The 10 greatest split-screen games of all time

Unplug your internet, grab a pal and jump on the couch with these incredible multiplayer games.
A selection of classic split screen video games displayed on old TVs
The greatest splitscreen games of all time © Shutterstock/Nintendo/Microsoft/2K Games/Psyonix/Rare/Red Bull
By Jon Partridge

Ever since Microsoft launched Xbox Live on the original Xbox, giving the masses the gift of online gaming from the comfort of the living room, it signaled the start of the decline in classic couch co-op and splitscreen gaming.

Finally, consoles were on par with PCs in terms of online multiplayer abilities, but that caused developers to slowly shift their focus away from local multiplayer to solely online – meaning you'd miss out on those kind of experiences where you'd be on the couch with your best buddies playing Goldeneye until 2am.

Split screen gaming isn't totally dead: some modern games still include the ability to divide your telly into segments so you can battle the bad guys, or each other, from the comfort of your own home. But with some exceptions, few live up to these classic local multiplayer games from classic consoles of yesteryear. Join us as we run through our favourite split screen titles.

Super Mario Kart

© xotic82

We seriously thought about including Mario Kart 64 in here – purely for that time when your friend pulled off that shortcut in Wario Stadium and blew your mind – but the SNES original edges it purely for battle mode, which we still think would be a more democratic way of electing our leaders than most countries have in place right now.

Facing down a friend on Battle Course 1 as the lights turn from red to green is the closest experience we'll ever get to staring down your friends at the start of the Hunger Games (hopefully), and little comes close to the thrill of landing a green shell and seeing their last balloon pop.

Goldeneye 007

© AXDOOMER

No Bond game before or since has ever come close to capturing the magic of Rare's N64 shooter, and that's mostly down to the formative four-player splitscreen deathmatch. Not only were the level designs perfect, the soundtrack top notch and the weapons ingenious, the host of modifiers bestowed the game with a replay value any developer not called Psyonix  would still be jealous of. But let's be honest, you don't know need us to tell you this. Everyone remembers the rules: Pistols Only, Licence To Kill, Stack, and if you pick Oddjob, you're out of the friendship group.

TimeSplitters 2

© skillidge8

Spiritual successors to Goldeneye, made by many of the same team, the TimeSplitters games were the epitome of the freewheeling, anarchic PS2 era at its best. TimeSplitters 2 was Goldeneye with dual thumbsticks and even more absurd levels and characters – you could play as a boring soldier grunt, of course, but you could also run riot as a monkey, or an English gentleman with magnificent mutton chops by the name of Mr Underwood. Plus the gameplay was lightning fast and top notch, naturally.

Halo 3

© Mr Jason Well

Following the huge success of Halo 1 and 2 on the original Xbox, and continuing the cliffhanger ending of its predecessor, Bungie's Halo 3 instructed you to 'Finish the Fight' against the Covenant, and boy, did plenty of you finish it. If you had an Xbox 360, Halo 3 was the flagship title for Microsoft's console, showcasing almost every ability the long lasting box had: top-notch graphics, incredible online multiplayer and outstanding local co-op play.

Nothing’s better than rocking through the whole campaign with a buddy in split screen at home, while if you get three other mates, you can each stare at a corner of the telly and have fun messing around in Halo 3's countless multiplayer modes long after you've run out of plasma grenades.

Borderlands 2

Screen shot from Borderlands 2 video game
Borderlands 2 © Gearbox Software/2K Games

Role-playing-first-person-shooter-loot-'em-up series Borderlands is fiendishly addictive, but it's even more so when you're hunting vaults as a team, sharing space on your TV in split screen and looting every chest in sight.

The second game in the series took everything that was great about the original and cranked it up with an even more in-depth campaign, better shooting mechanics, even more weapon combinations and more characters to level up. The remastered Handsome Collection on PS4 and Xbox One even lets you play the campaign with three people on the same screen, which is perfect if the middle child in your family missed out the first time.

Gears of War 1–3

Gears of War video game promotional image
Gears of War 1–3 © Epic Games/Microsoft Studios

Epic Games' Gears of War franchise was designed to be played with your mates on the couch, and there's nothing better than taking down a group of Locust while your buddy covers your six and you nail that active reload for even more damage. The series marked a departure for the studio from primarily first-person romps to third-person action, and it's hardly been topped, with many imitators trying to copy the series' cover mechanics and ruthless run ‘n’ gun action.

With a fourth on the way, there's no better time than now to play through any of the titles with your mates in split-screen co-op glory, and you can even dive into the competitive multiplayer if you feel like taking a chainsaw to your best friend.

Rocket League

© zedk8

The football-meets-cars phenomenon that is Rocket League has taken gamers by storm with its straightforward yet addictive gameplay, and it's a game destined for multiplayer mayhem with your friends – Psyonix surely knew this as they devised the game. You can play it in split screen against each other, with each other against the computer, or you can even take your local team online to duke it out against the world if you reckon your squad has the skills to do so.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare video game promo image
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare © Infinity Ward/Activision

The Call of Duty series is well known for its multiplayer action, but we reckon none are as truly memorable as COD4's jump into the modern era, with tantalising gameplay to boot. You won't find many local multiplayer games that will really push your competitive nature as much as COD4 will, and with plenty of modes like search and destroy, sabotage and domination, you've got plenty of choice to show who's really king in your friendship circle.

If you'd rather team up with your friends instead of slaying them with an M40A3 from across the map, the next game in the series, World at War, introduced the addictive co-op Zombies game mode, which is still going strong in recent installments.

Portal 2

© TeraBrite Games

Valve may concentrate almost exclusively on multiplayer games these days, but you can't play the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Dota 2 with your mate on the sofa. Portal 2's co-op mode is puzzle platforming at its absolute finest, and were it not for the complete lack of cake, it would arguably be even better than the single player story mode – and certainly more taxing. You play as one of two bumbling robots armed with an Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device, but unlike solo Chell you'll have to work together to clear the stages.

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2
Left 4 Dead 2 © Valve

While Valve's Portal 2 let you solve puzzles as a pair, Left 4 Dead 2 let you take on a zombie horde with guns blazing as a group of four – and it's still tantalising today. With inspiration from pretty much every zombie movie ever, brilliant co-op elements and classic split-screen play for two players on Xbox 360, Left 4 Dead 2 is well worth jumping into over a weekend with a mate.

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