If a candlelit dinner isn’t you and your significant other’s style, why not prove your love this Valentine’s Day by gathering around your console to solve a tricky puzzle or explore a dangerous dungeon? Playing with a partner takes the edge off a crushing defeat and makes a victory all the more sweeter.
Playing games together is both a bonding experience and a way to work out each other’s communication and decision-making styles. My husband and I jokingly call it co-oples therapy because it’s a neutral space to learn about how we work together while also smashing up monsters for fun.
We’ve rounded up our favorite local co-op games to add to (or replace) your Valentine’s Day plans. Whether you want to do a deep inquiry into your relationship style or you’re just looking for a fun, low-key activity, co-op games are an at-home date night that can feel as intimate as a moonlit walk on the beach or whatever other stereotypical romantic activity you were planning.
Communication is key: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
This adorable game might be too cutesy if it wasn’t so damn good. In Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, you and up to three partners (or an AI companion) play as spaceship copilots maneuvering an outer space that looks more like The Jetsons than StarCraft. You can only man one of the ship’s eight controls at a time, meaning that gameplay consists of a lot of jumping from a gun turret to a map screen and back. The game tests your communication skills by putting you in increasingly stressful situations that you need to maneuver together.
Play to your strengths: Hammerwatch
Hammerwatch, a hack and slash dungeon crawler inspired by the Gauntlet series, originally debuted on Steam in 2013 via Valve’s old Greenlight program and was introduced to consoles late last year. As in your standard fantasy action-adventure game, you choose a class of adventurer to play as, with different weapons and special abilities. Part of the fun is deciding what combination of warriors to send into the dungeon, based on your style of gameplay. In my house, we typically play as a ranger and paladin, respectively — he likes to strategically attack from a distance while I impulsively rush into danger and wildly hack away at monsters.
Run the map: Wargroove: Double Trouble
The adorable turn-based strategy game Wargroove recently received a co-op campaign, “Double Trouble,” as a free update. It’s an impressively robust co-op experience — rather than simply adding another player, the developers built new maps that specifically need two players to work together. (For example, in one level the first player is tasked with assaulting the enemy’s fort head on, while the second player sends over air and naval support units from across a river.) The best part? The new commanders are a burly Scottish daddy, his precocious twins, and a powerful lady outlaw.
Revisit a modern classic: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove
Mega-hit platformer Shovel Knight got a long-awaited local co-op mode for its original campaign, known as Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope, back in mid-2017. Polygon loves Shovel Knight for its unique mechanics and because it’s nostalgic without being pandering. Adding a second player to the campaign just makes the bosses harder and tweaks a few of the screens. The real fun comes from working together and antagonizing each other in equal measure. (Try bouncing on your partner’s head — it goes from useful to annoying real quick.)
Write your love story in the stars: Moon Hunters
In Moon Hunters, you play as ancient heroes whose mythology is being written in real-time by the decisions you make in the game. Billed as a “personality test RPG,” this gorgeous little roguelike is fun and engaging, if frustratingly short. It might be a perfect date night game, though, since you’ll get the satisfaction of playing through a whole story together as well as learning a little more about each other’s decision-making styles.
Figure it out, together: Snipperclips Plus
A Nintendo Switch launch title, Snipperclips - Cut it out, together! is another co-op game in which communication is the most important mechanic. There are no time limits or monsters, just some little pieces of paper trying to figure out a puzzle. You can cut each other up into different shapes and interact with objects and each other to solve the level. If you’re feeling competitive, you can play in Blitz mode and try to complete challenges before your partner. The physical version, Snipperclips Plus, includes all of the DLC that’s been released since launch.
When you’re ready for a challenge: Rayman Legends
The second game in the rebooted Rayman franchise is a deceptively difficult 2D platformer that’s made even more difficult with co-op play, doubling the need to dodge the many, many obstacles the game throws at you. I’ve honestly never gotten through the first world before hitting a wall and getting frustrated. For more persistent players, the challenge can be a bonding experience, since you’ll likely both have your fair share of failures and triumphs.
For non-gamer partners: Super Mario Odyssey and Sonic Mania
When you’re dating someone who doesn’t like playing video games as much as you do, one way to get them involved is to play what I like to call “little sibling co-op.” They’re those big franchise titles with a peripheral two-player option; You just hand a controller to your little sibling to get them to stop bugging you. Your non-gamer valentine will be perfectly content playing as Cappy or Tails while you do the heavy lifting.
Proceed with caution: Overcooked
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Sorry for the cliché, but it’s never been truer than when playing Overcooked with your significant other. While it was one of Polygon’s best local multiplayer games of 2016, Overcooked features fast-paced cooking action that can get incredibly heated when one of you slips up (which you will). If you can handle it, though, there’s nothing that will bring you closer together than getting through an especially hectic dinner rush.