Storytelling has become a significant part of the video game industry. These days, most big single-player titles put plenty of focus on their narratives. However, cooperative adventures haven’t always been given the same treatment. Yes, there are some fantastic co-op experiences out there, but not many tell a compelling story. This is especially true for split-screen titles.
It’s a shame because sitting alongside a friend and experiencing a well-written story together is great fun. Not all games can be accused of being biased against split-screen players, though. In fact, several co-op titles have fascinating stories for you to witness. Here are the best ones.
Updated November 8, 2022 By Ben Jessey: Experiencing a deep and compelling video game story alone is great. Even better is witnessing that narrative with a buddy by your side. Unfortunately, not enough games allow this sort of experience, especially in local split-screen.
Thankfully, though, there are some developers who have given us this rare gift of a co-op game with an engaging story. And we put many of their games on this list. But a few good ones didn’t make the cut before, so we’ve now added them in this update.
13/13 It Takes Two
At the beginning of It Takes Two, married couple Cody and May are magically transformed into small children’s toys. Naturally, this isn’t something they want, so they spend the rest of the game trying to find a way to become human again.
This means navigating all sorts of different obstacles using their puzzle and platforming skills. It sounds pretty whimsical, but there’s some real depth to the story. This is because the protagonists are a couple on the verge of divorce, which impacts their daughter. Throughout the game, all three of them have to manage this difficult situation.
12/13 Resident Evil: Revelations 2
The Resident Evil series isn’t known for having the deepest or best storytelling. Yet, the narratives still tend to be intriguing, which is the case for the asymmetric co-op entry, Revelations 2. It begins with a party gone wrong that leads to Claire Redfield and Moria Burton being kidnapped and moved to a deserted island. The two then have to find a way to escape.
Barry Burton also visits the island trying to find his daughter and partners up with a young girl with special powers called Natalia. The story is well-paced as you slowly find out more about what is happening on the island and who’s behind it. There are also some interesting character arcs, particularly the one involving Moira and her hatred of guns.
11/13 Call Of Duty: World At War
A co-op campaign isn’t included in every Call Of Duty game. In fact, most of the story modes are only playable in single-player. However, World At War enables two players to experience the main narrative in split-screen.
The said narrative is set in World War 2 and has you participate in several re-creations of historical battles. It isn’t the most dynamic or unique tale ever told. But it gives you a violent look at the war from both the U.S and Soviet Union perspectives. Plus, the FPS gameplay is very polished and fun.
10/13 LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Few co-op franchises are as consistent as the LEGO games. These wholesome adventures always provide simple yet enjoyable gameplay. Plus, they’re often packed with witty references. Marvel Super Heroes is no different in that regard.
However, the comic book title also boasts a decent original story. A litany of different Marvel heroes try to hunt down a collection of Cosmic bricks, with the goal of gathering them before Doctor Doom and Loki can do the same. While not the most complicated narrative ever written, it’s exciting to see so many unique duos team-up.
9/13 Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil is traditionally a single-player franchise, yet a few of the installments include co-op. The one with the most ambitious story is Resident Evil 6.
Series favorites like Leon Kennedy and Chris Redfield are involved in this intertwining narrative that spans four campaigns. Each one has its own distinct plotline, but they all revolve around a bio-terrorist threat. The game doesn’t have the most subtle storytelling elements, but it’s loud, exciting, and even includes several moments that tug at the heartstrings.
8/13 Gears Of War 3
For those who haven’t played Gears of War, it’s easy to write off the series as a typical ‘bro’ shooter. However, the games actually have surprisingly deep and well-written stories. Gears of War 3 is a prime example as it features some of the most emotional scenes in gaming history.
The whole narrative revolves around Delta Squad trying to put an end to the Locust and Lambert hordes. As always with Gears, you can play the entire campaign, as well as other modes, in split-screen.
7/13 Resistance 3
In Resistance 3, the human population is fighting for their lives against the invading Chimera forces. It’s up to Joseph Capelli to save the planet. While the story sounds like the typical FPS fare, the protagonist’s relationship with his family adds an abundance of heart to the narrative. And it’s fun to experience it all with a partner.
More cooperative adventures in the Resistance universe would’ve been nice, but Sony seems to have forgotten about the exclusive franchise, as they have with others.
6/13 Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
While serious emotional moments can enhance a story, they’re not required to tell a good tale. The Borderlands series, for instance, has continually delivered light but engaging narratives.
In the Handsome Collection, you get two of them with Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel. Both games are about the dangerous world of Pandora and a charismatic tyrant known as Handsome Jack. With several fun characters and consistently strong writing, these two RPGs are a joy to play through, especially in co-op.
5/13 Gears 5
Gears 5 sees Kait Diaz become the main protagonist. She embarks on a personal journey wherein she discovers her family’s connection to the Locust Horde. For most of the adventure, she is accompanied by her friend Del and their helpful bot Jack. These two characters can be controlled by your friends, as the game supports three-player split-screen.
The story is compelling throughout as you learn more about both Kait and the Locust creatures that you’ve been fighting for many years. Plus, the campaign is filled with a litany of great characters.
4/13 Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Nearly all of the Halo games have strong campaigns, so it’s hard to decide which is the best. Thankfully, The Master Chief Collection includes the first four mainline installments, with Reach and ODST being included as DLC (on Xbox).
The initial four entries follow the exciting adventures of Master Chief and Cortana. Reach and ODST, on the other hand, put the attention on a team of Spartans operating during the tragic fall of Reach and the storied Orbital Drop Shock Troopers of the UNSC, respectively. Each title helps in building and fleshing out the intriguing Halo universe. It does so with entertaining characters and solid storytelling.
3/13 Divinity: Original Sin
Deep RPGs don’t generally include an option for split-screen co-op. Yet Divinity: Original Sin is different. In fact, the entire story revolves around two protagonists. The goal of these heroes is to eradicate a strange energy known as the Source. It makes for a long, compelling narrative with plenty of twists and turns.
As is typically the case for RPGs, your choices play a big part in how everything plays out. What’s brilliant about this game is how both players contribute to these decisions. Neither hero makes choices for the whole team.
2/13 Divinity: Original Sin 2
Like its predecessor, Divinity: Original Sin 2 provides an expansive campaign that two players can experience on the same system. This time, the World of Rivellon is being invaded by creatures of the void, and the Divine Order’s attempts to stop them are doing more harm than good. Thus, the responsibility of saving the world falls to the protagonists.
The tale remains captivating throughout, due in part to all the serious moral decisions you’re forced to make. And this is one of those games where your choices really matter.
1/13 A Way Out
A Way Out is one of the best co-op games on the eighth generation of consoles. And its commitment to cooperative play is evident in that you can’t even play the title alone. This allowed the developers to really tailor the adventure to two people. As a result, the gameplay is very intuitive, but the main focus is still the story.
You control Vincent and Leo as the two prisoners team up to escape their incarceration and move on with their lives. With good writing, likable characters, and plenty of twists, A Way Out has everything you’d want in a story-driven experience.
NEXT: Best Split-Screen Multiplayer Games On Xbox One, Ranked