We’ve all been there, you’re sat with family and/or friends at a holiday gathering and someone asks ‘so, what does everyone want to do?’ Queue half an hour of discussion on whether we should play a board game or watch a movie or play a video game or a million other options, with no one making any decisions. Well, we’re here to break the deadlock and save the day by harnessing the power of indie games.
Here’s ten fantastic co-op indie games that anyone can play and are perfect for all your gatherings this holiday season.
1. Overcooked 2 (Switch, PS4, Windows, macOS, Linux, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Luna)
‘Overcooked returns with a brand-new helping of chaotic cooking action! Journey back to the Onion Kingdom and assemble your team of chefs in classic couch co-op or online play for up to four players. Hold onto your aprons… it’s time to save the world (again!)’
Overcooked 2 is, perhaps, the best game on this list, and also maybe the worst. Conceptually, this is simple: you merely have to grab the correct ingredients from the kitchen, cook or chop them as needed, put everything together, then send the dish off. With timers on each meal, dishes to wash and hazards to avoid, this isn’t a regular cooking experience. Overcooked is a game that anyone can pick up, as long as you know the basics of how a controller works you can at least get through the first few levels. Be sure to make sure you’re all close, though, because if you can’t work as a team things are going to go sideways quickly! This stressful multiplayer kitchen-sim is perfect for any holiday gathering, and with its fair share of winter themed levels, it can even fit the end-of-year vibe.
2. Pikuniku (Nintendo Switch, Windows, Linux, macOS, Google Stadia, Xbox One)
‘Pikuniku is a puzzle-exploration game that takes place in a strange but playful world where not everything is as happy as it seems. Help peculiar characters overcome struggles, uncover a deep state conspiracy, and start a fun little revolution in this delightful dystopian adventure.’
This surprisingly engaging and memorable little game is a lovely experience in single-player or in co-op. You play as a set of little bipedal characters with elastic legs as they platform around in an attempt at grass roots governmental destabilisation. With an aesthetic similar to something like Locoroco, this is a fun and chilled-out puzzle game where you just run around with your pal between its various levels. This game might not be as fun to watch get played as other entries on this list, but I guarantee the people playing it will have a positively wonderful time.
3. Human Fall Flat (Windows, Linux, macOS, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, Xbox Series X|S, PS5)
‘Human: Fall Flat is a quirky, open-ended physics-based puzzle and exploration game set in floating dreamscapes. Your goal is to escape these surreal dreams by solving puzzles with nothing but your wits and physics.’
At times, Human Fall Flat is barely a game. You, and up to three friends, play as rubbery, floppy ‘bobs’, and simply have to move from point A to point B. If you can imagine Octodad and Quop, the challenge (and humour) of this game comes from it’s silly squishy characters. Solving the silly puzzles the game throws at you becomes increasingly funny, and frustrating, and even with friends there to help you it can be no small task to get anything done. This game is just as much fun to watch as it is to play, so this is perfect to play with friends and family.
4. Biped (PS4, Nintendo Switch, Windows, Xbox One)
‘Two little bipedal robots, Aku and Sila, will walk side by side and embark on a fun and bonding journey. You control the robot’s two legs using two sticks. Communicate and coordinate to conquer challenges together and find out how good a pair you truly are.’
I’ve played this game all the way through three times. Biped is perfect to sit down with with one other person and just play through, with puzzles that consistently make you think, but not too hard, this is a great game to chat over and casually discuss. With wonderful visuals and a set of really fun mechanics that are gradually introduced throughout the game. I only wish this game was longer.
5. Death Squared (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, AirConsole, Xbox One)
‘Death Squared is a cooperative puzzle game for 1, 2, or 4 players, best enjoyed with loved ones who don’t mind a little arguing for the greater good. Prove your teamwork skills in Death Squared as you solve puzzles together or die trying!’
With the writing of a game like portal, and easy enough gameplay for anyone to get their head around, the curveball with Death Squared comes when it throws some genuinely head-scratching puzzles at you. With new mechanics being introduced and increasingly complex levels, this one will have you thinking as much as it’ll have you cheering. One thing this game is great at is a really satisfying feeling of trial-and-error. One person will be convinced they have the solution, only to find it is wrong, but that will never kill the great momentum this game builds.
6. Keywe (PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
‘Welcome to KeyWe, the cute and chaotic co-op postal puzzle game where the mail must flow, and it’s up to you to keep things running! Play as Jeff and Debra, two small kiwi birds and the newest hires at the Bungalow Basin Telepost Office.’
In Keywe you play as two Kiwis who run a post office, hijinks ensue. Starting off cooperatively using a keyboard with your tiny flightless bodies, you’ll find yourselves traversing all over the post office, doing all sorts of crazy things over the course of the game. Using a simple set of easy-to-grasp movement and interaction moves, this is easy to pick up, and visually appealing enough for anyone to get hooked. This game is very prone to attracting backseat gamers, but that can just be part of the fun!
7. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Android, Windows, OS X, PS4, Linux, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One)
‘One player is trapped in a virtual room with a ticking time bomb they must defuse. The other players are the “Experts” who must give the instructions to defuse the bomb by deciphering the information found in the bomb defusal manual. But there’s a catch: the experts can’t see the bomb, so everyone will need to talk it out – fast.’
I know, before, I said that Overcooked was stressful. Well, if line cooking failed to make you break a sweat, let’s try bomb defusal.
The caveat with this game is that you not only need a VR headset but also a fully printed solutions manual, but with those available to you, this is easily one of the best games to take out at any gathering, and like many of the games on this list, it’s just as fun, if not more, to watch be played.
In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, you and a partner have to defuse a bomb, but only one of you can see it. This person has to describe the specifics of the bomb to the other player, who uses the 23-page ‘bomb defusal manual’ to find the solutions to each puzzle, and feed them back. This game requires clear communication and a cool head, and so naturally it’s one-hundred times more entertaining if the players do not have those things.
8. Phogs (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Microsoft Windows, Google Stadia, Xbox One)
‘In PHOGS! you play as a duo of dogs on a captivating, puzzle-filled adventure. Linked by a stretchy belly, you’ll need to bark, bite and bounce your way through obstacles set across the themed worlds of Food, Sleep and Play.’
Do you ever wonder what it’d be like to be a double-ended dog? A dog with heads on either end? Of course you do, that’s a perfectly normal thing to be wondering, I’m not judging you at all, especially considering that you’re clearly not alone! Phogs is a two-player coop game where you each play as one end of a dog! A double dog! As they say, two heads are better than one, and here you can use your heads to swing over gaps, pull levers and pull objects along with your long noodle body. This cute, weird game is endlessly inventive and super fun for its whole duration.
9. Moving Out (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, macOS, Xbox One)
‘Smooth Moves may not be the biggest moving company, but there’s no task too dangerous or strange for this busy team of go-getters. Grow your business to brave new heights, recruit colourful customizable characters, and save your town from furniture peril!’
We’ve all had a stressful move, or at least most people have probably had a stressful move at some point, and now you can recreate that experience with up to three of your friends and family! Moving Out has your team work together to get your clients houses cleared out as quickly as possible. You’ll need to work together to shift beds, sofas, tables, chairs, TVs and anything else you need for a home. Don’t worry too much about the integrity of the items, but do worry about getting them out of the house! With plenty of hazards and roadblocks for your progress, your team will have to perfectly coordinate in order to save the… client some time.
10. Heave Ho (Nintendo Switch, Windows, macOS, Macintosh operating systems)
‘Heave Ho tasks up to four players with a simple goal – don’t fall to your death! Players will use their own two hands and the outstretched grip of their friends to grapple across each level on their way to victory.’
In Heave Ho, you play as a set of two-armed creatures who just want to get where they’re going. The more people you can get to play this with, the better. If you manage to get a full party of four this game can get crazy. Multiplayer opens up new traversal options, like climbing all over your friends, so you can hurl yourself over (read=into) the nearest chasm, with a bit of a boost.
Trying to co-ordinate you and your friends movements can only be described as beautiful chaos, and with instant respawning you can fool around as much as you like.