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The 15 best co-op games of all time

Ian Birnbaum at

Games are meant to be played with friends. From the earliest days of pen and paper RPGs to sidescrolling beat-em-ups in arcades everywhere, the highs of a great game are so much sweeter when you share them with a friend or three. Even better, keeping close to friends and family through co-op gaming has never been easier thanks to the rise of local multiplayer on PC, and drop-in, drop-out online co-op.

This is our newly updated list of the best co-op games on PC. of If you're out for a new co-op adventure, grab your wingman and dive into one of the games below: these are our 15 favorite co-op games we’d tell anyone to play right now.

Our Criteria

Keep in mind that these are the games we recommend for friends to play together right now. There are great co-op experiences that have come and gone or aged into clunkiness. The original Halo: Combat Evolved, for one, was the best co-op experience when it hit PC in 2002. Twelve years later? Not so much.

We value shared fun more than nostalgia and historical significance, and that value has shaped this list. We also disregarded games that are primarily competitive or team-based multiplayer experiences. Team Fortress 2’s excellent Mann vs. Machine mode, for example, is a great co-op mode inside of what we consider a multiplayer game. That's not a criticism: this list is simply focused on games more dedicated to co-op.

With that said, these are our favorite games for you to grab a friend and explore together.

15. Orcs Must Die 2 (2 players online)

Release Date: 2012
Developer: Robot Entertainment
The brilliant sequel to 2011’s Orcs Must Die added more traps, more enemies, more levels, and, most importantly, a second player to help out. Orcs Must Die 2 added so many new balls to juggle that its single-player mode became crowded and confused, while co-op became the star of the show. Played alone, this tower defense-alike can be a punishing slog against hoards of enemies swarming in from all directions. With a friend, though, you’ve got backup and a second set of hands to fight back the darkness. Placing traps and settling in to fight a stream of bad guys is so much more rewarding (and tactically sound) when you know that your friend has got the other door covered.

14. Dead Island (4 players online)

Release Date: 2011
Developer: Techland
Dead Island has a bit of a mixed reputation. The tropical island of Banoi is besieged by zombies, but the limp story is the thing that really wants to harm your brain. Gun combat is also a bit weak, and having all of your weapons break in the middle of a pack of zombies is a real pain.

With a friend (or three), though, this noggin-bashing playground becomes a hilarious adventure. Bonking a zombie on the head with an oar is tense and lonely, but bring in a friend and it suddenly becomes closer to the jukebox scene from Shaun of the Dead than anything Romero ever put to film.

13. Payday 2 (4 players online)

Release Date: 2011
Developer: Overkill, Starbreeze
Moving a step beyond the fun-but-not-essential co-op play of Orcs Must Die 2, Payday 2 is a game that is completely useless in single player. Well, not completely. But it’s pretty grim. Trying to pull of a complicated, multipart heist with bumbling AI companions is not only futile, it’s a bit boring. Bring a friend, though, and this shooter turns into Ocean’s 11 by way of The Expendables. The only thing more fun that pulling off the perfect stealth heist is failing, having the alarms go off, and shooting your way out. Don’t forget to scream obscenities at your friends when they screw up by walking into view of a security camera.

12. Torchlight 2 (6 players online)

Release Date: 2012
Developer: Runic Games
Runic’s excellent action RPG, Torchlight 2 hit me right in the feels. I wanted to love Diablo 3—on many levels, I felt like I was supposed to love it—but Torchlight 2 came and stole me away. It was more Diablo than Diablo was, and its insane dungeon diving gets harder and more chaotic when you’re not facing it alone. Diablo 3 maxes out at four players, but up to six of you can get your Torchlight on. Too many? In a game where monsters explode into fountains of gold, “too many” really doesn’t enter into the equation.