From cooperative campaigns to competitive matches, gaming as a way of bringing friends together is a cornerstone of our hobby.
However, a lot of the games that are great to play with friends share one common trait that I'm a little tired of: they're all shooters. From CS: GO to Halo 5 to Team Fortress 2, shooting and friendship just seem to go hand-in-hand. So, what happens when you're all shootered-out, but still want to sit back and play some games with friends?
Well, here are six games that can give you and your friends something to do together.
Short for "multiplayer online battle arena," or, as most people know them: DotA 2 and League of Legends, freeware games that have taken the world by storm, and have allowed countless groups of friends to join up on the battlefield and fight for victory.
This one comes with a bit of a disclaimer: these games can break friendships just as easily as they can make them.
Games like League of Legends and DotA 2 are considered competitive by many of their players, and people can easily become frustrated by losing streaks or games where they get absolutely stomped. If you have a friend - you know, that friend, who gets more than a little angry when things go south in a game? Probably best to move on to the next game.
If you can find a happy medium, though? There's nothing more rewarding than being able to work together with your friends as a team to overcome another skilled group of players.
MOBAs are endless time sinks for friends who want short, quick bursts of competitive, cooperative play, or hours-long hauls of back-to-back matches.
But be warned: this game will put your friendship to the test just as much as it will your skills.
Although criticism is constantly leveled at Hearthstone, particularly, every other player is using a deck that's been ripped straight off the internet, most of the game's problems evaporate when you start playing against friends.
The best part about playing Hearthstone with friends? You can start putting together decks that aren't exactly good, and are, instead, fun. Ever wanted to use your Gazlowe or Hobgoblins instead of your Tirion Fordrings and Mysterious Challengers? That's what friends are for.
Perhaps more importantly, emotes don't have a built-in cooldown timer in friendly games. Go crazy.
Good old-fashioned dungeon delving without anything else to get in your way. Just tell your friends to get online, jump in, and kill every beast, zombie, and demon that gets in your party's way. Diablo 3 might be unsatisfying in many ways, but as a multiplayer game, it's hard to say no to some brutal monster slaughtering with friends, especially when Blizzard is so good at streamlining their multiplayer experiences. Diablo 3 makes it ridiculously easy to round up your friends, hit the ground running, and just start playing.
If good old hack-and-slash sounds like your kind of game but you're more on the free-to-play side of the fence, there's always the far less polished, but significantly more classical, Path of Exile, a Diablo clone that seems to be bombarded with update after update to keep you and your friends occupied for a long while.
Or, if you just don't want to jump on the Blizzard bandwagon, there's Torchlight II, which is rife with free mods that you and your friends can install to change up the game whenever it feels like it's getting a little stale.
Either way, Diablo and its many, many lookalikes are great games if you're looking for mindless slaughter and loot-hoarding with friends.
Ever been sitting there with your friends watching a bad scary movie when someone shouts the most obvious thing in the world?
"No, don't go in there!"
And of course, the character does it, and probably gets chopped up, eaten, or otherwise maimed.
Well, with Until Dawn, you get a sort of interactive movie experience that, despite being part of a single player game, can make for a great multiplayer experience.
Passing the controller around chapter-by-chapter, debating which decision is the best one for the character to make, going through and debating the strange psych-eval scenes in between chapters, there are a lot of moments where talking it out with other people can make the game more interesting. And the more intense moments in the game only become more intense as everyone yells at the player with the controller to make the right choice before the timer runs out.
For friends who like watching B-grade horror movies, this is the definitive game. Just make sure nobody's spoiled on the story before going into it.
For the RPG-oriented group, there's nothing better than Divinity: Original Sin - and with the enhanced edition released just last week, so there isn't a better time to go off on some good old hack-and-slash romps with your friends.
Of course, you will need to mod the game if you want to play the campaign with more than two players (and Enhanced Edition doesn't have a perfect mod for this yet). But, the game is great even with one friend, as you can go through towns causing all sorts of hijinks, from piling explosive barrels up in front of a boss before detonating them to going into town, framing a character for a murder she didn't commit, and breaking her out of jail just so the guards will kill her, thus making all of her items and money available to you for free. Divinity is a game where you can do just about anything with a friend, even play rock paper scissors against each other to decide the fate of Rivellon.
This is possibly one of the most dynamic multiplayer games on the market right now, and while modding the game to ensure four players can be in the same campaign is a bit of a hassle, it's definitely going to be a memorable experience.
The amount of freedom you're all given in a persistent world, where you can go off and explore on your own, sabotage your friends, and steal just about every single item from every house and person you come across, even when you're ignoring the main campaign, you're doing something entertaining.
Just be sure you're ready to die.
From the serious-minded tabletop enthusiasts to the people who just want to make their friends scream with rage as they flip the table right before the ending of a chess match, Tabletop Simulator has something for just about everyone. With hundreds of mods to choose from, getting your friends around the digital tabletop is a very compelling option for those with the patience to get to learn this sometimes obtuse program.
The finicky physics engine, ability to draw on any surface, and the fact that you can flip the table at any given moment, make even the most mundane games in Tabletop Simulator into something entertaining.
It can take a while to master the program thanks to its sometimes unintuitive or poorly optimized controls, but once everyone gets the hang of it, you can do just about anything in Tabletop Simulator.
If there's one game on this list that's worth a try for just about anyone who wants to sit down with friends and play something that isn't a shooter, this is your best bet. With too many mods to count, you can play just about anything on the tabletop.