Some of the greatest things in life are better shared. Two player games offer the most direct chances for head-to-head competition or connection. No misty-eyed sentiment there, just a fact. One mind probing the ingenuity and exiguity of another through games.
If you want something epic to embark on on your own, how about taking a look at these great RPGs?
Maybe you like to play in person on the same screen, or even on different devices via local multiplayer, or instead online with asynchronous multiplayer. A test of reflexes or planning? The games below run the gamut, with variety enough for all kinds of people and situations. Give them a try the next time with a fellow gamer. You won’t be disappointed.
The physical version of Moresl (also known as Fungi) was a very casual and fun card game for two people. It’s only drawback was that it took up a fair amount of room, but thanks to Mossbark’s excellent digital adaptation, that’s no longer a concern. If Pass & Play and even online multiplayer modes, all of the best traits of Morels have survived into the mobile port.
Especially good for couples, Morels is very laid back, but also paced and easy to play. You won’t need to remember anything too complex, and it’s an excellent time-waster if you’re travelling together or are just looking for some quick and easy post-dinner entertainment at home.
Uniwar is an ambitious turn-based strategy game which proudly wears its influences on its sleeve. It has the conquer-the-map tension of Advance Wars as well as the creative asymmetry of different player races: the fleshy Terrans, chitinous Insectoids and metallic…Robots. The abilities and interactions across these units are rather lively and varied, walking the fine edge between ‘interesting’ and ‘unbalanced’. Hotseat play is simple as can be, with quite a few maps offered, and there’s also online play.
Words with Friends 2
Words with Friends has been around almost as long as smartphones themselves, and it’s still a golden way to spend the better part of a day or longer. Yes, it’s like that other classic board game, and there’s a delicious subtext of who-spells-what-when. (Words score points but also…score points, making associations, repartee, even a kind of conversation). It just works on multiple levels, from a pure gameplay perspective but also in terms of social pay-out and connection. Oh, and on the gameplay front, it’s worth noting that advanced play involves so much more than just scoring the most impressive single word on a given turn. It also means thinking about positioning, letter draws and pacing, bonuses: basically long-con strategy stuff. Words with Friends is an oldie but a goodie, and a surprisingly handy way to keep in touch with friends.
Burgle Bros. (Review)
Co-op games are great, but even the greats tend to be best either purely solo or with the max player count. Burgle Bros, however, is unique in that it shines especially with two. With two, the joint is cased twice as fast, but hiding is much harder. To quickly reprise the game for those unfamiliar: players explore each floor’s tiles till they discover the safe, crack the combination, retrieve the and advance to the next level. Patrolling guards and alarms will make things difficult, and if any player runs out of stealth points they risk getting caught and getting sent to the slammer. Some of the game’s more advanced tactics and interactions really only come into their own with a dynamic duo. Yes, gadgets and treasures along with character abilities combine but the real clincher is the pathing and alert system. Guards can be re-routed by tripping alarms, so the best teams take heat for each other. Two-player stealth doesn’t get much better than this.
Onitama is a game primarily about not losing. Sounds like weak, roundabout praise, I know, but what this means in practice is thinking many steps in advance, reasoning recursively to move from point B to point A, something surprisingly difficult. Woah there, let’s back up a little and actually talk about the game. Onitama is a two-player abstract game played on a two-dimensional square grid, much like chess. Players win by either capturing their opponent’s ‘King’ piece or alternatively by moving their own respective King onto the other player’s start space. The twist is how movement patterns work, for they are dictated by cards which can be used once, then eventually become playable by the opponent. There are only five given movement pattern cards (of a larger set) in a specific game, and this larger flow between good positioning and a good hand of cards makes the game quite intense. The app is free and as well-polished as any of Asmodee’s releases.
This one features asymmetrical factions trying to control the board by selecting two of three tiles (six-sided hexes, that is) each turn. The post-apocalyptic setting and wildly divergent playstyles of the groups make it an unusually colorful strategy game, but these flourishes of variety do nothing to detract from the game’s balance. The base game only includes four races, but that alone is plenty to start with and the rest are available as paid DLC. Tile-laying madcap fun.
Glow Hockey 2
Arcade- or action-style two player games are the epitome of beer-and-pretzel fun. Crystal clear consequences, nothing to overthink or overanalyze just quick wrists instead of quick wits. Pure impulse and reaction make for some reliable fun, and Glow Hockey is a passable digital dupe for Air Hockey, minus the constant click-clack of the pucks. The physics are satisfying, the controls responsive. It works well in an understated and way that is impossible to hype, but it still entirely worth recognizing.
There is no high road in Antihero. Mischief and misfortune rule in its Victorian, Dickensian setting which makes the sooty and sullen into something fun. (The art direction and design are majorly on point with this game). Plus, the game itself is incredibly intense and stressful, always putting players in a race for victory points over a shockingly brief time. The game still manages to have a distinct beginning, middle, and end while allowing for a non-trivial variety of build paths and playstyles. It’s fog-of-war and bluff systems inject just enough tension to keep the game from becoming deterministic, and it’s one of the best original digital games to come out within recent memory. Oh, and it’s exclusively for two players, either through asynchronous or real-time play.
Ready Steady Bang
A western showdown at sundown. Quick-draw, one-shot, one-kill. Ready, Steady, Bang is this experience, over and over, with variable countdown timing and a variety of death animations. Technically there’s also a short ‘campaign’ mode vs. AI with ironclad timing thresholds, but the meat of the game can be reduced to a single perfectly timed gesture. Dead simple, quick and satisfying. Just don’t be the other guy.
Patchwork may be pint-sized compared to some of its juggernaut neighbors on this list, but what it lacks in player count or time commitment it makes up in charm and crystal-clear, razor sharp strategy. (Those two make for quite the odd couple) Patchwork is a variable-setup perfect information abstract for two players. Players work to fill up their empty boards by adding patches to them, of various polyomino sizing, with the ultimate goal of filling the whole swath and collecting as many covetous buttons along the way. It is almost instantly intuitive yet perplexing and sophisticated even after dozens of plays, with turns chained together or telegraphed from miles away. A sweet game that can also be a hardcore match of wits.
What are your favourite games to play between two people? Let us know in the comments!