Video games are better with friends.
However, if you’re a fan of single-player narrative experiences or complex strategy games, you may struggle to find a title that will keep you occupied for longer.
No wonder: creating elaborate games that work in split-screen or turn-based mode is no easy feat. There’s a couple of studios who took on that task and succeeded in creating engaging multiplayer experiences that you’ll want to sink hundreds of hours into.
So, if you’re ready to find your next cooperative play obsession, let’s start with the obvious:
Divinity: Original Sin II
No other game on this list will immerse you into its world as Divinity: Original Sin II. At its core, DOS2 is a great RPG that will keep you occupied for hours while you traverse through Rivellon with your party of mismatched adventurers. It has everything you’d want from a single-player role-playing experience, so if you’re looking for a game like Pillars of Eternity, Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate or Planescape Torment, this is it.
Larian went one step further, however. Just like in the prequel of the game, DOS2 can be played in split-screen. Two players can create their own adventurers, or you can both take control of pre-made characters — and complete the entire game together. That means over 40 hours of pure RPG fun, made even better by the fact that you get to share it with the person sitting next to you. Your co-adventurer is as free to move around, take up quests and fight as you are. You can have a completely separate adventure if you wish, occasionally bumping into each other on the map… or you can be creepily inseparable if that’s something you’re into.
A Way Out
Here’s something we haven’t seen before: a rare action-adventure game that not only encourages two-player cooperation but also actively encourages it by… not letting you play by yourself. That’s right, if you want to experience A Way Out, you have to play it with someone else, either online or through couch co-op. Fortunately, you don’t need to buy two copies to play online, as you can share your copy with a friend.
A Way Out puts you in the shoes of one of two main playable characters — Leo or Vincent — as they’re scheming to break out of prison. The year is 1972 and everyone’s hair is very cool. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but you can expect between 8 to 15 hours of gameplay.
Portal Knights can be accurately described as “linear Minecraft”, combining Minecraft’s building tools and creative freedom with pre-made worlds and a simple storyline.
And yes, it’s a game for children.
It’s also a genuinely fun and well-balanced experience that really shines in split-screen. You can complete quests, jump between worlds, fight and build together (or separately). The game can be challenging at times without being frustrating and can keep you occupied for quite some time.
For The King
In a nutshell, For The King is a turn-based RPG that allows a team of up to three to explore a procedurally-generated world, complete quests, clear out dungeons, sail, visit cities and trade. You can play by yourself or with friends, with hot-seat and online multiplayer modes.
It looks and plays great. The best way to experience it is to pick one of the pre-made scenarios which feature a fully developed storyline and some side quests. Scenarios seem different every time, as map tiles get re-shuffled with each playthrough. Combat is inspired by J-RPGs and quite satisfying, with a big emphasis on percentages and critical hits. The classes available for your adventurers are intuitive to develop, with more options and items unlocked the longer you play.
Outward is truly a unique game. It’s a very ambitious project by a small independent studio that turned out really well — and even though it has certain… quirks, it’s a remarkable experience.
In a nutshell, Outward is a survival RPG that can be played in split-screen. It certainly is lots more fun with someone else, because there is someone to laugh at you (and pick up your backpack) when you get killed. That’s “when, not “if”, as you will certainly die multiple times. As you have to watch out for the weather, bandits, food, poison and wild animals, it’s great to travel through the world of Outward with an additional pair of eyes in form of a friend.
One tip from me: if you come across a suspicious-looking man who offers you a stay at his castle, just say no. Trust me.
Speaking of hot-seat, here’s a hidden gem from 1999: Heroes of Might and Magic III. It certainly plays better than most games from that era. Even the visual style of the game aged well, which is exceedingly rare.
HOMM3 allows you to control a hero and a castle, with expansion as the main goal: you want more heroes, bigger and stronger armies, better-developed castles. Maps are procedurally generated and full of resources to exploit, monsters to battle and rivals to eliminate. It’s a great game to try both in single-player and in a hot-seat mode.
If you want to try it, avoid the remastered Steam version which lacks some features due to lost code. Your best bet is to get the game from GOG.
Thea: The Awakening
Thea is yet another turn-based game that deserves your attention. It certainly took inspiration from the Civilization series, so if that’s your thing, you’ll love Thea. It has a challenging card game-like combat system (which I am still yet to master).
The world of Thea: The Awakening is heavily inspired by Slavic mythology. If you played through The Witcher series, you’ll definitely spot some familiar names and themes. To enjoy the turn-based co-op multiplayer, download the free Multiprayer (nice) DLC from Thea’s developer MuHa.
Are there any co-op games you particularly liked that had you engaged for hours? Let me know on Twitter at @crabdogduck