Gaming with friends is always tremendous fun and offers a change of pace from going solo. While the majority of multiplayer gaming is competitive, playing in a cooperative fashion, working toward the same goal is rewarding and immensely enjoyable. The idea of split-screen cooperative gaming is slowly dying out as the couch co-op genre has implemented online modes to replace this feature. However, nothing beats sitting down in the same room as your friends to tackle a game together. The following are the 20 best cooperative games to play in split-screen on the same television.
20. Rock Band (Series)
Although the plastic instruments genre has largely died out, franchises such as Rock Band still make for great party games, at least if you managed to hang onto all of those bulky peripherals. Still, there’s no reason to dig out Rock Band unless you have some friends play with, as the series becomes infinitely better when enjoyed with a group. Considering most people have likely played a Rock Band at this point, there’s really no point in discussing what makes it so good, but rather why. At its heart, Rock Band is a celebration of music and its ability to bring people together, which certainly helps explain why it’s so much better in a group setting. Harmonix did a pretty good job of carrying over songs to each subsequent release thanks to its impressive online store, so you really can’t go wrong with any entry in the franchise. That being said, we’d avoid the first game since it has the fewest features and song selection.
Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to The Beatles Rock Band, which remains a loving tribute to the legendary band and is notable for increasing the player count thanks to the inclusion of harmony vocal tracks.
19. TowerFall Ascension
An arena style indie game focused on platforming and archery, TowerFall: Ascension is known primarily for its battle royale multiplayer mode, but it also has a surprisingly good co-op mode as well. Although it only allows for a maximum of two players, TowerFall’s Quest mode is a true test of cooperative perseverance, as players must battle it out with an array of enemies in increasingly difficult levels. Deceptively simple in terms of presentation, TowerFall’s gameplay is quite nuanced and takes a fair amount of time to truly master. While it’s not as deep as some other co-op games, TowerFall Ascension is worth seeking out for fans of retro gaming looking for a cheap title to play with a friend.
18. Rocket League
Sports games are generally thought of as more competitive multiplayer experiences, but most of them make for great cooperative games as well. One of the best sports games in recent years is Rocket League, a zany take on soccer featuring highly maneuverable rocket cars. While Rocket League has become a popular eSports title in its own right, it also makes for a great couch co-op experience, as you and up to three friends can take on A.I. controlled teams offline or venture online to take on other human players. With modern split-screen games few and far between, Rocket League stands out all the more as a beacon of local multiplayer greatness and is a must-buy title for anyone looking to get a group over for some epic couch gaming.
Broforce hearkens back to the shoot-em-up action of the Contra games, which if you’ll recall, were some of the best co-op experiences available back in the NES era. While it’s refreshing to see a game deliver on being a fantastic Contra spiritual successor, Broforce gets extra points for going full 80s with pretty much everything. Inspired by the many ripped action movie stars of the era, Broforce lets you play as a bunch of action hero knock offs, including Mr. Anderbro, Rambro, Ellen Ripbro, Macbrover, and Bro Hard. Each bro comes equipped with their own unique weapon and play style, and the game supports up to four players locally or online. Sure, it’s not the most nuanced co-op game ever created, but sometimes you just need to bro out with your buds and save the world from terrorists in a delightful 2D sidescrolling setting.
Resogun is one of the best twin-stick shooters available on the PS4 and is an absolute riot to play cooperatively. Although this PS4 launch game only allowed players to play together online in the beginning, it was eventually patched to allow for local co-op, which is arguably the best way to experience it. Resogun’s side-scrolling design and hectic gameplay contribute to a game that ramps up in difficultly very quickly, but it’s this challenge that makes it all the more rewarding to best this ship-based shooter as a team. That being said, since players share resources, Resogun can also be immensely frustrating if your communication skills are lacking, but if you can persevere, it’s an experience worth seeing through to its completion.
A top-down twin stick shooter that supports up to four friends locally, Helldivers is notable for how challenging it is. Unlike most shooters of its ilk where you recklessly spray and pray to take down hordes of enemies, Helldivers rewards strategy and the careful conservation of resources. Missions are varied in structure and require tactical preparation, as you are able to tweak your loadout before dropping into a mission. Oh and speaking of drops, you have to watch where you call in ordinance, as air supply drops can crush and kill your allies if they land in the wrong spot, and is the rare co-op game where friendly fire is a legitimate concern. You’ll come for the Starship Troopers-inspired tone of Helldivers’ story and presentation, but stay for its addictive, challenging gameplay.
14. Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5 was viewed by many to be a disappointing follow-up to the incredible Resident Evil 4 and although RE5 is definitely a step back in its single player offering, the game improves significantly when played through with a buddy. The reason for this is that RE5 was essentially designed to be played in co-op, as the A.I. takes over secondary protagonist Sheva when played alone. The game’s limited inventory system demands that you use Sheva as a pack mule in single player but in co-op, item management becomes an even more integral component of the game, as you must learn to share weapons and resources effectively to survive. Of course, it’s also much more entertaining to laugh at RE5’s cheesy storyline with a buddy, but be forewarned that dreaded quick time events rear their ugly head quite often, so you’ll want to make sure your co-op partner has quick reaction times or else you may be at each other’s throats before long.
13. Any Lego Game
TT Games’ many Lego titles are the equivalent of video game comfort food, as you know that no matter what happens, each new game is going to play almost identically to the last one. Still, not every game needs to strive for innovation and while many franchises try to rewrite the book with each subsequent release, the Lego games have remained a reliable source for local cooperative play. From the original Lego Star Wars all the way up to the toys-to-life experiment Lego Dimensions, TT Games has made sure that drop in, drop out co-op is a key component of the game.
While the Lego games can be enjoyed by just about everyone, one of their best features that doesn’t seem to get highlighted enough is that they are the perfect games for parents to play with their kids, as their mix of family-friendly content and easy-to-learn gameplay are a welcome respite from the many cooperative games out there that are not suitable for children (unless you own a Nintendo console, where they are in abundance). As for which Lego game to play, it really just comes down to which franchise you enjoy the most, as TT Games always delivers on fan service whether they’re tackling Star Wars, Marvel, DC, or the many other popular brands that have been Legoized.
Overcooked is arguably one of the best local co-op experiences available on current gen hardware and is the perfect sort of game for busting out at parties. Up to four players take control of chefs in a restaurant kitchen and are tasked with putting out customer orders as quickly as possible. It’s a deceptively simple gameplay concept, but in practice, it can turn into absolute pandemonium, especially when you add more players to the mix. Much like in a real kitchen, players must balance food prep, cooking, washing dishes, and plating and delivering the meals.
While early levels are relatively straightforward, Overcooked constantly throws curve balls at you and your friends, to the point where you will probably lose your cool with someone for failing to chop an onion in a timely fashion. Communication is so key to the experience, in fact, that Overcooked can only be played in local multiplayer, not online (although we’re not sure whether or not that was just an oversight on developer Ghost Town Games’ part). At less than $20, Overcooked is a steal and will deliver hours of local multiplayer mayhem and fun (but mostly mayhem).
11. Portal 2
Almost six years after its original release, there are still very few co-op experiences that rival the brain-busting puzzle action of Portal 2. While Portal 2’s cooperative mode doesn’t reach the delightful narrative heights of its single player campaign, it serves as a perfect complimentary piece that offers new twists on the game’s puzzle designs. By adding one other player to the mix, Valve is able to craft puzzles that simply aren’t possible in the single player mode, as players must work in tandem to solve each room’s environmental brainteasers.
Portal 2’s co-op is arguably best enjoyed in split-screen too, as it’s a game that requires constant communication and teamwork, especially in later stages when timing becomes especially important to getting past challenges. Although Portal 2 can prove frustrating at times, especially if you and your partner aren’t in sync, much of this is offset by the characters; in particular, the two lovable robots who are just dripping with personality. Very few games include a high five button and for this and many other reasons, Portal 2 is a special game.
10. Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition (PS4, Xbox One)
Diablo III transitioned from PC to consoles with a fair amount of skepticism. PC games ported over to consoles often suffer from reduced features and downgraded control schemes. Meanwhile, Diablo III itself was initially viewed as a relative disappointment after following in the footsteps of the wildly successful Diablo II, widely considered to be one of the best games of all-time, as well as one of the most influential. The Ultimate Evil Edition has therefore gone underappreciated among the gaming community who did not give it a chance. The title offers an improvement on the PC version thanks to ingenious usage of the right thumbstick, which now acts as a dodge and roll mechanic. The main attraction though is the inclusion of couch co-op play. Diablo II and Diablo III both offer outstanding LAN co-operative play, but the Diablo III console edition showcases that there is still no topping the excitement of couch co-op gameplay. Sitting next to a friend while collecting loot offers the finest Diablo experience around.
9. Divinity: Original Sin – Enhanced Edition
An underrated gem, Divinity: Original Sin arrived on consoles in October 2015 and is quietly one of the most rewarding RPGs on the market. With added voice acting and extra content, the console edition is indeed the definitive edition. What separates the Enhanced Edition port from the PC original the most though is (as you can probably guess) the inclusion of split-screen cooperative play. There are sadly few RPGs that offer split-screen co-op, giving Divinity: Original Sin a perk to begin with, even before seeing how fluidly the system functions. Each character is allowed to make separate dialogue choices, shaping each character differently as the game progresses. The mechanic really allows each character to shine with a different personality. The game has both characters on screen together when they are next to each other and when one character ventures too far off screen, the game transitions seamlessly into split-screen. The co-op is nailed so well that surely more RPGs will follow this formula in the future.
8. Rayman Legends
Expanding on the hectic fun of Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros. series, Rayman Legends manages to top Nintendo’s offering and stands as the finest 2D platforming cooperative game ever made. The pacing in the game is as good as it gets, with moments of extreme frustration immediately followed by humorous cutscenes or perfectly-placed musical cues. The music stages themselves are some of the best levels in the game, with Rayman and company racing through a fast-paced stage to the tune of a soundtrack that syncs with the player’s actions. Rayman Legends even includes approximately 80 percent of the stages from its predecessor Rayman Origins, making this lengthy game absolutely gigantic. This is co-op game that can become competitive but at the end of the day, the goal is to get to the end of a stage alive. Therefore, the balance between competition and cooperation is a beautiful sight to behold.
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
A side-scrolling “beat-em-up,” TMNT IV: Turtles in Time is a perfect representation of arcade fun. It can be completed in a day, making it an accessible title compared to the other rather lengthy cooperative titles on this list. However, don’t let the length fool you because Turtles in Time is still difficult on a first run and has a ton of replay value, making it one of the best value purchases in gaming. In fact, after completing it, you will be hard-pressed not to jump right back in and try it again with a different Ninja Turtle taking the lead. With trademark TMNT humor, a high difficulty curve, and time traveling, not only is this one of the best co-op games to play with a friend, it’s also the best Ninja Turtles title to ever be released. Turtles in Time will have players fighting over pizzas but it is all part of the fun; this game is meant to be played together and offers far more strategy in two player mode, as players communicate while enemies come from every direction. You can opt for the SNES original or the “Reshelled” version released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2009.
6. The Gears of War Franchise
While most shooters have moved away from split-screen gaming, with the most recent Halo not including it at all, Gears of War has stayed true to its roots, with every entry in the franchise up to the recent Gears of War 4 on Xbox One including split-screen across each of its game modes. That last bit is really the key to GoW’s success as a cooperative experience, as it’s not just the campaign that includes this feature. For instance, Gears of War 4 can be played in split-screen across its Story, Horde, and Versus modes, with each mode delivering a different type of Gears experience. No matter what mode you’re playing though, it’s a sure bet that it will involve pumping a ridiculous amount of bullets into ugly, spongy enemies, as this has been Gears’ M.O. from the very beginning. Honestly, it’s hard to single out any one Gears of War title for playing with a buddy, as they all still hold up well and with local co-op shooters becoming rarer with each passing year, it’s one of the few series that is still playable in this way.
5. Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 was designed with co-op in mind, as evidenced by how ingrained it is in the game’s various systems. With a great story and outrageous humor, playing through Borderlands 2 is an amazing experience that is only enhanced with a friend at your side. The game involves shooting enemies and collecting loot, a concept that can become tedious when playing alone. However, when playing with a friend on a shared screen, collecting loot becomes even more addictive, especially considering that it gives a much higher chance of acquiring the game’s superior, most sought after weapons. When playing alone, the game becomes a shallow grind while not giving enough opportunities to acquire elite weapons. Although still fun due to the story and dialogue, the shortcomings of the single player campaign are magnified after experiencing it in co-op. And if you pick up the remastered version included in The Handsome Collection for PS4 and Xbox One, you can even expand the local split-screen from two players to four, although it’s not exactly an ideal way to experience the game.
4. Halo: The Master Chief Collection + Halo: Reach
Although the franchise disappointingly moved away from split-screen play with Halo 5: Guardians (although the backlash to this decision has us convinced that Halo 6 will put it back in), Halo has always provided one of the best local co-op experiences in gaming. Fighting through the franchise’s many campaigns is enjoyable solo, sure, but it’s substantially better when you have a friend saving the galaxy by your side. Halo’s focus on large groups of enemies and vehicle segments practically demand to be played in co-op and the best part is that when you’re finished with the campaign, you can bring the fight online.
A few of the Halo games, such as Halo 3 and Halo Reach, include the ability to play online with up to four player split-screen and while it does take away from the experience a bit by only getting to look at a quarter of the screen, taking on other players online with three other friends in the same room is an experience that can’t be found in many other games. The best way to experience the Halo franchise’s split-screen offerings is The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One, which collects together Halo 1-4, as well as Halo 3: ODST if you pay a small fee. Unfortunately, isn’t part of the compilation, but since it’s available for download on Xbox One, it can be attained very easily.
3. Left 4 Dead 2
Valve’s entertaining shooter is the finest, most complete first-person shooter available that can be played in a cooperative fashion on the same screen. Requiring a high level of communication between team members, Left 4 Dead 2 proves immersive and shows what cooperative gameplay is meant to be. Mostly due to the high difficulty level, teamwork is absolutely essential in order to succeed. While still functional while playing solely with AI teammates, in order to fully experience Left 4 Dead 2 all four players need to be controlled by humans. The game only allows two players per console however, so you’ll have link up through a LAN connection or join others online in order to get the full experience. Getting a full party together is thrilling and addictive and since it leaves the single player campaign in the dust, deserves recognition as being one of the finest co-op games around. Left 4 Dead 2 requires team tactics in order to progress, making it an entertaining experience. Tense and pulse-pounding, this scary game is sure to get hearts racing, especially with friends in tow.
2. Secret of Mana
They just don’t make them like they used to. Secret of Mana is a unique game in its own class. An action-RPG featuring hack-and-slash elements and Final Fantasy-esque RPG elements, this melding of genres proves fantastic and immensely enjoyable. The distinction of this game, however, is that the three playable characters can be controlled by other humans. Rather than have the AI stumble around with the two other party members, they are fully-controllable by friends. Imagine a multiplayer game with classic JRPG elements and you have Secret of Mana. There was nothing like it when it was released back in 1993 on the Super Nintendo and inexcusably, the JRPG genre has not had another memorable cooperative game to match it since. Available on the Wii virtual console, Secret of Mana has never been easier to play with three players. In the past, this Super Nintendo classic required the multitap controller peripheral to allow more than two players at once, so now is as good a time as ever to check it out if you never have.
1. Super Mario 3D World
New Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo Wii introduced cooperative play to the Mario series and was a smash hit. The titles were highly enjoyable and the co-op play was also pretty competitive. Unfortunately, the side-scrolling and constrained 2D worlds presented camera problems and pacing issues. If one character rushed too far off screen, it would become distracting. Likewise, some levels needed to completed at a certain speed and if one player was lagging behind, it would cause problems for the group. Super Mario 3D World remedies this issue with a full 3D adventure available to be played with four players. The camera functions far better, zooming out at appropriate distances. Featuring four distinct Mario characters each equipped with their own unique style and control (compared to the NSMB series, which included identical Toad characters as players 3 and 4), Super Mario 3D World proves that local co-op play still deserves a place in today’s gaming landscape.