It pains me to say it, Couch CoOp (local CoOp) is dying. No, scratch that; Couch CoOp is already dead. It was killed off by gaming studios, who decided that online-only multiplayer was the future.
And I get it, I do. Online gaming is a lot of fun and has its own unique set of advantages over Couch CoOp. But as time goes on, more and more games are being released without local co-op features – features that were once a staple in console gaming.
Take, for example, the recently released Back 4 Blood, a ‘spiritual successor’ to the popular Left 4 Dead series. Made by several original team members of the original Left 4 Dead development team, it’s helped cure the cravings of many Left 4 Dead fans who were eager for a next-gen version of the title.
I’ll just, play by myself I guess…
But when Back 4 Blood launched, it was without any local co-op features. So presently, if you are looking to play with a group of friends, the only way you can do so is if those friends join you from their own console and online.
Words cannot express my disappointment when I realized this was the case. Being engaged to a fellow gamer, my fiancee and I have sunk many hours into Left 4 Dead 1 and 2, more than a decade after their release, mowing down hordes of zombies from the comfort of our own couch. So, thinking it would be a no-brainer, I installed the game on Xbox Series X, only to feel utterly disappointed by the lack of a local/Couch CoOp mode. Did the developers not anticipate that more than one person in a household would want to play their game?
Another series we’ve loved to play together is Halo. With the incredible upgrades to the Master Chief Collection on the Xbox Series X, revisiting the series and playing through each campaign with enhanced visuals and ridiculous framerates has been a breeze. So we were excited to dig our hands into Halo: Infinite, the latest edition of the long-running franchise.
But guess what Halo: Infinite didn’t launch with? That’s right, the campaign Couch CoOp mode was nowhere to be found. This was despite the promise that ‘all Halo games’ would have it going forward, after it was noticeably removed from Halo 5. I could go well into all the other ways I feel as if 343 Industries have butchered the latest installment, but not including a feature that has been a staple of the series since its inception? Come on now. It’s said to be included in a future update down the line, but to now have it missing from two straight Halo games is an inexcusable oversight.
The Good Old Days
What does it say about the future of gaming when one of the most popular local co-op series of all time launches without local co-op at release? Every day, we are moving further and further away from local multiplayer, and it’s really starting to bum me out. Sure I still play co-op masterpieces like It Takes Two, A Way Out, and the Overcooked series. I still love classic two-player versus titles like Mortal Kombat. Still, when I’m really enjoying a game, I wish my fiancee could just hit start and jump right in. You know, like the good old days.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gaming online with friends. But there’s just something about being able to plop down on the couch next to someone and play a game together. There’s an intimacy to it – a bonding or a feeling of closeness and friendship that comes from sharing a physical space while you game together. Whether it’s with friends or with significant others. The energy of working together in the same room, trying to conquer that boss that has been giving you the fits for the last half hour. That feeling of responsibility you have to protect your teammate right next to you, or else you get the stare of death if you let them die.
The Truth Behind Couch CoOp’s Demise
So why are games drifting away from Couch CoOp? Well, as WhatNerd explained, as with many decisions nowadays with video game franchises, it all comes down to money. With significant advances in graphics, framerates, and the like, it’s more challenging to deliver the fast-paced action gamers expect while rendering all screens at the same graphical fidelity. Unfortunately, it’s not cheap to develop video games. When that money and staffing could be better spent on building an online multiplayer campaign, it just makes sense to leave the local co-op in the dust.
Take GTA 5, for example. While the game has become a meme for its various re-releases and “new” versions over its 10-year lifespan, GTA Online has made Rockstar about 800 million yearly from Shark cards, with the game’s total haul being over 6 Billion. There’s no money in local co-op when making an online-centered game like Fortnite makes billions. With rumors abound that GTA 6 may follow a similar format to Fortnite, it’s probable that the days of the local co-op are over.
They’re Still Out There
But that’s not to say there aren’t any Couch CoOp games. If you’re one of those who miss the old days of couch gaming with a buddy or significant other, may we recommend the following titles:
- It Takes Two
- A Way Out
- Overcooked (1 & 2)
- Untitled Goose Game
- Human: Fall Flat
- Unravel Two
- Left 4 Dead 2 (Not available for digital purchase – need a hard copy)
- Moving Out
- Lego Series
- Borderlands Series
- Diablo III
And those are just a few. While many AAA studios are running away from Couch CoOp, many indie studios embrace it. So it’s not all doom and gloom for couch gamers. It takes a little more effort to find those Couch CoOpgems, but they’re out there.
I’m one of those people that local multiplayer/Couch CoOp should never die out. I have many good memories of playing couch co-op with friends or family. From classics like Goldeneye to more modern games like Overcooked or A Way Out. There’s just something about sharing the same physical space with someone while gaming together that can’t be replicated online.
Do you have any Couch CoOp recommendations? Let us know in the comments below! And if you’re looking for more gaming content, check out some of our other gaming posts!