The Daily Worker Placement

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Best Games to Play with a Partner (Long-Distance)

by | published Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Or, Love in the time of COVID-19

I don’t think my partner and I could be in a successful long-distance relationship without games. Specifically, video games. When the world shuts down due to a global pandemic and one of you moves a thousand miles away, dating becomes… challenging to say the least. And while we have become well-versed in the realm of virtual date nights, video games have become our top go-to in terms of connection. Shared experiences are a huge foundation for a successful relationship, in my experience at least. And video games are excellent for just that!

My criteria:

  • Co-op must be integral to the design of the gameplay
  • Must have an entertaining story/writing
  • Can’t be too stressful  
  • Bonus points for separate game experiences (for replay-ability!)

Note – we primarily play via Steam/PC, but most of these are available on other gaming platforms that have an online gaming feature. Pro tip – invest in two pairs of headphones, one to connect to your phone for a video call, and one to connect to your PC/gaming device. This is a must for hassle-free experiences – be it gaming, watching a movie on Teleparty, or other screen-based activities.

It Takes Two

Of all the many hours I have spent playing co-op video games, It Takes Two tops the list. The art is incredible, the gaming mechanics are new and fun, and the story is fantastic. You and your Player 2 play as humans shrunk down to the size of dolls that have to traverse the fantastical landscape that is a child’s imagination. The story centers around two partners on the brink of divorce who (for plot reasons) must explore different aspects of a healthy relationship like communication, collaboration, attraction, etc. Each character also has their own unique abilities in each level which are great fun independently, but that end up combining into something that is even greater than the sum of their parts as you explore each level together.

This more than others we’ve played seems specifically designed for you and your partner to play together. Not only is the storyline based around a relationship, the unique experiences of each character offers the opportunity to re-play the game from the other perspective even once you complete the storyline. There are also competitive minigames sprinkled throughout that extend the gameplay even further.

Fair warning though – some of the animations may haunt your dreams! The “Book of Love” Dr. Hakim is mildly disturbing, and I still haven’t recovered from the scenes with Cutie the Elephant.

  • Co-op gameplay: 5/5 nail guns
  • Story/writing: 4/5 Books of Love
  • Low-stress: 5/5 space baboons
  • Separate experiences: 5/5 militant squirrels

Portal 2

It is nearly impossible to search for a “best two-player games” list without Portal 2 showing up, and for good reason. The problem-solving, the fun narrator, and low-stakes environment make for a great experience. You and your Player 2 wake up as androids in a post-apocalyptic scenario and must escape the testing center for which you were built. It’s a game popular with the science nerds as one must use lasers/mirrors, gravity, catapults, timing, and more to complete puzzles and move from room to room. The puzzles get progressively more and more challenging, and rely solely on communication and collaboration between the two players. Want to test out how you and your partner respond to a crisis? This is a great option for you. Plus, the game also has a complete single-player campaign that is fun to complete individually.

  • Co-op gameplay: 5/5 futuristic lasers
  • Story/writing: 4/5 AI assistants
  • Low-stress: 4/5 portals
  • Separate experiences: 3/5 catapults

Minecraft

Minecraft came out when I was in high school, and I remember it was mostly played by my younger brother and his group of friends. It’s an open world game that is based on the mining and crafting of materials for survival but also features a “sandbox” mode where you can build anything you can imagine! Castles, cities, architectural masterpieces that would be impossible due to Earth’s physics, or my own personal favorite, infrastructure.

But have you played Minecraft lately?

There’s so much to explore.

This above any other games comes the closest to actually interacting with someone long distance, in my experience. I don’t know why any tech company would spend millions of dollars to develop a metaverse when this is it. You can customize your character, survive together, build massive civilizations together, or just run around and try to kill each other in increasingly ridiculous ways. Want to discover how you and your partner plan for a trip? What you each prioritize in a home? How devoted each of you are to learning new skills? Minecraft is a great avenue to explore these aspects of your relationship.

The best way to play Minecraft together is for each of you to purchase a copy of the game for your computer, and one person to sign up for a Realms subscription ($8 / month). A “realm” is essentially your own personal world to explore and do with as you see fit. Best part is, it isn’t limited to just the two of you – you can invite up to ten friends!

  • Co-op gameplay: 5/5 emeralds
  • Story/writing: 0/5 bee hives (it’s up to you to develop the story!)
  • Low-stress: 5/5 glowing squids (in creative mode)
  • Separate experiences: 5/5 gender ambiguous villagers

Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

If you have never played any of the Lego series of video games or if you have – it’s universally agreed upon that Star Wars is the OG. It was the first to come out, and while the others we’ve played through are fun, none can match the hilarity and charm of The Complete Saga.

This series of games are just freakin’ fun. While the later games increase in the level of complicated gameplay and puzzles, all feature a storyline based on a major movie franchise, Charlie-Chaplin level prop humor, and all the studs. If you are ever in the mood to just destroy a bunch of stuff and collect tons of shiny coins, the Lego series of games are for you. Additionally, if you are a gamer but your partner is not, and you’ve been looking for a good intro game to try out the experience with, Lego Star Wars is my top recommendation to do so.

  • Co-op gameplay: 4/5 hopping C-3PO’s
  • Story/writing: 3/5 cut scenes
  • Low-stress: 5/5 Stormtroopers in bikinis
  • Separate experiences: 0/5 blue studs

Borderlands II

Before my partner and I started dating, I was frankly intimidated by first-person shooter (FPS) games. I struggled to grasp the mechanics and the stress of constantly moving the camera around AND aiming in order not to be killed just wasn’t it for me. But Borderlands II is the game that changed all that.

Borderlands has the art style of a comic book and the humor of a thirteen-year-old boy. FPS games are known for their combat-heavy campaigns – basically just shooting bunch of progressively harder to kill enemies – but the Borderlands series has enough going for it outside of that to keep a noob like me interested. The plot centers around a group of humans/aliens/cyborgs with special abilities that band together to fight the forces of a power-hungry president of a corrupt organization. It’s just fun overall, and the skill system is just complex enough to be interesting without the need to build a separate spreadsheet just to keep track of your points (much as I love building spreadsheets in my free time).

  • Co-op gameplay: 4/5 weaponized RV’s
  • Story/writing: 4/5 Handsome Jacks
  • Low-stress: 3/5 Raging Goliaths
  • Separate experiences: 3/5 explosive teddy bears

Honorable mentions:

  • Watching your partner play a game while you offer helpful dialogue suggestions (Skyrim, Firewatch, and the Nancy Drew games are few favorites)
  • Operation Tango – one of you is a field agent and the other is a hacker, this game will challenge your communication skills like no other
  • Biped – another puzzle solving game, with the most ridiculous gameplay mechanic I have ever experienced
  • Tick Tock: A Tale for Two – indie communication-based game with a spooky story
  • Pets at Work – highly pixelated cat and dog have to escape an office together
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes – communication-based game where one player has the manual on how to deactivate a bomb and the other must follow their instructions to do so

…..and the many board games available on Board Game Arena! But that is the subject of another article.

Have you played any of these games with a partner? What was your experience doing so?  Did I miss any that should be on this list? Leave a comment below!

Author

  • Victoria D

    Victoria Detcher is a chemical engineer by day, cellist by night, and book nerd always. She resides in the heart of Houston, TX, where her current ambition is to get her friends to reach a level of board game proficiency so they can finally all play Agricola together.

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