By Laura Kate Dale, Kimberley Snaith, and Richard Stanton
For the same reasons as hostage situations, Christmas is a great opportunity to crack out the co-op games you can play from your sofa: no one is going anywhere, even if someone isn't enjoying it, they're too scared to say it loudly, and it starts with someone breaking into your house by climbing down the chimney.
We've collected together some of the co-op games, each of which we can highly recommend. Each of these games has been tested in battle, both at home with our families and friends and at our Kotaku UK Games Nights where a crowd of people with different tastes all had a blast playing them.
If you're searching for jolly multiplayer Christmas games, look no further.
1-2 Switch (Switch)
The Switch's other firstparty launch title rarely gets the kudos it deserves – this is a multiplayer party game that's all about bringing people together. All of the games are designed to minimise screen-staring where possible but encourage eye-to-eye contact and general silliness, while avoiding more overtly gamey elements that might turn folk off. You do need to be careful with your choice – there are dozens of games here, and some are more complex than others. But make it easy on yourself, stick on the milking minigame, and the family won't let those udders go until a champion is crowned.
Rocket League (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Colourful, explosive, and basically football, Rocket League is a game that can be picked up in minutes and played for hours. You all play rocket-powered cars in a simplified football match where teams of up to four players try to hit a giant inflatable ball into their opponents' goal. At first it will be a bit like playing football in school, with hesitant kicks and poor team play, but stick with it and you'll all be playing like superheroes in no time, jumping off the walls and boosting your car through the air to clip the ball into your opponents' net.
Rather than take the game straight online, I'd recommend going over the basics of the controls and then playing an amateur league against the AI or, if there are four of you, a 2 v 2 multiplayer game.
Worms W.M.D (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch)
If you've played any of the Worms games before you'll know what your getting with Worms W.M.D. It's a nice evolution of what's come before without being radically different. It looks very pretty though and it's still hilarious to use a baseball bat to launch one of your opponent's worms 100m out into the open sea. In Worms each player controls a team of the limbless slimy creatures in a bid to wipe out all their opponent's. Players take it in turns to scan through their extensive armoury before raining hell down on their enemy, or, as often happens in worms, messing it up and damaging themselves, much to the amusement of everyone else. Your weapons range from the standard - shotgun, Uzi, dynamite - to the more bizarre, like an exploding sheep, concrete donkey, and Monty Python's holy hand grenade.
A great deal of fun, if a little complicated to control at first.
Overcooked (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch)
Each player is a chef in a shared kitchen, helping each other prepare food to deliver to the customers in the restaurant. Simple, right? Overcooked is one of those wonderful games that gives each player one too many simple tasks to complete and makes the whole thing collapse. Say you and I are playing and we need to make an onion soup, we need to collect and chop onions, put them into a pot on the hob to cook them, pour them into a bowl, serve them, collect and wash the plate and repeat. It's all quite manageable, one person could do it. But then you also need to make mushroom soups, and tomato soups, and if you leave ingredients on the hob too long they burn, or if you leave a tomato on the counter for too long a rat will come along and eat it.
The kitchen design is where most of the game's wonderful 'what-the-fuck?!' moments come from. There was one time when a friend and I were making burgers in a kitchen on the back of a truck. Things were going well enough until it turned out the kitchen was actually split over two separate trucks and it would regularly split in half, leaving one of us with all the hobs but no meat and the other with all the meat and no way to cook it.
Easily one of the best multiplayer games of recent years if you can find the fun in everything going wrong.
Tricky Towers (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
So, Tricky Towers is multiplayer Tetris with added physics. It may not sound like much when put like that but I may have played close to 50 hours of the game. It's so damn compelling. In one mode you and everyone playing are racing to build a tower that is tall enough to cross the finish line. I cannot express the joy I feel watching an opponent's tower sway and tip under its poor construction and ungainly weight, the whole thing falling into the abyss while your perfectly-placed block tower stands tall. Be the tortoise to their hare and watch them collapse.
Of all the games on this list, I think Tricky Towers may be one of the least talked about but best games for a night in.
Sportsfriends (PC, PlayStation 4)
Sportsfriends is a collection of lean competitive team games. Each one of them is a delight to play, from the take on tug'o'war with pole vaulters, to Johann Sebastian Joust, a game of musical statues where you're trying to knock everyone else's controllers without your own being nudged. The concept behind each game is easy to explain and you can have everyone in-game and playing in less than a minute making it one of the simplest to setup co-op games around.
Oh My Godheads (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Friends pissing you off? Need an excuse to, oh I don't know, make them lose their heads? Enter Oh My Godheads, a multiplayer brawler that'll have you and up to three friends battling it out for head-shaped glory. There are a few game modes — a couple that involve simply punching your friends until you reign victorious — but the main focus of the game revolves around a giant, stone head. Oh My Godheads is about grabbing said head before the opposition does, and taking it safely to your goal. With a number of worldly-themed maps and heads with special powers, there are plenty of different challenges on offer. It'll keep you riotous for a couple of hours, for sure.
Oh... Sir! The Insult Simulator (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
A 1v1 fighting game that has you hurting your opponent with words rather than your fists, Oh... Sir! is completely ludicrous — and that's what makes it so enjoyable. You and your rival take it in turns to pick words or phrases from a list in order to make the most ridiculous insults. It gets a little rude at times, so maybe keep this one away from the younger members of the family, but for the grown-ups, it's a great laugh.
One of the first great co-op games for Switch, Snipperclips is a game where you and a friend play as colourful geometic shapes with faces, who when overlapping, can cut sections out of each other in order to turn themselves into new shapes. Players have to work together and communicate to work out how to get themselves into the correct shape, how to reach platforms, how to combine their shapes to fix puzzles and how to make shapes useful for multiple purposes.
It's that kind of co-op game where communication is vital, the actions are silly, the controls are simple and it's all full of joy and colour. It's a real delight of a local co-op game, and I can't recommend it highly enough, particularly for family looking to try a sweet and silly game that's not too mechanically taxing.
Please do leave your own suggestions below. What have you found to be the best co-op games or casually competitive games for get togethers?