All the way back in 1973, Atari made a breakthrough in the gaming realm that would forever change the industry. Up until this point, the few video games that had been released were single player games with zero multiplayer capabilities (as one would expect). This made video games seem like a completely independent experience with no social interaction. Consequently, video games began to develop a stigma of being either a waste of time or a simple time-passing mechanism. This all changed once Atari released Pong Doubles in 1973.
For the first time, video games were able to be played by more than a single player. Even better, players were able to actively compete against each other. This flipped the switch on many peoples’ opinions of video games as they could now be seen as a form of social interaction and competition rather than just a piece of entertainment. Fast forward almost five decades and almost every game that is released has some sort of multiplayer feature implemented within them. However, this article will focus solely on local co-op games, which are games that can be played by multiple people on the same system (rather than through the internet). These games allow for more intimate gameplay and storylines that multiple people can experience together (similar to going to the movies together, imo). From competitive to story-driven, local co-op games come in a wide variety of flavors and I did my best to include as many as possible! Without further ado, here are the top five local co-op games available on Steam:
Recipient of the 2021 Game of the Year award, It Takes Two is exactly what I have in mind when it comes to the local co-op genre. It requires teamwork and communication to be able to complete many of the puzzles. Even better, the storyline of the game (I won’t spoil anything, don't worry) is often perfectly representative of many relationships humans experience. There is turmoil, love, friendship, anguish, bliss, all of the emotions necessary to make a truly heart-tugging experience.
Perhaps even better than the storyline itself, the setting of It Takes Two is a stroke of genius for the co-op genre. You’ll play as either Cody or May (pictured above) in a shrunken down representation of our world as the characters were turned into dolls by *magic.* This results in a setting that allows for so many different puzzles. For instance, frogs can be used as a taxi service. What other game allows you to literally ride a frog to get to the next area?
There is so much to be said about It Takes Two, but it is hard to get into without spoiling some of the plot. All I’ll say is that if you came to this article looking for a complete game to play with your significant other, look no further. Despite being in the relatively small genre that is local co-op, it still managed to win Game of the Year which should speak volumes about the quality of this game!
Castle Crashers is the perfect local co-op game for those who are looking for a story-driven campaign that is not taken too seriously. While there certainly is a story to be paid attention to, players could very well just play through and enjoy the pretty colors, clean visual animations, and intense boss fights. It can be played with up to four players locally, which is pretty unusual for a modern game (most local co-op games have a maximum of two players simply because it is difficult to be able to have all the characters on the same screen simultaneously).
The other great part about Castle Crashers in terms of local co-op is that it almost requires a significant amount of communication in terms of speccing your characters. Simply put, two magic builds will be unable to clear many of the bosses (unless you’re both avid gamers). The best way for two people to get through the campaign is by having one person spec damage and the other players specs tank. It’s the classic combo that has worked across video games and across genres. These elements of teamwork encourage communication with each other and makes it an overall more enjoyable experience to play with a close friend.
If you’re interested in a more detailed review, check out ESG’s in-depth review of Castle Crashers!
For couples out there who need to work on their communication skills, this game is the perfect prescription to address that (not a doctor or a therapist, btw). Essentially, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a bomb defusal game in which one player interacts directly with the bomb and the other play has all of the directions to defuse said bomb. Without excellent communication, the player with the bomb will not have the necessary information to get out of their alive. There are a ton of different puzzles on the bomb that have to solved within a certain time limit to avoid the disastrous kaboom!
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes can be played with up to four players at a time and the bomb that is being defused will scale with the amount of players in the game. While this game is certainly able to be played locally, it can be a bit of a struggle to not look at the bomb (if you’re the ‘expert’ with the instructions). To remedy this, I recommend that you print out the bomb defusal directions so that way the expert has something else to look at and won’t be tempted to cheat and look at the bomb itself.
If you’re prone to arguing in situations where communication is necessary, this may not be the game for you. However, defusing your first bomb together may be one of the most satisfying conclusions I have experienced in gaming (it gets frustrating, trust me)!
Do you remember all of those stick figure fighting videos that blew up on YouTube a few years ago? Well now you can play as those same stick figures and beat your friends to an absolute pulp. It has many of the same visual appeals as the videos that blew up a while back. There are a ton of different levels to fight with your friends on. If you get bored of those, there is even a level editor to create your own battlefields to duke it out with your friends on.
While this is certainly not a story-driven co-op experience, it can be an excellent way to pass some time with friends at a party. I’d compare it to Mario Party in terms of when it would be most often played (at small parties, with close friends who are competitive). That being said, it certainly can be used for competitive couples who may have *ahem* issues… or that just want to beat the sh*t out of each other but worry about the legal ramifications behind said actions. It is perfect as a time-wasting game or some sort of twisted therapy depending on the kind of person you are. Either way, it is only a five dollar game that can provide plenty of hours of interesting gameplay.
If you have a few spare dollars in your Steam wallet, I’d highly recommend it!
If you’re looking for a story-driven local co-op game but have already played through It Takes Two, this should be the next candidate on your Wishlist. I would argue that it has even more emotional appeal than It Takes Two. You’ll play as either Stella (the Spiritfarer who guides souls to their resting place) or as Daffodil the cat (a sidekick, of sorts). In terms of gameplay, Spiritfarer is a management style game which is perfect for allowing time for the player to connect with all of the unique characters you’ll meet along the way. These connections only make the purpose of the game that much more heart-wrenching (remember, you guide lost spirits to their final resting place). In fact, many of the reviews left on the game consist of how much this game made them cry (a positive, in my opinion). Local co-op games should have some sort of emotional breakthrough that both players experience as they move through the game, which Spiritfarer does flawlessly.
Even better than the storyline, however, Spiritfarer has quite possibly the best aesthetics/animations in a game I have seen in many years. In fact, I would say it has the highest visual appeal of any game since Gris. Even more impressive, the art in the game is almost entirely hand-drawn rather than being procedurally generated. This attention to detail allows players to become more enveloped with the world and the characters that reside in it.
If you’re in search of a meaningful story to follow and are sick of just watching Netflix with your significant other every night, try out Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition. You won’t regret it!
Local co-op games are a great way to establish a deeper connection with someone you're close with (intimate or not). Also, I find that they are a great way to both get to know someone and start to understand how they think. This is especially true for puzzle based co-op games! No matter the motivation behind playing them, all the games on this list are a surefire way to having a great night in with someone close!
Heading image courtesy of digit.in