Local multiplayer is something of a novelty these days; a hangover from when the internet was dial-up and controllers had wires. If you wanted to see which of your mates was best at Smash Bros., you actually had to invite them over and ruin your friendship in person. They were better, simpler times.
Away from the bright lights and mum jokes of online monsters like Call of Duty, the quiet delights of local multiplayer lives on. These 20 games are some of the best modern couch co-op experiences you can play right now. Grab a friend, and get gaming.
Towerfall is a masterpiece of simplicity, pitting you and up to three players against each other in a tiny arena as you fire arrows at each other. Skill is the key component here. Luck will only get you so far when deadly accuracy is the most important thing.
Get a lance, stab your friend. Stab them some more. Jump on their head. Throw your sword at them. Try not to fall in a hole. Stab. Jump. Throw. Repeat. And when you’re done, make sure to run into the mouth of the giant wormdragon or you won’t win. NIDHOGG.
Mount Your Friends
The answer to “why aren’t there more dong physics in games” that you never thought you needed or wanted, Mount Your Friends tasks you with climbing onto a goat in your pants and - well, it’s hard to describe it any better than that. You climb on a goat, your friend climbs on you, and so on. And try not to fall off.
Minecraft (you've probably heard of it) can be a simple co-operative exercise in building and creating things together, but things get more rewarding when you get stuck in to exploring other people’s creations, or attempt a game of survival as various monsters try to attack you. Any way you play it, it’s brilliant.
The best brawlers cut out the nonsense, relying on you and your friends’ creativity and willingness to kill each other to create a sense of fun. Take Samuri Gunn: it’s samurais. With guns. With platforming elements and quick-fire gameplay, it tests your ability to play well, and play fast, if you want to win.
Speaking of playing fast, Speedrunners is potentially the fastest game of our selection. Taking place on a 2D circuit, you have to dodge obstacles, wall-jump perfectly, trip up your opponents and most importantly NEVER GO OFF-SCREEN if you want to win. It requires the utmost concentration and skill to succeed at a single round of Speedrunners, but practice makes perfect.
Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes
One person has a bomb in front of them. The other person has a manual. Neither of them can see what each other is looking at. The person with the manual has to accurately describe how to solve the puzzles on the bomb to defuse it, but they have no idea what it looks like. When the timer hits zero, you’re both dead. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Local multiplayer games made by Nintendo are normally quite sweet and co-operative. Not Nintendo Land. In this twisted nightmare of fun you’re expected to screw everyone else over as you play either one of four characters trying to get points, or the antagonist who’s trying to make everyone lose all the points they have so far.
Mario Kart 8
This is it. The ultimate pick-up-and-play game. Mario Kart 8 relies on your nostalgia and childlike awe to blow you away with incredibly designed race courses, secret shortcuts and beautiful, bright colours that make every track someone’s favourite. And Angry Luigi is a gift that just keeps on giving.
It’s a strange pitch for a video game: football + cars. How it got made, and how it ended up being one of the best couch co-op games of the past decade, is even stranger. But Rocket League is brilliant, challenging, infuriating and incredibly fun - all the things a multiplayer game should be. You'll definitely find yourself on your knees screaming in celebration at some point.
Octodad is hard enough when you’re playing solo, but playing with two players requires more co-ordination than trying to walk home drunk. You each take control of either Octodad’s legs or arms, having to communicate with each other constantly to make sure you’re actually doing the tasks you’re supposed to be doing. It's hilarious.
If you want to play a game that’s sort of like football, except you can literally “walk it in”, and also you wish football had more sharks and lasers and less gravity, then give IDARB a go - it’s a chaotic ball game that has random effects every few minutes to make the game a bit harder.
Everyone has a role to play in Rayman Legends multiplayer, whether that’s being able to stun enemies, set off traps, or just being regular Rayman. It means that you and your friends can play through what’s already an excellent game without feeling like a third wheel to the star character.
Four-player Spelunky is an exercise in frustration. We all have different play styles, different goals (gold, finishing the level, getting all the secrets) and Spelunky’s randomly generated levels can make this incredibly difficult. It’s even worse if at least one of the players is inexperienced, as they’re basically a liability for the entire time.
Jackbox Party Pack
Technically the Jackbox Party Pack is several games in one - You Don’t Know Jack, a quiz game; Drawful, a Pictionary-type game; Word Spud, a fill-in-the-blanks game; Fibbage, a bluffing game; and Lie Swatter, which requires you to find out which statements are true, and which are lies. Either way, Jackbox makes all your old real-life party games look naff.
Super Smash Bros.
The ultimate in local multiplayer games, Super Smash Bros. lets you pit your favourite Nintendo characters against each other in a beautifully balanced, deceptively complex brawler. It’s such a big deal that it has its own World Tournament (though the players there are considerably more talented than you or your friends…)
Stupidly brilliant and brilliantly stupid boss design reigns in Castle Crashers, where it’s up to you and a couple of friends to take out various malicious vegetables, animals and minerals as you attempt to crash the castle. If you’re not laughing because of the game’s humour, you’ll be laughing at the mishaps of your friends and allies.
Affordable Space Adventures
The Wii U may have been a misstep in Nintendo’s otherwise successful history, but Affordable Space Adventures is one of the few excellent games that make the console worth buying. Each player controls different aspects of your “affordable” (that means cheap and crappy) spaceship, from aiming the flashlight to fixing the engine. It’s a beautiful example of co-operation.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
This game also tasks the players with co-operating inside a spaceship, but it’s less realistic and more adorable. Your goal is to save bunnies, the wormholes are heart-shaped, and all the colours are sweet, bright neon in a style that sounds garish, but isn’t. You’ll have to man the guns, the shield, the steering and the map to achieve your goal. It involves a lot of yelling, too.
There are a bunch of games - or sports - to play in Sportsfriends, some of them a little bit like other games you might have played, and some of them, like the pole-vault, are entirely new and novel. There’s no guarantee you’ll be any good at anything, but just like real sports, practice makes perfect!