There was a time when there was no other option for playing games with your friends besides plugging a second controller into your console and loading up a game with a split-screen mode. In modern times, thanks to video games taking advantage of the internet to allow for more players to come together, even across continents, split-screen play has slowly become phased out of most titles. Even PS4 games where multiplayer, co-op, or competitive is the primary focus are no longer guaranteed to let two players on the same console play together.
Whether it’s due to technical limitations or trying to bring people into their online ecosystems to sell micro-transactions, split-screen gaming on the PlayStation 4 isn’t always easy to do. But that doesn’t mean every developer has given up on the old tradition of getting together with your friends for a glorious multiplayer session. In fact, there are some absolutely fantastic games that still allow you to team up or battle it out without going online. Here are the best split-screen PS4 games in 2021.
There are two obvious ways to start out this list — either It Takes Two or A Way Out — and both games come from the same developer. While both games require them to be played in co-op, ideally split-screen, you can play them online, and we lean more on It Takes Two, the more recent game. Both games are great in their own ways, but the latest game from Hazelight Studios just has more personality, heart, and better pacing. You and your partner are never doing the same thing, always relying on the skills the other has to progress, and you will never do any one thing for too long before new mechanics are introduced.
The story is charming but also tackles some topics not many games tend to lean on. Just because the game’s story is a little more mature, the cute art style, forgiving gameplay, and intuitive controls mean that younger audiences and even non-gamers can jump in and have a good time.
Read our full It Takes Two review
If you and your gaming partner are looking for that looter-shooter experience that has gotten so popular as of late, Borderlands 3 is your answer for hours and hours of FPS RPG action. This latest entry in the massively popular franchise essentially invented this unique hybrid of tight FPS action, RPG loot systems and quests, and unique character classes that inspired the likes of Destiny. This isn’t a full-on MMO, open-world RPG, or even a live service game, although it has elements of all those genres.
What makes Borderlands 3 unique even today, though, is the comedic tone and over-the-top attitude oozing out of every gun, character, enemy, and environment. Sure, the comedy may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is easy enough to ignore if you’d rather skip through the cutscenes and just focus on the gunplay and looting elements. Plus, with some extra DLC and a dynamic difficulty that makes it seamless for characters of different levels to play together, this is one of the easiest recommendations you can get for long hours of mindless fun with a friend.
Survival games are all the rage, and one of the earliest and most unique among them is Don’t Starve. This quirky, Tim Burton-style 2D game has all the addictive qualities you could want in a survival game, including crafting, farming, combat, exploration, quests, unlockables, and more, all portrayed in a style that is somehow dark yet charming at the same time. This style is, in part, what makes Don’t Starve still appealing so many years after it first came out.
Throw in randomly-generated worlds, a tough-as-nails season system, and — of course — the addition of local co-op thanks to the latest version, Don’t Starve Together, and you and a buddy can fend off hunger, insanity, tribes of pigmen, and more in this deceptively simple-looking survival masterpiece.
Sometimes you want to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons but not have to deal with all the dice rolls, character sheets, and dungeon master work. That’s where Divinity: Original Sin 2 Definitive Edition comes in to save the day. This game is almost unbelievable in terms of how much freedom it gives you but also how responsive and dynamic it is. Want to set that NPC on fire? Go ahead. Accidentally get hit with lightning while standing in water? You’re taking extra damage for that. Seriously, it is almost too much to describe in even a few paragraphs. This is hands-down one of the best RPGs on the PS4, split-screen or not, but is aimed at experienced RPG players. This game won’t take it easy on you or your friend for the entire 50+ hour campaign.
A game about cooking might not sound like a roaring good time, but Overcooked! All You Can Eat will either make you and your partner sync up like a well-oiled cooking machine or start shouting at each other for letting the soup burn and accidentally throwing away a completed order. Chaos is the core theme of the game, as none of the levels are designed for easy flow and navigation. Things start off simple, with orders that only require a few steps to make on a level with a few narrow passages, evolving into parts of the kitchen rotating around, cutting you off from ingredients if you’re not paying attention.
The controls and visual language of the game are simple, and the game ramps up the challenge at a nice pace. It may not be great for an absolute newcomer to gaming, but anyone who dabbles in games can easily don a chef’s hat and join you in this hectic kitchen nightmare.
You know Minecraft, we know Minecraft, even our grandparents know Minecraft. Still, there’s no denying that it is the perfect game for friends to hang out in. You can have it on while you chill, just building things for fun, or get more serious and try to gear up to take on some of the harder bosses in the game. This phenomenon of a game has appealed to gamers of just about every age, and for good reason. The blocky nature of the art style is endearing and inviting, the mechanics are simple on the surface but can get quite deep as you learn more of the game’s systems, and there’s essentially an endless amount of content. Minecraft can’t technically be anything you want it to be, but it gets really close. There’s a reason people are still addicted to this game over a decade later.
Soccer and rocket-powered cars. If you can grasp those two concepts, you’re ready to play some Rocket League. Juicing up the most popular sport in the world by turning the players into jet-powered cars, this game struck a perfect balance of wacky, out-of-control chaos and an incredibly satisfying showcase for skilled drivers. Unless you put in the time to really master the game, matches are wildly unpredictable, with close saves and near misses occurring basically every time you play. What’s even better is that you can play with up to four friends on your PS4 as long as you have enough controllers since Rocket League is a free-to-play game, so there’s absolutely no barrier to entry.
We all know how bad this game launched, causing ripples that ended up causing some countries to even create laws against loot boxes in games, but Battlefront 2 has actually turned itself around in the years since it first came out. Not only have the microtransactions and pay-to-win systems been completely reworked, but there are now tons of new maps, modes, characters, and general improvements that make it a really great Star Wars experience.
The large-scale battles DICE is known for are in full effect here, only with an incredibly committed and faithful coat of Star Wars paint on the entire experience. Every blaster shot, whirring speeder engine, and lightsaber swoosh looks and sounds exactly like in the films. For Star Wars fans, grabbing a friend to reenact some of the most iconic battles of the film franchise is a dream come true.
Read our full Star Wars Battlefront 2 review
As a series that essentially defined PC gaming with the first two entries, many were skeptical when Diablo 3 came to consoles, but Blizzard managed to make this power fantasy RPG feel right at home on the DualShock controller. If you’re primarily a console player and never dabbled in the Diablo games before, they’re basically RPGs all about mowing down enemies with powerful skills and spells, all the while collecting loot and leveling up to take on bosses.
Much like Battlefront 2, Diablo 3 has been out for several years now and has gotten a ton of post-launch support and expansions. The final version, the Eternal Collection, is the complete package, with every new character and expansion included. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to jump in, Diablo 4 isn’t too far off, so you’ll have plenty more dungeons to clear when that game drops. You and one other friend can join together to fight the forces of evil or even invite more players to join you online while you’re playing split-screen.
Read our full Diablo 3 review
How could any list of split-screen games be complete without including at least one fighting game? This genre was born in the arcades, where standing next to your opponent was the only way to play. Even now, with consoles taking over the market and online play basically killing the arcade market, you still get the best experience when facing off in a local environment. There are tons of quality fighting games to pick from, but we just can’t get over how awesome Dragon Ball FighterZ is.
Fans of the series will be blown away by how faithful this game is to the source material. Not only in terms of art style, which on its own is a masterclass in stylizing 3D models to look exactly like their 2D inspirations, but also in their moves. Every move a character has comes straight out of a panel of the manga or episode of the anime. The fights are fast, flashy, and look just like a Dragon Ball battle should. The roster has been expanded to include characters from films and the new Super series, making this arguably the best anime fighting game ever made.
Read our full Dragon Ball FighterZ review
Rounding out this list is one of the few pure platformer games on the PS4 and PS5 that allows for local split-screen play. A spinoff from the Little Big Planet games, Sackboy: A Big Adventure features the titular Sackboy in a series of fun, creative, colorful, and imaginative worlds to jump around with a friend. There are collectibles to gather, objectives to complete, and a whole adventure to take on. As you can see from the art, this is a game that is totally family-friendly, so children, parents, teens, or anyone else can easily enjoy the bright and whimsical world of Sackboy.
Like Rocket League, Sackboy: A Big Adventure allows up to four players to control their own little handcrafted avatar all at once. The best part is that, in addition to every level in the normal single-player story that’s playable with two to four people, there are extra worlds that are only playable when you have a friend by your side. You can work together or attempt to trip each other up by grabbing and smacking each other for a bit of fun.
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