#2. Portal 2
I personally feel that this title represents the true essence of co-op gaming, and I would say that this has to be one of my most influential co-op game of all time for a many reasons. In many co-op games, one player could simply do all the work while the other could get a free ride. This is simply not possible in Portal 2. Within minutes, the game had me learning how to interact with my partner and work as a team discover the best ways to complete puzzles efficiently. Never have I had to stop and take a second to brainstorm with a partner in how to figure out a complex obstacle. I picked a very good friend of mine to help me complete the entire co-op mode and will never forget the good-natured backstabbing and triumphs we shared during the story.
The co-op dynamic between the in-game characters Atlas and P-body is also one of my favorites in all of gaming. I thoroughly enjoyed the various gestures that required synced input from both players to work, purposely pissing the almighty GLaDOS off in the process (legendary in itself). But my favorite feature, by far, were the super helpful "ping tools" that were instrumental in playing with online players who didn't have headsets. They made indicating sections or objects within a puzzle easy to identify and communicate with the touch of a few buttons. The only thing that set this game back, initially, was the medium to low replayability of the co-op story. Luckily, the Perpetual Testing Initiative, where players could create their own levels for testing, filled that gap instantly and truly made Portal 2 one of the most outstanding co-op games of all time. If anyone wants to make a co-op game, here is where I'd point to for inspiration.
#1. Left 4 Dead
I don't know what's in the water at Valve, but it has quite a knack for developing utterly amazing co-op titles; some of the best out there for sure. With its high intensity gameplay, thrilling zombie slaying action, and essential cooperation with a well communicative team, Left 4 Dead single-handedly changed the way I determine the best of the best co-op games out there today. Since the game forced me to work with my teammates to succeed, I eventually realized that it was a blessing in disguise. I often had to play with people I never knew personally, which I never really cared for. Fortunately, it turned out to be my most cherished reward for giving the design a chance: I found a main group of online co-op partners solely through playing the game and we've been friends in real life ever since!
Communication and teamwork were 99% of the time necessary to succeed in Left 4 Dead. Sure, it is possible that players can run by themselves and occasionally survive a level. This feat, however, is normally very difficult against the mechanics presented in the game. A single connecting hit from a Special Infected disables the player completely, unless his teammates come to the rescue. Working together as the Special Infected team also took a special knack for coordination and cooperation, maximize damage and winning against the overpowered, auto-shotgun toting Survivor team. Left 4 Dead continues to lead in the 4-player FPS co-op's division (in my opinion) and, to this day, can still get me to run through the "No Mercy" campaign for the 100-billionth time. I am absolutely sure my love of co-op came from this title.
I am an avid co-op gamer today because these five games stood out amongst the hundreds of single-player and multiplayer titles out there. Despite how old these games are now, I will always try to remember how they nurtured my love for co-op gaming and led me to write for Co-Optimus. Who knows, maybe I influenced some of you just now with this list? If not, then I hope to have at least provoked some personal insight. Cheers!
Now I am curious, what co-op games influenced your current gaming preferences (good or bad)? What made them stand out from the rest in your opinion?