Dearth of Local Co-Op in Games


David and I love to play games, together, all kinds of games, board, tabletop, video, etc. Now obviously with tabletop and board games you just have to find ones that are built for at least two players, we even have some that can be played as one player. Games specifically designed for two people is even better because it is built around the dynamic of either competition or working together (usually competition).

The problem with a lot of video games lately is that even if they do have a true co-op mode they often do not allow for local co-op. Now I will admit that maybe this boils down to the types of games we like to play, but at the same time if there is an online co-op mode, why can’t there be some form of local co-op?

Online Co-op Only

There have been a couple games that David and I have bought hoping to be able to play the game together only to discover that the only option is online co-op (I’m looking at you Transformers: War for Cybertron). This would mean we asa  couple living in the same house would need two systems, two copies of the game, and two tvs in order to play a game in the same house. As a pricing system that is ridiculous. There is no way we are going to shell out all that money just so we can play a game together. It sometimes means we may not get the game because of it, or if we do we wait until it is a lot cheaper.

It can be frustrating as a couple that there are not a lot of good options when it comes to playing video games together. Dead Island is an example of a game where it was on sale – and I admit I did not take a close enough look – but I had heard about co-op and saw co-op somewhere on the packaging and thought it looked like a fun game to play. We get it home only to find out it was not local co-op, it was only online. Now luckily at the time we had my brother-in-law living with us, we were able to borrow an XBox, he had recently purchased a new TV for the apartment he was going to move into… and we set up two systems and two tvs in our living room and they played the game together.

The amount of effort it took to have both systems set up was ridiculous and the space it took up, even more so. There was no way we could leave everything set up, especially with the way our cats will run around the house, so if they wanted to play they had to set everything up and take it down again.

This is not to say that there probably isn’t some great online co-op options and there are probably some reasons for it being the way it is, but from our perspective it just seems like a way to try and make people buy more copies of the systems and more copies of the game.

Examples: Transformers: War for Cybertron, Dead Island,

Limited Co-op Options

Now with online co-op only we do not get an option to play together, but some games are doing this sort of co-op where there is a co-op mode to the game, but it is not the normal campaign or the second player is limited in their actions. Portal 2 did a great job with a local co-op that was fantastic. Some of the problem was it was too short. We could have done an entire game as the two robots, and while they have since expanded it, we moved quickly through the various puzzles.

Often the limited co-op options can be fun, but do not take up the amount of time that a full co-op campaign takes. Now sometimes the first person mode is also totally worth it so we do get a twofer, but other times we were really looking for a co-op game and end up feeling kind of let down.

The worst game that only provides an illusion of co-op is Super Mario Galaxy. Player 2 is just a dot on the screen that uses the star bits to distract and sometimes kill enemies. They can also daze enemies, but they really are just a support for Player 1. Now Super Mario Galaxy is not meant to be a co-op game, but it is interesting that they still built in this Player 2 option. My thought is that it is meant to be a family game, but without a co-op option they wanted to add something to occupy Player 2. So if you had two kids each kid could have something they could do during the game.

Now obviously that is an extreme example, but there are quite a few games that limit the type of co-op that is available. Then you have Mass Effect 3 that went from a single player to adding a co-op element, but only an online co-op element. Now that really seemed like a forced-in mode to satisfy something, I am just not sure what.

Examples: Rage, Portal 2

What’s Left?

So, I guess now that I have discussed the co-op options that either don’t work or are not as full of an experience what are we left with. Well, Borderlands and Halo as a franchise have been fabulous with their co-op options. We can play them splitscreen and go through the campaigns and experience the whole story together. Halo also has arenas that we can invite people over and have up to 4 people playing on one console. Borderlands only has the campaign and originally it was either splitscreen or online, but with Borderlands 2 they have fixed that so now David and I can play with our friends online and we have a blast.

The other options that we have are things like the Lego games, what I would call party games, and platformers. The Lego games are only two player and they are fabulous – so well done and very creative. The only ones that we have not finished are Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The party games, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Raving Rabbids, are fun but you often need more than two players for those to be a lot of fun. We do pick them up from time to time and play around with them. It just is not quite as much fun without more people there. We’re more likely to pick up a board game.

The platformers are ones that we have tried. We have Donkey Kong Country Returns and Epic Mickey 2. We have played the first one a bit and have not quite gotten to the second, partly because Borderlands 2 has definitely been our co-op of choice lately. We eventually get to a point where we feel sort of done with the game and then are stuck with the same conundrum of what co-op is available without a Lego game.

I admit some of this stems from the types of games we like to play. I am not a fan of Gears of War, or real life Army style games in general. I would much rather enter a place of the fantastical then the type of situations we see in real life. Most of the games I love tend to be single player games, but still is it too much to ask for some co-op games to exist and that they exist online and offline. We have even enjoyed some of the limited co-op games that we have gotten to play, but they do not take as much time and often are over too quickly.

Now some areas that we have also found co-op is the XBox Arcade, but again those are often short lived experiences that repeat and do not take as long. Is it too much to ask for us to be able to journey forth together in an RPG where yes, in the end, only one of us is making the decisions, but we are sitting in a room together, we could discuss and decide what we think is best and then go with that?

Favorite Co-op: Borderlands and the Lego Games

Do you know of any good local co-op games? (We have discovered Resident Evil 6 and Fable 3 so we are thinking of giving those a try.)

Photo Credit: Top photo from

12 responses to “Dearth of Local Co-Op in Games

  1. thesensiblegamer

    Ah, the frailty of a growing online gaming community. The problem is that as we move forward, more and more emphasis is being placed upon the larger of the two demographics; the online playerbase. It wasn’t always this way, ironically, it was games like Halo 2 that skyrocketed the online aspect of consoles into the spotlight.

    Sad matter of the fact is that developing both an offline AND an online co-op platform can increase development costs if not done right. Halo (an example I cite often because it’s one of my favorite co-op games) does this right by incorporating their local co-op AND multi-player into the same “party” feature. This way, they accommodate both without wasting any time developing exclusive content for the other.

    It’s a dying breed, I fear. There’s just more profitability in focusing on online aspects. There’s still a few games you could try though! Co-optimus is a fantastic site that acts a resource, and provides an explicit definition of what is and is not a “couch” co-op game.

    There’s quite a few there, so you can look through the list.

    Good article by the way. Consider me a follower!


    • Thanks to a little time with Co-optimus, we now have Fable 2, Fable 3, and Resident Evil 6 on the way!

      And yeah, Borderlands 2 pulled off the local-and-online co-op by building into the party interface, works for me!


  2. I have to recommend to most co-op game ever schizoid available on XBLA. But I do agree that I’m crying inside at the lack of good coop games this generation like baldur’s gate dark alliance — now that game was fun. I’d love a game like LEGO that was just a bit harder so you’re sweating the big boss fights…. ya know?


    • Oh man, I remember the Dark Alliance games! Those were good dungeon crawlers. Actually, Lord of the Rings War in the North is a similar sort of game, you should check it out. But yeah, it would have been nice to see, say, Torchlight multiplayer for that same sort of experience. We bought Daggerdale on the XBLA, but it did not capture our attention.


      • Wasn’t happy with Daggerdale, but lara croft and the guardian of light was very fun co-op game. There is something for same room game play that is missed with an online co-op. I’m sad about War in the North I got it from Gamefly and returned it the day before you wrote the article recommending it for co-op play.


  3. My girlfriend and I have been all about Tekken Tag Tournament 2 since I picked it up last week. It’s sort of fun to virtually beat on each other but when you can team up against the AI that’s even more interesting — she just mashes buttons (which, so, mostly, do I, but I learn a few of the basics like throws) and has fun whether we win or lose.


    • A fighting game with the ability to team up against the AI is great. We have the Marvel vs Capcom where we can fight against each other and it is fun, but we enjoy being able to play together instead of against each other. (Probably better for the marriage too.)


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