Any game becomes instantaneously more fun when you’re playing with a friend or a group, especially if you’re sitting in the same room. Whereas consoles enjoy a larger suite of titles multiple people can play at once, the case becomes much less so when looking at the PC platform. While most PC gamers indeed prefer having a desk setup, there are those who like to have a high-end gaming station hooked up to their TV set, myself included. This makes the lack of extensive split-screen options in PC gaming a challenge when trying to find titles one can enjoy with friends, and few developers choose to include the feature across the platform, even if it may be present in a console version. Looking at Steam’s split-screen releases, there’s little to find between the many LEGO games and low-quality indie releases, so I’ve rounded up a list of picks that qualify to deliver a fun and rewarding experience for multiple individuals. LEGO games aren’t bad either, although their appeal is limited to a much younger audience than most of the hardcore PC gamer base. The options aren’t broad, and one will see quite a few racing games included, but these are the titles I’ve had the most fun with playing alongside friends.
Since its release, Rocket League has become quite a phenomenon, spawning its own eSports series, and going into 2019, enjoys enough concurrent players for Psyonix to keep introducing new features. It’s a simple premise of combining cars with soccer, yet holds endless appeal in its entertaining 5-minute matches and the extensive array of visual customizations one could do with their ride. Getting into it is relatively easy, yet the skill ceiling is virtually unlimited. As you learn more about the game and figure out best ways to score, you’ll constantly find opponents who can somehow nail wicked moves. Two players can enjoy Rocket League in vertical split-screen, which works exceptionally good once you get the hang of it. With continuous developer support, tons of varied arenas and a solid player base, Rocket League can only keep going throughout 2019, given its incredibly niche premise found a fan following. Further yet, Rocket League can bring together two people who enjoy vastly different games, which is surprisingly rare. My friend is hooked on sports games like FIFA and Madden, disliking most of my gaming library, and I’d never had interest in any of EA’s yearly franchises, yet Rocket League combines our gaming passions to create something we both considerably enjoy.
The racing sim genre is insultingly short when it comes to split-screen titles on PC, with Codemaster’s blend of arcade fun and simulation GRID being the only choice on offer. While you drive stock cars around closed circuits, the series isn’t above letting players have a little fun, with quite forgiving handling and ability to completely turn off physical damage. GRID 2 took the series toward more casual racing, with no specific disciplines to choose from and abundance of city and backroad tracks over closed competition circuits. GRID Autosport comes back to sim territory, with categories like WTCC and open-wheel rides available to partake in its career series. Both games can be played locally by two people through custom races, AI competition included if you so desire, and both offer extensive vehicle lists to enjoy. It is then a shame none of the recent DiRT titles offer a similar feature, with their focus on extensive solo career modes and online multiplayer. GRID 2 and Autosport aren’t too old just yet, but are often available at highly discounted prices, making them worth picking up for a sim-like experience available with split-screen co-op. But before getting either, just make sure they’ll actually run on a modern system, as they’re based on older DirectX 9 runtime libraries.
EA Sports games are an obvious pick here, as their PC versions still have the common sense to include local multiplayer for friends to enjoy on a single machine. Up to four players take control over a team, provided you have the necessary number of controllers between the group, and action happens all on one screen. Having multiple people around enables high-quality strategic play, whether you play against AI or real opponents, although some UI elements make it confusing to find the player you’re controlling. The success of these series guarantees EA Sports will keep releasing them every year, and with reasonable sales of Madden NFL’19 on PC, we can expect to potentially see NHL ported over as well. If you’re a fan of sports games, you already would’ve picked these up, and similar to console experience, FIFA and Madden provide great couch co-op fun for a group of friends.
RedLynx’s platform motocross series has always occupied a certain niche in combining point-to-point racing with platforming challenges spread across every level. While the start of its career is easy to get through, the more challenging levels later on require player skill and intense concentration. Trials Fusion took the series into the future, making it my favorite by far, and expanded traditional skill-based racing with further options in its FMX trick system. While the newly introduced system didn’t quite get fleshed out apart from specific events, it enabled players to show off against the competition. Trials Fusion supports up to four players locally, who all play on the same screen with no border separation. This leads to some funny moments, when you’re trying to locate your racer on the screen with three other people, although players can’t mess with each other as they’re all lined on parallel tracks. Still, if you enjoy the series blend of arcade racing and difficult to master platforming, Trials Fusion offers a lot of value through subsequent game expansions. Gamers don’t have to wait long for the newest instalment either, with Trials Rising coming out end of February 2019. It will be interesting to see where RedLynx takes the series from there.
Serious Sam 3: BFE
Surprisingly enough, you can actually find a shooter on PC that packs in local split-screen these days, especially one that oozes old-fashioned run and gun fun like Croteam’s Serious Sam franchise. Yet here it is, featuring local split-screen for up to four players to enjoy killing giant hordes of enemies in. Plus, you can also partake in versus matches among a friend group, which undoubtedly makes the experience even more fun. These games aren’t remotely new, however, and clearly show their age including 2011’s Before First Encounter, but split-screen first-person shooters are such a rare occurrence, you’d be hard pressed to find anything similar, especially on PC. Slaying ginormous waves of enemies is inherently fun, and Serious Sam always packs an extensive arsenal of weaponry. The entirety of the franchise supports split-screen multiplayer and offline co-op, with older games to 3 being nice throwbacks to retro gaming. Croteam are also currently working on Serious Sam 4: Planet Badass set to release sometime in 2019. Hopefully split-screen support is integrated too, so us PC gamers have a modern shooter to experience with friends in couch co-op.
Distance is a futuristic racer that blends straightforward arcade driving with survival elements, where you race against the track more so than any opponents. The objective is to go as far as possible, avoiding laser beams and obstacles to maintain your vehicle intact. Distance further gives you some ‘parkour’ options, where you’ll need to jump over obstacles and bounce off walls to make it all the way through. You can even fly for a limited time to make it across huge gaps in the track. The neon-lit streets of the city you explore hold much mystery, and can be extremely dangerous for careless players. Expect to have your ride cut into pieces on more than one occasion as you learn the full extent of the game’s controls, which are basic yet demand finesse during actual races. Up to four players can play Distance on the same screen, engaging in standard sprint mode, as well as competitive tag, stunt, and other events. If you’re not sold on it yet, Distance also has some of the best original techno soundtrack I’ve heard in video games, and a level editor where players have been creating insanely complex tracks ever since the game’s Early Access release in 2015.
The Trackmania series is all about hitting the best times across a diverse range of challenging tracks, and Turbo is the largest entry yet, despite mixed reception from the PC community once it went multi-platform. Whereas in solo mode you typically race against a ‘ghost’ representing specific reward tiers, add in a second payer and the game becomes further competitive. As you race to beat your friends, precision becomes a solitary concern as you must simultaneously avoid the track’s obstacles and other racers. With an extensive career mode that features roughly 200 distinct tracks spread across four diverse locations, each with their own racing style, there is simply tons of content to enjoy. Tracks are short and sweet, but there are a lot to choose from. Perfectionists will love this title even more, as with five difficulty levels, one is bound to replay the same tracks to get best timing. Though if Turbo doesn’t quite fancy your attention, previous installments pack in split-screen co-op as well.
Any titles I’ve missed? Which ones are your favorite to play local multiplayer? Let me know in the comments below.