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The best split screen games for PC

We all love playing games together. In the early days, that meant passing off the controller back and forth to each get a turn with the game, but now we’ve reached a point where most games offer true simultaneous multiplayer modes, if not fully co-operative campaigns. For the most part, the concept of playing split screen games has been firmly a console only feature. This made sense since they were designed for multiple controllers, and to be played in more communal spaces like living rooms and on couches. PCs, on the other hand, are typically played, well, solo at a desk.

That assumption is not as cut and dry as it used to be. PCs are no longer isolated to corners of the house, and are easier than ever to hook up to normal TVs and be played in the same environment as consoles. It would make no sense for PC players to miss out on being able to play a game in split screen with a friend just because they’re playing on that specific platform, so it’s great to see more and more games supporting this option. Not all games have come around yet, though, and split screen is even becoming less common on consoles as well, so hunting down some quality two player computer games can be a chore. Instead, feel free to screen peak at our list of the best split screen games for PC.

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Portal 2

Atlus and Peabody standing side by side.

This series of puzzle games is just full of surprises. The first game was a surprise hit in the Orange Box, the concept was surprising, the quality and writing was surprising, and the sequel was a surprise hit considering how high of expectations it had based on the first game. The last surprise was that it not only had split screen co-op, but that it too was just as good as the main game. Portal 2 is, as mentioned, a puzzle game, which is not exactly the genre that lends itself to multiplayer very well most of the time. Even so, Valve and the team challenged themselves and managed to design an entirely new set of puzzles that requires two portal gun wielding bots to complete without becoming overly complex or feel like one player was just dragging the second along with them.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple years of PC gaming and somehow don’t know what Portal 2 is, the concept is simple: you have a gun that can place two portals on different surfaces that, once both are placed, connect those two points. Go through one, and pop out the other. In split screen, you play as two robots going through test chambers — self contained puzzle rooms — with the solution always being to get both of you to the exit. They start out simple, but add more mechanics and toys to spice things up as you go. They’re brilliantly designed to make each player have a role to play and an opportunity to come to a realization on how to solve them. Since it is also split screen, though, you are always able to peak over and help out your co-op buddy when needed too. Portal 2 is just an all around fun, maybe even team building, time.

Rocket League

Rocket League players speeding towards the ball.

Cars. Rockets. Soccer. Blend that concept up and you get an addicting sports game that non-sports fans will enjoy just as much as anyone. Rocket League took off (pardon the pun) a couple years ago but has only sustained its popularity thanks to tons of updates and improvements. Right from the beginning, though, this game was designed to allow for split screen gaming, even on PC. Unless you’re playing a one on one mode, Rocket League is played on teams of two, three, or four cars. Just like soccer, or really any team sport, teamwork is what will ultimately win the game, especially in a game that’s so chaotic and unpredictable as this one. Even if you never reach the higher levels of skill, nailing upside down shots while rocketing through the air, the wild fun of ramming a big ball around with your car is just so much better with a buddy.

If you know how to play soccer, you know how to play Rocket League. That low barrier to entry makes is such a great split screen game since just about anyone can pick it up and at least know what they’re supposed to do. Whether or not they will be able to do it is another story. These little cars are fast and feel great to handle, but the ball itself seems to have a mind of its own. You’re usually just as likely to score on yourself as you are on the opponents, but it’s all great fun. Playing in split screen just adds that level of comradery, excitement, and occasional disappointment that you wouldn’t feel as strong if you played alone, or even online.

Resident Evil 6

Chris and a soldier running from a helicopter.

Ok, hold on. Hear me out before you sharpen your pitchforks and light your torches. Resident Evil 6 is not a good Resident Evil game. Let’s make that clear right at the start. The story is a messy betrayal of the lore it established, and the gameplay is unrecognizable from even the most action heavy entries we’d seen up until this point. All that being said, if you just erase the fact that this game has the name Resident Evil attached to it and treat it as just a split screen, co-op zombie shooter, you can have a really good time with it. Yes, Resident Evil 6 did take things so far off the rails in every department that they essentially rebooted the series after it, but there’s still a lot of mindless (zombie pun for you there) fun to be had if you have a friend along for the ride.

Resident Evil 6 takes the co-op elements from the prior game and ramps up the action to the max. Each campaign features two characters you will play as and need to work together to fight zombies, bosses, and solve some puzzles. You could play with an AI, but if you don’t have a friend next to you, perhaps cracking jokes, it will just be a test in patience. Mechanically, Resident Evil 6 has a lot of fun things going on. You have a ton of movement options to pull of crazy dives, melee moves, and combos with your partner. If you don’t play it like a … well, Resident Evil game and instead treat it like a action game, you can pull off some really satisfying maneuvers. Between it all you and your friend can also laugh at the ridiculous story going on, or just skip it and get back to scissor kicking zombies.


Four players with guns on a japanese style map.

Before online gaming was a thing, split screen multiplayer was all we had. That meant that any competitive games forced you and your opponent to share a screen, trusting the other person not to break the screen cheating, or screen peaking, rule. That, naturally, never worked out and someone would always let their eyes drift to the opponent’s side of the screen to see what they had, where they were, or what they were doing. Rather than fight that instinct, Screencheat embraces it as part of the actual design. This was a labor of love by a smaller team that came out a couple years ago, but is such a brilliantly simple concept that makes us wonder why no one ever tried something like it before.

Screencheat is technically a first person shooter, but is billed as a second person shooter due to the fact that every character in the game is invisible. That’s right, you can not see any of your opponents in the game when running around the maps. So, how do you shoot what you can’t see? You screen cheat, of course. By looking at the other player’s split screen perspective, you need to deduce their position, line yourself up, and then attack. The maps are all simple, with bright colored zones to make it easier to navigate and identify where everyone else is. You can play classic deathmatch, king of the hill, CTF, and a few other unique modes. You can even play with up to 8 people, which is far more than most split screen games support.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

A lizard shooting lightning over fire.

Most split screen games are delivered in bite sized portions. They’re great for jumping in and out of without much commitment, but what if you and a friend wanted to invest in a two player computer game for the long haul? The incredibly deep and systemic Divinity: Original Sin 2 somehow managed to cram in a split screen mode for the entire campaign. This RPG was already bursting at the seams with choices, reactions, and role playing options, but adding in a second player that can work with you, against you, or just go off completely on their own, feels like real magic at some points. Both you and your split screen partner have equal weight in how the game will play out, and while working together is a blast, conflicts can be just as interesting.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is many people’s dream RPG. You are able to role play in ways most games don’t even pretend to let you. Everything from you class, race, sex, skills, plus previous choices and actions can all influence the smallest interactions all the way up to major narrative beats. Having a second player with you just opens up even more ways to interact with this detailed and dynamic world. Is a building on fire? If on of you has a rain spell they can cast it to put it out. Don’t like an NPC? Go ahead and kill them, but if they had a quest you might lose it, and other people may not be too happy with you. It’s a wild ride, and having the ability to carve your own story with a split screen partner is almost the best way to play.

Gears of War 5

Kait and a guy repelling down a cave.

The Gears of War franchise is very heavily associated with the Xbox consoles. The first game did eventually make it to PC, but was mostly a showcase for the 360, and it wasn’t until the fourth game that the series would commit to being available on PC as well as consoles. One thing the series was always known for was allowing between two and four players to link up for co-op, usually limited to two for split screen. Gears of War 5, perhaps the best yet for the series, continues the tradition of letting you and a friend chainsaw bayonet your way through the entire story mode side by side. The only drawback for PC players is that, unlike our console counterparts, split screen play is limited to the story mode only. That means you can’t jump into any competitive modes on the same machine.

Multiplayer aside, Gears of War 5 has a rock solid campaign that does a lot new for the franchise. Starting with Gears of War 4, the series jumped ahead in time to focus on a new group of protagonists, though series (and literal) veteran Marcus is present, and in Gears of War 5 the lead role is filled by Kait Diaz on a more personal quest to learn about her connection to the Locust. Rather than just being linear shooting galleries, Gears of War 5 features a few hub areas where you can ride around on a very satisfying skiff, a kind of sleigh you use to cross snowy and desert environments. The shooting mechanics are heavy, satisfying, and reward smart positioning and teamwork. The AI is okay, but if you play on a harder difficulty you will be glad to have a real friend playing split screen to cover your flanks and revive you when needed.

Left 4 Dead 2

Four survivors with melee weapons.

There have been a few attempts in recent years, but no game has managed to dethrone Left 4 Dead 2 as the peak of pure co-operative zombie shooting fun. This is one of the few sequels out there that completely invalidates the need to buy the first one because it just has the entire first game in it now. All the characters, campaigns, weapons, everything from Left 4 Dead is in Left 4 Dead 2, but with all the improvements of the sequel. It’s a simple structure of teaming up, picking one of the campaigns that take you through multiple chapters of unique locations, and ending off in a big finale. Thanks to an AI director that will ramp up, or pull back, the amount of zombies or supplies you get on each run depending on how your team is doing, not only is every run distinct, but also incredibly well balanced to always keep you on the edge of your seat.

Prior to Left 4 Dead, co-op games never really made you rely on your teammates for much. Usually these modes just spawned a second version of the main character, maybe increased the number or health of enemies, and sent you on your way. In Left 4 Dead 2, teamwork isn’t optional. The special infected will pin, restrain, and even carry you away from your team and drain your health to zero unless someone else comes and saves you. A split screen partner will become your best friend when they knock a Hunter off you, or free you from a Smoker dragging you away just before you got to the safe room. There’s not a ton of mechanics here, mainly shooting, melee, and using a few items, but that makes teamwork all the more important. Grab a friend, or four, and see how well you’d do against the zombie hoards.

Castle Crashers

A giant slamming down on four knights.

This might look like a Flash game, and it was certainly from that era, but Castle Crashers is one of the first big profile indie games that really hit it big in the main stream. Coming from The Behemoth, which is composed of many of the founding members of Newgrounds, this simplistic looking beat ’em up title is much more than meets the eye. It originally came out way back in 2008, but has since gotten a remastered version, which is a free upgrade for us PC players, that ups the resolution and allows for an uncapped frame rate, plus a few extra content additions. Thanks to the strong art style and addictive gameplay, Castle Crashers feels just as playable today as it did over a decade ago.

Technically this game breaks the rules just a little since it isn’t a split screen game as you would imagine, but plays exactly like a shared screen arcade beat ’em up. You and up to four friends all play as different colored knights on a quest to rescue four kidnapped princesses from a dark wizard. As you move through stages via a surprisingly large overworld map, you will level up, purchase new items and weapons, and unlock new characters and mini games. You have your normal attacks, combos, magic, and ranged weapons to combo, juggle, and smack around all the creative and charming enemies. Bosses are another delight, with crazy designs and mechanics that will keep you and your friends on your toes. For some mindless, bright and colorful fun, you can’t go wrong with Castle Crashers.


Four soldiers on a dusty planet.

For the most part, Sony has kept their exclusives … well, exclusive to their consoles up until recently. Since they’ve begun trickling out some of their bigger budget IPs onto PC, you could easily have missed that one older console exclusive, Helldivers, was actually the first game Sony ever put on PC a few years back. Perhaps that’s because it wasn’t made by a Sony first party, but this co-operative, procedurally generated isometric shooter is as addicting as it is difficult. This is the same team that made another great split screen game, Magicka, so if you played that you might have an idea of what kind of experience you’re in for here. This time instead of fantasy and magic, though, the setting is all sci-fi and aliens — specifically Starship Troopers.

Helldivers is a mission based game where you and your team are dropped into a random map full of swarms of enemies, supplies, and objectives to complete before escaping. The game would be pretty hard just based on the number of enemies they throw at you, but Helldivers features an intentionally always on friendly fire, so you can’t just spray bullets all over without a care in the world. If you shoot your buddy, they’re going down quick, and vice versa. Even special items, like airstrikes and turrets you call down can splatter a teammate if you, or they, aren’t careful. On the flip side, you will need to play as a team for the additional firepower, reviving you when you go down, sharing resources like ammo, and making heavy weapons more efficient by equipping ammo backpacks that speed up an otherwise painfully long reload. If you and your friend can coordinate and overcome some really tough challenges, Helldivers is packed with content to keep you occupied for a long time.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

A pink ship being attacked by bugs.

Take a game like Overcooked! and instead of being chefs in a kitchen, swap the characters out for astronauts in a spaceship and you get an idea of what Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is like. Just like that cooking split screen title, which nearly made this list as well, this is a perfect game to play with more casual gamers in your friend and family group, though it isn’t quite as universally understandable as that game. It isn’t that it is overly difficult on its face, and the colorful and simple art style is very inviting and easy to read, but the concept of controlling all the different functions of a very inefficiently designed space ship does ask a bit more from people.

As the crew of your round ship, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime allows for up to four people to man different stations as you travel through different campaigns, each with four levels that end with a boss battle. There’s a separate station for piloting the ship, controlling the cannons, a special Yamato cannon, and positioning the shields, meaning you will all need to be constantly running between stations depending on what the situation calls for. You can upgrade individual parts of your ship using gems found in levels, but those two need to be swapped around if you suddenly need a stronger shield or more speed. As the title implies, this is a great game to play with any significant other, but also any friend you want to have a fun time with.


Cuphead and mugman scared by a big flower.

Okay, now we’re back to the real hardcore games for hardcore gamers. Jokes aside, Cuphead is not a game you should invite just anyone to join up to play split screen with. Obviously the art style is so unique and inviting, calling back to the rubber hose animation style of the 1930s, as well as the soundtrack, but just like early cartoons, this game isn’t targeted at young kids. Cuphead is a tough as nails run and gun platformer that just so happens to be one of the most beautiful and appealing game ever made. It earned its reputation as being a challenging game immediately upon release, but if you have a friend who is up for a challenge, playing co-op with them can help you overcome these intense stages and bosses.

There’s a light story in Cuphead, but most people just play it for the art, music, and challenge of course. Playing as the titular Cuphead and his buddy Mugman, you will travel across four worlds, each with their own multi-phase boss and run and gun levels leading up to them. Enemy and bullet patterns are strict, requiring smart positioning and the ability to recognize a boss’s animations to know what attacks are coming. Nothing is unavoidable, but if you do get knocked out your friend has a chance to save you by parrying your ghost before it leaves the screen, giving you a second chance. The game tracks your score on every level, encouraging you and your partner to try again but faster, or taking less hits, to get the maximum ranking. There’s no doubt it’s hard, but once you get a taste for it, it almost becomes addicting to try and improve.

Team Sonic Racing

Shadow racing towards a speed boost.

We covered a lot of genres so far, but we couldn’t finish without putting in at least one racing title. Of them all, it may sound surprising that it was a Sonic game to make the list, but Team Sonic Racing is probably the best arcade, kart racing style game there is on PC. If you played a kart racer, like the king of the genre Mario Kart, then all the basics here will feel right at home. You have item pickups on the map, boost pads, drifting, rings to collect, and plenty of different modes. If the Sonic name attached to this game is making you hesitant, fear not. For whatever reason, putting Sonic in a car actually resulted in a game that has tight, satisfying controls and a real sense of speed that somehow we just can’t seem to get from modern 3D Sonic games.

Pretty much any kart racing game like this would be fun to play in split screen, but Team Sonic Racing puts more emphasis on actual team play during races that no other racer really has. It is a little counter intuitive at first, but winning a race as a team requires more than just finishing first. There are three major racing classes each familiar Sonic character falls into: speed, technique, and power. While racing, you want to help out your team as much as possible by doing things like sharing power-ups and drafting with one another. This will build up a team’s Ultimate meter that, once triggered, allows the entire team to gain a massive speed boost. There’s a nice range of course, fully customizable cars, and even a story mode to race through. Since we’ll never see a Mario Kart on PC, Team Sonic Racing is a great substitute for kart racing fans to play split screen.

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Jesse Lennox
Jesse Lennox loves writing, games, and complaining about not having time to write and play games. He knows the names of more…
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