Co-op games are some of the best experiences you can have in gaming. You and your mates working together towards a common goal, or just strapping a block of C4 to their car before they unwittingly drive off, sending them soaring into the sun. The best cooperative games offer truly unique experiences that just aren’t possible while playing solo with NPCs - hurling insults and instructions at one another as you attempt to scrabble to victory.
Finding the time to play just about any game can occasionally prove tricky though, and it gets even trickier when you want to get several mates together, regularly, and all at the same time. You could get by without them perhaps, or just draft in someone else, but nobody wants to be the one missing out on the complete co-op Divinity 2: Original Sin run, do they?
Which brings me in a roundabout way to my point - how long is too long for a co-op game? Some really do excel with their short running times. A short free one I recently played on PC was We Were Here. It clocked in at just over an hour, yet it was perfect at getting across its core ideas of efficient communication and accurately describing what you can see in front of you to your buddy. It’s a little bit like a long Crystal Maze challenge. Crucially, it never outstayed its welcome.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Overcooked are a pair of games which can reasonably be finished during a couple of long evening sessions, stretching on for about 6-8 hours. I think it’s reasonable enough amount of time to expect the average gamers to be able to get together, offering just enough fresh mechanics and ideas over the running time to keep players hooked. A shout out too to Portal 2, which is really excellent in this way. Your co-op runs are going to vary depending on how often you get stuck, but there’s a decently lengthed game here with neatly segregated challenges that make for the perfect stopping points.
And then there’s the other end of story. The Divinity: Original Sin 2’s of this world. Co-op games that can feasibly run on for in excess of 100 hours. I probably could have got through this back in my uni days but there’s no chance I’m going to get someone to sit through an entire game that long without really and truly committing to it. Other biggies include the Borderlands series, The Division and Diablo 3, all of which require a significant time investment.
I’m of the opinion that the strongest co-op games are those that sit in the mid-tier, around the length of Overcooked or Portal 2. It’s why I’m hoping the upcoming A Way Out clocks in at a slim 6-10 hours, rather than dragging on for far too long and eventually falling by the wayside, never to be finished.
Of course, not everyone's the same. How long do you think the perfect co-op game should be? What's the longest game you've actually managed to complete co-operatively with a buddy? Let us know!