The 6 best video games to play with friends while social distancing

Thanks to COVID-19, the world’s on lockdown and people are trapped inside their homes, bored out of their minds. To help alleviate the dullness brought about by social distancing and quarantining, try out these fantastic video games that’ll give you a way to interact with friends from afar. There’s a game for everybody on this list, from shooters to racers, and even plague simulators. So grab a controller and get ready to keep your social life alive and your brain exercised.

Plague Inc. Evolved

There’s not a game on the market more appropriate to discuss right now than the one that’s just been banned from China for discussing plague circulation. That game is Plague Inc., a stellar plague-spreading simulator available on Android, iOS, and PC via Steam.

Plague Inc. tasks you with ensuring a pathogen goes from being a joke to hand sanitizers to a world-crippling death dealer. You’ll need to mutate DNA strains, adapt to scientists’ attempts at cures, and do whatever it takes to ensure your virus causes a pandemic with the power to wipe out humanity. And you can do this all in an online competitive multiplayer, where you and a friend play against each other to see who can make the deadlier pathogen!

Plague Inc.’s developers have made it clear this game is not a totally accurate representation of how bacteria, viruses, and plagues work, but even so, it’s a simulation game with more thought put into it than a lot of similar titles on the market. Is it a little eerie to play in the current global climate? Sure, but it’s also darkly fun and funny. Plus, the developers are working on a “save the world instead of hurt it” mode in light of real-world events, and have made sizable donations to help fight COVID-19, so buying this game might actually be an indirect way to help fund the fight against the disease.

World War Z

Dying to take on a pandemic that you actually do have some semblance of control over? Well, look no further than World War Z, an online cooperative shooter that lets you and up to three friends mow down hordes of zombies and protect humanity from a virus that’s easily contained with nothing but bullets and bite-proof turtleneck sweaters. Though the game isn’t exactly content-rich, it’s not expensive, either, and what’s there is not only fun and fulfilling in its own right, but also a great tribute to the novel of the same name that serves as WWZ’s source material. It’s available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games Store.

Resident Evil 6

Keeping with the theme of fighting scary fictional plagues in order to imagine everything’s going to be all right in the real world, I present to you Resident Evil 6, a game in which seven gorgeous protagonists fight against a variety of villainous entities to ensure that multiple pandemics don’t simultaneously destroy humanity. You can play this game cooperatively either online or via split-screen couch co-op.

RE6 is a third-person shooter with a heck of a lot of action and cinematic style, making it a huge departure from previous horror-centric RE games. What it lacks in scares, it more than makes up for in Hollywood-grade flair. Friends who want an interactive movie to play through together should definitely check out Resident Evil 6. It’s available on just about any major gaming platform, including PS4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and the Nintendo Switch.

Team Sonic Racing

When you’re separated from your pals, it might seem hard to feel like part of a proper team. Thankfully, Team Sonic Racing gives you an easy way to maintain comradery, be it locally alongside the people you’re quarantined with or over the internet with friends and family you’re socially distancing from.

This game encourages up to three people to work together as a single racing team. Each racer can give their teammates power-ups and lend each other speed boosts, and at the end of the race, your teammates’ finishing positions will be added together, meaning whichever team worked together and did best across the board wins. It’s a blast if you miss coordinating and competing with a squad of gaming buddies. Team Sonic Racing is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC via Steam.

Rocket League

Even if you’re not a big fan of racing or soccer games (or just hate the idea of spending money on the painfully uninspired annual FIFA titles), Rocket League might just click with you. It’s a game about using race cars to play soccer, and it’s absolutely absurd.

Rocket League sports easy-to-play, hard-to-master mechanics and manages the rare task of synthesizing an entirely new genre by mashing two polar-opposite genres together. It can be played with up to eight people at a time, so if you have a big pool of friends all trapped at home thanks to quarantines, this is a great party game to gather everyone for. Plus, Rocket League also supports split-screen gameplay, if you want something to play with the folks in your home. The game is available on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC via Steam.

Rainbow Six Siege

If you thought pandemics were the most toxic threat to humanity, then you need to give Rainbow Six Siege a go. This game and everything surrounding it, from its developers to its community and player base, make for the most caustic and masochistically entertaining experience that money can buy. You can drag up to four friends into the military-inspired hellscape with you if you’re desperate to replace real-world suffering with the virtual equivalent.

Rainbow Six Siege is a squad-based tactical first-person shooter that pits two teams of five against each other in lethal races to complete various objectives. The game’s selling point is its “realistic” maps, which are designed to depict buildings as you’d see them in the real world. These buildings can have their walls shot through and windows broken, so the threat of death is always present.

This constant tension is what encourages players to be absolutely barbaric toward each other. Rage-quitting games mid-match, teamkilling, and verbal abuse are all part of the core Siege experience and serve as a sort of maddening meta-game tacked onto the basic shooting gameplay. In this sense, Siege is a deeply fascinating psychological study of the human condition, as well as a shooter that’s addictive, infuriating, and available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Uplay and Steam.