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Top 5 co-op platformers to play while you wait for Sonic Superstars

Friend or frenemy?

Sonic Superstars, the upcoming co-op platformer featuring a certain blue rodent, took everyone by surprise when it was casually dropped at this year’s Summer Games Fest. Not only as it’s a full-on return to 2D Sonic, championed by 2017’s Sonic Mania, but due to its emphasis on chaotic multiplayer. You and three other victims lucky friends can speed and dash through its stages as a team, with all the chucking each other off cliffs your devilish hearts could want.

As such, it’s a perfect time to explore other fantastic cooperative platforming adventures; of which there are a great many, particularly from within the last few years. Whether it’s their thrilling gameplay, engaging and creative mechanics, or their ample opportunities to harass your teammates, they’ll surely satisfy your abject platforming cravings. Hop in as we rank 5 of the best choices, to get you all primed up for the release of Sonic Superstars!

1. It Takes Two

It Takes Two cutscene
Hey, at least the doll form took off a couple pounds.

Leading the pack is It Takes Two, a heartwarming and inventive co-op-rom-com (enough dashes for you?) developed by Hazelight Studios. It should tell you everything you need to know, really, that this baby won Game of the Year 2021; but if you demand elaboration? Do read on. The game follows the story of a couple on the brink of divorce who find themselves magically transformed into dolls. As you do. The game never really explains what’s going on – perhaps their daughter, Rose, is a voodoo practitioner. But who cares? It’s an excuse plot for one of the finest 3D platformers I’ve ever experienced.

Players control Cody and May, two utterly dysfunctional people, working together in a series of varied levels to repair their broken relationship and return to their normal lives. And I mean varied. “Walking in on a full-scale war between sentient squirrels and wasps” varied. What especially sets It Takes Two apart is its ever in-flux gameplay mechanics, with each character possessing unique abilities that complement one another depending on the stage. Whether it’s manipulating time, shrinking and growing, or controlling magnetism, the game continually surprises with fresh challenges and puzzles. The unexpectedly emotional narrative, combined with stunning, tangible visuals, make It Takes Two a must-play for any platforming enthusiast.

2. Rayman Origins

Rayman Origins gameplay
If Rayman was diving off a cliff, would you go too?

Ubisoft’s Rayman Origins brings the beloved limbless hero back to the spotlight in an appropriately whimsical adventure. And hey, he absolutely deserved it after playing second fiddle to those sodding Rabbids for the better part of a decade. Lush and painterly in its style, the game features hand-drawn animation, charmingly offbeat characters, and a captivating soundtrack, making it a treat for any sense you care to name. Except smell (unless you count whiffing of sweat from the insane difficulty.)

Players can team up as Rayman, Globox, and two Teensies (ah, the ‘Blue Toad and Yellow Toad’ method of filling out a roster). You’ll be navigating through death traps, battling quirky foes, and collecting Lums. At the end of a level, your Lums are totted up; and the higher the number goes, the more pelvic thrusts you get to see Rayman do. Oh, and uh, the more bonuses you unlock. The seamless drop-in/drop-out co-op mode allows for an accessible and enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels. Your little brother is too intimidated by a spiky passage? He can just push off and resume when the coast is clear. All told, Rayman Origins (and indeed its sequel, Legends) showcases the essence of classic platforming, while adding a modern twist that makes it an excellent choice for fans salivating for Sonic Superstars.

3. Super Mario 3D World

Mario 3D World roster
Someone somewhere is having a very particular reaction to this image.

No list of platformers would be complete without a Mario title – I’m a proud corporate bootlicker – and Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U and Switch delivers an outstanding co-op experience. While the four-way play of New Super Mario Bros. Wii was often too chaotic and frustrating to be any fun, this one nails it to a science. Smooshing together the best elements of 2D and 3D Mario games, it offers a thoroughly captivating adventure for players to embark on together. Only one Toad on the roster, though.

The co-op mode lets one player take control of Mario, while the others are saddled with Luigi, Peach or Blue Toad. A series of cleverly crafted levels form the core of the 10-15 hour campaign, with some banger tunes warbling in the background and some awesome boss fights. Bowser in a pimpmobile was not ever on my list, but it’s in here. Taking advantage of power-ups, like the cat suit, and teamwork to overcome challenges is the order of the day – with many a chance to comedically screw each other if you’re so inclined. This is all without mentioning the Switch version’s ‘Bowser’s Fury’ campaign, which essentially doubles the size of the package with a full-on 10 hour collectathon. Top stuff.

4. Disney Illusion Island

Disney Illusion Island gameplay
Minnie, having stormed off from a fight with Mickey, soon found herself in over her head.

Dreams really do come true in Disney Illusion Island, an enchanting, and extremely recent, co-op platformer that brings together classic Disney characters for a stellar Metroidvania. Forget the usual stigma about licensed games – Illusion Island delivers, and quite rightly has taken certain communities by storm. You’ll choose from Mickey, Minnie, Donald or Goofy as you navigate gorgeous 2D environments, in pursuit of magical items to save the Toku of Monoth Island. It’s not quite Kingdom Hearts 4, but it’ll do.

The co-op gameplay is very much in the vein of Rayman Origins, in fact hovering dangerously close to ripoff territory, combining the characters’ unique abilities to access previously unavailable bits of the map. Goofy can hover with a sauce bottle (don’t ask), Donald can flop about in rage, and Mickey is… well, nice. The game’s whimsical art style and fluid animation pays homage to Disney’s golden age, making Illusion Island a nostalgic platforming experience of choice for fans of all ages. Give it a chance!

5. Unravel 2

Unravel 2 gameplay
Yarny 2 briefly considers severing the balloon string to claim Yarny’s insurance money.

The lovely indie platformer Unravel captured hearts when it was first revealed. This photorealistic tale focuses on Yarny, as he quests through the real world. Woolly controls aside, you couldn’t help but be enraptured by this tiny defenseless string-thing battling the elements. And it’s all stepped up for the fabulous co-op sequel.

In Unravel 2, players are invited to join Yarny again, albeit with a blue mate of his this time. A touching and, as if I need to say it, visually stunning adventure, you’ll work together to overcome obstacles. No mucking about this time! If you don’t want to be squashed by a rock, you’ll need to bury the hatchet and actually co-operate. In a co-operative game. What a concept! Plus it’s always like a fiver on Switch eShop sales. Can’t go wrong.

Get ready for Sonic Superstars

LEGO Eggman

As we all eagerly await the release of Sonic Superstars, these co-op platformers should hold you over. From It Takes Two to the nostalgic charm of Disney Illusion Island, there’s something for everyone. I’m sure at least one of them will be to your liking, ya big grump. So chloroform grab a friend, and get ready to test the limits of your affection for one another. Mega Visions not responsible for any break-ups. All rights reserved.

Bobby Mills

Motor-mouthed Brit with a decades long - well, two decades, at least - passion for gaming. Writer, filmmaker, avid lover of birthdays. Still remembers the glory days of ONM. May it rest in peace.
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