Back to the Couch: The Return of the Local Co-Op/Challenge Games

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Back in the ’80s, ’90s and most of the 2000’s couch co-op/competitive games were important. Consoles especially brought friends and family together through games such as Super Mario Bros, Bubble Bobble, and Snow Bros on the original Nintendo Entertainment System to Gauntlet: Dark Legacy and Mario Party on the N64 and Gamecube. Along with various split-screen FPS and fighting games on most systems leading up to the modern era, we could get with a friend or three and compete or assist in an adventure in other worlds.

Now, however, with everyone having at least a basic internet connection, online gaming is the dominant way to play and it does sound enticing being able to play with anyone, anywhere from around the world but somewhere along the way your friends get lost in the shuffle and a face to face meeting is no longer needed to take on the challenge replaced by Lars from Amsterdam whom you’ve never met in person and probably never will.

The video game has only gotten better over the years and has become so intertwined in society that is at least a casual “gamer” is a title owned by almost everyone under the age of 90, but the face to face social aspect of gaming is becoming a cold, dark lonely place to be with even long-running titles such as Mario Party adapting online play and Halo dropping split-screen multiplayer altogether in recent entries. My wife and I used to play split-screen Halo together from Halo 3 on until we picked up Halo 5 a little over a year ago to realize it had no local co-op option and we were devastated.

The console companies and developers alike would prefer you buy a second console, a second copy of the game, and play LAN party style in your home rather than add a split-screen these days for obvious and not so obvious reasons. A lesser-known reason is that, for developers, adding a split-screen requires extra work, rescaling of the game’s backdrop to accommodate the split perspective and such so releasing a co-op game for online/LAN play is much easier and less time consuming getting to product out for sale faster. This is the trend and for the most part your 18-35 year old demographic doesn’t mind at all but the 30-50 year old demographic is sort of pissed off about this and some of us are fighting back.

At least Nintendo, more so than the other 2 big names in the console business, believes in a strong local co-op base, the Switch controller even splits into 2 for a second player if needed, although a challenge for those of us with larger hands, so games like Mario Kart 8, Mario Party and Smash Bros can be played with true in-house local multiplayer. While Sony and Microsoft will sprinkle a few lesser titles here and there you can play with a friend from the same couch, the couch co-op scene may be making a comeback. Games such as “It Takes Two” make co-op play (local or online) not only an option but it is required to even play the game in the first place, sorry about that if you are friendless.

Later this year we should see Intellivision’s first entry into the console world for a long while with their Amico system, Amico means “friend” or “buddy” in Italian. The Amico has zero percent online capabilities but it does have many local co-op/challenge games in its library being remastered for the 21st century on a system that comes with TWO controllers that are very unique compared to what we may be used to that are motion-sensitive with buttons and a touch screen. Amico is made to bring the friends and family back together without being greedy as you can get an app that transforms your smartphone into a controller when up to eight people are needed. Intellivision’s CEO Tommy Tallarico has stated that they are not trying to compete with the big 3 but rather carving their own path and getting people back together with challenging new games as well as a boatload of remastered Intellivision classics such as Shark Shark and many more that look great on the system, not to mention a new Earthworm Jim coming after launch.

The people have spoken and the people want local co-op/challenge games and some of us believe those days are returning thanks to a few developers and the return of Intellivision with the Intellivision Amico coming soon.