While online multiplayer has become king in gaming over the past few console generations, it’s still nice to sit down with family and friends and enjoy games together the old-fashioned way. 2021 brought some wonderful couch co-op and local, competitive multiplayer experiences. We’ve crunched the data from our sister site Metacritic to round up the highest-rate cooperative and competitive local multiplayer games of 2021.
Travel the unfriendly skies, make life hell for airport staff, and rope a few friends in for the ride, because Fly Together is a grand time when you dive into the game’s chaotic mix of trying to keep atmospheric traffic flowing smoothly. Essentially an air traffic controller simulator, Fly Together offers precise teamwork built around the high stakes of ensuring that an airborne tube of travelers don’t meet an untimely end.
The idea might sound wild, but it plays amazingly well when you start coordinating your efforts properly to create a well-oiled machine of air travel running smoothly, adapting quickly to handle surprise airliners, rogue fighter jets, and the occasional natural disaster. Fun in solo play, Fly Together’s appeal is magnified once you join a team of stressed-out air traffic controllers. Fly Together is a Nintendo Switch exclusive.
EA and Velan Studios’ Knockout City may have hogged the dodgeball headlines this year, but for those of you who were looking for a quirkier take on dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and dodging again, Dodgeball Academia was another great option. Already a blast of fun and loaded with Saturday morning cartoon visuals, Dodgeball Academia package is bolstered by two-player local multiplayer mode.
While it lacks the depth of the main campaign’s RPG elements, the multiplayer is a fun diversion that boils the appealing essentials of the game into a test of endurance and wrench-dodging skill. For a quick bout with a friend on a lazy afternoon, Dodgeball Academia’s multiplayer is a fine semester of frantic competition. Dodgeball Academia is available on consoles and PC.
MLB The Show 21
After years of batting for solely for the Sony console team, MLB The Show 21 finally gave Xbox players a chance to take to the field in one of the finest baseball simulations ever made. Outside of the always fun single-player, MLB The Show 21 wasn’t too much of a drastic departure from previous games in the series, but then again, it didn’t need to change much to hit some multiplayer homeruns. It may lack that next-gen charm in the visual department currently, but this year’s baseball game is still an impressively detailed and massive dive into everyone’s favorite ballgame.
Metascore: 81 | Read our MLB The Show 21 review .
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection
Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection is a retro surprise that other remakes could learn a lesson or two from. The core DNA of Capcom’s ghoulish classic has been preserved, and anyone who spent a small fortune on the arcade original will instantly reawaken dormant muscle memory that they thought they had lost over the years. Besides the fact that it looks like a million bucks with its vibrant art direction, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection also allows you to team up for an experience that makes the game more fun.
Instead of just having a second Sir Arthur throwing lances at foes, Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection allows a second player to inhabit the spectral form of one of Arthur’s three ancestors to provide support. Each Wise Guy can use a different magic power as well as attack with projectiles, resulting in cooperative action that puts a mischievous new spin on the classic Ghosts ‘n Goblins formula. It’s available on consoles and PC.
Metascore: 85 | Read our Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection review .
Guilty Gear Strive
Fighting games have always been best when you’re in the company of a good friend or a loved one, purely so that you can have bragging rights when friendly competition turns into a few rounds of intense action. You know it’s serious when one of you starts leaning forward. If you had to pick just one fighting game in 2021 though, the latest Guilty Gear is a no-brainer thanks to its easy-to-learn nature, incredible visuals, and over-the-top special moves that’ll make you feel like an overpowered anime butt-kicker.
While its selection of online modes is top-shelf content, it’s the local co-op where this game truly shines, and with a selection of modes on offer, you and your best buddy will happily slug it out with a collection of fascinating characters across gorgeous stages while one of the best soundtracks of the year plays in the background. Guilty Gear Strive is available on PlayStation and PC.
Metascore: 87 | Read our Guilty Gear Strive review .
The latest F1 game from Codemasters is the high-speed sport at its very best thanks to precise handling, superb visuals, and a fun campaign mode. Outside of that content, F1 2021’s multiplayer offering recreates the one-two dynamic of the sport’s racing setup, allowing a pair of players to team up and work their way through a season of races while battling other players and each other. It’s a delicate balancing act of professionalism and good old-fashioned track rivalry, but like everything else that F1 2021 has to offer, it’s handled with elegant style and unrestrained speed. F1 2021 is available on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
Overcooked! All You Can Eat
Teamwork does make the dream work, but in Overcooked: All You Can Eat, it’s only a matter of time before that culinary fantasy turns into a kitchen nightmare. While you won’t have to worry about Gordon Ramsay slapping a side of bread on each side of your head and calling you an idiot sandwich, you will have to pay close attention to the orders that you and your friends are sent as you put together some fine cuisine. Combining everything that Overcooked has to offer in one gigantic collection of games and DLC, the All You Can Eat version of this game is a three-course meal that’ll leave everyone on your couch satisfied until the final order has been served. Overcooked: All You Can Eat is playable on consoles and PC.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is really two games in one. 3D World, a Wii U gem, has been masterfully ported to Switch with enhanced features and new content. Plus, you get the Bowser’s Fury campaign, a brief but fun open-world game that shows off a new side of Mario platforming. While both of these games are great to play solo, they are even more fun when teaming up with family and friends.
Super Mario 3D World has four-player local co-op, allowing you and your pals to play through the entire campaign together. 3D World’s co-op is definitely the most enticing portion of the package if you’re looking for a local co-op game, especially if you want to get the whole family involved. You can play as Mario, Luigi, Peach Toad, or Rosalina.
Meanwhile, Bowser’s Fury supports up to two players, with one player controlling Mario and the other zipping around as Bowser Jr. The player who takes on the role of Bowser Jr. doesn’t have to do nearly as much as Mario, but that makes it ideal for youngsters who may not be platforming experts just yet (think Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey). Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is a Switch exclusive.
Metascore: 89 | Read our Super Mario World + Bowser’s Fury review .
It Takes Two
Developer Hazelight’s It Takes Two has been one of the biggest highlights of 2021. It offers an emotional journey across the reality strained relationships told through a fantasy lens that is simply stunning to behold. Besides looking fantastic and regularly delivering emotional uppercuts, It Takes Two uses the idea of co-op gameplay to incredible effect, regularly challenging friends, partners, and online strangers to work together to overcome a range of imaginative puzzles and platforming sequences.
Considering Hazelight’s pedigree for co-op action, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the studio has knocked out another winner in this genre, but they’ve also raised the bar for what the entire genre is capable with one of the most impressive games of 2021. It Takes Two is available to play on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC. Also, it’s co-op only, which is quite unique.
Metascore: 89 | Read our It Takes Two review .
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a captivating solo adventure, one that tells a touching story about failing to live up to expectations and the power of art. As a co-op game though? It’s a coloring book of fun that combines its unique take on painting your way out of devious puzzles with a collaborative approach. A second player controls a floating paintbrush, and while you’d imagine that two people flinging some fresh acrylic and gauche colors everywhere would make puzzles impossible to complete, Chicory’s easygoing nature somehow makes it work.
If you’ve got a creative member of your family who’d love to bring some color to the world, Chicory’s a great game for them to unleash their artistic side without you having to worry about your home looking like one of Jackson Pollock’s paintings. Chicory is playable on PlayStation and PC.
Metascore: 90 | Read our Chicory: A Colorful Tale review .
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