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The 25 best co-op games ever made

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Sometimes you need a hand to hold, so we’ve updated our list of the 25 best co-op games to play on PC with a headset-wearing friend or a muted stranger.

Everything’s better with a pal or two in tow, from collaborative puzzle solving to sublime double stealth takedowns. Equally sublime are when those takedowns go awry, your partner shrieks in panic and all hands are needed on deck to clear up the mess. Whether local or online, co-op games offer some of the best fun you can have in 2018.

Our criteria is our own. We’ve excluded competitive multiplayer games that require cooperation, so you won’t find PUBG or Dota 2 in the list. However, anything with a co-op mode counts, even if it’s a game chiefly thought of as being about its singleplayer or competitive modes.

Now let’s hold hands and together we’ll go on a magical journey through the land of correct opinions. You can navigate this feature using the arrows that appear above or below the header image on each page, or by using the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Note: This feature lives on the internet, which means there’s a hole underneath for you to vent your frustrations into. Remember, your comment will live on forever, so make it a good one. “No Game X?” isn’t useful. A brief explanation of why Game X is wonderful absolutely is.

And while you’re here, why not watch the RPS Video Division’s take on the subject? In order to bond our new videographers we encouraged them to play every game on the list and document their findings. Their top ten leans towards bigger communities still playing today, and they want to publicly apologise to Graham for not including Spelunky.

Mice to meet you

25. Transformice

Developer: Atelier 801

Publisher: Atelier 801

It bills itself as an “MMO platformer” but it’s really a game of co-operation, confusion and callousness. A horde of small mice are at one end of a screen – you are one of them. At the other is a delicious piece of cheese. You want the cheese, but so does everyone else. It’s out of reach, perhaps floating in mid-air or resting across an impassable gap. The only way you’re gonna return it to your mousehole is by working together.

There’s another important element. One player is a shaman who builds objects – small platforms, balloon-powered lifts, etc. They cause co-op mayhem, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering. As the mage mouse, it’s a trollish game of placing sort-of-useful objects for your fellow rodents to use. The classic example of this is placing a see-saw over a large gap. Too many mice on one end, and it’ll tip. They have to intuitively organise themselves on both ends, to find a balance. But then, if you’re on this side, you have a better shot at the cheese, right?

Transformice understands something many co-op games don’t. Sometimes you are only co-operating with someone as a means to an end, with selfish motives that conflict with the very person you’re helping. Transformice puts selfishness at the heart of its co-op, and becomes a funnier game for it.

Notes: It began life as a free web game but got an eventual Steam release in 2015, prettified and expanded.

Where can I buy it: You don’t, it’s still free-to-play.

What else should I be playing if I like this: Not quite the same, but Agar.io has some similar moments of shifting allegiances.

Read more: Here’s Shawn on its mousey vision of competitive collaboration.

You think you're hot stuff?

24. Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Developer: Fatshark

Publisher: Fatshark

Vermintide 2 is clearly indebted to Valve’s zombie shooter. Each level can be tackled by up to 4 players, and sees you slaughtering hordes of enemies to reach the end intact. Special enemies threaten to pick off anyone that strays from the group, and the appearance of an occasional boss can tear through an unprepared team.

Those similarities might make it tempting to dismiss as a Left 4 Dead knock off, but you shouldn’t because Vermintide 2 has the best rats in video games. They’re man sized opponents with weapons and minds of their own, making them individual combatants that are more satisfying to fight than ravenous zombies. The five classes, each with separate skills and access to different weapons, help to give each player their own role. Those vermin are more varied, too, with a random selection of mini-bosses and horde types to make each run feel a little different.

Fatshark nailed the melee combat at its core and sprinkled in some breathtaking level design, and the end result might be my favourite horde survival game. And I don’t even like Warhammer.

Where can I buy it: On Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Left 4 Dead 1 or 2, obviously. Deep Rock Galactic would be another good choice, if a Dwarven blend of bug blasting and mining sounds like your cup of tea.

Read more: Here’s Alec’s review, and Natalie Clayton’s thoughts on what makes Vermintide a worthy successor to Left 4 Dead.

23. Viscera Cleanup Detail

Developer: RuneStorm

Publisher: RuneStorm

It’s not exactly the most original setting: a dilapidated space station filled with aliens and crimson, world-building wall graffiti. Viscera Cleanup Detail turns this tried and tested scenario on its head, tasking you not with repelling the aliens, but cleaning up the bloody aftermath with a mop that looks like Zoidberg’s mouth.

With up to 32 players, you mop up blood, collect spent shells, deposit bits of human in contaminant containers, refill med stations and incinerate body parts. You might think that more players means faster cleaning, but with you all tracking bloodied footprints across the floor and knocking over buckets filled with gory slop, it won’t be long before things devolve into a food fight. But with human limbs instead of food.

There’s something about removing decals from textures that’s oddly satisfying, and once you’re bored of that you can always try smudge a crude, bloody dick on every surface your friend cleans up.

Notes: Viscera Cleanup Detail is the product of a game jam and the multiplayer was added during its time on Steam Greenlight.

Where can I buy it: Steam or the game’s site

What else should I be playing if I like this: There are plenty of games on PC that make visual comedy the whole experience. Surgeon Simulator offers limited laughs, but lacks the hook of making something shiny.

Read more: Pip and Alice have a chat about what makes virtual cleaning so good.

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22. Overcooked

Developer: Ghost Town Games

Publisher: Team 17

“I NEED MORE MUSHROOMS!” This is the cry of every angry chef in the local co-op of Overcooked. It’s a silly game of simmering and sizzling, the physical manifestation of the phrase “too many cooks spoil the broth”. You’re in a kitchen with up to three other players, and you have to make food to order by preparing and combining certain ingredients. A stacked burger requires chopped tomatoes, a beef patty, lettuce and a bun. To get this done in time will require everyone to carry out their appointed tasks pronto. If we all work together, and stick to our jobs (you: washing up, me: chopping onions) then we’ll be fine.

Nope.

The kitchens of Overcooked are constantly changing. Narrow spaces mean players get in each other’s way. Sometimes the whole level shifts, like a piece of frustrating clockwork. The benches on a ship will slide down the deck with each large wave, altering the layout entirely. Cooking in two trucks, driving side by side, means that one part of the kitchen will accelerate, suddenly becoming off-limits. How will you get the chow off the hob before it boils into an inedible paste? By shouting at your fellow chefs, of course.

Notes: Phil Duncan, co-founder of Ghost Town Games, once worked as a potwasher in a restaurant, an atmosphere which he said was an obvious fit for a co-op game. “There’s a constant timer ticking down,” he said, “and everyone is shouting and swearing at each other.”

Where can I buy it: It’s on Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime has 2-4 players operating a single ball-like spaceship, and Regular Human Basketball pits two teams against each other inside giant robots

Read more: Pip’s interview with Overcooked man Phil Duncan, and its festive Christmas update

21. Dawn of War 2

Developer: Relic Entertainment

Publisher: THQ

Set in Games Workshop’s Warhammer universe, Dawn of War 2 is a game about big men with bigger shoulder pads fighting big enemies with big guns. It’s just as focused on leveling up and finding sweeter gear as it is with tactics and micromanagement, blending action RPG elements with real-time strategy. In co-op you and a friend take control of hero characters and lead squads across war torn maps, dealing with any pockets of resistance along the way and watching each other’s backs.

Its expansion, Dawn of War 2: Retribution, does away with the RTS elements completely in its Last Stand mode, with three players controlling just a hero each and trying to survive against overwhelming odds. In this mode, which many consider to be better than the traditional co-op, you can concentrate on levelling, smashing enemies and experimenting with your skills to see which compliment which.

Notes: You can buy Retribution’s RPG-flavoured co-op as a standalone game called The Last Standalone.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: All of the other Dawn of War games and expansions would be a good start.

Read more: Alec on Dawn of War 2’s standalone expansion, Chaos Rising.

20. Towerfall Ascension

Developer: Matt Thorson

Publisher: Matt Thorson

To most people, Towerfall likely conjures images of frenetically firing arrows at and stomping on the heads of your friends. No, not in real life – although you might feel like it by the end of a few matches. But outside of killing your mates, there’s also the two-player co-op Quest mode. It might be cooperative, but Quest remains thrilling for the same reason as the versus mode: the danger posed by every arrow loosed by your friend. You’ll need to keep moving, too, picking up fired arrows to replenish your supply and bouncing down onto enemies’ heads – stray arrows are inevitable.

The co-op aspect comes in the form of a shot from the other side of the single-screen arena that barely misses your ally, instead striking a skeleton or burying itself into the wall next to them so they can restock. Once you’re both feeling zen, you can even use your dash ability to grab stray arrows from the air and fire them as you land in one awesome motion. If two players trying not to kill each other isn’t enough, you can always grab the Dark World expansion and try not be killed by the arrows of three of your friends.

Notes: Towerfall started life as a Zelda clone with a platforming twist. Thorson eventually cut all the other weapons because the bow was so satisfying.

Where can I buy it: Steam, Humble Store or GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this: It doesn’t take place on a single screen, but Rayman Legends is just as frantic and lets you team up with friends.

Read more: Here’s much more detail in Graham’s Towerfall Ascension review.

19. Payday 2

Developer: Overkill Software and Starbreeze Studios

Publisher: 505 Games

If you’ve never played Payday 2 or its predecessor, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was about perfect planning, stealth and crowd control. The reality is a bit different, and it usually goes like this: the four of you excitedly chat about how you’re going to approach a heist, you split up, someone fudges it almost instantly and every police officer in the world turns up to shoot you all in the head.

It’s more wave defense than precision stealth, with each player setting up traps, sharing ammo and trying to keep the police at bay as a timer ticks down. That’s not to say it’s not good. It’s chaotic and messy, but the shooting is weighty enough and the skill trees are satisfying.

You can get through each of the heists without raising an alarm, it’s just bloody hard and you stand very little chance until you’ve unlocked some of the more advanced skills. Still, the possibility hangs there like a 24 carat carrot, nudging you all to have another go until you’ve perfected every scenario.

Notes: Payday 2’s ultimate edition contains all the DLC thus far

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: If you’re looking for more authentic heists, GTA Online is a much more varied co-op heisting experience.

Read more: An interview with David Goldfarb, Game Director on Payday 2.

18. SWAT 4

Developer: Irrational Games

Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games

A decade on and SWAT 4 still offers something different in the world of tactical shooters: snipers are restricted to set positions, suspects must be warned and force must be authorised. You’re punished for firing on any suspect who doesn’t pose an immediate threat, whether against yourself, a colleague or a hostage, making each confrontation tense. After giving a warning, enemies might bolt, surrender or open fire – you have to judge each situation accordingly. With four other players, it’s difficult to not judge the situation simultaneously, all five of you squeezing your triggers because someone’s trigger finger slipped.

SWAT 4 is a tactical shooter that rewards you for not actually killing anyone, subduing suspects by other means – points are deducted for any unauthorised force, so tasers are often more useful than SMGs. It takes about as long to adjust to the rules as it does to stop tasering each other and laughing at your twitching bodies flailing on the floor. SWAT 4 is as good for testing friendships as it is for testing your aiming skills.

Notes: The official game servers have been taken down, but you can still get a co-op game going if you follow these steps.

Where can I buy it: SWAT 4 was recently re-released via GOG alongside its expansion. Huzzah!

What else should I be playing if I like this: Rainbow Six: Siege is a more competitive take on the tactical shooter.

Read more: Jim and friends return to SWAT 4. Have you played… SWAT 4?.

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17. Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes

Developer: Steel Crate Games

Publisher: Steel Crate Games

The best example of asymmetry in co-op. It involves two players – one of you is defusing a bomb with judicious mouse clicks and cautious wire snips, the other is giving instructions from a bomb-defusing manual. Neither player can look at what the other is doing. It’s one of the most perfect set-ups for the destruction of a healthy relationship and a fantastic example of leaving the screen itself behind.

You don’t have to print out the manual to read from it (you could just read the PDF file from a laptop) but, like the instruction booklet of SHENZHEN I/O, it’s the best way to play. You flip hurriedly through pages, trying to decipher the theory of these explosive devices. Then comes the challenge of communicating the quirks and symbols of the page in a way that won’t be misunderstood. As a pair, you end up inventing your own verbal shorthand, trying to save valuable seconds by talking with both clarity and speed, carefully enunciating the difference between the phrase “Uh uh” and “Uh huh”.

As the bomb handler, you’re consistently double-checking and second-guessing your team mate as they stammer out their directions. “Cut the red wire,” they’ll say. “No wait, the green wire. No, sorry, sorry. The red one. Yes, I’m sure.” In the end, you’ve got to trust them. Cut the red wire.

Notes: It’s playable in VR, which is probably amazing

Where can I buy it: Straight from the developers or from Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Bomb Squad Academy is a single player game of explosion-avoidance

Read more: Adam, Pip and Graham pass their verdict on the co-op bomb-defuser

16. Arma 3

Developer: Bohemia Interactive

Publisher: Bohemia Interactive

Arma 3 takes place on a pair beautiful fictional Greek islands. It does have a single-player campaign, but it’s that island, the vehicles, guns and mechanics, and the painstaking attention to detail, that makes Arma 3 great. It’s a platform for the community to create their own games upon, and there’s enough community made content that if you get into it, you’ll be playing Arma 3’s cooperative mode so long that the standalone version of Day Z will be finished before you’re done.

There’s something about Arma’s design philosophy that makes it especially well suited to playing with other people. Partly there’s the realism, which obviously lends itself well to the kinds of genuine squad tactics you can enact when playing with some dedicated friends or a committed community like ShackTac. Partly it’s the way in which the islands are designed in spite of you, not in service to you, making your steady journeys across the landscape with another person feel more satisfying than overcoming a set of contrived obstacles. Hopefully one of you is a good pilot.

Notes: Wasteland is a mod for Arma 3 that captures the same PvP essence as Day Z, but without the zombies. While holidaying on a Greek island that looks suspiciously similar to one seen in Arma 3, two of Bohemia’s staff members were arrested for espionage for allegedly taking snaps of a military base.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis is the game that eventually became the original Arma and is worth a look to see how far the series has come.

Read more:. Read Polygon’s feature about the detention of two of Bohemia’s staff for espionage in Greece.

15. Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator

Developer: Thom Robertson

Publisher: Thom Robertson

Have you ever fantasised about being Captain Kirk? So long as you have five friends who don’t mind you quipping “captain’s log” every time you take a toilet break, Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator is for you. With the need for five friends and five PCs, games take some arranging, but if you can, it’s unlike any other experience you can have in your living room. It’s a game about communication, with the captain barking orders as everyone else panics and fails. When you do succeed, it was all down to the captain. Honest.

Besides the captain, there’s a weapons master, a helmsman, a science officer, an engineer and comms – everyone has a role to play, and their own unique screen of buttons and sliders to fiddle with. Engineers have to divert power where needed, either to warp away or power up the weapons. Science officers have to scan and provide bearings. Everyone is equally important – unless you’re the captain and then you’re the best, obviously – and one person’s failure will mean failure for everyone. It’s like LARPing in your front room, with computers instead of swords.

Notes: People have modded the game to be playable online, but it’s not the experience Thom Robertson envisioned, though he has previously stated he plans to support the modders as much as possible.

Where can I buy it: The official site and Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: PULSAR: Lost Colony has a similar vibe, and Star Trek Bridge Crew uses VR to the same end

Read more:. Our interview with Thom Robertson. Graham boldly goes with the PC Gamer of 2011.

14. Don’t Starve Together

Developer: Klei Entertainment

Publisher: Klei Entertainment

Now available for free to anyone who already owns Don’t Starve and boasting compatibility with the Reign of Giants expansion, Don’t Starve Together lets you try and survive the Burton-esque nightmare wilderness of Don’t Starve with friends. While you might think it would be easier to survive with someone to huddle up to by the night’s fire, cooperation here won’t just see you chopping up firewood twice as fast – the more players you have, the more competition there is for food.

The trick is to work together instead of fighting over scraps: one of you can cook while another places traps; someone else can be chopping wood ready to stoke the night’s fire. With six players, there’s plenty of scope for creating a sustainable base, so long as everyone sticks to their roles and shares resources. Don’t Starve was already a brilliant story generator and the stories only get better when you’ve got people to share them with by a campfire.

Notes: Klei Entertainment are also working on another expansion, Don’t Starve: Hamlet as well as the RPG Griftlands.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Outside of Minecraft and Terraria, survival sims like Day Z come closest, although these often have a PvP focus.

Read more: How Klei got excited and gave Don’t Starve Together free to existing Don’t Starve owners before it originally planned to.

13. Killing Floor 2

Developer: Tripwire Interactive

Publisher: Iceberg Interactive

Killing Floor 2 provides a familiar flavour of zombie wave defence (or ‘Zeds’, as the game calls them), tasking you and five other players with welding doors shut, swinging katanas and removing heads with panicked shotgun blasts.

What weapons you start with depends on the class, so while assault rifle equipped characters might be able to pick off Zeds at range, the Support class needs to stop undead that get close by removing half of their head with some buckshot. What makes Killing Floor 2 so great is the feedback: weapons punish trigger-happy players with recoil, body parts fly from enemies with each impact, and claret glistens on the ground, a bloody reminder of each skirmish. Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.

Notes: Killing Floor started life as a mod for Unreal Tournament, with a standalone version released in 2009.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has a wave-based zombie mode where kills give you points to spend on weapons between rounds. Failing that, there’s Left 4 Dead. One of these suggestions made it onto the list and the other didn’t – make of that what you will.

Read more: Rich Stanton’s hands-on with Killing Floor 2.

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12. Divinity: Original Sin 2

Developer: Larian Studios

Publisher: Larian Studios

Divinity: Original Sin let you create a character and then suggested it might be fun if you took a friend along. They would make their own character and you’d have adventures together. It was fun, because you got to do all sorts of silly things together and even though the game was fine if you played on your own, everything is better with a friend. Divinity: Original Sin 2 wants you to consider the possibility of playing with multiple friends. It supports up to four players but rather than simply increasing the size of the party, it does something far smarter and more insidious.

This time around, Divinity wants you to consider what might happen if your friends where no longer your friends. They’re colleagues, perhaps, and sometimes they’re rivals. And thus the competitive-cooperative RPG is born. You can take on quests with contradictory objectives, kill that one NPC your best mate really needs to talk to if she’s ever going to get closure on her character’s personal backstory, or poison all of the health potions and then share them with the party after the next battle. It’s a brilliant game however many people you play with, but it’s at its best when you’re playing with a group of your very best frenemies.

Notes: There’s also a GM mode which lets you torture your mates in wholly original ways.

Where can I buy it: On Steam or GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this: Torment: Tides of Numenera is an even wordier take on a complex fantasy world.

Read more: Larian on how the chaos of multipayer made the singleplayer even better, Adam and John pass their verdict

11. Borderlands 2

Developer: Gearbox Software

Publisher: 2K Games

There’s something compelling about watching numbers float from enemies as you pepper them with automatic weapons, and watching those numbers go higher as the game progresses triggers something inside our lizard brains . We’re all suckers for character progression, compulsively plugging away until the next milestone. One thing that improves this is the existence of your friends and a headset. Borderlands 2 is an MMO without the ‘massively’ – you gather a party of three friends, go into a hub, accept quests from a bunch of NPCs and then go out in the world to complete them.

The quests are generally of the ‘go to place, kill a thing’ variety, but it’s the stories generated by the interactions with your co-op pals that make it special. The game’s procedurally generated weapons guarantee that you’ll come across unique and interesting gear – this often leads to everyone bolting for a weapon chest as soon as they see one, so they can get first refusal. Borderlands 2 is the kind of cooperation where you revive your downed friend after you’ve hoovered up the good stuff.

Notes: Borderlands didn’t always have its trademark cel-shaded visual style and rocked a much more muted look until an 11th-hour change of art.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Dead Island has the same style of co-op questing, albeit less polished and with a melee focus. If that’s not to your liking, there’s always the original Borderlands or the Pre-Sequel to get stuck into.

Read more: Jim’s Borderlands 2 review.

10. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

Chaos Theory bettered the Splinter Cell series. Along with Sam Fisher’s new combat knife came multiple attack angles, contextual animations when approaching enemies, the ability to attack while hanging and the most satisfying palm strike in any game ever. On top of this, it was the first game in the series to use ragdoll physics and introduced a dedicated co-op mode.

The co-op follows two rookie Third-Echelon agents as they take on seven missions which run parallel to the main story. One thing the Splinter Cell games have always done well is making the player feel just vulnerable enough to make each encounter tense. This is why silently popping the lights and taking out a room full of guards with a friend is nearly as satisfying as throwing a brick at a guard’s head just before your friend knocks them out. Sorry, pal!

Notes: Chaos Theory had ‘Mr. Ludonarrative Dissonance’ himself, Clint Hocking, as its Lead Designer. Jesper Kyd and Amon Tobin worked on the score.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Every Splinter Cell game since Chaos Theory has had a co-op component, but stay away from Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent, as the co-op was only in the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of the game

Read more: Eurogamer’s Kristan Reed on Chaos Theory.

9. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

You can play through the whole of Vegas 2’s brilliant but flawed campaign with a friend, rappelling down walls, breaching windows and taking out terrorists in unison. While that will keep you busy a while, it’s Terrorist Hunt – a mode where you team up with three buddies to hunt down a set amount of enemies across large sandbox maps – that will keep you coming back.

Guns are powerful and fast; death comes faster. This makes methodically creeping through the maps as a unit, covering corners and assaulting defended positions, an incredibly tense affair. This only ramps up when your squad inevitably gets picked apart on the harder difficulties, right up until three of you are sat watching the lone survivor, the whole success of the mission pinned on them scraping through. It could even be down to you and you’ll feel the tension ramp up as you suddenly become aware of being judged.

Notes: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege is the spiritual successor to this, but is more of a team-based shoot ’em up.

Where can I buy it: Steam and Uplay

What else should I be playing if I like this: Insurgency offers similar tense shootybangs the form of competetive squad-based street combat. SWAT 4 takes you back to urban spec ops and the more tactical leanings of classic Rainbow Six games.

Read more: Rainbow Six Vegas 2 also made it onto our list of the Best FPS Ever.

8. Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

Developer: From Software

Publisher: Bandai Namco

While many are purists when it comes to From Software’s masterful action RPG, refusing to summon help or forcing themselves to equip just underwear whilst wielding only an overgrown twig, Dark Souls is fantastic in co-op. You can jump in with a friend, with a bit of planning, taking turns to help each other through each section. Even without friends, though, Dark Souls will have you forming bonds with silent strangers.

There’s an unwritten etiquette to the Souls games that sees people treating each other with respect, bowing to each other once summoned and waving each other off or cheering after a defeated boss. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of relief when a summoned co-op partner helps you finally beat Ornstein and Smough – the only thing that comes close is paying it back later, becoming the saviour in someone else’s story. Adam said it best in our review: “It’s superb, populating an already haunted world with phantoms and memories, and providing an eventual gateway by which to become an all-but anonymous hero or villain.”

Notes: Dark Souls was originally going to be called Dark Ring for its Western release. However, once From Software realised that in the UK Dark Ring can conjure images of an anus, the name was changed. It was also almost called Dark Race, but was again changed for obvious reasons.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Dark Souls 2 offers more of the same, although it’s missing some of the magic of Miyakazi’s focus, with a much larger and less connected world.

Read more:.Here’s how to mod Dark Souls to add high res textures.

7. Spelunky

Developer: Derek Yu

Publisher: Mossmouth

Spelunky is a moreish 2D platformer with roguelike elements that kicks your arse until it straightens your spine. Although the geometry might be constantly shifting with each frequent death, the rules that govern the enemy types remain constant. After a while, reflexes handle the enemies of The Mines – it’s like peeking into another dimension, but instead of losing your mind you become Neo. Can you dodge bullets? Yes.

Co-op changes the rules, making it perfect for seasoned players to team up. You might think things would be easier with more health and attack power, but stunning, whipping and blowing each other up will be a regular occurrence in the claustrophobic confines of the levels. More players only add more complication and four player co-op is chaos, creating more hilarious ways to fail. Timing, as ever, is key. Now see if you can make it to Hell with four players.

Notes: You can download a modded version of the free Game Maker-made Spelunky that includes online co-op.

Where can I buy it: Steam and GOG

What else should I be playing if I like this: Rogue Legacy delivers a similar flavour of procedural 2D sidescrolling, albeit more forgiving and missing a co-op mode.

Read more: Graham Smith on the clever design of Spelunky’s enemies, Spelunky’s level generation explained.

6. Far Cry 4

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Publisher: Ubisoft

When asked what their favourite thing about Far Cry 3 is, most people will point at the outposts. Far Cry 4 takes it further by adding in the ability to respawn outposts you’ve already destroyed, plonking in four fortresses – like outposts, but more fortressy – and allowing you to take them all on with a friend. There are so many different ways you can tackle them and each features different topography and guard placements, giving them a distinct challenge.

Do you want to creep in, deactivate the alarms and then go loud, or would you rather hang from the side of a gyrocopter as your friend strafes the camp from the pilot’s seat? With the unpredictability of spreading fire and wild animals added in, the co-op can easily become the actual game for many, making the prescriptive single-player missions seem dull by comparison. Now who wants to see if we can wingsuit off this gyrocopter and land in that river?

Notes: Far Cry 5’s entire campaign will be playable alongside your mates.

Where can I buy it: Uplay and Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Arma 3 provides a huge open-world and is also playable in co-op, but it’s more about carefully advancing than riding in on the back of an elephant.

Read more: Here’s the RPS team with a more in-depth look at why Far Cry 4 is one of the best co-op games ever.

5. Diablo III

Developer: Blizzard Entertainment

Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

Diablo 3 is a beast of a game and it’s playable from start to finish with three friends. Not only is it absolutely huge, but there’s replayability in the different classes and combinations, not to mention the difficulty levels. On lower difficulties it’s kind of meditative – you just explore colourful environments bashing things as the world reacts to your destructive force and you pick up sweeter gear.

Like this, it’s one of the best social games around, requiring little in the way of planning while you chat to your friends and get on with bashing skeletons. Crank it up, though, and your party is in for a world of hurt if you’re not planning, talking about the fight and working together – providing buffs, healing and prioritising targets is essential to victory. It’s easy to pick up, difficult to master and even harder to put down.

Notes: The original Diablo began as a turn-based roguelike with clay character models.

Where can I buy it: Battle.net

What else should I be playing if I like this: Path of Exile is a F2P action RPG that offers seven playable classes and an interesting bartering system in-game.

Read more: Here’s Rich Stanton on Diablo 3’s first expansion, Reaper of Souls.

4. Grand Theft Auto V

Developer: Rockstar North

Publisher: Rockstar Games

Los Santos is a gorgeous playground, each bend in the road bringing you level with a postcard view – every angle feels scrutinised. Trace a route from the peak of Mt Chiliad, driving down through the dusty plains of the Grand Senora Desert, snaking by the hilltop mansions of Vinewood Hills, cruising on through the twinkling city itself and finally coming to stop at Vespucci Beach – all this, including the skies above and the sea beyond, is your online playground.

Grand Theft Auto Online is stuffed full of co-op scenarios, but the best experiences are found in the Heists. These multi-part missions ask you and three other players to take part in everything from the setup – casing the joint and grabbing getaway vehicles – all the way to the caper itself. While all of them aren’t necessarily heists, each one does an incredible job of making sure all four players are busy. Everyone has their own job to do, sometimes all together, sometimes in pairs and sometimes alone. This, along with the randomness of the open-world’s systems, gives each heist massive replay value. The only real downside is that you really need to play with three friends to get the most out of it. With each heist taking a couple of hours from setup to execution, it can be as difficult to organise as an actual heist.

Notes: Rockstar sued the BBC for creating a drama called Game Changer, which was about the company’s legal duel with Jack Thompson. It starred Daniel Radcliffe as Sam Houser, one of Rockstar’s founders and was kinda naff when it finally came out

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: PayDay 2 offers first-person heisting, but it’s much more focused on just shooting police officers in the face, believe it or not.

Read more: Our review.

3. Minecraft

Developer: Mojang
Publisher: Mojang

Nobody knew how huge Minecraft would be when the alpha released in 2010, but there were hints of it even from the first few hours, when the game’s first players started building rudimentary shapes and sharing screenshots of what they’d created.

Today, Minecraft is played by people of all ages. Part of its appeal, aside from its openness, is the social aspect. Whether helping your child stave off monsters as you build a fantasy land together or collaborating with a group of adults to make a working hard drive, there’s something for everyone.

You can even play it as an RPG, killing mobs with your co-op partner, levelling up and building equipment to grow stronger, with the eventual goal of taking on the final boss, the Ender Dragon. Minecraft is whatever you want it to be and you can play it all with friends.

Notes: Microsoft paid $2.5bn to acquire Mojang.

Where can I buy it: Minecraft.net

What else should I be playing if I like this: Block N Load blends Minecraft’s building elements with an FPS. Terraria is Minecraft if it were a 2D sidescroller.

Read more: Our guide to Minecraft mods and mod packs. Alec Meer Minecraft review.

2. Left 4 Dead

Developer: Turtle Rock Studios/ Valve Corporation

Publisher: Valve Corporation

Left 4 Dead is proof that all you need is a simple idea and an element of chance to make something hard to put down. Although a lot of people prefer its sequel, the foundations were laid by this zombie-infested classic. The AI Director that adjusted each round’s difficulty, pacing and drama made it feel fresher than an ice bath in the Alps and it retains that distinct feel to this day.

Everyone remembers their first encounter with a Witch, hearing its cries as you and your teammates desperately shout at each other to kill your torches. The mix of infected attacking you and the location they spawn stops it feeling repetitive, and it’s all thanks to the AI Director.

Co-op games should reward teamwork and Left 4 Dead nails this by punishing lone wolves with a speedy death. Unlike many co-op games, it works almost as well with strangers as it does with friends – jumping in with a group of random mic warriors only reinforces the apocalyptic fantasy of banding together with people you don’t know.

Notes: Left 4 Dead was inspired by Terror Strike, a mod for Turtle Rock Studios’ own Counter-Strike: Condition Zero.

Where can I buy it: Steam

What else should I be playing if I like this: Its sequel, Left 4 Dead 2 would be a good start. Failing that, there’s the Warhammer-based Vermintide.

Read more:.Kieron Gillen’s review over at Eurogamer.

1. Portal 2

Developer: Valve Corporation

Publisher: Valve Corporation

What happens when you take a single-player game about traversing intricate puzzle rooms with portals, and then double everything? It becomes twice as complicated and twice as satisfying. Portal 2 already expands on everything introduced in the bite-sized Portal, adding things like Excursion Funnels, Thermal Discouragement Beams, Propulsion Gel and other fancy sounding words, but the addition of another player changes things the most.

Four portals make each room more confusing to explore, especially when you consider both players need to reach the exit. In essence, many rooms require two solutions. Some puzzles require both thought and dexterity, and firing your friend across a chasm by moving a portal while they freefall through another eventually becomes as normal as walking.

There’s a lot of personality in the design of the two robotic protagonists, too – the Laurel and Hardy of robotics. When you’re working together, you’ll be high fiving each other’s metal hands and barking possible solutions through your headset.

If you’re not using chat, Valve were kind enough to provide lots of ways to communicate in-game, with players able to place markers and emote. Every puzzle solution is punctuated by a dance. Portal 2’s co-op is an experience you can’t quite replicate, its systems a perfect balance of cooperation and friendly rivalry. Grab a friend and become the most stupid pair of geniuses around.

Notes: Portal 2’s map editor, the brilliantly named Perpetual Testing Initiative, also now supports co-op mods through Steam Workshop.

Where can I buy it: Steam, of course!

What else should I be playing if I like this: Although you can’t have a similar experience in co-op, Quantum Conundrum and Antichamber offer spatial awareness puzzling in first-person. If you love Portal 2’s personality more than its puzzles, there’s always The Stanley Parable.

Read more: Andrew Smee on some of the best community co-op maps.

Postscript

Before you start screaming about why this list didn’t put the game you want in the place you wanted it in, please try and remember what this list was about: cooperation. So keeping in that spirit, please use the comments to be nice to each other, and to write your own entries for 26-100.

You can see the full list below without all those other pesky words getting in the way.

25. Transformice
24. Warhammer: Vermintide 2
23. Viscera Cleanup Detail
22. Overcooked
21. Dawn of War 2
20. TowerFall Ascension
19. Payday 2
18. SWAT4
17. Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes
16. ARMA 3
15. Artemis Bridge Simulator
14. Don’t Starve Together
13. Killing Floor 2
12. Divinity: Original Sin 2
11. Borderlands 2
10. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
9. Rainbow Six Vegas 2
8. Dark Souls
7. Spelunky
6. Far Cry 4
5. Diablo 3
4. GTA 5
3. Minecraft
2. Left 4 Dead
1. Portal 2

In the most recent update (May 2018)

We kicked out: Trine 2

And introduced: Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Most of these words are by Kirk McKeand, some are by Brendan Caldwell and Matt Cox, and all the worst ones are by Adam Smith. Co-operation! [Adam Smith has activated friendly fire]

For more of RPS’ bestest best games, take your pick from:

The best PC games of all time
The 50 best FPS on PC
The 50 best strategy games on PC
The best space games on PC
The best non-violent games
The 14 best Metroidvania
The 10 best hacking, coding and computing games
The 25 best horror games on PC
The 23 best VR games
The 50 best free games on PC
The 10 best games based on movies
The 25 best stealth games on PC
The 25 best action games on PC
The 50 best RPG on PC
The 25 best adventure games ever made
The 25 best puzzle games on PC

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