It’s good to have friends. That goes doubly so when you’re facing down a zombie horde or coordinating an attack on a Klingon warship.
Here we’ve rounded up 12 co-op PC 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 masochistic) 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.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds ($30 on Amazon) officially emerged from Early Access in December—a move that was maaaaybe a bit premature. The game’s struggled with some issues since then, particularly rampant cheating in the higher echelons. But it’s still one of the best co-op games you could pick up. You’ll air-drop onto an island with friends, scrounge gear and weapons from any nearby building or structure, trade energy drinks and bandages with each other, and then try to SWAT your way through the empty countryside and tactically take out other groups. Or you can all pile into one of PUBG’s terrible vehicles and become a roaming Mad Max death squad. Either way.
PUBG is a great battle royale-style game to play alone against 99 other people, but the added chaos of playing with friends—that unpredictable element that comes from introducing others to your carefully laid schemes—makes it all the more entertaining.
Fortnite: Battle Royale
And where there’s PUBG, there has to be Fortnite: Battle Royale.
Fortnite proper, a horde-mode-slash-builder that’s way too complicated for its own good, didn’t really make much of a splash on release. But Epic caused a stir when it released Fortnite: Battle Royale, a PUBG clone that also folded in the bones of Fortnite’s building system—and for free. Suddenly all the people who didn’t want to pony up $30 for PUBG had a game of their own.
Credit to Epic: It’s also a damn good version of the Battle Royale formula. While it’s hard to ignore the fact Epic “borrowed” many elements from PUBG—sort of a shady move from a company that large—Fortnite: Battle Royale nevertheless lends itself to a faster, more frenetic pace. The building aspect adds a lot, with high-level players often slapping together staircases on-the-fly, or leaping over an enemy’s barricade at the last minute to deliver a close-range shotgun blast. PUBG might have the market cornered on slow, tactical shooters for the moment, but Fortnite’s probably more fun minute-to-minute.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
For years we had the isometric CRPG Divinity: Original Sin on this list. While you could play Original Sin on your own and experience the story in peace, it was also possible to join up with another player, each person controlling half the party and either cooperating or—more often—competing to be the most heroic of heroes.
2017’s sequel Divinity: Original Sin 2 ($45 on Steam) is basically “All of that, but more.” It’s a longer game, with a better story and a ton of memorable characters and quests—easily one of the best isometric CRPGs of all time, up there with Planescape: Torment and Baldur’s Gate II. Most important for our purposes? You can now play in four-person co-op. That’s right, your entire party can be comprised of other humans, all doing their own thing and generally wreaking havoc. And trust me, they will wreak havoc.
Warhammer: Vermintide II
The original Warhammer: Vermintide took me by surprise. It released in late 2015 with very little marketing, and in the midst of that era where something like two-dozen Warhammer games all released at the same time. Most of those were forgettable, but Vermintide stood out—like Left 4 Dead, but focused on fast-paced medieval combat. Which makes sense, when you realize developer Fatshark was responsible for Paradox’s War of the Vikings.
Warhammer: Vermintide II ($30 on Green Man Gaming) is more of a known quantity, but that doesn’t make it bad. Quite the opposite—it’s excellent, especially if you can bring along a few friends. Slicing through rat hordes and the forces of Chaos alike is a bloody good time, and the increased enemy variety adds a lot to missions. Hopefully post-release support will flesh out the game even further.
We’re two years in and I’m still playing Rocket League ($20 on Green Man Gaming) off and on. Everything about Psyonix’s “Soccer with Cars” future-sport just feels great, from the snappy controls to the flame trails you shoot out as you boost to riding up the walls and doing death-defying aerial flips to the way the goals explode whenever you score.
Better yet? The community’s actually pretty friendly. I don’t know if it’s because most communication is done through pre-made chat lines or if Rocket League just attracted a happy-go-lucky crowd, but the game’s managed to avoid most of the toxicity that plagues other multiplayer games. With friends, Rocket League is excellent. But even sans-friends it’s, well, still excellent.
Star Trek Bridge Crew
People love to talk about how “isolating” virtual reality can be, but as it turns out one of the best Vive/Rift games is co-op. Star Trek: Bridge Crew ($50 on Steam or Oculus/Amazon) places you on the bridge of a USS Enterprise-alike, tasking you with performing duties as Captain, Helm, Tactical, or Engineering Officer.
It all amounts to a bunch of button-pressing and dial-twisting as far as your actual controls, but playing together with three other people, hearing them yell “Make it so!” and “Roger, Captain,” over the intercom as you spar with the Klingons? A nerd dream come true.
And for those who haven’t yet invested in a pricey VR headset, Ubisoft updated the game last year to support normal monitors too. It’s not quite as engaging (get it?) as the VR version, but still a pretty fun pseudo-simulator.
Shadow Warrior 2
I wasn’t as big a fan of Shadow Warrior 2 ($40 on Green Man Gaming) as I was of the original 2013 reboot. Where the previous game had a tight story with excellent corridor shooting and some incredible boss designs, the sequel adopted a Borderlands-style approach: procedurally generated and open world-esque levels, lots of fodder enemies, generic side missions, gear grinding, and pretty shallow bosses.
But while none of that makes for a great single-player experience, it does make for a fun co-op experience. You and your friends can drop in and out of the generated levels at will, slaughtering thousands of demons together and generally not caring one whit about the overarching story.
Killing Floor 2
In past years I hesitated to put Killing Floor 2 ($30 on Green Man Gaming) on the list. In the middle of 2016, the game was receiving a spate of negative Steam reviews and was going through some Early Access growing pains, with the community at odds with the developers.
But congrats to Tripwire for pulling out of it. Killing Floor 2 recovered, and it’s now the Killing Floor successor I think everyone (or at least most people) wanted. Party up, get your guns out, and get ready to blast waves of zombies “specimens” in the face while coating the floors in gallons of blood. Tripwire leans heavily on seasonal content, and it keeps the game feeling fresh even after all these years.
Dota 2 and League of Legends
Sure, you could play either of these free 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.
Something about co-op and zombies, eh? Dying Light ($40 on Steam) is yet another entry on this list that pits you and friends against the shambling hordes of the undead. And although it’s getting up there in years, it’s also the most extensive of the zombie games, 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 ($30 on Green Man Gaming) can get pretty ridiculous.
Not only did Valve put co-op into Portal 2 ($20 on Steam), but it’s entirely separate from the single-player 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.
No friends? I guess you’d better watch this Summer Games Done Quick video where someone finishes Portal 2’s co-op campaign all on their lonesome—in under an hour.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Like Portal 2, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes ($15 on Steam) 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.
Reports of Payday 2’s death were greatly exaggerated. Two or three years ago I was ready to write Payday 2 off this list thanks to some not-so-great decisions on Overkill’s part—ill-received microtransactions, an increasingly frustrated community, et cetera. But then Overkill bought back the rights to Payday 2 and brought it in-house, killing the microtransactions. Then it basically killed the abundant DLC too, packaging Payday 2 into one huge “Ultimate Edition” bundle with everything included for $45 on Steam.
The price went up a bit in the process, but the upshot is it’s now easier than ever for newcomers to get into Payday 2. The community is fairly large again, the game’s good as always, and until the inevitable Payday 3 this is still the best heist-pulling game you’ll ever play.
Grab some friends, make a plan, screw up that plan, shoot your way out, and have a good time.