I’ve been with my husband for almost a decade, and one of the strongest ways that we’ve bonded is through co-op games, and that didn’t change in 2023. While single-player narrative campaigns and RPGs take focus in game-of-the-year talks, co-op games are just as important to play and respect in the medium. Ultimately, gaming is even better with someone else, and the top co-op games of 2023 all made the base campaigns even better with the community.
In order to be counted, the game had to have been playable in the calendar year of 2023 in either 1.0 or Early Access. We also didn’t include multiplayer competitive games like MOBAs or FPS or even the continuously updated battle royales. Finally, the game or the co-op mode had to have been new in order to be considered for the top co-op games of 2023. In short, this list is all about the games that are even better with cooperative play. Without further ado, we have soulslikes, a deep dive into James Cameron’s Pandora, and some cozy games too.
Developer: Gunfire Games
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
“Regardless, after trying both solo and cooperative play, I would choose the second option every time. Getting insta-killed by a giant cube boss is frustrating alone, but it’s hilarious with friends, and that formula applies to the experience as a whole. Ultimately, many of the game’s design points to Remnant II being an intended co-op experience. While you can play it alone, the dialogue, skills, and even weapons and mods all feel underutilized without at least one partner along for the ride. Remnant II solo is a lot of fun, but it’s dangerous to go alone and take a friend.” — Eddie de Santiago
Developer: GUN Interactive and Sumo Digital
Publisher: GUN Interactive
Okay, hear me out. Texas Chain Saw Massacre is technically a multiplayer game. However, as the asymmetrical genre has proven, communication and cooperative play are at the center of accomplishing your goals in the game. Whether you’re playing as the Slaughter family or the victims, Gun and Sumo Digital has crafted an experience that rewards you for working with your teammates and a balanced game that ensures a fun time on either side. A love letter to the first film in the slasher genre, this game is a stellar night with friends and more, making it a great start to the top co-op games for 2023 list.
Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios
Not only is Baldur’s Gate 3 at the top of our game of the year list, but its success as an RPG is undisputed. While this is mostly taking single-player into account, the game’s co-op has become just as fascinating to watch as a real D&D Session. Before I got to play myself, I heard different groups in my workplace talking about running co-op sessions in the same way they used to run in-person TTRPG sessions. To see a video game have the same impact as its TTRPG counterpart is astounding and why it finds itself on this list. Additionally, facilitating both local and online co-op is a fantastic way to help different groups play together.
Developer: Phoenix Labs
Publisher: Phoenix Labs
“For those looking for more narrative than you find in a cozy multiplayer game that you’ll find in Palia or more cooperative play elements that you find in Animal Crossing, Fae Farm co-op is a pretty stellar alternative. With nothing barred to you in your partner’s space, there is never a time when co-op feels like an afterthought. Additionally, with the elements of independence baked into the game’s quest system, Fae Farm co-op achieves the focus of letting the player have agency while playing games together, which is something to aim for in any take on co-op. Despite the limitations of its drop-in-drop-out system, Fae Farm co-op is the kind of multiplayer experience that anyone would want from a cozy game.” — Kate Sánchez
Disney Illusion Island
Developer: Dlala Studios
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Disney Illusion Island may only offer couch co-op, but it’s perfect at how it does it. A Disney metroidvania with gorgeous hand-illustrated visuals and a score provided by an orchestra, the game isn’t just gorgeous to get into but accessible too. You and up to three friends (or family) can settle down on the couch and play regardless of skill. Each player’s difficulty level is based on how many hearts they enter the games with. You can have one to see how far you get, or you can choose a metal heart that allows you to never die in the game. Your difficulty experience never impacts those around you. Additionally, platforming doesn’t have to be difficult, with a bevy of support options for your co-op companions to choose from. Fun for the whole family and for those at any skill level, Disney Illusion Island has a well-deserved spot on the list of top co-op games of 2023.
Developer: Singularity 6
Publisher: Singularity 6
Billed as a cozy MMO, Palia is a world of comfort and cooperative play, whether you’re hosting cake parties organized in the developer’s Discord, cooking or fishing with a friend, or just letting people in chat know you found a flow tree near Witch’s Hollow, this is one of the best experiences of the year. Not without its hiccups, Palia has listened to the community growing larger and making quality-of-life updates to address concerns in a fantastic way. Always built with community play in mind, this free-to-play game was an essential part of my 2023, and it should be a part of your 2024.
Age of Wonders 4
Developer: Triumph Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
In order for my husband to get me to play Age of Wonders 4, he described it as Civ but fantasy. While the game is different in ways of customizing the race and heroes, you play with a unique create-a-character, and the ability to play through battles in a turn-based tactics style makes it stand out against other grand strategy games. With detailed win conditions and turn caps, Age of Wonders 4 can be a stellarly long campaign for fantasy world domination, or it can be a quick race to the finish for magic victories and more. Playing in tandem with another player makes the experience all the more fantastic, with diplomatic details that work extremely well in a multiplayer or co-op experience.
Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora
Developer: Massive Entertainment
“With a high focus on learning about the diverse Na’vi cultures between tribes through the main story and side quests, one thing is clear: the Na’vi are communal. Whether they’re from the Aranahe, Zeswa, or Kame’tire clans, their connection to each other through Eywa and their traditions focuses Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora’s narrative on finding your place in a community. The narrative works solo, but there is something special about playing through the entire main story mission with someone else by your side. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora offers a co-op experience where each player maintains individuality and shares in exploring a vibrant and lush environment for the entire story.” — Matt Donahue
So that’s it for our top co-op games of 2023! From the cozy to the fantastical, there are many reasons to pick up these games. Picking our top co-op games of 2023 wasn’t easy, so if we missed one of your favorites this year, let us know on social media: @butwhythopc.
Top Indie Games of 2023 descriptions were taken from our writers’ previous co-op reviews and denoted by credit listed after the blurb or written specifically for this list..