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Best co-op games of the year 2021: It Takes Two is the GOAT

It Takes Two
(Image credit: Hazelight Studios)

The best co-op games of the year are here to save the day! Being trapped at home can be rather damaging to your mental health, especially when you’re unable to see some of your closest friends due to the quarantine. Many of us have looked towards multiplayer games to unwind, where we can once again be social without the need for physical interaction. 

We’ve highlighted some of the greatest multiplayer experiences that have become popular in 2021, whether it’s because they made us laugh, shout or cower in fear.

It Takes Two 

Not only is It Takes Two the number one cooperative experience of 2021, it’s one of the best games ever. Hazelight Studios, helmed by the iconic Josef “f**k the Oscars” Fares, made another bold decision for It Takes Two to be a game that could only be experienced with another person. Unless you’re a master at using each controller with one hand, you cannot get through this alone. Every battle and puzzle relies on another player contributing to achieve a common goal, whether that’s creating grapple points with a nail gun or moving leaf platforms to make a number of jumps less hazardous.

It Takes Two Review: This is how it runs on PC

(Image credit: EA)

What makes It Takes Two special in particular is that it’s not tethered down by a single genre. Depending on which character you select, It Takes Two jumps between puzzler, platformer, racer, third-person shooter, stealth game, hack-and-slash, isometric dungeon crawler, fighter, and flight simulator. Players will most frequently solve puzzles and hop across platforms, but the overall experience is bolstered by unique mini-games and fresh mechanics.

And the best part? Purchasing It Takes Two gives you access to a Friend’s Pass, meaning your buddy doesn’t have to purchase the game alongside you. There’s no good reason not to grab your buddy and jump into one of the best co-op games of this year.

See our full It Takes Two review. 

Monster Hunter Rise 

Monster Hunter has always been fun to play with friends, but Monster Hunter Rise ironed out the kinks that made its predecessors a pain to get through cooperatively. In Monster Hunter World, players were often unable to start main assignments with other players. You have to get into the match, watch a cutscene that begins the hunt, and then invite your friend. This process made it largely unappealing to play with friends, especially if you were the second player who didn’t want to miss out on the cutscenes.

Monster Hunter Rise

(Image credit: Capcom)

But Monster Hunter Rise has remedied this by separating single-player and multiplayer assignments into their own sections. Village Quests are a collection of solo hunts that allow the player to progress through the story at their own pace. And Hub Quests can be queued up immediately, allowing you to easily jump into them with friends. Hunting monsters with a giant horn is obviously a plus, but now that it’s more convenient to start a group hunt, Rise is significantly more appealing as a cooperative experience. 

See our full Monster Hunter Rise review. 

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 throws players into the heart of Mexico and gives them the opportunity to explore some of its grandest sights. With one or many buddies by your side, you can hop into your favorite car and launch it off the side of a mountain. There’s always something to do, regardless of where you are in the world. Whether there’s a street race, drift area, speed zone, players only need to drive a short bit from wherever they might be to find an activity. Or, you could just speed at 200 miles per hour on the highway for the sake of it.

Forza Horizon 5

(Image credit: PlayGround Games)

And if you’re a car connoisseur, or a carnnoisseur, you will fall in love with what Forza Horizon 5 has to offer. With a collection of over 500 cars, you’ll likely find your favorite car, regardless if you’re a fan of Aston Martin, Ford, Audi, Mercades, Ferrari, Bentley or many more. And if you don’t happen to be a fan of cars, Forza Horizon 5’s focus on arcadey fun makes it easy to get into. If your friends are demolishing you in every race, simply play main races and the game will ask if you’d like to increase the difficulty every once in a while. I suck at racing games, but I went from average difficulty at the start of the game up to expert difficulty towards the end. PlayGround Games has made this incredibly accessible, even for those who aren’t a fan of cars. 

Halo Infinite 

Although Halo Infinite did not launch with a cooperative campaign this year, its competitive multiplayer is some of the most fun I’ve had battling other Spartans since Halo: Reach launched in 2010. Queueing up with friends and haphazardly rushing to take over a control point or yanking the Oddball from the enemy team is as fun as it's ever been. Sharing poorly conceived strategic maneuvers to covertly grab the enemy team’s flag and watching those plans fall apart has resulted in a spectacular time.

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

Custom games are still wonderful. Gathering eight buddies and modifying our starting loadout with nothing but a sniper rifle and energy sword creates a hilarious mix of terror and joy. The grapple hook completely changes Halo, allowing players to grab guns mid-air and even hijack vehicles by latching onto them. And I can’t wait to see how the Halo community utilizes this new mechanic to build parkour maps when Infinite’s Forge mode releases next year.

See our full Halo Infinite review. 

Phasmophobia 

If you’re looking to scare yourself half to death with friends, Phasmophobia is a satisfying way to do so. Multiplayer horror games aren’t uncommon, with titles like Dead by Daylight still possessing an active player base, but there’s a lot that sets Phasmophobia apart from the rest. While the game technically launched last year, it's still in early access and has received significant updates throughout 2021.

Phasmophobia

(Image credit: Kinetic Games)

In Phasmophobia, the player lacks offensive capabilities and their mission isn’t to escape a cursed area or to defeat an apparition. Instead, you’re a paranormal detective, with the objective of determining what type of ghost is haunting a school, asylum, farmhouse or rural home. You’ll bring thermometers, EMF readers, spirit boxes, UV flashlights, and more to slowly try and widdle down the possibilities. 

As a horror experience, Phasmophobia stands out because it’s not overwhelmed by jump scares. There’s a set goal meant to distract and occupy the player, whether it be looking for the ghost’s room, testing different evidence types or trying to complete optional objectives. Instead of oversaturating the experience with encounters, you’ll frequently be sat alone, in an incredibly dark space, waiting for the ghost to appear.

It’s a lot easier to push through a horror game when a barrage of spooky nonsense is thrown at you. It slowly and surely builds your confidence. You begin to understand how the game fundamentally functions and know exactly what to expect.

But when you’re trapped with your own thoughts, constantly waiting for something to happen, your anxiety levels skyrocket. Phasmophobia lets the player scare themselves to death, as the ambient hums, far-off noises from your horrified friends, and narrow beams from your crappy flashlight creates an undeniably haunting atmosphere filled with self-doubt. My first dozen hours with Phasmophobia provided a quiet, yet anxiety-inducing experience that I highly recommend to horror fanatics looking for a good time with their pals.

Momo Tabari
Contributing Writer

Self-described art critic and unabashedly pretentious, Momo finds joy in impassioned ramblings about her closeness to video games. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Brooklyn College and five years of experience in entertainment journalism. Momo is a stalwart defender of the importance found in subjectivity and spends most days overwhelmed with excitement for the past, present and future of gaming. When she isn't writing or playing Dark Souls, she can be found eating chicken fettuccine alfredo and watching anime.