Top Five: Gaming's Best Local Coop
In this era of ubiquitous internet, genuine human interactions oftentimes get short shrift. Nowhere is this more evident than in gaming, where sitting on a couch with your friends playing your favorite games, a staple of the 8 and 16 bit eras, has taken a backseat to playing online (often with anonymous strangers who happily bombard you with racist and homophobic slurs).
So we wanted to take this opportunity to step back for a moment and applaud those developers who are keeping the local multiplayer torch aflame, be it in split-screen, hotseat, or good old fashioned single-screen coop.
5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
Continuing a tradition begun by games like Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and X-Men Legends, MUA 2 shows us that coop action RPGs of this ilk can still work on modern platforms. With a sprawling cast of Marvel icons and a staggering amount of side-content, MUA 2 gave us the immediate gratification of frenetic action, while shelling out just enough character progression to keep us hooked. It also let fans play through one of the most influential recent events in the Marvel universe, the Civil War, pitting brother against brother, hero against hero, and finally letting us find out who would win in a fight between Thor and Hercules.
4. Medieval II: Total War
Though the vanilla game didn’t ship with hotseat support, dedicated fans have since modded it in by way of the “retrofit mod”, and the result is so entertaining we’d be remiss to not include it in our list. Playing through Medieval II’s grand campaign alongside friends, weaving intricate alliances or vying for control of Europe, has provided us countless hours of entertainment, but the real depth is provided by a host of other excellent mods. Want to battle orcs, treants, and ring wraiths across a lovingly rendered map of Middle Earth? Looking for a detailed recreation of the world of Warhammer, with all its monstrous factions and primitive artillery? Either way, one of the most dedicated and meticulous modding communities in gaming has your back.
3. Might and Magic Heroes VI
As long time fans of the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise, we rejoiced when early trailers of the newest game made it clear that couch coop would be a day-one feature. Though the previous games all have their die-hard adherents, Heroes VI is easily one of our favorites because of the depth of RPG mechanics layered on top of the already massively addictive formula of turn-based monster slaying and faction conquest. Individual hero units became customizable to an extent not possible in previous games, with multiple sprawling skill trees, a vast array of weapons and equipment, and unique specialties and reputation abilities. Heroes VI improved on nearly every facet of a genre we’ve loved for years and, best of all, let us play and compete alongside our friends.
2. Civilization V
When Civ V didn’t ship with hotseat support we were admittedly crestfallen, but while we waited (not-so) patiently for it to be patched in, we fell in love with the streamlined elegance of the game anyway. Civ V is that rarest of achievements, a turn-based strategy game that manages to become more accessible than its predecessors without sacrificing the depth and complexity that hardcore fans crave. When the team at Firaxis finally did get around to patching in the hotseat mode we’d been clamoring for, Civ V rocketed to the top of our must play strategy list.
1. Borderlands 2
The original Borderlands turned out to be one of the most addictive experiences of this generation, and the sequel improves on the original formula in almost every way. While it’s taken some heat for not innovating, it’s tough to argue with an “if it ain’t broke” approach to Borderlands. The sequel and its excellent cadre of expansions continue to entice us close to a year after the core game’s release, inspiring insatiable loot lust and offering some of the best first person shooting available anywhere. Also, there are few more satisfying experiences than the joy of gunning down an epic boss and seeing hot loot rocket out of its body, surrounded by a roomful of your closest friends.