It's good to have friends.
We’ve refreshed this list a few times over the years, but now feels like a particularly appropriate time to do so. We could all use a way to hang out with friends right now, right? Co-op games have long been a way for people to “see” friends from afar, and that’s doubly important at the moment. If you’re looking for a way to spend time with your loved ones digitally, what better way than robbing trains or shooting aliens or whatever?
Inside, you’ll find over a dozen co-op PC games that are better with friends. Much better. Sure, you could play some of them alone. Sure, you could (if you’re masochistic) play some of them with random internet strangers. But round up a partner or three and play these games the way they’re meant to be played. I mean, we could all use a break from video calls, yeah?
Editor’s note: This article is updated periodically to refresh the list of games.
Gears of War has been a co-op mainstay since its first installment. I still remember sitting on a couch with a friend battling back the Locust invasion. The good news is, you can still do that. Not only does Gears 5 support co-op on PC, it even supports splitscreen co-op, a true rarity. It's limited to the campaign only, but still, pretty cool.
Outside of the campaign, you can also play the standard Horde mode in co-op, battling back waves of enemies and trying for higher scores. The use of hero characters with unique abilities kept this mode fresher than the past few entries, though if you've played a Horde mode in any game before...well, it's that.
Still, the campaign makes for a solid few nights with friends and Horde mode can extend that experience longer. And best of all, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Gears of War 4, and Gears 5 are all available on Xbox Game Pass for PC.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Halo is another co-op mainstay, even more so than Gears. I have fond memories of a summer spent finishing the original Halo's Legendary co-op campaign one painstaking level at a time. Now those games are slowly making their way to PC, with the original Halo and Halo Reach the first to arrive.
There's no splitscreen support unfortunately, but you can still play through both campaigns in co-op. The original Halo supports two-player co-op, while Reach allows you to form a four-person group to fend off the Covenant. And like Gears, The Master Chief Collection is on Xbox Game Pass for PC—though you can also pick it up from Steam, if you prefer.
Red Dead Online
Red Dead Redemption II's online mode hasn't taken off like Grand Theft Auto V's. Not yet, anyway. Still, I love rootin' and tootin' with friends, and Red Dead Online is the best way to do that.
The monetization can be (more than) a bit intrusive, requiring you to grind or fork over real-world cash to access the most interesting content. Want to be a bootlegger? Or a bounty hunter? It's going to cost you. Hopefully some of the walls fall down as Rockstar adds new activities though. Don't forget, it took GTAV a few years to fill out its online mode as well.
And in the meantime? It's a joy having an excuse to spend more time in Red Dead Redemption II's world, riding around the countryside with your own Wild Bunch and being "outside." More now than ever.
Several years in, I don't get to play Rocket League 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.
The Division 2
It's a weird time to play a game about a pandemic causing the collapse of modern society. Maybe that's what you need though? Face your fears, and all that? And in that case, The Division 2 is probably worth a look.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C., you play the role of a Division agent trying to reestablish civilization in the heart of the United States capital. Without a doubt, the appeal lies largely in Ubisoft's ability to recreate real world D.C., and particularly the various monuments and museums that populate it. Fighting through the Air & Space Museum is a real thrill. That said, it's also a mechanically tight shooter that plays a hell of a lot better than its predecessor.
And when you're tired of D.C., the new Warlords of New York expansion allows you to escape back to Lower Manhattan for a few hours—with more to come. If you're looking for a game to sink hundreds of hours into, it's hard to do better than The Division 2.
Man of Medan
Man of Medan has one of the most creative co-op modes I've ever experienced. From Supermassive Games, the developer of Until Dawn, Man of Medan is a horror-adventure that plays a bit like an interactive movie. Ghost ship, wisecracking teenagers, you know the type.
The singleplayer experience is about staying alive, making the right choices at the right time to keep your entire crew intact. But the online co-op experience is an entirely different beast. There, each player takes on different characters—at the same time. One player might see an explosion and know exactly what caused it. The other, seeing the explosion from underwater, needs to decide whether to risk contracting the bends to save their (potentially) endangered partner or not.
It's a fascinating way to tell a story, and I hope Supermassive expands on this mode for Man of Medan's pseudo-sequel, Little Hope, when it arrives later this year.
Where are we at with Destiny 2 these days? Do we hate it? Love it? It's hard to keep track.
True, Bungie's latest expansion Shadowkeep felt a bit insubstantial—and the "Seasons" that have released since, equally so. Bungie's smart to roll content out a little at a time instead of dumping it all at once, but even by those standards it still feels like lean times for players in 2020.
But that's coming from the perspective of a longtime player. If you're a newcomer, or someone who played at launch and never again? There's a whole lot of Destiny 2 to play nowadays. The original campaign, four story-based expansions, countless smaller quests and one-off storylines. Moreover, a lot of it is free. The entire first year of Destiny 2 plus all of the planetary zones and the multiplayer modes are available under the name Destiny 2: New Light. That's enough to keep you occupied for hundreds of hours—and I should know, because that's how much time I put into Destiny 2 its first year.
Hell, Steam tells me I've put in another 100 since last September when it migrated over. It's a deep rabbit hole, and better when shared with friends.
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.
Remnant: From the Ashes
I did not expect the Darksiders developers to return with...a co-op shooter with vague Dark Souls influences. They did though, and the bigger surprise? It's great.
With the usual bonfire and souls stand-ins, Remnant: From the Ashes doesn't bother hiding its inspirations. It's impressive developer Gunfire managed to keep that Souls feel with shooter-heavy combat though, dodge-rolling and then popping up to nail the perfect headshot. And unlike most Souls-inspired games, Gunfire understands that the appeal lies just as much in secrets as it does in fighting. Much of Remnant: From the Ashes is randomized on starting the campaign, leading to a unique experience for each player.
Playing co-op isn't just a way to have fun with friends. It's essential to see more of what Remnant has to offer.
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.
Sequel Divinity: Original Sin 2 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.
Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter World 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.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Warzone
No, this isn't a recommendation of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's terrible Spec Ops mode. Don't bother. I had high hopes the 2019 iteration would resemble the brilliant Spec Ops mode from 2009's Modern Warfare 2, but...nope. Just an awful Horde mode spinoff.
That said, Modern Warfare is absolutely the best Call of Duty we've had in years. The "Gunfight" mode is particularly inspired, a two-on-two multiplayer mode that makes for some incredibly tense hunt-and-be-hunted battles. It's as much a mental puzzle as it is a test of reflexes. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the new Warzone mode—which is also free-to-play if you don't own Modern Warfare. The second time Call of Duty's tackled the battle royale genre, it's one of the most polished and streamlined versions of those ideas, and well worth grabbing two friends to help drag you to victory.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds 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.
Another battle royale game with a massive audience, Apex Legends surprise-released in 2019 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. 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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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. 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 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.
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