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LDR: The best online co-op games to play with long- (or short) distance partners and pals

LDR: The best online co-op games to play with long- (or short) distance partners and pals

A new era of online dating

Text: Redzhanna Jazmin

Image: Getty Images

Whatever you have on hand, be it a Switch, a desktop or even just your phone, here are the best multiplayer online games for you and your SO (or your friends)

Hello, dear couples. Happy lockdown lift! While most are probably reunited with their SOs by now, some may still be resigned to the world of online dating (hey—international flights are pricey, okay?). Either way, no matter how "LD" your "R" is, it's always fun to look for new ways to spend time with your partner (especially if the LD is... significant).

Without further ado, let me introduce you to online dating like never before; it's 100 per cent effective because you’re already dating. Playing games online is a great way to bond and spend a little quality time together from afar, and you don't even have to be good at games to enjoy it (just take it from me)!

However, co-op games that are both easy to pick up and playable remotely are pretty few and far between. Luckily, there are a bunch out there that are a genuinely good time regardless of your gaming abilities; so, without further ado, here are my personal picks for the best co-op games to play online with your long-distance partners and pals. You don't necessarily need something sophisticated like a Nintendo Switch, a PS4, an Xbox, or a gaming laptop to play a lot of these either—a regular laptop or a smartphone will suffice just fine.

Note: This doesn't include couch co-op, only games that you can play from a significant distance.

It Takes Two

Behold, here is a game that any couple can play and thoroughly enjoy. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this is the best co-op game for any couple looking for an immersive, fun experience together. The premise is simple...ish. You and bae (or whoever you happen to be playing with) are a married couple named Cody and May whose relationship is on the rocks. You tell your young daughter, Rose, that you're planning on getting a divorce and she takes it rather badly. 

Rose then cries on two small dolls that she has made in your likeness, along with this self-help book, which somehow transports your souls into these little dolls. I won't spoil too much, but in short, to become human again you both must reconcile your differences.

As the name would suggest, It Takes Two... takes two. To progress the story and complete each level, you and your boo have to co-operate with one another.  If you're concerned about your skill level, fret not—this is a game that requires virtually none and offers an excellent introduction to the mechanics of game playing. Conversely, if you're now worried about getting bored because you're too skilled as a gamer, there's no need to worry on that front either—while It Takes Two is easy to play, it's also an incredibly engaging game (plus, your partner's skill level may complicate things for you).

Aside from the main storyline, you will also find little minigames that allow you both to compete directly against each other in a range of different game genres. That's actually something the game does very well—it seamlessly transitions between genres, from Tekken to flying simulators and more, again making it a great introduction to gaming. Overall, my only critiques of the game are that it goes through Origin and that it ends. Other than that, It Takes Two is one of my personal favourites, and though it does cost a pretty penny (and a whole bunch of hard disk space), I think it's a ridiculously fun game that is well worth it.

PS: Only one of you has to buy it in order to play it!

Find it here on Steam, here on Origin, or on your PS3 and Xbox 360.

Portal 2

It’s an old game, for sure, but it’s still a critically-acclaimed classic. Portal 2 was the very first game I ever played with my boyfriend, and one of the very first games I had played... ever. It's a great game to teach novice players the basic mechanics of game playing, and it also has incredible storylines in both the single and co-op campaigns. In fact, when my boyfriend pitched this game to me, he said that: "No respectable person would ever argue the Portal 2 isn't the best co-op game in existence." Granted, this was before we had discovered It Takes Two and Stardew Valley, but even after playing that I think Portal 2 still holds up.

The general premise for the co-op campaign is that you and your boo are two biped bots in a run-down training facility who are trying to navigate through the test chambers as set by the facility’s supercomputer GLaDOS. You’ll go through the game, solving the puzzles in each test chamber by interacting with the environment and each other (teamwork is a necessity for this and it will really bring you both together). The controls are really easy to get the hang of, and as long as one of you is good at problem-solving, it’s a really fun game.

Find it here on Steam, or on your PS3 and Xbox 360.

Stardew Valley

Before you say that farming simulators are boring, hear me out. In this game, you’re more than just a farmer: you’re a craftsman, an artisanal dealer, a miner, an adventurer and, most importantly, a friend.

In the game, you inherit the farm from your late grandfather, who (as it turns out) must have been a terrible farmer, because the state that the land is in is a complete nightmare. Eventually, though, you build the farm to your liking and along the way you start getting more and more quests that expand the large scope of the world. The game is so expansive with so many different features and storylines that it is genuinely difficult to get bored of playing it. 

The best part is the multiplayer feature, meaning your partner (and two other friends) can join in. The feature works consistently and smoothly, allowing you and your partner to explore the world, tend to your crops and even get married and have babies (so cute)!

On top of that, the game's creator ConcernedApe (AKA Eric Barone, the sole developer behind the world of Stardew, FYI) has just released the biggest update yet—Stardew Valley 1.5. With new NPCs to interact with, an entirely new map to explore, and a revamped endgame, the game is better than ever.

As a whole, it is an impossibly fun game, but the real pull factor is how much of an escapist experience it is. You’ll forget that you’re a real person once you start playing. If that’s not enough to sell it, it’s also really affordable and it’s often on sale.

Find it on Steam, the App Store and Google Play or on your PS4, Switch or Xbox One.

Risk Of Rain 2

I'll level with you: I don't really know what's going on in this game. There is a title sequence that supposedly explains the premise, but I never watch it because I... don't have the time. What I do know is that it's a really great game that supports up to four co-op players.

You can pick between a few different characters, unlocking more and more as you keep playing. I always choose the Huntress—with her, you don't have to aim (ideal for me), and her special attacks are super useful when it comes to mobs. The only downfall is that she's kind of weak—however, that's easily remedied with the help of bae as any one of the other stronger (but less nimble) characters. Alternatively, you can just obtain a few items. "What items?", you say?

In the regular game, at each level, you earn money as you kill more enemies and you can use that money to open chests to get items. It's kind of a bargain, and some items are more useful than others. You can also buy drones and turrets which can either heal you or fight for you. Collecting items is a must if you're looking to win the game as it essentially gives you 1-ups as enemies get harder. That said, it's also super easy to become ridiculously overpowered—something I particularly enjoy about this game. 

Once you get bored of the normal gameplay, you can switch it up with the expansion, or simply switch out your game mode. Not to mention—this game has a banging soundtrack. 10/10.

Find it on Steam

Valheim

"Start as a viking, end up as Bob the Builder. Great game."—Steam user Greep3r

This one is for those of you who have a grasp of basic gameplay but are still not looking for anything too challenging. The premise of Valheim is simple—it's a survival game where you're a Viking, and the Valkyries have ferried your soul to Valheim, the tenth Norse world. These worlds are filled with beasts and creatures feared by Odin himself, and it is up to you to prove that you are worthy by slaying said beasts and creatures, as well as their big bosses.

Fighting isn't all there is to the game, though (if it was, I probably wouldn't be as into it as I am)—in addition to taking out a few monsters, you can also build houses, cook food, tame wolves and boar, craft goods, sail the oceans, and generally, just have a good time... that is until your server crashes or your FPS slows to near zero because you haven't cleared drops.

There are five different biomes to explore: Meadows (where you'll start the game), Black Forest, Swamp, Mountains, and Plains. Each of the game's five bosses reside in each biome, and it is up to you to figure out where their altars are to summon them. If you're lucky, they'll all be relatively close—if not, then good luck with Sea Serpents.

To be honest, the bosses are easy. They definitely look cool, but the AI is kind of dumb overall. I'd also chalk the lack of difficulty up to the fact that I play in a group of five, so there's always enough manpower to go around. I don't really mind the easy bosses, though—despite being a bit disappointing, I'm very content to keep playing mainly because the rest of the game is so much fun (and because I don't like challenges. Valheim is my escape from stress—I'm fine with an easy ride). Plus, I'm sure that a lot of the AI kinks are a symptom of the game still being in early access.

If you do find that the game doesn't pose enough challenge for you, however, there is the option to mod it out. Now that I've completed the game, I've modded it out to increase the difficulty of enemies, improve my armour, and generally improve the quality of life. It's a great way to keep the game interesting! Unfortunately, if you do decide to go down this route, just make sure you work quickly—any update from the devs can render your mods completely useless.

Yes, Valheim is still early access, so there are still a few kinks for the devs to work through, but as a whole, it is one of my favourite games. 

Find it here through Steam on early access.

Minecraft

I'll level with you—it took me a while to warm up to Minecraft. Art style aside, I'm the kind of person that requires direction in their games; I need to be given objectives to work towards. So, with Minecraft being the expansive, tutorial-free world that it is, I found it very frustrating to play initially. It didn't help that I was the only one in my group that was inexperienced with the game: I currently play in a larger group of six, and before I'd even figured out the point of Minecraft, our base was built and fully up and running. I'm not kidding—I logged off the game one night and came back on a week later, only to find that we had a self-sufficient farm for pretty much everything (iron, bees, animals, trees—you name it).

While this is convenient in the sense that all my building materials are now readily accessible and I no longer have to fight mobs in our well-lit village (I am terrible at combat), it did mean that I basically contributed nothing to any of it. Feeling sort of meh and directionless, I was close to giving it up when my SO suggested that I build us a house (everyone else in our group has one), so I set out to make the single most obnoxious structure in our medieval-themed village. After watching a bunch of gameplay videos on YouTube, I spent hours mixing concrete in every shade of the rainbow, glazed the terracotta that my beau brought home for our floors, and built a wall out of watermelon just for kicks. My house... slaps. It looks so good. It is so at odds with the aesthetic of our village but I am really proud of it.

Anyway, as it turns out, the point of the game is to build things. Said point has me hooked. I love how cooperative it can be (i.e. I build and bae collects materials for me to keep building while everyone else does their own thing) and how immersive it is. I'm even getting better with combat and I'm gearing up to do a little more exploration moving forward. Overall, while more inexperienced gamers may need a walkthrough prior to playing, it is a great co-op game to play with your SO.

Find the Java version here.

Terraria

Listen—if you're looking for a game that marries the 8-bit art style of Stardew with the open world of Minecraft, this is the game for you. Terraria is by no means a new game, but it's new to me and I can now confirm—it's officially a banger.

Like Minecraft, you'll have to find shelter ASAP, because once nightfall comes you'll be swamped with zombie folk and the like. And, when you're just starting out and with nothing in your arsenal, this is a certified bad time. As you progress, however, you'll dive deeper and deeper into the earth, killing enemies, collecting ores, coins, and gear... yeah, it does sound just like 2D Minecraft, huh? Well. 

Just joking, it's different to Minecraft in a lot of ways, too. The point of the game goes beyond building a base and exploring the world—you'll also be building up your community of lovable NPCs (eventually attending their birthday parties!) and also squaring off against the many horrific bosses that inhabit the world's biomes, with each boss taking you closer to hard mode. The highlights? My pics include Big Bloody Eye, Wall of Flesh, Awful Terrible Stinky Skeleton, and my favourite—pretty fairy who will one-shot you with her cosmic beam of light.

My favourite part of this game, though, has nothing to do with the bosses or the building mechanics nor the cool gameplay—it's to do with the sick outfits. Do you want be a Minecraft Creeper? You can (and yes, it is on the nose). Oh? You want to be the literal Grim Reaper? Go for it. I, personally, prefer the more refined costumes on offer in the game. I am... the Silly Sunflower. Yeah, I love this game.

Find it here on Steam, here on Google Play, and here on the App Store. More info on the game at their website here.

Raft

"shark"—Steam user @revps

"boat go zoom"—Steam user @Pears

This game is great... as long as you're not easily stressed. I play Raft in a group of five (bae included, of course), and we've finished the game so far—something I would not have been able to say had I been playing on my own. The premise of the game goes like this: The world is largely underwater, and all you have left is your raft. Collect materials from the big ol' sea and expand your new home, explore islands (and abandoned settlements), and try not to get eaten by sharks.

TIP: For some reason, in this game, sharks are relentless and they have a real taste for driftwood and milk bottles (they eat your raft), so you'll want to craft a spear at your earliest convenience.

I was more of a homemaker in this game (say what you will about female stereotypes; I just like low-risk tasks), so I was predominantly in charge of cooking, farming, and repairing/expanding our raft. Spoiler alert: We have built a most wonderful raft home, decked out with a bedroom, a dance hall, an animal coop, a recreation room, a cellar, a storage area, a tree farm, and a kitchen/dining area. It almost brings me as much pride as our Valheim and Minecraft base does.

Fair warning: This game is pretty grind-y. It's definitely a slow-burner, but it is possible to speed-run it, as long as you've got a good, competent group to play with. That said, Raft is yet another game in early access, and there is far more content on the way. I reckon it's only going to get better. It's already a great game to play, early access or not—so, if you're interested, get your mitts on it now.

Find it here through Steam on early access.

Phasmophobia

If you're an avid horror fan, this game is for you. Released for early access just recently in September of last year, Phasmophobia quickly became quite the buzzword. I'd personally describe it as a mix of Supernatural and the Unsolved YouTube series, wrapped up in one truly immersive gaming experience (only much scarier).

READI watched all 15 seasons of 'Supernatural' so you don't have to—here are my thoughts

In the game, you're a ghost hunter with the world's weakest flashlight, and your goal is to identify the type of ghost that is haunting your location; perhaps completing a few additional objectives along the way. You'll use tools like an EMF reader, a spirit box, and a UV torch to gather evidence of your paranormal foe, and then you'll immediately freak out and bolt as soon as the ghost shows any signs of activity. It's a much more tactical game than it seems with some very high stakes—if you anger it enough, the ghost will hunt you down, at which point you very well may die. Some ghosts are nastier than others, but all are equally horrifying to encounter.

I won't lie—I am not built for this game. I'm easily spooked by jump scares, I am scared of the dark (which is pretty much this entire game), and though I love horror films, I am definitely not keen to be in one. That's why it's such a relief that the game is built for online co-op. So yes—you can choose to play alone like an insane person, or you can make the rational choice to tackle missions together with up to three friends (special friends included). 

I do find that there is comfort in numbers, especially when your ghost-hunting team spends the entire run cussing out the ghost. Better yet, there's a proximity chat feature that makes gameplay that much more exciting: You'll only be able to hear your teammates that are in your direct vicinity. The feature isn't flawless, but it can be good fun—just try yelling at your team from across the haunted school. Good luck.

Find it here through Steam on early access, with virtual reality support

TIP: Watch the tutorial before you play.

The Forest

The Forest is yet another survival game, but this time the big baddies aren't sharks or trolls—they're cannibals! You start off on an aeroplane, sat next to your son, Timmy (depending on whether you're hosting the game or not). Suddenly, the plane crashes and when you come to, there's some weirdo kidnapping your son while you pass out again. Then, the game starts. 

On top of keeping your hydration and food stats up, you have a few objectives: Build a base, find Timmy, explore a few places... you get the gist. I won't lie—I kind of hate this game. The sensitivity is super high (even after turning it down some) so I can't play for too long before getting a headache, and I find that some of the game mechanics are kind of dumb.

That said, it is really fun to play with friends, and the story has been compelling so far. My only real issue is that I don't really care about finding lil' Timmy (we lost him, like, a month ago. He's probably dead, right?)—I literally just want to build structures and hunt animals. Luckily, there are enough players on my game file to pick up my slack, or else we'd really be getting nowhere.

Everyone's map is the same—the only thing that changes from game to game is where your plane spawns. I won't spoil what happens in the game for you because it's best to explore on your own. 

Find it here through Steam.

Monster Hunter World

At the core of it, the game is essentially tracking a monster down and then killing it (hence, the name). This is definitely one of the more difficult games to play, with each monster getting progressively smarter and harder to kill. Plus, there’s a certain risk of information overload at the very beginning as the game tries to explain how things work to you through 40-ish tutorials. However, if you stick to it, you’ll probably find that it’s a really fun co-op experience. Storyline-wise it leaves something to be desired, but because there are so many different ways to play the game (and because it generally looks so cool), you’ll have a genuinely good time with it.

At the very beginning, you’ll get to design your character which is arguably one of the best parts of the game. As you progress, you’ll also find that you can continuously upgrade your weapons and armour to customise your character and make it stronger. Oh, and as mentioned in the video above, you get a cat. (Actually, it’s called a Palico in the game, but it is so cute!) When I started the game, I personally spent about an hour and a half just designing my character and my Palico alone, while my boyfriend waited patiently. Your Palico isn’t even the only one in the game either: The head chef’s name is Meowscular Chef—a no-nonsense, bad-boy type and he’s equal parts terrifying and incredible.

Note: The co-op feature is fun once it’s up and running but it can be a pain to get there. Also, watch out if you’re a significant distance away because your connection may be a little spotty.

Find it here on Steam, your Xbox One or your PS4.

Overcooked 2

Depending on your temperament, this may be either the best or the worst game to play with your SO. Either way, you’ll probably end up screaming at each other over the phone, but you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

Essentially a more refined Diner Dash, the basic premise is that you are two chefs who cook to save the Onion Kingdom from the incompetence of its own King. To be honest, there isn’t really much of a storyline, but each level comes with its own barriers and recipes, some of which are a straight-up nightmare. You can make sushi, pizza, cake, pancakes, burgers, salads and more. If you run out of levels to play, you can either go for the elusive fourth star (IMHO, don't bother—it’s literally impossible), OR you can go for any one of the six expansion packs available (worth it)!

It’s a really easy game to get the hang of, and you can play it on either your Nintendo Switch or through Steam. Having tried it both ways, I personally prefer playing on my laptop through Steam because the controls are generally just more accurate—there’s less risk of you throwing away a full meal when you actually mean to serve it (Trust me, it saves you a lot of arguing.)

Note: Just a heads up, if your connection is spotty, smooth gameplay will be nearly impossible and will probably will break you and your SO up.

Get it on Steam here, for your Switch here or on your Xbox One or PS4.

theHunter: Call of the Wild

"I grab gun, I see deer, I miss, I recommend" — Steam user Bingus

I'll level with you—I don't know what the plot of the game is (or if there even is one), but I love it. My SO and I had finished Overcooked and Stardew Valley, and I wasn't in the mood for anything remotely stressful. So, we started browsing the web for easy-ish, immersive games and stumbled upon this one. After he read me a few reviews and explained the premise, I have to admit that I was fully expecting to tire of it quickly. However, to my pleasant surprise—it's a really fun game!

Described by its creators as "the most immersive hunting experience ever created", you'll find yourself actively stressed out by the ethics of hunting until you remember that none of it is real. Then, once you get over that, you'll realise that it's the perfect catharsis. Frolic around the Cuatro Colinas Game Reserve in Spain with your beau, ride ATVs around the wilderness of the South African Vurhonga Savanna, and explore the Layton Lake District of America. Then, every couple of hours, try to shoot an innocent animal for kicks.

It has only been a few hours of gameplay, but I'm already the face behind some truly heinous atrocities. My body count keeps rising. I've got the blood of moose, Iberian wolves, European hares and more on my hands. I tried to shoot my SO's character just to see if I could. He can no longer look me in the eyes. 

The only issue I have with this game is that it eats up so much space on your hard drive and you need to buy a considerable number of the DLCs before you can really have a good time. That said, only one of you needs to own all the DLCs for both of you to enjoy it so, if you go Dutch, it's a bargain (unless you guys break up—eek). Plus, if you're particularly impatient and you're not one to appreciate the digital scenery, you may struggle with this game—it really is a slow-burner. That said, it plays well online with minimal interruptions, it is as stressful or as relaxing as you make it and I strongly urge you to give it a shot (heh, get it?).

Find it here on Steam.

Animal Crossing

Also known as discount Stardew Valley (I’m joking, I’m just biased), Animal Crossing has become a global widespread favourite during this isolation period. However, to play it, you’re going to need a Nintendo Switch. It’s a fun game that seemingly everyone is into (or at least, was, at its peak).

The point of the game is to build your own island utopia where you can farm, craft, hunt, fish, decorate and socialise. Everything happens in real-time, with real-world events that happen every so often. You’ve probably heard a lot about the game already through word-of-mouth, but there are lots of extras that you can get in the game—designer clothes and rare paintings are just a few. There is so much going on at once and so much to do that it’s better to just play it to understand.

I’ve included this one in this list because I know how many people would riot if I didn’t, but there are a lot of complaints that the co-op feature isn’t great. Take it from the video above, or from my brother, who has given it a good go and has a lot to say:

“Multiplayer is barely tolerable at best, with frequent disconnections erasing hours of progress in total. Online play also requires paying extra and, with frequent disconnections, it makes you wonder what you're paying for. Furthermore, there's little you can do to interact with your friends so it's basically a single player game with you being able to receive some indirect help once in a while.”

That said, if you’re still keen on it, it’s fun for you and your SO to play separately, then discuss your progress over the phone (or have them visit your island).

Find it here for your Switch.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V

All in all, the point of this game is for you to become the Ruler of the World, where you’ll establish and lead a civilisation from the dawn of man to the space age. Although I’ve not had a chance to try it yet, it’s got incredible reviews and is next on my list. The multiplayer features allow you to either work together in co-op mode or compete with players all over the world (including your long-distance SO). Here are some glowing reviews:

“It's awesome. I have lost a significant proportion of my life to this game. And I don't regret a thing.” – Steam user Paul Skuse

“Just how do I begin to describe this game. It is just down right amazing how it is able to have the perfect balance of being not to hard for beginners to learn and not lacking complexity for those more experienced as many strategies can be used to get an extra edge. There is a reason why there are still people are playing this game even 4 years after Civ 6 being released showing how great and different Civ 5 is. So if you have played Civ 6 and have not played Civ 5 yet, you wont be disappointed.” – Steam user Zophos

“you can be george washington 10 outta 10” – Steam user Deo

Find it on Steam here.

No Man’s Sky: Beyond

This is a sci-fi survival and exploration game that takes place in an ever expanding galaxy. It was initially launched 2016 to a lot of mixed reviews after failing to meet the hype around it, but the team has since expanded and improved the gameplay, giving us the latest update just last year. I haven’t had a chance to give it a go yet, but it’s in my library waiting for me. Still, it’s worth a try if you’re in the market for a cool co-op game. It’s got incredible reviews praising it for its gameplay, graphics, and the team behind it who are continuously updating it.

The best reviews are as follows:

“There are SO many aspects to this game from flight (space or on planet), farming (mining), exploration, discovery, fighting off attacks from animals and drones (sentinels), to my favorite, amazing base-building with so freaking many build options. They keep adding new ones too. Hello Games also recently released VR support, and it's really well done. There's something about being able to walk around in the base that you built, in real scale with VR. Hundreds of hours have gone into some of the most amazing bases I've built, and am planning for hundreds more.” – Steam user Muad’Dib

“was bad, is good now”– Steam user Slippery Tom

“This game might have a rough launch, but hello games has redeemed themselves. They never gave up and kept updating. Sure, this game isn't perfect, but the game is just really good. Try to wipe the bad image of hello games and try this game out. You can play with your friends, yep, it's now has multiplayer. The beauty of the game is amazing, you'll see planets you'll never imagined before. You could have endless fun with this game, no matter it's single player or multiplayer.” – Steam user Snowfall

If you’re interested, you can find it on Steam here, or get it on your PS4 or Xbox One.

There you have it—my favourite co-op games to play with my long-distance partner. I genuinely hope you guys found this helpful and give some of these a shot—they're definitely worth your time.

[READ: 15 Ideas to spend time with your LDR partner while you're apart]