Back in the day, if you wanted to play a game with a friend or relative, you had to actually be in the same room with them. And even that only worked if you happened to have an extra controller (although, bless the NES for coming with two controllers as standard). This was especially useful in households with more than one child vying for screen time, or as a way for parents and children to play games together.
These days, online connectivity means that you can now play your favorite games with friends and strangers from all around the world, and publishers and console makers are eager to make a few extra bucks by charging for access to their online portals. But developers are putting less and less emphasis on games with local co-op features.
While there are the occasional indie titles that make a splash with co-op mechanics, I thought it would be fun to think of what some more mainstream titles would look like if they had a local co-op option.
While co-protagonist Elizabeth does already play a crucial role in the story and combat of Bioshock Infinite, helping Booker by collecting ammo for him and tossing it to him when he runs out, imagine how much richer the experience would be if there was actually someone controlling Elizabeth alongside you. Sure, she can handle herself in combat, but that really just means that she’s invulnerable, as opposed to being the escort mission bullet-sponge most gamers were afraid she would be.
What if Elizabeth did have agency in combat, and that agency was supplied by another player?
While co-op is still a huge part of Media Molecule’s Little Big Planet franchise, their PS Vita title Tearaway is conspicuous for its absence. This is even more evident in the recent PS4 version of the game, Tearaway Unfolded.
Puzzle platformers are invariably enhanced by having a friend helping you out, although co-op in Tearaway could also be implemented similarly to the recent Rayman titles where one player controls the main character and another player helps to alter the environment so their partner can get across.
The whimsical art style would make a co-op version of the game perfect for parents and children to play together.
The Last of Us
Similar to Bioshock Infinite, there are really two protagonists in The Last of Us, Joel and Eli, although only Joel is controllable during most of the game. What if Eli were controlled by another player? She wouldn’t even need to actively engage in combat herself, but could instead provide support by searching for ammo and improvised weapons for Joel, or by creating diversions to lure infected in another direction.
While the cinematic style of The Last of Us makes it a favorite for game viewership, think of how much more invested those “backseat gamers” would be if they got a piece of the action themselves.
The Next Zelda Game
This one is a bit of a cheat, since I’m talking about a game that doesn’t exist yet, but hear me out. Hyrule Warriors has proven that there’s room for co-op in the Zelda universe, but what if Zelda and Link got to adventure together as equals in a high profile console title! For the good of the kingdom, not just another stupid rescue mission?
Puzzles could be adapted so that players needed to co-operate in order to solve them, and combat could be even more furious with Link and Zelda both attacking in unique ways.
Super Mario Maker
At first glance this game-building game seems like an odd choice for adding co-op, but what if you could make levels that needed two players to solve? Think of how much more intricate and creative the resulting levels would be.
As well, co-op functionality could allow for a competitive mode, where players would get to go back and forth creating ever harder levels for each other to see who is the ultimate level maker, or even compete within the same level, creating more and more obstacles as you go. Or even use the WiiU controller to create levels on the fly while your companion is playing!