We're hosting a variety of gamers from newbies to hardcore this year, so I decided to compile a list of co-op titles that encourage people to play together.
If I've omitted one of your favorites, let me know. All games listed are available on recent hardware. I can't be dragging out the Dreamcast when I've got a turkey to baste.
PS2 (in no particular order):
- Twisted Metal: Black - Full game co-op lets you play through the whole story from beginning to end with a friend. Unleash your road rage.
- Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance I and II - Hack and slash cooperatively. It ain't Diablo, but it's still lots of fun.
- TimeSplitters 2 - One of the most underrated games of all time. Play co-op or competitively. The best shooter you've never played.
- DDRMAX: Dance Dance Revolution - Make a fool of yourself with the best of the DDR titles and work off those holiday deserts while you're at it.
- Amplitude - Remix songs with up to 3 friends and create your own music. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are cool, but they don't let you be creative.
- Ratchet: Deadlocked - Split screen massive mayhem with enormous guns.
- Gitaroo-Man - Not strictly a co-op game, but still lots of fun with friends. Good luck finding a copy.
Xbox 360 (in no particular order):
- Gears of War - The single-player campaign may be overrated, but the co-op mode redeems it, and you won't find a better looking game on the system.
- Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory - Play with a friend in Story, Mission, or Elite mode. Be very very stealthy.
- Halo 3 - If you work as a team, you may just finish the whole game before pie is served. Locating skulls takes longer, however.
- Burnout 3 - You can race together, but chances are Uncle Fred will enjoy crash mode the most.
- Star Wars Battlefront - Hook those movie fans into a rousing rout of Imperial stormtroopers. More fun than episodes 1-3 combined.
- Crackdown - An urban sandbox for co-op play. Leap tall buildings in a single bound while your cousin Sally is free to do her own thing.
- Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter - Terrific co-op fun in either split-screen or system link modes. GRAW 2 may be a better game overall, but it lacks offline multiplayer.
- Catan (Xbox Live Arcade) - If Aunt Ethel prefers slower-paced tabletop games, tell her to leave the table, pick up a controller and play this faithful adaptation of a classic box game.
- Streets of Rage 2 (Xbox Live Arcade) - Classic beat-em-up action. The graphical upgrade is unfortunate, but all the great co-op fist slinging you remember from the arcades is there.
Wii (in no particular order):
- Ikaruga - The most mind-numbingly difficult game you'll ever play gets a bit easier in co-op mode, but you'll still need a zen master's focus to survive more than 5 minutes. This one is for your second-cousin Ralph who claims a Donkey Kong speed run time of 39 seconds.
- Super Mario Galaxy - Aside from being the best game ever made (there, I said it), this is one of the only games to consider the fact that co-op needn't be heavy lifting for both players. Tackle each galaxy and let mom collect stars or mess with your enemies. She can play as long as she likes and hand off the wiimote to your dad after he finishes that hot toddy.
- Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles - Until House of the Dead 3 arrives on the Wii next year, this co-op light shooter will do nicely. Die, zombies, die!! Pass the fudge.
- Zack and Wiki - A terrific adventure-puzzler that no one knows about. The game contains no co-op mode, but it's actually a lot of fun having a few "helpers" in the room offering suggestions.
- Trauma Center: New Blood - Quasi-realistic surgical procedures just in time for the holidays. Early reviews look very promising.
- WarioWare: Smooth Moves - Whimsical but slightly twisted Japanese humor mixed with clever use of the hardware. A genuine party game.
- Mario Kart: Double Dash - Nudge your brother's kart off a cliff while your sister hurls shells at your cousin from the rear of the vehicle. That's what I call family fun.
- Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat - An underrated gem that only truly shines in a room full of bongo slapping friends.
- Mario Strikers - Nonstop soccer action with co-op play available offline and online...simultaneously.
- ToeJam & Earl (VC) - One of the quintessential co-op games from the Sega Genesis.
- Gunstar Heroes (VC) - A fast-paced side-scrolling shooter, utterly faithful to the Sega Genesis classic original.
- Streets of Rage 2 (VC) - See 360 description above...minus the smoothiness.
You should also consider these multi-platform releases, all featuring co-op play:
- Guitar Hero
- Rock Band
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance
- Lego Star Wars II
Yeah, there are no PS3 games on the list. Maybe next year.
Enjoy your holidays and play lots of games, but be sure to put the controller down once in a while. Conversation can be fun...and you're going to need both hands to pass Aunt Martha's famous Cranberry Jello Mold.