Drake Hollow cover art

My lockdown in co-op: testing the best co-op games

If you’re reading this you’re likely a geek as well, and have really enjoyed certain aspects of the lockdown life. Mainly the absence of social obligations and no longer having to come up with excuses. Because let’s be honest: you’d rather stay home and play games! (which is never an acceptable reason according to my mom). We are however still social beings, and gravitate more towards co-op games than ever before. They are a great way to keep in touch with people that matter to you. Even more, it can entertain your housemate(s) who may have a harder time staying indoors. 

In this article I’d like to present the co-op games I personally enjoyed playing during 2020. I will also highlight some of my favourites. The list will feature both local and online co-op games on different platforms. These games were not necessarily released in 2020 or 2021, but grabbed my attention for one reason or another. If you’re interested in something more recent; take a look at our Outriders demo review! I’m also including a few single player titles and how you can enjoy those with someone else as well. 

Couch team up

Crawl cover artwork
Crawl art work

Crawl

Indie co-op games aren’t usually on the top of my list, but this one definitely is. I played Crawl at a friend’s house (calm down this was in 2019). And although I got my ass kicked royally, I fell in love with the game. I bought it for the Nintendo Switch as soon as I got home. Since then we’ve introduced it to many others and plan to do so in the future as well. At any given time you play 3 vs 1, which means you’re playing co-op most of the time. The game is available on most platforms in case you’re interested in exploring it too!

Killing your friends outright

So what is Crawl? Crawl is an arcade-style dungeon crawler for up to 4 players. To start, you first choose which Deity you want to serve. This in turn determines which monsters you’ll be able to inhabit during the game. The game starts with you waking up in a dungeon with your three friends. What follows is simple: you need to kill them before they kill you. The survivor then becomes the “Hero”. The others play as ghosts who can use traps and inhabit monsters to try and kill the hero. Doing so will mean that the roles can be reversed. As the hero, you explore a randomly generated dungeon.

Classic dungeon crawling

The point is for you to level up and find gold to buy items while surviving attacks of murderous friends-turned-ghosts. Once you reach level 10, you can go through a portal that will bring you to the final boss. The only way to escape the dungeon is by becoming the hero and beating the boss.

Crawl start room
Start room – initial fight to determine the hero.

If you’re not fighting to survive, you’re doing everything in your power to kill the current hero. There’s nothing more satisfying than possessing a simple wooden crate and using that to deal the final blow. Unless you count the look on that player’s face of course. During the final battle you get to control parts of the big bad monster. This allows you to annoy the hell out of the player trying to beat the game. Honestly if I don’t get to leave this dungeon, then nobody can! Each playthrough takes about thirty minutes. Which also makes it perfect to just pick up if you have some time to kill. Like when you’re waiting for your pizza to arrive. Try it with your housemate(s) or hone your skills against bots, so you can mop the floor with your friends.

Man of Medan

You know those Saturday nights where you just can’t decide what you want to do? If you want to watch a movie (and which one) or just play video games? You might want to look into The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan. Marketed as an “interactive drama video game”, it’s basically a movie! Only one where you have a massive impact on the outcome. It’s the first installment of the series. A second game, Little hope, was released in October of last year and six more are planned for the future. We played Man of Medan on Xbox One because it’s available on Gamepass. In “Movie Night” mode you choose which characters to play and pass the controller at each turn. There’s also a “Shared Story” mode for online play so lockdown is no reason to miss out on this gem. 

Man of Medan cover art
Man of Medan logo.

Curator

After the prologue you are introduced to the Curator, who asks your help in order to complete the unfinished story that makes up Man of Medan. There are 5 characters that you need to divide between the players. You’ll be asked to make choices with either your  “head” or “heart” (or do nothing). Each of which affects the characters personalities and their relationships. These choices may seem insignificant at first, but later on turn out to be key. Whether or not a character survives depends on it. During what was supposed to be a fun boat trip, the characters get trapped on an actual ghost ship. There you can find “Dark pictures”, paintings that work like flash forwards. They are important because uncovering the mystery of the ghost ship can save lives in the present. 

Evening spooks

When we played Man of Medan we made the mistake of starting too late at night, having to finish the story the next morning took away some of the “scary”. I recommend you start in the evening and foresee 4 to 5 hours. The story is good, with enough twists and scares to keep your focus. It does so even when it’s not your turn to play. We divided the 5 characters between two players. Along the way I managed to make what turned out to be “bad choices”. The result being that other characters died because of my actions! Near the end my boyfriend wound up without any characters left; whoopsie daisy! The game has many different endings, so you definitely have a chance to do better than I did. Or even worse if that’s your thing. The Curator might judge you for it, but I promise I won’t!

Online co-op

Drake Hollow cover art

The main reason I enjoy Xbox Gamepass so much is because it has introduced me to so many great games. Many of which would otherwise never appeared on my radar or I wouldn’t have taken a chance on. Drake Hollow, developed by the independent studio The Molasses Flood, is my personal favourite title of 2020. Both in single player as online multiplayer mode (co-op games on Xbox One or PC), this action and village-building game stole my heart. The adorable designs of the Drakes and the relatively easy but still captivating gameplay definitely got me hooked.

Drake Hollow

In the campaign mode you travel to the world of The Hollow, where the local vegetable folk called “Drakes” live. They need your help to fight off the “eather” that has infected their world. You also have to protect them from feral beasts. Every time you locate a Drake, it will travel to your camp. There you need to make sure they are safe, fed and happy. In return for your help each Drake can give you an unique boost. Which either helps you in battle, or makes taking care of the Drakes easier. Once you’ve found them all and cleared every island of eather, you can travel to the next season. This in turn brings its own challenges, a new map with eather infested islands, and more Drakes to save. 

After we finished the campaign and discovered the mysteries of the Hollow we started sandbox mode. It works exactly the same as the campaign, but doesn’t stop after you cycled through four seasons. The Drakes are so adorable I want to collect as many as possible. Which means you need a lot of resources to build all the necessary structures in your camp. The best way of gaining resources is by locating trucks on the different islands. You will be connecting them to each other and eventually your camp. You can glide over these connections as a means of travel as well. I found this helps you to quickly cover the entire map. That especially comes in handy when other players need help on a heavily infested island. Or when monsters are raiding your camp and you need to go and defend your lovely Drakes. 

Drake hollow screenshot
Talking to one of the Drakes.

Drake feast

When exploring and battling you find special resources that can level up specific Drakes, doing so will make them mature. You basically feed them until they eventually retire. They die right outside your camp and a statue of them appears. Which you can bring back to camp if you wish to still use their buff. Although it is very sad to see them go, ageing Drakes improves the buff they can give you. It also levels up your camp. Doing so means you can build more structures and provide a home for even more Drakes. The desire to save and protect every little Drake is what keeps drawing me back into this game. Hitting monsters with the most random weapons – think chair legs, ski’s, water balloons – is of course also a big plus. 

Role Play together

My favourite genre is hands down the RPG, but the best ones in the genre are mostly single player games. That doesn’t mean however that you can’t enjoy them in co-op games style, like I have been doing over the last year. This is how: One person is holding the controller. The other chooses the dialogue options and decides which quest to complete next. You both get to enjoy the story, laugh while derping around, and strategize about how to beat a certain boss. You can even make it a little competitive by switching places every time you die, or fail a quest. This also works really well if you’re a teensy tiny bit afraid to play horror games on your own… I definitely prefer this over watching a streamer play these types of games or a Choose your own adventure film or series.

Kingdom Come Deliverance cover art

Kingdom Come Deliverance

Last year we enjoyed Red Dead Redemption II, Blair Witch, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Resident Evil VII in this fashion. But my personal favourite was Kingdom Come Deliverance. In the latter you play as Henry, a blacksmith’s boy in the 15th century who survives a raider attack. As an escaped messenger, he joins the service of a lord.  The game is historically accurate which is one of the reasons it has received a lot of praise. Personally I love it so much because of that. Allow me to elaborate on how we both play as Henry the blacksmith’s boy. Perhaps it can inspire you to try this unconventional form of co-op games play with a partner.

Why it’s my favourite?

To avoid spoilers I won’t really touch story-related topics. But I will tell you we laughed our asses off during the scene with the drunk priest. Which is exactly why it’s so much more fun to experience these stories together. Most of the actual “co-op” comes in the form of discussions with your partner. Whether or not our Henry would do or say X. So let’s look at how we shaped our Henry. We needed to decide what kind of person he is going to be. Because that influences the decisions he’s going to make in the game. What motivates him? Does he have any morals? Is he loyal/trustworthy? This can be even more fun during a second playthrough. Because you know more about the character and choices so you can take that into account as well. 

Our Henry only steals from people that cross him but does visit the bathhouse more often than his girlfriend. Anyone that challenges him to a fight will meet their end; yielding is not allowed! He gets drunk every night, buys the most expensive meat in the shop and feeds it to his dog. Whenever there’s a possibility to “mercy kill” a knocked-out opponent, he unequips his weapons and breaks their neck with his foot. So many happy memories!

Honorable mentions

Minecraft Dungeons cover art
Minecraft Dungeons

Below I’ve included the remaining co-op games titles that I enjoyed playing during 2020, in no specific order. I do want to give a shoutout to Minecraft Dungeons, which I highly anticipated after playing the demo during Gamescom 2019. When it was released, the loot system was very irritating. And after completing all the levels on the first difficulty, we simply stopped playing. Some months later we picked it up again because I wanted to give it another chance. I found they had definitely improved those aspects of the game that we found frustrating at first. Now I’m happy to clear some dungeons from time to time, either alone or together. If you like dungeons, whether you like Minecraft or not, it’s fun and very uncomplicated to pick up and have some casual fun. 

If you just can’t get enough co-op games suggestions:

  • Minecraft Dungeons
  • Grounded
  • Sea of Thieves
  • Diablo III
  • Fable III
  • Snipperclips
  • Overcooked! 2
  • Moving Out
  • Destiny 2 Beyond Light
  • Star Wars Battlefront II
  • Borderlands III
  • Keep talking and nobody explodes
  • Fallout 76
  • State of Decay 2
  • Portal Knights

Romy

Posts published: 38

Cat lady, linguist, all round geek. Always gaming with my boyfriend, reading fantasy books, watching anime or wasting money on shiny cardboard.