Roses are boring, chocolates are too; this Valentine’s Day, pick a new game for two.
Sure, cuddling up with your sweetie to watch a movie is great, but have you ever tried cuddling up and beating the snot out of hordes of bad guys, or conquering challenging puzzles together? Valentine’s Day is upon us, and if you’re looking for some last-minute ways to have fun with your significant other this weekend, we have just the list for you.
There are plenty of games with co-op options stapled on, and you’ve probably visited each other’s Animal Crossing New Horizons islands multiple times already. But these five options offer something more. Each offering a more unique experience that either plays into themes of love and relationships, or isn’t prone to devolving into heated arguments that sour the mood of the whole Hallmark holiday. Even if you don’t have a partner, you can grab another single friend and still enjoy these titles without being smothered with saccharine sweetness.
So grab your controller and get ready for gaming and chill with these five selections:
5) It Takes Two (2021)
The obvious choice this year, in light of its Game of the Year win at the Video Game Awards two months ago, is It Takes Two, the latest from Josef Fares’ Hazelight Studios. This game is literally built for co-op, requiring two players to assume the roles of Cody and May, a couple who has decided to file for divorce. Through the magic of storytelling, they become stuck inside doll versions of themselves made by their daughter Rose, and must traverse levels based on their home to set things right.
While a story centred on divorce and marital troubles may not be the most inspirational Valentine’s Day content, the variation between levels and the kooky writing make up for it. The gameplay will put your cooperation and coordination to the test as you control your respective characters on either side of the screen and solve wacky puzzles.
4) The Adventures of Cookies & Cream (2000)
Of course, if the divorce-centred narrative sounds unappealing, or if you’re inclined towards bizarre retro games, you can get much the same effect from The Adventures of Cookie & Cream, the PS2 platformer that crawled, so It Takes Two could run. And believe it or not, this colourful adventure is one of the earlier titles by FromSoftware—yes, the same FromSoftware that brought us the likes of Demon’s Souls and Elden Ring.
That tradition of masochistically hard gameplay may have originated with the two-player mode of The Adventures of Cookie & Cream. Again, each player controls one of the titular rabbits on either side of the screen, and must dodge threats as they solve puzzles and manipulate objects to make paths for their partner. All of this is done on a timer, to boot, adding an element of urgency, so communication is a must if you and your partner want to help Cookie & Cream save the Moon.
If that doesn’t sound like a challenge, try using only one controller. Before getting married, every couple should have to be able to complete some of these levels while sharing a controller with their betrothed, because it is the ultimate test of your teamwork—and your patience.
3) Phogs! (2020)
If the last two suggestions sound a little too tense, Coatsink’s Phogs! brings the same level of cooperative play in a more relaxed, exploratory way. You play as Red and Blue, two dogs who are inseparably bound together by their stretchy belly. In two-player mode, you each control one end of this adorable chimera and progress through 24 levels in 3 different themed worlds: Play World, Sleep World, and Food World. Along the way you’ll solve puzzles, hunt collectibles, and help out the inhabitants of this surreal universe.
Some co-op games, like Overcooked!, can easily get overheated, but Phogs! is a low-stakes experience, and its cute aesthetics are a cozy way to spend your Valentine’s Day weekend. You’ll need to work together, especially on some of the more challenging platforming sections, but overall the simple controls and relaxed mood should keep things chill. Best of all, it’s a low-price offering, and is currently available through Game Pass for the Xbox crowd.
2) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game (2010/2021)
A list of co-op games deserves representation from one of the oldest co-op genres, beat-em-ups. Luckily Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is a side-scrolling brawler that also revolves around love. Much like the comic series and the Edgar Wright film adaptation it spawned, Ubisoft Montreal’s game adaptation follows the life of Scott Pilgrim, a down-on-his-luck 23-year-old bassist in Toronto, as he tries to get his band a big break, woo the mysterious Ramona Flowers, and… defeat her Seven Evil Exes.
Actually the game focuses mostly on the Exes, and hordes of other enemies besides, but it does feature the entire supporting cast of Scott’s friends for up to four-player co-op. You’ll fight your way through seven levels pulled from the comic’s events and, therefore, set in Toronto, all in the name of love. Its lighthearted tone and allusions to the cultural touchstones that inspired the series make Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game a genuinely fun experience, even if you haven’t read the comic or seen the movie. What better way to spend your Valentine’s Day than to clean the mean streets of digital Toronto, after all?
1) Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime (2015)
Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime tops this Valentine’s Day list as one of the most fun co-op experiences I’ve ever had, and for the very love-affirming nature of its story. You play as members of the League Of Very Empathetic Rescue Spacenauts, guardians of the Ardor Reactor, which harnesses “the most awesome force in the universe, Love.” When the dark force of Anti-Love shatters the reactor, you must scour the galaxy in the last remaining starship to restore it.
1-4 players must coordinate to operate their ship by manning the various stations within, like the thrusters, shields, navigation, or various weapons—and, like Overcooked!, you’re able to switch between these stations freely. Players can’t be left behind the rest, so choose roles that suit your skill and keep communicating, and you’ll do well. Throughout levels, you’ll also upgrade your ship with new components and upgrade those systems, like boosting your engines or shields, or strengthening your favourite weapons (like the Yamato Cannon).
Once your team clicks, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is co-op gaming at its best—but it’s the teamwork, the bright aesthetic, and the literal mission to restore the powers of love that make it the perfect game to play with your special someone this Valentine’s Day.
And of course, just as we don’t need to wait for a “Hallmark holiday” to celebrate our relationships, you can pull these games out anytime you want to spend a night in with your significant other. Just remember to keep it fun!