games

An exercise in communication skills
This one is interesting, in that you don’t really need several copies of it, you just need one copy for one player, while everyone else can just use a printout from a PDF. Why? I’m glad you asked. KTaNE is a game about bomb defusal.

One person sees an explosive charge procedurally generated by the game, with all the wires, switches, buttons etc. The thing is: the player doesn’t get the instructions on how to disarm any of that. Other folks get the defusal manual, with all the technical info you’d need. There is one problem, however: they don’t see the bomb itself.

Both parties have to rely on efficient communication if they are to have any hope of succeeding. The back-and-forth can be incredible and makes for really tense moments that make gaming so exciting. Of course, there is also place for facepalming because of a silly, easy to avoid mistake, too.

Key features
  • Puzzle game based on bomb disarming
  • Procedurally generated puzzles
  • Only one player needs a PC
  • A test of good communication

5. Orcs Must Die! 2

Release date:2012-07-30
Developer:Robot Entertainment

A series of heroic last stands
Orcs Must Die! 2 is what happens when you try to mix Warhammer Fantasy and Home Alone as seen by Evil Dead’s Ash Williams. Yes, you could call it a third-person tower defense game, but that doesn’t convey just how ludicrously fun and silly this game is.

What gets OMD!2 a spot here, is its co-op mode. It lets one player play the War Mage, the other a Sorceress, and makes them work together to stop a tide of greenskin menace trying to get through. Notably, Orcs Must Die! doesn’t turn into a button masher. At its core it relies on traps and deadly devices to halt the enemies, your weapons and spells are better suited to picking off an occasional lucky orc.

When you’re playing with a friend you can form more complex defense strategies, but also need to trust the other person to keep their part of the map safe. Besides: the joy of slaughtering hundreds of orcs in clever ways is meant to be shared, and Orcs Must Die! 2 creates a perfect environment for that.

Key features
  • A fantasy version of ‘Home Alone’
  • Tonnes of traps you can place on the map
  • Two characters full of personality and snark
  • Frequently comical death of orcs and other invaders

4. Divinity II: Original Sin

Release date:2017-09-14
Developer:Larian Studios

Playing for the story
So we’ve covered several types of team play, some mayhem (and there’re more to come), but let’s ignore crunch and destruction for a bit and talk about stories, instead.

In the olden days, you could get with friends over LAN or TCP/IP and play Icewind Dale II, for instance, each of you controlling one or more characters of your design or choosing. But your agency died when a dialogue started, and only one player got to decide what’s going to happen. Divinity: Original Sin changed that fundamentally, and the sequel is going to be even smarter about it. See, when a decision point comes up in D:OS1 and you choose to disagree (each of two players controls one main character) you enter a rock-paper-scissors-like game and have a contest of wit and skill over who gets the final say.

It’s modified by your skills, too, so a character with Charm 6 needs fewer victories than one with Charm 3. But they can use Intimidation 7 instead…
The sequel allows FOUR-player co-op, the characters can have very conflicting goals on a side-quest level, and the game doesn’t police shenanigans. Deciding whether to roleplay your character and introduce conflict, or go along the path that leads towards profit is one of the quintessential aspects of tabletop RPGs, and it’s nice to see it captured in a video game with full support.
If you’re looking to share a story with a friend, the interactivity of Original Sin (both games) has no equals on that front.

Key features
  • The best representation of a tabletop RPG in a video game form
  • Complex turn-based combat system
  • Excellent both solo and with friends
  • Dozens of hours of story and combat

3. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

Release date:2017-12-21
Genre:Survival & Shooter
Developer:KRAFTON, Inc.

There can be only one
Fighting back-to-back against AI is one thing, doing so against dozens of other humans is another kind of game entirely. And one that has gained staggering popularity in recent years.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds/PUBG/Plunkbat is probably the best example of that, given its rapid climb up every popularity chart on Steam. Testing your patience, wit, reflexes, and some basic tactical acumen against human opponents can be taxing, but some tension goes away when you play with friends. You can play solo, or in 2-4-players squads, and the latter option is much more enticing. Not only you have fewer players to kill, but your teammates can revive you, should enemy bullets strikes true.

Grabbing a couple of friends and plopping into squad-based mode feels properly dramatic because it’s no longer just yourself that you’re playing for. Can your team survive to the very end against other squads?

Key features
  • Good teamwork is encouraged if you want to win
  • Both good strategy and reflex are required
  • Constantly increasing threat level
  • Stressful but rewarding

2. Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide

Release date:2015-10-23
Genre:Action & Shooter

A four-player band of heroes
Zombies are overrated and definitely overused. Which is why Left 4 Dead doesn’t get the spot and Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide does. In WET you form a four-player group in which every player chooses one character from a pool of five total.

Each character has different motivations, and their arsenal makes them better suited for certain roles without hard divisions. Your enemies are humanoid rats, the Skaven, attempting to conquer the surface world once again. Vermintide is great at promoting moment-to-moment cooperation and finding oneself comfortable in certain roles (which may change based on the equipment – great axe enables a different kind of playstyle than an axe and shield).

Vermintide captures the epic moments when heroes of fantasy fiction team up against all odd and cut a bloody path through monsters to protect their kin. If you are tired of modern weapons and cutting down zombies, certainly give WET a chance, your group will be surprised how satisfying it is to play.

Key features
  • Set in the famous Warhammer Fantasy setting
  • Brutal and unforgiving combat
  • Several distinctive characters
  • Dramatic and tense gameplay

1. Magicka 2

Release date:2015-05-26
Developer:Pieces Interactive

Let’s get something clear first: Vlad is definitely not a vampire. Got that? Okay, we can move on. Magicka is an action RPG based on combining magical elements (fire, water, arcane, shield etc.) into powerful spells. The effects are regularly very pretty, very devastating, and very chaotic. It’s a perfect environment for several players to convene in.

Vermintide is great at promoting moment-to-moment cooperation and finding oneself comfortable in certain roles (which may change based on the equipment – great axe enables a different kind of playstyle than an axe and shield). Magicka is at its finest when you realize that nothing warms your pals to you as fast as some friendly fire. You’ll find yourselves blasting each other on fire mines, launched into the water, frozen solid, or reduced to chunky salsa, because your cat decided to walk over your keyboard and ended up casting a spell to end all spells. And then you starting crossing the magic beams as you’ve never seen Ghostbusters in your life.

But it’s all fine, good fun. And that’s because the moment you finish your tutorial you’re given a scroll describing how you can resurrect your allies at any time. Yeah, Magicka doesn’t bother with any cooldowns and timers, you can access all the magic all the time. The game is also very complex as far as magic-to-environment interactions go, so you’ll quickly start freezing the water to walk across (and heating it up when your friends try to). If what you’re looking for is just a way to be good-natured jerks to each other and everything around you, Magicka is going to scratch that itch very well.

Key features
  • Refined gameplay from the first Magicka
  • A new story mocking the familiar tropes
  • Still excells in multiplayer
  • Easy, but not simple

Match results

So here we are, the list is done, the thread subsides. While there are so many multiplayer-capable games around these days, the ones that benefit from playing with a bunch of tried-and-tested friends are few and far between. What he presented you with is just a glimpse into the beautiful world of games you could play when you and your friends end up thrown across the world and can only play online.

There are plenty more, like the hack’n’slash Gauntlet, the silliness of Saints Row, or the harsh realities of Don’t Starve Together. Whatever you chose, one thing always remains true: playing with friends beats any one-match-stand with randos.