Spending a considerable amount of time developing my gaming identity in the last few years as a late bloomer gamer, I can say, like most gamers, I prefer playing solo than seeking out the online multiplayer co-op experience. Most of us want the time and space away from the rest of the world to simply enjoy a game on your own without having to interact and socialize all the time. As more and more games started getting introduced to me, I began realizing there are some games that are impossible to play without having a friend or two to play with. If I didn’t have friends to play certain games with me, I know those games just wouldn’t be played or finished without them. Based on my own personal experience and the games I currently own, I’ve compiled a list of games I wouldn’t play solo without the support of a friend to play with.
1. Castle Crashers. This particular game is one of the first games, next to Dragon Age: Origins, I owned when my Xbox 360 was a shiny new toy I just bought. A friend and cousin recommended I download it because the game was amazing both in fun gameplay and humor. This was also the moment I discovered my favorite Pink Knight in all his adorableness and awesomeness, and my life was never the same again.
I started off playing the game solo for quite a bit until the same friend and cousin wanted us all to get online and play together. I eventually finished the entire game with them. Looking back on it now, the game did get progressively more challenging and I really couldn’t see myself being able to get past certain levels without the guys playing with me. My cousin and friend both have years of gaming experience under their belt, so following their lead in battles became much more comfortable to me. Acting as their support here and there reduced the pressure off of me in trying to battle really tricky bosses. I know it’s entirely possible to beat the game solo, but my best memory of having beaten the game with my friend and cousin made the whole experience with Castle Crashers more satisfying. And let’s be honest, my friend and cousin loved hearing me gush over how cute the Pink Knight was every time he bashed someone’s face with a lollipop or threw plushies at enemies.
Since then, I haven’t touched the game in the last few years mostly because there were other games to play and I rather recreate that euphoric game high with my friends in a new playthrough.
2. All the Borderlands games. Playing and finishing almost all installments of Borderlands, with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel currently in progress, I actually feel like this series is really meant to be played as co-op. The open world is vast and sometimes traversing each area can feel a little boring without having a friend play with you. Another friend who I’ve been playing this series with actually found the first Borderlands game boring compared to Borderlands 2. She beat Borderlands 2 solo and never finished the first Borderlands until I eventually got the game.
Coming into Borderlands completely fresh and not knowing what the experience will be like, I already started playing the game with a friend right out of the gate. Playing the first game didn’t feel boring in the same way my friend found it when she played by herself. I think the difference in experiences we both had with the first game had to do with me having a lot of fun playing with her without attempting to play the game solo like she did for the first time. Walking through areas and fighting skags or any other menace we encountered didn’t feel boring or a long chore to get through the story missions or sidequests. The occasional game glitches added to the craziness of our gameplay for each installment and we always found ourselves laughing or making jokes about what the characters said or did.
Once me and my friend do finish The Pre-Sequel, I know it’ll be unlikely I’ll ever play any of Borderlands again without a friend. Something will feel like it’s missing if I tried playing by myself. The absence of my friend and not hearing her talk to me through my headset will somehow make the experience not as enjoyable as it usually is when we both make time for a Borderlands session.
3. Halo: Reach. I received Halo: Reach as a Christmas gift one year during a time when I was still building up my Xbox games library. It’s the only Halo game I really own and I think for the most part the Halo series does place a ton of emphasis on their online co-op gameplay. Doing co-op missions with my friend and cousin helped motivate me to give a Halo game a try and to see why this series seems to be a huge hit with the gaming community. It’s also the only game I’ll ever play with friends and avoid random online match ups to play any of the co-op missions. I’m terrible at first-person shooters and I need to play with people who are very patient with me and won’t mind if I either get myself killed or won’t make me feel bad if my kill count isn’t as high as theirs are.
While I have managed to finish the story campaign alone, Halo: Reach became another game in my collection I just don’t bother to play unless someone else wants to with me. I guess it won’t be a huge loss if I never play the game ever again, but my introduction into Halo’s online co-op has been an impressive experience for me.
4. Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine. I downloaded Monaco after a friend said he wanted me to join in on a 4-person gaming session. It seemed interesting from the screen caps I saw and based on how he described the game to me where teamwork is a big part of playing this game well. The few times I did play Monaco with a group involved a lot of hijinks, accidental missteps, and maybe little hiccups in miscommunication about where we needed to go to escape a room without being caught by the authorities. The game, while fun as a group, really wouldn’t hold my attention long enough if I played alone. I can only hope the same group I used to play this game with will want to play and finish the whole game someday.
5. Left 4 Dead. Another game I received as a gift one year, Left 4 Dead gave me even more practice with first-person shooters and plenty of opportunities to fine tune my headshots in the zombie apocalypse. I honestly can see myself playing this game solo, but why I actually haven’t probably has more to do with having played some of the game with friends before really trying it out on my own. Once you experience a game with a group, it’s kind of hard to want to play it alone without associating the group experience with that particular game. My cousin did warn me the game is better played as co-op instead of solo mainly because the AI isn’t all that smart in support situations when you’re fending off against a hoard. As it has been a good number of years since I’ve played the game, it’s anyone’s guess at this point if I’ll ever finish it at all. While I personally don’t take issue with playing games about zombies, I have to admit, the game does put me on edge when a rotting corpse happens to jump out at you from out of nowhere and nearly tries to eat your face. My nerves and quick reflexes are next to nil in these instances, and I don’t want to come home from a long day of work to play a game alone that will soon stress me out. Or make me fall forward from a heart attack. Whichever happens first.
As you can see from the list, a lot of these games will remain unplayed unless I have someone to play with. What I learned from playing all these games in some capacity, whether they’ve been completed or not, is some games are meant to be enjoyed with other people. I daresay some games are purposely designed this way. I find having the option to play with a friend who is only an internet connection away makes it easy to have fun, chat, and experience the game together as it unfolds. It’s a shared experience that playing solo won’t always measure up in some ways. My most prized gaming memories come from having played them with friends, as I reflect fondly on these games and the measure of joy (and shared frustration) each of them has given me.
Are there games you played that you would categorize as purely a group experience? Would you play these video games solo if you had no one else to play with?