This list was originally published back in 2015, but for USgamer's Play Together week, we've redone it entirely. The new 2020 version follows.
Some video games take us on long, lonesome adventures. Some games let us blow away live opponents. But surely you have some room in your heart for friendship, right? Cooperation? Teamwork? The values you hopefully didn't leave behind when you turned off Sesame Street for the very last time?
There's a huge selection of games that let us gear up with friends locally or online to solve puzzles, take down menaces, or both. Here are some recommendations. If money is an object, don't sweat it: These are the ten best co-op games you can nab for $20 or less.
Castle Crashers Remastered
Castle Crashers has been a staple of co-op gaming for over a decade now, and it's still going strong thanks to a recent remaster. Castle Crashers Remastered is an intense, medieval-themed beat-em-up that offers a chaotic good time for up to four players, and now's as good a time as any to revisit the game in 60 FPS and 1080p. Xbox One players can even transfer their old saves from the Xbox 360. Let's be honest, now's as good a time as any to sink your sword into some hideous monster flesh and let your frustrations bleed out along with all that ichor. —Nadia Oxford
If you're open to letting co-op night get a little tense and chaotic (and if it won't bring back stressful memories of time spent in food service), then Team 17's Overcooked is a must-have. With tight turnarounds and the most inconveniently designed kitchens known to man, Overcooked tasks players with collaborating to cook and serve meals quickly and efficiently. It's hard enough to succeed as-is if you're not good at communicating with one another, and damn-near nightmarish as later stages drop increasingly absurd obstacles into your kitchens.
If you're willing to toss in a few more bucks, you can also pick up the sequel for $24.99. Overcooked 2 adds in the ability to toss food items from chef-to-chef, allowing for even more complicated stage layouts and hectic races against the clock. If you're not optimistic about hitting the ground running with your kitchen crew, you may want to stick with the original first just to get acclimated to life as a line cook. —Mat Olson
Dragon's Crown Pro
In my opinion, only two things elevate a classic co-op beat-em-up from "great" to "sublime:" A Dungeons & Dragons-inspired setting, and George Kamitami's incredibly charismatic artwork. Dragon's Crown Pro and its predecessor, 2013's Dragon Crown, has come under some fire for its hilariously exaggerated character designs, but regardless of how you feel about the Sorceress' assets, you won't find better monster designs this side of an enchanted wardrobe. You'll also be hard-pressed to find another four-player co-op game that's just so much fun to rip through with your assortment of blades, spells, and magical artifacts—barring the Chronicles of Mystara games that inspired it. The lesson here is that you can't go wrong with dragons. —Nadia Oxford
Available on: PlayStation 4
Destiny 2: New Light
Coming in at the low, low price of "free" on our list is a triple-A game that originally launched at $60. All of Destiny 2's Year One content—the base game and it's first few paid add-ons—went free-to-play when Bungie launched the Shadowkeep expansion in 2019. Free players won't be able to access most of missions, loot, and cosmetics that have been introduced in Destiny's latest premium updates, but if you're just starting out your Guardian journey with a few friends, there's plenty of content in New Light to keep you busy for a while. Thanks to Bungie bumping up the base power level for new characters, it also won't be long before you're ready to take on some tougher co-op Strikes and even Raids. —Mat Olson
Contra Anniversary Collection
Last year's Contra: Rogue Corps reminded us that the Contra series' best days might be behind it, but that's no reason to mourn—the Contra Anniversary Collection makes it easy to go back to its heyday. Contra Anniversary Collection is a veritable buffet of co-op fun, proving that when alien invaders threaten your home world, it's best to attack aggressively. Contra 3: The Alien Wars has been a cooperative co-op champion since its release on the SNES in 1992, and it still commands a great deal of affection from fans of cooperative shooters. The third game's non-stop gunning action and punishing-but-fair difficulty make it a fan-favorite, but give a salute to Contra: Hard Corps as well—or Probotector if you grew up in Europe. —Nadia Oxford
Le Cartel Studio's Heave Ho is a great little game that could prove endlessly replayable depending on the attitudes of who you're playing with. If you've played something like Gang Beasts or Mount Your Friends, the basic mechanics will be familiar: players' little two-armed, bean shaped characters can grab onto walls or each other. Obstacles can either be climbed on or, with some momentum, bypassed with a fling. With challenges supporting up to four players, Heave Ho's levels force players to link hands and form daisy chains to swing across gaps, or to carefully crawl across one another to avoid deadly traps.
Play with the "right" group of people and a Heave Ho session might be a wonderful demonstration of camaraderie and coordination. Alternatively, take things a bit less seriously and it might devolve into delightful slapstick. With each death, Heave Ho's little avatars explode into bursts of color that splatter the stage, forming a vibrant testament to players' failures (or, another way to look at it, their perseverance). Oh, and there's a fart button that can either be used for strategic boosts or to troll other players. Good times all around. —Mat Olson
Double Dragon: Neon
Whoa, dudes! If it was possible to die of '80s poisoning, Double Dragon: Neon would deliver a lethal dose in less than ten bogus seconds. Thankfully there's no such thing, so all that's left is for you and a friend to kick back and enjoy Double Dragon: Neon's silly hair, goofy character designs, and reference after reference to clear cola, mix tapes, and bumbling villains that would make He-Man's Skeletor facepalm in dismay. (Nyaaaah.)
Double Dragon: Neon doesn't take itself seriously for a second, a point that may irritate long-time fans of the series. But Double Dragon: Neon lets the Brothers Lee split their health bar with a high-five (unless you choose to psyche your brother out—too slow, bro!), so all arguments are invalid. —Nadia Oxford
Available on: PC
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the breakout asymmetrical co-op hit that you may have skipped early on because it required VR. In 2018, Steel Crate Games released an update for their bomb defusal game that makes it playable on flatscreens, and the chances you're reading this and don't own a platform you can play on is ridiculously slim.
For the uninitiated, the main mode of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes casts one player as the person responsible for defusing a bomb. Everybody else can't see the bomb, but they're the ones with access to a detailed defusal manual. The manual's free to download, so you really only need one copy to play if you're playing remotely and pick a designated defusal player. That, combined with a variety of difficulty options and mod support on some versions, makes Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes as good a party game as it is a pick for streamers who want to do some co-op with their chat. —Mat Olson
Price: $14.99, or $9.99 on mobile platforms
Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara inspired Dragon's Crown Pro, another dragon-stabbing co-op beat-em-up on this list. As a wise little girl once said in a taco commercial, "Why don't we have both?" Chronicles of Mystara is a collection that contains Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993) and Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow over Mystara (1996), two games I have very fond memories of playing in my mall's food court arcade—when arcades were a thing.
Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara are surprisingly deep for beat-em-ups. As with any good D&D campaign, class choices make a big difference in how to approach fights. A Fighter can get up close to enemies, but a Wizard will just get bodied if he doesn't attack from afar. There are weapons and spells to collect, stores to visit, different paths to traverse, and even a level-up system. Add Capcom's unashamedly anime takes on classic D&D characters, and you've got a co-op winner. —Nadia Oxford
Available on: PC
Left 4 Dead 2
It's been over a decade since Valve released the sequel to its zombie horde survival game, but Left 4 Dead 2 does more than hold up well. Its massive influence on co-op shooters can be seen in recent hits like Resident Evil Resistance and Hunt: Showdown, meaning it's a lot easier to settle back into than some of its contemporaries. Left 4 Dead 2 is also a great value for the price: Valve ported all the original campaigns from the original Left 4 Dead over as a free update, adding the sequel's new special zombies and satisfying melee weapons.
In total, Left 4 Dead 2 comes with 13 campaigns, and once you've made it through those, there are dozens of well-regarded fan-made campaign mods out there. There are also all sorts of zany model replacement mods out there for PC too, so if you want to swap one of the survivors with Shrek or turn the Tank zombie into the Kool-Aid Man, it's about as simple as dragging and dropping some files. —Mat Olson
Price: $9.99, or $19.99 on the Xbox Marketplace