7 of the best local co-op PC games you should play

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The PC may be a brilliant gaming platform, but it’s always been viewed as the inferior option when it comes to local co-op games. As much as I love 1440p resolutions, Steam, cheaper titles, and the ability to play games at more than 60 frames per second, I do lament the fact that so few desktop titles are created with local co-op in mind.

In recent years, however, this trend has slowly started to change. Rather than the usual small handful of titles that feature local co-op modes, an increasing number of developers have begun to realize that the PC is making headway into the living room space that used to be reserved solely for consoles, and that their games should reflect this.

As more and more smaller, form-factor PCs and dedicated Steam boxes make their way beneath the family television, more PC owners want titles that feature local co-op modes. Sometimes it's better to play with family, friends and partners, than against them.

So, if you’re wondering what some of the best local co-operative games are on the PC, here are 7 that you should try. 

7. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

While The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth may feature the kind of same-screen, local co-op play suitable for the living room, the game is about as appropriate for kids as an Aphex Twin video – and about as darkly twisted.

You wouldn’t expect a title based on both religious and semi-autobiographical attempted filicide to be a fun-packed romp, but it is. It’s important to point out, though, that although the game does have a co-op mode -- the second player takes the role of a floating baby who can’t pick up items (they’re shared) or enter rooms (Isaac has to lead).

Despite the reduced functionality of player two, Rebirth’s top-down, twin-stick shooter gameplay and randomly generated dungeons make it a hugely enjoyable experience for both players. Be warned, though, it does have several rogue-like elements, including being hard as nails and permadeath. Lose all your health before making it through the eight levels, and it’s back to the start.

6. The Lego series

Even though they’ve been around for over a decade now, the Lego games tend to be the first name a lot of people think of when you mention co-operative two-player titles.

The combination of simple, fun gameplay and brilliant humor provides the licensed Lego games with some of the best local co-op experiences in PC history. The puzzles that require two characters to work together range from simple to fiendish in their difficulty, and completing them gives players a real sense of achievement.

But if they’re so good, how come they’re at number six? Well, as enjoyable as they are, their format hasn’t changed much in ten years, and familiarity breeds contempt, as they say. Despite the latest entry in the series, Lego Dimensions, introducing a Skylanders-like toy-to-life element, it doesn’t really add much extra to the co-op play.

As for which games are the best in the Lego series, I personally find the Indiana Jones and Harry Potter titles to be the apex of the series, while the aforementioned Dimensions entry is regarded as the most enjoyable in recent years. Good co-op fun for all the family.

5. Broforce

Getting constantly compared to Contra makes any game brilliant in my book. And the fact that you can use Rambo (or Rambro, as he is known here) to kill Satan is the icing on the Broforce cake.

Not only is Broforce a rock-hard, side-scrolling, platform shooter, but it’s also a love letter to the cheesy action movies of the 80’s and 90’s. It may be gloriously silly, but it certainly isn’t stupid. The cool pixel art style, numerous recognizable ‘bro’ characters, and the destructible graphics make playing the game in local co-op mode both brilliant and hilarious. If Chuck Norris made PC games, he’d make Broforce.

4. Portal 2

Portal 2 is a magnificent game, and easily one of the best puzzlers ever created. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that the two-player co-op mode, which can be played locally using split-screen, is even better than the single-player game.

Valve appreciate show much people love co-op games, and has included a separate campaign with a unique story, test chambers, and two new player characters just for this mode.

If you do try out Portal 2’s local co-op, you’ll be amazed at how different it feels from playing solo. You’re likely to spend half the time talking through the puzzles with your gaming partner, trying to figure out what to do. Then it’s a case of working together to put the plans into action. Few games teach people to work together and communicate as well as Portal 2 – it should be used in relationship counseling.  

3. Rocket League

There are few things to say about Rocket League that haven’t already been said. Its incredibly engaging mix of soccer and RC vehicles makes it one of the most addictive games of all time. Not only is very easy to pick up and play, but its five-minute matches make it one of the few modern titles that you can “have a quick go” on.

The local co-operative option is provided via split screen and two controllers. While splitting a TV in half isn’t everyone’s favorite way of adding a local player, it’s pretty much the only option for this kind of game.

Playing with a friend can be great fun, and having your teammate physically sitting next to you means that communication and strategizing is a lot easier. Few things are as satisfying as when you and your gaming partner hammer some total strangers who are on the other side of the world.

2. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

I used to find the idea of blending Tomb Raider with an isometric shoot-‘em-up had the same level of appeal as eating chips while on the toilet: I could see how some people may enjoy it, but it just seemed a bit too weird for me.

But eventually I decided to live dangerously and give it a try (the game, not the toilet thing) and I was very pleasantly surprised. It may be six years old, but Guardian of Light is a genuinely excellent two-player co-op game. I'd even go so far as to say that it's one of the best I've ever played.

The combat in Guardian of Light is outstanding, using the familiar twin-stick shooting method that always brings to my mind one the granddaddies of the genre – The Chaos Engine (yes, I’m very old).

The puzzles manage to hit that sweet spot of being neither frustratingly taxing nor insultingly simple - you’ll certainly have those Eureka moments when you figure some of them out. Its RPG elements add another layer of depth to proceedings, and some of the later weapons are enormous fun to use.

Working together is essential in this game and a complete joy -- it really is one of the most underrated local co-op titles ever made. Give it a try ASAP. But avoid the sequel, it’s pants.

1. Rayman Legends

When talking about local co-op games, one title that you’ll find constantly gets mentioned is Rayman Legends, and with good reason. Not only is it one of the greatest local co-operative experiences you can have on the PC, but it’s also one of the best platformers ever made.

It may be of the 2D, retro variety, but that doesn’t make Legends any less brilliant. In fact, it’s that classic style mixed with a modern engine and beautiful graphics that pushes the game to the top of the class.

The two-player cooperative element is one of Legends' outstanding features. Thanks to its intuitive gameplay, it won’t be long before you and your fellow gamer are both flying through the levels in an almost total synchronization. It can be quite a beautiful sight, seeing the two characters moving in perfect unison. But the best part of the game are the astounding musical levels, which represent some of the best design and use of music I’ve ever seen in a game.

If you and your local gaming partner fancy competing against each other, then you can give the awesome Kung Foot mini-game a go. You could also try out the challenge of the day, attempt to break some online records, play some classic levels, or unlock more characters/worlds. Rayman Legends will keep both you and the person sharing your couch happy for a long time.

Simple to play, hard to complete, utterly brilliant, and still the best local co-op game around.

What are your favorite co-op games to play on PC? Let me know down in the comments.

Published Jan. 13th 2016

Featured Correspondent

Lover of all things PC and a fan of inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin. Remembers when 'geek' was an insult. Still passionately believes Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines was the greatest game ever made. Also works as a reporter/feature writer for TechSpot.com and a producer of YouTube video scripts.

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