Developed by Hazelight Studios and published by EA, A Way Out is strictly a co-op experience. The game is a story-driven affair first and foremost; the game was marketed as an emotional adventure and released in 2018.
Gameplay is the most crucial aspect for games like A Way Out, but the game manages to deliver an exciting narrative with it. The gameplay is unique, but most of it might not be agreeable to everyone. For example, the game doesn’t have a single-player option, but even when playing with someone online, the game doesn’t stop being split-screen, emphasizing the need to work together.
However, in all fairness, the game is geared more towards being a couch co-op experience than online.
The story features two inmates Vincent and Leo, as its protagonists. As the name would suggest, they no longer wish to abuse the hospitality of their prison.
Again, the game puts teamwork forefront. Players must achieve various tasks together to devise a plan and escape the prison, including distracting NPCs by engaging them in conversation while one of the players sneaking behind them to a restricted area to obtain contraband or something as mundane as boosting each other over a high wall.
Another way the game sets itself apart is the sometimes out of sync cutscene-gameplay experience; I honestly don’t know how else to word it. To put it simply, sometimes, during the narrative, one player might be in a cutscene while the other has complete control of the character. I have never seen anything like this.
I’d say, for the most part, it’s a solid couch co-op experience. The game can be played by two players online with a single purchase, which is also great, and I wish more co-op centric games would do something like this.
Speaking of other games, here’s my list of games similar to A Way Out.
1. Portal 2
Juxtaposing how A Way Out was primarily a narrative/cinematic experience, Portal 2 delivers a deep and emotional narrative while never taking control from the player’s hands.
But that’s to be expected since the developer is most known for the title Half-life. You know that small game no one has heard of and didn’t completely change FPS as a genre.
Portal 2 is a puzzle-platformer experience, so that means you and your buddy won’t be in an adrenaline-fueled experience of blazing guns and dodging bullets. Instead, Portal 2 focuses on innovative puzzles that require both the players to work together to solve.
As A Way Out, it’s an innovative take on co-op games. I prefer playing Portal 2 over A Way Out simply because of its less linear approach, even if it emphasizes the narrative.
The game has a single-player experience which I’d recommend playing before the co-op experience simply, so you have a grasp of the mechanics before heading in. The story is also in order of single-player before the co-op, but there is no rule of playing single-player first.
2. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan
Man Of Medan is an interactive video game; it plays more like Beyond: Two Souls or Detroit: Become Human, in the sense that players never truly have complete control.
Instead, as they journey forward where their choices would lead them in the narrative, they are given select options and controls they can use to complete puzzles, defeat opponents or conversing with an NPC.
The game can be played single-player or up to 5 players that can assume their characters. The setting is that of a ghost ship, a sadly underused environment in the horror genre.
The graphics and aesthetics are nothing short of being photorealistic, and the game has an eerie feeling right from the get-go. Even in the tutorial, NPCs have this uncanny valley kind of expression on their face constantly.
Man of Medan features a more in sync gameplay; while each player might get separated, there is never a dull moment for any of them. Sometimes if a player is done with their activity, they might interrupt someone else’s activity which is demonstrated beautifully in the tutorial. For example, if you fail your combat tutorial, you will interrupt your buddies fortune-telling scene leaving it incomplete.
The game went under everyone’s radar probably because an interactive co-op game is not everyone’s prefered game. Still, even with the linearity, it is an innovative title that unfortunately doesn’t run well on consoles, at least it didn’t at the time of release.
However, PC players might enjoy this a lot; the more buddies to play with, the merrier.
3. It Takes Two
Following A Way Out, Hazelight Studios released It Takes Two in 2021, an action-adventure game with platformer elements.
Just like A Way Out, It Takes Two was developed with a split-screen/couch co-op in mind and, as such, features no single-player game mode. The narrative this time around is more light-hearted than A Way Out, as light-hearted touching a subject as serious as divorce can be.
The gameplay is inspired by many different video games from different genres, making for an exciting experience. Players assume the control of Cody or May, an unhappily married couple that is deciding on divorce because they argued, a good a reason as any. Players are then provided unique abilities during certain set events that have to be used in tandem to complete a level successfully.
The game is a pleasant one-time experience like A Way Out; players can find replayability in the number of mini-games the game features.
4. Unravel Two
Unravel Two was released in 2018 with positive reviews and overall great reception. The game was developed by Coldwood and published by EA. I think EA really likes couch co-op games.
Featuring platformer gameplay very much like It Takes Two, Unravel sees the player(s) take control of two “Yarnys”, which are unsurprisingly small humanoids made from yarn, the Yarnys must work together to solve puzzles.
The artwork is mesmerizing, and the story is heart-warming. When they washed onshore, two shipwrecked untethered Yarnies tie their ends together, sparking a bond. The objective of the game is to chase this literal spark.
If you’re looking for more action-oriented gameplay, this game is certainly not for you but for those looking to share an emotional experience; Unravel Two is undoubtedly a great title.
5. Resident Evil 5
Let’s step back into the action genre for a change of pace. Don’t let the title fool you; for a long time, Resident Evil stopped being horror-centric. After Resident Evil 4 revolutionized third-person shooters by making the shoulder-mounted camera an industry standard, Capcom doubled down on this action revamp of Resident Evil with Resident Evil 5.
Resident Evil 5 amped things up by introducing co-op, long-time series protagonist Chirs Redfield, who must team up with Sheva Alomar in a zombie-infested part of the world as they uncover the mystery of cult-like zombies.
Resident Evil 5 has a pretty standard action co-op experience for the most part; it doesn’t do anything innovative, but what it offers is a well-polished and fun experience. The game has a good enough length and offers two separate DLC campaigns that feature new locations and, of course, the returning mercenary mode that adds even more to the replayability.
Resident Evil 5 might have been attributed by the fans as the start of the decline, but I humbly disagree, Resident Evil 5 might not be a horror game, but it certainly is a gratifying co-op experience.
It does offer a single-player experience with AI-controlled Sheva. Still, honestly, the AI is not the smartest, and I’d recommend playing this title with a friend to maintain sanity.
6. How to Survive
Another underappreciated title, How to Survive, is not a third-person game but instead opts for a top-down camera in yet another zombie-infested setting, however more familiar than Resident Evil 5’s medical Biolabs aesthetic infused in an African tribal stage.
How to Survive primarily features two game modes that players can play in co-op: story and challenge mode. The story is pretty bare-bones for the most part and serves only to explain how the player(s) got to one of the four zombie-ridden islands.
On the other hand, the challenge mode puts players on one end of an island and spawns a getaway vehicle on the opposite end. Players must use the game’s mechanics, primarily, crafting to overcome the zombies in the middle.
The game might not be the best looking game since it was released in 2013, but it still has an active community and features enough content to make itself stand out.
But the gameplay is nothing innovative; it’s scavenging and crafting to survive. However, it’s geared more towards a co-op experience, so there’s that.
7. Halo 3
I imagine a lot of gamers are surprised to see Halo on the list, but let’s not forget we’re looking for good co-op experiences with an emphasis on narrative, and honestly, what’s a better story than Halo 3’s and what’s better gameplay than a bull-rushing Spartan armed with a futuristic military issued assault rifle while your buddies are not far behind you laying down cover fire as they traverse the battlefield on warthogs.
Halo 3 did a lot to make co-op a mainstream aspect quite successfully, if I might add. The game features an end-level report that displays each player’s stats and gives points following the players’ performance, making it a more friendly competitive experience.
Thanks to Microsoft, they ported Halo 3 quite recently to Windows, among other titles exclusive to the Xbox for a long time. Purchasing the Masterchief collection makes for a fun time as it’s full of games with co-op functionality in the campaign and features multiplayer modes to drown hundreds of hours into. Halo is a no-brainer if you’re looking to have endless fun with friends.
Co-op used to be one of the most sought after aspects in video games when Contra and Mario were industry leaders, but with the Internet and massive strides in technology that allowed for better single-player experiences, people soon moved over couch co-op towards games like CoD which did feature split-screen but were enjoyed far more in an online mode.
Nevertheless, there are still some developers that make games using co-op as a core pillar for gameplay. Some even manage to be an excellent experience.
Perhaps we might see a sequel to A Way Out in the future, seeing as its developer is always keen on working on another co-op game.