Give Me Some of That Sweet Couch Co-op

I miss couch co-op games.

For those of you who don’t know what a couch co-op game is, let me explain. A couch co-op game is a video game that two friends can play amiably together (cooperatively, get it?) while sitting side by side on a couch. Well, theoretically sitting on a couch. Most of the “couch” co-op games I’ve played with my friends, I’ve played while sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor.

Saying that developers no longer make good couch co-op games has become a fairly common complaint these days. “Where are the couch co-op games? No one makes them anymore.” Let’s get one thing straight: couch co-op hasn’t vanished off the face of the earth. There are still oldies but goodies lying around. And let’s not forget the indie games that occasionally pop out from the woodwork and can tide us over until a better triple-A title comes along.

My all-time favorite couch co-op games are as follows:

  • Gears of War
  • Super Mario Bros. Wii
  • Battleblock Theater

I don’t mean to leave online multiplayer games out in the cold. Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Halo more than Romeo adored Juliet (hell, a lot more). But this is about couch co-op. I’ll write about Halo and my love of it some other time. (And when I do, it’ll be extensive.)

Playing some video games

My sister was given a copy of Super Mario Bros. Wii when she first got her Wii. We played that game religiously, only stopping until we had every golden coin from every world, including that insane 9th one. We became experts at that game. My sister was so pro. I think her favorite level was the one where Mario and friends can ride a skeleton roller coaster over spurting fountains of lava. She loved picking people up and throwing them off into the fiery abyss.

Battleblock Theater was recommended to me, and it was such a zany experience that I never regretted purchasing it. (Actually, it was a free game of the month, but you know what I mean.) Working together actually mattered in Battleblock Theater, which is what allowed it to carve out a spot in my gaming heart.

I was introduced to Gears of War by a friend of mine. We were ecstatic about playing Gears of War 4. In fact, we were so excited that we decided to make a huge deal about playing it the night it came out. The day it released, after we had purchased the game, we rushed to Wal-Mart and bought frosted animal crackers, Flaming Hot Cheetos, and glass-bottled (as opposed to plastic-bottled) Coca-Cola. Then we rushed back to his house, all aglow with our enthusiasm to play the game.

Innocent (and slightly stupid) souls that we were, we forgot about the downloading time that all new games take when you first insert the disc into your console. We spent two hours waiting for Gears of War 4 to fully load, sadly stuffing our faces with chips and cookies while we stared at the loading bar inch towards completion.

Those were good times.

I guess what I’m actually trying to say is I miss the couch co-op experience itself.

It’s not the gaming industry’s fault; it’s mine.

As I’ve gotten older, my supply of call-able friends has dwindled. (And I was never swimming in friends to begin with because I have the social grace of a flatulent elephant.) Nowadays, there are two people I could readily call up to come on over and play a game with me (a video game, not a Saw game).

I used to think that losing your friends when you grow up was a myth adults made up to try and convince you to not succumb to inevitable peer pressure. But holy shit, they were kind of right. Unless you make a giant, concerted effort, you lose touch with all those awesome high school friends you held so dear.

And honestly, I didn’t try hard enough to keep them.

What this means for my gaming is that I’ve had to rely on single-player experiences. I’ve replayed so many single-player video games, it almost (but not quite) compares to how often I reread favorite books. After playing Bioshock for the umpteenth time, I have a deeper appreciation for couch co-op. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Bioshock; that game is a goddamned masterpiece.)

So the final bit of wisdom (from my supremely unwise mind) that I’d like to offer to whoever is reading this is to hold onto your friends (if they’re good ones) and to play those couch co-op games with them as if there was no tomorrow. Because you never know. Couches may cease to exist in the near future.