It's been a long time since my last post. I changed teams at work to a backend team, which is something I've always wanted to do. And then, of course, the pandemic happened. Since everyone's gaming a lot more, and some people still can't meet their loved ones, I thought I'd write a post about games which are not usually mentioned as online co-op options.

If you're new to co-op games, there are existing lists of popular games, like these comprehensive ones from PC Gamer and PC Games N. Co-Optimus is a great resource for finding niche co-op games, including for other consoles.  

My PC specs are mid-range (GTX 1060 6GB, Ryzen 5, previously 8GB of ram), but I was able to play most of these on a 2016 laptop with a GTX 960M. Any newer laptop targetted at gamers should be able to run them. Some are even playable on MacOS.

Dying Light

Genre: FPS, Zombies
Max Players: 4
My Playtime: ~50 hours to completion with DLC, ~35 without

It's a zombie survival game with a story and parkour, and it does both of those pretty well. There's campaign co-op, which is what I played the whole story through with. Outside of quests, we would hang out on the roof of a gas station and take potshots at the Volatiles, who only show up at night. The sequel is scheduled to be released this year.

Sanctum 2

Genre: Tower Defense, FPS
Max Players: 4
My Playtime: 35 hours to complete all stages

Tower defense games are rather nostalgic to me, evoking flash browser games and Plants Vs Zombies. Each level has 2 stages per round: the planning stage where you construct your towers, and the action stage where the waves rush towards you and you attack the hordes along with the towers. I like the sci-fi color scheme and vibe. I tried Sanctum 1, which also has online co-op, but the UI felt much less intuitive and I dropped it quickly.

Tropico series

Genre: Simulation, City Management
Max Players: 4
My Playtime: 110 hours for Tropico 5, including solo main story + DLC + multiplayer

Like memes and obsessive planning? Then this is the game for you. You build each street and determine the location of each building. This is the closest thing I could find to City Skylines co-op, which I would really like to have, too. You start on the same island but at different locations, and each player has their own quest line. You can trade resources to or declare war on each other, your choice.

Plague Inc: Evolved

Genre: Simulation, Strategy
Max Players: 2
My Playtime: 6 hours, with each round lasting ~20mins

Highly fitting for the present. Did you know that the creators have worked with the CDC? This game is a good option if you only have short spans of time to game. It also requires lots of communication, so it's probably best if you play using voice comms.

Payday 2

Genre: FPS, Action
Max Players: 4
My Playtime: 5 hours, with each round lasting 15-20mins

Ever strategized about how you would rob a bank? Now you can. I like that there are a few ways to approach each mission. It can be fast-paced, so it's not something I would necessarily recommend to people new to gaming. I played with people who had many hours of experience, so it made things easier and less frustrating.

Factorio

Genre: Simulation, Management
Max Players: 65535 (!)
My Playtime: 2.5 hours

As the name suggests, you build factories, and automate everything, on an alien planet. The game has Overwhelmingly Positive reviews on Steam, and people spend hundreds of hours on it. My short playtime is due to being distracted by other co-op games.

Space Engineers

Genre: Space, building
Max Players: 16
My Playtime: 36 hours

Want to build spaceships, but Kerbal Space Program is too hardcore for you? Try this instead. It's a sandbox-style game which used a block building system. You play from the PoV of an astronaut character.

Elite: Dangerous

Genre: Space, simulation
Max Players: 4?
My Playtime: I don't own it

Another space game, but more focused on space exploration and simulation of being in a spaceship. There's a VR mode. I can't speak to the gameplay since I don't own it. Reviews say that you can fly in the same ship as other players. I'll probably get it on sale sometime.

ARK: Survival Evolved

Genre: Survival
Max Players: Officially 70 on a dedicated server
My Playtime: 136 hours

I've heard this game described as survival combined with Pokemon, but with dinosaurs. I love the base-building aspect of this game. I had farms, stables, workshops, and even a cosy cottage. Coasting around on a flying dinosaur is nice, too. You'd probably want to set up a dedicated server to avoid being griefed by public players, which can be technically challenging. I've seen complaints about it being a demanding game to run, but I never had issues with my mid-tier PC.

Besiege

Genre: Simulation
Max Players: 8
My Playtime: 1.2 hours

The co-op mode is pretty new. For each level, you have to build a machine to destroy something, like a windmill or a castle. I love the aesthetic of this game. Unfortunately I am no good at physics, mechanics and imagining how to build strange contraptions, which are essential for this game. It's fun to watch someone who does know what they're doing, though.

I hope that gave you some new ideas for games. Let me know how your own co-op experience was, or if you have other lesser-known games that you play.