SLIDESHOW

The 12 best PC co-op games to play with your friends

Sure, you can play these games alone, but they're way better with a buddy.

coopgames primary
It's dangerous to go alone!

It’s good to have friends. That goes doubly so when you’re facing down a zombie horde or sneaking into a hostile spy base.

Here we’ve rounded up 12 games that are better in every way to play with friends. Yeah, you could play some of them alone. Sure, you could (if you’re insane) play some of them with random Internet strangers who love to use profanity. But if you pair up with a partner or three you’ll have a much more rewarding experience.

Unless one of you is bad at games, in which case you’ll never speak to that person again. Thanks, Chris.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated periodically to refresh the list of games.

league of legends
Dota 2 and League of Legends

Sure, you could play either of these MOBAs with a group of random strangers. You also could tie raw steak to your body and run through a grizzly bear's cage. In a world full of toxic video game communities and "haha your mom" teenagers, Dota 2 and League of Legends are somehow notorious for being even worse (though still a blast to play).

Both games have done their best to clean up their act in recent years, but if you're the worst team member in a game that relies on precise teamwork to win, you're going to have a bad time. Better bring a few friends along for the ride so they can tease you mercilessly when you lose.

divinity original sin
Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin is a fantastic CRPG played by your lonesome, but it reaches a new level when played cooperatively. Both players create and control their own character, and conversations actually allow you to roleplay against each other instead of one player being stuck as a warmongering subordinate. It’s maybe the closest a video game RPG has ever come to tabletop roleplaying.

The upcoming sequel promises to flesh out the co-op aspects even more—four players, all exploring the world individually, completing quests, and backstabbing each other—but it’s still a ways off. For now, the original game will have to suffice.

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Evolve

Evolves a bit of an outsider on this list—it’s the only game outside of Dota 2 and League of Legends that’s competitive co-op instead of pure player-versus-environment. But there’s a reason. Well, a few reasons. First off, it’s free now, which is always a good selling point.

But more importantly, Evolve’s four-on-one hunter-versus-monster affair demands teamwork. It’s pretty much impossible for the Hunters to track down and kill the monster if they’re not working together, especially because it’s controlled by another player. “The most dangerous game,” I’ve heard.

Evolve had some serious issues at launch—not least of which was its hostile DLC plan. But with Turtle Rock promising to turn the game around and make good? I’m willing to give it another shot, because the core idea intrigued me from my first-ever match.

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Borderlands 2

“It’s 2016, and you’re still including Borderlands 2 on this list?” Yes, I am. Yeah, the game’s four years old at this point, but it’s still the last “real” Borderlands game. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel never captured me in quite the same way, Tales from the Borderlands is an adventure game, and I’d rather not even talk about Gearbox’s latest game, the frantic MOBA-shooter mix Battleborn.

And so we’re left with Borderlands 2. It’s still as great a co-op game as ever. Round up some friends, round up some drinks, and shoot baddies until the guns pop out of their corpses. Simple fun.

call of duty black ops zombies
Call of Duty: Black Ops III

For my money, Call of Duty’s co-op peak was Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops mode—twenty-three missions with different objectives for each. But the other half of Call of Duty’s co-op heritage is its famed Zombies mode, and if you’re going to play you might as well start with the most recent.

As of 2016 that means picking up a copy of Black Ops III for its “Shadows of Evil” storyline, which takes you through Morg City—overrun, of course, by zombies. With a cast of shady characters voiced by the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Ron Perlman, it makes for a fun little romp. Heck, some people buy Call of Duty only for Zombies mode at this point.

killing floor 2
Killing Floor 2

Part of me hesitates to put Killing Floor 2 on this list. Go to the game’s Steam page and you’ll see it’s received “Mixed” reviews of late, for a multitude of reasons—most of which boil down to the community's feeling like its voice isn’t being heard. That’s bad, when you’re in Early Access.

So take this recommendation with a shaker of salt. But as someone who casually plays Killing Floor 2, I think the game’s a lot of fun. Party up, get your guns out, and get ready to blast waves of zombies “specimens” in the face. There are (completely valid) complaints that the game breaks down or is exploitable once you’ve learned its patterns, but by the time you’ve reached that point you’ll have spent many, many hours playing. For me, that counts as “Getting my money’s worth.”

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Dying Light

Something about co-op and zombies, eh? Dying Light is yet another entry on this list that pits you and friends against the shambling hordes of the undead. It’s also the most extensive of the zombie games, though, with a massive open world built for sprinting through alleyways and bounding over rooftops using thrilling parkour mechanics.

The game’s perfectly pleasant alone , but infinitely more chaotic with companions. It’s you, three friends, and a lightning sword/a fire-coated machete/a big ol’ sledgehammer/a baseball bat covered in nails. You can even play through the entire lengthy campaign together, if you so choose.

In a similar (but less undead) vein: Far Cry 4’s co-op can get pretty ridiculous.

left 4 dead 2
Left 4 Dead 2

Okay, okay, one more zombie game. But how could we leave Valve’s classic Left 4 Dead 2 off the list? Released waaaay back in ye olden days of 2009, Left 4 Dead revolves around four survivors trying to find refuge in world overrun with zombies—healing each other, communicating with each other, and providing complementary firepower coverage.

The whole thing was built for fragging with your friends, and is a lot more structured than the open-world mayhem of Dying Light or the arena madness of Call of Duty and Killing Floor 2. Just make sure you bring some pals with you, because the people still playing seven years post-release are a pretty insular crowd at this point. It’s better to learn with people you know.

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Portal 2

Let’s add another Valve entry to the list: Portal 2. Not only did Valve put co-op into Portal 2, but it’s entirely separate from the singleplayer campaign.

You and a friend (or enemy) each control a robot and your own separate portal gun, for a total of four portals at a time. Puzzles often require strategic use of all four, which’ll have you screaming, “No, PUT THE DAMN PORTAL OVER THERE,” and gritting your teeth at regular intervals.

keep talking and nobody explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Like Portal 2, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is either the best or worst test of a relationship. Originally designed for virtual reality, the game mimics the bomb-defusing scene in any goofy action film—you know, the “do I cut the red wire or the green wire?” type. One player has to describe the bomb they see on-screen, while the other flips through a book of schematics to try and figure out how to defuse it.

It’s tense, frustrating, and (when you succeed) incredibly rewarding. Just make sure to take a break before you say anything you’ll regret.

payday 2
Payday 2

A few months ago I might've taken Payday 2 off this list. It seemed like Overkill was taking the game in some not-so-great directions, by which I mean ill-received microtransactions and an increasingly frustrated community. But then in May, Overkill bought out the rights to Payday and brought it in-house, killing the microtransactions in the process. Now I feel…hopeful? Hopeful seems like the correct term.

So grab four friends and get ready to pull off some heists. From corner store stick-'em-ups to kidnappings to bank robberies and cybercrime, Payday 2 is all about scratching your Ocean's 11 itch.