The great thing about co-op survival horror games is that you may not die alone…
Some survival horror games are overwhelmingly intense throughout, carrying a level of panic and fear even in their slowest moments. We’re looking at you, Outlast 2. The introduction of co-op modes to survival horror titles helps players overcome the intensity or manage it better. Think taking on those nazi zombies by yourself is too much to ask? Bring a friend!
Co-op play opens up so many more options for gameplay. Puzzles are more complex in co-op modes; enemies are more prolific and smarter; general obstacles you encounter will require teamwork and multiple points of view to overcome. Games take on the “us against the world” element with a co-op. At the end of it all, you and your teammates feel accomplished something.
You can brave the darkness with a friend, which is more comforting than we’d like to admit. Some titles can be daunting to take on by yourself; every time we booted up Dead Space 2, we had to do a few breathing exercises to prepare ourselves. But when paired up with a partner who’s prepared to stand with you, the horrors you’ll face look surmountable.
1. Resident Evil 5
Nothing beats a classic. And you don’t get much more classic than Resident Evil 5’s co-op mode.
Chris Redfield and Sheva Alamar team up in Resident Evil 5 to take on Albert Freaking Wesker and his collection of destructive biological weapons. The story of Resident Evil 5 will see you traversing the entire continent of Africa. You’ll encounter native cannibals, man-eating crocodiles, and lots and lots of zombies.
Suppose you log in without a friend. Resident Evil 5 pairs players with a fairly sophisticated AI teammate. That teammate will heal you and offer ammunition throughout the game. Which isn’t just helpful; it’s downright necessary to survive in some boss fights. How can I pick up ammo when running from a chainsaw-wielding madman?
But log in with a friend, and Resident Evil 5 quickly becomes one of the best duo shooting games out there. Boss fights, timed puzzles, and jump-scare enemies make this a must-play with a partner. You’ll be strategizing and calling out targets like professional BSAA members in no time.
2. Back 4 Blood
We’re not going to lie; you could probably replace this with Left 4 Dead 2; it depends on your preference. They’re both made by (essentially) the same team, built around the same concept and feature a team of 4 survivors killing zombies.
We chose Back 4 Blood since it has more variety, characters, levels, weapons, and potential than Left 4 Dead. It’s got more of everything. But again, to each their own.
Back 4 Blood is a first-person looter-shooter set in the ridden apocalypse in a fictional Pennsylvania. It’s got guns, machetes, and plenty of explosives. And fearsome mutated monsters that will hunt you to the ends of the earth.
Running through Back 4 Blood by yourself is a fun time. But teaming up with friends made our experience 100% better. We laughed more, strategized more, and felt way more of a badass. There’s just something about making a final stand with your buddies against endless hordes of enemies that boosts the dopamine we all crave. It hits differently than running around with bots.
The higher levels of Back 4 Blood require teamwork. You’ll need to bring some friends who are good at communication if you want to brave Nightmare or No Hope modes.
3. Don’t Starve Together
Don’t Starve Together is great. It’s just great. We had an absolute blast dying–I mean, surviving–with our friends in Don’t Starve Together. It’s the ideal multiplayer sequel to Don’t Starve. And it fixes our only complaint about the original, that we couldn’t play with friends. Sometimes exploring that giant wasteland of Don’t Starve made us long for a friend to work with.
Don’t Starve Together keeps all the unique creative energy from the original while adding more mechanics and plenty of newer characters. Build boats, farm resources, and establish a basecamp with your team. We found playing online with randoms as fun as teaming up with friends. This is a game that somehow requires little verbal communication between players. The goal is always the same, and players quickly band together in the face of survival.
4. The Forest
The Forest is one wild ride. Whether you explore the story mode in search of other survivors or carve out a primitive kingdom in the wilderness, you’ll find yourself caught off guard more than a few times. The narrow first-person point of view made us feel blinded at times. And upon turning around and finding a mutant right next to us, we may have been surprised a few times.
The Forest is one of those journeys that make you thankful for friends. Braving the wilderness and having extra eyes to watch your back powerfully relieved our stress levels. Having an extra pair of hands also helps you build and scavenge quicker, which is always good because you certainly need to prepare as much as possible before it gets dark out.
The Forest co-op felt like we went camping with a friend. Sort of. Throw in some mutants and secretive government projects into the mix. But the calm moments, the times we spent building, scouting, and preparing were surprisingly real. It wasn’t the intense gunfight teamwork we experienced in Back 4 Blood or Resident Evil 5. But we still found ourselves far more jumpy and paranoid in the absence of a friend in The Forest.
This. Freaking. Game. Right. Here.
It’s too scary. It’s too spot-on. The ghosts can hear us through our mic? We don’t have any weapons? Man, the concept alone gives us chills.
Phasmophobia is a game where you’ll hunt ghosts, specters, banshees, and all manner of supernatural ghouls with or without friends.
Pro tip: you don’t want to play this game without friends. Play with someone–anyone.
Phasmophobia is a game that lures us with a false sense of boredom. Ghosts? That’s it? Pshh. We played Doom and Alien and Dead Space. We’ve seen and experienced the worst of depravity. We’ve walked through Hell and punched the Devil in the dong. Do you think we’re going to get riled up by some ghosts?
Boy, were we fooled. This game straight-up gave us heart palpitations.
Phasmophobia, more than any other game on this list, made us feel like it was just us–our team–against an evil force. We formed bonds of friendship with people we’d never met before while playing this game. Friendships we had grew stronger after testing ourselves against the spirits in Phasmophobia. We felt like we’d made it through something at the end of a run instead of feeling like we just beat a level. We felt like we survived.
Of course, there were plenty of times when we didn’t survive. But let’s not talk about that.
Dying Light is a great survival horror title to log into and run around with a friend. It’s got a massively open-world with tons of exploration for you and a teammate to enjoy. Unfortunately, we found ourselves bored with this world after just a few hours of jumping around. We’re not sure what it’s missing. Having a friend with us made the game more fun, but even with a friend to goof off with, this title got old quickly.
Dead Space 3
Dead Space 3 tried to do something different in good and bad ways. One of their attempts was to make the entire story co-op-enabled. If you chose to play solo, you didn’t have an AI following you everywhere. But if you wanted, a partner, a friend, or an online teammate could hop into your game on any level at any time. It never worked as intended and was more clunky and clumsy than anything. But when it first came out, it was pretty revolutionary. And it certainly helped us not feel alone while facing a necromorph invasion.
Final thoughts on the best co-op survival horror games
We can’t recommend playing a co-op survival horror game enough. And if you want to play some of the best, choose from the few we’ve mentioned here.
We love nothing more than immersing ourselves in a macabre, haunting tale set in a frightening world with unnerving characters. The only thing that enhances the experience for us is bringing a friend along, even if it’s to hear their surprised expressions when the monsters jump out of the shadows.