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The best games to play with friends online

Even miles apart, video games allow friends to play, compete, or even just hang out virtually. There are games you can play over Zoom — our list of the best Jackbox games will help there — but we wanted to focus this list less on party games and more on games that are best experienced with a few pals.

From visiting your friend’s island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons to teaming up with them to shoot down wasteland baddies in Borderlands 3, we’re rounded up the 11 best games to play with friends online.

Further reading

Borderlands 3

Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Stadia

The ultimate looter-shooter, Borderlands 3 is an even bigger and deeper game than its predecessors, with multiple planets to explore and several classes that each use their own special abilities. It’s completely playable in single-player mode, but bringing along a friend online makes every mission more engaging and opens up strategic opportunities in battle. As one player draws fire, the other can ambush enemies who aren’t expecting an attack. With a loot system that lets each player have their own drops instead of sharing them, there won’t be any arguments afterward, either.

Plus, there are a whole lot of guns.

Read our Borderlands 3 impressions

Minecraft

Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Switch, iOS, Android

Why work on building a dream home in Minecraft alone when a friend can help craft more quickly? Minecraft features cross-play between nearly every supported system because of its Bedrock update. This includes Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC, and even mobile devices, meaning players can enjoy the game with their friends regardless of which system they’re on. The only exceptions are legacy platforms like Xbox 360 and PS3, which do not support cross-play. Provided players don’t get bored, there is essentially no end in Minecraft, making it a perfect choice for hunkering down when people can’t leave their homes for weeks on end.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Available on: Switch

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a Nintendo Switch exclusive, and that means putting up with the console’s archaic friend code system in order to invite friends to an island. Once that’s done, however, it’s a joyous experience of appreciating the mundane. Visit friends’ houses to admire their paintings and interior decorating, then venture outside and catch bugs and fish. There isn’t a set goal, but that’s what makes the series so special. Hanging out with friends and discovering secrets is its own reward, and text chat lets players easily communicate with each other without having to use the Nintendo Switch Online app. That said, New Horizons does have chat support through the app.

Read our full Animal Crossing: New Horizons review

Call of Duty: Warzone

Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Call of Duty: Warzone is a completely free-to-play battle royale game set in 2019’s Modern Warfare universe. It supports cross-platform multiplayer across PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Unlike the smaller Black Ops 4 mode Blackout, Warzone doesn’t require another game to run, and it launched with 150-player battles. Friends can team up in trios and fight to the death against other squads with a mix of first-person shooting and vehicular combat. The unique Gulag system even lets killed players come back to life, giving their teammates motivation to keep fighting to their very last breath.

Read our Call of Duty: Warzone review

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Gears 5

Available on: Xbox One, PC

Another great shooter option for Xbox One and PC players, you can play Gears 5 entirely with a friend. The campaign is cooperative with support for up to two others, and the new Escape mode is only playable cooperatively. Alongside these is Horde mode, which is best played cooperatively for a fighting chance against waves of the Swarm, and there is a beefy competitive multiplayer option for those who want to fight with — or against — their pals. It also includes local cooperative play if you’re looking for some couch co-op action.

Read our full Gears 5 review

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 review

Available on: Xbox One, PC

Forza Horizon 4 includes the same “Drivatar” A.I. system used by its predecessors, but it’s even better in online cooperative modes. The transition is seamless, with friends all driving on the same map where they can run into each other, and they can easily join up to compete in the same racing events without exiting to another player’s session. Forza Horizon 4 features a huge number of races, collectibles, and stunts, and exploring its take on the English countryside is an absolute joy. Racing friends from one end of the map to the other only makes it better.

Read our full Forza Horizon 4 review

Sea of Thieves

Available on: Xbox One, PC

Sea of Thieves isn’t just better with friends playing online — it’s almost impossible to play without them. Rare’s pirate game includes a small boat for anyone sailing alone, but it really requires a crew of at least three or four people in order to command the larger vessels and have a chance against other ships. Calling out enemy locations over a chat headset and coordinating to reposition sails and cannons is a blast, especially when players send their friends soaring through the air onto another squad’s deck to attack them directly. Sea of Thieves sees Rare back to its old, weird self, and that is a good thing.

Read our full Sea of Thieves review

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Stadia

Available for only a few dollars at this point, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is an excellent shared-world shooter that friends can play together in its entirety. That includes the campaign missions, which take agents into several sections of Washington, D.C. Separate cooperative side missions are also available, and when players have had their fill of fighting grunts in standard missions or raids, they can venture together into the Dark Zone to fight against other agents. Teamwork and cooperation are particularly important here, as valuable gear is on the line and can be lost to another squad in an instant.

Read our full The Division 2 review

Fortnite

Available on: Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC, Android

Fortnite a great choice for online gaming with friends, as its battle royale mode supports cross-play across everything from Nintendo Switch to Android phones. Epic Games’ take on the genre is colorful and less gory than some of its competitors, and its building component makes it perfect for creative players tired of hiding in a bush or behind a rock. New events and gear are also added on a regular basis, ensuring friends will have new content to experience together for as long as they want to keep playing.

Read our full Fortnite review

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Overwatch

Available on: Xbox One, PS4, Switch PC

Blizzard’s hero shooter is one of the best multiplayer games ever made, and when playing with a friend and using voice chat, it gets even better. Teammates can coordinate with each other, picking the right characters for each situation and calling out enemies’ locations as they move toward or protect an objective. All of the extra maps and characters added since launch are free to everyone, meaning friends can play together even if one of them only just purchased the game. It’s available on PC and all consoles — including Nintendo Switch — and there are so many heroes to choose from that it will still feel fresh months after starting.

Read our full Overwatch review

Minecraft Dungeons

Xbox Game Studios

Available on: Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC

We could slot most action RPGs into this spot and it’d still make sense. There are two things working in Minecraft Dungeons’ favor. First, it’s available on Game Pass, so as long as you and your friends have either a PC or Xbox One, you can start playing together. More importantly, though, the game is easy to understand. The hack-and-slash genre is deceptively complex, with games like Path of Exile emphasizing how deep mechanics like character creation can go. Minecraft Dungeons is simple, offering plenty of unique loot while keeping the focus where it should be: On hacking and slashing. Plus, the first DLC pack is already out.

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