Good Puzzle Games for Two?
December 4, 2019 8:31 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for puzzle games that fit specific criteria: Good for two people to play with a single controller where the person holding the controller won't have any more fun than the person not holding the controller.

To expand a bit: A common element of the games I know of that fit this model is that I can sit down with someone else and the two of us can work out the puzzles with only one of us holding the controller, but the person not holding the controller won't have any less fun.

Coming at it from the opposite side, it's really about games where using the controller is more of a means to an end, and not the fun on its own. The puzzling is the thing!

Games that fit this model very well:
-The Witness
-Return of the Obra Din
-The Stanley Parable
-Her Story
-The Talos Principle

Games that sorta fit this model:
-Kentucky Route Zero
-A Night in the Woods
-Gone Home
-What Remains of Edith Finch
(I realize the distinction between this category and the category above it might not be clear outside of my own head... I guess the distinction is that these games feel a lot less puzzley.)

Games that do not fit this model:
-Portal/Portal 2 Single-Player (Decidedly more fun to hold the controller.)
-Portal 2 Multiplayer (Multiple Controllers)
-Anything shooty (shooting is more fun than not shooting)
posted by SpiffyRob to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
Untitled Goose Game was incredibly fun as both control-holder and non-controlling participant.
posted by adastra at 8:33 AM on December 4, 2019 [11 favorites]

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the first thing that jumps to mind. One person holds the controller and has to defuse a bomb by talking it out with the other person who has the puzzle instructions on a phone or printed out. It's cooperative and both players have a key role to play, but it can get intense and a bit screamy.
posted by Freyja at 8:36 AM on December 4, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: The Bridge. MC Escher style puzzles, and having a non-controller-holder would actually probably help.
posted by deezil at 8:36 AM on December 4, 2019

Best answer: Gorogoa is beautiful and engrossing and fits right alongside your examples.
posted by wanderingmind at 8:42 AM on December 4, 2019 [3 favorites]

Baba Is You! The entire puzzle is always visible and I've noticed it's weirdly easier to piece together the solution if you're not the one holding the controller.
posted by theodolite at 8:43 AM on December 4, 2019 [12 favorites]

Zelda Breath of the Wild, although it gets interrupted by annoying boss fights.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:44 AM on December 4, 2019

Best answer: Tacoma is an exploration/puzzle game set in space. You're on an empty space-station and you're going through different video/audio logs trying to piece together a mystery. Here's the game trailer. enjoy.
posted by Fizz at 8:46 AM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Grim Fandango played well this way in my household, along with other similar 2D adventure games. It usually involves trading off the controller semi-regularly for convenience. (90s-style 2D is a plus here in that there's no need to ask the controller-operator to pan around to other parts of a room; what you see is what you see.)

Would heartily second Baba is You, but I think each individual should play the first few levels solo so they get to experience the initial setup on their own.
posted by asperity at 8:46 AM on December 4, 2019

Thimbleweed Park is also worth checking out. It has a very X-Files/Twin Peaks vibe and is from the creators of Secret of Monkey Island.
posted by Fizz at 8:51 AM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Night in the Woods. (Notably, in the rhythm game sections, the person not holding the controller will be having a lot more fun.) This is heavy on narrative and light on puzzles, but might fit given some of your other choices. (In edit: This was already in your list. Oops.)

Antichamber. If you liked Talos principle but wanted less Philosophy 101 and more variety and lateral thinking in the puzzles, this might be your jam.

Depending on the players, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice might work. CW: Grimdark as fuck. There are combat sections that are dreadful and tedious, but the narrative and the puzzles make up for them. And I will spoil this with little warning and zero regret: the "limited lives" system that almost made me uninstall this five minutes in is *completely fake*.

The Cave. Fun on the whole, though I hesitate to include it as it is structured in such a way that you need to play it through three times to see all the content. (There are seven characters, from which you can choose three on any given playthrough. Some levels are only accessible to a specific character.) Also, the "good ending" is gated behind some bullshit moon logic.
posted by sourcequench at 9:14 AM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've heard of the Outer Wilds (not The Outer Worlds, although...) being played satisfyingly this way, although I haven't tried it personally. The flying around is very nice, but working out where to go next and how something you just discovered fits into the big picture is the meat of the game. The downside is that there's an easily failable platforming bit that would probably be even more frustrating to watch then it is to control.
posted by figurant at 9:15 AM on December 4, 2019

You mentioned The Witness which isn't necessarily a predictor either way, but Braid was pretty great to play this way. Lots of cheerful engagement from whoever wasn't driving the controller at the time.
posted by Drastic at 9:18 AM on December 4, 2019

Sally Face is a little puzzley and not gameplay-heavy, pretty in the vein of night in the woods. some gore and backstory abuse content warning.
posted by gaybobbie at 9:26 AM on December 4, 2019

Stephen’s Sausage Roll!!! Expensive and difficult but totally worth it and perfect for 2 players to work on.
posted by ghostbikes at 9:34 AM on December 4, 2019

Road Not Taken would fit I think, the puzzle bits are move by move so there would be a lot of time for you both to figure out what to do for each move.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:49 AM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are askign for puzzle games where most of the work is is figuring out the puzzle as opposed to executing the solution in real-time.

Seconding Gorogoa and Baba is You especially for this sort of thing.
Also, if you liked Her Story, check out the critically acclaimed follow up as well, Telling Lies.
posted by subocoyne at 11:09 AM on December 4, 2019

Baba Is You. I wish I had someone to play this with, it’s perfect for that!

Any Zachtronics game is a solid choice if you like programming/optimization.
posted by curious nu at 11:16 AM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my partner and I have been playing The Witness lately. Fun times. We pass the controller back and forth and both are actively participating.

I want to get her to do some online riddles with me like Weffriddles. In my question history is one asking for good versions of online riddles from a few years back if that sounds interesting. Basically, in that case you add the correct thing onto the end of the website URL so get the next page so you could easily both be working on it just from one screen.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:43 PM on December 4, 2019

This is not a console game, but The Black Watchmen is a puzzle game that depends partially on online research, lateral thinking and decryption. I have played it with teams before and it's very satisfying to work together to figure out the solutions. There's not really a "controller," one person will just type the final answer into the program. If you're interested in a puzzle game that pushes out into the real world, it might be worth a look. There's also fun Lovecraftian/conspiracy theory elements.
posted by zeusianfog at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2019

Response by poster: This is as good a time as any to jump in and say that PC and console are both fine, as is keyboard+mouse instead of controller. Thanks for all the recs so far! Added a ton of stuff to my wishlist, pulled a few things to the top of the backlog, and wish I'd asked this question while the Steam Sale/Nintendo Black Friday Sale were still on!
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:53 PM on December 4, 2019

Please, Don't Touch Anything (spoiler: game involves touching things) is another where two people could figure things out together while one of them managed the controls.

Ahnayro is a "figure out what's going on and put the story together" game; actual controller activity is minimal.

Any point-and-click adventure game might work - things like the Deponia series, possibly everything by Amanita Design (I'm very fond of Botanicula), and Broken Age.

Changing genres entirely - both Hidden Object Games and Visual Novels (with the huge subcategory of Dating Sims) are more story-based and often feel less game-like; they're things that two people could enjoy "watching" and decide on choices together.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you're open to non-digital games, and you enjoyed Return of the Obra Dinn, you might really like Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. It's a game which gives you a series of mysteries to solve while following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, using nothing but your wits, a map and directory of London, and of course a copy of the day's Times. My partner and I found it immensely satisfying, and are eagerly awaiting the release of the fourth set in April. (NB: the first set [The Thames Murders] is definitely the best, the other two had some uneven translation quality, and if you're squeamish I would recommend skipping the Jack the Ripper cases, which use some gruesome details from the actual historical cases.)

Also seconding that if you liked Her Story, you will probably like Sam Barlow's follow-up Telling Lies, which uses a similar mechanic, but a much larger volume of material and a more user-friendly interface to tell an even twistier story.
posted by firechicago at 8:22 PM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

While not exactly a puzzle game, please allow me to once again recommend West of Loathing. As a role-playing game it has a variety of quests and side-quests many of which have multiple solutions that would qualify as puzzles. The nature of game play is very much choice-based so who's using the controller is irrelevant to game enjoyment.

Available on Steam and for the Switch
posted by zinon at 8:07 AM on December 5, 2019

Seconding Broken Age! I got sucked into playing it over my partners shoulder.
posted by Grandysaur at 11:00 AM on December 5, 2019

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