The days leading up to Valentine’s Day can be stressful. The Hallmark holiday sneaks up on us after the collective hangover from the winter holidays finally disappears—before you realize the tinsel’s been tucked away, you’re scrambling to buy flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and the like. But instead of spending money on expensive gifts that your partner may only enjoy for a finite amount of time, we at Ars want to encourage you to spend quality time together—and what better way to do that than to pick up the joysticks and play some video games?
While there’s a lot of emphasis in the video game community on online multiplayer and the ease of being able to play with friends regardless of your location, it’s always fun to share the experience with the person you love most while being literally right next to them on your own couch. Below we’ve gathered some of our favorite couch co-op games, which span across platforms and range from hardcore to beginner-friendly. They should allow seasoned and less experienced gamers alike to spend a couple hours this Valentine’s Day vacuuming up ghosts, preparing meals, battling underground monsters, defusing bombs, and racing to the finish line. Regardless of your skill level or game of choice, the time should be more special because you’re spending it together (aw).
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Luigi’s Mansion 3 tasks Mario’s sheepish little brother with rescuing his friends from the clutches of a haunted hotel. Its two-player mode doesn’t become available until an hour or so into the story, but at that point the rest of the game becomes one of the most accessible co-op campaigns in recent memory.
If your partner isn’t well-versed in typical game mechanics, they can control “Gooigi,” a Luigi clone made of green goo that has a lower health pool but infinite lives. This gives them the freedom to fool around and die repeatedly without forcing you both to restart levels and boss fights. The game isn’t particularly difficult, and because Gooigi is an essential part of solving many of the game’s puzzles, your partner won’t feel like an accessory twiddling their thumbs while you do all the work.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 as a whole has issues: aiming your ghost-sucking vacuum can be frustratingly imprecise, and there are some tedious sequences that force you to backtrack through previously conquered levels for little added benefit. But even compared to other Nintendo games, it oozes charm. This is a game with character, from Luigi’s adorable looks of terror to the distinct designs of each hotel floor and ghost boss you come across. Barreling into a room with your “Poltergust” vacuums and subsuming everything in sight is both silly and consistently satisfying. It all looks gorgeous, like a playable Pixar movie. And because it’s broken up into clearly defined levels, it’s a game you and your partner can drop and revisit at your leisure.
Luigi’s Mansion 3 [Switch]
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a rare space-based video game that’s as exciting as it is adorable. The forces of Anti-Love threaten the universe, so you and your partner have to navigate the mazes of the galaxy in a neon battleship that you both control. While one person steers the ship, the other has to defend it using weapons, shields, and other technology, hopping from control base to control base.
As you complete the various stages, all of which are randomized so you’ll always be exploring a new area, you have to rescue space bunnies, battle baddies, and avoid knocking into rock formations and damaging your own ship.
Not only are the themes of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime perfect for this time of year, but you and your partner really have to work as a team to be successful. I recommend going into this game blindly together, so you’re both forced to learn the controls and get your “space legs” simultaneously.
Once you get the hang of the basics, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is only as challenging as each new maze layout—but that doesn’t take away from its fun. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the competitive couch co-op games that typically get the spotlight and a unique way to spend quality time working together.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime [Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC]
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Ah Mario Kart, arguably the most obvious game to include in any couch co-op list. You may roll your eyes seeing it here, but there are many reasons why Mario Kart is a beloved multiplayer game. It’s a racing game that can be as competitive as you want it to be, and its variety of characters, courses, and wacky items make it more appealing for those who generally aren’t into racing games.
In my household, my partner and I (Valentina) choose to be competitive in Mario Kart, and we make it known when one of us hits the other with an expertly placed green shell. Has that led to a few harsh words? Sure. But all of them (… most of them) have been said with a jovial undertone.
While we compete against each other in just about every race, it’s nice to have a common enemy in Grand Prix mode that we can hate on when we’re both having particularly rusty days. One minute, we’re trying to beat each other and target each other’s wheels with banana peels—but a moment later, we’re chasing down an NPC who did one of us dirty (Metal Mario is a sneaky bugger). Mario Kart‘s controlled chaos of sorts makes it an incredibly fun game to play for hours, and it’s easy to do so, especially if your partner is like mine and often pleads for “just one more round” to prove their status as the superior driver.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe [Switch]
Whether you enjoy cooking in real life or not, it’s hard to resist the frenzied fun that is Overcooked! 2. The game forces you and your partner to work together as cute creature-chefs preparing meals from start to finish. While chopping, cooking, plating, and serving food may not sound difficult, don’t be fooled—Overcooked! 2 is quite challenging, especially if you’re new to the game.
Single-player mode is difficult for a number of reasons, but two-player couch mode kicks it into high gear because you and your partner have to figure out how you work best together around the kitchen. Who’s chopping the fish for sushi? Who’s ready to plate the rice when it’s done cooking? Who’s dishing out clean plates for the next meals to be served on? Who’s dodging speeding vehicles to cross the street and get this plate of mahi-mahi to hungry customers? There’s a lot to figure out, and you must do so while the clock is ticking.
There’s no other way to excel at Overcooked! 2‘s couch mode: work together, or die (or at least, annoy diners and destroy your chances of getting good tips). Don’t be surprised if you and your partner start shouting while virtually cooking, but just try not to take that emotion into your actual kitchen.