Nothing quite beats the giddy hilarity that is playing games with someone right next to you. You laugh, you cry, you want to strangle them—it’s great. The last generation of consoles gave us a really fab spread of couch co-op games, from the riotous Castle Crashers to the infuriating Cloudberry Kingdom. But now, two years after the release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it’s time for the old favorites to move over: a new generation of local multiplayer games is finally here.
1. Octodad: Dadliest Catch
This game is the hilariously silly sequel to the hilariously silly Octodad. You play as an octopus masquerading as a human, which is just as absurd and fabulous as it sounds. It’s in the same vein as games like QWOP, Surgeon Simulator, and I Am Bread in that the fun is in the controls. You control each arm and leg separately—and if you’re playing co-op, each of you has one arm and one leg. Suddenly, even a simple task like crossing a room can result in endless flailing and the utter destruction of the set. Glass shatters, tables upend, and no one thinks it’s odd that you leave a trail of chaos in your wake. It’s ridiculous and charming, tricky enough that you’ll spend much of the game flopping around bonelessly, but easy enough once you get the hang of it that you’ll never be truly frustrated.
2. Rayman Legends
This game was great on last gen and it’s still great now. Rayman Legends provides uproarious platformer fun with delightful, cartoony graphics and a wide range of levels and activities, including extra remastered levels from the original Rayman. The mechanics are well-conceived and extremely satisfying, each environment is cleverly and beautifully designed, and players can be resurrected mid-level so no one’s left out for long. Its charm and good humor are more than enough to entertain a group of friends, plus the special musical levels are some of the best fun I’ve ever had in a co-op game.
3. Never Alone
I have an inordinate amount of love for Never Alone. It’s a puzzle platformer based on folktales from Native Alaskan culture, and absolutely everything about it is beautiful. You play as Nuna, an Iñupiat girl on a mission to discover the source of a terrible blizzard. She’s accompanied by an arctic fox who can manipulate the spirit world to help Nuna on her journey. During the game, you meet several characters from Native Alaskan storytelling tradition, interact with spirits and the Northern Lights, and unlock short videos about Iñupiaq culture. It’s quiet and calming, and makes for a wonderfully fresh multiplayer experience when the market is so dominated by fast-paced and competitive games.
Speaking of fast-paced games: N++ has certainly made it onto my list of all time favorite platformers. It’s based on momentum, speed, and teamwork—and it’s hard. The (2,360+) levels are ingeniously planned, the enemies are more than enough to keep you on your toes, and when you fail, it’s usually spectacularly. Maybe play it with people who don’t mind a bit of yelling—whether friendly or murderous. Honestly, though, the game is wonderfully designed, the soundtrack is badass as hell, and when you get the hang of the mechanics you’ll be soaring through the jumps and dodging enemies like a pro. It’s always challenging enough that you’ll feel like you rule the world when you beat a level.
This is one of those games that sounds deceptively simple: Badland is a basic sidescroller, you just have to tap a single button to fly to the right and avoid anything dangerous in your path. It also makes use of some basic powerups: you get bigger or smaller, become sticky or bouncy, move more quickly or slowly. The interesting part, however, is that you can clone yourself: suddenly, instead of controlling one fluffy flying creature, you’re faced with an entire screen filled with yous. Some moments require skill, but in others all you can do is fly and hope one of your clones makes it through alive. It’s innovative and fun, and more than a little ridiculous at times—especially with multiple players!
So, that’s my five! Honorable mentions go to Child of Light, a 1-2 player action adventure RPG that uses turn-based combat, and Beach Buggy Racing, the next gen’s attempt at a half-decent karting game, mostly included because it’s for up to 6 players, which makes for wonderful mayhem. Another game to keep your eye on is Speedrunners, for 2-4 players. It’s currently only on PC, but will be moving to the PS4 and Xbox One sometime in the future. It’s zany, competitive fun, and I can’t wait to play it with my friends—and utterly destroy them.
These games should get you started on some fabulous multiplayer shenanigans. Do give me a shout if there’s anything you think I’ve totally missed out on. I’m always down to hear about new games!