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If you've been around long enough, and you're a geek, you can probably recall a time when cooperative gaming meant gathering with friends and a handful of game cartridges (or floppy disks, if you're willing to admit being old enough to remember them) for a night of Jolt Cola and electronic diversion. Up through the end of the 1990s, there was no better way to assert your geeky superiority than to demolish your friends at a game of GoldenEye or Mario Party. Then, the internet changed everything.
Suddenly, you had the option to play co-op games with your friends without anybody having to leave home. At first, that was a novelty that I, like everyone else, thought was the coolest thing ever. It made a nice supplement to the monthly gathering of game addicts that had become a regular feature of my life. Then, game developers got lazy. They seem to have decided that online gaming was good enough for all multiplayer modes—I mean, who wants to go outside, anyway?
Now, there's almost no such thing as a local co-op game. Instead, we're all asked to compete online against strangers from everywhere in all of our favorite games. Sometimes, we get to encounter utter lunatics that threaten our safety via a game's voice chat system. Other times, we get to be shredded by some pro gamer working a gig for R3G boosting, who's helping a novice to level up. And through it all, we mutter under our breath (at least I do) about how we miss the good old days.
If you can identify with anything I've talked about here, keep reading. It turns out that local co-op isn't dead, it's just been hiding. So here's a list of five local co-op games that old-school gamers shouldn't miss.
1. 'A Way Out'
Sometimes, even Electronic Arts manages to make a good decision here and there, and that's exactly what happened with A Way Out, released in March of 2018. The game plays like a feature film, mixed with puzzles and challenges that you and a partner must navigate to survive. In the game, you (and a friend) play as brothers, Vincent and Leo, who were framed for a crime they didn't commit and must escape prison to seek revenge. It's a bit like role-playing in a Hollywood action movie. If that sounds good to you, don't miss this unique couch co-op gem.
2. 'Don't Starve Together'
There's nothing quite like survival challenges, and they're even better when you can play them with a friend. That's just what you get to do in Don't Starve Together, where you must gather enough resources to survive in an uncharted wilderness. Oh, and you'll be attacked by monsters... a lot. In that way, the game is like Minecraft, but it has a pleasingly creepy look and is way, way more challenging. For instance, if your partner plays the game as a pyromaniac, they could accidentally burn you to death. Don't worry, though, because then you will be a ghost who haunts the remaining players and robs them of their sanity. Good times.
3. 'Unravel Two'
In another surprise from EA, Unravel Two lets you and a friend traverse a dream-like, picture-postcard world as an adorable little ball of yarn. You read that right—you are a living, running, swinging yarn-person that has to use your trailing loose end to work your way over, under, and through every environmental obstacle in your way. As far as co-op experiences go, this one is like taking a vacation in someone else's memories with a buddy in tow. It's one-of-a-kind and is perfect for a mellow night of gaming for you and a friend.
4. Any 'Borderlands' Game
In the last few years, there haven't been that many big-name games that still include a credible local multiplayer experience, but the Borderlands series flies right in the face of that trend. The console versions of Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel all allow for split-screen loot-grabbing, maniac-shooting mayhem with a snarky story and characters you'll love. Now's a perfect time to play the series, too, since publisher, Gearbox, has recently announced that they're going to be releasing another title in the series soon. And by the way, if you're a PC gamer, you can even use this free utility to run the games in mock co-op mode on your computer—so no excuses and get playing!
5. 'Portal 2'
If Valve ever chooses to do another sequel to a game, I, unlike almost everyone on the planet, hope that it won't be Half-Life 3. Instead, I'm holding out hope that they decide to create another entry in their other well-known series, Portal. The second title in the series, Portal 2, includes a multiplayer mode that makes it a perfect entry on the co-op list, if only because it's worth playing the game in every conceivable way to hear every last bit of insane, passive-aggressive dialogue it has to hurl at you. Let me put it this way, if you've never had anyone threaten to burn your house down with combustible lemons, or liken your figure during a jumping challenge to an eagle piloting a blimp, you don't know what you're missing.
If the games listed here prove anything, it's that it is still possible to have video game fun with friends in the same room. The titles that let you do it may be fewer, and farther between, but they represent a variety of genres and game styles that should delight anyone looking for a co-op experience like they had in the old days. And hey, you can even enjoy making your gaming friends leave the house for a change—and while they may not like it at first—I'm sure they'll come to enjoy it as much as you do.