The Switch is Nintendo’s unexpected smash hit that hasn’t lost steam since its 2017 release. This is largely due to the system’s myriad features that attract both casual game enthusiasts and their more hard-core counterparts.
Everything from the system’s handheld capabilities to its long list of third-party offerings have contributed to the system’s popularity but its optimization for two-player gameplay, via the detachable joycons, is the Switch’s true selling point. Few are more aware of this than game developers. Through their efforts, they have turned the Switch into a system with promise to the ideal platform for co-op gameplay.
1. Human Fall Flat
Human Fall Flat is perhaps the oddest game to gain a measure of commercial success. This is largely thanks to YouTubers and streamers who, for years, have showcased the game’s silly mechanics. Its switch port with the addition of online functionality has only made the cult classic game Human Fall Flat more popular.
The object of the game is to get you and your partner from one point of a map to another. To do that, players must navigate tricky maps filled with pitfalls, with characters that are intentionally difficult to control. Good luck beating a map by yourself. This game is built on cooperation between two or more characters, oftentimes to comedic effect. This game embodies the idea of the journey taking precedence over the destination.
Another game that showcases the capabilities of the Switch, ARMS is a departure from most games. It more than takes full advantage of the Switch’s motion control function and puts it center stage.
ARMS has players fight each other with characters who are able to stretch their arms. Players are able to customize each character. ARMS, much like Let’s Dance, is an excellent way for pairs to get off the couch, get some exercise while having fun.
3. ‘Dragon Ball Fighter Z’
No one knew they needed a Dragon Ball Z fighting game, made in the style of Street Fighter until Dragon Ball Fighter Z’s unexpected trailer in 2018. Since then the game has made a splash in the world of competitive gaming. Unlike the majority of past Dragon Ball fighting games, Fighter Z is highly technical and lends itself toward the type of gamers who study the particulars of fighting games. That doesn’t mean that the game can’t also be enjoyed by a more casual crowd, particularly if players are fans of the series the game is based on. Dragon Ball Fighter Z features a cast of everyone’s favorite characters and even has easter eggs alluding to some of the series most iconic moments. This is a must-buy for Dragon Ball fans.
4. ‘Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled’
When it comes to cartoonish racing games, Mario Kart gets most of the attention with Team Sonic Racing taking what’s left. But Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled stands on its own as a stellar two-player experience.
The game takes cues from one of the most successful Mario Kart competitors, Diddy Kong Racing. It features characters both popular and obscure. Even without the items, the races often exceed the silliness of Mario Kart.
5. ‘Tetris 99’
The newest installment in the long-running Tetris series. Tetris 99 differentiates itself from its predecessors by emphasizing battle royale gameplay. It’s a concept that many thought wouldn’t work. It turns out Tetris is perfect for a battle royale. In Tetris 99, 99 players play each other until only one remains. If playing with 98 other players sounds like too much for you, the game also boasts a local feature where you can play head-to-head with one other player on the same screen. Tetris 99 is the perfect game to introduce a new generation of gamers to a beloved classic.
6. ‘Resident Evil 6’
Another port that takes full advantage of the Twitch’s two-player functionality. Resident Evil 6 might not be as critically acclaimed as its immediate sequel or the recent pair of remakes but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer a good two-player experience. Packing three (technically four) stories into one game, each campaign revolves around two of six characters. While the campaign can be completed solo, playing them with a partner makes the experience more enjoyable.
7. ‘Super Mario Maker 2’
There might be some debate about Super Mario Maker’s status as a two-player game. Yes, each of the stages is played by a single player but the added element of stage creation makes it as much of a two-player game as the others on this list. Watching friends struggle to navigate one of your stages is almost as satisfying as beating your friend’s particularly pesky stage. A two-person session of Super Mario Maker can easily turn into a game of tit for tat which is part of what makes this game so appealing.
8. ‘Splatoon 2’
Splatoon hit markets boasting an interesting take on the traditional shooter game: instead of directly targeting your opponents, target the environment around you. Gamers took to the concept making the first Splatoon a commercial success, which convinced Nintendo executives to quickly put out a sequel that expands and improves on the original. Splatoon 2 takes everything people loved about Splatoon and dials it up to 11. The style is whimsical and colorful. The gameplay is fast and, above all else, hyper-competitive. The simplicity behind the games makes it possible for newbies to play without feeling overwhelmed and without alienating more skilled players. It’s a game that appeals to the greatest number of people.
Another game geared toward cooperation. Snipperclips despite appearances can get quite complicated as the game progresses. Each stage is a puzzle requiring pairs to move objects, set off meticulously constructed chain reactions, and shape each others’ avatars to better solve puzzles.
The variety of puzzles helps keep the game fresh and the option to play with an extra couple makes for great replayability. When players are finished with the puzzles there are also a number of competitive game modes.
10. ‘Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’
Mario Kart is one of Nintendo’s pillars, and for good reason. Nintendo is a company that emphasizes fun group gameplay and few other games epitomize this more than Mario Kart.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the current pinnacle of the franchise. Taking a little bit of everything from all of the Mario Karts that came before it, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has everything that longtime Mario Kart fans love and little of what they hate. If racing isn’t your thing, the game also has added game modes to keep you and a friend (or several) entertained.
11. ‘Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons’
Perhaps the oldest game on this list, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is also one of the most critically acclaimed. Released in 2013, the game follows the lives of two brothers as they try to cope with tragedy while undergoing a mystical quest. Seven years after its initial release and both the story and gameplay still hold up. Last year’s Nintendo Switch Port added a two-player mode, allowing players to take control of both of the titular brothers. This added element now emphasizes cooperation between the two brothers and is a perfect example of gameplay enhancing the story itself.
12. ‘Rocket League’
Much like Overwatch, Nintendo fans weren’t exactly positive if there would be a Rocket League port for the Nintendo Switch, even though the game seemed like a perfect addition. Luckily, the port did eventually come and allowed players to take advantage of Nintendo’s local multiplayer capabilities. This helped Rocket League blossom into the competitive e-sport that is today.
More casual players probably won’t be able to mimic the gravity-defying stunts more seasoned players are able to do but the game is still fun, especially when played with teammates.
13. ‘Mortal Kombat 11’
Put larger than life characters in various arenas to fight to the death in the most violent and over the top way possible. It’s a formula that has worked for the long-running Mortal Kombat franchise since the 1990s and the folks at Netherrealm don’t seem too inclined to make any changes. Not that they have to. Mortal Kombat has maintained a healthy player base since its inception and is considered a genre-defining game. Mortal Kombat 11 may have upgraded the graphics and tweaked some of the gameplay but the tried and true Mortal Kombat everyone has come to expect is still there in all its gory glory. Two-player matches continue to be an exercise in embarrassing your opponent, which is one of the biggest draws of the game.
14. ‘Just Dance’
Just Dance is a perfect blend of fun and silly. The spiritual successor of Dance Dance Revolution, Just Dance doesn’t simply require the player to step on certain parts of a platform with perfect timing. Just Dance requires you to mimic actual dance moves. Luckily the game is somewhat forgiving for those not as physically coordinated as others. This allows for almost anyone to take part. And with a large variety of songs and dances to choose from, Just Dance allows for a slightly more robust experience, relative to other get-up-and-move games.
15. ‘Overcooked 2′
An entry into the gamefy-reality genre, Overcooked lets teams of players experience the joy of managing and maintaining a restaurant. It’s a game in which no single player is an island and success is completely contingent on your ability to work with your partner. It’s a game that can be fun or frustratingly stressful depending on the dynamic you share with the person you are playing with. One can’t help but think, this is exactly what the developers had originally intended.
16. ‘Luigi’s Mansion 3’
The third installment in one of the most criminally underrated titles in Nintendo’s roster, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a standout among the Switch’s catalog. As varied and robust as mainstream Mario games, Luigi’s Mansion has always stood on its own two feet, particularly with the addition of multiplayer. The game is perfectly playable solo but the added element of cooperation or competition only adds to the depths of this already stellar game.
17. ‘1-2 Switch’
One part game, one part showcase for all of the Switch’s multiplayer capabilities, 1-2 Switch is the quintessential two-player Switch game. The game pitted two players against each other in some of the most ridiculous (and entertaining) mini-games the minds at Nintendo could think of. For fans of this game, the silliness is the point.
Although the variety of the games isn’t large enough to lend itself to extended plays, 1-2 Switch is perfect for family get-togethers and unexpected moments of silliness.
18. ‘Sonic Mania’
The idea of a two-player Sonic game in its original style raised some eyebrows, particularly among those who grew up with Sonic and remember how frenzied things got with just one blue sprite zipping across the screen. Sonic Mania, however, quelled those concerns.
While the game largely coincides with the spirit of the original games, the philosophy has been slightly tweaked. Speedy, streamlined gameplay isn’t as heavily emphasized and an element of cooperation is added. This makes for a game that doesn’t always pit players against each other in a race to the finish. Instead, players have to rely on one another to get past some of the game’s more difficult obstacles. It’s a formula change that seemed to work in Nintendo’s favor if the critical acclaim the game managed to garner is any indication.
One of the most commercially successful games on this list, Overwatch only came to the Nintendo Switch after a vocal group of fans expressed their desire to play the first-person shooter on the go. In the interim between the Switch’s release and the game’s availability on the Switch, the Overwatch team made sure the game took full advantage of the system’s two-player functionality.
The controls on the Switch are crisp and snappy, which is important for such a competitive game. More importantly, the Switch version of the game is not watered down, in terms of graphics. It looks and feels almost identical to versions found on other platforms, which was a concern for Overwatch fans prior to release. Although the game is now in its sixth year, it’s base of players is still strong and updates are still regular.
Cuphead, much like the Nintendo Switch, made quite the splash upon its arrival. Fans showed up for the game’s Betty Boop-esque old anime aesthetic and stayed for the punishing gameplay. The game is so difficult, it is often compared to the likes of Dark Souls, the gold standard of difficult games. Despite its cartoonish appearance, Cuphead offers gamers few reprieves other than a two-player mode. The addition of another player helps to make the onslaught of cartoon villains and the frustration of inevitable defeat a bit more manageable.
21. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Few games, even loosely related to blockbuster movies can stand on their own merits but Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is one of those rare exceptions. Featuring a large roster of some of Marvel’s most beloved heroes, the third installment in the Marvel Ultimate Alliance franchise has taken the proverbial baton from cult classic X-Men Legends and hasn’t stopped running.
While solo play is possible, the game is at its best when played with a partner, or several. Although the gameplay style likely won’t make you feel like you are Iron Man or Thor, it will provide hours of fun.