The 7 best co-op shooters in 2021

Grab a couple of friends and enjoy some of the best co-op shooters available today.

It doesn't matter what it is that you want to shoot down. It can be zombies, monsters, aliens or all of the above. Regardless, there is a co-op shooter here for you.

Sometimes, less is more. However, there are also times when more is, well, more.

But, before anything else, let us lay out some ground rules first.

All of the games on this list are either a first-person or a third-person shooter. Also, these games involve teaming up with a friend without competing against them. These are proper co-op games and not team-based competitive games like Overwatch or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

So, with that now out of the way, let's talk about the best co-op shooters in 2021.

Deep Rock Galactic

In this game, getting inside asteroids isn't the problem. It's getting out alive.

Deep Rock Galactic is a 4-player PvE co-op game with a very simple premise: a group of Dwarves with unique class-based skills decide to mine asteroids for their precious materials and defend themselves against whatever monstrosity lies in wait.

What makes Deep Rock Galactic such a great game is how it puts you on a timer after what is essentially a relaxing first half.

Now that the dwarves have lined their pockets full, they must try and reach their respective escape pods before it leaves them stranded on the asteroid. The only problem? Not only do they have to contend against hordes of alien bugs (think Starship Troopers), but retracing your steps is so much more difficult when you're in a hurry and all those drops have become steep climbs.

The rush of adrenaline resulting from the ensuing mix of panic and excitement makes for a fun co-op game to play with friends, especially with voice comms turned on.

Left 4 Dead 2

Once upon a time, Valve made good games like Left 4 Dead 2. Here's to hoping that Valve goes back to making such games again.

Need we say more? Left 4 Dead 2 is the quintessential co-op shooter. It's basically what birthed the entire genre, with the first game setting up a near-perfect sequel that, to this date, has had no equal.

Despite being more than a decade old, no co-op shooter has managed to give you that same exhilarating feeling of being able to save your friends from the clutches of death and moving on to see another day.

It doesn't even matter whether you're playing with true people or on your own. Left 4 Dead 2 does a great job at setting things up in a way that you truly care about who you're playing with if only because your only chance of survival is to work together. It also doesn't hurt that the game has this sadistic but fair AI director that knows exactly just the right buttons to push and challenge your squad without making each scenario feel impossible and insurmountable.

We can only hope that its spiritual successor, Back 4 Blood, can live up to the standards that Left 4 Dead 2 set.

Borderlands 3

Given the success of Borderlands 3's multiplayer, we wouldn't be surprised if Gearbox went ahead and released a standalone version.

Sequels are supposed to be either bigger or better than its predecessor. Ideally, it should be both. This seldom happens, especially in video games. However, when it does, it is quite the treat, which is exactly what Borderlands 3 is.

Everything about Borderlands 3 could easily be described as "Borderlands but more".

Gearbox added more of everything that made Borderlands, well, Borderlands, to its latest installment, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the only thing that Borderlands 3 didn't get more of is Claptrap, which we ranked as one of the weirdest companions in all of gaming.

The way that the co-op gameplay of Borderlands 3 works is that it turns every co-op session into a fun showcase of whatever the hell you thought of building your character into, which works well within the context of the game.

The best part is that the co-op gameplay in Borderlands 3 is the best in the series. It makes loot drops instanced, so players don't have to worry about missing out on loot because they were too slow.

Payday 2

Payday 2's intro will never get old.

Heists are about having the perfect strategy, knowing how to get in and out with minimal mass, and having contingencies in case things go sour.

In Payday 2, heists are often about how you and a group of like-minded individuals survive waves upon waves of police officers coming down to shoot all of you in the head at a moment's notice.

In a way, Payday 2 is more of an action-oriented shooter game as opposed to being a stealth-action title.

Regardless of where you stand about Payday 2 is, one can't deny that it's one of the best co-op shooters around. Never mind the fact that it makes heists much more chaotic and messy than they should be. The decision has paid off quite well as it tests each squad's ability to prepare for the heist beforehand and what to do in case things go awry, which they often do.

Killing Floor 2

Yes, that is Paris' Eiffel Tower falling in Killing Floor 2.

As far as co-op shooters game, there are very few that do it better than Killing Floor 2.

While the game is quite repetitive and doesn't change too much about the formula that the first game used, the decision pays off as Killing Floor 2 remains infinitely fun to play, especially when you're doing so with friends.

Grand Theft Auto Online

Heists in GTA Online are a lot of fun, and also, a lot of work.

There's a reason why Grand Theft Auto Online is getting its own standalone version - it is just so good.

Part of the appeal of Grand Theft Auto Online is the Heists, which are multi-part missions where up to four players work together to pull off, well, a heist. Unlike in Payday 2, the Heists in GTA Online require that you do things step by step. You and your group will do everything from casing the place to securing getaway vehicles, as well as making sure that all four of you can pull it off with no hiccups.

Everyone that's part of a Heist in GTA Online has an equally important job to do, making trust and teamwork important. This is especially when you consider just how random the game's open-world system is.

Unfortunately, the Heists in GTA Online can take a couple of hours to set up and pull off. Unless you've got a steady group of friends or an entire community to pull players from whenever you feel like playing, it can be hard to get three other people to pull Heists together with.

Portal 2

Who knew that adding one more player can make Portal 2 infinitely more fun?

After the success of the first Portal game, Vale decided to double everything in Portal 2. Although the single-player campaign was double the fun, the co-op gameplay was arguably where things went bonkers. By simply adding another player into the mix, Portal 2 created more gameplay possibilities even if it simply just did everything that the first Portal game did.

Except, Valve wasn't just content with making minor improvements. Portal 2 added a ton of new things for players to enjoy in the game and the co-op gameplay is where these new features shine the most.

Portal 2's co-op gameplay is simply impossible to replicate. The system offers a perfect balance of healthy competition and cooperation, making both of you feel like absolute geniuses when you start to figure out how to solve one puzzle, all the while making you feel like a complete idiot after you realize that it took the two of you so long to do something that was actually so simple.

Perhaps the best part about Portal 2 is that you can play it on low-spec PCs.

So, when the Steam Deck comes out, you'll know exactly which co-op shooter to download first and invite someone else to play with.

Ray Ampoloquio
Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter.
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