While I generally prefer to play games on my own, I can’t deny the massive amounts of fun there is playing with a group of friends. Whether it’s against each other in a brawler or working together in an asymmetrical co-op, there’s always added value to the gaming experience. Not to mention it’s a great way to see which friends you want to cut out of your life (ok, ok, I’m just kidding!)
Now, while there are a variety of different games around the world, today we’re going to focus on Steam games specifically since it’s the biggest platform and the most likely to have friends of yours. I’ve done my best to include a variety of different games from different genres, lengths, and difficulties, in the hope you find something that fits just right for you and your friends. Some of the games listed also work as couch co-op titles, but you might want to grab a high-quality PC controller first.
So without further ado, let’s get crackin’.
#1 Divinity: Original Sin 2
You know, it’s not often that one of the best RPGs of all time actually puts some effort and time into getting the Co-Op to work as well as the single-player. Thankfully, Larin managed the herculean effort of getting the story and the gameplay to function so well when you throw in 4 human players into the mix. It might sound weird, but largely, DOS2 is more like a D&D game than anything else, with each player occupying their own individual existence in the world.
For example, while one of the party members is having a conversation with an NPC, another can be gleefully killing a bunch of mobs in a nearby room. Added to that is the fact that each of your party members is always in competition with you, being the chosen champions of their respective gods. As such, you never know when you’re going to be stabbed in the back by your friend, so really, DOS2 is very much like Monopoly.
Joking aside though, the combat is a lot of fun, and the classless system means that you can come up with some pretty interesting character combos. The variety of different player tags, skills and abilities mean that you don’t have to go through the traditional path of a Tank or a Healer, but instead mix it up as much as you like. This also extends to when and who you choose to get into combat with since you can pretty much start a fight with anybody.
This is one of the best parts of DOS2, in that the story also is intricate and ever-changing, much like the classless system. You can end up closing off a path or two of progress due to some action that isn’t necessarily clear to you at the time. While that might sound annoying and frustrating, it adds a level of dynamism to the game, since you don’t always know what to expect.
You may have noticed that I haven’t talked too much about the story itself, and . . . well, that’s mostly because the story is pretty standard in terms of fantasy RPGs. You wake up somewhere with basically no memory, get imprisoned, escape, and then try and become a god. Yeah, it might sound pretty boring, but really it’s the actual journey itself that is amazing, rather than the destination.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an amazing game in a single-player and an even more amazing game in co-op. So if you’re into RPGs and have up to three other friends who are too, then you should definitely pick this game up, you won’t be disappointed.
#2 Deep Rock Galactic
For those of you who absolutely love dwarves and would love nothing more than roleplaying as one while you go about collecting metals and minerals, this is the game for you. Of course, it’s not really that straightforward, and the game loves to throw a bunch of mobs and enemies at you to make your life difficult.
On the surface, Deep Rock Galactic (DRG) is a pretty simple premise: you work for a galactic space mining company that sends you and three more companions deep into an asteroid to mine it. The problem is, the asteroid is infested with an insectoid alien race called the Glyphoids that really don’t want you down there. As such, each mission becomes a near-constant fight of working on your objective while simultaneously fighting off an alien army.
Thankfully, the four unique classes help quite a lot in your never-ending quest formats.
Scouts are what you’d imagine, grappling rope equipped members of the party that go out ahead and find things you might need or places to drop a zip line. Drillers are the ‘diggers’, they’re absolutely great at getting you deeper into places you need to go with their drills. Engineers are more of a utility class, being able to put out turrets and work great for defense. Finally, there’s the traditional DPS class, the gunner, who has a minigun and a bunch of other high-powered weaponry.
Once you each pick your class, you’re thrown into a procedurally generated world with a procedurally generated goal. When you first start playing, it’s usually pretty simple, along the lines of getting 100 of x, but as you play longer and longer, it becomes slightly more complicated than that. This is where the progression system jumps in and keeps the game interesting.
You see, while there are the typical wave attacks that you’d expect in most games, they tend to get progressively more difficult the longer you play. That all culminates in the final wave, which is triggered once the rocket that retrieves you is launched. At that point, having the driller’s freeze gun, or the engineers’ submachine gun can come in incredibly useful.
Putting all that aside though, DSG is the type of simple fun that you can’t get in a lot of other co-op games. There’s no need for long campaigns or having to constantly be playing, such as in with 7 Days to Die. Instead, you can load up a quick 30-60minute game and just enjoy yourself, so the game puts very little pressure on you to play it.
#3 Warhammer: Vermintide 2
The original Vermintide was a pretty great hack and slash with some glaring issues here and there. Thankfully, Fatshark has fixed quite a lot of the issues, actually making the game waaaay more fun than its predecessor.
For example, with the first game, there really weren’t many classes beyond changing out weapons or picking specific weapon types. With Vermintide 2, not only do you get 5 different unique classes to play from, but each class has 3 sub-classes (called careers) that you can also pick from, giving you a total of 15. As an even bigger bonus, you can respect your character in between missions, so you have a lot of room to explore and trick out your class the way you want to.
Speaking of missions, Vermintide 2 takes you on a nice little romp through the lore throughout 13 levels, with each level being around 30mins or so on average. What’s special about those levels though, is the absolute tons of level design and effort put into making them simply amazing. While the levels aren’t open-world, there are enough interesting things that are going on, or different paths you can take, to actually add some level of strategy and tactics to how you play.
That’s really where Vermintide 2 shines; in its combat. Not only is the hack and slash absolutely tons of fun, but the new AI director has also left 4 dead levels of smarts, constantly pushing the flow of battle to the brink so you feel even more so victorious when you succeed. Of course, I don’t want to belay how intensely irritating the AI director can be, especially with its propensity to pop specials down, often with more frequency on the higher difficulties.
Really, the only place where Vermintide 2 falls flat is in the loot, which is a little bit disappointing in a game where the majority of the drive comes from the grind. Sadly, the game has gone the way of the loot box for finding new loot, although thankfully there’s no microtransactions or any real-world-currency stuff. Instead, you get loot boxes and you have to open them to see what loot you get.
On the bright side, you can salvage that loot and break it down, as Vermintide 2 has a somewhat robust crafting system. You can similarly move skins/looks from one weapon to another, or upgrade a weapon of your choice. Sure, it’s not going to break any molds, but the fact that the game has a self-correcting mechanism for the loot boxes mechanic is pretty nice (and self-aware).
I guess what really makes Vermintide 2 standout is that it’s actually a really good sequel, in a world where sequels can often miss the mark. There are still some very small stability issues here and there, but overall the game is bigger and better, and wholly more enjoyable than the first game in the franchise. If you’re a big fan of Warhammer and co-op hack and slash, you can’t go wrong with Vermintide 2.
Warframe is a completely different beast, especially when you consider that it’s been actively developed since 2013. This has lead to an experience that is awesome if you’re willing to get past the frustrations of the learning curve. What can sometimes feel like slapdash development, actually is a rich and full world that may be unorthodox, but is still pretty cool.
Now, if you’ve seen the game at any point in your life, you’re probably familiar with its classification as ‘space ninjas’ hack and slash, and that actually hits the mark pretty closely. The eponymous warframes act as a body for the Tenno, that’s you and allows you to switch them up between levels. There’s over 30 of them at this point, with your standard elemental warframes, as well as some pretty weird and interesting ones to try out.
The great thing about Warframe is that it’s always encouraging you to explore and do more through the fact that everything has a max level. The warframes, weapons, and even your pet/companion and their weapons have max levels, so there’s always something new to try and level up. Fortunately, it’s not as tedious as it sounds, and it can be tons of fun leveling up new gear, kitting yourself out, and generally being a force of cosmic vengeance.
Speaking of cosmic vengeance, the game has a pretty good narrative, even though it can seem a bit disjointed at times. Truth is, the first few years of the game weren’t the best in terms of story and storytelling, but ever since 2017 or so, the quality of the writing and acting has really picked up, and you have over a dozen unique quests to go out and complete. Adding to that are a plethora of events, whether it’s your basic ‘go here kill that’, invasions, or faction missions.
Where it does get a bit confusing is how the game world is presented to you, since it feels as if it’s open world, but is really several mission groupings based on each of the solar system planets. In fact, each mission leads into itself, with you needing to first ‘open’ the planet before being able to play on it, and it can actually take you quite a while to reach the end of that road. On top of that, there actually is an open world section added to the game, as well as special mission types where you take equip an archwing and fly around huge environments.
At its core though, Warframe is a hack and slash grind-a-thon, which actually isn’t too bad when you consider that the game is completely free. The grind is not as oppressive as in other games, and you mostly play for the action-packed and smooth combat which is a complete delight. Of course, there are microtransactions and a currency called ‘platinum’, but you can pretty much get everything in the game from grinding, except for the majority of cosmetics.
The biggest issue though is that the game is pretty overwhelming to get into if you’re a new player, and I’m not just talking about the number of choices you have in warframes and weapons. There’s a modding system in the game that allows you to buff your gear, but it’s really convoluted and hard to understand, to the point where I just auto-fill the mods and let it be. It can be a frustrating aspect of the game, especially if you just want to jump in and play, but at least there are some solutions to that issue.
Otherwise, Warframe is an awesome free-to-play Steam game with the best part being its non-freemium model; if you don’t like it, just don’t play it, you won’t lose any money.
#5 Viscera Cleanup Detail
Viscera Cleanup Detail is a pretty fresh game in a world where a lot of the games feel the same.
As the name might suggest, you’re put in charge of cleaning, but it’s not as straightforward as that. If you’ve ever played any game with a ton of combat, you probably know the massive amounts of blood, guys, bullet casings and absolute destruction left behind in your wake. Well, guess what? You get to clean that up . . . with a friend, if you like.
Funnily enough, that’s basically the whole premise of the game, which is fine, because it’s not meant to be deep. Sort of like Euro Truck Simulator 2, VCD is more about the zen state of mind, where you just switch off and get to work. Sure, your work might involve cleaning up a few dozen alien bodies that have been smashed to bits, as well as just literal tons of blood everywhere, but the work is straightforward and honest.
Your primary tools of cleaning are threefold; The mop and bucket to clean up liquids, the disposal container and the incinerator to clean up solids, and sniffer which helps you find those annoyingly hidden spots you missed. Of course, it’s never that simple, and the game absolutely loves to throw you some curveballs, especially when you first play and don’t realize that you can actually track blood you previously stepped on all over the place. Similarly, bodies can and will fall apart, creating a completely new mess for you to clean, and so you very quickly have to develop a system for cleaning.
I know this may sound really boring on the surface but there’s just a ton of satisfaction knowing that you cleaned up a whole level of blood and guts. You also do actually get small snippets of the story through datapads and other small items left around the place, although it’s never really the whole picture. The only place VCD really falls flat in the progression, since each level is treated individually, and beyond cleaning up that level entirely, there’s really no continuity, which is pretty disappointing.
All that being said, you actually have a ton of levels to clean, with varying levels of difficulty, and therefore length. VCD also has steam workshop support, which is nice for adding a bit of longevity and replayability to the game. Granted, you probably won’t be spending more than 30hours or so on the game, but for less than $15, that’s actually not bad at all.
Of course, all of this really makes the game naturally more enjoyable with friends in the co-op mode. Sure, cleaning all by yourself is fine, but having a group of people with you who will probably screw everything up anyway, is actually a lot of fun. Ironically, I could say that when you play with friends, VCD becomes more of a platform for your collective enjoyment, rather than a game with a specific objective.
Overall though, VCD is a lot of fun and pretty cheap, so if you have a few hours you want to waste with your friends, you should check it out. The game even has a 4-pack which basically gives you the fourth copy for free, so it’s an even better deal than playing on your own.
#6 Killing Floor 2
Since we were just talking about Viscera Cleanup Duty, why not take a look at the exact type of game that would spawn that kind of carnage: Killing Floor 2.
Now, if you’ve never played the original Killing Floor game, it’s actually a pretty straightforward experience (ironically just like VCD). Essentially, you’re thrown into an arena with a few other players and you need to just kill waves and waves of enemies. This can either be in either the endless mode which is . . . well endless, or in the standard mode where there is actually an end to each level.
Thankfully though, the game is actually waaaay more complicated than that, and there are absolutely tons to explore.
For example, KF2 has 10 different perks, which are actually just classes (not really sure why they didn’t just call them that). Each class is generally centered around a specific weapon type or genre of play, for example, the support class specializes in shotguns and can provide the team with additional items. Not only that, but every 5 levels up to 25, you get a new . . . perk, but an actual one this time, that helps buff your character in some way, such as increasing reload speed, or heal times.
The big-ticket item here though is the actual combat itself, which is both visceral and an absolute ton of fun. Gunplay is excellent, and you can really tell that Tripwire Interactive put a lot of time and effort into getting each gun detailed and fun to play, with some guns even having 200 frames of animations. It really makes the guns feel real, so that when you’re mowing down enemies, it doesn’t feel like you’re using a potato gun, but instead a weapon with realistic handling and ballistics that can do some major damage.
Of course, there’s really no point in having awesome gunplay if the enemies don’t put up a challenge, and I’m happy to say that they absolutely do. Beyond the actual cornucopia of different Zeds, from the standard bloaters to the cannon fodder, you also have crawlers, missile shooters, and weird zeds with swords attached to their limbs. Not only that, but they’re also pretty smart, and as you go up in difficulty they begin to act differently and have different strategies, rather than just have a percentage boost to their stats.
All that being said, there really isn’t a single-player mode, and the majority of the game revolves around playing the maps over and over again, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. The core gameplay loop is a ton of fun, so the setting doesn’t matter too much, but even if it did, KF2 actually has Steam Workshop support and there’s tons of fun and cool maps on there for you to try. I can’t tell you how disjointed it feels to be going through the magical kingdoms of Mario games while shooting down hulking monstrosities and spilling blood all over the place.
So at the end of the day, Killing Floor 2 is a really solid and fun FPS, if not one of the best FPS games, that’s incredibly fun to play with friends. While the game retails for $30s, it often goes on sale, so you might consider waiting a bit before buying so that you and your friends can get a good deal.
#7 Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
While risking the possibility of being hyperbolic, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is probably the quintessential co-op game out there, so much so that we even included it in our list of best VR games.
As you might expect, KTNE is all about defusing bombs, but it takes a much more realistic approach to the matter. Rather than players grouping up to solve one puzzle, you’re instead split up into two groups: one that can actually see the bomb, and another that has the manual for defusing. That’s right, there’s one group of people who don’t even look at a screen or monitor, and instead have to rely on the information communicated to them.
This is really where the brilliance of KTNE comes in, especially since it really starts testing your communication abilities (and your friendships). The format of diffusal is pretty straightforward; there’s a briefcase with several different slots for modules, with each module being its own puzzle. You have a certain amount of time to solve all the modules that are available before the timer runs out and you . . . explode.
The difficulty is also handled pretty interestingly since there’s both the number of modules and the different types of modules that ramp up in difficulty. For example, if you follow the predetermined path the game sets, the first few levels will only have you dealing with 2-3 modules at a time, but as you progress, you might find a whopping 12 different modules to deal with. Similarly, the modules themselves ramp up in difficulty, with a simple module being just a ‘Simon says’ type game, and the most difficult involves deciphering morse code.
On top of all that, on higher difficulties, modules now become needy, as if the pressure of disarming a bomb wasn’t already super high. Needy modules will self-activate again after you’ve solved them, and so you really need to be on top of your game to solve everything in time. The environment also likes to throw some curveballs, with the lights shutting off randomly or a nearby alarm clock going off.
All in all, KTNE is a pretty intense experience where you’re not only racing against the clock but also against your good you and the other players are at communicating. The best part is that you only really need to buy one copy, since the diffusion manuals are freely available online, and at $15, the games is a real steal.
#8 Left 4 Dead 2
Left 4 Dead 2 is a pretty old game, having originally come out in 2009 . . . wait, what? 2009?! One second
Wow, it actually did come out in 2009! That’s surprising considering how well it’s held up over the years, so much so that it doesn’t even feel that it’s over a decade old. Of course, L4D2 is a pretty seminal work in both zombie games and asymmetrical co-op and has spawned a whole genre of its own. That’s not surprising, considering it’s a jam-packed, action-fest of zombie slaughter and constantly dying.
At its core, the game is relatively simple; you start off in a safe zone and have to make your way to another safe zone through a large environment teeming with zombies. The problem is that you’re not just dealing with your average zombies, but instead there are special zombies, from the boomers who will douse you in vomit, or the jockeys who will ride you around and throw you off a cliff. These are especially dangerous when you’re in tight spaces or at the top of a building, where you really have to split your focus between fighting and overall situational awareness, just so you don’t get caught out.
Where L4D2 really shines though is in the sadistic AI director which has pretty much become famous at this point. You see, the way that Valve made the game more replayable and interesting is by having an AI that decides where things spawn, how much of them they spawn, and what exactly actually get spawned, and it makes those choices dynamically as you play. For example, if you’re doing really well, the AI director might throw you a massive horde of zombies and specials, or if you need some help, maybe it will spawn you some nice weapons (or just fewer zombies).
Of course, the real fun is in playing the game with your friends, because even though you can play with bots, the unpredictability and potential for cooperation are just waaaay better. Since you’re constantly being challenged by the AI, being able to dynamically alter your strategy with your group can be invaluable. Unfortunately, there is friendly fire when you play with human players, but it actually adds another layer of tactics that you have to be aware of.
Aside from just playing against the zombie AI, there are also campaigns where up to 8 people can compete on two teams; one for the zombies and one for the AI. This mode is incredibly fun, and you actually switch teams as you play through the campaign, giving both teams a chance to play as zombies and humans. After playing as humans for ages and ages, having the switch-up of playing as zombies really add to the replayability of the game.
L4D2 is just an overall awesome game, and there’s so much more to it than I can really go through here, from the workshop support to the awesome gunplay. At the end of the day, just know that it’s an awesome co-op game that you really should have if you’re into co-op games.
#9 Overcooked! 2
If you and your friends have ever fashioned yourselves as chefs, then playing the Overcooked! the sequel will probably be right up your alley. Actually, it’s not often you see a game that’s really made for couch co-op, so if you’ve been clamoring for that as well, then you’re going to be really happy here.
In terms of gameplay, it’s pretty much more of the same, with you having to chop up, fry and bake a variety of materials, as well as the additional mix function. What really adds a twist though is the fact that the kitchens are even more ridiculous than before and much more dynamic. Coordination is already pretty difficult with this game, so adding that extra bit where the kitchen moves around and possibly cuts you off from certain areas can be quite challenging.
Thankfully, there’s a new mechanic that’s pretty awesome, which is the ability to throw stuff. Not only does it help with getting stuff across gaps or chasms, but you can also throw right into a pan or sink, which really helps cut down cooking times. That being said, it’s pretty easy to accidentally throw something down a hole or somewhere you don’t want it, especially since you’re likely to be playing with a controller and aim isn’t the best on those.
Of course, there is a single-player story mode where you switch between two different chefs, but it’s actually kinda tedious and boring, with the game losing a lot of its glamour. Ideally, you’ll want to play either the story mode in co-op or versus mode, the latter of which pits two different teams against each other to see who can get the highest score. I should probably mention that while you can play with up to 4 players, it seems the game is mostly optimized/targeted towards 2-player setups. That’s not to say 4-player games aren’t fun, they just aren’t that common.
One big addition here that’s nice is the ability to play online, although sometimes it can be very hit and miss. As you can imagine, lag and connection issues can really put a damper on things, especially if you miss-time a throw and have to start over again. So even though the option is there, you’re still most likely to be playing it on a couch than online.
Overcooked! 2 is a pretty awesome and fun little game that doesn’t ask for much besides you having fun. There’s a total of 40 levels of you to go through and test your mettle, with each level really getting progressively harder. If you’re looking for a game you can play in short bursts, this is the one.
If you haven’t heard about Cuphead before, it’s this 1930’s inspired, nightmare-inducing action hell that’s gotten a reputation for being incredibly difficult.
The game is broken up into three different types of levels. First, you have your typical run and gun levels like Contra. Then you have these really fun bullet-hell type stages where you fight on a plane. Finally, there are the platform shooters that tend to be the most fun. . . and the most frustrating.
Trying all that up is the absolutely gorgeous visuals that hit 1930’s animation perfectly, with their weird motions and film artifacts. Honestly, sometimes you might die simply because you’re looking at how the boss animates or the intricate backgrounds. Similarly, the music is just absolutely perfect, and personally right up my alley.
Of course, the biggest thing about Cuphead is its difficulty, with even the ‘normal’ setting being incredibly challenging. While the controls and performance are perfectly smooth, the randomization of some of the boss’ attacks can get a little bit frustrating. This is actually an overall issue with the game, where you don’t actually get to enjoy your success for long because you now have to slog through another boss fight that might take hours to master.
Thankfully, you can ask a friend to join your misery, although the game doesn’t make it easier for you. Aside from the added number of bullets and things moving on-screen, bosses actually get a significant health buff, so the game adjusts to having two players. That being said, failing isn’t so bad when you have a friend to share it with, and while it might get tense at some moments, overall you’re going to have a good time.
Overall, Cuphead is both challenging and frustrating, and most of the fun comes from those two aspects of it. Strangely, if you’re a fan of games like Dark Souls that are incredibly punishing, then this game will be right up your alley. Hopefully, you can find a friend you can convince or bribe to play with you because this game does have that reputation!
Well, there you have it, folks, a bunch of awesome co-op games for you and your friends to play and hopefully, you’ve found something on there that tickles your fancy.
Whichever way you go, I hope you have loads of fun and try not to get too angry at your friends!