Image via Messhof Games

The 10 best couch co-op and versus games

A list for friends and foes alike.

As easy as it can be to join up with friends in an online game, there’s something special about (somehow) finding a way to play games with someone else in the same room. While it wasn’t easy, we did our best to fill this list with a wide variety of couch co-op and competitive games that will make your gaming group yell, cry, or laugh — even if that laughter is at each others’ expense.

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Crawl

Image via Powerhoof

An unusual combination of both co-op and vs play, Crawl is built for any group of friends willing to turn on each other in an instant. The hook with this dungeon crawler is that while one player plays as the hero, the rest are monsters working together to knock them off their high horse. But in a twist, whoever is the quickest gets to rotate in to be the next hero. There are some neat RPG elements here too, from gear unlocks to different deities to worship, but in the end, it’s all about working with your team — until the moment comes to turn on them.

Cuphead

Screenshot by Gamepur

Cuphead is famous for its demanding boss fights that are hand-animated like no other game before or since, and the presentation alone is reason enough to give it a go. But it also packs a simple but elegant co-op feature that uses revives to give you oh-so-slight a leg up. And while this might not be enough to make the game “easy,” it should at least make your repeated deaths at the hands of a very angry carrot a little more bearable.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Image via Steel Crate Games

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes isn’t for the faint of heart. With one person playing as a bomb-diffuser, and their teammates feeding them instructions from an opaque manual, it’s the gamified version of arguing over the rules of a new board game. But if you keep calm and push through the confusion, there aren’t many games that give nearly the same feeling of triumphant competence.

Mario Kart 8

Screenshot by Gamepur

It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a new Mario Kart game (unless you count Mario Kart Tour, that is), but Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is still the best kart racer on the market. The comeback mechanics are still wacky enough to throw a wrench into most races, and the additional track packs have added a bit of variety for more experienced racers. So until we finally see a Mario Kart 9, this remains the best pick-up-and-play racing game for most groups.

Nidhogg

Image via Messhof Games

This deceptively simple fighting game hits a sweet spot between speed and strategy, without getting bogged down in the details. More than anything else, indecision is punished, and dirty tricks are rewarded. But as competitive Nidhogg can be, it’s also just awkward enough to add a dash of comedy, reducing the tension a much-needed notch. You might lose every game, but when winning just means getting eaten by a giant worm, it’s easy to laugh along.

Nobody Saves the World

Image via DrinkBox Studios

Nobody Saves the World pulls apart the threads that hold together most action RPGs just so it can put them back together in a more flexible, consistently rewarding way. Rather than tying you down to a single build or class, it pushes you to experiment constantly. And whereas in most RPGs your options narrow as you level up, here they only multiply as you unlock new characters with strikingly different playstyles. With all the changes though, Nobody Saves the World (much like its more traditional forebears) is still best enjoyed with friends.

Overcooked! All You Can Eat

Overcooked 2
Image via Team17

Where the best real-world kitchens set you up for success, Overcooked! All You Can Eat sets you up to fail. There are too many impatient customers, nothing is well-organized, and disasters appear at an alarming rate. It won’t be pretty, but your only option to keep the cascading mistakes at bay is to communicate and put out the (literal) fires one by one.

Rocket League

Image via Psyonix

Maybe Rocket League’s most impressive accomplishment is that a game with such a developed professional scene is so easy to pick up and play. There are significant gaps in player skill and knowledge, sure, but the basics of the game are amazingly clean, simple, and intuitive. It might be tough to jump into a match with experienced players, but if you pick the game up at the same time as a few friends, odds are you’ll have a good time from the first kickoff.

Spiritfarer

Image via Thunder Lotus Games

Spiritfarer is a game that requires some patience — even for a story-heavy game with lots of crafting and farming. Whether cutting planks for a new building or crisscrossing the map looking for resources, a surprising percentage of the game’s action happens one by one, in real-time. This might be frustrating for some more goal-oriented people, but it also connects you more intimately to the game’s spaces, while lending weight to your decisions about how to spend your time. Appropriately, these elements serve an equally intimate and weighty story all about finding peace in death.

Towerfall

Image via Matt Makes Games

Much like Nidhogg, Towerfall is all about speed, strategy, and comedy. The difference is that where Nidhogg is all about simple dirty tricks, Towerfall is all about Rube-Goldberg-esque sequences that lead to some of the most outrageous kills you’ll ever see. Not only does that make this the most laugh-out-loud funny game on this list, but it also means that even the most overmatched players still have a chance to get the occasional wild shot off on their quicker-handed friends.


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Author
Mitchell Demorest
Mitchell is a freelance writer with a special interest in weird, surprising indies. Outside of his time writing, you can usually find him cooking, listening to The Go-Betweens, or trying his best to schedule a board game night.