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Couch co-op isn’t dead — here are our favorite split-screen games

For you and your pals

two-player combat in a jungle section of Nobody Saves the World Image: Drinkbox Studios

Hello!

I am very happily dating a very lovely person and we both like playing video games together, but are also poor so we can’t afford multiple consoles or the strongest WiFi connection. Because of this we love playing split screen or general 2 player games, but this is a very hard find nowadays, and the only articles you can find on Google are sponsored and show the same 3 games.

Jeffrey “Mad For Multiplayer” Miller

Hello, Jeffrey “Mad For Multiplayer” Miller! You’ve come to the right place. I love co-op games and also lament how hard it is to find couch co-ops. Sure, there are a ton of multiplayer games where you can play online, so long as both players own a copy. But that’s an expensive hobby! Playing split-screen means getting to enjoy more games, on a leaner budget. Here are some of my favorites — particularly ones that give each player the same amount of power, rather than one primary and one assist player — that are playable on Nintendo Switch or PlayStation 4, as you requested in our Dear Polygon submission form.

Nobody Saves the World is the quirkiest, most delightful Nintendo Switch couch co-op game I played this year. The RPG dungeon-crawler puts you in the shoes of a character named “Nobody” who is tasked with saving the world (shocking, I know). But instead of just leveling up this little guy, you unlock different “forms,” like a turtle, a ghost, or a magician, to name just a few. And each form has its own set of attacks and exploration perks. The magician can pull attack bunnies out of a hat, while the turtle can swim through water — so unlocking new creatures also means exploring new parts of the map, thanks to these features.

You and a buddy fight your way through different dungeons and biomes in a Zelda-esque world, which have silly little quests related to various creatures. Switch into a horse to romance a horse, or disguise yourself as three different types of human in order to bamboozle a shopkeeper. Leveling up a form unlocks additional attacks and status effects — and best of all, you can mix and match them for maximum chaos. I made a zombie that spawned attack bunnies and bit people, while my boyfriend played as a ghost with a horse dash. The absurdity ratchets up at a brisk pace, and the game is only more fun in good company.

The protagonist battles atop a flying platform in Unsighted Image: Studio Pixel Punk/Humble Games

Speaking of criminally underrated games, Unsighted is another two-player indie gem for the Switch that’s even better with a partner in crime. In this Metroidvania, you play as a humanoid automaton who needs to find a constant supply of gem medication in order to avoid a truly horrible fate: becoming an “unsighted,” a mindless robot who no longer recognizes friends and instead attacks anybody on sight. As time passes, more of the characters in this intricate world turn over to darkness.

Couch co-op is a huge help, as Unsighted’s challenging, Zelda-like puzzles and cool boss fights are much easier with someone to assist you. The game’s map is also enormous and intricate, with three interlocking layers that become easier to navigate as you gain new abilities, like throwing ice shurikens or riding giant spinning tops on high wires.

A top down view of a character in Divinity Original Sin 2 shooting electricity. The outdoor area is covered in fire. Image: Larian Studios

You also must play Divinity: Original Sin 2, which has split-screen for up to two players on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Disclaimer: I haven’t tried this one split-screen — in fact, I didn’t realize it was possible until doing research for this piece — but I have played a truly unspeakable number of multiplayer hours. Up to four can play with online multiplayer; you can even have two on local split-screen, with two more through online play (though there’s no cross-platform play.)

This Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG lets each player control one to two characters in their party (up to a full party of four) on an incredible expedition on an enormous fantasy map packed with secrets. Gameplay is a unique combination of real-time movement and turn-based fighting, which emulates the feel of D&D-style combat. I’d recommend picking a character supplied by the game for their great story quests. My favorites are Lohse, a charismatic bard who also really wants to exorcize that evil demon living inside her, and Fane, an “undead” with a dry sense of humor and bony fingers that double as an infinite supply of lock picks.

Given your interest in Stardew Valley and Spiritfarer, I also wanted to share our list of co-op management sim games. I’ll call them honorable mentions, since many of these will require each of you to own a copy, rather than being true couch co-op titles. That said, they tend to be less expensive than larger studio releases — which hopefully helps. I hope these give you and your partner hours of entertainment and joy together. Long live couch co-op.

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