Hopefully, like me, you’ll have booked in a bit of premium gaming time around the festive period. And coincidentally, Valve’s Winter Steam Sale kicked off just a couple of days before Christmas. Since so many of us and our friends are off, this marks the perfect time of year to dip your toe into the wonderful world of co-operative games. I have two friends I game with pretty regularly, and as a result, I was surprised to see that my game collection boasts a pretty staggering number of “best played with friends” titles. So I thought I’d share the love, albeit with apologies that the vast bulk of these titles are both Steam-only and non-native.
The only thing I’m going to exclude from this little round up is MMOs. While they often have compelling co-op elements, I’m just not comfortable recommending any of those, given how long I’ve been out of the MMO scene.
I’m also going to focus on “Online Co-Op”, although some of these titles also support split-screen local and Steam Remote Play Together options.
Well Known Titles
Let’s start with some of the better known options. There are honestly too many big names to list, so lets put aside some of the more obvious ones like Deep Rock Galactic, Terraria, the Diablo series, Payday 2/3, Team Fortress 2 and so on, and focus on the quirkier options.
Overcooked 2 (
Pure chaos in even just two player mode, this game supports up to four players at once, as you battle to fulfil food orders by chopping ingredients, steaming, frying and boiling, then plating up and serving, then cleaning, all across increasing inventive, often-changing levels. It sounds simple, it starts simple, but over time, the complexity ramps up resulting in an odd combination of pure frustration and chaotic fun. Find it on Steam.
Spelunky 2 (Proton)
The original Spelunky is ten years old now and featured local co-op, but when developer Mossmouth released its sequel in 2020, it had online co-op baked in. Up to four players in a rich, procedurally-generated set of challenging biomes. The opportunity for absolute chaos through emergent gameplay makes this one a co-op gem. Available on Steam. The original is also on GOG, but the follow up never made it.
Hammerwatch 2 (Proton)
While the original Hammerwatch is still playable and sports a native version, the follow up is a considerable step up in graphics, albeit Windows-only. The combat in this sequel feels much more satisfying and polished, and the game world hints at a much greater depth too. I've not played long yet, but I'm looking forward to more. Only on Steam, although the original game is available on GOG.
Remnant: From the Ashes (Proton)
A unique FPS, Remnant combines weak-spot shooting with a souls-like dodge-roll mechanic tied to a stamina-gauge and a diverse set of RPG upgrades. Runs are randomised and you could complete the game without unlocking/finding all the weapons on offer, nor the various magical upgrades you can apply to each. Remnant is on Steam only. If you enjoy this one, its sequel is only a few months old.
Warhammer 40000: Darktide (Proton)
Developer Fatshark never did get EAC to work reliably in its earlier title, Vermintude 2, so I didn’t have high hopes for Darktide. However, not only is it perfectly playable (including hosting/joining multiplayer), I’m enjoying this far more than I did the fantasy setting of the earlier Vermintude games. Fight for the Emperor as one of four extremely customisable characters classes in multiple L4D2-like mission-based scenarios. If you can look past the obnoxious monetisation model, this is worth a look. It really does a great job of delivering the Warhammer 40K atmosphere with excellent voice acting and brilliantly realised environments. Only on Steam.
Gunfire Reborn (Proton)
I won’t go into too much detail except to note that this is amongst the greatest co-op roguelite shooters ever made. If you enjoy an FPS and you haven’t played this yet, then you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot. Only on Steam, and the two DLC expansion character packs are well worth picking up if you enjoyed the base game.
Aliens: Fireteam Elite (Proton)
A little rough around the edges, but this gem really captures the vibe from the Aliens movie and shoves it right in your face. With an innovative upgrade system for 7 unique classes, you'll need to find two friends (or the somewhat lacklustre bots) to take down aliens and androids across 12 sprawling missions. Available on Steam.
Less Well Known
This incredible roguelite from the creators of Monster Train is my current obsession. Despite being turn-based, all players spend their round in real-time which ensures a snappy pace. There are some fantastic synergies to exploit by playing different characters together - group the enemies with the Weaver's "Stitch" skill, pound the grouped enemies with an AoE "Leaping Strike" from the Magma Miner, then pulse an arena-wide "Seismic Slam" taunt as the Obelisk and tank all the resulting counter-attacks on your shields, thereby protecting your allies. Huge meta progression, a subtle (and ignorable if you wish) plot providing world building, and more challenges and missions than you can shake a stick at, this one is highly recommended. Get it on Steam.
Ember Knights (Proton)
A room based roguelite for up to 4 players, you can specialise in any of six unique weapons as you fight and dodge roll your way to the perfect build, choosing from 17 secondary skills and 85 relics as you and your friends progress. Available on Steam.
Do you like accidentally killing your friends? Do you enjoy a brutal challenge of near-never ending enemies? Do you like the stress of tapping button combos to radio-in airstrikes, turrets or mech support? If so, go play Helldivers immediately. There’s a reason this game has a button that simply throws your character on the ground. Keeping track of turret or mech fire while trying to disarm a nuke or prime an energy generator is shockingly difficult. But great fun with up to 4 players. Lots of DLC on this one, but the Digital Deluxe edition packages the game and all DLC for around the price of a pint of lager. Available on Steam.
Challenging, satisfying, beautiful. Three words to sum up Passtech’s co-op follow up to Curse of the Dead Gods. Still in development, the first two missions/bosses are complete and will give you around an hour’s play per attempt. The roguelite upgrades in this one will make or break your build across a variety of deeply varied characters as you and up to three friends race against the clock to level up before the boss showdown. Highly recommended, available on Steam.
Stolen Realm (Proton)
What’s this? A real-time turn-based RPG looter with accessible-yet-deep character customisation across 9 skill trees. Real-time, but turn-based? Yep it’s turn-based, but up to 6 players all take their turns in real-time, creating either wonderful harmonies, or friend-losing chaos, before ending their segment and letting the enemies take their go. An event system will also drop permanent relics and the developers have recently launched a roguelike-version of the gameplay loop for those players not willing to sink tens of hours into the world-based campaign. Find this gem on Steam.
A recent addition to my library, I haven’t delved into this much yet, but basically take Noita’s wand-building and throw it into a turn-based top-down map that sees you constructing clever chained take downs of multiple enemies as you move from map to map, collecting new abilities along the way. This one supports up 8 players which must be absolute chaos. Spellmasons is on Steam.
Blackout Protocol (Proton)
With hints of Alien Swarm, Blackout Protocol gives you and up to two more friends the opportunity to choose from a variety of weapons, skills and grenades as you take on its top-down, wonderfully lit, pseudo-3D missions. Early builds were ridiculously challenging, but recent updates have made the game somewhat more accessible. It’s got some nice grindy meta-progression to help out longer-term too. You can grab this one on Steam.
Not one I’ve played a lot of, but from my time in this surprisingly deep world, it’s a curious cross of Terraria-style base-building and Core Keeper dungeon-diving, with a top-down perspective. You can play with up to 4 players as you build a village around your base while hunting for crafting supplies underground. The UI is a little rough around the edges, but it gets regular updates and appears to have something of a cult following, with well over 10 thousand steam reviews, mostly positive. Grab it from Steam.
Take Spelunky, zoom it out a little, add in RPG-mechanics, focus on combat and hey presto! Vagante has so many Spelunky mechanics, you’ll be right at home switching between them. Cooking chickens for health, spikes that one-shot your character, falling blocks, it’s uncanny. In 50 hours, I’ve never beaten the game, but like Spelunky, it rarely tips over from maddeningly-addictive to actual frustration. Terrible UI, but worth the learning curve as the mechanics are rock solid. Get it on Steam.
All the rest
There are just so many. It feels like online-coop has experienced a real surge in the past few years, possibly powered by Steam’s networking stack, as you can see from how few on this list actually make it to GOG. Here’s a few more games for you to take a look at, if the list above didn’t sate your appetite.
I can recommend Gauntlet, Outriders, Streets of Rogue, Don’t Starve Together, Dying Light, Hellcard, Broforce, Bounty of One, the Trine series, Starbound, Returnal, Castle Crashers, Fury Unleashed, Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop, The Division 2 and pretty much all the Borderlands games.
Steam’s Winter Sale is on until January 4th, so if you fancy anything on this list, check it out before then, as most of these have pretty substantial discounts until then. Happy co-op gaming!