Whether you’ve caught the love bug or just want to impress a new date, one thing will always keep that romantic spark alive. I’m of course talking about video games. Yes, it’s true, my girlfriend never quite tires of hearing me drone on about Xenoblade Chronicles and its turbulent journies through figuring out how the combat works. But every now and again, when I’m afraid my esoteric ramblings might be boring her, she introduces some co-op masterpiece into my life and sets us on a journey filled with laughter and joy. Of course, the co-op experience is a delicate one, one that requires a gentle touch to be pulled off effectively. So if you’re like me, and always on the hunt for fun multiplayer, this is a list for you. Here are some of the cooperative adventures that helped endear me to the genre.
1. Unravel Two
Unravel Two is, without doubt, one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever played. I first experienced this game on PC after watching the moving trailer set to Aurora’s Queendom at E3 a few years ago. While the first game offered a short but sweet puzzle adventure with stunning visuals and moving sequences, the second game shifts its focus to a cooperative experience. I think one trap co-op games fall into often is making an experience that feels like it was built for single player, and allows for multiplayer. Unravel Two feels like its multiplayer is woven (ha) into every facet of its DNA. To the point where conversely, playing the game by oneself feels like a somewhat incomplete experience. Because of the triumphant nature of its puzzle-solving, there’s a facet of collaboration that seems to transcend even the core mechanics. Add to this that the game is visually appealing, has a very interesting setting, and pretty reasonable difficulty scaling, and you’re left with a player journey any pair would be lucky to share.
2. It Takes Two
What? The GOTY is on here? Who’d have thought? In all seriousness, the talk surrounding It Takes Two is far from mere bluster. This game offers a story centered around love, in a Pixar-esque family-focused tale featuring a couple on the brink of collapse, and a magic gyrating book who fully intends on helping them to repair their marriage. The premise is charming, but it’s the gameplay that helps this experience feel fresh. It Takes Two isn’t particularly shy in its obvious homage to classic games, but its own ability to juggle numerous play styles is what ultimately helps it feel like a truly great game. Each area has a different set of core mechanics, there are secrets abound, minigames where you can challenge one another, and a fantastic story-driven experience that, for me, harkens back to a lot of the goofy 3D action-platformers I loved as a kid.
3. Never Alone
Kind of a throwback, this one. I remember playing it when it first came out 8 years ago. Never Alone offers one of my favorite types of co-op, which is asynchronous gameplay. I love the idea that my second player and I can each bring our own dynamic set of skills to the table. It Takes Two excels at this idea, but Never Alone really introduced me to the concept in a very special way. This game features the story of Nuna and her fox companion as they travel through eight chapters of wonderfully crafted puzzle platforming. This atmospheric game world boasts beautiful historical context, culturally rich aesthetic, and suspenseful, emotional, gripping narrative. I’ll admit that presentation does a lot of the heavy lifting of this game, as it is prone to the occasional bug, but I would still say the platforming is satisfying and offers each player a different lens into the world.
4. Wario Ware – Get It Together!
I’ve always been a sucker for Wario Ware. The strange aesthetics, absurdly fast pace, and bizarre characters always helped to bring the simple microgame gauntlets to life in a special way. After years of drought, I was as surprised as the rest of you to see the series make a triumphant return on the Nintendo Switch with Wario Ware: Get It Together!. Add to this an emphasis on cooperative gameplay, and you have a recipe for grand and chaotic times. Each player in this minigame collection will pilot a tiny version of a classic Wario Ware character, each of whom interacts with the minigames in a different way. By combining talents, reflexes, and a penchant for the weird, every player will find some fun in this wacky adventure. Also the high pressure nature of the microgames is perfect for turning any romance into a war for supremacy…which is the goal, yeah?
5. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Platformers are a tough genre to nail. The best of them are few and far between because of the sheer level of polish they require to feel good. I’ve talked about my fair share of good ones on my YouTube channel, but I seldom get the opportunity to discuss the groundbreaking cooperative platformer that is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. As hard as it is to create a resonant single-player experience in the platforming genre, to create a meaningful co-op experience is even more difficult. Tropical Freeze takes an exceptionally smart approach to this, creating three “sidekick” characters that Player 2 can latch onto. Whether you’re playing as the floaty yet familiar Diddy Kong, the bouncy and resilient Cranky Kong, or Dixie (she has this cool ability while she swims I guess) each character changes the way you interact with the world. The ability to team up with DK to perform expert platforming feats allows both players to be part of the action all the way through. And the variety of one-off events and bombastic internal stories each level possesses allows for a sense of adventure nearly uncontested on this list. Banana Slamma!
6. Backseat Gaming
There’s nothing more engaging than speaking when someone around you isn’t interested in what you have to say. I’m kind of having a laugh at our mutual expense here, but in all seriousness, there’s a lot of joy to be had in watching someone else play a game you enjoy. I can’t tell you the amount of joy I’ve gotten just from reliving games like Xenoblade or Celeste through the eyes of another person. Plus you never know what you might have missed the first time around.
Adventure is the spice of life as they say! Share that spice with a romantic partner or a good friend! I hope some of these adventures bring joy to your lives. I know they have for mine. Thank you all for reading and come back soon for more from the GAME ROOM!!!