Geographical separation is a bummer. Now that I’ve briefly left my partner in NYC to pursue a career in games journalism, this truth has never been more evident. Yet, we still find substantial ways to preserve our connection: FaceTime calls, texting, and playing video games. The following cooperative and competitive games can help assuage the “phantom pains” in your own long-distance relationship.
For Cooperative Couples
These titles offer serene and tranquil worldscapes to explore at a leisurely pace.
Sea of Thieves – Xbox One, PC
Imagine this: sea salt in the wind, and the rhythmic creaking of a schooner against choppy tides. Dusk creeps along the horizon, and so the sky is a smattering of coral-tinged clouds. You retrieve your accordion from some undisclosed location and play a fittingly starry-eyed tune. Your partner tap dances in tandem with the music. For a moment, you think to yourself that creating a virtual life at sea isn’t so bad, until large tentacles emerge from the surface of a nearby whirlpool. What was once a perfect video game date night is now a fight to keep yourselves afloat.
In Sea of Thieves, you play at your own pace. Explore skeleton-infested land masses to claim treasure. Raid other adventuring pirates setting out on quests of their own. Fight the legendary Kraken. Or, just sit back together, relax, and listen to the lapping waves. Romantic, no?
The Division 2 – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
I took my girlfriend to celebrate her birthday in Washington, D.C. last summer. We spent most of our time (like any other tourist couple) exploring the various historical monuments. Our return trip to the city in The Division 2 is far more entertaining. Instead of viewing the White House from beyond its high-arching gates, we’re situated inside the official residence, making important decisions to safeguard the Homefront.
Against the adaptable enemy A.I., the two of you will have to coordinate engagements, be alert of opportunistic flankers, and save cooldown skills for challenging boss encounters. Purchase the ballistic shield to divert enemy attention from your suppressed partner or equip the restorative chem launcher to keep one another alive. Moreover, don’t miss out on demonstrating your impeccable chemistry against other Division squads in the PVP mode: The Dark Zone. Here, the strategies you’ve honed throughout the campaign are constantly measured. Nothing beats climbing the worldwide rankings with your main squeeze!
Side note: The game also has a cool photo mode, so make sure you both take a break from the intense firefights to snap a neat selfie.
Monster Hunter: World – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Monster Hunter: Word showcases a variety of environments – from the dreamy flowerbed clearings of Wildspire Waste to the breathtaking crystallized volcanoes erupting throughout the Elder’s Recess. Bring your significant other along for the journey and relentlessly carve a path through each location to master the combat mechanics and build a monster-hunting rapport. Keep an eye on your available abilities, and make item builds that mesh well. My partner, for instance, maxed out the Mushroomancer and Wide-Range skills so that the buffs she gets from consuming concoctions affect me as well. Make these pre-combat preparations a ritual to encourage a supportive monster-slaying experience!
Once you’ve gotten the three phases of battle down to a science (like discovering, capturing, and sleep-bombing the vicious fauna), be prepared for the Tempered Elder onslaught that awaits you in the endgame. After failing to sneakily place explosives on the horns of a sleeping Nergigante multiple times, believe me when I say that the bond you share will be tested.
Stardew Valley – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Looking for a shared cathartic experience? After choosing the biome and name of your homestead, the sky’s the limit. ConcernedApe’s 2D farming sim [link to review] is the virtual paradise that the two of you secretly needed.
You learn the fundamentals of establishing a healthy relationship: make a profit, conserve a shared income, build your dream home, and protect each other (against the creatures of the night). Finally, when you’re both financially and emotionally prepared, tie the knot and adopt or bear children.
As of right now, multiplayer is only available on PC and Switch versions of Stardew Valley.
For those of you on other consoles, Farm Together is a solid alternative. Unfortunately, you won’t have access to elemental swords and community festivals. Instead, you’ll be expanding your land while making considerable cash from the abundant produce. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work!
For Competitive Couples
Get in gear! It’s time to prove why you two are a force to be reckoned with!
Overwatch – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
King’s Row, London.
Storefront lights illuminate wet cobblestone streets. All is quiet, save the whooshes of hover-cars cruising some distant freeway. You are Ana. Your partner is Reinhardt. From the balcony of a ritzy hotel, you watch as your significant other lays waste to the enemy team. The smoke clears and Reinhardt, doused in moonbeams, waltzes in the city plaza.
In Overwatch, you and your better half travel the globe, kicking ass and taking names beside four other teammates (but who needs them when you’ve got each other, right?). Learn to trust unconditionally while making split-second decisions to win team fights. Additionally, make sure you select heroes or roles that complement one another. For instance, I spent hours practicing off-tank heroes to balance out my girlfriend’s main-tank skillset. When you’re ready, take the relationship to the next level and hop into a match of competitive. Now you can both be “tilted” together!
League of Legends – PC
Why wouldn’t you be playing the most popular video game ever made? Think about it: 143 champions at your disposal – the experiences are practically limitless. In line with other games on the competitive list, you can devise tactical plays to defeat enemy units and topple nexuses.
Like Overwatch, League of Legends forces you to communicate effectively in order to build synergy. You may even learn something about your partner that you never knew (preferably that they have strong leadership qualities and perform well under stress rather than being outright toxic, of course). With plenty to see and do – a vast number of cool cosmetics, and constant gameplay updates – there’s simply no bad time to join the ever-burgeoning fanbase of League of Legends. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the base game won’t cost a dime?
Apex Legends – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
You’re the jumpmaster, and time is of the essence. Do you drop at the Hot Zone but risk a swift death? Or do you head toward the obscure location that your significant other pinged and start the match with unexceptional loot? Choose wisely, because in Apex Legends every democratic decision is a wise one. Enemy squadrons quickly eliminate players that aren’t coordinated, so you two need to constantly be in-sync (especially because your third teammate will probably decide to drop solo!). Of note are the various combinations of team compositions available. Perhaps you and your better half want to speedily assassinate targets; Bloodhound with Bangalore is the way to go! Or, you might prefer to hunker down and heal up with Gibraltar and Lifeline.
If anything, you’ll have to attempt to micromanage multiple conflicts at once, and portion key resources (like ultra-rare attachments and ammo) equitably. Also, since you’re forced into a three-person squad, why not bring along a willing third-wheel to make the entire process much smoother?
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Switch
I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention Ultimate. The most popular fighting game of this generation is a perfect way to bookend those stressful days at the office. Just plop down on the sofa, invite that special someone, and brawl your troubles away. Team up and handily defeat bots or battle other duos looking to claim bragging rights of their own. If you two are feeling particularly hot-blooded, bump heads in a one-on-one bout. Fighting from time to time can be healthy for a relationship, or so they say. With 76 combatants and a variety of nostalgia-inducing locales to choose from, you’ll be spending quality action-packed time together. But try not to take those losses too hard, okay?
Disclaimer: Ultimate is, arguably, the only title on this list that has the potential to create canyon-sized rifts in your relationship. I would suggest disabling items to prevent toxic outbursts. Consider muting the comms as well. Caution is advised.
For a more in-depth look at how video games positively shape our romantic relationships (and five more games to play with your remote partner), read How Video Games Are Keeping Long-Distance Relationships Alive.