The best co-op games on PC

best co-op games

Games offer up magic in lots of different guises, but working with a friend to achieve a goal is arguably where they really shine. But what is the best PC co-op game? What are the games that will really pull friends together and offer the best group-based thrills? 

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The best co-op games are the ones that let you explore new worlds with a buddy by your side, triumph over evil as a team, introduce a novice to the wonder of the medium, or simply just beat each other over the head with questionable weaponry for kicks. These are some of the very best co-op games for you to share with your favourite people. 

The Division

best co-op games The Division

Ubisoft’s latest open-world game may have everything you’d expect - hundreds of collectables, repetitive side quests, absurdly detailed buildings - but it’s got one important addition that changes the dynamic entirely: co-op. In fact, The Division doesn’t just have co-op bolted on, it’s designed for it. You and up to three pals can join forces to take down the gangs of looters, pyromaniacs, and PMC soldiers who are out to claim a disease-ridden NYC for themselves, and along the way you’ll be finding a gazillion different guns and armour loot drops. 

The missions are exciting and clearly designed for multiple players to make the most of them: labyrinth-like office blocks and department stores offer plenty of flanking opportunities for well-coordinated teams, and the classless RPG character system lets you respec at any time so your group can equip a balanced selection of skills. Taking down the game’s most challenging bosses together - such as those in the new Incursion update - is a genuinely rewarding experience, and the world is perfect for a sightseeing trip with friends. 

Want more? Here's our The Division review.

Divinity: Original Sin

best co-op games Divinity: Original Sin

Where most co-op RPGs sacrifice a certain amount of depth to speed up conversation and inventory management, Divinity: Original Sin chucks both players into a well and waits patiently for them to get their bearings. This Ultima-indebted adventure is more tactical, wordy and comprehensively interactive than any other modern RPG you’d care to name, cooperative or single player.

The plot is built around a custom-built duo, and players will take control of one each as they explore embattled beaches, locked basements, kool-aid camps and doomed dimensions, quickly fleshing out a party of four.

Though combat is turn-based, it’ll require close communication if you’re to have any hope of besting enemies. The best strategies lie in combining the elements to explosive or paralysing effect - having your mage open the clouds so that your comrade can zap the resulting puddle with lightning, or breaking open a barrel of oil for a friend to light on fire. It’ll leave you glowing.

Left 4 Dead 2

best co-op games Left 4 Dead 2

One of Valve’s true classics, Left 4 Dead 2 really emphasises teamwork to endure through an exceptionally gruesome zombie outbreak. Thanks to the sheer number of zombies it’s vital to stick together and assess threats at each turn of the campaign’s sprawling maps, making sure there’s always someone ready to save you from a surprise special infected attack, or just help thin the horde so you can make your escape. 

It’s best played with friends equipped with headsets as the frantic pace means you need to be able to re-plan and alert your friends within seconds of things happening. Playing with strangers isn’t impossible though, especially if they’re willing to teach you a few things. Try and keep away from filling spaces up with bots though: they’re barely capable with a gun, and won’t help respawn you if you die.

Want more? Here's our Left 4 Dead 2 review.

Orcs Must Die! 2

best co-op games Orcs Must Die 2

Orcs Must Die! 2 is murder at it’s most gleeful. Limbs fly high as blades swing out from walls triggered by the hordes that storm your castle’s corridors, and flesh melts as acid rains down. The cartoony chaos almost disguises the vast amount of tactics that Orcs Must Die! 2 demands. 

There’s a lot to think about. Before each wave of orcs stampedes through your halls, you have time to set up your traps and purchase new machines of death. With a second player involved, you essentially have two inventories, as each player can purchase different traps to create two complementary loadouts. 

Orcs Must Die! 2 doesn’t ease up with two players though, and forces players to split up as enemies swarm from two entry points; a great move to ensure that both players are integral to achieving victory. 

Diablo III

best co-op games Diablo 3

Playing Diablo III as a team makes tremendous sense. With two players you can compliment each other's classes, such as combing the long-range Wizard with a melee Barbarian. Teaming up also allows you to be a bit braver with your skills; playing solo as a Wizard would require you to think about shields and defence, but with a close-quarters friend acting as a tank you can focus on all-out firepower; the “glass cannon” approach. 

The Reaper of Souls expansion and constant patch work has done a lot for improving Diablo since its iffy launch, and 'Loot 2.0' ensures that you’re constantly filling your pockets with treasures. But it is Adventure Mode that does the most for co-op play, allowing you to undertake missions anywhere in the world of Sanctuary without being tied to a plot. It means you can continue play even without a pal around, and you won’t have to wait for them to catch up or replay areas when they’re next online.

Portal 2

best co-op games Portal 2

Portal 2 is frequently cited as the king of co-op for numerous good reasons. It requires genuine teamwork to solve its conundrums, preventing that frequent co-op problem of one player running off and impatiently doing everything before the other has chance to even move the mouse. A microphone and a good friend is recommended, but Portal 2 has a neat voiceless chat system that uses emoticons and pointing to make co-op with strangers easier. 

There’s no denying that Valve’s dedicated co-op campaign is a work of genius, especially in puzzles where both players are required to be working simultaneously, but it’s the Steam Workshop that makes Portal 2 a co-op must. The range of user-created puzzle chambers is vast, with phenomenally well-designed challenges that can make Valve’s work seem like preschool logic toys. 

Borderlands 2

best co-op games Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 is a seriously great shooter. Its Diablo-influenced approach to loot means there’s literally uncountable weapons to find, and the discovery and sharing of these guns is half the charm of Borderlands’ co-op play. 

The harsh truth about Borderlands 2 though is it’s actually a little bit boring. It’s a long game, the quests are mostly of the ‘go fetch’ variety, and there’s a lot of fairly mindless grinding involved. Bring a second player to the party though (or a third and fourth) and Borderlands suddenly becomes the best game on the planet. Taking down swarms of mobs feels heroic rather than tedious, you can assign MMO-style roles to each player for tactical advantage, and the game’s comedy is simply funnier when enjoyed with others. Exploring Pandora becomes an epic adventure rather than a time-consuming slog, and half your skill tree suddenly becomes useful.

Want more? Here's our Borderlands 2 review.

Trine 2

best co-op games Trine 2

There are now three game in the Trine series, but the second remains the strongest example of a superb puzzle platformer. Trine 2 casts you as one of three fantasy archetypes: a warrior, a wizard, or a rogue. Naturally each one offers different abilities and are solutions in themselves to puzzles. The entire game is designed to be tackled solo, but it’s when two players with two different abilities come together and essentially subvert the game that Trine becomes really fun. Playing solo there are plenty of areas that feel inaccessible, but in co-op one player can cast a levitation spell as a wizard and lift a second player to where they need to be. 

Trine 2’s puzzles are never quite as demanding as Portal’s, but having extra help from friends is always useful, especially when things get fiddly and timings become crucial. But like Portal, discussing the problem and solving it with friends feels much more of a co-op victory than taking down a boss in a shooter ever will. 

Lego Marvel Super Heroes

best co-op games Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Realistically you could replace Marvel Super Heroes with any of the Lego games - Batman, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings et al - and gain a largely similar experience, so select on personal taste. Traveller’s Tales’ Lego games are frequently lauded for their charm, character, and loving respect for their source material. Marvel Super Heroes is no exception, bringing together pretty much every Marvel character you can think of (and about sixty more) and interweaving them in an epic narrative to defeat intergalactic hungry man Galactus. You’ll also have to smash a lot of things and rebuild them into useful puzzle-solving devices.

They’re fun but exceptionally simple, making them a super introduction to games for the people in your life who don’t normally play. If you’re a parent these are spectacular games to enjoy with your kids, but equally they’re great fun to play with an uninitiated partner, or even your skeptic older relatives. With two of you playing together, your character can act as the leading guide in-game, physically demonstrating how to do things rather than simply shouting at the person holding the controller. If you want to share the fun of games, there’s no better starting point than the Lego games. 

Monaco

best co-op games Monaco

Success in Monaco is brilliant: sneaking into a casino, bank, prison .etc, lifting your target without leaving a fingerprint, and escaping not having moved guards from their patrol paths. The reality though is that this won’t ever happen. You’ll trip an alarm, bump into security, or accidentally fire off a gun before you’ve got halfway to the loot. With sirens wailing and enemies hunting you down, rather than keeping cool the default reaction from seemingly every player is to scream and frantically dart from one room to another in desperate hope you can still make it out alive. It sounds frustrating, but it’s not: it’s hilarious. 

Missions do become more demanding as the game progresses - especially in DLC territory - but it’s kind of wonderful that you can still complete a lot of Monaco’s missions when almost everything has gone to pot. It’s the closest games have ever come to replicating the ‘caper’ style of movies, and everyone talks in fantastic French accents. You can also play as a pickpocket with a pet monkey, and if that’s not a convincing argument I don’t know what is. 

Don't Starve Together

Don't Starve Together Early Access review

Looking to share the sort of moments you’ll never want to speak of again? Why not kill and eat your pigmen slaves in Don’t Starve Together?

Klei’s Burton-esque open world remains open, and your pockets just as empty - but this time you’re joined by another player or three in an identical predicament. The standalone game currently features two modes. You can either spawn next to your fellow survivors and enjoy infinite lives, or be scattered randomly across the map and be subject to permadeath.

In the first, dead players can float about as ghosts and drive the rest of the gang mad. That’s not a figure of speech - a good haunting will lower their sanity and put their lives in even greater danger. Resurrection is easy, for a price: a piece of your max health.

It's a weird, unique take on the survivial genre, and while the isolation of the brilliant original was one of its strengths, fending off starvation together is simply a better way to live. 

Magicka

Magicka 2

Magicka looks fun and games with its short, hooded wizards and parody ye-olde-english dialogue, but it’s actually bastard hard. Casting spells requires you to tap in a sequence in quick time using the top two rows of keys on your keyboard. The more powerful the spell, the more keys you need to press. A single wrong stroke can cast something entirely different. 

The key to hilarity lies the fact that all your co-op buddies can be hit by friendly fire. Send out a scorching fireball and if a friend walks in the way it’s off to the pearly gates with them. It becomes a frequent occurrence, as you’ll always have half your brain attempting to calculate your spells, meaning sometimes your aim will be a little… off. This thankfully rarely leads to frustration, but always leads to Skype becoming astonishingly loud with the sound of people falling from their chairs laughing.

Want more? Here's our Magicka review.

Broforce

Broforce Early Access

Broforce perfectly captures both the difficulty and absurdity of the 16bit era. Its levels are packed to the rafters with dastardly, faceless villains that are just begging to be blasted to piles of sloppy goo by your collection of ‘bros’. 

These bros are where Broforce’s pop-culture references grab and refuse to let go. Without quite saying so (stay away, copyright infringement!), you’ll be able to play as the likes of The Terminator, Robocop, Rambo, Ripley, Chuck Norris, and the Boondock Saints, among many others. Each are distinctly unique in their weapons and approach, and you’ll die so frequently that you can try out everyone of them in a single level. Joining in with friends ensures the chaos is as unstoppable as the finale of Rambo IV. 

Those are our picks, but what games do you love to play with your friends? Why not offer up some recommendations in the comments? 

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icheyne avatarjamesbinns avatarJezcentral avatarBelimawr avatarMatt Purslow avatarDog Pants avatar+10
Dog Pants Avatar
1385
2 Years ago

I have a problem with co-op games which have a requirement for players to be at a similar stage, be it because the game is linear or because you can level up to be more powerful. Unless I always play with the same people to the exclusion of all others, or exclusively play with random players at the same point as yourself, I just can't make it work.

Even games which will boost you or lower the other guy to allow you to play together will suffer from the most experienced player (or worse, everyone but a few new guys) blasting through the content before anyone who hasn't seen it before gets to appreciate it.

For that reason I would strike off Diablo III, Borderlands 2, and Path of Exile from my version of the list. However I would add Payday 2.

5
Belimawr Avatar
1011
2 Years ago

thats why I always liked L4D it made no difference how much people had played as everything was available from the start or unlocked over the course of a level instead of having to play a stupid amount to be on a similar footing to other players, so it all just came down to skill level.

5
JamesBinns Avatar
37
2 Years ago

I agree completely. L4D's winning point is that diversity of skill and temperament actually makes it more fun. A crew can include a gung-ho cavalier, a noob, a coward and a square-jawed hero. And it's all the better for it. Truly a rag tag group of survivors flung together after the zombie apocalypse.

2
AnAuldWolf Avatar
651
1 Week ago

That's narrow-minded of you! You can have different kinds of co-op experiences, you know! You can have the sort which are meant to be drop-in, drop-out with strangers if you have no friends, and then you have more personal co-op experiences which can be played with one's partner. I played Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel with my partner and we loved every moment of it.

I'm guessing you don't have anyone YET. No matter what your gender identity or orientation, or your partner(s)'s, I'm sure you'll eventually have someone. And when you do you'll be able to introduce them to the things you play, at which point you'll be able to appreciate these co-op experiences more.

Honestly, since having found my partner (we've been together for over five years, now, even if sometimes together and sometimes on different continents), we've pretty much almost exclusively played this kind of content. We enjoy having games we can play together.

0
icheyne Avatar
179
2 Years ago

Great stuff. I have been looking to play a game with my brother and I'd forgotten I have Portal 2 and Orcs Must Die 2 in my Steam account.

3
AnAuldWolf Avatar
651
1 Week ago

Do try Portal 2. It's incredible. And it's pretty much an uplifting, affirming wave that continues through the Steam Workshop chambers. It's one of my best and most memorable co-op experiences.

1
Empire Avatar
3
1 Year ago

This list needs Payday 2. That game is better than a lot of these. There is nothing that can beat walking into a bank, dropping a bullet in the tellers head, and tying up your hostages while your buddy drills into the vault.

3
TouristTam Avatar
17
2 Years ago

No L4D or L4D2 missing ? No Dungeon Defenders ? No Payday ?

I guess it is a matter of preferences

2
AnAuldWolf Avatar
651
1 Week ago

Yup, preferences. I'd put Battleborn in there but I know Battleborn isn't popular amongst the collective gaming yobs of the Internets. It's something I've had to accept even though I love it.

No other game has actually offered me the chance to play a flat-chested punk girl, an old man in a wheelchair, a disabled birdman, or such a kickass chubby and body positive lady before. So I've been having a blast with it. I appreciate its diversity and sense of fun.

I don't think they should have put The Algorithm as the first mission coming out of the tutorial, though. I can see how a piss-take of the Simulated Reality theory would go FWEEEEEeee~ over the heads of most people. Which is disappointing, but most certainly expected.

I'm genuinely of the opinion that Battleborn is just a bit too clever in certain ways for most people to appreciate, and that's despite it being an action game. Quite how they pulled that off...

So, yeah. Most people would rather blasting each other's brains out with contemporary weapons in military settings, or drooling over one-dimensional 'waifus.'

Everything is a matter of taste. Suffice it to say, I don't value the taste of many people very much, but they're entitled to it.

And that's why I didn't mention Battleborn in my post below. Like I said, I know it's not for most people. The majority wouldn't be interested in playing an old man in a wheelchair, or most of the rest of the cast. Evidenced by how Oscar Mike is the most played character, despite his status as a parody (very much revealed in his lore) and a big softie.

1
Shoom Avatar
48
1 Year ago

Insurgency is a criminally underrated game. The community is great and loud, foul-mouthed trolls are really frowned upon. I was in a match a couple of weeks ago and one guy mentioned it was his birthday - both teams just stopped the play to sing Happy Birthday to him. It was awesome, a really lovely moment. You don't get that in COD.

2
NihlusGreen Avatar
517
1 Year ago

Far Cry 4, my experiences over Easter included crashing 8 out of 10 times while trying to join someone else's coop, getting into coop and someone team killing me, getting into another with someone who couldn't pull off a stealth assassination mission, and generally been expensive so most of my gaming pals don't have it yet. And most peeps don't play it coop. I cannot recommend it for coop at all, but it should be fun if / when it works, which is not often. I have raised a support ticket also.

2
NihlusGreen Avatar
517
11 Months ago

Still have Far Cry 4? Sirs I must protest, you get a better coop experience from GTA V and that is far from perfect

2
JamesBinns Avatar
37
2 Years ago

Obviously some misunderstanding here Matt, with the absence of the mighty Left 4 Dead?

1
Matt Purslow Avatar
70
2 Years ago

Left 4 Dead is indeed awesome, but I assumed everyone with even a vague interest in co-op would already have tasted its sweet terror.

If indeed anyone hasn't played L4D, please consider that your 'recommended reading' for this week.

4
Jezcentral Avatar
463
2 Years ago

Indeed. And don't forget the Valve games (and BL2, I think) are also LAN-able, not just online, if you still drive your PC round to a friend's house (or better yet, go to a LAN party, although that might be a bit of a baptism of fire, if we are talking about ways to introduce friends to videogames).

1
Belimawr Avatar
1011
2 Years ago

Left 4 Dead was epic for co-op more so on hard mode when you had that final push waiting for extraction.

1
ScytheMonkey Avatar
66
1 Year ago

Out of all of those my friends and I have enjoyed Orcs Must Die 2 co-op the most. It's just very well made and loads of fun.

1
MLG Blank Avatar
1
8 Months ago

Why is keep talking and nobody explodes not on here

1
DustyGerkin Avatar
78
3 Months ago

Really need more couch co-op gaming. Ideas?

1
KTMDirtFace Avatar
4
KTMDirtFace(1 day 17 hours played)
3 Months ago

How is Saints row 3 and 4 not on here? they are probably my favorite, friends can join on you at any time at any point in the game. Its great co-op.

1
AnAuldWolf Avatar
651
1 Week ago

Yay, Portal 2 is there!

Though, honestly, I'd put the Pre-Sequel above Borderlands 2. I never got the appeal of 2, it was trying so hard to be clever that it often came over as try-hard and pseudo-intellectual, which really isn't great for that series. I dunno, I'd rather see a talking gun named the boganella than have a psychopant stomping around quoting Shakespeare that someone looked up on the Internet.

The Pre-Sequel just felt more honest. It wanted to be fun. It wanted me to have fun. It gave me Claptrap, and jump pads, and quantities of Australian silliness I haven't seen since Crocodile Dundee. It was also far, far more supportive of the LGBTQQ audience, and women in general. It evolved Athena from a one-note character in the first Borderlands to being one of the vault hunters I connected with most in the Pre-Sequel.

Plus, the Pre-Sequel had a fantastic angle with its grey morality. You were working for Jack, and you were working to... save people? An amount of people? But at the same time, you were also working to put weapons of mass destruction in his hands, that would essentially allow him to wipe out all life in the Universe??? Ah. Um. Hm. It especially struck home when the Dahl soldiers would say "But I thought we were the good guys???"

Whereas Borderlands 2 felt like it was going through the motions just to go through the motions, the Pre-Sequel had heart, soul, and charisma in spades. And it wanted me to have fun. It wasn't going to push me into it by ramming things in my face, but it wanted to make me laugh and to get as much out of its company as I could. It was a much more selfless game than Borderlands 2, which was always so in my face and demanding of my appreciation it was exhausting.

I'd even go as far as to say that the jump pads allowed me to appreciate the level design more in the Pre-Sequel even though it might not necessarily have been as good. For me, though, when it comes to action games it's often the characters, the writing, and the overall story that wins out over gameplay. As in, I can enjoy the gameplay more or less based on those factors. And I enjoyed the Pre-Sequel so, so, so much more. It could actually be clever, rather than just 'IN YO FACE!!'

Hm. Not hating Claptraps may also have something to do with it. They seem like poor, innocent babies that most of the time just want to be helpful and look awesome while doing it. Except for barbot, most of them have a genuine desire to just be helpful to someone.

/shrug

Personal taste, I suppose!

But I am glad that Portal 2 is there. Portal 2 is just so lovely and clever, too. The first time we even began to understand what makes GLaDOS tick, and one of the most bittersweet endings in video game history. I mean, sure, Chell gets out okay but GLaDOS is hooked back up to the mainframe that was corrupting her personality and driving her insane. Which did exactly the same to Wheatley when he was hooked up to it. We now know that GLaDOS isn't exactly the problem, that mainframe is.

It sets up perfectly for a Portal 3. I'd actually love to rescue GLaDOS. I always felt so bad for her. Throughout much of the latter half of Portal 2 she sounds so sad, and that sadness continues into the co-op campaign. She knows what's up, she's intelligent enough to figure it out, she just can't exactly stop it.

And the gameplay of Portal 2 was appreciably cerebral. This was doubly true when some of the more difficult player made chambers came along.

A pretty good line-up, all in all.

Footnote: I'd honestly add ESO to that, though. It's an MMO, I know, but the way it actually plays feels more like a well made, co-op Elder Scrolls game than anything else. And it's the Elder Scrolls game I've enjoyed the most since Morrowind.

1
JMiles2 Avatar
22
1 Week ago

"The best co-op games on PC"

No, they're not, that's just just *your* opinion, just like I have the opinion 7 out of 10 should be replaced with games that are way more fun in coop, based on many hours of playing coop games with my son.

1