Hi folks, Drew from PaXaN here. We were recently reminded by regular readers, Alex Donlon and Kelly Faherty, of the glory of the couch co-op era. Looking back on sitting down, shoulder to shoulder and playing some of our favorite multiplayer games with friends, without the need for an internet connection, left us with some very fond memories. Whether it be hosting a Royal Rumble match on a PS2 era WWE game or escaping the Atlus facility with your trusty ro-bro in Portal 2, there is a sense of camaraderie that many would argue has left the gaming industry. However the PaXaN team dug deep and rummaged through our collective libraries, both new and old, to find games that you can still order a pizza with, crack open some beers too and really test the limits of your friendship. With that in mind here are 5 great couch co-op/multiplayer games, beware minor spoilers for the following games…
A Way Out (PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows)
Breaking out of prison is never meant to be an easy thing, and A Way Out really does hold true to the particular ethos of many men enter and no men leave. The very beginning of the game sees one of our two protagonists arriving for the very first day of their sentence. What follows is a part action packed, part stealth, part platforming, part puzzle adventure that sees our characters Vincent and Leo try their best to work together to do one of the main things you are not allowed to do in prison, leave early. Set during the 1970s in America the game does a fantastic job of story-telling through beautifully written location exposition and character development that really does make you sympathize, on more than one occasion, with two men who are very much criminals. There are a few moral choices to make throughout the game itself, some being time sensitive that will make you think on your feet whilst others give you a lot more time to delve deeper into the backstory of our two bestest baddie buddies. It is possible to play the game by yourself but the cooperative mode really does make the game and its various mechanics shine. If you’re open to the idea of a TellTale style story mixed with Army of Two style gameplay then A Way Out is just the game for you. A small note to add at the end, and something to thank developer Hazelight for, only one person actually needs to own a copy of the game. If you own the game then you can share the right to play it with a friend who does not own the game, if you do choose to play online and not sitting side by side.
Gang Beasts (PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux)
Gang Beasts is definitely one of those games that revels in the idea of chaos being a ladder. The premise of the game itself is to just battle it out controlling human looking blobs, which can be outfitted with various different costumes and accessories. The controls for fighting and grappling are hilariously impossible to execute, with gamers quickly realizing that the real control scheme behind the game is the well-known button mash method that all fighting game matches eventually devolve into. Each fight is staged in various different deadly locations, ranging from moving trucks on a highway to a matrix style subway arena. There is no real skill involved in playing Gang Beasts, to win each player will need to utilize whatever luck they can muster, meaning the game can be enjoyed by both seasoned gamers and newcomers to the medium alike. When the fighting becomes tiresome there is a 2v2 football mode that can be enjoyed to mix things up. Each individual mechanic within the game is relatively simple but this absolute gem of a multiplayer game really is a sum of its parts and a strong recommendation for anyone wanting some quick, silly fun.
Borderlands series (PS4, Xbox One, Windows, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia)
So much can be said about the Borderlands series, from the incredibly long development times for each iteration to one of the games being both a prequel and sequel at the same time, popularizing the term ‘pre-sequel’. Despite the different ways in which the franchise is viewed none can deny that each game has so much zany charm that it is very difficult not to enjoy them in some way. If you want a crazy space adventure that also dabbles in some mystic magic then Borderlands has got your back. Some may prefer a shoot’n’loot style adventure and get some crazy gear to deck out your character and Borderlands more than delivers, boasting over a trillion different weapons in the newest game in the series, Borderlands 3. If you’re of the mind to have a story that on more than one occasion balances perfectly a mix between genuinely funny and clearly written by a twelve year old then Borderlands will shove that eloquently written toilet humor in your face and stand proud. Everything from the playable characters to the bosses you bash are whimsical and yet each game somehow manages to hold together a decent story, linking each title in the series well. Offering a multitude of side quests and challenges to complete throughout each location there is always something to do with the only real drawback being the level scaling during cooperative play. If a new character joins an already existing characters game then they could have a hard time battling the enemies they encounter as they will be measly level 1, whilst your friend and the goons with guns can be anywhere up to level 80. This can easily be fixed with either both characters starting fresh from a new game or the stronger character revisiting a low leveled area to do some buddy grinding. Late game bosses do require some amount of skill and patience so evening out the levels between playable characters is certainly recommended.
Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 (Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows)
Our penultimate entry will take a look at a horror staple that will, for some, never be embraced without a huge cushion to put in front of your face and cower behind. Slow walking zombies are undeniably atmospheric, creating tension whenever they are seen on screen and if you are low on ammunition then that sluggish shamble becomes a panicked button bash to somehow save your character from becoming a tasty manwich. There is however an upgrade to this terror, a way in which the button bash becomes a spray and pray of your precious ammunition and more often than not you accidentally runinng off a ledge because you were not looking where you were going. We are talking of course about the zombies that run at you, hurling themselves towards you and screaming as loudly and as menacingly as they possibly can. Both Left 4 Dead 1 & 2 are based purely upon this nightmare fuel, dropping four players into various different locations and tasking you with getting you from start to finish with a few safe rooms, a bunch of guns and an endless supply of zombies to throw at you. A simple yet highly addictive premise, both games are frustratingly challenging but gloriously satisfying when beaten. As if the regular zombies weren’t enough to deal with the developers over at Valve South decided that a cabaret of special breeds was exactly what the game needed to halt players in their tracks, with each special zombie being heralded by a musical cue. Unquestionably two of the better zombie games out there and despite Left 4 Dead 2 being 11 years old it still holds up to this day as mindless fun and great for a gamer’s night in. Although originally released for the Xbox 360 both games can be played on the Xbox One.
Overcooked 1 & 2 (PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch)
The final entry in our list will take a look at pair of games that will either make or break a relationship. Overcooked 1 & 2 at first glance look lovely with their adorable art styles, seemingly easy controls and a jolly sound score portraying somewhat of a ‘whistle while you work’. Overcooked when played for a few hours however, leaves a very different impression. Both games in the series start off so simple and easy, but quickly become nail bitingly difficult. Up to 4 players work together in a kitchen to make as many dishes as they possibly can, whenever the relevant order arrives. Some will chop vegetables, some will cook meat and others will wash the dishes which, as anyone with actual cooking experience can verify, really isn’t all that difficult. However Overcooked ups the ante throwing in an unforgiving time restraint on each dish, a need for precision timing with preparation and cooking and on some later levels an actual kitchen that is falling apart around you. Despite the difficulty, and in many ways because of it, both of the Overcooked games are a joy to play with friends and with the addition of food festival themed packs throughout the year, for example Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving, the games are bursting with appeal and many will find it impossible not to utter “Yes, chef” as you are playing, which is also a great drinking game to go along with this title.
And that’s our list. Many gamers rally for couch co-op/multiplayer gaming to make a triumphant return and it does seem as though some developers are listening to the community. New friendships being made and old disputes being resolved are but two of the reasons why here at PaXaN we will always have time for a quick round of Gang Beasts. Can you think of any other couch co-op/multiplayer games that we have missed? Are there any that you will play with your friends and family now? A big thank you to Alex Donlon and Kelly Faherty for suggesting this list, leave a like and comment below and thanks for reading!
Author: Drew Lewis
Editor: Erik Larsen
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Hi folks, Drew here from PaXaN. I am an up and coming video game journalist looking to inject your daily cravings for virtual screen time with various features on video games and the industry itself. Keep an eye on this space for more news and features on your favourite games both new and old. Have an idea for a feature piece or something you’d like for me to cover? Send me a message on WeChat or email me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. WeChat ID: DrewAW, Email: [email protected]
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