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The mantra “co-op makes everything better” is true to a certain extent, but gamers and developers have not yet scratched the surface on the benefits of quality cooperative gaming. In 2008 publishers such as Treyarch, Valve, and Behemoth provided us with three examples of incredibly enjoyable cooperative gameplay.

My favorite three so far? Well…

Two-player games have been a common appearance since the dawn of gaming itself. I specifically remember playing the Contra titles with my father for hours on end when I was much younger, alongside Super Mario Bros 3, and any other title that offered two-player gameplay. Co-op is not a new thing.

Many gamers have fond memories of playing multiplayer titles such as Mario Kart or Goldeneye back on the Nintendo 64. Multiplayer was extended even further with the Playstation 2, Gamecube, Dreamcast, and Xbox.  It was even first brought online with these consoles. As gamers we’re used to and even require multiplayer to be in many of our games. However I believe co-operative gameplay has been brought to  life again with titles such as Castle Crashers, Call of Duty: World at War, and Left 4 Dead.

Relying upon others to survive is a concept that so many have forgotten, and when these three titles came to the consoles it was evident. You couldn’t make it past level six on Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty World at War without having someone try to be the hero and destroy them all. If you play with someone who has experience in the game they have all come to realize you must work together as a well-oiled machine to make it very far.

Two new scenarios have been released, forcing you to survive in new ways with only four. The Zombie Asylum offered new strategy in unlocking doors, and timing the traps. This requires great communication, and skill to survive. Or the four rival factions stuck in the swamp with no choice but to hold out until help never arrived.

Castle Crashers also offers co-operative gameplay that many were incredibly disappointed with when Xbox LIVE wouldn’t match-make properly. No one really knows what took Behemoth so long to fix the problem, but it did. Months later when the matchmaking problems were patched Castle Crashers hit the top of Xbox LIVE games played as friends joined up to fight fierce beasts and enemies one more time.

Left 4 Dead is a different experience all together. I don’t think a game before this forced people to work together for survival. One man cannot play this game without help from three other human or computer controlled players. Word of mouth has pushed this game to over 1.8 million copies sold and I believe that number will continue to slowly climb if Valve releases a stream of downloadable content.

How will the cooperative experience evolve in 2009? Excitement is brewing for the sequel, Left 4 Dead 2, while fans of Crackdown are being offered a full four-player cooperative experience through an entire storyline. A brand new TMNT is on the horizon, along with Firefight in  Halo 3: ODST!

Co-op makes everything better, and I am looking forward to more of these experiences as time rolls forward.

Tell us what you’re favorite cooperative experience is in the comments, we’d love to hear more about what you like to play!

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