It’s hard to believe that Valentine’s Day is already almost here. Stores have had their pink hearts and candy out since New Years, but if you’re like me, you just kind of ignored it until you realized Hey, Valentine’s Day is actually here. People may complain that the holiday has been over-commercialized by the likes of Hallmark, but I still think it’s a fun day to tell the people around you that you love and appreciate them, whether they’re your partner, friends, family, or dog.
If you’re looking for something fun to do on Valentine’s without having to buy expensive flowers or eat out at an expensive restaurant – everything’s expensive, really – why not play a multiplayer game together? There are plenty of co-op and competitive titles out there that support two players, or more if you want to get your friends involved, too. In the spirit of the holiday, we’ve rounded up five great cooperative and competitive experiences for couples, friends, or you and your dog, if they’re really smart.
It Takes Two
It Takes Two is an adorable platformer-puzzle game about a couple trying to save their marriage. It’s couch or online co-op only, which means you must have two people to play it; publisher EA makes this a little easier with the Friend’s Pass system, which allows one person who owns the game to invite another person to play with them. The invited player doesn’t have to own the game, making it a great choice for introducing a partner or friend to games for the first time.
It Takes Two won Game of the Year at last year’s Game Awards, and for good reason. While the story and themes can be very saccharine, there are some great platforming segments and puzzles buried underneath. The game requires both players to work together and help each other, making it a great way to strengthen your bond with someone – or just see how well they respond to directions. If you’re looking for something that’s cute and fun but not too difficult to play with a partner, It Takes Two might be the game for you.
Although Portal 2 is mostly known for its single-player mode (and rightfully so! If you haven’t played the campaign, drop everything and go play it now), it also has a two-player co-op mode that’s even more mind-bending than the campaign. Two players can team up as robots and take on several different themed zones that feature many of the movement and puzzle-solving mechanics from the single-player mode. The main difference is that instead of being restricted to two portals, you now have four, all of which are required to solve some very devious test chambers.
The early levels are easy, but the difficulty ramps up quickly. Even those who believe they’re a master of thinking with portals will be challenged by these tricky puzzles. It can be difficult to adjust your way of looking at each test chamber, particularly if you’re just coming off the campaign and are used to having only two portals at your disposal, but you get the hang of it pretty quickly. Those who make it all the way through the co-op levels are treated to an exclusive cutscene featuring legendary antagonist GLADoS, which I won’t spoil here. Want to stretch your mind on Valentine’s Day? Portal 2‘s co-op mode is definitely the way to go.
Halo: Combat Evolved
If you’re looking for a classic campaign experience to play with a friend, few things beat the original Halo: Combat Evolved. While my partner affectionately says this old game “controls like an eighteen-wheeler,” I still think it’s worth playing to see its effect on generations of FPSes afterward. It’s much slower-paced and more careful than Apex, so it would be a perfect introduction to someone who’s interested in the world of games but is intimidated by the endless clips and videos of over-dramatic pro gamers. Combat Evolved‘s campaign can be played solo, but if you’re not making fun of Master Chief’s polygonal head with a buddy, what’s the point?
The great thing about Combat Evolved is that if you and/or your partner enjoy it, there’s plenty more where it came from. Halos 2 and 3 can also be played co-op, and The Master Chief Collection supports Combat Evolved‘s multiplayer if you want to sharpen your aim. There are also tons of fun effects, known as skulls, that you can activate in many of the Halo games that do everything from making grunts explode in a shower of confetti when you headshot them to turning your radar off, effectively making the game twice as hard. There’s something here for everyone, and Combat Evolved is a great place to start.
All of the games thus far have been about cooperation and friendly competition. Mario Party is a completely different ball game. It’s a colorful, friendly world of betrayal and sadness, a candy-coated minigame of madness. Friendships are born and destroyed within a matter of turns. All pretenses of comradery are off when you play Mario Party. It doesn’t matter whether you’re dusting off your N64 to play the original or downloading Mario Party Superstars on the Switch eShop – all of these soul-crushing games are worth playing. If you’re looking to break up with your partner, a Valentine’s Day round of Mario Party will get the job done.
I’m only partly joking. Mario Party is a fun competitive party series for up to four players. (Host a double date night and make everyone mad!) If there are only two of you, the game will fill the other two slots with AI opponents, who can be just as punishing and back-stabbing as human players. The series’ minigames cover a wide range of wacky activities, from adjusting Bowser’s face to match a reference to piloting a runaway mine cart. Collecting stars and coins never gets old, since subsequent rounds on the same board always turn out differently. Even if you and your beloved aren’t in the same room to scream at each other, you can play Superstars online, making it that much easier to destroy years of partnership. Have fun!
Which games are you and your partner, friends, or dog going to play on Valentine’s Day? Head on over to our Twitter and let us know. (Seriously. We need ideas.) In the meantime, enjoy the holiday, tell your loved ones you love them (or tell them how you really feel with Mario Party), and buy plenty of discounted candy before the prices start going back up ahead of Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. Happy Valentine’s Day from Ritual Motion!
Revisit Part One here.