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The Golden Age of Non-Gamer-Friendly Cooperative Games

I’ve always loved playing video games with people. From when I was a little kid with an unplugged controller next to my older brother and his friends, it’s seemed like a wonderful way to spend time engaging in play with other people. Unfortunately, a lot of video games either pit players against each other or have such complex mechanics that even a cooperative experience can be hard for newcomers to enjoy.

Thankfully, we are in a golden era of games that provide a wonderful, cooperative, local multiplayer experience that isn’t too hard to pick up and play. My wife has always tolerated it when I try to get her to play games with me, but some of these silly, chaotic, cooperative experiences have been ones that she’s really been able to sink her teeth into.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of goofy coop games, but a few that we’ve been enjoying lately. While most of these games are available all over, we played them on the Switch.

Geek to Geek Media was provided with review copies of the following games.

Cook as fast as you can in Overcooked! All You Can Eat!

Of course Overcooked has a holiday level where you make hot chocolate

Overcooked is the game that introduced me to this sort of goofy, collaborative genre. My wife and I have spent hours and hours and hours working through the campaigns of both Overcooked and Overcooked 2.

For anyone who hasn’t tried it yet, Overcooked puts you into a series of bizarre kitchens where it’s up to you to chop, mix, cook, and plate orders for customers as quickly as you can. Everything runs on timers that are just a bit fast. You’ll constantly be on the verge of missing orders or setting a stove on fire, and it’s fantastically fun.

This game is a blast to play co-op because you have to work together to try to stay on top of the orders as they come in. It feels so high stakes that my wife and I have actually fallen into some pretty intense arguments based on how well we managed our virtual kitchen.

You can read more about how Overcooked helped us with communication in an issue of our Patreon digital magazine!

All You Can Eat is the most recent game in the Overcooked franchise, and it is an amazing value. It includes the entire base games of both Overcooked and Overcooked 2, and all of the DLC. This is an amazing pickup if you are okay with contentious collaboration in your cooperative games.

Get your hustle on in Moving Out!

Always load your heavy furniture first then your pizza covered picnic set

The simple hook of Moving Out is that you play as a team of movers who have to get furniture out of a house and into a truck. The fun comes from the fact that this game is all about the physics of moving things around, and doesn’t mind at all if you, say, get a couch out of a house by tossing it through a window.

The cooperative games requirements in Moving Out are really cool. The biggest part of this is big furniture, which is tough to move on your own. Sure, you can grab one end of a big couch and start dragging it, but you won’t really get the thing moving until a friend grabs the other side and helps out. Players need to coordinate who is doing what so that you don't end up in each other's way. If one person is emptying the kitchen through the front door, it’s best for the other to start chucking things through the living room window instead of bottlenecking the door.

Measure Twice, Throw Through a Window Once

The pizza themed level had a bonus turtle Get it

I really like the absurdity in this game, but it’s surprisingly deep. As you progress into bigger houses with more furniture, space inside your truck starts to become a premium. We pretty quickly realized that we had to plan to get all of the big pieces in first so that we could just toss things like lamps or chairs on top. There are also hidden objectives for each level that unlock after you clear it, which asks you to do things like fill the truck without breaking a single window, or capture a turtle that’s randomly wandering through the house.

Having these incentives to go back to the levels is nice, but we haven’t really messed with them too much yet. Mostly that’s because this game is surprisingly tough. You get a bronze, silver, or gold ranking at the end of each level based on how quickly you get the house emptied. Take a really long time and you'll have to redo the level entirely. We’ve only failed once, I think, but we get bronze almost every time. I feel like we’re missing some trick that will help us get things done faster, but for now, this game feels tougher than the other two in this article.

Keep it clean in Tools Up!

Cleanliness is next godliness

I really, really like Tools Up. This game has you working as a team of handymen who renovate apartments. In each level, you find a floor plan that shows you what sort of walls, floors, or gardens (in the new DLC) you need to install.

This often requires you to get rid of old wallpaper or flooring first, and usually, there’s some sort of spilled paint or general debris that you need to dispose of, too. There is only one bucket to take out the trash, and that bucket also gets used for mixing glue and other things too. A lot of the collaboration in this game comes from making sure everyone playing knows exactly where the bucket is and what it’s being used for.

Work On Your Own Together

All of these games have spectacular character designs

Outside of the bucket, Tools Up lets a lot of the cooperation happen separately. What I mean by that is that it’s pretty easy for my wife and me to divvy up what needs to happen by room. So she can work on ripping up the old flooring in the dining room while I’m busy repainting the living room. This is kind of nice because it means that we are both working together to accomplish the same overarching goal, but end up getting in each other's way a lot less than we do in either Overcooked or Moving Out.

The other aspect of Tools Up that I really love is that you are ultimately working towards what feels like a complete goal in each level. Overcooked has you madly putting out as many orders as you can right up to the timer going off. Moving Out does have a specific set of items that you need to load in the truck, but then you leave a house full of random debris and broken windows behind. In Tools Up, you can only get three stars on a level by completing all the renovations and “tidying up” by getting all of the tools and debris out of the space before the clock winds down. Seeing the renovated apartment all finished and clean at the end of the level is incredibly satisfying.

Final Thoughts on Cooperative Games

I’m really loving having these straightforward cooperative games to share with my wife, and I hope that other geeks out there find games they can share with their loved ones. I know that there are several other games like this available on Switch and on other platforms, so I’d love to hear which ones you’ve been enjoying. Let me know in the comments what games have hooked the non-gamers in your life, or join our Slack or Discord to chat about it!

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