Whether it’s a partner, friend, or family member, we all know that one person who is, shall we say, skeptical about gaming.
If you’re tired of attempting to describe the joys and merits of video games to him/her, but still want that person to share them with you, hopefully one of the following titles (all of which are highly accessible and unique in their own genre) will help you to bridge that interest gap.
From super-mainstream to quite obscure, and from puzzle to FPS, find where you think the person’s interests would lie on the following spectrum, then hand them the controller or the keyboard, look them in the eye, and ask them to be your player 2.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition (Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3)
Don’t be put off by the lengthy title of this project – it’s pretty much a couch co-op masterpiece. Taking the best bits of the controls and character development of Diablo III and its expansion, the Ultimate Evil Edition is a simplified console exclusive, with numerous in-game menu and overall fluidity upgrades.
Featuring cross-platform saves, and multiple new character types, this edition is a short and sweet run for you and your buddy, or three (coop supports up to four players).
This title generally focuses more on the fun than on the details, reminiscent of the founding Diablo projects. Hence the simplified mechanics, such as the sizing of inventory items, which aim to save time and reduce frustration.
In fact, if expanded into a full game, I’d say this edition would be too basic, so Blizzard was smart in releasing a title made specifically for smooth console coop, simplifying the logistics to get even that tech-wary pal or partner of yours easily involved.
The only bad bit, I’d say, is the inability to open the main menu individually, so every player has to customize, upgrade etc., in turn. Other than that, if you’re looking for a proper local sesh of chilled RPG co-op, this is the game for you two.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (PS4, PC, Mac, Android)
You think you’ve got a friend? Test that assumption here.
This was a massively unexpected gem for me personally, and definitely more fun than I anticipated to have with such an elementary concept.
The fantastically simple premise: one of you has a ticking, multi-puzzle bomb in front of you, the other has a defusal manual (it’s online, and pretty hefty), and you are not to look at each other’s screens.
The bomb handler then proceeds to describe, to the best of his ability, the different wire/button/switch/grid puzzles he has in front of him, while the other attempts to find that specific module in the manual, and to talk the defuser through the procedure involved in the solution.
This is set against the backdrop of an escalating score, electricity failures and other distractions, as the handler observes the count-down to the inevitable detonation, lest you two find a way to communicate quickly and effectively.
Though originally made for VR, it was the regular version of the game that became a huge hit overnight, as people teamed up to tackle the challenge while in the same room as well as across continents from each other.
As the challenges become increasingly varied, and you are allotted less and less time for each new section, unique communication codes will be born between players.
I’ve witnessed people simplifying module types to grunts, or other noises, to save time on saying ‘wires’ (since seconds saved will quickly begin to matter); heard teammates assign priority numbers to puzzles and organise the specific order of defusal; seen others shout completely fictional instructions as the last ten seconds elapse, all the while commenting on each other’s incompetence. In short – it’s fun.
Your duo will either adapt, forming your own language, or you’ll make utter fools of yourselves, cyclically panicking and detonating. Either way though, it’s a unique experience, and one you can share with both a software engineer and the least tech-savvy person you know.
Don’t Starve Together (PS4, PC, Mac)
This expansion to the original Don’t Starve offers a platform for some solid survival teamwork. You and your teammate are to cooperate in the gathering of resources, building sustainable shelter, facing off against foes as well as famine etc. This is a pretty straight-forward survival title.
What makes this incredibly fun is the unique Burton-esque design, morbid/adorable ambiance, and the quirky details such as, after you die and respawn, your living character being haunted by a sneaky, caricaturish version of his dead self.
The game’s three modes – Survival, Endless and Wilderness – each offer different objectives, difficulties and worlds for you two to explore.
There is also essentially no ‘wrong’ way to play, as it is an open-world survival game: you can customise your gameplay in any way you two see fit, as long as – you got it – you survive. This makes this title appealing and approachable to gamers of all levels, so make sure to explore the gorgeous graphics of this universe with your Player 2.
Portal 2 (PS3, Xbox360, Mac, PC)
Ever since its release back in 2011, this remained the crown jewel of co-op. The sequel to the original Portal classic doesn’t disappoint in its single-player campaign either, but Valve clearly focused on the two-player missions becoming the highlight of this title. Their efforts paid off; six years on, this is still arguably the sharpest and most creative co-op project out there.
Featuring two eccentric robots – one resembling a sulky eyeball, the other a snobby chicken – nicknamed and colour-coded as Blue and Orange, your duo is given two portal guns, ergo four portals, ergo limitless possibilities.
The increasingly challenging, enclosed-space puzzles you guys will have to solve feature abilities and approaches never covered by either of the Portal single-player campaigns. Each robot has his own skill set, and a specific role to play on each map.
Whereas the intro missions are simple enough, involving not much more than a laser and a cube you two have to get from one room to another via portals, the final sequences feature timed trampoline, looped gravitational velocity, and hologram walkway puzzles, to name a few.
It’s highly engaging and genuinely difficult on occasion, as there is usually a very specific way to solve the puzzles, so you’ll have to find that working approach – mostly through trial and error. All the missions are highly varied as well, so you will not have the luxury of anticipating any solutions.
Combined with adorable unlockable interactions between your robots (such as rock-paper-scissors and 80s dance moves), a sardonic narrator relentlessly mocking each of your failures, and a gorgeous, post-apocalyptic machine world, you are sure to get into this game very quickly.
And it’s incredibly satisfying figuring out and completing a map, and finally high-fiving your fellow robot before entering the portal to your next destination. Good teamwork is both built and required here, and it’s just a good, clean game to play with anyone you know.
Left 4 Dead 2 (Xbox 360, PC, Mac)
If you want to get your buddy in for some good ol’ hack’n’slash, this is your go-to title. Featuring the same pacing, tension, and raging zombies as the original, this Left 4 Dead co-op sequel brings even more grotesque humour and gore, new unlockables, character types and easter eggs.
The locations are more varied than in the original campaign, ranging from abandoned hotels, to plantations, then to fortresses, and the teamwork required in this Valve feature is just as hands-on as in Portal, but with an emphasis on time management and agility over puzzle-solving.
The controls are simple, and the mission objectives pretty clear-cut in this fun zombie run, plus the quality ambiance makes some high-tension sequences truly terrifying and immersive. All this, plus the linear layout of this project, makes it a goof for the FPS duos out there, even if one of you has no clue what they’re doing.