This current console generation might be remembered for many things, most of them great. Fantastic graphics, improved online experiences across the board, and support for truly, digital-only gameplay, where players can download and install entire game libraries on their consoles. Unfortunately, it might also be remembered as the generation during which split-screen co-op gameplay was left behind, for good. To be fair, there’s far less demand for this type of gameplay than we’ve seen before. Playing online has a huge number of perks and benefits, and with high-speed internet access becoming a more common utility, the potential is there for most households. However, it hasn’t entirely gone, and so we’re going to showcase some of the best split-screen and co-op games that you’ll find on the Xbox One.
If you’ve been itching for the chance to play great games, side-by-side on the couch with a friend, you’ll want to check out some of these titles.
Truth be told, it’s understandable that we’re not seeing much in the way of split-screen gameplay. Video games are becoming more impressive every year, both in terms of the features they offer and the graphics that get pumped onto our television screens. Knowing this, we can easily break down the reasons that split-screen is going the way of the dodo, for the most part.
For starters, there’s only so much that current game consoles are capable of. If you stack present titles on an Xbox One up against their PC counterparts, for example, you swiftly know that Xbox One games do not stand up to the graphics prowess of even a moderately-equipped (though more expensive) gaming PC. As console and PC gaming experiences have come closer together, the urge for consoles to compete with their more expensive brethren has been pushing their capabilities to the limits.
Imagine the impossibility, then, of asking a console to render two gameplay experiences at once, from two separate people playing on the same screen. You don’t have to know much about heat, electronics, hardware capabilities, or cost to imagine that this is something of an outrageous expectation. When a game can barely pull off a stable 30 frames-per-second, how on Earth could you expect split-screen multiplayer of the same graphics fidelity to be remotely enjoyable?
This is a reality that’s going to become more ubiquitous, going forward. Split-screen gaming is on the way out, and online gaming has almost finished maneuvering in to takes its place.
However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t still left with a few options. As you might well know, not all games place such a high precedence on jaw-dropping graphics. Some still focus primarily on gameplay rather than processing power, and it’s these titles that have left some room for more enjoyment on a single screen, for multiple people. Even these titles will have their limitations, but they’re out there, they’re fun, and some might just be great options for the next time you want to game with your friends, from the comfort of one room.
Split-Screen Gameplay on the Xbox One
It might seem like split-screen games on the Xbox One are a rare thing. Mostly, you’d be right. But they’re not just limited to esoteric titles that you’ve never heard of, either. Each of the games featured below has been met with varying amounts of critical praise, and some of them are cult classics.
Either way, we hope to have included a diverse bunch of titles, that might help to satiate any type of hungry gamer.
The LEGO Games
Okay, you’ll have to hear us out on this one—the LEGO games are almost certainly some of the best co-op experiences that you can have on a modern console. They’re whimsical, absurd, and tend to poke gentle fun at whatever subject matter the games happen to be based on.
LEGO Indiana Jones? LEGO Jurassic Park? LEGO Batman? LEGO Harry Potter? The list could go on and on, and it only looks to continue growing. Each game tracks its way through the narratives made popular by their respective mythologies, giving players a chance to relive them in absurdly LEGO-esque detail.
It sounds like a ridiculous experience, and you’d be right. These games have no right to be as fun as they are, but they’re also fantastic party titles that are well deserving of your attention.
Child of Light
Have a hankering for a little bit of RPG? Then you’re in luck with Child of Light, one of the most popular little RPGs to hit consoles in the past several years. It’s a relatively simple game, in concept, and it takes advantage of an equally similar (and somewhat familiar) multiplayer feature.
Princess Aurora has woken up in a fantastical world, full of magic and intrigue; the objective of the game is to navigate this strange new place, circumventing dangers and revealing mysteries at every corner. Though it was primarily designed to be a single-player experience, a second person can take control of Aurora’s firefly helper. The second player will be quite limited in their ability to do much at all, but it’s a great way for two people to experience this journey, together.
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection
Yes, the Borderlands series has been around for a while, and yes, the Handsome Collection is simply a re-release of games that debuted on prior consoles.
That doesn’t make them any less fun, however, and the ability for four people to play on the same screen more than makes up for any “agedness” that might accompany the Borderlands games. They’ve always banked on their wild absurdity and nutty characters; this makes the games great for parties.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
You might not guess it from the outset, but The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is a dark game. Nevermind the cartoonish artwork. In this title, you play an abandoned, naked child who has to escape a crazed, murderous mother. Tears (and other bodily fluids) are featured prominently as gameplay mechanics, and there’s a grim, violent undertone that courses through the entire experience.
However, if you have a morbid sense of humor and don’t mind the darkness, there’s amusement to be had here, too. It’s sort of cute, in spite its gruesome underpinnings, and the addition of a second player help to mitigate some of the more prominent gross-out moments. Or make them more poignant. That’s up to you.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Call of Duty: Black Ops III is one of those rare shooters that allows you to play through the entire campaign with a friend. Even though that’s enjoyable, and is becoming a rarer feature anymore, it’s no the primary reason that you’ll want to give this game a shot.
No, it’s the “zombies” mode that the Black Ops series has become so widely known for. It features all of the same gameplay as a regular Call of Duty match—the same weapons, the same movement, and more—but instead of going up against armed opponents, you’ll be facing down hordes of the undead. If that doesn’t sound like a stellar recipe for a great local split-screen experience, I don’t know what does.
Once again, this is an older game that’s getting a fresh chance to shine. Diablo III has been around for quite a while on gaming PCs, but oddly enough, the console edition handles just about the best that a Diablo game possibly could.
It’s the third game in the franchise (obviously) and arguably the best. Where most RPGs require an extensive set of controls for complex gameplay systems, Diablo has always been about hacking and slashing, combining together abilities into strategically effective (and blazing fast) action. You’re mowing down demon hordes; you don’t have time to crawl through menus! That’s why Diablo III works so damn well on consoles, and it’s why up to four people can enjoy it from the comfort of a single Xbox One.
If you’re not averse to wild, demon-slaying violence, give it a shot!
As is often the case, it’s the weird games that manage to steal the spotlight, and that’s exactly what Rocket League has done. The easiest way to describe this quirky, addiction, outrageously fun title is as a combination of car racing and soccer. Yeah, we know. It’s weird.
Several gameplay modes are present in this unique little game, but at its heart, you’re basically playing a sports game sans-people. Instead, you’ll mow around the arena in ridiculous looking vehicles, performing wild stunts while gunning for points and power-ups. Because it’s not a graphically intensive game, up to four people can play on a single Xbox One, and on top of that, those four people can then jump into online matches together.
It’s one of the best party games of this console generation and something that every fan of split-screen co-op needs to play.
Well, how’d we do? The above games represent the best that we’ve found, the best that we’ve played, among split-screen and co-op Xbox One games. If you have any questions about our recommendations (or think other games deserve to be on this list) let us know in the comments!