Shiny and yellow, your pocket seams burst with thousands of bells from a recent sale of juicy oranges and slimy squids on a friend’s island. At Pierre’s store in Stardew Valley, you pass over a handful of gold to purchase packets of cranberry, pumpkin, and yam seeds to share with your farmers to cultivate on your shared land. The objective from one game to another may be different, but the happiness gained from immersing yourself in a virtual world never falters. With so many options to choose from and gameplay ranging from minutes to hundreds of hours to finish, it can be hard to select the best title for your enjoyment and one that you have time to play. Yet with shelter-in-place keeping us all indoors, our usual errands are no longer, meeting with friends isn’t allowed, and time seems endless. While everything around us falls apart, why not immerse yourself in a virtual world with a friend or two in tow. Multiplayer video games are the perfect way to stay connected and take your mind off other topics. These games range from new releases to older classics, but you’re sure to find one to explore and craft into your own.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Compatible Systems: Nintendo Switch
Price: $59.99 (Nintendo Switch Online is required for multiplayer)
Immensely popular since the game’s release, Nintendo’s latest installment of its Animal Crossing franchise isn’t something to pass up. Cheery and colorful, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the perfect place to escape to when you have some free time. Led by the Hawaiian shirt–clad business mogul raccoon Tom Nook, your human avatar is flown out to the tropical ocean on a Deserted Island Getaway Package where the only people present are Nook, his tiny twin nephews Timmy and Tommy, and two randomized anthropomorphic animals who become your first neighbors. Soon after, you’re thrown into island life and begin designing your new home, building shops, catching fish, terraforming the land, welcoming new animal visitors, and snacking on local fruits from the popular plump peaches to crisp apples.
World creation allows you to select your desired hemisphere, and as gameplay follows your local calendar, your island can be crafted to fit your geographical region. The in-game clock follows real-life time, so if you’re looking to capture the pricey scarab beetle for your museum collection, you’ll have to wait until 11 p.m. to snatch them up. Seasons also correlate to your hemisphere selection, meaning April will present silky pink cherry blossoms and Bunny Day within the game if you’re in the north, and a plethora of seasonal fish and bugs will be accessible throughout the year, providing a batch of new creatures to look for every month.
The most enjoyable aspect of the game is unleashing your creativity to decorate. With thousands of furniture items and outdoor objects to place, bridges and inclines to build, and paths to smooth out, you can turn your tropical getaway into a bustling city or a peaceful abode. Another popular aspect of the game is the daunting stalk market in which turnips are sold on Sunday mornings at a price set by a baby boar turnip merchant Daisy Mae, and you’re given a week to sell them before they rot. Prices fluctuate twice daily so it’s a gamble on your cash. While certain prices can be wished upon, the options for a lucky turnip sale expand with others. Friends can visit each other’s islands, utilize the stores, interact with their residents, trade items from fruits to furniture, and explore the land to each other’s delight. Up to eight people can play on one island at once. It’s a safe way to check out the outdoors from the comfort of your home.
If you prefer a game with more of a storyline, then Stardew Valley should be right up your alley. Pixel art runs the graphics of this game and is a major draw for fans as the two-dimensional world provides endless opportunities for exploration. Sick of a boring desk job, your character opens a letter from their deceased grandfather granting them ownership to a farm. Upon arrival, you’re tasked with cultivating the land, raising livestock, integrating into the local town’s customs, and enjoying all that the farm has to give you. While there’s lots of room for creativity when it comes to designing your farm, one of the best parts is the town’s Community Center.
Central to the game’s storyline, Mayor Lewis of Pelican Town explains the downfall of the Community Center and opens it up to the player. Inside you’re met with magical apples called Junimos who live in the center and help you restore it. To fix the Center, you have to use your skills to collect fish, grow crops, mine gems, and produce artisan goods such as cheese and truffle oil to complete bundles with each one unlocking a large reward that expands your game. The rewards—which range from reopening the bus stop with trips to the desert to fixing minecarts to get around the map easier—encourage the player to work through the game and finish the game. With the newly added multiplayer option, finishing the center, watering plants, and feeding the cows become just a bit easier. With more players, there’s less busywork to complete and more farmland to design. Each player has their own home to decorate as they please and completing quests and venturing through dangerous caves with each other allow for good fun. Up to four players can play together in one world and work to restore the farm to its previous glory.
Terraria is played on a flat 2D world where the vast cave systems and shimmering ores of platinum and copper resting underneath your feet are perfectly visible from the moment you start the game. Every world is randomized, allowing for different adventures every time you start a new game. Monsters arrive during the nighttime and food is sometimes scarce, making your main objective survival. However, once you become prepared, the goal switches to whatever you enjoy best.
Have a hidden architect inside? Gain materials and build to your heart’s desire. Love exploring caves for treasures? Spend your time underground going deeper and deeper. Find that you’re itching for a battle? The range of unique bosses to battle is immense and keeps you pulled into the game. Each one—from the bulbous blue blob King Slime to the overly sized Queen Bee—provides chances to progress the game along, unlock new gear, and expand your inventory.
On the treasure hunting front, caves hold a smattering of rocks, pots, chests, statues, and even traps, drastically increasing the adventure aspect of the game. Worldbuilding is tremendously creative, and what you do to stay safe is up to you. If you have friends to play with, all of you get to decide what to do. The multiplayer option is especially fun in this game as you and your friends can craft a world from scratch, battle monster bosses, and dig up the earth around you. Terraria comes with three different modes of gameplay in easy, medium, and hard, and can hold up to eight players at once. Explore on!
Compatible Systems: Mac, Windows (Java Edition and Windows 10 Edition), PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
Price: $26.95 on PC/Mac, $29.99 on Windows 10 devices, $19.99 on PlayStation and Xbox, $29.99 on Nintendo Switch, $6.99 on mobile
As one of the most played video games in the world, the massively popular title doesn’t really need an introduction. Minecraft, which has had a multiplayer option since nearly the launch of the game 10 years ago, is still rapidly changing, allowing for new biomes to be explored and something new to try with every play. Known and loved for its sandbox gameplay style and blocky 3D graphics, Minecraft is perfect for anyone—from the casual couch player to the competitive gamer—and is well-suited for any playing style.
Design your world how you want: fly and build with no restrictions, fight skeletons and zombies to stay alive, or spend hours investigating intricate cave systems miles underground. The endless options for exploration are what make the game so captivating and draws players back so often. If you’re interested in planning out the next city and testing your creative limits, you have the option, but if you want to start your world from scratch and work for your materials, that’s possible as well. With friends, the enjoyment doubles. Worlds built together become bustling kingdoms and slaying the Ender Dragon together crafts lifelong memories. Play on personal servers with as many or as few friends as you like or join large-scale public servers with thousands of gamers from around the world to compete in minigames and battles. The options are truly endless.
Don’t Starve Together
Don’t Starve Together is the multiplayer version of the original Don’t Starve. The goal remains the same: survive as long as possible in the wilderness by foraging for materials, crafting structures, and keeping yourself from starving. Adventure through the unknown to keep you and your friends safe as you stumble upon creatures and creep through various biomes (e.g., forest, desert, savannah, swamp, caves) throughout day and night. Let the distinctive scribbly graphics of the game draw you in to fight for your survival.
While not an open-world sandbox game, Don’t Starve Together still provides countless options for digging your own path to survival. Every tree chopped and every watermelon chomped, combined with the game mode chosen, opens up new opportunities to perish or survive just a bit longer. It’s one massive choose-your-own-adventure game, but with friends as it’s so much more fun—and easier—to survive with a buddy or two. Pro tip: when playing with friends, you should each try to choose a different character, as each one comes with different strengths for survival.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced game to raise your heartbeat and most definitely your stress levels, Overcooked! 2 is for you. Here, you’re a restaurant chef who cooks for their customers in a peculiar looking kitchen. Stations are set up to chop vegetables, boil stews, check inventory, wash dishes, and serve to hungry masses—however, sometimes those stations move around. Your kitchen may be on a rocking pirate ship, and every 30 seconds the island with your stoves slides down the boat, leaving you running after your soup. Or half your kitchen is on one island and the rest is on another and the only way to access it is to traverse over a quickly receding stone path over lava. Couple that with the changing environments, a barrage of orders, and a ticking timer, and you’ve got yourself an adrenaline-inducing cooking game.
A sequel to the popular original game of the same name, Overcooked! 2 now allows you to swiftly prepare meals around the changing kitchens with an online multiplayer mode, an addition that makes the popular game easily accessible while social distancing. New chefs, puzzling kitchen levels, and tasty recipes were added in this 2018 edition which allows for even more crafty creations. Up to four chefs can cook at once, but you don’t want to have too many cooks in the kitchen!
Ticket to Ride
While normally enjoyed as a traditional board game, Ticket to Ride has made its way online in a fun multiplayer setting. The rules of the game are easy to pick up, so it shouldn’t be too hard to start playing. Once you do, the strategy and gameplay can become fierce. Choose your ultimate destination board and get ready to stake your claim of railways. Using simple colorful train cards, be the first to claim railway lines across the country and snag points before your opponents can. Multiple train lines across a variety of countries are available to play so you can explore the world from your bedroom.
Build medieval cities, own acres of farmland, and scatter your colorful Meeples all over the playing cards in Carcassonne, the German-made tile placement game where everything is based off the southern French city. Carcassonne is a slower-paced game than others, but if you’re looking for a strategic pastime that isn’t too complex, then you should give it a try. Expand your farmlands, cut off opponents’ cities, and leap your way to victory. With expansion packs that add features from extra rivers to towers and inns, there’s plenty of gameplay to explore.
If you really want to bring out your strategic side, Catan is for you. Looking to start the next empire, you reach the island of Catan, but so have other explorers with the same goal. Strategically settle the island before your opponents beat you to it by building shelter, claiming ground, trading with others, and warding off anyone or anything that gets too close. Now with online play, it’s easier than ever to start a game with friends while keeping your distance in the comfort of your home.
Pictionary is a classic game for us all, so why not take it online? Skribbl.io, a game played on your computer’s browser, provides options to play on global servers with anyone online or set up a private room to play with select friends. The game has a wide range of nouns to sketch, from MTV and dream to gravity and Darwin, so there’s plenty to draw and think about, and when you’re in a private room, you can write out specific words to use in your game. With options like this and the chance to extend the drawing time and the amount of rounds per game, private games become more personalized to your friend group. After the rounds are up, the player with the most points wins. The game will start over soon after the game has ended, so it’s super easy to play multiple games with all of your fellow artists.