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 over a dozen 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 is updated periodically to refresh the list of games.
Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter World ($60 on Steam) is an acquired taste, to say the least. That said, the best way to acquire the taste is to have a friend talk you through all of its more complicated systems, so that when you do eventually end up on your own you have half an idea what you're supposed to be doing. Tracking, learning to deal with the camera, learning to embrace the slow and clumsy controls—all of it can be done, but it's easier with a buddy along.
Capcom's made it a pain in the ass to actually play with friends, and the servers aren't nearly as reliable as they should be, but when you get into the Monster Hunter groove it can be incredibly addictive. Pick this one up if you're patient.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds ($30 on Amazon) sure has fallen in our esteem since last time we visited this list. What was once the undisputed ruler of the battle royale genre is...well, still doing fine. Plenty of people play it! And the addition of the snow-capped map Vikendi was met with pretty positive word of mouth, from what I saw.
That said, there's a lot less of that word of mouth around Battlegrounds than there used to be. 2018 was a pretty bad year for PUBG, with a failed lawsuit against Epic as well as a rash of cheaters and bugs so bad the developers actually launched a "Fix PUBG" campaign, trying to respond to the increasingly desperate pleas of players. It worked, and PUBG is in a better place now than perhaps any time since Early Access, but there's a lot more competition now. Great competition, too.
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 the most notorious of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds competitors is, of course, Fortnite.
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 at this point it's safe to say Fortnite is synonymous with its battle royale mode, 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.
Listen: It's the biggest game in the world. Literally. Fortnite has an astronomical number of players, and propelled Twitch streamer Ninja to "Appeared in a Super Bowl commercial" levels of fame. It's a global phenomenon. And credit to Epic, it's also a damn good version of the battle royale formula. The building aspect adds a lot, as does Epic's willingness to experiment with new ideas (like airplanes) on a per-season basis. Games-as-a-Service is often a dirty term, but Epic shows how it can be done right.
The latest darling on the battle royale stage, Apex Legends (free on Origin) surprise-released in February to immediate acclaim. Developed by Respawn, it keeps a lot of what made Titanfall a fantastic shooter—quick pace, tight shooting—and adds a resurrection mechanic, some neat Overwatch-style hero abilities, streamlined looting, and an intuitive pinging system that lets you communicate with strangers without getting on-mic, or better signal to friends just where you saw that enemy sniper.
Oh, and it's also free.
It's an incredible package, and while I miss the mechs and wall-running of the Titanfall series I'm still pretty impressed by how many unique ideas Respawn's brought to Apex Legends. I thought we'd settled into the PUBG/Fortnite duality, and then suddenly there was new competition. Exciting.
We always have to include at least one relationship-ending game on this list, and this year it's Overcooked 2 ($25 on Steam). As in the original, you and up to three friends are tasked with running a kitchen—preparing and cooking ingredients, assembling them, and getting them out to customers in a timely manner.
If it sounds easy, then you've never experienced the teeth-gritting frustration of yelling "No, I need the onion over there! What are you even doing?" while someone else on your team fills every counter surface with plates for no reason and all your burgers start burning. Party's over, everyone.
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 Humble) 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.
Four years in, I don't get to play Rocket League ($20 on Humble) nearly as often as I'd like anymore. It's still rolling right along though, still getting patches and new cars and so on. Best of all: It's still fun as hell. Psyonix’s “Soccer with Cars” future-sport feels great, from the snappy controls to the flame trails when you boost up the walls to the way the goals explode whenever you score.
And the community’s pretty friendly as well! I don’t know if it’s because most communication is still handled 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 ($40 on Humble) 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 Humble) 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 Humble) 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 ($60 on Humble) 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.
Now if only we knew when Dying Light 2 was coming out...
Just last year I wrote "Reports of Payday 2’s death were greatly exaggerated." Now I'm not so sure. Listen, Starbreeze is going through some tough times right now, with insider trading allegations, a CEO who apparently vanished off the face of the earth, and Overkill's The Walking Dead so disastrous that Robert Kirkman rescinded the Walking Dead license. How long will Payday 2 ($10 on Steam) be up and running? I honestly don't know.
And that's a shame, because it's still a fantastic co-op experience. Pulling off heists with friends is fun, especially given how cheap it is to get started these days. If you've ever wanted to try Payday 2...well, maybe now's the time, before it disappears forever.
Mediocre games made better by co-op
The good news: A lot of co-op games released in the past year. The bad news: They're not great. With always-online and games-as-a-service increasingly prevalent, we've had a whole slew of bring-your-friends experiences pop up, from Bethesda's Fallout 76 to BioWare's Anthem to Ubisoft's Far Cry: New Dawn.
It'd feel weird not to mention them, but I'm not lying when I say they're mostly mediocre. Far Cry is fun, but its awkward co-op system means quest progress only counts for the host. Fallout 76 feels half-finished, and it remains to be seen whether 2019's updates can save it from an ignominious death. And Anthem, while it makes a great first impression, soon proves repetitive.
Point being, it's hard to recommend any of them. But hey, every game's better with friends.
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