People love playing video games with others. Itís a trend that has persisted since the first days of gaming with titles like Pong, and has since manifested itself in every conceivable genre in a panoply of forms. However, the majority of these experiences focus on competition over cooperation, fostering real-world feelings of antagonism and hostility toward others. This list is a collection of 10 games that encourage communication, teamwork, and represent the friendlier side of the multi-player coin. Itís the side that pits you and your buddy against a common enemy: the gameís artificial intelligence. Since the internet has taken off, cooperation seems to be the impetus for an ever-increasing number of modern games, although there are several standout titles from yesteryear that have been re-released and are well worth checking out. If the games are readily available today, weíve mentioned where you can to find them.
Ikari Warriors (Availability: Piss-poor)
Although youíll have a hard time finding an original arcade cabinet of Ikari Warriors, if you ever see one, pop a couple quarters in with a friend and prepare yourselves for the best cooperative game of 1986. Made during a time when the single player arcade classic Commando inspired a shitload of top-down shooters, Ikari Warriors differentiated itself by incorporating fancy joysticks that you could rotate to aim your weapon, vehicle segments, and of course, cooperative play. Although you could probably find a ROM of the NES version, only the original arcade cabinet featured the unique rotating joysticks, making it a favorite with collectors. Trust meÖ back in the day, this game played like a dreamÖ better than it does on your ghetto-ass NES or MAME emulator, anyway.
Contra (Xbox LIVE Arcade/Nintendo DS)
Drawing inspiration from the Rambo, Predator and Alien movies, Contra was THE co-op game of its day, and enjoyed popularity both in arcades and on the NES. Contra had huge boss battles, kick-ass power ups, a mix of side-scrolling and top-down level design, and some of the most brutally challenging co-op game play of all time. Even with a companion in tow, Contra was so ****ing hard it damn-near forced NES players to cheat by entering the now famous Ď30 lives code.í (If you donít know it by heart, hang your head in shame and brush up on your nerd-lore posthaste.) Although you couldnít tell by looking at the in-game graphics, the box art clearly reveals that Contra was indeed the only fanasy pairing of 80ís action flick mainstays Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone outside of that fan fiction I wrote. Look for the HD Contra redux on XBox LIVE Arcade and a portable, unlockable (and lamentably, single-player only) version of the classic shooter on the recently released Nintendo DS game Contra 4. Good luck beating that shit all by your lonesome. Oh well, at least the cheat code still works.
Doom (PC/Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Doom always gets props for being the granddaddy of single-player first person shooters, (despite the fact that Ultima: Underworld blew it out of the ****ing water a year before Doom ever saw the light of day) but lots of thirty-somethings fondly remember it for its exciting cooperative play. Yes, back when game designers felt that requiring players to aim along the Y axis was asking too much, you could blast demons with a friend online or via a LAN connection. Gamers who missed out on this light-hearted, pixelated romp through the gates of hell can still probably find a re-released PC version compatible with modern operating systems, or simply download the recently remastered version over Xbox LIVE. Itís hard to believe that a 15 year old game with dated graphics still manages to be this entertaining (more entertaining than the recent movie, anyway) - and itís even better with a friend.
Double Dragon (Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Your girlfriend Marian has been punched in the stomach and kidnapped by the unfortunately named ĎBlack Warriorsí! Time to grab your brother Jimmy and kick Mr Tís ass a few hundred times to get her back. Yeah, Double Dragon may have had a shitty plot even by the low standards set by other mindless brawlers of its time, but the variety of moves and cooperative play was impressive during an era where most beat-íem-ups simply let you punch and jump. In addition to allowing players to pick up weapons like whips and knives, Double Dragon had a relatively complex set of special moves that included: an elbow move for attacking enemies behind you, a hair pull that let you choose between tossing the fool or pounding his (or her) head with your knee, and a sweet jump kick. Exciting stuff for late 80ís gamers! The absolute best part of playing Double Dragon with a friend was the ending. When you finally beat up all the bad guys, Marian insists that the brothers fight to the death to determine which one gets to save her. What a bitch! Still, the oleí switcharoo was a neat twist, and helped make Double Dragon one of the most popular co-op games on the NES. Check out the HD version on Xbox LIVE Arcade.
Golden Axe (PS2/Virtual Console/Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Golden Axe was a lot of fun because you and a friend could choose between 3 different characters that played slightly differently. Although it wasnít an action-RPG, it sort of felt like one thanks to the sword and sorcery subject matter. All playable characters had a basic attack, but could collect potions for casting screen-clearing elemental magic when the shit hit the fan. These spells filled the whole screen, and really impressed as dragons rained down fire, lightning filled the sky, or the ground opened up. Whether playing as the melee-oriented dwarf, the amazon with her powerful fire magic, or the balanced barbarian, you were tasked with slaughtering hundreds of armor-clad goons till your final battle with Death Adder, wielder of the titular Golden Axe. Clearly the game was a huge Conan ripoff, but the impressive looking magic effects, creative setpieces (one level has you riding on the back of a giant eagle, for example) and ability to replay the game with a different character (ĒOh look, my magic is blue this time around!Ē) made Golden Axe a co-op classic on the Sega Genesis. Check out the old-school version on the Sega Classics Collection for PS2, or download it on either the Virtual Console or Xbox LIVE Arcade.
Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
All of the Halo games have included a robust cooperative mode, but Halo 3 took the concept of playing with your friends against the computer and amplified it tenfold. For starters, youíre able to fight alongside 3 of your pals instead of just one, and a cool feature lets you keep track of how much each member is contributing to the fight. Even better, the cooperative element was woven into the narrative such that it made sense that the Master Chief was hanging out with a crew of alien cohorts. (Too bad the Arbiter seemed to have lost his ability to cloak, but oh well.) Say what you will about the quality of the story or graphics, if you like playing the shooty-shooty, Halo 3 needs to be in your 360 library. Whatís better than driving a Warthog with your friend on the gun? Try two Warthogs manned entirely by human gunners and drivers. And heyÖ how many games let you make movies of yourself tea-bagging your pals?
Lego Star Wars (Every platform known to man)
Even though the recently released Lego Star Wars: The Complete Sagaís game-play is as simplistic as some of the older games on this list, itís undeniable charm and tongue-in-cheek humor will win over most anybody. Spanning all 6 Star Wars films, the simple two button controls and ability to play as almost every major character provide cute, accessible fun that builds upon the strengths of both licenses. Killing an enemy results in a shower of Lego pieces that can be picked up to unlock bonuses, and itís funny to see C3-P0 hop around on one leg is takes damage to his legs. Itís on every console, itís cheap, and itís easy to pick up and play, making Lego Star Wars one of the greatest co-op games on this listÖ so great in fact, Halo, Batman and Indiana Jones will all receive similar Lego treatment in the very near future. Whatís next? Lego Brokeback Mountain?
Gears of War (Xbox 360/PC)
Perfect Dark Zero was supposed to provide gamers with cooperative FPS action when the Xbox 360 launched late in 2005, but when eager gamers got it home looking to put LIVE through itís paces, most people felt as though Rare had shit in their cereal. One year later, Gears of War was released and finally gave Xbox owners the chance to try a great game that was was built around cooperative game play from the ground up. Like Halo 3, Gears justified the inclusion of a 2nd protagonist by weaving Marcus and Domís into the narrative, and if either fell in battle, their team mate could come by and revive them. The ability to resurrect your companion let players avoid return to the last checkpoint when they went down, making the extremely challenging Gears of War a whole hell of a lot more forgiving when played with a friend. In addition, cool cooperative segments like an entire level dedicated to piloting a large 2 man vehicle, as well as a some puzzles that require teamwork also sweetened the deal. Seriously, if you have an Xbox 360 or PC, and any interest in playing a cooperative games, run to the store immediately and buy Gears of War. Itís great when you play it by yourself, but with a friend, itís off the charts.
Toe Jam & Earl (Virtual Console)
Although it may seem incredibly cheesy with itís hip-hop sensibilities, Toe Jam & Earl is actually one of the most charming cooperative games ever made. In a nutshell, the two rap-obsessed aliens crashed their space-ship into earth, and need to cooperate in order to round up the pieces of their dismantled vessel. Whether you are avoiding ďNerd HerdsĒ or Fat Chicks pushing shopping carts, Toe Jam & Earl is a blast to play with a friend. Little things, like being able to share power ups, health, and lives creates a symbiotic bond between you and your partner, and whenever your avatars are near one another, they shoot the shit in an endearing, street-smart fashion. Who doesnít like ďpull my fingerĒ humor?
Rock Band (PS3/Wii/Xbox 360)
Although Iím sure some of you prefer the more challenging game play found in the Guitar Hero series, Rock Bandís more forgiving approach not only allows up to four of your pals to virtually rock out, itís approachability lends itself to non-gamers and hardcore gaming geeks alike. Whatís more, Rock Band goes beyond Guitar Heroís limited character selection by letting players create their own musicians and instruments, which is a huge plus. Featuring a steady stream of downloadable content, Rock Band just keeps on giving with new songs each week. The game rewards players for hitting long streaks in unison with their band mates, and the addition of drums and vocals offer greater variety than other games of this type. Finally, one of the main reasons Rock Band is a great cooperative experienc is that even if your friends suck ass, you can bail them out by going into overdrive, which helps make everyone feel like a cohesive team. Personally, I think Rock Band is the greatest cooperative game ever made, since its focus on music and cooperation appeals to most everyone. The only bad thing about the cooperative experience is that you canít play as a band onlineÖ just locally. I suppose Harmonix wants us to shell out an additional $60 for Rock Band 2if we want to enjoy playing songs with our pals over the internets. Despite this caveat, if youíre looking for a game that will encourage your friends and family to play video games with you, you need this game - which is available on all current gen systems.