The pernicious stereotype of the “gamer” as a basement-dwelling, Cheetos-coated, forever-alone nerd is, thankfully, dissolving into faint memory. Anyone can be a gamer now. There are millions and millions of us, and we’re not alone anymore. Some of the best games in the world are designed to be experienced with more than one person. With that said, we decided to pick out 11 games that you can share with your loved one on Valentine’s Day and beyond. From cutesy co-op to some serious competition, these are video games that will strengthen your relationship or destroy it completely.
If you need to work on your communication skills and don’t mind a little stress, Overcooked is the game for you. This feverish co-op experience lets players take on the job of a chef in a bustling kitchen. As orders come in, you must prepare dishes and get them to waiters by following a series of steps. The thing is, it’s literally impossible for one chef to do it alone, so you and your partner will have to coordinate your movements to optimize service and not get in each others’ way. It’s wildly fun, sometimes aggravating, and the 2018 sequel offers even more of the same.
Valve’s follow-up to their smash hit continues to warp the fabric of space, but now there’s co-op. Heroine Chell smashes the mold of video game babes as boob-flopping sex objects, the writing is sharp and clever, and the puzzles will tax both of your intellects to the max. If you thought managing one pair of portals was tricky, adding a second pair allows you and your bae to bend the rules of physics in some pretty startling ways. You might argue a lot, but the feeling of solving one of Portal 2’s challenges with a partner is almost orgasmic.
The best multiplayer games are ones where you immediately suffer the consequences of your actions, and that’s why Hudson’s Bomberman franchise has been a legend for over thirty years. The goal is simple: blow up your friends but don’t get yourself blown up, and across multiple platforms it’s stayed pretty much the same (well, except for the “gritty” Act Zero from 2006 which tried to transplant the basic gameplay into a realistic “dark future” setting) – you plant bombs and try to manipulate your enemies into getting blown up by them. It’s fast-paced, strangely strategic fun.
Nintendo’s character-filled racing franchise is generally regarded as one of the best multiplayer games of all time. Pit the iconic Mario brothers against Donkey Kong, Bowser and even Princess Peach as they step behind the wheel of a variety of vehicles and race to the finish. The game’s seen eight installments, with the latest on the Wii U, but there’s nothing stopping you from pulling out an older system or even an emulator and getting down with the classics. Just don’t get too mad when your partner takes you out of the lead with a blue shell.
Fighting games are among the purest forms of competition the vidya world has to offer, but they can be a little unfair for new players. Having to memorize complicated controller motions to do certain moves can be frustrating when all you want is to beat somebody’s ass. Mark Essen’s brilliant Nidhogg takes the genre and distills it into a pure one-on-one experience. Armed with swords, two players face off across a pixelated environment and duel to reach a goal at the far end of the playfield. It’s easy to learn but boasts layers of strategy and opportunities for some serious upsets.
Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime
Candy-colored co-op Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime has romance right in the title, but don’t worry — this tale is extremely G-rated. Each player controls a little pilot in a massive, spherical spaceship. One station runs the engines, the other the shield, et cetera, and to work each part you need to run around inside the thing to get there. That means that to accomplish the game’s goals and collect all of the captured space creatures to open the heart-shaped portal to the next universe, you need to work together. Easier said than done, but this one is a low-stress and wildly fun experience.
Lara Croft and the Guardian Of Light
Okay, sure, the Tomb Raider franchise maybe isn’t the best representation of women in the world of video games, but Lara has moved beyond being just a pair of big polygonal boobs and transformed into an actual interesting character. Oddball 2010 entry Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light changed everything up, taking the series into a new perspective that also added a second controllable character, a Mayan tribesman named Totec. The way the two characters interact and depend on each other is a major part of the game, so think of it as a team-building exercise for your real-world relationship.
The best co-op games don’t just get easier with more than one player – they also get harder. Monaco, by Pocketwatch Games, is a heist game starring a gang of pixelated criminals that have to rob a variety of buildings and locations. The gameplay is a combination of Pac-Man and Metal Gear Solid, but it’s in co-op where it truly shines. Since each crook has a different special ability and remaining unseen is vital, players need to really communicate to get through each mission without tripping alarms and alerting guards.
Platform games can sometimes be tricky for co-op play because if one player runs out of lives, they’re stuck watching while the more skilled gamer basically does all the work. Ubisoft’s lush Rayman: Origins has precise, friendly controls and a beautifully-rendered environment that you and your partner can run, jump, swing and climb through on your quest. Levels are nicely bite-sized and offer a variety of challenges. Co-op is also drop-in and drop-out, meaning that either of you can step away to make a snack without stopping the whole game and messing up their rhythm.
Unlike the other games on this list, Until Dawn is strictly a single-player experience. But the moral choices you make in this horror hit make it perfect for a backseat driver to give their input. As a group of friends invited up to a remote mountain cabin a year after a horrible accident, you explore terrifying locations and figure out mysteries while trying to stay alive. One of the most interesting aspects of the game is that there’s no continues – if you make a mistake, the story keeps going and you just have to deal with it. Some remarkably effective scares also mean it’s a good excuse to get closer with your partner.
Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes
Getting non-gamers into VR can be a struggle, but this brilliant co-op game is so easy to understand and fun to play that it’s a great bridge. The premise is simple: a bomb’s about to blow up. The good news: you have a manual for defusing bombs! The bad news: the person defusing the bomb can’t look at the manual, because they’re wearing the VR headset. So the other player needs to communicate with them to ask about what they’re seeing and give them clear directions for what to do. It’s simultaneously insanely stressful and deeply hilarious, and the multiple different bomb types and puzzles give it a remarkable amount of longevity.
So, if you’re brave enough to achieve your dream of having the kind of relationship where you don’t leave the room sometimes because all the entertainment you two could ever need is sitting under the television, the above 11 games the best place to start. Also, we would’ve included Spaceteam, but we’re not too experienced with relationships that consist of more people than you can count on your hands.
More on Geek.com: