There’s nothing quite like playing a video game with a significant other. Unlike other forms of spending time, playing a video game as a couple requires patience, dedication, and teamwork. In many respects, playing a game as a couple can demonstrate just how well built a relationship is— especially when retro games are thrown into the mix.
What makes retro game a particularly good fit for a couple looking to spend time gaming is the mere fact that older games were designed with new players in mind. Rather inherently at that considering the infancy of the medium. From the NES to the Sega Genesis, to the Super Nintendo, retro gaming as a couple is a guaranteed fun time.
It may seem second nature to pick easier games when playing as a couple, but nothing binds people together quite like overcoming a challenge. Donkey Kong Country 2 is far and away the hardest of the trilogy, but it’s also the best Donkey Kong game period.
With a difficulty curve that moves progressively upward, the game’s design gives players plenty of time to acclimate to the controls and mechanics at play. More importantly, Donkey Kong Country 2 is as good a pass and play game as they come, allowing players to take paced turns as Diddy and Dixie get hit.
Nothing says romance quite like father and son bonding. One of Capcom’s best games on the Super Nintendo, Goof Troop takes the television show of the same name and places its protagonists, Max and Goofy, on a deserted island rife with pirates.
While the game itself isn’t particularly difficult, it does have its fair share of difficulty spikes. Even then, however, nothing comes off as unfair. Since the game focuses primarily on puzzle solving as well, constant communication becomes a must. Goof Troop is the kind of game that’ll get couples talking and thinking together critically, something that can’t be said for most modern cooperative games.
One of the defining cooperative games of the SNES, Zombies Ate My Neighbors blends exploration with action in a way that few games have captured since. Incredibly unique both in premise and design, Zombies Ate My Neighbors makes for an exciting playthrough thanks to its fast pace and frantic level design.
There’s never a dull moment in the game, each second being dedicated to zombie action. While there isn’t much in the way of critical thinking, Zombies Ate My Neighbors’ main strength comes from how tight its controls are. It’s easy for anyone to pick up and easier for anyone to play. A must play for any couple looking through the SNES’ catalog.
An action-adventure game with light RPG elements, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is a game that keeps on giving and giving. Though the main game does focus on action with some exploration here and there (especially in the later stages,) The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is basically a procrastinator’s dream.
From gambling dens to straight up arcades, there are countless mini-games to kill time with. Best of all, each mini-game serves a distinct gameplay purpose (some of which are even other games in Konami’s library.) While boss fights might pose an intense challenge, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is one of the few cooperative games on this list with genuine longevity to go around.
A Super Nintendo deep cut, Firestriker is basically Breakout with RPG elements and a world map. There’s a bit of a learning curve, more so than any other game on this list, but Firestriker makes up for it with a colorful overworld, genuinely interesting gameplay, and a rather short play time.
Firestriker is the kind of game that can be beaten in a single sitting, but that in itself has value. Best of all, taking the time to learn the mechanics and master the controls only makes the game more engaging. Firestriker might very well be the most obscure game on this list, but it isn’t any lesser for it.
Perhaps the best cooperative game on the NES, River City Ransom is a beat ‘em up with light RPG elements, surprisingly great graphics considering its hardware, and plenty of style to go around. It’s a game that knows not to take itself seriously, but one that also never feels ashamed of its premise.
The game has a few sequels on the SNES, all of which are worth playing, but they never left Japan unfortunately. Either way, River City Ransom is arguably the best of the bunch and is easy to pick up and play for even the most inexperienced of gamers.
A Sega Genesis classic, Gunstar Heroes is one of the most frantic run and gun games to grace gaming’s fourth generation. Even by today’s standards, the game is a visual marvel, pushing the Sega Genesis to what may very well have been its limits. Boss fights, in particular, can be a sight to behold.
Best of all, Gunstar Heroes is the kind of game that actually gets easier when playing with a partner, a massive boon considering how difficult the game can be when played alone. The Sega Genesis didn’t have much in the way of engaging co-op, unfortunately, but Gunstar Heroes is easily one of the best retro games period.
Another Capcom title for the Super Nintendo (with a rather solid Sega Genesis port as well,) The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie is a cooperative platformer that makes fantastic use of the Disney aesthetic. Better yet, unlike Donkey Kong Country 2, The Great Circus Mystery allows both players to platform at the same time.
As a result, there’s never a dull moment with both Mickey and Minnie actively contributing at all times. As far as platformers go, it is on the shorter side, but the adventure itself is so well designed that this is hardly a problem. A great difficulty curve and plenty of level variety, there’s no reason any couple should skip out on Mickey and Minnie’s adventure.
While it’s certainly nice to play through a whole game in one sitting as a couple, it’s also important to take on major challenges together, and what better challenge than completing Secret of Mana? An action RPG oozing with charm, Secret of Mana will take roughly 20 hours to complete so strap in.
Between three playable characters, a dozen or so different weapons, and an active leveling system for just about everything in the game, it’s hard not to immediately fall in love with Secret of Mana. The story may not be much to write home about, but the world’s scope and the gameplay will keep couples engaged for hours on end.
The newer Mario Kart titles may be more accessible, but there’s nothing quite like Super Mario Kart. It’s a game that takes genuine skill, but a little bit of patience goes a long way in understanding the 16-bit racer’s mechanics. Truly, this is the defining multiplayer game on the Super Nintendo and for good reason.Not only are there 20 tracks to race on, the Battle Mode may very well be the game’s claim to fame. Any couple can sink hours just pelting green shells at one another or slowly learning to master Rainbow Road and 150cc. Super Mario Kart is a game that only gets better the longer it’s played.