Way back in the “early days” of home video games, a multiplayer game meant squeezing onto a couch or laying on the floor with three of your closest friends and playing Mario Kart, Goldeneye, or Super Smash Brothers (sorry Sony, you sucked at multiplayer back then). Trash talk, Cheeto-fingers, and red-eyed sleep-overs were the landscape in which these games found their own.
But these days, multiplayer is primarily an online affair, playing with people you’ve never met over unfathomable distances in a, generally speaking, much more hostile environment. The trash talk is still there, and there might be red-eyes, but don’t you dare get your Cheeto-fingers on my Xbox controller. Or my keyboard. I mean it! Wash those hands…
In any case, co-operative gaming doesn’t always work as well over the internet, so co-op has mostly gone out of style. But every now and then a quality same-couch co-op game hits the shelves. These games are worth highlighting anytime of year, but why not think of good games for geeks to play with their significant others on this most heart-shaped of holidays. (And if you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day, or even Palentine’s Day, these will be great games to play while sharing a single-person’s smirk over such a ridiculous greeting-card-joke of a holiday. Much love to my single friends and rivals.)
Portal 2’s co-op mode is an awesome exercise in team-building and puzzle-solving. The puzzle’s aren’t so difficult as to make you fight with your partner, but they’re challenging enough to give you the satisfaction of solving something together.
Super Mario 3D World
Like many of the recent console Mario games, Super Mario 3D World has some great built-in co-operative play. All of the charm that keeps Mario a mainstay in the gaming landscape, now with friends! (Also the kitty-cat suit.)
Rayman Origins and Legends
The past two Rayman games have been just awesome. It’s a 2D side-scrolling platformer like classic Mario, Sonic, and Rayman games, but better than all of those. Rayman has consistent, easy-to-learn controls and intuitive level design that makes it a much better game than almost any other in the genre. It’s co-op is just icing on the cake, but the game is way more fun with a friend.
Left 4 Dead Series
If your sweetheart has a zombie-apocalypse survival plan, this is the game for the pair of you. The Left 4 Dead series is primarily designed to be played online, and it’s same-screen functionality limits the game to only two players. But two is the number to beat on Valentine’s, right? Each mission is split up into roughly four sequential chapters, usually with an epic finale that is as crazy as it is fun. Zombies are instanced differently for each playthrough, so it’s got great replayability, too!
The original same-couch co-op shooter! Sure, it doesn’t make any sense in Halo, Halo 2, or Halo 4 for there to be 2 Master Chiefs running around side-by-side, but THAT’S SO NOT THE POINT. The Halo series has a lot of staying power in the industry because it has a quality story, sure, but it’s actually just a fun game. The first Halo game revolutionized the way we play console shooters, and the industry has never looked back. Being able to play it with a partner just made it better.
Diablo 3 for Consoles
The Diablo series made it’s home on computers before it (only recently) made a foray into the living room, but when it did make the trip, it brought with it the fun and excitement of a same-couch RPG game (an ultra-rare item, for those keeping track). Much of Diablo is about finding the best loot, so be sure to share!
Borderlands is like the spiritual child of the Diablo series and the Serious Sam series. It’s a loot-grindy, gratiutiously violent, hilarious game. Bonus points for being same-couch co-op and not taking itself too seriously.