Moms deserve better than dinner at a restaurant in a shopping mall for Mother’s Day. Give them the heads of their enemies instead, with a day of co-op gaming. Trust us: they’ll prefer it over a dozen wilted gas station roses.
It doesn’t matter if the most important mom in your life is yourself, your birth mother, the person who raised you, your kids’ mom, that one person who lovingly nags everyone in your group, or a single dad doing it all: there’s a pretty good chance they’re into video games. Nearly half of the US population are gamers.
We’d love to list every co-op game out there, but there’s simply not enough space. So here’s our favorite candidates for a Mother’s Day co-op gaming marathon — feel free to tell us which of your favorites we missed in the comments below.
Games with a co-op campaign usually allow you and other players to experience a story together. These can range from games like A Way Out that can only be played cooperatively, to the games in the Borderlands franchise that seamlessly integrate single-player, couch co-op, and online co-op into its campaign experience based on how you choose to play.
Here’s our picks:
Shogun 2 is a decade old, but its compelling setting (feudal Japan) and noob-friendly campaign scaling make it a must-play for fans of the series’ unique combination of turn-based realm management and real-time strategic combat. Its co-op campaign is considered a benchmark for the genre thanks to its alliance system and the fact that the battles are pretty fun to spectate.
The co-op experience, for you and mom, will require both of you to have a computer and a copy of the game. You can choose to compete with one another for control of Japan, but since it’s Mother’s Day we recommend playing on the same team and sharing your victories together.
The Total War: Warhammer II experience is similar, but its fantasy setting and modern graphics (which are brilliant on high-end systems) make it feel deeper and more immersive. The series has only gotten better with time, and Warhammer II is arguably its best title to date. Best of all, if your mom gets really into it, the next entry in the series, Total War: The Three Kingdoms, drops on May 21st.
The Borderlands series is one of the most accessible game franchises out there. Equal parts FPS, RPG, and loot-fest, it combines the best of Halo, Gears of War, and Diablo III’s co-op experience with a system that doesn’t punish you for not being awesome. If your partner dies while you’re fighting a boss… oh well, they’ll be back in a minute.
Plus, your mom might enjoy the fact that of the game’s six playable characters (two are DLC add-ons) three of them are women and one’s a robot. Take that, patriarchy!
Best of all, it can be played in split-screen mode locally or via online multiplayer. And it’s available on PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, and PS4. The much-anticipated Borderlands 3 is slated for release this fall.
The aforementioned A Way Out:
Not everyone has access to two different consoles or gaming PCs, or can afford to buy two copies of a AAA game. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered too. EA’s prison-escape game is only 30 bucks, has an amazing split screen mode for couch co-op, and you can share your copy with your mom online if you can’t game in person and they don’t have their own.
The game plays out like a 1970s prison break movie with each of you controlling one of the two main characters. It’ll have you and your mom discussing things you probably never thought you would. Things like deciding which one of you should assault a police officer, or whether it’s polite to play someone’s guitar while holding them hostage in their own home. Talk about a relationship builder!
Other can’t-miss co-op campaign titles include:
Overcooked 2: Arcade-style game play and cutesy graphics make this frantic cooking game a winner for moms who do most of their gaming on Facebook and mobile. It’s a quality console title, but it’s very easy to pick up and play. You’ll work together with your mom to prepare meals. There’s a lot of laughs to be had as the two of you face increasingly challenging scenarios that require total cooperation to complete.
Stardew Valley: As a single-player game, it captures all of the magic of the series that inspired it – Harvest Moon and Animal Crossings – and combines it with modern control and menus. But it truly shines in multiplayer. Up to four people can join the same game for a cooperative farming experience. Even if you’re not a fan of retro-style graphics and/or farming, this one’s worth checking out – especially with someone you love, like your mom. The game has a lot of heart, you’ll be grateful you played it together.
Some moms are competitive in that “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out of it” kind of way. If you’ve ever rage-quit a gaming session because your mom was running the score up on you, here’s a few titles to make them feel loved on Mother’s Day:
EA’s UFC 3: You haven’t lived until the person who birthed you is jumping up and down on the couch yelling “boo-yah!” after a head-kick knockout victory. Suck it up, pick a better fighter next time, and learn how to use the dodge and block mechanics properly.
Roses are red, traffic cones are orange; I just ripped out my own mother’s spine, nothing rhymes with orange.
If your mom would rather pull off a sick fatality than trade wrestling moves, this one’s for you. 11’s current roster contains a few new faces and a bunch of old MK favorites, but XL might be the better game based on price (it’s older, thus cheaper) and the fact it has legendary horror icons among its roster. Your mom might not know who Johnny Cage is, but they probably recognize Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers.
Your mama don’t game (and your daddy don’t rock n’ roll)
If you’ve made it this far into this article and you don’t have a mom in your life who games: that’s weird, but thanks. Luckily for you though, we’ve got more than just our gratitude. Here’s our favorite games to play with moms who don’t play video games:
Rock Band 4: It doesn’t get much simpler than grabbing a microphone and belting out the words to your favorite song. If you’ve got the drum and/or guitar controllers you can jam out like a real, uh, rock band. But all you really need is the game, a pair of USB mics, and the courage to belt out Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” with your mom to make Mother’s Day special.
Telltale Games’ Game of Thrones: This one’s an episodic adventure series that plays out like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Your mom doesn’t need a controller to be involved, they can just tell you what to do whenever a choice comes on the screen. The story here is as bold and brash as the one you’ve all been watching, making it as enjoyable to see what happens next together during the game as it is to watch the Battle of Winterfell play out on TV.
There’s really no wrong answers when it comes to spending time with the moms in your life. But, giving a gamer a day where all they have to do is kick ass, score points, and unlock achievements and trophies may be the second best gift there is. The first? Your love, of course (we also would have accepted “a car”).