Nothing beats a good blaster at your side, kid—except a friend who also has a good blaster, so that you have two blasters and can blast twice as many things at once. That's the joy of our favorite co-op games, whether played locally on one PC or online with a pal or three. The ranks of our favorite co-op games have swelled throughout 2016 with new RPGs, shooters, and insane cooking simulators, joining old standbys like Left4Dead 2 and Arma 3.
These are our favorite co-op games on PC right now.
List updated October 2016. Some entries contributed by the PC Gamer staff.
A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links.
Total War: Warhammer
Release date: 2016
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Warhammer is the first time the Total War team has really gotten to deviate from the historical script, and it shows. A decade of pent-up creativity oozes from Warhammer's animations and faction asymmetry, from the Dwarfs who have to avenge grudges through battle and assassinations, to the Vampire Counts who raise the dead to fight for them. The campaign also feels a bit fresh thanks to some new light RPG mechanics, like quests and loot for your heroes.
Since Rome 2, Creative Assembly has cleaned up the engine's performance and the AI's smarts enough to make Warhammer a great iteration on the series basics. And as usual, you can play the full campaign mode with a friend. Dare you pair natural enemies like the Greenskins and the Dwarfs together, or will you go for an easier alliance? You can also grab a mod and team up with the same race. There's no better co-op strategy game around.
Warframe (4 players online)
Release Date: 2013
Developer: Digital Extremes
It’s easy to fall into routine with Warframe, a game fundamentally about running through procedurally generated levels to upgrade your character over and over again. Playing alone just doesn’t make sense for some missions, and playing online with strangers can be intimidating at times, especially for newer players. But Warframe shines as a co-op game, creating the perfect digital space to hang out with your buddies while tearing through hordes of baddies.
And if you want to really dive into it, Warframe’s systems go deep. You can lose yourself in upgrade planning and crafting component wikis until the sun comes up. But it’s still easy to play with friends of pretty much any skill level, meaning you don’t really need to start playing all at the same time, and don’t have to meticulously time out your play sessions. You can all play at your own pace, and then cross paths in a Grineer spaceship from time to time.
Don’t Starve Together (6 players on a normal server)
Release date: 2016
Klei fought shy of adding co-op to its brilliant game of goth survival whimsy for a couple of years, reasoning (not unreasonably) that the addition of other people might break its esoteric spell, which relies on feelings of isolation and discovery. Turns out the developer needn’t have worried, because a disaster shared is even more fun. The mutual blame when a Deerclops stomps through your camp, ruining days worth of winter prep, is a strategy game in itself.
In keeping with Klei’s attention to detail and balance across its games, the core Don’t Starve experience is tweaked across Together’s three modes—Survival, Wilderness, and Endless—to ensure revival items and certain character abilities aren’t overpowered. It’s Endless you’ll likely find most enjoyable. Chilling out on Discord or a Skype call with a friend whilst pooling your resources to try to keep each other alive against the increasingly brutal effects of the seasons.
Remember: Happiness is a fridge full of frogs legs.
Overcooked (4 players local)
Release Date: 2016
Developer: Ghost Town Games
Overcooked is chaos incarnate. It’s the type of co-op game where you’re supposed to be helping each other so that you’ll all succeed, but you may never want to speak to the people you play with ever again by the end of it. But being part of a well-coordinated team that stays cool under the pressure of ice rivers, kitchen earthquakes, and shifting pirate ships is one of the most satisfying feelings of any co-op game we’ve ever played.
You’ll start falling into familiar kitchen roles—Jack will be the onion chopper, Jane will take care of the burners, while that lazy good-for-nothing Ted is supposed to be washing plates but just fell off the map for the third time. The only shame with Overcooked is that it really only shines as a co-op game, solo just isn’t as fun, and it only has local co-op. But if you can get a few friends to jump into the kitchen with you, it’s one of the freshest co-op games served up in a long time.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (2 players, local)
Release date: 2015
Developer: Asteroid Base
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (or LIADS) is a real achievement of great local multiplayer design. We’ve seen a bit of a resurgence of local multiplayer games for PC, but few have the style, color, and whimsy of LIADS.
LIADS also forces inter-team conflict in ways that other co-op games don’t. There are just too many stations and only two crewmembers, so failure comes from lapses in communication instead of bleak incompetence. This game is so good, it’s a bit of a bummer that there’s no online play. Still, it feels like side-by-side on a couch is how this game was meant to be played, and it's great fun if you have the setup for it.
Viscera Cleanup Detail (Online, up to 32)
Release date: October 2015
A strange, slapstick co-op game with a brilliant conceit: you and your friends play disposable space janitors sent to clean up the mess after a squad of square-jawed videogame space marines have done their bloody business. Grab a mop and bucket and get ready to clean blood off walls, incinerate body parts, collect shell casings, and buff away damage with a welding tool. Sure, you're doing chores: but you're doing chores in space, with friends, and it's strangely, evening-absorbingly compelling.
The soul of Viscera Cleanup Detail is found in its physics system, which has a mind of its own. Get bumped by another player while carrying a bucket of bloody water and you'll spill it everywhere, necessitating even more work. You'll get yelled at for accidentally putting explosive debris in the incinerator and laugh yourself inside out when a friend gets crushed by a malfunctioning elevator, even if that means another round of cleaning up giblets.
There's loads more to it: ID tags to find with information about the corpses you're cleaning up, a game-spanning mystery, and easter eggs in each level. You'll discover what happens if you press all of the buttons on that dynamite looking-thing (it's dynamite) and ruin your cleanliness rating when you try to feed an alien pit monster a chair only for it to vomit green goo all over your friends. This is an absolute gem, and if this is the first you've heard of it—and you've got a squad of amenable friends—then it's time to give it a go.
Far Cry 4 (2 players, online)
The quiet joy of Far Cry is anticipation. Creeping up to an outpost builds tension. Taking out a couple of guards builds even more tension. Eventually, someone spots you, you go loud, and all hell breaks lose.
With a friend, the peaks and valleys of a Far Cry 4 attack is even greater. Co-op partners can always see outlines of each other, so it’s possible to watch quietly as your buddy does something truly risky. When it’s time to go loud, Far Cry 4’s huge variety of toys makes the chaos amazing to play with. Why slink around in the shadows when you can drop grenades from a helicopter as your friend charges the front door on a war elephant?
Lego Marvel Superheroes (2 players, local)
Release date: 2013
Developer: TT Games
There's a bunch of good Lego games that I'd recommend to serious players: Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Lego Batman 2 and Harry Potter are favourites of mine. I'm less keen on the rest. Marvel is still the king of them for me. It's not tied to any particular film adaptation, so it features a pleasant mix of Spider-Man, Captain America et al alongside the rosters of the Fantastic Four and X-Men (something you can't really see in the comics these days).
The levels are nice and imaginative, taking you to locations like Doctor Doom's castle or Stark Tower or Asgard—basically a complete representation of the Marvel Universe, with an obvious love for the characters in how they're animated and voiced. Plus, you can explore Manhattan, and jump off the SHIELD Helicarrier. It's way better than the reskinned-feeling Avengers-focused sequel in my mind. I would say play this with the children in your family during the holidays or some such, but does anyone really like children?
Payday 2 (4 players online)
Release Date: 2011
Developer: Overkill, Starbreeze
Trying to pull of a complicated, multipart heist with bumbling AI companions in singleplayer PayDay 2 can be a trying experience, and sometimes even a boring one. Thankfully, everything works much better in co-op. Bring a friend along for the heist and this shooter turns into Ocean's 11 by way of The Expendables.
And, the only thing better than pulling off the perfect stealth heist is failing, having the alarms go off, and shooting your way out. While AI screw-ups are cause for frustration, your friends screwing up actually makes things more fun.
Starbound (2-8 players online, local)
Release date: 2016
Exploring, mining, crafting, and adventuring in Starbound’s massive open world 2D galaxy can provide you dozens if not hundreds of hours of fun. It's both a charming and challenging experience to work your way through story quests, building colonies on planets, and upgrading your arsenal, ship, and abilities. And it's even better with a pal or two along for the ride.
With drop-in/drop-out co-op mode, it’s easy to invite a friend to your game to work on joint projects, battle monsters, or just hang out together on your starship. You can even play through the story together, especially useful if you’re having trouble with one of Starbound’s tough-as-nails bosses. It’s cute as heck, too—type into chat and it’ll appear in a word bubble above your character, a nice touch for a game that’s already pretty adorable.
Sven Co-op (32 players, online)
Release date: January 1999
Developer: Sven Co-op Team
It's pitched as cooperative Half-Life, but this must be the closest thing to Interdimensional Cable from Rick & Morty. Hop into a random server and suddenly you’re inside a technicolor playground populated by Teletubbies. Join another, and you’re in a Mega Man homage, a secret military base, or Egyptian pyramids where you throw grenades at Anubis himself.
Download an assortment of weird maps, hop in Discord with five or six of your buddies, and lose yourself in hours of retro-weirdness, laughter, and awkward platforming. With the right group of friends, it’s a calamitous and hilarious mashup of Half-Life’s blocky cast of monsters, scientists, and security inside ever-stranger worlds.
Dungeon of the Endless (4 players, online)
Release date: 2014
Amplitude made its name with 4X strategy games Endless Space and Endless Legend, but their most creative and original game is the beautiful (and a bit bizarre) Dungeon of the Endless. The hybrid tower defense/roguelike gives you fragile heroes to control and resources to manage as waves of enemies attack your crystal. Every concept here is familiar on its own, but twisted just slightly from what you’d expect. Time only progresses when you open doors in the dungeon. Finishing a level requires picking up the crystal and making a mad dash for the exit as enemies swarm in from all sides. You’re driven to explore, but exploring too far or too fast can awaken an overwhelming horde of enemies.
Single-player is a more tactical affair, with the option to pause and deliberate strategy during combat. Co-op removes that option, and is all the more tense for it. Surviving some of the brutally difficult later stages requires stockpiling resources, coordinating where heroes are positioned and abilities used, and who constructs what towers. It’s easy for things to get messy or fall apart in seconds, but that’s part of the thrill of playing together.
Roguelikes, tower defense, and co-op RPGs seem like impossible bedfellows, and yet here we are. After getting lost in this dungeon once, I’ve evangelized Dungeon of the Endless to just about anyone who will listen. And then I make them play it with me.
Killing Floor 2 (6 players, online)
The original Killing Floor deserves a shout here—it’s a great game—but it makes sense to recommend Killing Floor 2 going forward, as it has more players and more coming as new levels and perks are added during Early Access. And Killing Floor 2 is a great game, too, even in this unfinished state. It’s a wave assault FPS in which you and up to five other players shoot and bash some very unsatisfied test subjects while scrambling around open maps trying to stay alive—simple enough, but very hard on the harder modes, and teamwork is vital. It helps that Tripwire’s guns are some of the best—the reload animations, the sound effects, the recoil and bullet spread.
Killing Floor 2's community has helped greatly reshape the classes and progression since our preliminary review, written just after it came out in Early Access.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (multiple players, local)
Release date: 2015
Developer: Steel Crate Games
My favorite thing about Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is all the paperwork. Wait, wait! Come back! KTNB is a game about that scene in every action movie where the hero has to defuse a bomb, and the nerd on the phone asks him: what do you see?
KTNB made waves as a great Oculus Rift game, but you don’t need experimental VR hardware to have a good time (although it's really fun that way). The defusing player can take a laptop to one side of the couch, and the advisors open up their bomb hardware manuals on the other. Communication is critical and any number of players can advise the bomb technician, making this a fantastic party game.
Torchlight 2 (6 players, online)
Release Date: 2012
Developer: Runic Games
Runic's excellent action RPG, Torchlight 2, came and stole me away from Diablo III. 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 III 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.
Grand Theft Auto Online (30 players, online)
GTA Online has a whole of stuff going on, but the multiple heists in the game bring out the best in Rockstar’s open-world playground. Four players team up to conquer a series of story-like missions that involve each team member performing a different role building up to a bigger heist. This includes everything from stealing vehicles as part of the setup to assassinations and other interconnected tasks—the missions very cleverly allow everyone to feel like they’re playing a key part in the journey towards that endgame of earning mega money.
When all four players come together in the finale of each heist, making a dramatic escape from the cops as a collective is incredibly exciting and rewarding—more so than anything found in the main story. If only Rockstar would make more of them. They’d be worth paying for.
Trine 2 (3 players, online and local)
Release Date: 2012
The trinity-based puzzle game Trine came out of nowhere when it released in 2009, the heyday of unexpected indie games. Trine’s success spawned two sequels. While this year’s Trine 3 was a bit of a letdown, Trine 2 takes everything great from the original and smooths it, refines it, and makes it better. With the addition of online co-op, you can pass control of the other two characters over to friends. Instead of switching back and forth to play all three perspectives yourself, there's something so much more gratifying about levitating a box to literally give a friend a hand-up. The colorful environments and soft, almost relaxing puzzles are just a bonus.
Borderlands 2 (4 players, online)
Endlessly entertaining, the guns-and-mayhem formula of Borderlands 2 is one of few games on this list that is great for solo players. There's a ton of joy to be had in exploring the planet of Pandora, blasting fools, and taking their endless supply of firearms like you're trying to stock up for a gun show. It's just that all of that stuff is so much better when you've got friends with you. Each character class fulfills a unique spot in the team, and having a tank, an assassin, and a healer, for example, is essential on harder difficulties.
It's also a hilarious game, assuming your sense of humor lines up with Borderland's quotable stoner comedy routine. It's also worth noting that creatures and their rewards scale up in difficulty and value the more players you have, so if you really want that teeth-gritted, seat-of-your-pants good time, you're going to have to make some friends.
If you've already played through Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is basically more of the same, but with low gravity.
Portal 2 (2 players, online and local)
Release Date: 2011
I know, I know: shocker. Portal 2, one of the most critically acclaimed games of the last five years, is on a best-of list? Surprise! There's no denying the raw quality of Portal 2's distinct co-op campaign, though. As the two testing robots Atlas and P-Body, you and a friend get to explore the darker, more dangerous side of GlaDOS's testing routines—the stuff that's too dangerous for (non-protagonist) human testers. The three-dimensional spatial thinking that makes the Portal series so addictive is only magnified when there's another friend getting stumped at the puzzles with you.
Portal 2's co-op is strongest when neither of you know the answer: if your partner waits patiently for you, you feel like a moron; if they don't, they'll be rushing you through all the discovery that makes the game great. Three years after release, though, finding two fresh players would be a rare trick indeed. Luckily, Valve's excellent map editor community has created a full array of excellent new maps to explore, and get stumped in, together.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (4 players, local)
Release Date: 2014
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Guacamelee! is a Metroidvania chock full of gaming in-jokes and personality and lucha masks. The 2D art is divine and it quickly piles on interesting new abilities for navigating the environment and putting together combos in combat. What makes it different from the classic Metroids and Castlevanias is it support for up to four players. That's local-only, sadly, but if you can lure a few friends over they probably won't want to leave until you've explored every inch of Guacamelee!
Divinity: Original Sin (2 players, online)
Release Date: 2014
Developer: Larian Studios
Divinity: Original Sin is notable for many things. It's a return to form for the classic party-based RPGs of yore, so much so that it already landed itself a spot on our list of best RPGs. For another thing, exploring this game's deep world and absurdly funny writing can be done with a friend in your party—a feature that we've never seen before, but makes perfect sense once you've already got it.
The Enhanced Edition, new this year, added a complete overhaul to the voice acting, art, and loot systems. There are also new modes to play in, whether you like brutal combat or just want to explore the story world.
Exploring a massive, hundred-hour RPG can be done with friends on a drop-in/drop-out basis, but the most dedicated among you should think about making a monogamous commitment to your Divinity partner. It's a huge commitment best suited to best friends and spouses, but if you stick with it, you'll experience a story together on a scale that can't be found anywhere else.
Artemis (6 players, online and local)
Release Date: 2011, hit Steam in 2013
Developer: Thomas Robertson
Let's get this one thing perfectly clear from the beginning: Artemis is not a Star Trek game. That needs to be understood for legal reasons, OK? OK. Definitely not a Star Trek game.
Artemis is the greatest Star Trek game ever made. It's billed as a “spaceship bridge simulator,” and its genius is that every player has a different control scheme and information readout. The players (captain, weapons, helm, engineering, communications, science) can only see what's in front of them or what's on the main viewscreen, so there's no way for, say, engineering to help out with aiming weapons or piloting the ship. If you want power redirected to subsystems, though, engineering can do that.
The center of this storm is the captain, who, bizarrely, plays the game without any controls: the captain just yells at the crew to get things done. Version 2.0 released last year, which saw a huge overhaul to its art and control schemes. If you haven't played Artemis since it first hit big, you need to organize a LAN to get another look.
It's incredible how quickly you fall into a perfect naval-style call and response pattern (“Helm, set course for Deep Space 1, half impulse.” “Half impulse to DS1, aye captain.”). Not because you're LARPing, but because you've got to make sure you heard the command correctly or you'll all die.
Well, maybe a little because you're LARPing.
Arma 3 (64 players, online)
Release Date: 2013
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Arma takes second place on this list almost entirely due to its massive scale. It's one thing to have an adventure with two or three friends, sure, but the Arma engine supports dozens of players at once. There's really something to be said for having a human pilot fly you and ten humans to a war zone, drop you off, and leave you to link up with twenty other humans for an assault. Arma 3 doesn't have to be strictly cooperative, of course, but it's included on this list because it shines the brightest when everyone's on the same side against an overwhelming AI foe.
While you're diving into Arma 3, be sure to check out the Zeus multiplayer mode. One player, as Zeus, runs the game as a D&D-style dungeon master, spawning equipment and enemies. Anger your vengeful god, and Zeus will strike you down with a bolt of lightning. It's a fantastic, flexible take on co-op mission scripting that should not be missed.
Spelunky (4 players, local)
Release Date: 2013
It's one of the best PC games ever made. Isn't that reason enough? No? Most of us think of Spelunky as a singleplayer game, but my best memories of it are playing co-op. There's potential for so much to go wrong when a poorly thrown rock or bomb or vase or really anything you throw can send your friend careening into deadly spikes, but that's part of the hilarity of it all. And when you work together, magic can happen.
You have two pairs of hands for carrying vital items through the levels. You can revive a dead player the level after they became a whispy ghost, making Spelunky easier on the whole. You can come up with a plan to work together—you enrage the shopkeeper, I'll drop bombs on him from above—and carry it out. And most of the time it all goes to shit, but isn't that what Spelunky is all about?
Left 4 Dead 2 (4 players, online)
Release Date: 2009
It's really saying something about the strength of Valve's terrific zombie shooter that it's still clawing its way onto lists like this one after six years. A fanatically balanced, cleverly written shooter, Left 4 Dead 2 is built on the strength of four survivors working as a team. As it throws zombies at the team, the group must coordinate their movement and help each other out of danger or death with last second heroics that give each campaign a story worth retelling.
Valve must also get some credit for how long it has supported L4D2, adding level editors, Steam workshop support, porting in the maps and characters from Left 4 Dead 1, and continuing to offer “mutations,” always-changing game modes that offer something new for experienced players.
Left 4 Dead 2's active modding community is also a huge part of why this game comes so highly recommended, as it has produced new campaigns, like Lord of the Rings' Helms Deep castle, which have kept L4D2 fun even after the base campaigns grew old. Plus, you can play as a velociraptor, which clearly warrants our highest praise.