Xbox Wire’s Holiday Guide to the Perfect Co-op and Party Games

If you’re heading home for the holidays, hosting a party, or just looking for a way to get the kids to stop trying to steal presents under the tree, let Xbox Wire (and an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S) help you this holiday season.

We know that gaming brings people of all backgrounds and generations together – and our recent survey among Xbox Ambassadors who are parents demonstrated this in action. As part of the study, 59% of respondents shared that they game more with friends and family over the holidays. A Power of Play survey from the ESA had similar findings, with and 46% of respondents adding that video games help them stay connected to loved ones.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of situations in which a local multiplayer game might help solve a common holiday problem  – finding the right game to play with loved ones.  Our solutions range from quiet co-op adventures to rowdy party games, so you’ll be sure to find something for everyone.

Best of all, many of the games on the list are available as part of Xbox Game Pass,  meaning a single membership gives you unlimited access to every one of our solutions for entertaining over the holidays. Not to mention, the Xbox Family Settings app provides peace of mind and an easy way to manage your  family’s play. Parents can easily create child accounts, customize screen time limits, respond to notifications, manage who their children can play and communicate with, manage spending and much more – all for free.

Best Game to Help The Kids (and Yourself) Unwind

A mixture of sugar, no school, and impending presents would put any cooped-up family on edge around the holidays – so allow us to recommend Minecraft as a salve. Starting a new seed and hopping into a split-screen co-op is incredibly simple – and once you’re in, the options are limitless.

You could allow the family a single run in Survival mode before heading to bed, or offer them a chance to create a holiday wonderland in Creative mode. And you never know, that incredibly relaxing music might just help them drift off to sleep in the end, too.

Best Game For When The Kids Have Gone To Bed

There’s a chance that the kids and your old aunt don’t want to see monsters being mowed down in great numbers, but when night falls, Sanctuary will welcome you. Diablo IV is the perfect place to game to let off some steam after long days, offering copious amounts of bombastic combat, an immersive story campaign, and some Midwinter terrors as part of the ongoing seasons. With couch co-op, a friend can also get in on the action too, making Diablo IV the perfect game to curl up on the sofa with.

Best Game For An Outdoor Adventure While You’re Stuck Indoors

It can be difficult to get out for fresh air when you’re at home during the holiday season, but Grounded can offer a grassy escape for us all. The backyard provides the perfect opportunity to get back to nature in all its forms, building a base to survive, and fighting off marauding insects as you go. Grounded also just released the Make It and Break It update, which lets you build your very own version of the backyard with a suite of intuitive tools and gadgets. The expansive feature will keep everyone  occupied for hours, but be warned, you might become the test subjects of some extremely chaotic creations.

Plus, if you’ve got a console and a PC at home, and a Game Pass Ultimate Subscription, you and a chosen family member can team up and navigate a treacherous backyard together. And if a couple of visiting cousins happen to have consoles at home, they can join in using Xbox Cloud Gaming, too, letting all four of you play.

Best Game For When You Can’t Get A Moment’s Peace

There are some holidays where sitting down for a cup of tea is nigh on impossible, never mind gathering around the telly to play a video game. Fortunately, Vampire Survivors’ high-octane fun is easy to pick up and put down during those restless days, and its digestible rounds of 30 minutes or (usually) less means that everybody can have a go, whether it’s on their own or in couch co-op mode with a buddy.

While Vampire Survivors has its own subtle narrative and fun progression system, in which you can unlock new levels, characters and powerups, it’s a great game to dip in and out of at your leisure, and it’s also available on Game Pass. Plus, if someone can’t wait their turn, they can always jump into a solo run with Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) on mobile.

Best Game to Play for the Entirety of the Holiday Break

If you’re back at home with the family for two weeks, you’ll definitely need something to do while you’re there. So why not set yourself and a family member a challenge? Can you make it through every single campaign in Halo: The Master Chief Collection?

Comprising 67 missions spread over Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo 4, it’s a huge, nostalgic chunk of classic sci-fi shooting to sink your teeth into – and it’s all available in split-screen, and via Game Pass. And that’s even before you start messing about in multiplayer…

Best Game  for Recreating the Unique Stress of Making a Holiday Dinner

Look, we don’t know exactly why you’d want to simulate making dinner for dozens of people when you might be doing it already – but we do know exactly how to do it. Step up, Overcooked 2, the game that laughs in the face of the ‘too many cooks’ cliché, and is also conveniently available via Game Pass.

Between you and your family and friends, you’ll be able to test your resolve in a busy kitchen, prepping ingredients and plating up as fast as possible — perhaps even learning how to turn real-life cooking into a high-speed party game in the process (but probably without the comedy set pieces in the game itself). Of course, once all that’s done, there’s another key stress caused by holiday cooking. We cover that in the next category…

Best Game  for Working out Who Needs to Wash the Dishes

The holidays are a time of peace, love, and being on your best behavior in front of people you might dislike. However, that doesn’t have to apply to entertainment. Party Animals is a competitive brawler that allows you to channel that chaos through fluffy, flailing critters, bashing each other around for a moment of glory, and the chance to evade the cleaning up.

Party Animals benefits from split screen co-op, so up to four players in the same room can join the same game and battle it out, either against each other or in teams. Just connect up a new controller, join as a guest player, and you’re good to go. Party Animals is also available on Game Pass, allowing everyone to hop into the action on just one subscription!

Best Game To Explore a Galaxy Far, Far Away

It’s only a matter of time before classic movies are shared by family and friends during the festive period, and Star Wars, with its installments spanning generations, is up there among them. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, lets you and another player experience classic storylines and explore all of the iconic areas of the Galaxy.

Brick by brick, you can make your way through all nine Skywalker Saga films, with hundreds of iconic characters to unlock from the likes of Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia, to more recent additions such as Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren. Available on Xbox via Game Pass, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is the perfect game for your loved ones to enjoy while you take care of those endless holiday tasks. You can also pick up the Galactic Edition, which features over 400 characters from the expanded Star Wars universe.

Best Game to Play When an Ocean Divides You

Sometimes circumstances are such that not all of us can be in the same room together for some family gaming fun this holiday season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t set out on a gaming jaunt together! Sea of Thieves provides that perfect blend of adventure, good times, and downtime on the waves to catch up over the holidays.

Travel to distant islands seeking fortune while sharing your riches with family and friends. Take down a ship full of skeletons while sipping on eggnog (just don’t get any on your headset microphone) or share pumpkin pie recipes as you’re heading to port to cash in your hard-earned plunder. Maybe even sing a holiday shanty! There’s plenty of new content in Season 10, including the introduction of Guilds. You can also set sail in Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island, a charming crossover that allows you to explore the classic point-and-click series in a set of Tall Tales. All three of the Tall Tales are available now, should you be craving nostalgia during the holiday season.

However you choose to play it, Sea of Thieves offers plenty for you to enjoy together when distant shores are keeping you apart.