Ready Player Two! – Playing Single Player Games with Two Players

Over the last two generations of gaming on-line competitive and co-op has become the new wave. Games that probably shouldn’t have had an online mode have had them shoehorned in, and other games are essentially only online modes. Back in the day, the only way to play with multiple players was to have another player there in the room with you, playing with a second controller.

My friend Mike and I (who have been playing games this way since the early 90s) used to go head-to-head in Street Fighter 2-Alpha 3 and co-op’d the HELL out of Streets of Rage and Final Fight.

During the Playstation era and beyond we found there were actually fewer games to play that way, though Twisted Metal 2’s co-op still ranks as one of the best co-op experiences we’ve ever played. As the industry started to release different kinds of games, we found different kinds of ways to play. We became avid players of Resident Evil and that was one of the first games we started playing what I call “single-player two-player.” Essentially, one player plays, the other watches, gives help with puzzles, provides amusing color commentary, and takes over when the first player is stuck, tired, or fails. This method of playing games has been the source of some of the funniest and best play experiences we’ve had and inside-joke memes that we still reference more than a decade later.

Mike was Thumper I was Outlaw in one of the few PS1 games we could play 2 player co-op.

Over the years we’ve played Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, Code Veronica, 4, the recent “remastered” version that way. We spent hours playing the original Mercenaries, swapping off for different missions or on character death. We’ve even played RPGs like Suikoden like this, though I was admittedly playing the original PC Aliens vs Predator game through some of that one.

Recently Jim-F*cking-Sterling-Son introduced me to the terrific Angry Joe Show and I was amazed to see that other players play in the same way. Watching Angry Joe and Other Joe play Daylight and The Crew reminded me of the days when this was my favorite way to game. It makes social gaming a blast without all the anonymous nonsense or detached remote distance that can comes with modern online multiplayer. The setup is far easier too. All you need is:

  • ANY game console, since you can play this way with anything from Atari 2600-Alienware PC.
  • A friend or friends who like(s) to play games
  • ANY game
  • Snacks (optional but recommended)

That’s all. No internet connections, high-end PC components, expensive TVs, or the newest consoles.

Ever since being reminded of the fun of single-player two-player I’ve been eager to get back into it. Mike and I have queued up Outlast and Evil Within to try out, one is probably going to scare us, the other more likely to just be a swap off RE-style kind of experience.

If you’ve never played this way I can’t recommend it enough. It’s directly social, not the way online social activity takes place, you can mix in other things like board games when you want a break, and you actually go through a game narrative, which is often sorely lacking in many online multiplayer games. In my opinion it’s one of the best ways to play video games with friends and can even turn a mediocre game into hours of great experiences.

As a bonus here are some of the strange comments made during our two-player play throughs of random games:

  • “Why’s it gotta be you?!” – Said by Mike while fighting the Warlord of Blood in Diablo.  He led the WoB around a solid structure for a long time occasionally hitting one of his minions.  He turned once and the Warlord himself was there, causing Mike to flee in terror with those words.
  • “Not so much fireballs…” – A comment I made while playing Street Fighter Alpha 3 and showing Mike Karin’s “counter” ability, explaining how it could even block some special moves.
  • “F*ck me in the goat ass, he’s doing it again!” – Mike shouted this during a play through of the original Mercenaries where we traded off every time one of us died.  During a mission around a bunch of tanker trucks there were a dozen RPG enemies who fired their rockets, not caring if they killed each other or themselves, as long as they killed us.  After surviving one such barrage and feeling around a truck, another enemy raised his RPG, and Mike uttered those immortal words.
  • “You can’t quit during a cinematic!” – Said during our original play through of Resident Evil 2.  I said I wanted to get some food when a cut scene played and Mike remonstrated me with those words.  Funny aside, it wasn’t even a cinematic, just the first pan up after entering the police station.
  • “BUDDY!” – What we say every time we turn a corner in Outlast now.  Because Trager…because f*ck Trager…
The lobby in Resident Evil 2…a supposed place for a “cinematic”

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